Tuesday, November 29, 2016


One of the things I did while on vacation was attend an all-day Enneagram workshop.  I have mentioned the Enneagram many times in past writings.  It is a personality typing system similar to the Myers-Briggs but in my opinion is a much deeper way of understanding your behavior and way of being.  The workshop consisted of lectures and films of groups of people who represented various personality types.  During the workshop I started having a bit of an existential crisis as I slowly realized I am not really who I think I am.  Self-awareness is a tricky game.  Most of us think we are one thing, we are perceived as another thing by others, and in reality we are something else.  It is very challenging to see yourself as you really are.  When I first started studying psychological types I was instantly attracted to types that I wanted to be, hoped to be, or who had traits I admired.  Many of us live much of our lives in the illusion of an imaginary self.  This is due in part because all personality types have attractive qualities.  However, no personality type is better than another personality type.  All have gifts and all have dysfunctions.  One thing I have slowly learned is that you usually find your true type by admitting to and owning the less attractive traits of a particular personality type.  As I listened to the lecturer and watched the various panels speak about their types, I tried to be honest with myself and own up to some less than attractive behaviors.  I am not a different person now because I attended this workshop.  However, I think I am a more self-aware person and hopefully a more honest person about my own strengths and weaknesses.     

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Loving Kindness

Loving kindness is something that we need to apply not only to ourselves but to everyone around us.  Let’s be honest.  We are all human beings and we all want the same basic things.  We want to be loved and to feel loved.  We want to be happy with our circumstances.  We want to feel safe and secure.  We want lives relatively free of worry and stress.  We want to avoid suffering.  If there is anyone among you who doesn’t want these things, I would love to hear from you with an explanation of why not.  In order to have these things in our life, we need to practice loving kindness to ourselves and those around us.  We need to love ourselves.  I do not mean in a narcissistic way.  Even if you are imperfect and flawed, and we all are, then you can love the person you are trying to be.  Beyond this, if you are honest with yourself about your own shortcomings and struggles, you can practice loving kindness to others by being tolerant and patient with their shortcomings and struggles.  We are as much one in our struggles as we are in our potential.  Life will always be challenging and some days are more difficult than other days.  None of us can really feel loved, happy, safe, secure, and stress free unless those around us feel the same.  No man or woman is an island.  We are all in this life together and we all want and need some loving kindness.  If you are not practicing this already, today is a good day to start.   

Almost Nothing Is Any Of Our Business

“I’ve come to the realization that almost nothing is any of my business”
-Br. Cassian, Monk of Gethsemani
Br. Cassian was a senior monk in the monastery where I lived as a young man.  Much of his time there was spent as the Porter.  The Porter is basically the guy that greets visitors and people making a retreat when they arrive at the monastery.  I can’t remember the exact words from the Rule of St. Benedict but he writes that the Porter should be a senior monk who is discreet and not prone to gossip.  Living in the monastery and working in a large office is not all that different.  Both are full of people of varying personality types and needs.  Monasteries and offices are full of gossip, half-truths, and pure speculation.  As human beings we are all prone to be seduced by gossip.  I have always tried to have the attitude that I shouldn’t believe anything I hear and only half of what I see.  I think Br. Cassian hit the nail on the head.  What if we all had his attitude that almost nothing is any of our business?  What if we all minded our own business?  What if we all refrained from meddling in the lives of others, whether they are our co-workers or family members?  There are some antidotes to gossip.  They are called truth and transparency.  If you want people to stop gossiping put the truth out there and let everything be as open and transparent as possible.  If there is going to be gossip, and there always will be as long as there are people, then let the gossip be based on the truth. 

Life Is Hard So Take Care Of Yourself

Life is hard.  I am reminded of this every time my alarm clock goes off in the morning, every day I have to work, all the times I have to do stuff I don't want to do, every time I don't feel good, every time I am disappointed, and on many other occasions in my life.  It's a challenge to go through life and not be discouraged.  Life often feels like a lot of work.  This why it is so important to do whatever it takes to have some perspective on it all.  You cannot allow yourself to be overwhelmed with the demands of life.  You must find ways to deal with the demands of life by filling in all the empty spaces with people, things, and activities that give you some peace, joy, happiness, and contentment.  Basically you have to take care of your own needs.  Most of us spend a great deal of our lives taking care of the needs of others.  However, it is not selfish to also take care of yourself.  Start today.  Everyone else can wait their turn.


Life is a matter of perspective.  There was a young Zen monk walking along a riverbank looking for a place to cross over to the other side.  He finally saw an old monk on the other of the river so he yelled “How do I get to the other side of the river”?  The old monk thought for a moment and then yelled back, “You are on the other side of the river”!  Having a sense of perspective can help us to understand life a little better.  We are all searching for happiness but happiness is often like the glasses that are sitting upon our nose.  Happiness is not “out there”.  Happiness is right in front of us.  Pay attention and you will find it.


Here's a thought from the Tao that I really like...
The mind that turns ever outward will have no end to craving.  Only the mind turned inward will find a still point of peace.
Most, if not all, that drives us, whether is ambition, greed, desire for food or other comforts, materialism, or whatever, is nothing more than a desire and need to fill some type of emptiness within ourselves.  We all suffer from this to some extent.  Most of us are not alcoholics or drug addicts but we still have addictions.  I think I have an addiction to buying music.  I have approximately 2,500 CD's and you would think that would last me for the rest of my life.  However, over the weekend I received a large box set of music from one of my favorite bands.  For the curious, the band is Pink Floyd.  Enjoying music is a legitimate pleasure but I know I am also obsessed with collecting CD's and it is a veiled attempt to fill some type of emptiness in my life.  I have also read that our different personalities are also created by a deep need that aches to be fulfilled.  It may be the need to be perfect, the need to be successful, or the need to be seen as "special".  The Tao is telling us that everything we need is within us.  Minds that are always turned outward, away from our center, will be on a ceaseless journey that will not satisfy our cravings or  needs and we will never find the inner peace that most of us want.  The famous psychologist, Carl Jung, said "He who looks outside, dreams.  He who looks inside, awakens".  Until you look inside and awaken to the greatness of who you are, you will never find an end to craving and you will never have inner peace.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Life Goes On....

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 do a good job of summing up much of our lives.  As this year nears its conclusion, we can look back and 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.  Of course, one person’s loss is another person’s gain.  As I write these thoughts half of the country is depressed and the other half is jubilant because of the recent presidential election.  In time everyone’s feelings will likely be reversed.  In addition, 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.  The poet Robert Frost summarized his experience of a long life with the three little words, “It goes on”.  Soon we will be on the threshold of a new year with new possibilities and, if last year wasn't so great for you, maybe the new year can be a year of new hope.  Even in a time of fear, which is currently very real for many people, we cannot lose hope and we must walk in the light. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Morning After

Sometimes after living through something as stressful as our recent election, you have to get back to basics.  I came upon this thought that I wrote a long time ago and it seemed appropriate to share again.
Once I attended a Zen mindfulness day with some friends.  It was an early spring day and we were on a farm.  The day consisted of meditation, writing, and Zen walks.  When it was time to walk, the Zen Master would ring a bell and we would follow him in single file through the fields.  From time to time, he would ring the bell and we would stop walking.  During one of these pauses, I became aware of what a beautiful day it was.  The sky was deep blue, the sun was shining bright, and there was a chill in the air.  I was totally in the moment.  In the midst of this moment, I looked down and realized I was standing in a pile of cow dung.  The bell rang again and we started walking back to the farm house where we meditated and wrote in our journals.  The Zen Master asked if we had any thoughts about our walk and if we had an enlightenment that we would like to share.  I described my experience of being in the moment, enjoying the beauty of the day, and then realizing I was standing in cow dung.  He asked me what realization I had in that moment.  My response was that “life could be wonderful and beautiful even when you are standing in a pile of cow dung”!  However, this morning I feel like I woke up in a pile of fresh cow dung.


This past weekend I attended the wedding of my niece.  It was outdoors in a beautiful setting.  Everything was very nice and the weather was cooperative.  Admittedly it did get a little cool once the sun set.  Although I could be seen as anti-social by some because of my reluctance to dress up and be with a lot of people, I do enjoy being with my extended family.  I have a great family and I was fortunate to marry into one.  My 86 year old mother is one of nine children, five of whom are still alive.  She is the oldest of the surviving siblings.  I am the oldest of her six children.  I have brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, not to mention all of their spouses, children, and significant others.  Family can sometimes make you crazy but overall it is a good thing to be part of one.  It is amazing to think about our grandparents and parents and how two people who randomly meet can be the beginning of a large and sometimes wild family tree.  I loved reading Alex Haley’s saga of Kunta Kinte in Roots and I also love to watch all the ancestry programs on PBS television.  Who isn’t curious about their roots?  We all like to know where we came from and what traits and DNA we have inherited.  My youngest brother is a genealogy buff and has traced my mother’s family to Ireland and my father’s to Germany.  I never knew much about my roots before he did this research.  Speaking of family tree’s, attached is a picture of my mother and two of her sisters.  They are my favorite aunts and both of them changed my diaper one or more times when I was a baby.  When I was a cute little boy I was the ring bearer in my Aunt Shirley’s wedding.  She is the lady on the left.  The lady on the right is my Aunt Sara.  My mother is sitting down.  This picture was taken at my niece’s weeding this weekend.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Living With Yourself

Sometimes I look at my life and think, “Well, this hasn’t turned out like I planned”.
-A Facebook Meme
Do you ever feel like you have a split personality?  I am not talking about a good version of yourself  versus an evil twin.  I am talking about having totally different aspects of who you are that can occasionally seem in conflict.  Some of this I can understand about myself on a psychological level.  I am a student of something called the Enneagram which gives one a deep understanding of personalities, characteristics, and behavioral patterns.  In a couple of weeks I am attending an all-day seminar on the Enneagram.  According to the Enneagram I am a Type 9 which is also known as the “Peacemaker”.  In the Enneagram, your personality also has what are called “wings”.  There is more to it than I can explain in this short reflection so I am included some links below for those who are interested in learning more.  With my personality I often feel caught in the middle between a man who wants to save the world and another man who wants to rebel against everything.  It is a psychological tug of war.  To make life even more challenging I am an aging tie dyed Zen hippie who loves rock and roll part of the day and a Buddhist monk the rest of the day.  I would live in a cave in the Himalaya mountains if I could but then I wouldn’t have electricity to charge my iPod.  I also sometimes fantasize about being a solitary writer, with internet access, who lives in a log cabin deep in the woods with no one to talk to except the animals.  If the animals talk back I have probably been out there too long.  Holding these aspects of my life together is a somewhat normal life as a married man with children and a granddaughter who works for an insurance company.  Who we all appear to be and who most of us are in our personal daydreams is not always the same person.  On a daily basis in my office I literally see hundreds of people.  Sometimes as I walk around I look at them and wonder who they really are and who they really want to be.  Other times I look in the mirror and wonder the same about myself.  Too many of us end up the way we are and where we are as an accident of life.  Is your life going as planned?    

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Disconnect, Quiet Your Mind, Be Silent

Through concentration and meditation you become the boss of your mind and gain the ability to tell it when to be active and when to stay silent.
-Remez Sasson
This is harder than it sounds.  Sometimes I think I have a bit of ADD and I think many other people do as well.  I am easily distracted, wait, there goes a squirrel!  My ability to be distracted has increased significantly with the acquisition of a smart phone.  My smart phone is basically a pocket computer.  The thing I do the least with my phone is talk to other people.  I update my Facebook status, Google information, or check my steps on my Fitbit app.  Occasionally, when I am in the right place in the right time I use one of my meditation apps.  With the exception of the meditation apps, all of these distractions make concentration more challenging.  Meditation is more of an antidote for my ADD than a spiritual practice.  With  or without smart phones most of us have over-active minds that are way over-stimulated.  My mind has a mind of its own.  A few weeks ago when I went to Red River Gorge I sometimes had no internet or telephone service.  In our connected lifestyles this can give us a moment of panic.  It can also be kind of a blessing.  If you want to quiet your mind, spend some time in nature.  It is good to dis-connect, quiet your mind, and be silent.       

Election Day And Voting

For my friends in the United States....

Election day is one week from today.  All elections are important, especially in a presidential year.  This year’s election process has been exhausting and exceedingly controversial.  Whatever you think of the two presidential candidates, one of them will be the next president.  In the best of years no candidate can meet everyone’s expectations and desires.  I have followed this election closely and I have strong views about it.  I am certain we do not all share the same views for all kinds of reasons.  My own family is divided in their opinions.  What I want to do with this note is to encourage all of you to vote next Tuesday.  Your vote matters.  If you don’t believe this ask Al Gore about the Florida vote when the Supreme Court had to decide who won the election of 2000.  He lost the presidential election by approximately 400 votes.  If he had won the state of Florida, he would have been president instead of George Bush.  Not voting is still a vote.  In the last election only 30% of eligible voters in Kentucky voted and now we have a governor who was elected by 50% of the 30% of the eligible voters who actually voted.  He calls that a "mandate from the people".  I am not making a commentary on any candidates.  I am just making a point about the importance of voting.
I have done my civic duty by reminding all of you to vote.  I will cast my vote on my way to work next Tuesday.  You should do the same.