31 December 2010

Beginning This Moment

Most of us fail to realize the tremendous potential that lies before us in each moment of our lives.  Every moment of every day, we face the opportunity to start over completely, to modify the way that we see the world, to change the ways that we react to certain stimuli.  Our lives are ours to fashion, and we do so through the ways that we approach our days and our circumstances, through the ways that we act and react, and through the ways that we treat others and ourselves.  One of the most important goals that we can have as people is to learn to recognize the things that cause us unhappiness, stress, anxiety, and negative feelings, and then to act in ways that will keep those things from being the dominant elements of our lives--or perhaps even to banish them from our lives altogether.

We spend a lot of time waiting for those "right moments," though.  I've known plenty of people who have been in destructive relationships who refused to leave them because the time just "wasn't right."  I've known people who hated their jobs and thus started each day feeling completely negative because they had to go work somewhere they didn't want to go, but who never found the right time for looking for something new.  I've known people who allowed others to dominate and control them, but who weren't able or willing to make the decision to leave behind the abuse and search out healthy relationships with people who were supportive and helpful to them.

This moment--right here, right now--is the only one of this particular moment that we're going to have in our lives.  The important question that we have to ask ourselves, then, is just what we're going to do with this moment.  How can we make it special?  How can we use this particular moment as a starting point from which to make the rest of our lives more positive and fulfilling?  Can we take this moment to make a decision that will add more special moments to our lives in the future?  This moment really does begin the rest of our lives, so what can we do with this moment that will provide a spark that will allow the flames of our true passions to burn brightly?

We seldom see moments of our lives as starting points, yet it's true that every single moment signals the beginning of the rest of our lives.  If we can see each moment as a beginning, then, how can we go about making sure that we start the rest of our lives on the right foot, in directions that will prove to be positive for us and for the other people who share our lives with us?

There is only the moment.  The now.  Only what you are experiencing at this second is real.
This does not mean you live for the moment.  It means you live in the moment.

Leo Buscaglia

29 December 2010


The new year is upon us!  And while it’s tempting to write something like “It’s full of new opportunities, new experiences, new people, etc.,” I know that the truth is that the year isn’t full of anything like that–-the new year is a series of new days, and all of the new opportunities and new experiences would come to us even if we didn’t measure time in 365-day, 12-month, or 52-week units.  Each day that we live is full of opportunities to do something new and different, to meet new people, to take up new hobbies, to change the ways that we do things in our lives.

I like the idea of a new year.  It’s convenient to have a period of time that we can look back on and reflect on all that we’ve done, to have periods–-be they weeks, months, or years–-for which we can establish goals and determine courses of action for bringing positive change to our lives.  But those periods really are artificial; I don’t think that the trees in our back yards are marking the passage of days or weeks, do you?  And if they are artificial, then it’s important that we see them for just what they are and not make too much of a deal about what they mean to us.

The most important thing that we can do for ourselves is to recognize the importance of the present moment, the decisions that we’re making right now, the opportunities that are here for us now.  Because our lives are made up not of a series of years or months, but a series of “right-nows,” and what we do with each of those right-nows as we make our ways through life is the most important element of our lives.

What do you do with your right-nows, your present moments?  Right now you could encourage another person, start making a list of goals for the new year, start working on that novel, write a poem, write a letter to someone who could use a letter–-any of hundreds of things--but you have to make a decision to do so.  These things don’t just happen–-they’re the result of people doing with their present moments something constructive, enjoyable, and important to themselves and others.  That’s what right now is all about!

The present is passed over in the race for the future;
the here is neglected in favor of the there.
Enjoy the moment, even if it means
merely a walk in the country.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

22 December 2010

'Tis the Season

Now that Christmas is here, it's time to decide just how I'll approach the holiday this year--and believe me, it always takes decisions.  I used to just take the holidays as they came, and that was okay, but I found that there were often just a few too many disappointments, just a few too many problems that came up that I wasn't able to deal with.  So now I try to approach the holidays in a practical, prepared way--at least mentally and emotionally--so that I don't have to deal with unpleasant surprises that tend to arise.

First of all, I always decide about this time to let go of any expectations I may have for how other people act, for what kinds of gifts I may (or may not) receive, and for what other people do.  I find that much of the dissatisfaction that I witness other people feeling during the holidays has to do with what they expected not coming through, and that's a pretty silly reason to have to be dissatisfied--something that we bring upon ourselves.  Other people are who they are and will do what they do--they simply aren't on this planet to live up to our expectations, no matter what our relationships or lack of relationships.

I also decide to err on the side of generous.  I don't go out and buy lavish gifts for most people, and my wife and I enjoy the very simple things, but if I have to decide whether or not to get something for a particular person, then I'll get it because it may be a huge mistake not to.  Since I get modest gifts, the loss to me is slight if it turns out to be a mistake, but that can't compare to the damage that will occur if it would have been a mistake not to get a gift.  I also make the decision to take as much time for myself--relaxing and doing nothing (except perhaps reading or watching a Christmas program)--as I can.  This way, I can enjoy the holidays more because I've dealt with the stress and strife in a proactive fashion.

I also decide that this season will be about spirit more than it will be about gifts or parties or anything else like that.  I like the gifts and I like the parties, but these are incidental parts of the holiday season, not integral parts.  To this end, I listen to a lot of Christmas songs such as "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" and the like to continually remind myself of just why this season is here--to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who did his best to teach us all about our own power to love and live in harmony and unison with God.  While we haven't done very well at taking his lessons to heart, we have done well in maintaining the celebration of his birth, and that will have to do, won't it?  It truly is a holy season, and if I want to get the most out of it, I have to decide to do so.

When we work so hard at our preparations for Christmas, we often
feel cheated and frustrated  when others fail to notice the results
of our efforts.  We need to ask ourselves why we are doing the things
we choose to do.  If love motivates us--love for our families, for our
neighbors--then we are free to simply enjoy the actual process of what
we do, rather than requiring the approval and admiration of others
for the results of our labors.

Ellyn Sanna

20 December 2010

O Holy Night

I like to listen to Christmas music all year long.  It reminds me of my favorite time of the year, and it inspires cheerful and pleasant thoughts and feelings.  It also helps to remind me of probably our most important mission while we're on this planet--focusing on others and their wants and needs, and doing our best to provide for them.  Christmas is the only time of the year that so very many people are focused almost exclusively on making others happy, on doing things and getting things for them, and that's a nice thing to be reminded of.

But anyway, that's not what I feel like writing about at this moment.  I'm listening to "O, Holy Night" right now (Michael Crawford's version--the best I've ever heard), and it just struck me that there's something amiss with the title.  The title implies that the night that Christ was born is the holy night, but I have to take exception to that claim.  Personally, I believe that every night is holy--just as is every day, every morning, every afternoon.  I think that sometimes we don't see every day and every night as holy because we don't treat our days and nights as holy.  We take them for granted, even dislike them or dread them or waste them sometimes, but we surely don't look at them as holy.

This moment is holy.  We're alive, we're sharing this world together, we're part of the whole of humanity right now, and we're truly blessed with many beautiful things, with food to eat and shelter over our heads--how could this moment not be holy?

This night will be holy if we regard it as holy.  That doesn't mean, of course, that we have to go to church tonight or spend three hours reading the Bible.  Rather, it means that we have to accept tonight for what it is--a holy night--appreciate it for what it is, and love this night for what it is.  It's an opportunity to give to others, to share with others, even to take from others who wish to give.  It's a time for reflection and appreciation, and if we can find both of these, then we'll be in good shape.  A holy night demands nothing more or less than our reverence, and when we truly appreciate the opportunities that we have at any given moment, then we can't help but be reverent.

"O holy night"?  That would be tonight, and last night, and tomorrow night.  Holiness comes from our hearts, and we can bring holiness to any moment that we wish, when we bring to it a heart full of reverence, love, and peace.

18 December 2010

Simple Love

I heard a beautiful song today, another one of those songs that I've had on my computer for well over a year, but just never really listened to.  It's by Alison Krauss, and it's called "Simple Love."  The beautiful part of the song for me is the chorus, when she sings "I want a simple love like that/Always giving never asking back/When I'm in my final hour looking back/I hope I had a simple love like that."  It's a song about her grandfather and the simple love that he gave to his family.

I don't think that I could ask for any more in my life than reaching my final hour and looking back and seeing that I had a simple love that was always giving to others.  I don't think that I could think of anything more gratifying at the end of my life than realizing that I had spent time giving love to others and not expecting anything in return.  I don't do that now--at least not nearly as much as I'd like to be able to--but I do know that I have the potential to do so.  And someday I do hope to reach a point at which I'm living such a simple love.  My life and my self will be defined by the simple love that I'm living.

I love it when I discover songs like this one.  They help me to stay focused on the positive side of life, on the things that I can pursue to make my life more fulfilling and more amazing.  When I keep lyrics like this in my mind--and it's easier for me to keep lyrics in mind than it is to keep simple words without music--then I can make decisions based on those words.  Tomorrow when I'm facing a troubling situation for example, which path would truly be showing simple love?  It frustrates me that it often takes me a long time to notice the value in such songs, but I have to figure that I'll notice it when I'm ready to notice it.

16 December 2010

Learning silence

It's taken me a very long time to learn about the beauties of silence, the amazing benefits that it brings into my life.  For most of my life I've been most comfortable with sounds, especially music, as a major part of my life.  And to a large extent, I still am.  I tend to think best and write best when there's music playing, for example--the louder the better, usually--so whenever I need to produce something in writing, I always have music playing.  But more and more these days, I seek solace in silence--I seek the peace and quiet that can help my spirit to function at a calm, peaceful level without the rush of adrenaline that a strong beat played loudly brings to me.

This peacefulness is a nice new part of my life.  In my peaceful moments, I feel less distracted.  I feel more connected with life and with myself.  I feel a sense of belonging, and I realize during these peaceful times just how hectic things get when I don't allow the peace into my life, when I have the sounds and the noises as constant company.

Silence is a balm.  Silence is an environment, a setting, a place in our lives where we can hear ourselves think and breathe, and where we can get back in touch with our selves--our deeper selves, the parts of who we are that we ignore when the sounds are distracting us.

I love the quiet.  I love how it feels to hear nothing, really, and not need to hear anything.  Sounds can be pleasant, of course, but they do distract us.  They call our attention whenever they're present, and any time that our attention is called outside of ourselves, we're distracted from the most fundamental truths of all, the fundamental truths that are inside of ourselves, that are a part of who we are at our cores, in our spirits.  Let the silence embrace you.  Let the peace and quiet calm you and help you to see the greater truths that include spirit and oneness and interdependence.  In silence we can see these truths, ponder them, and embrace them.  When the cacophony of sounds that we face in our everyday lives keeps us distracted, then we don't have nearly as much clarity of vision or understanding.  Let silence help you to learn to feel the clarity deeply.

True silence really means going deep within yourself to that place where nothing
is happening, where you transcend time and space.  You go into a brand new
dimension of nothingness.  That's where all the power is.  That's your real home.
That's where you really belong, in deep Silence where there is no good or bad,
no one trying to achieve anything.  Just being, pure being. . . .
Silence is the ultimate reality.
Robert Adams

13 December 2010

Another Beautiful Day

Today’s here once more.  It’s not the same today that we got to know so well yesterday, and it’s definitely not the same one that we went through the day before yesterday, but it is a new day that brings us lots of challenge and opportunity, just as those other two days did–just as every day of our lives has done so far.  What we get out of this new day is up to us, of course, and how we see this new day also is up to us.

Our perspective will determine most of our day.  The way we see the world, our lives, and the situations we’re going to face will go a long way towards determining just how this day turns out.  Will we approach it in a spiritual way, looking to develop our spirits and let them shine out so that others can take comfort in the peace that we show?  Or will we let ego take over, doing all that we do for our own self-advancement, our own gratification?  And do we see this day as a precious gift full of wonderful opportunities for working, playing, encouraging, and deepening relationships, or is this day to us an exercise in drudgery, full of obstacles and problems?

I’m glad that you got the gift of this day, too, for that means that we’re sharing this beautiful planet of ours once more.  And I hope that wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you’re spreading peace and hope and love and any other positive things that you can.  When enough of us start doing that on a regular basis, then our days will start growing even more positive and joy-filled than we ever might have imagined.

Today the greens are greener, the clouds are puffier,
the things that are important are more important,
and the things that aren't have gone way down.

a man who escaped death

10 December 2010

Am I Growing?

Sometimes I have to ask myself this question, because I often feel that instead of growing, I’m somehow stagnating, continuing to do the same things over and over in the same ways.  Life is about change, though, so those of us who continue to do things in the same ways all the time are in a way avoiding real life, avoiding the very things that can help us to grow and to change and to learn more about this wonderful world and our wonderful selves.

I do believe that we often expect too much growth out of ourselves.  We expect ourselves to be like annual flowers, growing from nothing but a tiny seed to a large flowering plant in a matter of weeks.  The truth is, though, that most of us are made to be like trees that take their time in growing, adding an inch or two to their height and width per year–in their good years.  I don’t want to be too impatient and try to force myself to be something that I’m not, but on the other hand I don’t want to lose the opportunities that I have for growth in very real senses.

I try to keep tabs on whether I’m improving or not–improving my mind and my heart, improving my compassion and love and peace of mind.  I try to monitor myself to see if I am growing steadily so that when I see that I’m not, I can take steps to remedy that situation.  It’s not like I’m putting pressure on myself to grow faster than I’m able to grow–but I most definitely am trying to make sure that some growth is occurring, even if it’s happening in ways that I didn’t foresee, or ways that I don’t completely understand.

Are you growing?  Are you putting yourself in situations in which you’re well nurtured and well cared for so that you can grow?  If you really do want to get more out of the world than you are getting now, then you need to make sure that you continue growing over time so that you can take advantage of the opportunities that are there for you.  After all, the larger a tree grows, the more leaves it has to catch sunshine, and the more roots it puts out to capture the water it needs to live.

When you see the value of continued growth,
the circumstances around you become stepping stones.

Clyde M. Narramore

07 December 2010

You Are Lovable

Probably the most difficult thing that I ever had to teach myself in life was the fact that I was–and am–lovable.  I grew up thinking that I was completely unlovable, that no one would ever love me, that there was somehow something wrong with me that made it impossible to love me.  And with that thought buried deeply within me, guess how I always acted around other people?  I acted as if they never could love me.  And since I acted that way and felt that way, guess how other people saw me?  As pretty unlovable, believe it or not.

But something that I’ve learned in the meantime is that I am lovable–that we all are lovable children of God, that we all have lovable qualities that make us truly unique.  Learning this was a great shock to me, for I had to include myself in the “all” category.  And if I were lovable, then guess what?  I didn’t need to have someone else be in love with me in order for me to know that I’m lovable.  It’s a pretty liberating realization to make, especially for someone like me who never considered himself to be lovable at all.

Some people have problems on the other end of the spectrum and consider themselves to be much more irresistable than they really are.  It’s really quite a similar problem, though in a different way.  But many of us have a hard time thinking that other people can actually love us, and learning–and accepting–that we are lovable is a very important part of our growth as human beings.  After all, why and how would God ever create a being that is completely unlovable?  It just doesn’t make sense.  If God made us, then what are we saying about God when we claim that we’re not good enough for people to love us?

You’re lovable, too.  Have you looked at yourself as a lovable person lately?  What do you see when you do?  How do you feel when you do?  It’s a great feeling to know that we’re lovable, and I hope that you treat yourself to that feeling as often as possible.  You may not be truly loved by the people you wish would love you, but that’s a question of just finding the right people who do love you, who do appreciate you for just who and what you are.  And it won’t be until you admit and accept that you are lovable that you’ll truly love yourself–and it won’t be until you truly love yourself that you’ll be able to love anyone else truly, without condition.  When we realize these facts, it becomes imperative that we reach a point at which we see and feel ourselves as lovable.  A lot depends on our ability to do this!

04 December 2010

What I'd Like to Hear

We’ve all heard things about ourselves that we never were meant to hear–someone else is talking about us, and we hear it when we’re not supposed to.  We’ve all left rooms only to hear someone who thinks we’re out of earshot make a comment about us.  We’ve seen movies in which this happens and a character is hurt or mortified or angered, and the rest of the movie deals with the fallout from the careless words that are overheard.

When I think about this sort of thing, though, I start to think:  What would I like to hear if someone were talking about me and didn’t know I could hear them?  I can think of a lot of words that would be pleasant to hear, but also words that would reaffirm that what I try to do with and in my life is serving some positive purpose.  Words that would let me know that my true inner self is shining through, that people truly can see what I’m trying to be–and that I’ve been somewhat successful in my attempts.

Some of the words might be:

“He’s a really honest person.”
“I like the way he treats me with respect.”
“He puts a lot of effort into everything he does.”
“He’s the kind of person I’d like to have in my corner if I’m having problems.”
“He’s a very generous person.”
“I’d trust him with anything.”
“I’m glad I know him.”

These are just a few examples of words that would show that I’m having a positive effect somewhere, somehow in this world.  What kinds of words would you like to hear if you overheard someone talking about you?

And more importantly, what kinds of things would you have to do–what kind of person would you have to be–in order to cause anyone to say those things about you?  What can you do today?  Right now?

That’s the main reason I think about things like this, for I know that if I want to cause people to say certain things about me, then my behavior has to cause them to say those things.  People won’t say anything about me behind my back that they don’t honestly feel to be true, and I hope that my behavior will cause them to speak well of me, as a person who cares deeply about other people, and who always gives his best to anything that he does.

Live so that when your children think of
fairness, caring, and integrity,
they think of you.

H. Jackson Browne, Jr.