13 November 2017

The Loss of Silence

Nothing has changed the nature of people so much as the loss of silence.  The invention of printing, technics, compulsory education--nothing has so altered us as this lack of relationship to silence, this fact that silence is no longer taken for granted, as something as natural as the sky above or the air we breathe.  We who have lost silence have not merely lost one human quality but our whole structure has been changed thereby.   -Max Picard

This is a fact of life that scares me sometimes.  It annoys me very often, also, but I'm much less concerned about being annoyed by something than being scared by something.  Silence is one of the most important parts of life, yet it's something that we ignore regularly, and it's one of the necessities of life of which we very often deprive others, whether we're aware of it or not.

I love quiet times at home, and in my home I really should have the right to enjoy silence when I want to.  I can't tell you how many times, though, a beautiful, peaceful spring evening has been ruined by the sound of a power mower--even as late as eight or nine.  I've had peaceful Saturday mornings disturbed by the loud, high-pitched whine of model car motors on the street outside.  Many people in their cars have their stereos turned up extremely high, making sure that they disturb people in the homes that they drive by.

Our loss of silence makes it difficult for us to focus and concentrate.  It makes it hard for us to find our own centers, for we're constantly distracted by external forces.  Our internal workings are a mystery to us because we're so often distracted by things outside of ourselves.  When we get home we turn on the television or radio so that we don't have to deal with silence, and our brains don't get a rest from processing outside noise.

We need the quiet.  We need to find it in our lives, and we need to create it in our lives.  Even if it's just ducking into a quiet room for ten or fifteen minutes to relax and to breathe without any external stimuli, it's important that we do so.  A nice hot bath in a secluded bathroom with no music playing--or soft instrumental music that doesn't require mental processing--can do wonders for us.  Sometimes the silence is a bit overwhelming, but that's okay--we still need it, and it can be a healing force for us if only we allow it to be in order to heal.  There are many sounds that I love, but they generally aren't as helpful to me as silence is, as long as I make sure that it's a part of my life.

07 November 2017

Desires--Can We Scale Them Down?

We don't need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.  -Donald Horban

Good luck scaling down your wants in our society. Never in human history have so many people been exposed to so much advertising--which is basically other people telling you what you should want, trying to create a sense of dissatisfaction in you through their words and images that doesn't go away until you have the product that they want you to buy. It's rather sad, really, that we're so constantly and consistently exposed to this sort of mental and emotional manipulation, but it's a fact that we need to accept if we're going to be able to cope with it effectively.

Human beings seem to always have wanted lots more than we could really get--or if we could get it all, much more than we could really enjoy and take advantage of. Life can become a different experience if we're able to "scale down our wants," to be satisfied with less and fewer, to not allow the lack of some particular thing in our life to determine how we feel or what we think. There are many, many legitimate wants, of course--I need a computer to do much of the work I do, so I definitely want to have a computer, but the work I do is rather simple, so I don't need a thousand-dollar laptop when a much less expensive one will do just fine.

And even if I wanted an expensive computer, I know from experience that when I do have access to all of the extras that make such a computer expensive, I don't even use them most of the time, so the money spent for them has basically been wasted.

I neither want nor need a new car right now. I don't want a different job. I like reading and I like listening to music, so I do want books and music, but I don't need to have every book ever written--I just want the ones I'd like to read. And even then, I can borrow them without possessing them. 

I believe that what Donald is saying is that we should allow ourselves to be satisfied with what we have. Not to the point that we can't want anything else, but to the point at which we realize that our happiness or satisfaction are not dependent upon getting and possessing more things. Life isn't about "I'd be happier if I just had. . ."; rather, it's about finding that space and feeling of "I'm happy. It might be nice if I had this thing, but I'm fine without it, too."

01 November 2017

How Do You Meditate?

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet.  It's a way of
entering into the quiet that's already there— buried under
the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.

Deepak Chopra

When I was growing up, meditation had a bad name in our country.  For many people, it meant something negative--it was something that only people who lived on the fringes of society did, something for the hippies or the religious zealots.  Nowadays, though, the practice is accepted much more broadly among the people that I know--though its practice still is rather uncommon.  To me, meditation is extremely important, but I really don't meditate in the ways that the books tell you to.

My most important form of meditation is running.  It's not something that helps me to completely empty my mind, of course, but it does help me to slow my mind down and clear it of a lot of baggage.  I need to stay focused on my running, on my breathing, on the feelings in my legs, and other thoughts simply don't have room to surface when I run.  That's the main goal of meditation, as far as I've learned--empty the mind of the zillions of thoughts that run around in there constantly in order to calm ourselves down and be able to center ourselves without all the distractions.

I also like to go for long walks.  For many people this doesn't work because they still think those same thoughts during their walks.  I'm lucky, though, because I try to notice everything I can while I'm walking--the leaves on the trees, the flowers, the colors of the houses, the changes that I notice from the last time I walked.  When I'm walking, I'm not thinking of my problems, unless I'm walking specifically to ponder a particular issue, and then my walk is a way to deal with something rather than a meditative exercise.

Sometimes I do a more traditional type of meditation, focusing on my breathing--in. . . out. . . in. . . out--listening to it closely so that other thoughts diminish until all I'm aware of is the breathing.  It's very helpful to me, and when I stop--sometimes after three minutes, sometimes after twenty--I always feel better.  I sit in a way that's comfortable to me--cross-legged on the floor is not comfortable--and I do it sometimes when I have very little time available to me, sometimes when I have plenty of time.  Generally, I know when I need to do it--when my mind is racing and I'm feeling like I'm being pulled in many different directions at once.  This is a way that I get centered and I can look at all the problems in a new light.

Formal meditation obviously isn't necessary in life for everyone--many people have lived long and productive lives without ever having sat down with the specific purpose of meditation.  But we all have those things that get us so focused on one thing that the rest of our minds calm down--for some it's cooking, or working on engines, or cleaning a house, or reading a novel.  Be careful, though, because some activities have huge potential frustrations--if you're working on an engine and a part doesn't fit properly, you may be facing more stress than calmness.  Raking leaves works for me, but that's a fall-only activity!  What are some ways that work for you to clear your mind?  What are some things that you can do to calm yourself down?  It's very important to set aside time to do them regularly--you'll definitely benefit from doing so, and all the people you're involved with will benefit, also.

30 October 2017

Accepting the Horrible

Acceptance is a letting-go process.  You let go of your wishes and demands that life can be different.  It's a conscious choice.   -Gary Emery

Acceptance is one of the hardest qualities to practice these days.  There's so much going on that seems to be completely unacceptable in the public light--lying, manipulation, angry attacks, abuse, destruction of the planet--that the word "acceptance" seems out of place.  I often want to use the word "unacceptable" when I talk about such things, and sometimes I do because in certain situations these things are unacceptable.  But I have to remind myself that if I don't accept them, I'm in a certain sense denying them, and that denial makes it impossible for me to do anything about them.

Acceptance in not approval.  It took me years to learn that, so I repeat it now for my sake, not yours:  Acceptance is not approval.  Acceptance simply says, "Yes, this has happened or is happening, and it is a reality in our world right now."  Denial says that I refuse to acknowledge something, and if I do refuse, then I can never start the healing process that I need to go through, or I can never work to change that certain something.  When I accept, I simply acknowledge that something is real, and once I do that I can begin to learn to cope with it or try to change it.

There is much in life right now that's simply unpleasant, and much that's unpleasant and destructive and dangerous.  If I want to work counter to the destruction and danger, then I must acknowledge that they exist.  I don't even have to fight them if I don't wish to--as long as I'm working towards building something that's more loving and hopeful and compassionate, my efforts will not be in vain, and I won't be facing constant stress and tension in an effort to "defeat" something else.  Rather, I'll be using my creative abilities to add something positive to the world.

The world of today is an unpleasant place in many ways.  Many of us have a hard time finding our place in it because of its negativity and dishonesty.  Once we accept that things are the way they are, though, and let go of our desire that the world be as we think it should be, we can stop trying to battle the way things are and focus on adding something beautiful and loving, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

11 July 2017

Letting Go

We all are holding on to things that we shouldn't be trying to hold on to.  Those things, unfortunately, tend to hold us back from advancing in life--they tend to keep us just where we are even when we want to get somewhere else.  Perhaps we still dwell on how someone else hurt us.  Maybe we think constantly about how great that relationship was, and how we wish we had it again. I've known people who still talk about high school every single day, decades after they graduated from it. But letting go allows us to look at right here and right now rather than dwelling on yesterday's occurrences and actions. Telling ourselves, "It's over and done with, and it's time to leave it in the past, where it belongs," helps us to see very clearly that our obligations and responsibilities lie in the present moment, and that holding on to something from the past can not be an effective way of living our lives. If it's a hurt, we're choosing to allow that hurt to continue to do us damage. If it's a regret, we can never reach today's potential while wallowing in regret. If it was something wonderful, we're wasting time trying to relive what has already past.

Ask yourself:  Do I want to hold on, or move on?

There are things that we never want to let go
of, people we never want to leave behind.
But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end
of the world; it’s the beginning of a new life.


06 July 2017

Being Humble

We've grown to be a very arrogant race. We take what we want from this planet when we want it, and almost always on our own terms, not on terms that may benefit the earth. We usually expect other people to act in ways that we consider to be appropriate, and we feel justified in becoming upset when they don't do so. And on, and on. Yet most of us, if someone were to ask us, would say that we're definitely not arrogant. The truth is, though, that we've come to regard humility as weakness, and we do not want to appear weak to anyone at any time. That's just simply not acceptable in our culture, and we allow our culture and our society to determine how we're going to act more than we allow our instinct and our knowledge of what's right and wrong to influence us. There are many benefits to humility, though, not the least of which is peace of mind and peace of heart. When we acknowledge the facts that we are just one among many millions of people and just a very small part of this planet and universe of ours, we can start to see that it's important that we see ourselves realistically and stop trying to fool ourselves into thinking that we have much more power and influence than we truly do. Being humble is far from being weak--being humble strengthens us and allows us to keep balance and peace of mind in our lives when others are losing their grips on their unrealistic ideas of "being in control" and needing others to do things as they think they should be done.

Never take a leaf or move a pebble without asking permission.  Always ask permission.  That maintains the balance and teaches humility.  That leaf you want to pluck could be far more important than the little purpose you have in mind.  You don't know--so ask permission first.        -Don José Matsuwa

30 June 2017


It's really quite a shame when we feel so much fear of people who look different than us, who do things differently than we do, who speak in languages that are different from ours. It's a shame when we allow prejudices to dim our view of humanity, to make us dislike others simply because they have some differences from us. When we fear and dislike others, we lose. We lose opportunities to learn to see the world in different ways, to learn of varying perspectives, to understand how others feel and thus grow in compassion and love and acceptance. Our world is a very diverse place, and it does us no good at all to imagine that the only important views are the ones we grew up with, that the most acceptable people are the ones who share our skin color or our cultural norms and history. Our world needs people of all types to work together to try to forge solutions to our problems together, learning from each other as we go that there are different ways of seeing and doing things, and allowing people who are completely different from us in many ways to shape the ways that we see the world.

Let us be among the first to accept all of the people that God created as complete equals in all ways, and let us learn from each other. No fear, no prejudice, no anger, no hatred--just love, acceptance, and compassion.

Peace is not unity in similarity but unity in diversity,
in the comparison and conciliation of differences.

Mikhail Gorbachev