Thursday, December 31, 2015

Random Thoughts

Here are some quotes that I would like to share with you.
Somebody’s boring me.  I think it’s me”.
-Dylan Thomas
The problem is not that there are problems.  The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem”.
-Unknown but sent to me by a fellow thinker.
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t think I have some good qualities.  If you could separate the world into good guys and bad guys, I know I am one of the good guys.  I am at an age and a time in my life when I am starting to experience some self-actualization.  In other words, I have a sense of self, what I am worth, and why I am here.  Having said this, sometimes I drive myself crazy.  I tend to be a thinker who spends a lot of time in philosophical discourse with myself while trying to develop a personal theology and understanding of the meaning of life…well, at least my life.  Sometimes I wear myself out doing this and, as Dylan Thomas suggests, I bore myself with myself.  Sometimes I wish I could just relax, chill out, and not feel the need to understand the universe. 
As far as the second quote goes, why are we always surprised when life is problematic?  Who told us that all of life is a walk in the park on a beautiful spring morning?  OK, sometimes life is a walk in the park on a beautiful spring morning.  However, it is also at times a walk under overcast skies in the pouring rain.  This is where most of us fall into the dualistic thinking where we assume a sunny day is better than a rainy day.  Both are simply weather.  Some people think problems are stumbling blocks while others see problems as challenges.  Try not to see anything as a problem.  It’s an over-used phrase but life, and what happens in life, “is what it is”.  There are changes in the weather and there are seasons in life.  However, it’s all life.      

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What Is Life And What Does It Mean?

In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his or her life and for ‘finding themselves’.  If they persist in shifting their responsibility to someone else, they fail to find out the meaning of their own existence.
-Thomas Merton
Living your own life is not as easy as it sounds and finding yourself can be like looking for buried treasure.  It involves walking down quite a few false trails, digging a lot of holes, and moving tons of dirt.  I have been walking, digging, and moving quite a bit of dirt for a very long time now and I’m a little weary.  However, this is a task that only I can do for myself.  I cannot outsource it.  No one else can walk my path, dig my holes, or move my dirt.  For as long as there’s been people, individuals have wondered “what is life and what does it mean”?  I devoted quite a few weeks to watching a television show called Cosmos.  It was the story of the universe from a scientific point of view.  I can’t decide if I am  blown away by the magnificence of the galaxies, the star systems, and the complexity of outer space, or if I now feel totally insignificant in the great scheme of life.  When the world as we know it has taken billions of years to form, does it really matter that I came to work today?  In cosmic time am I just a miniscule, sub-atomic particle in the continued evolution of all that life is?  Do I really matter?  On a similar vein, a friend once shared his thoughts that within a few generations most of us will be completely forgotten, even by our descendants.  We are all star dust and to dust we shall return.  What do we do in our current configuration?  How do we find ourselves and the meaning of our current existence?  Let me quickly admit that I don’t really know or I would have already done it.  I don’t know if my life matters or not.  What I do know is that I am a consciousness aware of itself.  As a living being with a consciousness, I am motivated to move and grow and expand myself.  My senses take in data and react appropriately or at least as programmed.  Like a machine that evolves into artificial intelligence, I evolve into whatever I become.  Along the way I rub shoulders with other beings, I form relationships, I experience happiness, and, if lucky, I feel loved and worthwhile to everyone and everything around me.  I become one with my world.  No one else can do any of this for me although they may walk a similar path and be going in the same direction.  Ultimately we are all on our own although life may give companions on the journey.        

Monday, December 28, 2015


“Acedia” is a monastic term that describes a kind of boredom with your life.  We all have things we dread, procrastinate about, or simply do not want to do.  Acedia is more than that.  It is the sense that everything is a chore, everything is exhausting, everything is meaningless.  Whenever I feel like this, and it seems to happen more and more frequently, I have that “I’m over it” feeling.  As my wife often says, “I’m tired and I’m tired of it”.  I know I am feeling this way when I have a sense of fatigue that goes far beyond a lack of sleep.  It is a mental, psychological, and spiritual weariness.  I think everyone, except for the most extremely positive and optimistic people, sometimes feel like this.  So what does one do about it?   The first step is to simply recognize it.  The second step is to remind yourself that your feelings are like the weather, always changing, and that your feelings are often a poor representation of reality.  I also find it helpful to change my routines as much as I can.  I know I am a creature of habit and routine.  Sometimes I take comfort in that.  However, I also know that my routines can sometimes create a rut that brings on these feelings of acedia.  Sometimes we all need a break from our lives and responsibilities.  Sometimes we need a “me” day.  Sometimes we need a good nap or perhaps a night out with friends.  From time to time I need to go out to the monastery for a weekend and make a retreat.  As I think about it I realize it has been way too long since I have done this.  We all need someone or something to periodically give us a boost or sense of renewal.  We all sometimes need to re-charge our batteries so that life does not overwhelm us or totally drain us of all zest for living.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Some Help For The Holidays

I’ve read many books about meditation and have spent many hours practicing it.  The practice involves trying to spend time each day just being quiet and still.  Way back in the 70’s I studied Transcendental Meditation.  It was introduced into the United States by a Hindu monk named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  Later in the 80’s I learned a Christian version of meditation called “Centering Prayer”.  Both of these types of meditation are very similar in their technique.  They basically involve the use of a mantra or prayer word in coordination with your breath.  They don’t require total silence or isolation but it is best to not be disturbed while you are doing them.  I have done them on airplanes.  Typically these types of meditation would be done for about 20 minutes twice a day.  It is more challenging than you probably imagine finding 20 minutes twice a day to be quiet and to be still.  The biggest obstacle to meditation is your own mind.  Most of us have over active minds.  We have what the Buddhists call “monkey minds”.  Imagine a tree full of monkeys.  They’re making all kinds of noise and chatter while jumping from limb to limb.  Our minds are often like a tree full of monkey’s.  No one can turn off their mind.  However, certain types of meditation, especially one’s that use a mantra or prayer word, can help us control our thoughts somewhat or at least learn to let them go.  These types of meditation also help us to feel a sense of calm in our bodies.  The mantra or prayer word acts like an anchor.  In addition to the tree full of monkeys, our minds could be compared to a busy river where there is lots of activity.  When we let our thoughts run rampant it’s like we are on the surface of the river and we feel the wake caused by all the movement of the many boats around us as they go about their business.  A mantra or prayer word acts like an anchor that pulls us down to the bottom of the river where everything is calm.  When we realize that we are thinking and floating back to the top of the river, our mantra or prayer word can anchor us and bring us back to our inner stillness at the bottom of the river.  By the way, there are apps out there to facilitate meditation sessions.  If you are interested, send me an email and I will point you in the right direction.  When you can live your life with this inner stillness, you are what some would call “a centered person”.  In the midst of all the Christmas hustle and bustle may you experience a quiet mind and inner stillness.  If nothing else, when you feel frazzled or stressed, just breathe.  Stop what you are doing and spend a few moments paying attention your breathe.  This is a very simple and a very effective technique.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Live In Each Season As It Passes

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each”.
-Henry David Thoreau
I have been in a few conversations about people, how they act, their attitudes about life, and how so many of us see the same things so differently.  I quickly get worn out by negative and pessimistic people who always see the worst of everything.  Drama Kings and Queens often have the same effect on me.  These people are chronically unhappy and nothing ever seems to give them joy.  I am an optimist.  I see the glass as not only half full but often overflowing.  A pessimist once told me that an optimist is a person out of touch with reality.  If your reality is always negative, pessimistic, and full of drama, then I hope to always be out of touch with it.  I know that a lot of life is just trying to survive but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed.  The above quote by Thoreau is a very good definition of Zen.  Living in the season means being one with it.  Whatever the season, it is full of life.  Breathe in life.  Drink life.  Taste it’s fruits.  Let the goodness of life permeate your bones.  Life does change but that is not necessarily good or bad.  Life just is.  Our opinions of life are based on personal judgments which can be terribly skewed.  Thinking that life is always either good or bad is dualistic thinking.  Life is both good and bad.  The Zen way, the contemplative way, is to not judge it but to simply be present to it.  Often, joy happens when we least expect it. 
If you’ve never read Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau, I highly recommend it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Connecting The Dots

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something…your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life”.
-Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs changed the world.  I would think he is a great man if all he did was invent the iPod.  I have always been reflective and introspective.  It’s part of my nature.  I don’t dwell in the past and I am not in mourning over its passing.  However, I do sometimes re-live great memories in my mind.  Much of the time my life does not make sense to me while I am living it.  It is when I look back at previous events or people who crossed my path, that I can begin to make sense of the present moment.  I can see now when things that felt like failures were really successes and they made me who I am today.  I agree with Steve Jobs that it is only in retrospect that we can connect the dots of our life.  Life never goes in a straight line.  My personal blog is called “Stumbling along the Spiritual Path”.  The use of the word “stumbling” was very intentional.  The path of my life has gone in many directions.  My path has sometimes seemed overgrown with weeds.  It has gone up and down and all around.  Sometimes I could not tell if I was going North, South, East, or West.  A few times when I wasn’t paying attention I was figuratively wacked in the eye with a tree branch.  Many times I have stumbled and occasionally I have fallen down.  This convoluted path, however, has been my path.  It has taken me through some pretty interesting and unique experiences.  It has brought me to where I am today and has also made me who I am today.  These thoughts make me think of a favorite poem by Robert Frost. 
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Life Is Our Greatest Teacher

My daily thoughts are syndicated in the spirituality section of a website called “Before It’s News”.  Sometimes I get emails front people who either like what I have written or they disagree with me.  One person wrote to me and said, “I don’t want this garbage.  I want the news”!  He actually used a stronger word than garbage but I can’t print it here.  Once I received an email from a woman who disagreed with some of my thoughts are education.  I had written that education gives your knowledge but life gives you wisdom.  Her point of view, and one that I would agree with, is that much of our formal education is useless knowledge that does little to prepare us for real life.  As someone who has lived real life for almost 65 years I am not sure there is anything that can prepare you for everything that life throws at you.  As I have gotten older and the work force has gotten younger I have sometimes felt like a teacher of Life 101 rather than a supervisor.  I started off in life as ignorant as anyone.  For example, I got married when I was 23 years old and I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.  After 40+ years of marriage and family life I am a little smarter.  Some people think I am wise.  Any wisdom I have acquired has been learned through my own ignorance, mistakes, and the rare occasion where I get something right.  In other words, wisdom does not come easily.  The woman who wrote to me also mentioned how little information most of us are given to deal with the basic realities of life, i.e., how to manage your money, how to make informed decisions, how to avoid stupid mistakes, how to prepare for a career, how to plan ahead, and other similar demands of life.  My wife and I were blessed with good parents who raised us well.  In addition, I have always had mentors who helped me understand what is important in life.  Acquired spirituality from study and experience has also been a firm foundation for my life.  Mystics have often said “Self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom”.  This self-knowledge, usually acquired from personal introspection, is part of the process of growing up and acquiring maturity.  All of life is a classroom.  Everyone around you is a teacher.  Some teachers should be followed and others avoided.  Learn from life.  Surround yourself with wise and intelligent people who will help you find your way.  Think before you act.  The greatest education is your own life experience. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

We Are Who We Are

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 because authenticity doesn’t require perfection.  We are all works in progress. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Boomerang Effect

I believe in karma and something called the “Law of Attraction”.  What do these things mean?  You often hear people say “what goes around, comes around”.  This is the belief that you get what you deserve.  If you put positivity and goodness into the world, that’s what will come back to you.  If you’re a bad person who does bad things and you enjoy making others unhappy or you enjoy wreaking havoc in their lives, you’ll get yours in the end.  This is the basic understanding for most people of karma.  The “Law of Attraction” is the belief that what you think about is what happens to you.  If you are always negative and pessimistic, don’t be surprised if nothing ever seems to go your way and that bad things always seem to happen to you.  On the other hand, if you are positive and optimistic, you will find that things usually go your way.  Most of the time I am a positive and optimistic person.  Yes, I am an imperfect human being and sometimes I am tired and grumpy.  In spite of the occasional down day, most things in life go my way.  Although I am not a perfect person, and my life is not perfect, I am very blessed and I have been the recipient of much kindness and many good things in my life.  I try to be grateful for all of it, whether it be my granddaughter’s laughter and smile, a Zen moment when I am one with something bigger than myself, or maybe something as simple as a really good sandwich.  Let me share a couple of really good quotes that re-enforce what I am saying.  Wayne Dyer, who wrote a book about the Tao, says, “Change your thinking and change your life”.  Another of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain who said, “I’ve lived through some really terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened”.  Put nothing but goodness and love into the world, think positively, and be optimistic and hopeful.  I truly believe that if you do these things, your life will change for the better.     

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Most Of Us Are Ordinary

The older I get the more tolerant I think I have become.  This is due in large part to an increased awareness of my own imperfections.  If one is honest about one’s personal weaknesses it is difficult to be judgmental and intolerant of others.  I believe that most people are like me in the sense that they’re doing the best they can.  Work is only one thing in most people’s lives.  People also have family concerns, personal issues, emotional struggles, worries about their health, and perhaps they also struggle on a spiritual level.  In addition, there are the chores of everyday life that one must do to simply live.  At age sixty four I simply don’t have the energy that I used to have.  It is difficult to come to work every day like I am playing in the Super Bowl.  To be totally honest, I was never a driven or ambitious dynamo.  In a world of pressure cookers, I have always been more of a crock pot.  We all like to think we’re superstars but the reality is that most of us aren’t.  Most of us are ordinary despite how great our parents may have told us we are.  Most of us are “salt of the earth” types who keep the world running even if we aren’t always recognized for our efforts.  Most of us labor in relative obscurity and do so most of our lives.  This does not mean that we are poor performers who have little value.  We’re not just bricks in the wall or part of a mindless herd.  Personally, I don’t need, or even want, to be in the spotlight.  I certainly don’t need to be number one.  I’m happy to be part of a team of people cooperating with one another to achieve a goal, whether it’s within my family at home or my family at work.  When I do this, I sleep well at night and I am at peace.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rainy Days And Mondays....

Today is Monday and it is raining....

Imagine a mountain.  Every day the mountain experiences some type of weather.  Some days are bright and sunny and beautiful.  Some days are cloudy and overcast.  Occasionally some days are stormy with heavy rain, thunder, and lightening.  Other days the mountain gets buried in snow.  Our moods and feelings are like the weather.  They come and go and change all the time, often on the same day.  People have a tendency to think their moods and feeling are who they are.  We are not our moods and feelings any more than a mountain is the weather it experiences.  The reality is that each of us is the mountain.  Sometimes I am in a bad mood and I can’t come up with a reason for feeling that way.  Some days I am just in a funk.  When I feel like that I try to remind myself about the weather and I try to just wait out my funk, much like I would wait out a storm.  Others days, again for no particular reason, I feel happy, life is beautiful, and I am walking on air.  On days like that I really try to just enjoy the moment and get lost in it.  I don’t wonder why I am happy or if I deserve to be.  I just thank the universe.  One of my favorite jazz bands is called “Weather Report”.  They picked that name because their music, like the weather, is always changing.  However you’re feeling today, just acknowledge it, and let it go.  If today’s a sunny day, enjoy the warmth on your soul.  If it’s a stormy day, just hunker down until it passes.  If it’s overcast, be patient.  The sun will shine again.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

On Being An Introvert

I’ve never kept it a secret that I am an extreme introvert.  I love my privacy and solitude.  This doesn’t mean I hate people.  I like people but as an introvert I often find people exhausting and my experience is that most people are best enjoyed in small doses.  Group activities are often very stressful for me.  I don’t apologize for any of this.  It’s who I am and it’s the way I am hard wired.  As an introvert I am not anti-social.  I am just very comfortable with myself and I am happiest in my own little world, a world that is mostly inside of me.  There are a lot more people like me than many people realize, especially extroverts.  Extroverts tend to think everyone is an extrovert.  Introverts don’t always get noticed.  Our quietness sometimes makes other people think we are standoffish or mad about something.  I also think introverts are sometimes perceived as weak.  I am generally quiet and non-confrontational.  However, I am also very passionate and can put up quite a fight when provoked.  If introverts are the kind of people that hate to be the center of attention, extroverts are the kind of people that seem to demand attention.  Where other people often exhaust me, extroverts get their energy from being around others.  A crowded club or bar would be hell for me.  In general, extroverts usually hate to be alone.  Introverts tend to be introspective thinkers.  That doesn’t mean we are smarter than everyone else although I tend to think we are (smile).  Introverts usually think before they talk.  Extroverts often talk before they think.  I hate it when my cubicle is out in the open, especially in a high traffic area.  Whenever possible I try to be in a corner cubicle with as much privacy and solitude as I can find.  I am much more productive and a lot happier.  We live in an extroverted world so there is not always an understanding or appreciation for people who prefer a quieter, lower stimulation environment.  When I am sitting alone in my cubicle, with a cup of coffee and some good music, I am as content as a pig wallowing in the mud.  These thoughts remind me of a favorite quote by a musician named Robert Fripp that goes “Me and a book is a party.  Me and a book and a cup of coffee is an orgy”.  Yeah, I know I sound boring.  I don’t care.  Just leave me alone and take your party somewhere else.  You’re invading my personal space. (smile)    

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What Is My True Essence?

Sometimes I find myself asking the question "How do you know when you have become who you are"?   The journey of life is basically a journey to return to your original essence and to become who you really are.  We are born pure and innocent and then we acquire our personalities and other defense mechanisms that we use to shield and protect ourselves from life.  The second half of our life journey, if we are on the path to enlightenment, is spent attempting to take off these masks and to remove the armor that we have acquired in order to rediscover our purity and innocence.  The Buddhists call this "discovering the face we had before we were born".   When I look in the mirror, and during moments of introspection, I wonder how far along I am on this journey of re-discovering who I am.  What is my true essence?  What is my original nature?  It is nearly impossible to know this when you are young.  In our youth it is far more important for us to fit in, to be like others, and find acceptance from others.  We are also too busy building our lives to worry too much about who we are.  This is considerably less important when you get older.  I am still trying to get from behind the masks I wear and to break through the armor I have created to find the real me.  I don't think I completely know who I am yet but I hope I am making progress.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Fear Of Not Measuring Up

Once a friend sent me some thoughts about something called the "fear of not measuring up".  In a competitive and driven society such as ours, we all suffer from this fear to some degree.  There are a million ways for it to manifest itself.  It's the fear that you aren't smart enough or aren't pretty enough or aren't successful enough.  It's the fear of not being able to "keep up with the Joneses", that you don't drive the right kind of car or don't live in the right neighborhood, that you didn't go to the right school or you're not a supermom and on and on and on.  It's the fear of being inadequate.  Let's be honest.  Some people are smarter, more successful, and better looking than the rest of us.  That's called "Life's Not Fair".  However, the rest of us are not doomed.  I think we all have unlimited potential if we have the drive and initiative to take advantage of the opportunities given us.  On the other hand I am someone who believes in the idea of contentment.  I always want to be the best possible version of myself but, quite frankly, sometimes I am not.  I have more stuff than many people but much less than many others.  I can honestly say that I am very content with my standard of living.  I have everything I need to live comfortably and to be happy.  At this point in my life I think more about how I can do with less than with always wanting more.   I'm not a genius but I am far from stupid.  I am happy with who I am and I don't feel inferior to anyone.  I am not perfect but I know I am a good person.  I don't have to beat everyone else in order to feel like I am successful.  It really all boils down to these few questions.  Are you happy?  Is there love in your life?  Are there people and things you care about and other people who care about you?  Are your basic needs being met?  If yes, what more do you want?

Monday, December 07, 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 as well as remind us to always be thankful.  Of course, whenever we look back 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 few years ago 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.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Are You A Contemplative?

I have sometimes referred to myself as a contemplative.  What is a contemplative?  I am not an expert on contemplation but here's my perspective.  People who know me well know I am very introverted and introspective.  Although I think you can learn to be contemplative, I believe some personality types are naturally contemplative.  I hesitate to call it a skill but as a behavior and a way of being one can practice it even if it does seem to go against your nature.  In all the major religions there are contemplative traditions but I also think you can be a contemplative person without necessarily being a religious person or someone who goes to church every Sunday.  In my mind a contemplative person is one who takes the time to stand back or step away from the fast pace of life and simply breathe.  The contemplative is someone who likes life in the slow lane.  It's about being awake enough and present enough to not only notice the flowers but also be willing to stop and smell them.  It's being present to life in all its details.  Some also call this mindfulness.  I believe contemplation and mindfulness go hand in hand.  For those who are spiritually inclined it can also be about having an awareness of God's presence in life.  Perhaps you have read the story of the prophet Elijah in the Book of Kings in the Hebrew Scriptures.  He had challenged the prophets of the god Baal to a duel.  To make a long story short, Elijah’s God won so the guys that lost ran Elijah out of town.  He hid in a cave on a mountain.  In the story there was thunder and lightning and earthquakes and all that kind of scary stuff but God was not present in these things.  Finally, there was a small whispering sound like a gentle breeze.  Elijah hid his face and turned away for in the gentle breeze God was present.  The contemplative person is one who has achieved an interior quiet that allows him to notice the small whispering sounds in life where God is often present.  If you are constantly running through life, busy all the time, stressed out, and meeting yourself coming and going, you will miss such opportunities.  I don't think you can truly be a contemplative person if you are running through your life like your hair is on fire.  

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Where Have All The People Gone?

Do you ever wonder where people have gone and what has happened to them?  Think of all the people who have gathered together at different times in history.  Where have they gone?  What are they doing now?  Where are all the people who stood and attentively listened to Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963?  Obviously, many of them have now passed.  Where are all the hippies that gathered on Max Yasgur's farm for the first Woodstock in 1969?  Contrary to popular belief I was not one of them.  Those that were are now senior citizens.  Where are all the Occupy Wall Street people now?  What is it that gathers people together in unity only to allow them to float away from one another over time?  On a much smaller level, where are all the people who have passed through our lives over the years?  In the thirty years I have worked for Humana, I have seen hundreds come and go.  Where are all the friends that have been a part of our lives only to eventually drift away?  Thinking of your life and history, what causes, events, or people have stayed with you and continue to influence who you are?  What were the life changing and life sustaining events in your life?  Who are the people that have remained part of your life?  Who hasn't drifted or floated away from your life?  Life changes whether we like it or not but beneath the change are elements of stability that keep us grounded.  What has kept you grounded during the changes in your life?  Who or what can you rely on?  What values do you hold dear? 

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Education And Wisdom

Education gives you knowledge but life gives you wisdom.  Many of the people I have interviewed for jobs and some of the people who work with me now are better educated than I am.   Their education, however, is just a starting point.  It is the foundation on which their life experience will build.  I am a strong advocate of education.  I think it separates people more than anything, including race or gender.  I wish now that I had given my education more attention when I was younger.  The experience of life hopefully makes us wiser but that is not guaranteed.  Not all older people are wise and not all younger people naive.  Wisdom chooses its home.  In the Rule of St Benedict, a 1500 year old guidebook for monasteries, the old are told to listen to the young for God often speaks through them.  Likewise, the young are told to treat their elders with respect.  Those of us who are a little older can learn from the young.  It happens to me almost every day at work.  Those who are younger should realize that their parents and other older people are not clueless.  We've been down many roads in our lives and we have experienced many things that might prove helpful for those who have not yet had these experiences.  The bottom line is that you should never should stop learning.  To be a truly educated person, you must be open to everything that books and life teaches you and you must remember that education is also more than just having a skill.  An educated person is a thinking person who can see the connectedness of life and knowledge.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

What The Planet Really Needs

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 in person on two different occasions.  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 at the same time.