Thursday, September 21, 2017

Living In The Center


We can bring our spiritual practice into the streets, into our communities, when we see each realm as a temple, as a place to discover that which is sacred.

-Jack Kornfield

 

When I think about religion and spirituality the image of a bicycle wheel immediately come to mind.  The hub is at the center of the wheel.  The outer rim of the wheel, where the rubber meets the road, represents religion.  For me the center, or hub of the wheel, represents the contemplative life.  The contemplative life represents the experience of God or the universe or whatever has deep spiritual value to you.  The hub, the center, the contemplative experience, is where all mystics live, whether they be Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever.  The outer rim represents religion.  This is where individual beliefs, dogmas, and doctrine tend to be different.  This is where we sometimes lose our connectedness with one another.  This is where we each tend to believe that “we” have the “truth”.  This is where people can be the furthest apart.  It is in the “center” where we are closest together.  It is on the experiential, contemplative level that we see each person and each realm as a temple and as a place which is sacred.  Outside of the center is where we tend to see ourselves as different from one another, i.e., a Catholic or Protestant Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Muslim, etc.  Identities tend to become invisible or non-existent when people are in the center.  I believe that all spiritual practice should lead us to this center.  It is where everything and everyone comes together. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Patience



Patience also contains a wonderful teaching about desire: wish for something, sure, but be at peace when you can’t have it.  Patience knows you can’t make the river flow any faster.
-Rick Hanson 


I am continually blown away by people’s lack of patience.  Recently I was on the receiving end of an old lady’s road rage because I was making a left turn and she didn’t have the sense to drive around me.  Everywhere I go that involves being with the general public I witness people being impatience.  I see people on the verge of nervous breakdowns as they wait for their carry out order at McDonalds.  It is a rare day when someone doesn’t honk at me during my evening commute.  I know I am an old man, and I tend to drive defensively, but I am also a courteous driver.  If you are trying to merge into my lane I even flash my lights to let you know I see you and I’ve got your back.  A lack of patience in dealing with everyday inconveniences shows a great deal of selfishness on people’s parts.  We live in a time when people expect instant gratification because they believe their needs matter more than anyone else’s.  There have been instances when I have shown patience that were criticized as a lack of assertiveness.  I wasn’t being unassertive.  I was just not being a jerk.  Yesterday I was talking to a man that came to check my home air conditioning.  The guy impressed me with his overall knowledge of many subjects.  He was obviously well read and educated.  I was just trying to establish some rapport with the guy.  However, he saw my outdoor Buddha sitting in front of my air conditioner and the next thing I know we are discussing Buddhism.  The simplest, cleaned up definition of Buddhism is “Don’t be a jerk”.  Remember this the next time you are inclined to be impatient.     

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Be The Best Version Of Yourself



Through meditation, we become aware of ourselves exactly as we are, by waking up to the numerous subtle ways that we act out our own selfishness.  Then we truly begin to be genuinely selfless.  Cleansing yourself of selfishness is not a selfish act.
-Bhante Henepola Gunaratana 


To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift.  Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.
-Aldous Huxley 


Part of the psychological and spiritual journey is to know yourself as you truly are.  Spiritual masters speak of the true self and the false self.  It can take a lifetime to discover your true self.  What is our true self?  It is the pure essence of who we really are at our core.  What most other people see on the surface is our masks, our personalities, and the character we play on the great stage of life. I have often used a story about what happens when people meet.  Imagine two people going on a date.  When two people are on a date there are actually six people present.  There is the person each of the people think the other person is.  There is the person each of the people there think they are.  Finally, there are the people each of the people really are.  We imagine who other people are, we imagine who we are, and then there‘s the reality of who each person is.  After a journey of 66+ years I still don’t have a complete picture of who I really am.  I have been down a few false paths of who I thought I was.  I know for a fact that many people think I am more than I really am.  One of the ways you know you are on the right path of self-discovery is when you begin to accept the more negative aspects of your being.  None of us is perfect but we still tend to identify ourselves based on the positive traits we think we have.  In fairness, we all do have some positive traits but they do not capture our complete being.  I have reached a point where I see myself as self-aware, sensitive, and reserved.  I think I am also emotionally honest, creative, and personal.  However, I can also be moody, self-conscious, melancholy, self-indulgence, and full of self-pity.  I don’t think I am better than anyone else but I do feel different than most other people.  All of you will feel some version of these positive and negative personality traits.  The goal is to be the best version of yourself that you can be while minimizing those aspects of your being that are less than perfect.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Self-Awareness Versus Self-Absorption


One of my sister-in-law’s often says, “Well, you know, 2% never get the message”.  What she means is that 2% of the population is totally clueless.  I would personally put the number much higher.  On a daily basis I am amazed at the lack of self-awareness and knowledge many people have about themselves and what is going on around them.  People, especially young people, seem very self-absorbed.  If you don’t believe me check out the volume of selfies on social media.  What’s ironic is how people can be both self-absorbed yet totally unaware at the same time.  While it is true that self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom, it is equally true that being aware of the world around you and what is going on in that world is also important.  I have sometimes been accused of being clueless.  The reality is that not much gets past me.  Just because I don’t acknowledge everything or comment about everything does not mean I am unaware of it.  My senses are like radar.  All day long I see and hear many things.  The secret, however, is not just to see or hear but to notice and to listen.  You can’t live life in a bubble.  Learn to be aware and to notice what goes on around you.  When a storm is coming my wife will sometimes text our sons.  Why?  She does it because neither of them routinely watch the news or weather reports.  At some point, however, you can’t depend on your mother to tell you to come in out of the rain or to be on the alert for a tornado.  People at work sometimes ask me about something and I usually respond, “Did you not read the email”?  In many cases they have not.  In order to be self-aware and knowledgeable you have to gather information.  If you walk around clueless because all of your sensors are turned off, or totally focused on yourself, don’t blame others when you wake up in the Land of Oz because you weren’t aware of the tornado warning.     

Friday, August 25, 2017

What Defines Who You Are?


What do you care about?  How do you spend your free time?  What defines or describes you as a person?  When you have no obligations tugging at you, what do you do?  If you ask my granddaughter what I like she will reply “books and music”.  There is no doubt that I love to spend much of my free time reading books and listening to music.  I am also a solitary person so I enjoy and need my time alone.  Throw in a good cup of coffee and I’m very content.  If you walked into my “Fortress of Solitude” you would see a lot of books, CD’s, movies, and probably a coffee cup on my table.  This might sound boring to some of you who are more action oriented types but I accept that I am probably a boring person to many people.  However, I am never boring to myself.  I am happy to be left alone and allowed to simply be.  I get it that many of you are the total opposite of me.  I’m OK with that.  You are who you are.  I suspect that there are a lot of people who simply don’t think much about who they are and maybe not much about what they value.  If you could have the rest of this day off, and you had no pressing demands or chores that simply had to be done, what would you do for the rest of the day?  I admit that along with the things I have already mentioned I might take a nap.  It’s what old men do.  How would you spend the time today?  Would you choose a quiet day at home, relaxing and doing something you enjoy?  Would you spend the day at the mall buying more stuff that you don’t need?  Would you go volunteer at your church?  Would you take a walk in the park or go work out?  Sometime today think about what you value and how you would spend your time if you truly owned your time and you had the freedom to decide how it was used.  What is it in your life that tells other people who you are?  I think people who know me well think of me as a spiritual hippie and a thinker, someone who is a free spirit and who really doesn’t care if he’s on the same page as other people.  I hope I am seen as someone who is a lover of music and intellectual pursuits and as someone who values a spirituality that explores a deeper vision of life beyond the common, ordinary, and mundane.  I could be wrong.  Many people might just see me as a weird person.  I can live with that. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

There Are Many Ways To See Life


Absorbed in this world, you’ve made it your burden.

Rise above this world.

There is another vision.

-Rumi

 

I am not someone who reads poetry every day but I do appreciate a good poem.  One of my favorite poets is Rumi.  Below is a link to more information about him.  I have written the occasional poem but I do not consider myself a poet.  However, I do see myself as someone who sees life with a poetic vision.  As I have said many times I tend to be a dreamer and a romantic.  My head is in the clouds although my feet are firmly on the ground.  As the Moody Blues once sang, it is “A Question of Balance”.  The toils and struggles of everyday life can get the best of us down.  If you get too absorbed in life’s struggles it can easily be a burden just to live.  Whether or not you are naturally inclined to be a dreamer or a romantic, sometimes you have to stop, step away, and rise above it all.  There is another vision.  For me to rise above the mundane and ordinary aspects of daily life I need to find beauty.  Sometimes it is right in front of you but if you aren’t looking for it you may not see it.  Thomas Merton, the famous monk and writer, was also a photographer.  A book was published of some of his photographs called “A Hidden Wholeness”.  It was mostly pictures of ordinary things around the monastery.  Merton, however, had an artistic vision so he was able to see the beauty in ordinary things and find the “Hidden Wholeness” within them.  People need to not only rise above this world but also to see beyond the obvious.  People need to deepen their vision of life.  I believe this is what Rumi is saying to us.

 


 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I Like Every Minute Of The Day


This song was a not a big hit.  It is a rather obscure song on an album called The Who By Numbers.  However, I love the lyrics and the idea of liking every minute of the day.  We all have our preferences.  I am a morning person.  I struggle with the middle part of the day.  If I survive 9:00 AM till 3:00 PM, I also like the time of day when the sun begins to set, especially in the summer time when the day’s heat may have been oppressive.   

 

The Blue, Red, and Gray

Sung by The Who (One of my favorite rock bands)

Lyrics by Pete Townshend

 

Some people seem so obsessed with the morning
Get up early just to see the sun rise
Some people like it more when there's fire in the sky
Worship the sun when it's high
Some people go for those sultry evenings
Sipping cocktails in the blue, red and grey

But I like every minute of the day

I like every second, so long as you are on my mind
Every moment has its special charm
It's alright when you're around, rain or shine

I know a crowd who only live after midnight
Their faces always seem so pale
And then there's friends of mine who must have sunlight
They say a suntan never fails
I know a man who works the night shift
He's lucky to get a job and some pay

And I like every minute of the day

I dig every second
I can laugh in the snow and rain
I get a buzz from being cold and wet
The pleasure seems to balance out the pain

And so you see that I'm completely crazy
I even shun the south of France
The people on the hill, they say I'm lazy
But when they sleep, I sing and dance
Some people have to have the sultry evenings
Cocktails in the blue, red and grey

But I like every minute of the day

I like every minute of the day

 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We All Want Peace And Love

Today I bring you a little bit of history.  48 years ago, on August 15th, 1969,  late on a Friday afternoon, folk musician Richie Havens took the stage as the opening act for the now infamous Woodstock Music & Art Fair.  He was not scheduled to be the opening act.  The opening act was supposed to be a band called Sweetwater but they were stuck in traffic trying to get to the festival site, a farm in upstate New York owned by a man named Max Yasgur.  The logistics of the festival were in total disarray as many more people showed up than were expected.  By the end of the weekend it was estimated that 500,000 people were there at one point or another.  Richie Havens was asked to begin the festival because he and his fellow musicians needed nothing but some microphones to pick up their guitars, conga drum, and voices.  Woodstock was the peak of the so-called hippie dream that began a few years earlier with the “Summer of Love”.  By the end of 1969 it was all falling apart in large part because of the Charles Manson murders and the killing of a young man at a free Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway.  Many idealists and dreamers wondered where it all went wrong.  After all, this was the “Love Generation”.  I think most generations start off with high ideals and big dreams.  Although I did not make it to Woodstock I was one of those hippies.  If the truth be told I am still one of those hippies.  We are not dead yet and I am not alone.  I still have high ideals and dreams.  Unfortunately, my generation is running out of time.  I am disheartened by what I see on the nightly news.  There is so much hate in the world and none of us are immune to feeling it.  Anyone can hate.  It takes everything in me not to hate our current president.  What turns people into racists, Neo-Nazi’s,  and white nationalists while filling them with such hatred for anyone who is not the same as them?  I sometimes feel like I am too old and too tired to change the world but I also feel like I cannot just stand by and just observe it.  What can an average person do?  You can practice love, tolerance, and acceptance in the ordinary events of your daily life.  Change begins with individuals.  Look into your own heart first.  Do you believe in love?  Show it.  Do you believe in peace?  Then live in peace.  Do you believe we are all human beings that want nothing more than to raise our families, be happy, and live our lives?  People are not born bad.  Things like racism and intolerance are learned behaviors.  Check yourself and make sure you are not a teacher of these things.  Think about what you say and do.  You don’t have to be a hippie to want peace and love in your life or in the lives of others.          
 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

How I Pray Is Breathe.

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.  I say that with all due respect for my granddaughter who has also been a major influence.  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 don’t know about the rest of you but I believe I totally get the message in this quote.  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, and feel the wind.  O yes, 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. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Generations

Along with psychology and personality types, I like to understand the different generations, specifically their views of life.  Recently I read an article about who tends to carry the burden of responsibility in the workplace.  The author believes the Gen X generation is now the driving force in the work place.  What defines the different generations?  It is basically defined by when you were born.  Here is a breakdown of the current generations.  I have seen variations on this but these are the most common delineations.
 
The Silent Generation-People born before 1945.
 
Baby Boomers-People born between 1946 and 1964.
 
Generation X-People born between 1965 and 1976.
 
Millennials-People born between 1977 and 1995.
 
Generation Z-People born between 1996 – 2010.  This would be my teenage granddaughter and her generation. 
 
I cannot dive deep into each generation.  Focusing on the article I read, here’s a few thoughts.  Millennials are the 20-40 Year olds.  Gen Xer’s are the 40-50 year olds  Baby Boomers are the 50-70 year olds.  Millennials are often seen as being a little clueless about the harsh realities of life.  Their parents may have told them they could do anything.  They are sometimes finding out they can’t despite what their parents told them.  Gen Xer’s are deep into adulthood.  Being an adult is hard.  They are raising families and building careers.  This is a very stressful time of life.  The Baby Boomers are coming to the end of their careers, their children are grown up, and they are faced with the reality that they are running out of time.  I am a Baby Boomer so I get it.  The gist of the article was that in the work place the Millennials are often perceived as clueless and the Baby Boomers are seen as over it and checked out so the Gen Xer’s must shoulder most of the responsibility.  Of course these are generalizations and don’t apply to every individual, but they are also somewhat true.  One final thought that I find interesting.  Most of my rock and roll heroes are not really Baby Boomers.  They are actually part of the “Silent Generation”.  Tell that to the Rolling Stones!  They are all in their 70’s now and still rocking and rolling all over the world.         

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Life Isn't Always As It Appears

I suffer from ‘Room B’ syndrome.  I always think other people are having a better time than me.  Social media has made this worse.  When comparing yourself to others, you rarely come out favorably”.
-Cherry Healey
 
I am a student of psychology, especially the study of personality types and specifically my own personality.  After many years I have come to realize that one of my flaws is envy.  I found this hard to accept at first because I tend to be a grateful person and I know I am blessed in many ways.  However, if I am completely honest I would have to admit that I am sometimes envious of others.  This gets tricky.  I am not envious of what I see in others.  I tend to be envious about what I imagine others have.  It is not their cars or houses or wealth that I envy.  It is the happiness and contentment I imagine they have that I wish I had for myself.  Let’s be honest.  All people have some kind of emptiness that they spend much of their life trying to fill.  It may take many years for an individual to know the cause of the emptiness they feel.  Although I was never homeless and I never went hungry, I realize now I was kind of poor compared to the way I live now.  It always seemed that other kids and other families had a better life.  In addition, my parents focused more on the physical needs of their children, i.e., food, a bed, clothes, and a roof, than on the emotional needs of their children.  I realize now this was a generational trait because my parent’s grew up during the Great Depression and World War II.  Additionally, as the oldest of six children, I quickly felt part of the background as younger siblings began to appear.  I don’t want to give the impression that I had a horrible childhood.  I never suffered, many other people had similar lives, and I also had many happy moments.  My point is that the needs of our adulthood are formed in our childhood.  When you feel like much is lacking, much is wanted.  I am not sure exactly why some tend to think everyone else has what they feel lacking.  When you feel envious of the life you imagine others have, remember that there is much about their lives of which you are unaware.  Many people are not as happy as they might look.  Many people’s relationships are not as perfect as they may appear.  That comfortable life may be the result of maxed out credit cards and multiple bank loans.  Every person, one way or another, is trying to fill a need and an emptiness.  On the positive side all of this can form us to be the good people that most of us are.  When you understand your own needs and pain, you can be more compassionate towards the needs and pain of others.           

Friday, July 28, 2017

Our Lives Form Who We Are


In the end, just three things matter; how well we have lived, how well we have loved, and how well we have learned to let go.
-Jack Kornfield
 
At some point we were born into this life.  My being came into this existence in 1951.  That was a long time ago and I can assure you it was a very different time than we live in now.  My childhood was relatively calm and life seemed good.  It was a simple time for me.  This was not true for everyone but it was for me.  For me, and many of my generation, life changed dramatically when President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 at the young age of 46.  It seemed like the beginning of the turbulent sixties when our culture went through significant changes.  This was the time of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the counter culture movement, the Vietnam war, and the Catholic Church’s Vatican II Council which changed traditions that had been in place for generations.  My generation came of age with all of this as a backdrop.  It was a turbulent and exciting time to grow up.  In the 70’s I got married, in the 80’s and 90’s I raised children, and in 2001, the year of the World Trade Center attack, I turned 50 years old.  As much as I strive to be in the current moment, I sometimes look back at the events and experiences of my life and I wonder how they have formed me and what kind of person I am as a result of these experiences.  How well did I live?  How much have I loved?  What have I let go?  Overall, I think I have done well.  I have had a better than average share of life blessings coupled with a fair share of life’s troubles.  I have survived every challenge so far and I think I am a better and stronger person because of it.  Not everything has gone the way I wanted it to but I have no bitterness.  I have let go of resentments and times when life beat me up.  I once read that our memories are the pillow on which we will sit in our old age.  My pillow is quite comfortable as most of my memories bring a smile to my face or laughter to my heart.  What about you?      
 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Small Concession To Age

I have made a small concession to my age.  A couple of months ago I had an episode with my blood pressure.  It spiked with no warning and since it had never occurred before I wasn’t sure what was happening to me.  When I went to the clinic one of the first questions the nurse asked me was “Do you take blood pressure medicine and if so did you take it today”?  I responded that I did take a daily pill but I could not remember if I had taken it that day.  Let me confess now that I do occasionally have some short term memory issues.  They may be related to my age or possibly to things I did in my youth.  Anyway, my small concession to age is that I am now using a pill container that allows me to count out my daily medications for morning and night for a week at a time.  This pill box keeps me on track to remember to take my daily medications.  Now I just have to remember what day of the week it is.  I am not a person who is upset that I am getting older.  Every old person will say the same thing.  Our bodies may be getting older but we are still young on the inside.  Once, when I was a young lad of 58, one of my younger co-workers said to me, “Michael, you are the youngest 58 year old I have ever known”.  Hopefully, I am now one of the youngest 66 year olds she has ever known.  In my own mind I am 25 years old.  No one is more shocked to be old than an old person.  We are all wondering, “How the heck did this happen”?  One of my best friends and concert buddies is my age.  We met in high school at age 15 and took Driver’s Ed together.  We had some wild adventures in our youth and now we are blown away that some of our memories are 50 years old.  Neither one of us can rock and roll all night like we used to do but we are still trying.  OK, I am stretching the truth a bit.  We still go to concerts together but we occasionally nod off during a slow song if we close our eyes.  We also like to be home before 11:00 PM.  I am even more pathetic because I have to take a PTO day the next day.  It’s not because I got too high or I am hung over.  Although I may have had a few beers, it’s mainly because I’m tired from being out on a school night.  On a positive note, aging can be very freeing.  Most of life’s serious labors are behind you.  The future is always unknown but the present is more appreciated because you know the fragility of life.  You may have been running your entire life but now you can slow down and breathe.  Breathing is a lot easier for me now.  So is napping…..   
 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Happiness Is An Inside Job

No one can do more to help you find happiness than you yourself, no friend or lover or relative.  Be sure to help your own mind every day with quiet meditation.
 
In a recent email exchange with a friend I told them that I thought my best moments are when I am alone.  They probably thought, “Poor Michael”.  I am sure part of my feeling is because I am a serious introvert.  Sometimes I wish I was more outgoing and sociable.  Other times I thank God I am not.  In all honesty, even the best of people eventually wear me out or get on my nerves.  I am sure I sometimes do the same to other people.  People are best for me in small doses.  However, I am not anti-social and I do value relationships.  I just find relationships exhausting.  They are good for you but like going to the gym I find them a lot of work and sometimes I am not up to the task.  If you are lucky enough to have people in your life who truly complete you or build you up, you should be grateful because not everyone has that.  I would also say that if you have such relationships in your life you should not depend on them.  People come and go in our lives.  Sometimes they leave on their own, other times they are taken from us.  When this happens, we must be able to stand on our own.  A few years ago one of my dearest friends died unexpectedly.  It was very difficult for me.  They were an important part of my life and I was happy to have such a friend.  We shared many deep and personal conversations.  Whatever the quality of your life and relationships, you should cultivate your own personal and private space.  You don’t have to be an introvert to do this.  Even if you are an outgoing and social type person, you should occasionally spend some time alone with your own thoughts.  Happiness comes from within.  Others may enhance it or share our happiness but they cannot give it to us. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Challenge Of Writing

The week before last I spent a pleasant week in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  I had never been there before so it was nice to see and be in a new place.  One of the reasons I went there was to have a vacation that didn’t require another vacation in order to recover.  In previous vacations I went to Universal Studios and Disney World and it was exhausting.  I’m sure some of you are thinking, “I wish I had such problems”.  All I can say is that going to Disney World in your 30’s and going there in your 60’s are two very different experiences.  Since returning from my vacation I’ve struggled a bit getting back into the routine of writing a daily thought.  Sometimes my mind is just blank and these days my life is very routine and even boring.  In the past I often received inspiration from experiences I had or a book I was reading.  Currently I am reading the autobiography of Phil Collins called Not Dead Yet.  It is interesting from a musical point of view but is mostly the experiences of a man with way too much money.  I started my personal blog in 2006.  Before that I had handwritten journals and hundreds of emails.  I looked at my blog yesterday and since September, 2006, I have written 2,100 daily thoughts.  There is not much I haven’t written about that can be shared with the general public.  I have always strived to send out positive thoughts with occasional whining about daily life.  I have avoided sharing thoughts about any existential angst I may be having at the moment.  It is nice to know that many people like the things I write although one of my sons recently told my granddaughter, “Be careful what you say to Paw Paw because it will probably end up in one of his daily thoughts.  Now that Chloe is a teen-ager with an attitude I can tell you that her entire life is full of drama and angst and no one, including me, understands her.  Jesus once said, “A prophet is never accepted in his own country”.  I can also assure you that a wannabe Zen Master like me is not accepted in their own family either.  No one at home thinks I am wise.  Chloe thinks every conversation with me has too many “life lessons” and the rest of the family thinks I am full of myself.  They may be right.  However, I write as much for myself as anyone else so I will continue writing when there is something I want to say but I cannot guarantee it will be every day.         
 
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

What Is Happiness?


All beings want to be happy, yet so very few know how.  It is out of ignorance that any of us cause suffering, for ourselves or others".
-Sharon Salzberg

Back in the flower power days of the late sixties the rock band Iron Butterfly had a song called “Are You Happy”?  In the not too distant past Bobby McFerrin sang, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.  Even more recently Pharrell Williams sang the following lines in his mega hit song “Happy”.

It might seem crazy what I am about to say
Sunshine she's here, you can take a break
I'm a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don't care, baby, by the way


(Because I'm happy)
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I'm happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
(Because I'm happy)
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
(Because I'm happy)
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do



So here’s the question…..


Are you happy?  If you’re not, is it because you worry all the time?  As a man with a wife I don’t need to worry.  My wife worries enough for ten people.  I have moments of contentment and even joy but I don’t always feel a sense of happiness.  Sometimes I am not sure I really know what happiness is.  Is happiness what I feel when nothing is going wrong?  I once read that happiness is not getting what you want but, rather, loving what you have.  I really do try to life a life of gratitude but I also spend a lot of time thinking about and even longing for what I don’t have.  I am not talking about the accumulation of more material things.  I have all the things I want.  What gives you a sense of happiness?  Many people respond, “My family”.  At the same time, they talk about how their family drives them crazy.  Other people say, “If I had more money, I would be happy”.  Certainly everyone needs enough money for the basic necessities of life.  However, I can tell you from personal experience having more money does not necessarily make you happier.  If other people and more things cannot make us happy, what does?  In your life, if you feel happy, what is it that makes you feel that way?   

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Chloe Becomes A Teen-Ager


There are people throughout Humana and the world who have been following the stories I write about my granddaughter since the day she was born.  Once I was walking in the park across the street from my office when a woman shouted at me from her car.  She said, “Aren’t you Chloe’s Paw Paw”?  Chloe’s popularity and name recognition became greater than my own.  Today is Chloe’s birthday and she is now officially a teen-ager.  Trust me when I say she has the attitude to prove it.  I know many of you will find this difficult to believe.  It is mind blowing for me as well.  After my children were born I assumed that one day I would be a grandfather but I never realized the joy and occasional worry it would give me.  Most grandparents would feel this way.  It is now difficult to remember a time when Chloe was not part of my life or our family.  She and I bonded from the very beginning.  She was only three weeks old the first time she stayed overnight at my home.  My wife and I were in our early 50’s then but very out of practice caring for a newborn child.  I was up every hour getting a bottle, holding her, or rocking her back to sleep.  She used to grab on to my beard with her tiny fingers.  At first it was a little embarrassing how much she preferred me to anyone else, even my wife.  As she got a little older she would wake me up at the crack of dawn so I would go downstairs with her to “play the game”.  “Playing the Game” was the two of us sitting in the middle of the floor with every doll and stuffed animal she owned.  I have a Jerry Garcia doll.  She would grab it, bring it to me and say, “You be Jerry”!  At one time she was the only child in the daycare who had a Jerry Garcia tee shirt.  However, now that Chloe is no longer a child but a blossoming young woman, she and my wife are a lot closer.  She talks about girl stuff with my wife and philosophical stuff with me.  Chloe knows twice as much about life at age thirteen than I did at age thirteen.  That is not necessarily a good thing.  I hope I have a long enough life to see her grow up and become an adult.  She needs me as much as I need her.  For now I will enjoy every moment I have with her even if we are disagreeing about whatever the drama of the day happens to be.  Next week she will be going on vacation with the old folks.  She keeps us young plus I want to give her as many enjoyable experiences as I can before life get too serious and demanding for her.  You only have one childhood.  She’s already had her share of challenges and soon enough she will be an adult.  Someday I will also need her to break me out of the nursing home. 

 

P.S.  Prepare yourselves.  She will be driving a car in three years.  I wonder if Dad will let her borrow his prized Corvette?           

 

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Dream Comes True


This past weekend my wife, Chloe, and I visited Holy Redeemer Parish in Greensburg, Good Shepard Parish in Columbia, and Holy Spirit Parish in Jamestown to witness the installation of my son, Nick, as the official pastor of these parishes.  The ceremonies were led by Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville.  We attended three masses and listened to the same homily three times.  In addition, we ate one pot luck dinner, one pot luck breakfast, and one pot luck lunch.  The Archbishop cautioned me to pace myself.  The food was excellent, especially the breakfast.  After three masses and three pot luck meals I am sanctified and five pounds heavier.  The people themselves were very welcoming and friendly.  During the masses the Archbishop had high praise for my son and during the pot luck meals my wife and I received many compliments about our son.  It was a proud moment for both of us.  One lady told me that I look just like my son.  I corrected her and said, “No, he looks like me.  I was here first”.  Another lady asked, “Do you call your son Father Nick”?  She was curious since I am the father of the Father.  I replied, “Sometimes, but mostly I just call him Nick because he is my son”.  A few people came up to me and said, “I saw that picture of you and Father Nick at the U2 concert”.  Both of my sons have turned out to be good human beings and men.  My son, Nick, however, is more like me than his brother.  My other son is more like his mother.  Sometimes it is interesting how life turns out.  When my son was ordained a priest, my mother looked at me and said, “I always thought it would be you”.  In some ways Nick is living the dreams of my youth.  I suppose some dreams begin with one person and end with another.  In many ways Nick has finished what I began.  In spite of my background I was surprised when Nick came to me and told me he wanted to be a priest.  I honestly didn’t see it coming.  Sometimes our children surprise us.  One way or another most of us turn out the way life intended for us.         

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Son Becomes A Pastor

As many of you know, my youngest son is a Catholic priest.  For the last year he has been working solo as the acting pastor of three small parishes in southern Kentucky.  In this part of Kentucky Catholics are few and far between so some consider this area as the “Southern Kentucky Missions”.  For the first year that you are “flying solo” you are considered an Administrator.  My son has successfully been the “acting” pastor for the last year so he is now being formally made the Pastor.  It’s a big deal so this weekend my wife and I, along with Chloe, are going there to attend the formal ceremonies that accompany this change.  Archbishop Kurtz will be there as well to make it official.  Technically the Archbishop is my son’s boss.  The Archbishop’s boss is Pope Francis.  I still remember the day, a little over ten years ago, when Nick came to me and told me he wanted to be a priest.  At the time it kind of blew me away because I did not see it coming.  Despite my own background of going to the seminary and living in a monastery I can honestly say I never did anything intentionally to encourage Nick in this direction.  Some things in life are a calling.  After he went through the rigorous process of being accepted into the seminary, my wife and I drove him to Indianapolis to attend Marian College.  Within the college there is a seminary program for men who need to complete their undergraduate degree before doing graduate level work in theology.  Nick did his graduate level theological studies at St. Meinrad School of Theology and now has a Master’s Degree.  I enjoyed those four years because the school is only about 75 miles away and is run by Benedictine monks.  For obvious reasons I always enjoyed visiting there.  The day we  first drove Nick to Marian College it must have been 95 degrees.  We found the seminary residence hall and it had no air conditioning.  The poor priest who was the seminary Rector was sweating profusely as he tried to get everyone to their assigned rooms.  When my wife and I finally said goodbye and left Nick, I wondered how it would all turn out and if he would be happy.  Ten years later and four years as a priest he is very happy.  He loves his current assignment and he especially likes being in a small town and rural environment.  By all appearances, he seems to be happy and thriving.  Whether your son is a priest or a plumber, isn’t this what all parents want for a child?            

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Unresolved Questions & Issues

In Zen, we don’t find the answers.  We lose the questions”.
-Zen saying
 
Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue”.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
 
As I have said before, I am a very introspective person.  I am always thinking and pondering and musing and contemplating.  It’s part of who I am.  All of these activities can be done too much with the possible exception of contemplation which is a kind of restful gaze into the universe or God, whichever you prefer.  However, even contemplatives need to stand up once in a while and take out the trash or perform some other chore.  The point is that we all have questions or other unresolved issues in our hearts, many of which will never be resolved.  This is true for every person.  I know some people think I have all the answers.  I might have a few.  I, too, have issues and most of them go back to my childhood which is where most issues begin for many people.  Over and above any childhood baggage we carry, we have other experiences on the path of life that may have hurt us.  Sometime we can let these experiences go and move on with our life.  Other times we carry them with us and we continually ask “Why did this happen to me”?  Many times these questions are never answered.  If we are lucky we move on and we lose the questions.  Sometimes we are broken but other times we are healed.  Even with healing there is often a scar.  I once read that gray hair and scars mean that you have survived every challenge so far in your life.  I have grey hair and scars.  You are not weak for having struggles.  You are strong for having survived.     

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My U2 Experience

Sometimes I am impulsive, like when a concert is announced six months in advance.  I am ready to jump in feet first.  I work out the financial plan and then I purchase the tickets.  The closer the concert gets the more I anxious I become, especially if it is being held in an arena or stadium.  At this stage of my rock and roll life I am better suited for intimate concerts in small venues like the Louisville Palace or the Brown Theater.  In my younger days, when I was in my forties, I made a lot of road trips to Cincinnati or Indianapolis.  If I did that today I would have to stay overnight in a hotel.  In days of old I would come to work the next day.  This past Friday I went to see U2 at Papa John’s Stadium, a place I had never been.  I went with my son the priest.  Going with a priest had its benefits.  There is a Catholic church across the street from the stadium so we had convenient and free parking for the concert.  Although the stadium was across the street from the church it was still quite a hike to get to the entrance.  At that time it was approximately 87 degrees.  I began to have serious doubts about the wisdom of attending an outdoor concert in a big stadium on a very hot day.  Once we got past security and into the stadium, we were able to hang out in a shady spot until the opening act hit the stage.  Unfortunately, our seats were on the sunny side of the stadium in the nose bleed section.  The air is a little thin up there too.  My brilliant son gets out his iPhone and goes to the Ticketmaster website.  A few minutes later he says, “Follow me, Dad”.  He takes me to two seats on the end of a row that were much better than our reserved seats.  What did he do?  He simply looked for seats that hadn’t been sold.  Brilliant!  I never would have thought of that.  The concert itself far exceeded my expectations.  The sun was finally setting as U2 took the stage.  It was a powerful concert and they played most of their iconic songs including the entire “Joshua Tree” album.  Music is more than entertainment for me.  It is often a deeply emotional experience.  Several times I was moved to tears, especially when Bono sang “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, song about Martin Luther King, Jr.  U2 is very political but in a positive way.  Their songs are deep and personal, yet universal.  After the show my son and I maintained a tradition I began many years ago after I had taken him to see the Rolling Stones when he was a teen-ager.  We ate at the Waffle House with all the other creatures of the night.  Much to my surprise I ran into someone from my office but what happens at the Waffle House stays at the Waffle House.  When I finally got home I looked at my Fitbit and I had walked over 40,000 steps!  It wasn’t until Sunday that I felt the pain.  The good news is that I’m still out there getting it done!  Old guys rock!       

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sleep

In one of his early journals, the monk and writer Thomas Merton describes the experience of lying in his cell at night wide awake due to his insomnia.  In those days monks did not have private rooms.  They slept in dormitories where each monk had a “cell”.  A cell was little more than a small bed with partitions around it.  When I was a young man in the monastery one of the jobs I had was being part of the construction crew assigned to replacing these cells with actual private bedrooms.  Yes, believe it or not I once worked in construction.  Merton goes on to describe the experience of lying in his cell listening to the snoring of all the monks around him while being able to calculate exactly how much sleep he was losing based on the ringing of the monastery bells.  In today’s world individual monks have private rooms and the bells do not ring all night.  They do ring at 3:00 AM to awaken the monks for night vigils in the church.  Whenever I have stayed at the monastery I usually got up with the monks.  The time after these night vigils is my favorite time in the monastic day.  However, I digress.  Sometimes I think I, too, suffer from insomnia.  I actually hate going to bed because I know it will be a struggle to fall asleep.  Sometimes I complicate the problem with evening naps and an overactive mind.  When I go home after a day’s work I usually feel brain dead and exhausted.  It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had a tough day or an easy one.  The only way to not take a nap is to remain continuously busy with chores of some type.  If my mind or body is not engaged it’s off to La La Land.  Thursday morning I woke up at 4:30 AM to heed nature’s call.  I returned to my bed happy that I still had an hour and a half of sleep before my alarm would go off in order to go to work.  I tossed and I turned.  I started hearing rumbles of thunder and seeing flashes of light as a storm approached.  I think I finally fell asleep at 5:59 AM.  My alarm went off at 6:00 AM.  I was not a happy man.  Does anyone else have a problem sleeping at night?  Is this a pattern for older people? 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Is This It? Maybe....

Two Buddhist monks are sitting side by side while meditating on the side of a river.  The older and wiser monk finally says to the younger monk, who has a look of dismay on his face, “Nothing else happens.  This is it.”
 
I have already lived a longer life than many people and I am hoping it will be even longer.  One of the ironies of life is that even if it is tough, people still cling to it and few let go of it without a fight.  Since I was a young man I have been very introspective.  It is part of my nature.  Anyone who spends a lot of time in introspection routinely wonders “Is this it”?  Since life can often seem like little more than toil and struggle we are sometimes afraid “this is it”.  What gives meaning and purpose to our lives?  Many people would say love but there are many people who don’t feel a lot of love in their lives and sometimes the people we do love drive us crazy.  Other people would say a sense of purpose is what gives meaning to our lives.  Most people would say that working takes up much of their time.  Does your work give you a sense of purpose and meaning?  Would you do what you do if there was no paycheck attached to it?  I didn’t think so.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I think my problem is that I am an idealist and my expectations of life are so high that I am constantly disappointed.  My advice is to have low expectations.  If you do you will be surprised more than you will be disappointed.  In spite of some disappointment, I still love life and I do have great moments.  When they come I try not to cling to them.  I try to enjoy them for as long as they last.  However, just all bad things eventually pass, good things pass as well.  Even when life seems boring and uneventful or you're happy and content, it is always changing.  Often the changes of life are so subtle we don’t notice them until we suddenly realize we are five years down the road.  I have spent a lifetime searching and being on a quest.  I’m sorry to report that I still do not have the answers to the meaning of life.  It is very possible that nothing else happens.  We'll see....   

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Addiction To Smart Phones

Yesterday I read an article about how software designers are programming apps to make us addicted to our Smartphones.  I think it is true.  Before I had a Smartphone I was constantly amazed at how much time people spent on their phones.  After I bought my first Smartphone I found myself becoming one of those people.  I slowly found myself constantly checking personal emails, text messages, the Weather Channel, CNN, Facebook, and more.  Some of my co-workers are even worse because they have an app that allows them to read work related emails on their personal Smartphones.  So far I have resisted that temptation and I am resistant to being told I must do it.  In all fairness my Smartphone is great for staying in touch with important people in my life.  I love it that I can text my granddaughter and other distant friends.  There are also some amazing and helpful apps that I like.  One example is my Amazon app that allows me to order a book or a CD during a staff meeting when my manager thinks I am paying attention to the group conversation.  Another is my Fitbit app that allows me to see how many steps I am walking in a day.  One of my favorite is a meditation app that rings a Tibetan gong to let me know when a meditation session is complete.  I also have a Mindfulness bell that rings periodically throughout the day to remind me to breathe.  Admittedly I have turned that one off during work hours because it freaked out my co-workers and occasionally made them jump.  Did I mention my tip calculator?  One final app called WAZE alerts me to traffic conditions wherever I am.  Having all these tools at your fingertips is very helpful at times but I think it is the social media stuff that is truly addictive.  Why?  I think many of us are lonelier than we care to admit and we have a primal need to feel connected to others no matter how distant or causal the relationship may be.  Let’s be honest about “friends” and even family.  I have approximately 350 Facebook friends, including extended family members, but only a handful of them are true friends.  I think part of the social media addiction is also related to our egos.  Most of us, if we are honest, love to put stuff out there and have other people react to it.  How many “likes” did we get and who actually liked it?  I fell into this trap with my blog which tracks how many people read it and where they are.  At last count it was 58,317 people from countries all over the world.  Some people in other countries have written nice emails to me and now we are Facebook friends.   When I think of modern communication technology I am sometimes reminded that I went through my high school and college years without a beeper or a cell phone.  My generation still managed to connect with one another and it was always in person.  Today I have friends I have never actually met.    
 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What Is In Front Of Us

To develop this mind state of compassion is to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception”.
-Sharon Salzman
 
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, now Saint Teresa of Calcutta, once said that if you can’t feed the world, then feed one person.  I think I have a better than average awareness of what is going on in the world.  The world is full of war, famine, poverty, and corruption.  I know my middle class life is very comfortable compared to much of the world’s population.  In my heart I feel empathy and sympathy for all the suffering in the world.  I also feel overwhelmed by it.  Sometimes I get what I call compassion fatigue.  I have heard it said that each of us is called to deal with whatever is in front of us.  This is the work of life and we are called to share in it.  When I was young I never imagined my life as it is today.  Though nowhere near as difficult as many other people’s lives, I’ve had some share in the curve balls that life can throw you.  My own needs are few.  I am usually content with whatever is.  When I am not I try to not complain.  If I do complain I get over it quickly.  In all fairness I do not usually seek out people or situations that require intervention although I know there are many good people in the world who live to serve others.  Their lives are dedicated to serve the needs of mankind.  My youngest son has dedicated his life to the spiritual and material needs of others.  In my own small way, I try to never turn away from others.  Sometimes this doesn’t get beyond family.  Others times it may include friends, co-workers, or strangers.  If I can help I try to do so.  If you have capacity to help others, you should do so too.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Some Thoughts On Empathy

The act of compassion begins with full attention, just as rapport does.  You have to really see the person.  If you see the person, then naturally empathy  arises.  If you tune into the other person, you feel with them, you want to help them, and that begins as a compassionate act”.
-Daniel Goleman

I recently read an article about people who have empathy.  What is empathy?  It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  When I took a test called “Strength Finders” empathy came out as my number one strength.  I have found this to be both a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand it is a blessing because I generally know and understand how other people feel.  Knowing how people feel makes it easier to be compassionate.  On the other hand I sometimes find it exhausting to absorb the feelings of other people around me, especially when they are troubled or in pain.  The article I read about empathy focused on the fatigue that empathetic people often feel.  We tend to be sponges for other people’s feelings and it can sometimes be a heavy load to carry.  Since I am an empathic person let me clarify a few things.  Just because I understand your feelings doesn’t necessarily mean I care or that I feel sorry for you.  Empathy and sympathy are not the same thing.  Sympathy is when you have feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.  It is possible to understand another person’s feelings without feeling pity or sorrow for them.  You can also feel pity and sorrow for them and have absolutely no idea how they feel.  Whether you understand people’s feelings or feel sympathy for their experience, you can still show compassion for them.  The first step in being a compassionate person is to simply be a kind person.  We can all be kind.  Kindness is more of an attitude than a strength although some people seem to be especially gifted when it comes to showing kindness.  Whatever your strength or gift, you need to realize that everyone is carrying some kind of burden.  No one is without challenges. 
 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Losing Our Minds

Sometimes I think my wife and I are both losing our minds.  We met one of our sons for dinner on Monday night.  While sitting in the restaurant I noticed the clouds were very dark and a storm was brewing.  As we left the restaurant it was starting to sprinkle.  As soon as we pulled our car out into the traffic my wife shouted, “O my God!  Where’s my glasses”?  She has this bad habit of taking her glasses off and setting them on the table in restaurants.  By this time we are in rush hour traffic but close to home.  Since she couldn’t remember if she had even wore them to the restaurant, we decided to drive home and see if her glasses were there.  Naturally, they were not at home so we headed back to the restaurant.  By the time we got to the end of our street it was raining so hard I could barely see the front of my car.  It was a little scary so I decided to drive around the block and go back home.  By this time it was also hailing.  We pulled into the driveway and my wife grabbed her umbrella and ran into the house.  I then jumped out of the car and also ran into the house.  The rain felt like ice water being poured down my back.  Once in the house I looked outside and wondered why my car lights weren’t turning off.  I then realized I didn’t have my car keys.  Apparently I jumped out of the car and left it running in the driveway.  Back into the cold rain I went to turn off the car.  I guess losing your glasses and leaving your car running in the driveway are part of the aging process.  My father in law once left his car running all night in the parking lot of a restaurant.  He had been drinking so he decided to take a cab home.  Unfortunately he forgot to turn off his car first.  My mother in law was not happy with him the next morning when they went to pick up his car and it was still running.  As far as my wife’s glasses, it turned out the glasses had been left at the restaurant so we had to stop there on the way to work Tuesday morning to pick them up.  Dear God…. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Living In The Light Of Eternity


“I have been reading all day, confined to my room, and I feel tired.  I raise the screen and face the broad daylight.  I move the chair on the veranda and look at the blue mountains.  I draw a long breath, fill my lungs with fresh air and feel entirely refreshed.  I make tea and drink a cup or two of it.  Who would say I am not living in the light of eternity?
-D.T. Suzuki
 
This is one of my favorite quotes and I believe it perfectly describes what I would call a Zen moment.  We all spend a great deal of our lives in a frenzy.  The demands of life pull us in many directions, often at the same time.  It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find those quiet moments in our day when we can “live in the light of eternity”.  I start my work days by quietly sitting for about 20 minutes being one with eternity and my morning coffee.  When my work day is over and I am finally back home, I sit in my chair once again and I breathe.  Recently at work I was happy to discover that Building Management had scattered soft and comfortable chairs in various parts of the building so individuals can have quiet moments for reading, reflecting, or simply staring into space.  Sometimes after a walk outside, I spent some time in one of these chairs before heading back upstairs to my desk.  We all need to find these moments in our day or we will lose our sanity.  Most people have never lived in a monastery like I once did.  However, we can all find our “inner monk” and spend some time in silence and solitude.  Even if you are an extrovert, I think you will like it.  Spend some time finding your stillpoint and go there whenever you can.  It is the pause that refreshes.   
 

Friday, June 02, 2017

The Maintenence Of Life


Earlier this week I went to my dentist for my routine teeth cleaning.  The woman who cleaned my teeth is 80 years old.  I found out later that she told my wife I was way too young to even think about retirement.  Anyway, while I was in the dentist’s chair trying to be a man and not kick out the ceiling lights with my feet, I could not help but think how much of life is maintenance.  When something is full, we empty it.  When some things are empty, we fill them.  We wash and dry our clothes before we fold them and put them away.  As soon as they are all in drawers or closets, we start wearing them again and start the process over.  We clean the bathroom and vacuum the floors.  The grass needs to be mowed and the trash taken out.  Did I mention the weekly recycle bin?  Don’t even get me started on the maintenance of a 66 year old body.  One of my least favorite chores is going to the grocery store.  Have you have realized how many times you touch your grocery items before they actually end up in your pantry or refrigerator?  Let me break it down for you…..

Take items off the shelf or out of the case and put them in your grocery cart.

Walk a minimum of 10,000 steps because the store is constantly re-organizing and moving stuff and you are always a little lost.

Take everything out of your grocery cart and put it on the checkout conveyer so it can be scanned. 

Hold your breath in anticipation for the final bill.

Put everything into bags and re-load your grocery cart.

Unload your grocery cart into the trunk of your car.

Unload the trunk of your car and carry all the bags into your house.

Pile everything on your kitchen table.

Unload the bags and sort your groceries for their appropriate final destination, i.e. cabinets, pantry in the laundry room, or refrigerator.

Put all the plastic grocery bags into your re-cycle bin.

Drink one of the beers you bought at the grocery that night.   

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wake Up Call

I had a medical emergency last week.  My blood pressure went haywire and spiked unexpectedly.  This never happened to me before so I wasn’t sure what was going on.  I have taken blood pressure medication for years.  After a visit with my doctor he determined it was time to adjust my dosage.  I am feeling fine now but I must admit I had a few moments of panic and couldn’t help but wonder if I was going to that great gig in the sky.  I also had a few moments of anger because I had tickets to a Roger Waters concert at the Yum Center on Sunday night and I didn’t want to miss the show because I was in the hospital or worse.  The good news is that I made the concert with two old friends that I have known since we were teen-agers.  After the concert we hung out at my house and actually stayed up till 2:00 AM.  That alone should have killed all three of us.  We’re not too old to rock and roll and still too young to die but we do need our sleep.  Thank God Monday was a holiday and I got to sleep in.  On a more serious note, a brush with possible death is a wakeup call.  I am at the age when dying wouldn’t be a total shock even if it was unexpected.  Last week was a reminder to live well and enjoy every moment.  It was also a reminder not to be stupid and to take care of my health.  I rarely get sick enough to miss work but I do have some ongoing health issues.  Whether you are young or old, take care of yourself and pay attention to how you feel.  If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right and needs to be checked out.  Better safe than sorry.  For the next few weeks I will be extra vigilant because I have tickets to a U2 concert and Bono is expecting me to be in the audience.       

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Road To Success Is Paved With Work


Wanderer, your footsteps are the road and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking”.
Antonio Machado
 
“Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and then sustain it”.
-Warren Bennis
 
In my life I have noticed that everyone wants to know the way.  Everyone wants to know how to get somewhere.  Everyone wants to know the secret to success.  The way to get anywhere is to get going.  Don’t look for a path.  Rather, make your own path.  Rarely does anything good or valuable come easy.  You have to know what you want and then translate your intention and goal into reality.  Once achieved it must be maintained and sustained.  I’ve had some success in life and I have a comfortable lifestyle.  No one gave it to me.  I started working when I was 16 years old bagging groceries in a small mom and pop grocery store.  I worked after school and often on weekends.  Quite frankly, it was the only way I could keep up with my rich friends.  When I received my first paycheck I bought a pair of shoes that were too expensive for my parents to buy for me.  It took almost my entire paycheck.  Eventually I bought my first car and even paid my own car insurance.  That first car was a 1962 VW Beetle that cost $900.  It drove me and my hippie friends to all kinds of places our parents never knew about.  My wife and I have been getting out of bed and heading to our respective jobs for 42+ years.  Many days neither of us wanted to do it but we were mature enough to use whatever power reserves we had to “translate intention into reality and then sustain it”.  Our intention is to stay employed so we can continue to have a comfortable life.  The older we get the less we want to do this.  I am certainly no super human.  I am often unmotivated, lazy, resistant, rebellious, and lacking in direction.  I am what some people would call an under achiever.  However, my wife and I had hard working parents who gave us a strong work ethic.  You don’t have to be a superstar to be successful in life.  You do, however, have to get up and show up.  The road you need to make by walking is the road to work.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Treat Every Moment As Your Last

Treat every moment as your last.  It is not a preparation for something else.  Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars you see.  You are one with everything.  This is more true than I can say and more true than you can hear.
-Shunryu Suzuki
Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.
 
Empty handed I entered the world.
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going,
Two simple happenings that got entangled.
-Kozan
 
I really like these quotes.  It is not because I am closer to the end of my life than I am to the beginning.  Shunryu Suzuki reminds us that every moment of our lives is important.  Most of us waste much of our lives in pursuits that are often frivolous or unnecessary.  Others spend their entire life preparing for the future and they never truly live in the present.  Just recently I used a strong metaphor in a conversation with my wife.  I told her she is always loading her gun but she never pulls the trigger.  What I was saying is that we have to quit talking all the time about what we are going to do and just do it.  I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that said “Life is short.  Buy the damn concert tickets”!   Whether we are young or old we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis “What are we waiting for”?  Yes, sometimes you have to plan but don’t spend your entire life planning.  Sooner or later, and preferably sooner, you have to implement your dreams.  Originally I thought I would be retired by now.  When I decided to keep working for a while I told my wife that if I was going to continue working, and now that I have more money than I’ve ever had, I am going to do more.  If I want something I will buy it.  I will go on nicer vacations and take them more often.  I’m running out of days so the time for more action is now.  I was out walking the other day while at work.  Each day now there are food trucks everywhere.  People seem to love them.  One of the food trucks had a funny slogan painted on it.  It said, “I don’t want to look back some day and think I could have eaten that”!  We are all given a finite period of time in this life.  Some get more than others and no one knows how long they will be given.  I have already been given much more than many.  Empty handed I entered this world and barefoot I will leave it.  In the time between I want to be one with the clouds and the sun and the stars.  I’m going to the damn concerts too!         
 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Oldest Son

Today is the 39th birthday of my oldest son who is also the father of Chloe and my namesake.  Although he has my name, the truth is that he’s more like his mother.  That’s a whole different daily thought.  When I began working at Humana he was only seven years old and in the first grade.  Now he is knocking on the door of middle age and has a few gray hairs to prove it.  He is a single Dad and although Chloe may disagree some days, he’s a very good Dad who works hard.  I found it touching that this past weekend Chloe told my wife and me that she wanted to get her Dad a Mother’s Day card.  We stopped at Walgreen’s where she picked out a card and a few of his favorite snacks.  When my son was born in 1978 I was only 27 years old and married only four years.  This was pre-Humana so at the time I was working for a Heating and Air Conditioning Wholesale company where I waited on customers and unloaded semi-trucks full of air conditioners and furnaces.  Becoming a parent changed my life as it does for most people.  Once you become a parent it never really ends.  The midnight feedings and diaper changes turn into sleepless nights wondering where your teen-ager is and what they doing.  Before you realize it they grow up and leave home for their own life.  Eventually they have a crisis or two and realize they are lucky their parents are still around to help.  It is also a good thing if their parents have a bigger bank account.  Once my son called me in the middle of my evening nap and asked if I could watch Chloe for a few hours.  I responded that I could and asked him where he was.  He replied, “I’m in your driveway”.  Four years after my oldest son was born, his brother came along.  I think both of them would agree they had a pretty good life growing up.  There were lots of Saturday afternoon movies, attending professional wrestling matches, going to the circus, and being on vacations.  Santa Claus never missed a Christmas either.  I never had a daughter but now I have a very special granddaughter.  Sons and daughters and grandchildren grow up quickly so use some of that Zen I am always talking about and enjoy every moment while you can.
 

The Sound Of Our Own Wheels

“Try dying every day to your old self so that you emerge renewed and young again as the tired mind sheds its load”.
-Kristen Zambucka
 
Let’s be honest.  Aren’t we all just a little tired in ways that have nothing to do with a lack of sleep?  I call it being psychically tired.  It’s part being physically tired.  It’s part being emotionally tired. It’s part being spiritually tired.  Life is hard for all of us even if we have lives that many would consider very nice.  Life is sometimes harder for us as individuals because of our own dysfunctional behavior patterns.  The rock band “The Eagles” have a song lyric that goes “Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”.  This is what many of us do.  If life isn’t challenging enough we drive ourselves crazy with the sound of our own wheels.  In my mind the “sound of our own wheels” is our dysfunctional behavior.  After many years I have realized that people don’t really change much and they are who they are.  This is certainly true with people within my own family, people in the workplace, and with myself.  I can help guide behavior but I can rarely change it in others.  It is the same with me as a person and a leader.  My strengths are my strengths and my weaknesses are my weaknesses.  My weaknesses will never be my strengths.  Our personalities never really change.  We just become older and hopefully better versions of ourselves.  When I had only been married a short period of time, my wife complained to my mother that I was obsessed with music.  My mother told her to relax because I would get over it when I grew up.  42 years later at age 66 I have a music collection that probably contains 3,000 CD’s.  They take up an entire wall of my room at home.  In the next month I will be attending two major rock concerts.  I am still a hippie and still a little rebellious.  We are what we are.  Having said all of this, sometimes I wear myself out with my dysfunctions, my obsessions, and the sound of my own wheels.  Know what I mean?  I would like to sometimes wake up to a new and renewed version of myself.  By the way, my mother is now 87 years old and probably still waiting for me to grow up.