Thursday, July 30, 2015

Let Us Rise Up And Be Thankful

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die.  So let us all be thankful.
-The Buddha
These words of the Buddha probably do a good job of summing up most of the days in our lives.  They also remind us to always be thankful.  Whenever we look backwards we can remember reasons to be happy and reasons to be sad.  Every year we experience new births, rebirths, conversions, transformations, and new ways of seeing things.  Most of us also experience some type of loss.  Relationships can change and sometimes fall apart.  People we care about leave our lives or sometimes die.  Some of us are better off materially and financially and some of us are worse off.  Some of us are in the spring or summer of our lives and others are in the autumn or winter of their lives.  Some of us are gathering in the harvest of our lives while others are letting go and simplifying their life.  Doors close and windows open.  The unfolding of life, year by year, is the great mystery in which we all live.  Each morning is the threshold of a new day with new possibilities.  If yesterday wasn't so great for you, today can be a time of new hope.  A while back I saw the Rolling Stones perform at Churchill Downs.  Keith Richards, a member of the band and a guy who should have died ten times by now, looked out on the crowd and said, "It's really nice to be here.  It's really nice to be anywhere"!  I share his sentiments.  I'm really happy to still be here and I try to remind myself that these are the good old days and the best days of my life are still ahead of me.  Begin the rest of your life now by seizing the day and living with a grateful heart.

What Is Success?

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.  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.  Along the way you will find yourself and make the world a better place.      

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What Excites You?

Make a list of things that excite you.  What kind of person would you be if you could sustain this level of excitement more often?  What steps can you take to become more like that person?
I admit that I am a person that doesn’t get excited easily.  I am cynical by nature, more reserved than I care to admit, and my true emotions rarely show.  As a leader one of my weaknesses is an inability to be a cheerleader type of person.  There are certainly people and things that give me joy.  My granddaughter and music come to mind.  However, I don’t think joy and excitement are the same thing.  I think what excites me is when I can be who I really am and do what I do best.  Occasionally this happens but not with a great deal of frequency.  Many people find it difficult to be who they are because they don’t know who they are.  I have a fairly good idea of my identity because I’ve had a long life so far to figure it out.  Many people also don’t know what they do best because they haven’t found their gift yet.  Excitement is a difficult emotion for me.  When I actually feel excitement it is almost uncomfortable.  I suppose the strongest emotion I feel is passion.  Passion, however, is a double edged sword.  On the positive side I can feel passion for something I truly believe in, on the negative side my passion is occasionally repressed anger that has found its way to the surface of my feelings.  Today I will try to meditate on things that excite me and ways that I can nurture this feeling within myself.  I want to live a life where my experiences, thoughts, and actions excite me.  Excitement, like joy, is a wonderful feeling.  I strive to avoid negative feelings and most of the time I am positive.  However, I am rarely excited.  Perhaps I have been disappointed too many times in life and my experience is that most expectations are planned disappointments.     

Monday, July 27, 2015

Be Sure To Wear The Right Kind Of Shoes

During our lifetime we walk down many different roads.  We start in one place and end up in another place.  When one road ends, another one begins.  As Tom Hanks declared in the movie Forrest Gump, “I’ve worn lots of shoes”.  In all of the journeys down all of the roads we have traveled in our lives we’ve all worn lots of shoes.  I have an old pair of sneakers with tie dyed shoe strings that are completely worn out but I have kept them because they have taken me to many rock and roll concerts in my life.  The shoes, and the journeys on which I wore them, have many memories for me.  I hope my wife doesn’t pitch them when I am not looking.  Often when we are walking down one of life’s roads we have no idea where it will end or where it will intersect another road.  We don’t always know where we are and it is only by looking in our rear view mirror that we know where we’ve been.  If we know where we are going we have a better idea about what kind of shoes to wear.  I once visited France.  Our hosts took a bunch of us on a bus trip to a local shrine in a forest.  After we all got off the bus, the bus left us.  Most of us didn’t realize that part of the experience was to hike back to where we began.  The hike back was through the forest.  It was beautiful but there were hills to climb, creeks to cross, and occasional mud.  Some of the ladies and a few of the men were not prepared for such a hike.  I wasn’t wearing my rock and roll shoes but I did have on some shoes appropriate for a hike in the forest.  As you walk down the roads of your life, including the occasional side trip through a forest, be sure you have on the right kind of shoes.    

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Journey Of Remembering

I believe part of the spiritual journey is trying to remember everything we have forgotten.  We are born perfect but begin to lose our true nature as we “mature”.  In a manner of speaking the spiritual journey is a return to the self.  As we grow older we feel like we learn new things.  I don’t think it is a learning so much as it is a remembering.  As we remember who and what we are, we re-discover our true self, a self that is often hidden by our personalities.  As I have shared before, our different personalities are nothing more than defense mechanisms we have unconsciously created as our way to deal with the world around us and also as a way to get love, i.e. if I am perfect people will love me more.  Since we have not all had the same experience of life, we do not all have the same personality.  I know my own personality well.  It has been studied and tested by me on a number of occasions.  I am programmed by my life’s experience to act a certain way.  Many of us even try to look a certain way.  I was asked once if I had a beard so I look “wiser”.  The challenge of the spiritual journey, and the return to the self, often pushes us to act the opposite of the way we want to act or think we should act.  On some levels we are all frauds and imposters.  We maintain our illusions of ourselves because we are afraid of who we might really be.  If we are born perfect, a return to our true self cannot be scary.  The real fear should be living an illusion.  People sometimes ask me, “How can I have inner peace”?  Inner peace is not the result of having no conflict or challenges in your life.  Inner peace comes from being who you are, accepting who you are, and being OK with who you are.  If you are doing these things you are on your way to being your truest self and experiencing inner peace.  Now if I can just remember to do this….    

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My Antidote For A Bad Day

This past Monday was a challenging day for all kinds of reasons.  By the time I got home I was tired, frustrated, and brain dead.  Soon I feel into a very deep sleep.  I was dead to the world until I heard someone yell “Paw Paw”.  I opened my eyes and my granddaughter’s face was about one inch from mine.  It was an unannounced visit and it was the highlight of my day.  It reminded me about what is really important in life.  I quickly forgot the struggles of the day and I simply enjoyed her smile and contagious energy.  Recently I asked her if I was a normal Paw Paw.  She replied that I wasn’t.  When I asked her why, she said, “You have way too much energy for a regular Paw Paw”.  I can assure you that no one else has ever told me that.  She bases it on the fact that I often dance when she is around.  Trust me I am not a great dancer and I would never do it in front of anyone but her.  However, she has asked me to stop doing it because she is afraid my burst of energy will kill me and she doesn’t want me to die.  My granddaughter is growing up very quickly and sometimes I miss the little girl that she used to be.  However, I know she still loves me dearly as I love her and she will always be the antidote for any bad day that I have.      

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

All Of Life Is Sacred

This is not a hermitage, it is a house. ("Who was that hermitage I seen you with last night?") What I wear is pants. What I do is live. How I pray is breathe. Who said Zen? Wash out your mouth if you said Zen. If you see a meditation going by, shoot it. Who said "Love?" Love is in the movies. The spiritual life is something that people worry about when they are so busy with something else they think they ought to be spiritual. Spiritual life is guilt. Up here in the woods is seen the New Testament: that is to say, the wind comes through the trees and you breathe it.  
-Thomas Merton from his essay Day of a Stranger.
This is a quote from one of my favorite Thomas Merton essays.  For those that do not know, Thomas Merton was a monk, priest, and prolific spiritual writer.  He is also the biggest reason I started writing my own thoughts.  Merton lived at the Abbey of Gethsemani which is the same monastery where I lived as a young man although we were not there at the same time.  He spent the last few years of his life as a hermit living in the woods near the monastery.  I have spent a couple of weekends in this hermitage and they were profound experiences for me.  I think the basic message here, and one I need to hear on a regular basis, is to stop trying so hard to be spiritual, deep, and profound.  Wear your pants, live your life, feel the wind, and don’t forget to breathe.  All of life is spiritual so you don’t have to do spiritual things to make life sacred.  Life is sacred and spiritual all by itself.  Of course, spiritual practices and beliefs are fine too and they can enhance your experience of life.  I have read that one should not have to search for meaning in life.  The meaning in life should be obvious.  I must admit that it is not always obvious to me.  More often than not life can seem like a series of random events that have no particular meaning.  I sometimes feel I am simply going through the motions of living.  Perhaps I can’t see the forest for the trees.  Today I will try to breathe, relax, and not obsess over things.  Maybe, without realizing it, I will simply live my life.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Do Not Expect To Be Appreciated

In whatever you so, don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood.  Do it for the joy of doing it, or otherwise it is just another ego trip.
Most of us are good people who try to do good things and who generally care about others.  We give our best and do what we can and much of it goes unnoticed or seems unappreciated.  Sooner or later we realize that we must do what we do simply because it gives us joy or because it is the right thing to do even if we never get any credit, recognition, or appreciation.  Ego is a big thing in our lives.  The desire to be loved and appreciated is equally huge.  Hopefully, we do feel loved and appreciated most of the time whether it be from family, co-workers, friends, or strangers.  Follow your bliss and all that gives you joy.  As St. Augustine once said, way back in the 5th century, “Love and do what you will”.  Do good works and even if there is no immediate gratification, I believe your goodness will come back to you.  History is full of famous people who changed the world.  Today’s news is often full of celebrities who long for anonymity.  Many labor day after day with little recognition.  Some plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.  What’s the point?  I think we should all strive to do what is good and right even if no one else knows we are doing it.  I think many of us will be remembered more from our eventual absence than by our current presence.  We all want attention.  We all want to be noticed.  We all want to be appreciated.  However, you may not get any of these things so don’t depend on them for your happiness.  How you act in secret, when there is no spotlight, says more about your character than most public acts. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Contemplation Is Part Of Life

Contemplation is part of the human experience that is overlooked by many as they rush through life.  We all need to have moments in our lives where we can breathe and bask in the wonder of life.  This is not complicated or so esoteric that it is beyond the average person.  Admittedly I grew up with the idea that the contemplative experience was rare and few received the gift.  I have since learned that we all have the capacity for contemplation.  It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to gaze at a full moon  or a beautiful sunset.  It can be a moment of silence in a busy day or a weekend retreat.  To be contemplative the only basic requirements are to be awake and aware.  A big part of being contemplative is having a sense of wonder.  When you can no longer be impressed, when you have lost your sense of awe, when nothing makes you go “wow”!, it is time to re-evaluate your life.  Wonder, awe, gratitude, and being “wowed” from time to time should be a regular part of your life.  There is much in life that is ugly.  There is much to make us cynical and pessimistic.  Contemplation is an antidote for these things.  It is the quiet moments of life that give us what we need to deal with all the other moments that may test us or make us crazy.  Many of us do not have the luxury of going on an extended retreat, or even having a weekend to ourselves, but we all have moments in our day when we can take a few minutes for the pause that refreshes.  I encourage all of you to be on lookout for such moments and to take advantage of them.  If you do I believe you will begin to experience a sense of calm in your life that you may not have now.  Let me share some words taken from Psalm 46 that may help you to find this calm.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

You Must Leave The Cave

We are all on a journey.  I know this sounds like a cliché but it is true nevertheless.  Often in our lives we feel like we are standing still but we are not.  Journeys and life involve movement.  If we are not moving ourselves, life will move us.  Movement is part of life and there are no journeys that allow us to stand still.  The journey of life is hopefully a long journey with lots of interesting side trips.  Our movement through life may not always be pleasant but if we are lucky it is interesting.  All journeys give us experience and many journeys fill us with wisdom.  The first time we go down a path we may be lost and not know our way.  With each additional trip the path becomes more familiar and we may work the path multiple time just because we enjoy it.  Other paths may be treacherous and if we survive them we make every effort to never go down that path again.  Some paths are rocky or slippery and we must be careful with every step.  Other paths are like a super highway where we can turn on the cruise control and enjoy the scenery.  We often end up on many paths where we have no idea where they will end.  Occasionally they are dead ends but sometimes they take us to the places of our dreams.  I once saw a movie with my granddaughter called “The Croods”.  It was story of a prehistoric family who dwell in a cave.  The father is always reminding the children of his cardinal rule.  The rule is “Never leave the cave”.  Of course, he has a daughter who wants to leave the cave more than anything.  Circumstances finally force the entire family to leave the cave and by doing so, they discover a world full of wonder.  This can also happen to you so get out of your cave and begin your journey.
I must admit that I like my cave and I do not always want to leave it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

All Things Must Pass

All Things Must Pass.
-A song and album by George Harrison
Back in 1970, George Harrison, one of the Beatles, released a major album called “All Things Must Pass” after years of being overshadowed by his Beatle band mates, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  It is a very spiritual album influenced by Hinduism, George’s religion of choice.  The most famous song on the album was “My Sweet Lord”.  It has been my experience in life that all things truly do pass.  In the time I have been on this planet many people, places, and things have passed through and from my life.  The idea that all things pass is bittersweet.  Although most bad things pass, good things are also transitory.  Life is always in flux even though it’s movement is not always discernible in the moments of our lives.  We often feel like nothing ever changes and then we wake up and ten years has passed.  It is a comfort to know that the storms of our lives won’t last forever but the impermanence of life should also remind us to enjoy life when it is sweet.  Life is like the weather.  Some days are stormy and overcast.  Other days are sunny with blue skies and cool breezes.  Sometimes the weather slows us down and other days it energizes us.  We must also remember that we, too, will pass.  As we go through our lives we need to ask ourselves what impact are we having on the world around us.  Are we doing good and positive things with our lives that makes us a sunny day for others or are we a storm that others hope will quickly pass?   

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

The beatings will continue until morale improves.
-from the Humana “Buzz” social media site
When I first read this quote it made me chuckle to myself.  Then I realized that some people believe or have experienced this as an actual approach to bad morale.  What is bad morale?  Many times over the years I have had people come to me and say “Morale is really down”.  I tend to take such statements with a grain of salt.  Morale is in the eye of the beholder.  In every department that I have ever been in there have been people who think everything is wonderful and others who think everything is terrible.  Usually this is the result of different expectations that people have of the workplace.  In general, I have come to the conclusion that many people expect way too much from the workplace.  If work was always fun, it would be called play.  Good or bad morale boils down to attitude, cooperation, how well people work together, and how they are treated.  I strive to start off every day with a positive attitude.  Admittedly there are days where my positive attitude takes quite a beating.  Assuming I can maintain a positive attitude most of the time I strive to be cooperative with my leaders, my peers, and my team.  I don’t always agree with them, I compromise when necessary, and I try not to have unrealistic expectations of them.  We are all people trying to do the best we can and some days are better than other days.  How well we work together has a lot to do with how much we respect one another.  It’s a balancing act.  Leaders must have integrity and respect for those who follow them.  Those who follow should strive to trust their leaders and cooperate with their direction.  Whether one is a leader or a follower, there must be trust, openness, and transparency.  When these things exist, morale is good.  When attitudes on both sides are negative, when cooperation is replaced by competition or resistance, when leaders don’t lead and followers don’t follow, morale is bad.  As cliqued as it sounds, we are all in this together.  It is only by working together in positive and life giving ways that we can accomplish our goals, be reasonably happy, and go home at the end of the day with a sense of pride for a job well done and no sense of dread about returning the next day.    

Friday, July 10, 2015

What Do You Really Want?

Nothing except possibly love and death are of importance, and even the importance of death is somewhat ephemeral, as no one has yet faxed back a reliable report.
-Naturalist /Writer Gerald Durrell
I once received an email from a friend telling me about a Zen retreat he had made.  When he arrived at the retreat the Zen Master asked the participants what they wanted.  He did not ask what they expected.  He asked what they wanted.  He asked a second time, “What is it you really want”?  He wasn’t referring just to the retreat.  He was also asking it in the context of their total lives.  Looking at your own life and dreams, what is it that you really want?  What is really important to you?  I think all of us want love in our life.  We want someone to love and we also want someone to love us.  If you don’t have love in your life everything else loses much of its meaning.  The common understanding of success is not a universal desire.  Most of us cannot even agree on what success is.  Is success based on the size of your paycheck or the happiness and contentment of your life?  If the answer is the latter, there are many very successful people with simple lives, minimal possessions, and average paychecks.  As most of us live our lives we often get hung up on incidentals that aren’t really important in the great scheme of life.  I’ve spent much of my work life dealing with people who are upset about something.  I’ve talked a lot of people off the ledge.  What are really grains of sand and bumps in the road are often seen as boulders and craters.  Sometimes we need to stop, breathe, and put things in perspective.  There’s not a hidden agenda behind every circumstance in life.  More often than not, life is just life.  Things happen.  A lot of the time they are good things even if we don’t recognize them as such.  Occasionally bad things happen.  They are not always fair or deserved and usually they are not part of a conspiracy that life is perpetrating against us.  Take some time to reflect on what has real value and importance in your life and focus on that.  Everyone has problems and heartache.  We all have disappointments and things that annoy us.  Most of it we need to let go.  Our energy needs to be spent on what we value and consider truly important.   

Be Who You Are

Earlier this week while I was having dinner with my granddaughter, she asked me the following question:  If a gay man hooks up with a lesbian woman, does that make them straight?  My granddaughter is only eleven years old.  My answer turned into a long conversation with her about all the ways that people have relationships.  My granddaughter is a deep and observant little girl and sometimes she asks me really tough questions.  When I was eleven years old I thought a gay person was just someone that was really happy.
Be weird.  Be random.  Be who you are.  Because you never know who would love the person you are.
-from the “Hippie Peace Freaks” page on Facebook
When most people are young they will do whatever it takes to be accepted as part of a group.  Being accepted is very important to young people.  They do not want to be left out.  Most people grow out of this mentality but some maintain it their entire life.  I did this when I was young.  I wanted to have friends and to be popular.  I didn’t want to spend any Friday nights being alone.  I now realize that I am not really a group guy.  It is no longer important for me to be accepted by most other people.  Yes, I like to have friendships and to know people with whom I have something in common but a desire for popularity and acceptance is no longer a driving force in my life.  Some people think I am weird.  Some people think I am different.  In some cases this is a compliment and in other cases people probably look at me and shake their head.  Like Popeye the sailor man, “I am who I am and that’s all that I am”.  Since I really have no other choice but to be who I am, I am happy doing so.  With me what you see is what you get.  I may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I try to be an authentic person.  I have noticed that people who like me REALLY like me and people who don’t, just don’t.  It is not mandatory to be weird but I encourage you to be real.  Be who you are unless you’re a jerk.  In that case a little self- improvement may be in order.  Assuming you’re not a jerk, don’t be someone else’s version of who they think you should be.  If you don’t know who you are, maybe it’s time for a voyage of self-discovery.  You don’t need the people who won’t accept the real you.  You may experience a few bumps and scrapes along the way but “to thy own self be true” as the character Polonius says in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  The world is full of fake people, posers, and charlatans.  Be real even if you aren’t perfect.  Being real doesn’t demand that you be perfect.  We are all works in progress. 

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Life Is A One Way Street

I learned that one can never go back, that one should not ever try to go back, and that the essence of life is to go forward.  Life is really a one way street.
-Writer Agatha Christie
Did you ever see the movie called “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons”?  It starred Brad Pitt as a man who was born old and who got younger the longer he lived.  I won’t tell you how it ends but I will tell you that growing younger as everyone around you grows older is not as great as it sounds.  In real life there is also a curious thing that happens.  As we grow older and our body’s age, we often grow younger in spirit.  Have you ever been around a really old person who has a twinkle in their eye, a smile on their face, and laughter in their heart?  I hope to grow into such a person.  They aren’t childish in an immature way.  They are childlike in a positive way with their zest for life, their sense of wonder, and their openness to the never ending awesomeness of life.  While such people may be dealing with the pain and discomfort of an aging body, their spirit is indomitable.  They are a joy to be around.  Life may be a one way street in the sense that we cannot remain youthful in body or in our thinking.  Of course, there are those who do remain immature their entire life and that is sad.  The one way street of life should lead us forward to a point where we have been transformed into the best version of ourselves.  The transformational process of life, whether it be a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly or a young person growing into a really great old person, is really the whole point of life and certainly the point of the spiritual side of our lives.  If going forward and transforming is not the point of life, what are we here for?  My hair and beard are turning white.  My wife has told me before that I am starting to look like Moses after he saw God on the mountaintop.  If you saw the “Ten Commandments” movie with Charlton Heston, you might know what I am talking about.  Moses was practically glowing.  By the time I leave this world I want to be glowing too.      

Monday, July 06, 2015

You Can't Please Everyone

I cannot give you the formula for success but I can give you the formula for failure which is try to please everyone.
-Editor Herbert Bayard Swope
Everywhere you turn there is someone who has expectations of you.  Even a robust attempt to please everyone will end up mostly in failure.  I am not sure I have ever totally pleased anyone.  I’ve tried to be a good son, good brother, good husband, good father, good employee, and good leader.  The only thing I am confident I have done really well is being a grandfather.  I also try to be a good writer since writing is the closest I have ever come to having a gift.  At this point in my life I have an attitude that many may find difficult or unacceptable.  My current attitude is that I am doing the best I can and if it’s not good enough for you, too bad.  I believe most people, including myself, are generally doing the best they can to be all they should be.  I don’t expect perfection in myself or others.  The older I get, the more tolerant I am of human weakness.  Life is difficult, those around us often expect a lot, and our ability to deliver can vary wildly on any given day.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time”.  These are wise words from a wise man.  I try to put my best self out there as much as I can with the hope I will make a positive difference in the world.  Sometimes my less than best self makes an appearance and I hope that he does no harm.  My advice is to not worry about pleasing people.  I encourage you to focus on doing good.  If you do good things you will please more people than you annoy.  Actually I think annoying some people is a good thing.  

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Do No Harm

I once read a very good book entitled called Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  It is a book about mindfulness.  One thought in the book is 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.  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 myself and most other people 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 but 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 care 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