Thursday, July 31, 2014

I Just Don't Know

One question that has often come up in the many spiritual conversations I’ve been part of over the years is “What is the experience of God”?  It’s a question that no one, even my friends in the monastery, can quite agree on.  My basic answer is that I don’t either.  However, I do have a few thoughts about it.  More and more many people wonder if there even is a God.  I don’t know that either with any certitude and I am always amazed at how offended some people get when I say that.  I’m not saying there’s no God.  I’m just saying that I don’t really know.  Isn’t not knowing why people have faith?  I think there are some experiences and feelings that we all have as human beings.  Do you ever have a sense of longing but you are not sure what you are longing for?  Do you ever feel empty or incomplete?  Are you hungry for something beyond food but you are not sure what you hunger for?  I believe these feelings, at their root, are spiritual.  We are all desiring some kind of unity or oneness with someone or something.  I do spend a fair amount of time meditating and practicing mindfulness.  Sometimes when I am being silent and still, I do experience feelings of peace.  There are also times when I experience what some people would call “warm, fuzzy feelings”.  Occasionally I feel one with the universe.  Are these feelings the experience of God?  Again, I don’t know.  They might just be pleasant feelings or my imagination.  I guess all I can really say is that I have all the feelings I mentioned above.  I don’t always know why I have them.  Something or someone seems to be always calling me forward.  Is the inner voice I hear God speaking to me or just me talking to myself?  Again, I don’t know.  I suppose someday I will find out or maybe I won’t.  There was once an Abbot at the monastery who had a standard response every time one of the monks died.  He would say, “Now he knows more theology than anyone”.        

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When To Speak, When To Shut Up

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time and place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment”.
-Lady Dorothy Neville
I usually don’t get in too much trouble but when I do it is often because of something I said.  There are other times when the events around me challenge me to speak up and I remain silent.  More than once my wife has advised me to shut up.  I can’t actually quote her word for word but most of you can imagine how she said it.  Other times I have been chastised by people who said things like “Michael, I expected you to have more to say”.  In my defense I think I have gotten a little wiser as I have gotten older.  The end of my tongue is now square from all the times I’ve bitten it off to keep myself from speaking.  Knowing when to speak and when to shut up is a delicate skill.  There are times that we should speak.  We may need to give solace to another person with a kind and consoling word.  We may need to speak up against an injustice or to provide counsel to someone.  On the other hand, words can be hurtful or inappropriate.  Listening is almost always better than speaking and the whole world doesn’t need to hear our opinions about everything.  You know what they say about opinions.  One of the older monks at the monastery where I lived as a young man once said, “I’m come to the realization that almost nothing is any of my business”.  Another danger of speaking is falling into the dangerous quagmire of gossip.  Few of us have not fallen into that trap at least once.  I wish I had the discipline to only speak when my words made the world a better place or they gave another person encouragement or comfort.  I wish my mouth will automatically shut when my words spread gossip, hurt another person, or did not improve on silence.  The next time you speak ask yourself if you words are building up the world around you or if they are tearing it down.     

Monday, July 28, 2014

Living By The Minute

Last Wednesday I left work in great anticipation of an extended four day weekend.  Now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, I am back at work in my familiar routines.  Where did the last four days go?  They were good days.  I spent time with my granddaughter, visited my son, and also had some quality leisure time.  I take leisure very seriously.  The movement of time is mostly a perception.  All days have twenty four hours.  Some days, however, seems to move faster while other days seems to move slower.  There is a song by Pete Townshend with a lyric that goes “I love every minute of the day”.  In all honesty I don’t always love every minute of the day.  There are some days and some minutes I truly love while other days and minutes I simply endure.  I do think it is a worthy goal to attempt to love every minute of the day.  Our minutes turn into hours, our hours turn into days, the days turn into weeks and the weeks become years.  When we are not paying attention we suddenly find ourselves ten years down the road of life with little memory of how the time was spent.  If time is too slow and you are bored, it may be time to get up and do something.  If time is too fast you can slow it down by being truly present to the moment.  Time is a gift.  We are not given an unlimited supply.  Much of my current thinking is based on the reality that I have more days behind me than I do in front of me.  I am also haunted by the sudden and unexpected death of a dear friend last year.  Each day time becomes more precious and I try not to waste it.  Wasted time is lost forever.  Pay attention to the minutes of your life and you pay attention to all of your life.  How you live the minutes is how you live your days.  Live well, minute by minute, and when look back you will see an entire life that was lived well.     

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mindful Eating

When was the last time you practiced mindfulness while eating?  Recent news articles lamented the loss of the “lunch hour” for many of today’s worker’s.  Everyone thinks they are too busy to eat.  I think among some management people the need for a break or lunch is seen as a sign of weakness or lack of dedication.  Baloney!  I don’t care who you are or what you do, your life would be better served by taking occasional breaks along with a mindful lunch where you actually taste you food and enjoy the experience.  I am not talking about a rushed trip through the McDonald’s Drive Thru and a quick consumption of your Chicken McNuggets as you drive back to the office.  I am talking about taking the time to be totally present to yourself and your food.  I am talking about a relaxed and mindful time where you can be one with your meal.  You can smell it’s aroma, feel it’s texture, and taste it’s flavors in an unhurried and relaxing manner.  Today I challenge you to pay attention to whatever you eat.  Think about what you are eating.  Where did it come from?  If you are eating a piece of fruit think about the farmer who grew it.  Say a blessing for the person who picked it.  Remember the truck driver who delivered it to your local market.  Remember that many people worked so that you can have this food.  Most of all, be thankful and grateful that you have something to eat.  Many people in this world will not eat today.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Changing Landscape

In my city they are building two new bridges between Kentucky and Indiana.   Along with thousands of other people I am affected by the massive construction going on in the downtown area.  The entire landscape is changing to the point where once familiar roads seem totally new and foreign to me.  As I was driving into work this week all of this made me reflect on the constantly changing landscape of our lives.  The world into which I was born in the early 1950’s no longer exists.  I have lived through a great deal of change in my life involving the world at large, our American culture, my lifestyle, and the continuous evolution of the workplace.  The first ten years I worked at Humana there was no such thing as the internet or Microsoft.  I think Freud was correct in his assessment that life is based on the survival of the fittest.  Anyone who cannot change and adapt gets left behind.  Life is never static.  Life involves continuous change and movement.  If you do not willingly move with life, life will move you anyway.  Although I am not really what I consider a go with the flow guy, I have learned to move with the ebb and flow of life.  The trick is being centered within yourself and finding balance.  One must flow with life without being tossed about like an empty bottle in the middle of the ocean.  The world and life is always changing and it will continue to do so.  You need to move and flow and adapt with it.  I am occasionally nostalgic for my past and sometimes I dream of an ideal future but I also know all I have is the present moment and it is changing as I write these words.  Soon the changing landscape of the downtown area will become the new normal, at least until it changes again.  Now that I think about it I remember when everything was in flux back in the 60’s when they build the interchanges between I-71, I-65, and I-64, which many of us affectionately refer to as “Spaghetti Junction”. 

Monday, July 21, 2014


Most monasteries have something called an enclosure.  In some cases this is an actual wall that separates the monastery from everything outside the monastery.  At least in the past, when a man or a woman entered a monastery, the attitude was that they were leaving the world behind.  In a sense, the wall, or enclosure, was a metaphorical and physical way to be separated from the world.  In today’s highly technical world this has become much more challenging.  Yes, there are now computers in the monastery.  We can all have some version of an enclosure in our lives.  We can decide, most of the time, who and what we allow to enter our personal enclosures.  For example, I struggle on a regular basis whether or not I should watch the news, especially the local news.  It seems to be totally filled with negative stories about murders, robberies, serial killers, scams, or many other real and imaginary dangers to our lives.  I find it all quite depressing.  I want to be informed but I don’t want to allow all that negative energy into my life.  Imagine that your five senses, especially your sight and your hearing are like open windows to your home.  Do you want everything to have access to your home?  Do you want everything to be able to just fly in whenever it wants?  Probably not.  That’s why most people have screens on their windows.  You want the fresh air but you want to screen out the insects and other things that the wind might carry in.  So, make sure your screens are in good condition.  Build yourself a personal enclosure wall to keep out those people and things that bring you down.        

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reducing Anxiety

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment!
These words are from a book I once read called Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh who is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk.  The book is about practicing mindfulness in everyday life.  One passage I read was about how we all think too much.  For most of us our minds have a never ending tape loop that plays over and over.  Much of what we think about is not worth the time and a great number of our thoughts are negative.  By focusing on our breath, we can reduce the amount of time wasted on unnecessary and potentially negative thinking.  Realistically, we cannot stop all thinking.  Many of life’s daily tasks require some level of intellectual activity.  However, I give you this challenge.  Today, when you are not involved in a task that requires you to think, don’t think.  Between your tasks that require thinking, focus on your breath and enjoy the stillness that it will bring.  If you choose to have a cup of coffee or tea during these moments, smell the aroma of the coffee or tea, pay attention to the taste of your coffee or tea, and finally, enjoy it in a very mindful way.  For those few moments let your attention be on your breathing and the experience of your drink.  Such intentional focus is what mindfulness is all about.
Focusing on your breath can also help with anxiety.  On my recent vacation I had to fly one leg of my trip on standby.  At the last minute my family got the last six seats on a flight and they were scattered all over the plane.  I ended up at the back of the plane in a window seat.  This would normally give me great anxiety.  I thought it was a good time to practice what I preach.  I sat in my seat, closed my eyes, and began focusing on my breath.  The flight lasted about an hour and I did not feel any anxiety.  Eventually I got into a conversation with the lady sitting next to me.  We talked about mindfulness and I told her I had been practicing mindfulness on the flight.  She replied, “I could tell you were meditating”.  The only anxiety I experienced on my trip was when I had to be with my entire family, especially during meals. (smile) 

Music As a Unifying Force

Last weekend my granddaughter told me I look like a cross between Albert Einstein and Santa Claus.  Being compared to a man of great intelligence and one of great kindness is fine with me.  I know it’s because of my hair and beard.  My inner hippie has been re-emerging lately.  I am rather wild looking when I first get out of bed in the morning.  I am trying to encourage my granddaughter to be a free spirit and to be whoever she wants to be.  I think one of the reasons she likes me so much is that I try to do the same.   
This week we’ve had some beautiful weather that is totally out of character with the usual July weather in Kentucky.  A friend and I decided to take a walk during the lunch hour earlier this week.  We went across the street from our office to Waterfront Park.  There was a flurry of activity there as workers were preparing the stage and other structures for this weekend’s Forecastle Festival.  This is a music festival that has become one of the premier music festivals in the United States.  There was a time in my life when I would have been in thick of everything for such an event.  I am a music fanatic and I have been to many, many musical events  in my life from listening to blues in smoky clubs to huge festival events with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance.  These days I am not the man I used to be.  I no longer have the desire, stamina, or patience to endure all that one must endure in large, outdoor musical events.  I am still up for them in spirit but not in body.  I am also out of touch with most of today’s music.  I am stuck in the 60’s and 70’s and have little desire to be in the musical world of 2014.  Occasionally I dip my toe into the 90’s but I thought the 80’s was a musical wasteland.  I know some of you youngsters will disagree with me.  Music fanatics like me are a special breed.  Whatever our individual tastes or age may be we usually can relate to one another because of the shared love of music.  I believe that music is the greatest unifying force in the world.  If the music is truly good, it will bring people together.         

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Everything Has A Price

The price of everything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
-Henry David Thoreau
If you are depressed you are living in the past.  If you are anxious you are living in the future.  If you are at peace you are living in the present.
Lao-Tzu is a Chinese philosopher and Henry David Thoreau is one of my favorite thinkers and writers.  Whenever I read any of their stuff they are usually right on the money.  This particular Lao-Tzu quote ties in well with all my previous thoughts about mindfulness.  How many of us are depressed or unhappy because we compare our current life to a romanticized ideal of how great we thought our life used to be?  How many of us fail to see what’s really good in our current life because every waking minute we are daydreaming about some life we wish we had and we’re worrying about whether or not we will ever achieve it?  We spend too much times thinking life used to be great or it could be great if only things were different.  When we are truly present to the eternal Now I believe we see things differently.  Part of being mindful is noticing things.  When we are living in the past or dreaming of the future we are not likely to be noticing the good realities of the present.  I once read a quote of unknown origin that went “These are the good old days”.  Remember that today used to be the future and soon it will be the past.  Where you are now is where you will always be in the sense that only the present truly exists.  Notice the present and be at peace.  Thoreau reminds us that everything in life has a price.  Do you want to be the most successful person at your company?  OK, go for it.  However, there is a price.  Do you want to be well educated and have an impressive degree?  OK, but there is a price.  Do you want to be single or have a spouse and family?  OK but both have a price.  Do you want to run the street, howl at the moon, and abuse your body?  OK but there is a price.  All of our choices, good and bad, have a price.  Each person has to decide what amount of your life you are willing to pay for whatever choices you make.       

In The End Everything Will Be Perfect

“In the end everything will be perfect.  If it’s not perfect now it’s because the end is not here yet”.
This is a line from a wonderful movie I once saw called “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.  It’s the story of a random group of senior citizens who decide to retire in India.  Admittedly I may have identified with the characters because I am older.  However, I think the movie has a message for everyone regardless of their age.  The message I took from the movie is this.  You are never too old to find yourself.  In the movie the different characters come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences.  None of them have any idea what to expect from moving to India.  The “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is in many ways a dump that has been highly over rated on its website.  Everyone seemed apprehensive when they first arrived.  There was the obvious culture shock.  Eventually all but one settled into their new home and culture.  By jumping into the flow of life in India, and not resisting it or fighting it, they came to a new self-awareness.  The movie reminded me that all of life is a journey and the journey is the destination.  It also reminded me that most of us have no idea where the journey will take us.  The important thing is to enjoy the journey, be open to all of life’s possibilities, and when the journey is over, everything will be perfect.  If your life is not perfect yet, your journey is not over.        

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Calm Life

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t want a calm life and a peaceful mind.  It is possible to have a calm life, at least inside oneself, but you will never have a totally peaceful mind.  You can create calming rituals in your life to help you be centered.  You can get up a little earlier to enjoy the morning quiet and prevent yourself from having to rush to wherever you need to be.  You can take breaks throughout your day to sit quietly and re-connect with your inner self.  When you get home and your chores are done, you can take a hot bath, or maybe sit outside and enjoy nature in your backyard.  Having a peaceful mind is more challenging.  Your mind never rests or takes a break.  You mind often feeds your ego and that is rarely a good thing.  In my mind I sometimes have thoughts I do not want.  In my mind I sometimes obsess on small things until they seem to loom large.  When I try to be quiet my mind creates noise.  When I try to be still, my mind tells me I should be busy.  All is not lost.  In the middle of whatever calming rituals that work for you, you can at least temporarily distract your mind by choosing to not think.  I do this by focusing on my breath.  Our breath is life.  I meditate by intentionally paying attention to my breath as I breathe in through my nose and I exhale through my mouth.  Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I am assuming you are breathing.  Pay attention to your breath and calm will come into your life.

Friday, July 11, 2014

It's All In The Presentation

Most people know that my youngest son is a priest.  By all accounts he is well liked and respected.  I have heard compliments about him from some of his parishioners, fellow priests, and even the Archbishop sings his praises.  My wife and I were discussing this with him recently and he responded, “Well, Mom, it’s all in how you present yourself”.  I couldn’t agree more.  I was once told that 80% of success is “showing up”.  I would generally agree with that but I would also say that a very important element of success in life, not just in the workplace, but everywhere, is how you present yourself to others.  I am not talking about kissing up to people and pretending to be something you are not.  When you “show up” for life, be an authentic person.  Everyone should think about how they appear to others.  Perception is not always true reality but perception is reality to most people.  As all of us walk through life we are judged by others and opinions are formed about our character and integrity.  Misconceptions can have a very negative impact on how we are seen by those around us.  Many misconceptions are based on how we carry ourselves and how we present ourselves to others.  If you act like a fool, you will be perceived as a fool.  I am generally perceived as a very nice person.  Some people, however, perceive my kindness as weakness.  That would be a mistake.  Another person having a bad day can be perceived as grumpy although they might be very loving and kind most of the time.  We all have a bad day once in a while.  Leaders who seem to ignore people’s feelings can be perceived as uncaring but maybe they are just “under the gun” that day.  People who create a lot of drama and who have constant needs they expect to be met are often perceived as “heavy maintenance”.  Constant whining, complaining, and “neediness” are exhausting to even the most patience leader.  Misconceptions can go both ways.  Sometimes people present a positive image that is false and insincere.  Such a person is inauthentic and phony.  If you want to be accepted, liked, and admired by others, present yourself as a reasonable, intelligent, cooperative, and mature person who is also sincere and authentic.  Be someone that others want to be with.  Don’t be the type of person that makes others want to run for cover when they see you coming.  Life is difficult enough without other people wearing you out or filling your life with negative energy.  Every time I write thoughts like this, someone will write to me and say “Michael, you can’t be nice all the time.  Sometimes a person needs to be aggressive and assertive to deal with injustice or some other harsh reality of life”.  I agree.  Nothing fires me up more than unfairness or people being treated badly.  However, these thoughts today are more about the image and brand that we create for ourselves by the way we act.  If I had to choose between a cooperative, team player type of person, with a pleasant personality,  or a know it all, pain in the butt, guess which one I would choose?  Whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, we are all selling ourselves to the rest of the world.   Present the best version of who you are or you may be left on the shelf to gather dust.    

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Living On The Inside

Way back in the early 70’s I discovered an album called “Inside”.  It was a recording by a jazz musician named Paul Horn.  He plays the flute which is one of my favorite instruments.  On this particular recording he visited the Taj Mahal in India and then hid inside when they closed for the day.  He had his flute and a recording device.  During the night, when he was alone inside the Taj Mahal, he played his flute and recorded it.  It’s a beautiful recording.  It’s contemplative, prayerful, and a bit cosmic.  If you’re stressed this recording can bring you some peace.  When I listen to it I am reminded how much I love being one with the universe.  Everyone’s life has challenges and disappointments.  Mine is no exception.  However, I have been given many gifts by the universe.  One of the gifts is having the awareness to recognize perfect moments.  I call them Zen moments.  I have such moments frequently when I listen to music.  I can listen to a recording of a concert from many years ago and in my mind I am right there in the front row.  Time travel is easy for me when it comes to music.  I recall another time when I got home early from work one day.  I was alone, the house was quiet, and it was the middle of winter.  I made a cup of hot chocolate and sat in my chair, looking out my window while watching huge snowflakes fill the air.  I was lost in the moment and one with the universe.  I believe I learned to see and recognize such moments when I lived in the monastery.  I was very young and idealistic but also very serious.  I would go for walks in the woods and sometimes I would just sit on a log and listen to the wind in the trees.  These types of experiences showed me a whole new way to see life.  You should look for similar opportunities in your own life to go “inside” and be one with the universe.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Eliminating Non-Essentials

Beside the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.
-Lin Yutang
Most of us spend much of our lives performing all kinds of tasks that we believe must be done.  I’ve come to the conclusion that much of what we do is either the result of our own personal agendas or the agendas of others.  Think of all the things you do.  If you died today would someone else assume your tasks?  If you stopped doing some of the things you do, would anyone notice?  Abraham Maslow, the famous psychologist and author of the “Hierarchy of Needs” made a statement once that “80% of all work is BS”.  How many of you reading this think that many of your work related tasks have no real value?  The above quote, however, is not just about the non-value added tasks that too many of us perform.  I think it is also about discerning, not only what is essential or non-essential, but what needs our involvement and what does not.  We human beings want to control and manipulate everything to suit our needs.  The damage we have inflicted on our planet is proof of this.  There are way too many control freaks and micro-managers in life and not enough people of wisdom whose desire is to influence and not to manipulate.  Life is not a competitive sport.  We don’t have to control or beat everything.  Certainly there are essential tasks of daily life that must be completed.  However, much of our activity is just self-created busy work or the demands of someone’s else’s agenda.  The universe knows what is essential and what is not and I’m pretty sure the universe can manage itself without our ego-centric agendas.  Some things we need to do, some things we need to influence, some things we need to let be, and some things we need to simply ignore.      

Monday, July 07, 2014

My Granddaughter's 10th Birthday

Yesterday was my granddaughter’s 10th birthday.  I’m happy to say that she shares a birthday with the Dalai Lama.  Coincidence?   What a decade the last ten years have been for Chloe and me.  It is difficult to remember a time when she was not part of my life.  Being a grandfather has been the most rewarding experience in my life.  I have two sons and I enjoyed them as they were growing up.  I enjoy them even more now that they are men.  Parenthood, however, is a lot of work.  Being a grandparent is pure joy.  Yes, I worry about my granddaughter and the world in which she lives, but most of the time I can totally enjoy being her “Paw Paw”.  After returning home from our recent vacation, she told her Dad that the only thing she would have liked doing more while we were in Florida was to have more time in the pool with me.  She will be coming over this weekend and I thought we would be going to see the new Planet of the Apes movie.  However, she told my wife during her birthday party that she doesn’t want to see it if it has war and violence.  I am happy to know she is non-violent and a lover of peace.  Scratch the ape movie.  We will probably be going to see “How To Train Your Dragon, Part II”.  I still can’t believe that little Chloe is 10 years old.  This means that Paw Paw is ten years OLDER too.  It’s a little more challenging now to carry Chloe on my shoulders.  In ten more years she might be holding my arm to help me walk.      

Thursday, July 03, 2014

I'm OK, You're OK

Whether we realize it or not, most of us have been told our entire lives that we aren't good enough.  Our life has been filled with messages telling us that we are inadequate and imperfect.  Most of the messages were unintentional but real never the less.  They have been from our parents, our teachers, our spouses, our significant others, our children, our relatives, our friends, and our employers.  We don't measure up, we disappoint, or we don't meet someone else's standards.  I, too, have heard these messages my entire life.  A friend once recommended a book to me that I finally read.  I would have read it sooner but I am imperfect and lazy so it took me a while to get to it.  As you can see we often give ourselves these negative messages too.  They don't always come from others.  Our biggest critic is often ourselves.  Anyway.....the name of the book is "Regardless of What You Were Taught to Believe.....There is Nothing Wrong With You" by Cheri Huber.  It is sub-titled "Going Beyond Self-Hate, A Compassionate Process for Learning to Accept Yourself Exactly as You Are".  The book begins with a list of the messages all of us received in our early childhoods.  I was amazed how many I had heard, how many I said to my own children, and how many I have even said to my granddaughter who I love more than anything in the world.  According to psychologists most of these messages are set in concrete before we reach age seven.  I know this may all sound terribly negative but it is not meant to be.  Consider it an eye opener and a wakeup call to stop listening to the voices around you.  Today is the day to start loving yourself.  Quit trying to improve yourself.  Quit thinking you're inadequate.  Quit thinking you're imperfect.  You're perfect the way you are.   

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Nothing Else Happens. This Is It.

Two Buddhist monks are sitting side by side while meditating on the bank of a river  The older and wiser monk eventually says to the younger monk, who has a look of dismay on his face, “Nothing else happens.  This is it.”
If you are like me, then you surely sometimes wonder to yourself, “Is this it?  Does nothing else happen”?  Much of my life’s journey I have been on a quest to find meaning in my life.  More often than not I do not feel successful.  Sometimes I wonder if I am searching for something that is simply not there.  Too often I feel like life is a treadmill and I’m getting nowhere.  Is it possible that this is it and nothing else happens?  Is my life nothing more than a revolving door with me doing nothing but coming to work, going home, falling asleep on my couch, waking up so I can go to bed, and then beginning the whole process over again the next morning?  This is what my life often feels like.  I want to believe I make a difference but do I?  Occasionally I feel passionate but more often than not I feel like I have lost my mojo and that I am turning into a grumpy old man.  The constant search for meaning can be exhausting.  After originally writing these thoughts I got home one day and waiting for me was an email from a friend containing an article that she said reminded her of some of my previous thoughts.  It was an article that talked about three major phases of life.  The first and longest is the time we devote to accumulating wealth and material well-being.  The second is the accumulation of spiritual things, i.e., gurus, seminars, retreats, and mystical experiences.  The third phase is called divestment.  You stop shopping for enlightenment and you make peace with not knowing.  You make peace with life and accept that life is not a question to be answered or a problem to be solved but a gift to be enjoyed.  I think I am now in this third phase.  I need to relax in my “not knowing” and simply enjoy life as it unfolds.       

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Wasted Away Again In Margaritaville

Last week I completely lost touch with reality.  Today is the first time I have worn shoes or a watch in over a week.  Most of last week I was in Margaritaville with Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley music as my soundtrack.  Vacations are wonderful if you are fortunate enough to get one but when they are over it is tough to get back into the rhythm of daily work.  However, it is probably a good thing for me to get back into my normal rhythm of life.  Even though I had a lot of fun last week, it almost killed me.  Vacations can be a lot of work especially with the stress of traveling by plane.  This particular vacation was a family trip and that can be a mixed blessing.  The highlight for me was the joy experienced by my granddaughter.  She had the time of her life.  It was her first time to fly on an airplane and her first time to see the ocean.  She practically lived in the hotel pool.  While my butt was dragging much of the time, she took everything in with enthusiasm and wonder.  She has also inherited her Dad’s love of adventure.  While she was riding the roller coaster through “The Mummy’s Tomb” at Universal Studios, I was sitting in the shade trying not to have a heat stroke.  Despite my occasional physical fatigue I also did lots of fun things and overall I really enjoyed myself.  When I finally got home after six days and five nights of family time, however, I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  I once again realized that there’s no place like home and I love to sleep in my own bed. 

The resort I stayed at last week was definitely geared towards younger people.  Most days the party started around noon…after all the young people had slept off their hangovers from the night before…and it was usually going strong after I had gone to bed each night.  One particular day was “Rave” day.  There was a DJ who played endless loops of dance music with thumping bass lines that sometimes rattled your insides.  I dug it the first few hours but after about six hours I would have liked to hear some Chicago blues.  The repetitive nature of the dance music made me think about the repetitive nature of our lives with the seemingly endless loops of our behavior and thinking.  It is difficult for most of us to break out of routines and to think differently.  We often feel locked into our patterns of behavior.  I receive a daily thought each day on my cell phone based on my personality.  One thought I have received several times challenges me to act the opposite of how I normally act.  Instead of always trying to sugar coat everything, perhaps I need to be more blunt and to the point.  Instead of acting passively, perhaps I need to be more assertive.  Instead of trying to be invisible, perhaps I need to put myself out there more often.  Instead of biting my tongue, perhaps I need to speak out.  Do you get the point?  Our lives can be endless loops of the same old song.  Occasionally we need to change the beat of our lives and create some new and fresh harmonies.