Thursday, January 29, 2015

Do No Harm

I once read a book called  Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  It is a book about mindfulness.  One chapter was about the idea of doing no harm.  If you don’t know what to do, at least do no harm.  This is a good mantra for those who find it difficult to actually practice love, kindness, and compassion.  It is similar to the Dalai Lama’s teaching that if you can’t love everyone, at least don’t hurt them.  This particular Dalai Lama teaching is something I practice a lot in the work environment.  However, I think the idea of doing no harm is a great default mantra when love, kindness, and compassion seem beyond our ability.  I like to believe that most other people, including me, are driven by idealistic motives.  However, my experience is that being optimistic, positive, and caring takes a lot of energy.  It is energy well spent but it does take a lot of effort to be a good person.  Doing no harm may seem like a negative way to live bit I think it can only have positive results.  By doing no harm we keep ourselves from unleashing negative energy into the world.  The laws of karma would say that by doing no harm, no harm will be done to you.  In a perfect world we would all be driven and motivated by caring for others and doing good things.  In the real world it is challenging to always do these things.  I still hope to practice love, kindness, and compassion as much as possible and whenever possible.  However, I also know that some days it seems beyond my ability.  When I am feeling less than charitable, I hope my backup plan of doing no harm kicks in and keeps me from saying or doing things I will regret later.      

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Relax And Live

Worry is the most natural and spontaneous of all human functions.  It is time to acknowledge this, perhaps even learn to do it better.
-Pathologist Lewis Thomas
I know people…one of them is my wife…who worry about everything.  Such people are almost incapable of not worrying.  It is in their nature to worry about everything, no matter how irrational it may be.  I worry about nothing.  I sometimes have concerns and on a rare occasion I do get stressed.  My wife would say that I don’t worry because I am clueless about reality.  She would probably say this about all men.  Admittedly, there are probably times I should worry.  I do sometimes make molehills out of mountains but I am an eternal optimist who always believes things will get better even when they don’t.  What does worry accomplish?  It seems like a terrible waste of energy to me and I don’t have any that I can spare.  Such energy could be spent seeking a solution to whatever it is that you are worrying about.  I think many people worry because they cannot differentiate between an inconvenience and a real crisis.  I don’t know exactly why I do not worry.  I believe it is because of my belief and experience that God and life has always taken care of me.  One way or another I have always gotten what I need to live.  When I haven’t gotten what I thought I needed, I probably didn’t really need it.  As we all know, there are needs and there are wants.  Sometimes what I need is not what I want and it might take me a little while to accept that.  I wish people, especially chronic worriers, would take all the time and energy they waste on worrying and use it to just think deeply about their life.  They might want to reflect on the question, “Why do I worry so much and how many, if any, of my fears have actually come true”?  We all need to deal with the challenges that life gives each of us but we would also be doing ourselves a big favor if we could simply relax and live.       

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Live With A Sense Of Wonder

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.
-Comedian Lucille Ball
Lots of words have been written about staying young.  Some people say age is all about attitude.  This idea has been humorously captured by the famous baseball player, Satchel Paige, in his quote “Age is mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it don’t matter”.  Some people also talk about being “young at heart”.  I don’t think we should obsess about being young.  As Bob Dylan once sang, “Those not busy being born are busy dying”.  Sometimes our attempts to be young are little more than immature behavior.  There’s nothing more pathetic than a man or woman my age trying to act like they are twenty.  As we grow older we should trade our immaturity for wisdom.  If there is a quality we should strive for, it is not youthfulness, it is being childlike by living our life with a sense of wonder.  One of the pitfalls of aging is that we often become cynical and we can no longer be awed by anything.  If I end up physically old, wise, and with a childlike sense of wonder and awe, I will be happy with myself.  Never lose your openness to awe and wonder.  Fight your cynicism.  When nothing impresses you or causes you to be lost in the moment, you are already dead.  Life is tough and it can sometimes feel boring.  Every day there are the chores of life and the demands of making a living.  Don’t let making a living replace having a life.  Live your life with childlike wonder and awe.  Be open to the extraordinary within the ordinary.  Pay attention and be present when moments of wonder and awe reveal themselves to you.     

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Zen Reminder

Zen is doing what you are doing and being where you are.  It sounds simple but in reality is quite challenging.  Zen is also about balance.  This is also very challenging.  Keeping the different parts of our lives in balance is like spinning five or six plates on the end of long sticks all at the same time.  Getting enough rest, doing enough but not too much work, being with others and being with self, being active and being still, enjoying life and being present to the sacred, knowing when to go and when to stop, when to speak and when to be silent, is a daily challenge.  If your life feels out of balance, it probably is.  Life moves fast.  Sometimes you must slow down to keep it all from spinning out of control.  You can't be present to the moment if you meeting yourself coming and going.  Stop now, close your eyes and simply breathe for a moment.  Refresh yourself.  Do this throughout your day.  Go home at the end of this work day (if you are not already there) and practice slowing down.  Pay attention to your own breath and remember it is the source of your life.  Be where you are....

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Finding Our Original Face

We must try to discover the real person we are.  From time to time something authentic shows through in moments when we are carried away by such joy that we forget who might be looking at us, when we are unself-conscious in moments of extreme pain, or when we have a deep sense of sadness or wonder.  At these moments we see something of the true person that we are.  But often after we have seen ourselves we turn away because we do not want to confront this person face to face.  Nevertheless this is the only real person there is in us.
-Orthodox Bishop Anthony Bloom
Who are all of us…really?  We show up in different parts of our lives in a variety of costumes acting out the role we play for that scene.  All of us go through life wearing a variety of masks usually because we fear rejection from our fellow actors.  I shared once that every time two people meet there are six people in the room.  For each person there is the person they think they are, the person they really are, and the person the other person thinks they are.  When the masks and the costumes are stripped away, who is the real person?  We can spend much of our lives in the company of the same people and the mystery of who we are is never truly revealed.  I have long believed that the person we are when we are alone is a good indicator of who we really are.  When there are no roles to play, no games to play, and no expectations on how we should act, we are usually most comfortable being our true selves.  The whole goal of life and our individual spiritual journeys is to find our true selves.  Our true self is who we are in God.  The Buddhists call this “finding the face you had before your parents were born”.  The true self is the real self, the unmasked self, the pure essence of who we truly are.  It is our original nature and the part of us that many believe is eternal.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Getting Old Is Not All Bad

At eighty I believe I am a far more cheerful person than I was at twenty or thirty.  I most definitely would not want to be a teenager again.  Youth may be glorious but it is also painful to endure.  Moreover, what is called youth is not youth; it is rather something like premature old age.
-Writer Henry Miller
I am not yet eighty but I am a long way from twenty or thirty.  I don’t know if I am happier in my sixties than I was in my twenties or thirties.  I have always found happiness elusive.  Usually the best I can do is to feel reasonably content.  I can say one thing with a fair amount of certainty.  I would rather be sixty than twenty.  Looking back there were too many parts of my life I found very difficult and I would not like to relive them.  At my current age I feel a sense of relief that many of life’s challenges are behind me.  Daily life is still challenging and I don’t know what lies ahead but in general I am more relaxed and more comfortable in my own skin.  When one gets older you think more and more about less and less.  You have a greater appreciation for life’s simple joys and it doesn’t take much to make you happy.  You are past the stage where you want to build an empire and most would rather have less.  A simple life has great appeal.  Perhaps it is in this simplicity, when you spend more time letting go than gathering, that people find the greatest happiness.  Occasionally I do wish I had my sixty three year old life experience and wisdom in a twenty year old body.  However, that might be a dangerous combination.  You cannot experience old age without doing time as a young person.  In all fairness, every stage of life has it’s joys and sorrows, it’s challenges and rewards, and it’s pros and cons.  If you are lucky you will experience it all.  Some of us have old souls when we are young while others are young at heart in bodies that are falling apart.  Happiness and age are in the mind and in our attitudes.  As I once said in a previous daily thought, “When we are young our bodies drag our minds around, when we are old our minds drag our bodies around”.  Think about it.  If you are young I advise you to live as well as you can while you still have the energy.            

The Pattern Of Your Life

All is pattern, all life, but we can’t always see the pattern when we are part of it.
-Writer Belva Plain
I have always enjoined reading the biographies of famous people or watching documentaries about their lives.  I find it fascinating to see what influences and experiences shaped them into the people they became.  I have attempted more than once to identify and understand my own influences and experiences.  How did I become the person I am today?  You may occasionally ask yourself the same question.  Much of the time when we are living our lives they do not appear to make sense.  Even when we have a sense of where we want to be and what we want to do, it is never a simple path.  Life is full of side roads and back alleys.  Sometimes we explore and enjoy these side trips off the main path.  Occasionally they turn into the path we walk for the rest of our lives.  I had what most people would consider a stable and good upbringing.  Life has given me a good education.  I have been blessed with good teachers and mentors.  I grew up in a tumultuous time of American and world history.  I’ve lived in a monastery and I’ve spend more than more than half my life married.  Despite my inadequacies as a parent I have two good sons.  At different times in my life I wanted to be a priest, monk, rock star, social worker, psychologist, and writer.  In some ways I have been all of these things.  Looking backward, I can see how many of my life experiences have formed me into who I am.  The individual threads of my life have woven themselves together into a tapestry that is who I am.  My life often seems very ordinary to me but others think my life has been interesting.  Your tapestry may have a different pattern than mine but you have one nevertheless.  Take some time today to reflect on your life and see what patterns you can identify.      

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Quiet Courage

It isn’t for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for the long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security.
-Writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh
If you haven’t already discovered it for yourself, let me be the one to tell you that life is hard.  It is also not fair and it is harder for some people than it is for others.  The challenges of life do not mean that life is terrible and not worth living.  There are few people who will not do whatever it takes to keep on living.  To paraphrase from the poet Dylan Thomas, few of us go gently into that good night.  It’s not that we fear death, it’s that we love living.  Most of our days are ordinary.  We take care of ourselves and our families, we drop our children off at the daycare or school, we come to work, and then we go home.  For some going home means rest.  For others, going home is delayed because of second jobs.  Still others go home to hungry mouths, piles of laundry, and homework assignments.  Few of us have not had moments where we wanted to scream and yell “It’s too much”!  However, in quieter moments of rest and reflection, our faith is renewed, we feel secure in our belief that we will receive what we need, and hope gives us a sense of security.  Some men and women do heroic things that we hear about in the news.  I always admire such people.  However, I also admire the everyday heroes that are never in the news.  These are the people who push themselves to do all they are called to do. They get up every day and come to work.  The take care of their families.  They are faithful to their commitments.  Such people are the salt of the earth and they are full of quiet courage that is not often noticed.     

Monday, January 19, 2015

Be Who You Are

I don’t care, frankly, what people think.  I do what I like.
-Chef Julia Child
I don’t believe this quote means that we should have no concern whatsoever about other people and that we should just do whatever we want, regardless of the impact on those around us.  Unless you’re a hermit, and you have little contact with the rest of the human race, we do have to live our lives with some degree of cooperation and tolerance of others.  I think what this quote tells us is that you can’t live your whole life trying to please other people, trying to impress them, or comparing yourself to them.  Each of us has been given one life and we have to live it the best way we can.  We will go through different stages of growth, immaturity, pain, and awareness until we have achieved some level of self-actualization.  What is self-actualization?  I believe it is that point in our lives, usually when we are past our middle age, when we become who we really are and we begin to realize our true potential and personal power.  Self-actualization is at the top of Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”.  You will never be who you are meant to be if you spend your entire live trying to please others or meet their expectations.  I think Julia Child is saying that pleasing yourself is not inappropriate, or selfish, and that each of us must walk down the path that calls us.  In her case, it was the call to learn French cooking and to show that anyone could cook like a chef with a little effort.  Each of us is more than someone’s son or daughter, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s mother or father, or someone’s husband or wife.  We may be one or more of all these things but self-actualization is when we discover our true essence and our true self.  Do not confuse identity with roles.  Doing what you like may be selfish but it can also be the path to your self-awareness.       

Friday, January 16, 2015

Each Day Is A New Beginning

The present is the ever moving shadow that divides yesterday from tomorrow.  In that lies hope”.
-Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
There’s a somewhat corny saying that goes, “Today is a gift.  That’s why it’s called the present”.  The reality is that each new day is a gift that not everyone receives.  Each new day is a new beginning and every new beginning is a time of hope that we will be better people, that life will be better for us, and that we can forget yesterday’s troubles.  Often by the end of a workday I am tired and frazzled after dealing with whatever came up that day.  Sometimes when I finally get into my car and I am putting my key into the ignition, I close my eyes and think “Thank you, God”!  I’m not always sure if I am thanking God for giving me the strength to get through another day of work or if I am thanking him for finally getting me out of the office!  By the next morning, however, I am usually refreshed, renewed, and ready for whatever the new day brings.  Anything that feels overwhelming at the end of a day, or in the night, seems considerably less so at the beginning of a new day.  In the early morning I feel like I can do anything.  In the late afternoon I am often out of gas and little things can seem like a huge chore.  This is why I love early morning.  Anything seems possible in the morning.  It is generally a peaceful time.  I also like evenings because they are also peaceful even if they don’t seem as full of possibility as the morning.  If I could just find a way to avoid the whole middle part of the day.  Maybe I will start working 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM, go home and take a long nap, then come back to the office and work 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM.  How does that sound?   

Thursday, January 15, 2015

You Are Where You Are Meant To Be

You make what seems to be a simple choice:  Choose a man or a job or a neighborhood…and what you have chosen is not a man or a job or a neighborhood, but a life.
-Writer Jessamyn West
This quote reminds me of another quote attributed to John Lennon that goes, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”.  I have written before about dreams not realized, lives that seem more accidental than planned, and how many of our days are simply ordinary.  Some would say these points of view represent a negative attitude about life.  Let’s look at life from a different point of view and one that I truly believe is true.  Let’s accept that our lives have turned out exactly the way they should and that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.  I truly believe this is true even when it doesn’t seem logical.  Many of you know that as a young man I lived in a monastery and I thought I would be a monk for the rest of my life.  It was a romantic ideal for me that I would live in a beautiful place, that I would walk on air, and that I would be in a blissful aura of sanctity for all eternity.  Obviously that didn’t happen.  If I had stayed in the monastery, blissful or not, none of you would be reading these thoughts because I would not be here to write them.  In addition, my wife would be married to another man, my children would not exist, my beloved granddaughter, Chloe, would also not exist and who knows what great things they may all do in their futures.  It is easy to think our lives do not make a difference but they do.  Your life has more value than you probably realize.  You affect the lives of others in ways you may never realize.  The lives we have now are where we are supposed to be today and today is all we have.   

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Time Is Now

There are dreams of love, life, and adventure in all of us.  But we are also sadly filled with reasons why we shouldn’t try.  These reasons seem to protect us but in truth they imprison us.  They hold life at a distance.  Life will be over sooner than we think.  If we have bikes to ride and people to love, now is the time. 
-Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
For those who may not be familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, she is most famous for her groundbreaking work with the dying.  It seems appropriate and good that someone who has spent a great deal of time studying the end of life would also be someone who encourages us to not waste a minute of life and to live it to the fullest.  I have often grown weary of my own maturity, responsibility, and dependability.  There are times I get tired of being the guy who always does the right thing in sacrifice of love, life and adventure.  However, I am also aware that some people actually admire me for these rather boring traits.  Since most of my life has not been spent sailing the high seas, flying around the world in a hot air balloon, or climbing the highest mountains, I have tried to get the most out of a quieter life that seems more ordinary than extraordinary.  Still, even those of us who live ordinary lives, doing mostly ordinary things, can have an attitude of yes to life’s possibilities.  If you are young, and even if you are old, I encourage you to say yes more than no.  If there’s an opportunity to do something, then do it.  If there’s an opportunity to be something, then be it.  When something new is knocking at the door, do not turn off the lights and pretend that you are not at home.  More importantly, don’t assume you will have time to do something in the future.  The time to do something is now. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What Is Life?

What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
-Last Words of Blackfoot Warrior Crowfoot
The images in this quote speak to me of mindfulness and paying attention.  When I was a child catching fireflies was one of the things children did.  As a young boy I actually played outside, especially on summer days and nights.  At that time of my life a summer day seemed eternal.  Admittedly, the lack of air conditioning in my parent’s home and the fact that my family only had one black and white television with two channels, motivated me to go outside and be creative with my time.  My wife and I were once on vacation during Thanksgiving week.  We decided to have lunch at Huber’s Restaurant, a place usually so crowded that you normally cannot get in.  We took some back roads to get there when I suddenly saw a field full of buffalo.  I am talking about real buffalo like you see in movies about the frontier days.  It wasn’t cold enough to see their breath but unusual enough to get lost in a moment of wonder.  Whether it is spring, summer, fall, or winter, I usually notice the differences in the light and shadows of the day.  I have lived most of my life in the same places but they never look the same.  As I travel up and down the same road to work each day I see the new growth and colors of spring, the green fullness of summer bounty, the multi-colored tapestry of fall colors, and the starkness of winter.  Each season has its own beauty.  Our lives are like the seasons.  Each stage of life corresponds with a season of nature.  Some of you are in the springtime of your lives.  Some are experiencing the fullness of summer by being at the peak of your powers.  Many, like me, are in the autumn of our lives when we know we have more summers behind us than in front of us.  Eventually, if you are lucky enough to have a long life, you will experience the winter of life when the cycle is complete.  I think Crowfoot is encouraging us to enjoy the moments and the seasons of our lives for life is made up of such moments.  Maybe a deeper question than “What is life?” might be “What is your life”?              

Monday, January 12, 2015

How To Live Your Life

There are only two ways to live your life.  One is though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.
-Physicist Albert Einstein
If the world is divided into two camps, then I am a person who thinks everything is a miracle.  I strive to take nothing for granted and to see everything as a miracle and a gift.  Have you ever really stopped and reflected on the wonder of life?  The natural world alone fills me with awe.  The checks and balances of nature, when left unaltered by mankind, are a work of art.  When I speak of being one with the universe…what I also refer to as a Zen moment…I am speaking of being in harmony with the miracle of life.  You are living a Zen life and a contemplative life when you find yourself increasingly being lost in such moments.  The act of listening to music can be an analogy for such moments.  For most people music is something in the background.  Sometimes, however, when I have music in the background while I am doing something else, the music will take control and I cannot continue what I am doing.  I become lost in the musical performance and I am no longer conscious of the moment or what I am doing.  There’s an excellent book called “The Mystery of the Ordinary” by Charles Cummins that reinforces what I am saying.  Most of us go through life asleep.  We fail to notice many things in our daily lives.  We take most things for granted and fail to appreciate the mystery of the ordinary or the miracles of life that surround us.  Take a few minutes today and pay attention to life.  Let your senses run wild.  Look around and actually see things.  Smell the bread baking.  Taste your food.  Feel the wind and the warmth of the sun, if there is any, upon your face.  Listen to some music for no other reason than to enjoy the melodies.  Don’t pass through your life with no memory of the journey.  Slow down.  Be present.  Breathe.  Laugh.  Don’t take your yourself so seriously.  Be happy.  Be a miracle.

Friday, January 09, 2015

This Week's Thoughts

I suspect that most of you felt like my wife and me this past Monday.  You were on a bummer.  The holidays were over, it was Monday, and we’re back to our normal routine of working 5-6 days a week.  On top of this winter is making a strong comeback this week, it’s very cold and dark, and we have a long haul till Derby Day and the next holiday.  However, I also kind of like this time of year when life slows down, we can retreat into our homes or ourselves, and we can hibernate with a good book or favorite movie.  Winter can also be a time of rest.  This past weekend my wife and I took down all our Christmas decorations and packed them away one more time.  It is wonderful for my home to be back to normal.  When you take down your Christmas tree it is like you suddenly have twice the space.  However you feel this morning, this is also a good time of year to be extra kind.  The combination of the holidays being over and winter arriving can be challenging.  We are all in this together so let’s work together to make our transition back to reality a smooth one.  
In the busyness of the holidays I sometime forgot to breathe.  Life is back to its usual routines so I can now breathe again at a normal rate.  For better or worse I am a creature of habit and routine.  I try to be conscious in my routines but admittedly I sometimes do them on auto-pilot.  Paying attention to my breathing helps me to be conscious of my activities.  I look forward to the coming weeks of nothingness so I can slow down and once again remember to breathe.  Some of you are thinking, “What’s his deal with breathing”?  Well, our breath is our life.  When was the last time you actually noticed you were breathing?  My guess is that most of you only think about breathing when you can’t do it.  Think about the last time you had a cold or your allergies were bothering you.  I bet you thought, “I wish I could breathe”!  Not only is your breathing a sign that you are alive, it is also a metaphor for being spiritually awake and one with life.  Do not take breathing for granted.  Sometime today, when you have a quiet moment, stop what you are doing and simply be present to your breathing.  Breathe in through your nose and think, “I am one with all of life”.  Exhale through your mouth and think, “All of life is one with me”.  People have often asked me how to meditate.  This is a very simple way.  If you want to be more spiritual, simply change the words to something that is spiritually meaningful to you.  Paying attention to your breathing is also an excellent way to become calm if you are feeling a little frazzled and it can be a way to enhance your well-being.       
Security is mostly superstition.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
-Helen Keller
Keep in mind that the above quote is from a woman who was deaf, blind, and unable to speak.  When I think of that I must wonder what excuse the rest of us have for not living more daring lives.  I am not as adventurous as I would like to be.  It is not in my nature to be daring or a risk taker.  I am way too cautious in my life.  It is an ingrained part of my personality to take the path of least resistance.  After seeing the last installment of “The Hobbit” recently with my granddaughter, Chloe, I realized that I have many of the characteristics of a Hobbit.  I prefer to sit in my Hobbit house, next to a fire, with a good book, hot coffee, and all my other creature comforts.  Life in the Shire suits me fine.  Age may turn many of us into Hobbits.  If I do take risks it is most likely in my thinking instead of my actions.  If Gandalf and a band of Dwarfs showed up at my door urging me to join them on “An Unexpected Journey”, I would most likely be as resistant as Bilbo Baggins.  I have a co-worker with the same basic personality as me.  We sometimes lament certain parts of our personalities that make us who we are.  However, I try not to use who I am as an excuse for not being who I could be.  I probably do not challenge myself enough and I doubt that I am alone.  Although there is nothing wrong with being a Hobbit, it is not always a good thing to take the path of least resistance and to always avoid danger or risk.  A passionate life, whether it be a deeply intellectual life, or one with the daring of Dwarfs and Wizards on a great adventure to Middle Earth, cannot be lived in total safety and comfort.     
Train your will to concentrate on a limited objective.  When young, your spread your effort over too many things.  If your try fails, what does it matter?  All life is a failure in the end.  The thing is to get sport out of trying.
-Sir Francis Chichester (after sailing around the world at age 71)
I must admit that most of the dreams of my youth have never come to fruition.  Much of my life has seemed like an accident.  How did a 60’s hippie who once lived in a monastery end up at Humana?  This doesn’t mean that everything has turned out badly.  It just means that my life hasn’t exactly been a well-executed project plan.  Many lives are like mine in the sense that people often end up in places they never planned to go.  Did I want too many things when I was young and did I spread my efforts too thinly?  Perhaps.  Much of my life I didn’t know what I really wanted or what I might be good at doing.  I was the person at age fifty who wondered, “What do I want to be when I grow up”?  Are all the unfulfilled dreams failures?  I think not.  I’ve had some grand adventures along the journey of life and I think I will have more.  In many ways I believe I am on the brink of realizing my own true purpose and I feel I am on the verge of some kind of personal break through.  My fifties and now my sixties have been a time of great personal enlightenment.  Although I still get annoyed with some of my behavior, I am no longer a mystery to myself.  I know who I am and my reason for being is becoming clearer to me.  We don’t always get to be what we want to be but we usually end up being who we are meant to be.  I am not sure I will be sailing around the world when I am 71 years old like Sir Francis but I will leave my mark in some way.  None of us are here just to take up space.    

Thursday, January 01, 2015

This Week's Thoughts

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.  This time after Christmas Day is difficult.  After weeks of anticipation and preparation, it’s all over in the bat of an eye.  There is definitely an anti-climax feeling when the presents are unwrapped and the decorations begin to come down.  My son the priest reminded me that in the Church the Christmas season begins on Christmas Day and continues into January.  Only in the secular world does it end on Christmas Day.  This is also the darkest time of year and many suffer from a lack of sunlight.  Keep your heads up, be patience with everyone around you, and look for the smaller joys that are often hidden in the day.  The time after the holidays and during the cold winter months can also be a time of rest and hibernation and recharging.  Although it seems very far away at this point, spring will be here in a few months with all the new life we’ve come to expect.
What we see depends mainly on what we look for.
-John Lubbock
I can’t speak for other people but as I walk through life I look for beauty, goodness, and “real” people.  My personal radar has been calibrated to pick up on these things.  As a result I notice beauty in the ugliest of places, I see goodness in most people, and I can easily identify what some people call “Plastic People”.  If all you ever look for is mistakes, inadequacies, and weaknesses, that is all you will ever see.  You will be blind to the things that are correct and going well, you will never notice people’s strengths, and the talents of many will be beyond your vision.  Most of life goes the way it should and most people are good.  Appreciation and gratitude are the fuel that drives life and people.  Using premium fuel gives you the best performance.  Focusing on the negative never has positive results.  If you look for the good and the positive, that is what you will see.       
 “The planet does not need more successful people.  The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”
-The Dalai Lama
I have been fortunate enough to see the Dalai Lama twice and I admire him greatly.  Everyone wants to be successful but not everyone agrees on the definition of success.  The world measures success by the size of your paycheck, the power you wield, the title you have, the square footage of your office, and who dies with the most toys.  Most religions would measure success by how good you are and how much you love those around you.  I reject the world’s view and I mostly agree with success being measured by one’s goodness and love in action.  I would also add that part of success is being the best version of who you are.  We are all unique, we all have something to give, and we all have a part in the great drama of life.  Shakespeare said that “all the world’s a stage” and that we are all actors.  Success, however, is not acting.  Success is being real and true.  Being real and being true to who we are is a lifelong journey.  Our true selves are often buried deep within us.  The journey of life is to uncover who we really are and to be that person.  Imagine a world where most people were real and true.  It would be a world with more cooperation and less competition.  It would be a world with more love and less hate.  It would be a world with more peace and less war.  It is our obsession with power, prestige, and possessions that creates most of the disharmony in the world.  If you are not already being a peacemaker, healer, restorer, storyteller, or a person motivated by love, begin today.  Let these things be your New Year’s resolutions.  If you can lose a little weight too, all the better.  Along the way you will find yourself and make the world a better place.      
Happy New Year!