31 December 2011

I was talking to a friend today who said that she's always had a problem leaving things up to other people.  She always feels a need, she says, to make sure that things come out okay.  So it's very difficult for her to let someone else do things that she could be doing.  She doesn't like to let her kids clean the house, she doesn't like to let her husband cook the dinner, and she doesn't like to let substitutes teach her classes for her.  As a result, she's pretty frazzled--taking on all the responsibility of her own world leaves her weary and frustrated.

I feel bad for her because I can sympathize with her.  I was the same way for a very long time before I learned just how difficult leading such a life can be.  When we aren't willing to let other people do stuff for us, we overwhelm ourselves with tasks that we don't necessarily need to be doing.  And when we're overwhelmed, we don't tend to do the tasks nearly as well as we could if we weren't doing too much.  Our stress levels go up, the quality of our work goes down, and it's very difficult to find any sort of peace in our minds or spirits.

This friend wishes she didn't have so much to do.  The truth is, though, that she doesn't have nearly as much to do as she thinks she does.  It's the fact that she isn't willing to let go of results that keeps her working too hard and too intensely, and until she is finally ready to let go of results, she'll continue to sabotage her own happiness by keeping herself too busy.  Sometimes I like to let other people do things even if I'm pretty sure that they'll make mistakes doing them--then I get a bit of rest, and they get a wonderful learning experience through their mistakes.  Both of us win, then, and there are almost no jobs or tasks that have to be done absolutely perfectly, ever.  When we can let go of that need for perfection, then we can finally go about the business of living our lives, peacefully and easily.

Letting go doesn't mean we don't care. Letting go doesn't mean
we shut down. Letting go means we stop trying to force outcomes
and make people behave. It means we give up resistance to the way
things are, for the moment. It means we stop trying to do the
impossible--controlling that which we cannot--and instead, focus on
what is possible--which usually means taking care of ourselves.
And we do this in gentleness, kindness, and love, as much as possible.

Melody Beattie

30 December 2011

Important Thoughts on Acceptance

Radical Acceptance says that life works better when you accept people  for who they are, without judgment.  Once you have done that you can  then act accordingly.             

What does that mean?  Here is an example.  In a car the accelerator pedal  is on the right and the brake is to the left.  That is not a big deal.  I don't see  impassioned pleas to rearrange the pedals.  People know this and accept it  without judgment.  Now let's imagine that you think having this arrangement  is bad.  Furthermore, since you don't like it, you are going to act as if the  pedals are reversed.  It won't take you long to come to grief.

But failure to accept people is like the example above.  How many of us see,  not the person in front of us, but the person we expect to see.  Then we act  as if they are how we expect to see them.  And, sure enough, we come to grief.

Come to know them through their actions, accept without judgment and act  accordingly.  If the other is a controlling person, then I know I will either need  to let go my need for control or be prepared for a battle of wills.  If the other is  chronically late, then need to invite them early to events, be prepared to start  without them or wait.  In any case, to get upset is to pretend they are someone  different - and that's like pretending the accelerator and brake are reversed, a quick road to grief.

~Christopher Oliphant

29 December 2011

The Wonder of You

You are a wonder.  You have abilities that you barely recognize, and you have potential that is virtually unlimited.  You are a person who can love, give, encourage, motivate, inspire, and help others to get through life in positive, peaceful ways.  You are able to see things that other people can't see, and you feel things in ways that others don't.

You have come through difficult trials, and you've not only endured, but thrived.  You continue to seek the best for you and for those you love, and you keep your eyes and heart open for new possibilities and opportunities for growth and learning.  In spite of your own needs, you continue to seek out ways to give to others, hoping to make their journeys more pleasant and less painful.  When you make mistakes, you bounce back and learn from them, not allowing them to keep you down and not allowing despair to keep its hold on you.  Your resilience is a model for others to follow.

Our bodies are wonders themselves.  The incredible combination of muscles, blood vessels, bones, brains, lungs, eyes, heart, and so much more are miracles of nature, functioning in ways that often defy explanation.  With a simple thought, we can cause our fingers to bend or our toes to wiggle, or we can balance on a fence or shoot a basket from twenty feet away.  We all have different gifts of things that we're able to accomplish by using our bodies, you no less than anyone else.  Notice and appreciate the wonder of your body and the many things it allows you to do,  and you'll start to feel the incredible sense of wonder that comes with the realization that your body truly accomplishes wonderful things every day that you're alive.

Do not doubt that you are a wonder.  Do not doubt that the gifts you possess are wonderful, and are only waiting to be developed into their full potential.  Do not doubt that your gifts are wonderful to someone, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to you.  Do not doubt that the wonder of you is a special gift to the world that makes us all a bit richer.  Doubt cannot tarnish the wonder of anything, but it can create a filter through which wonder is hard to see.  Recognize, accept, and appreciate the true wonder of you!

28 December 2011

Would You Kindly?

What kinds of kindness did you unleash upon the world today?  Were you polite to someone who was overworked, who could use kindness and politeness to brighten his or her day a bit?  Did you give a little something to someone who could use it?  Did you give someone cuts in line, or allow someone to merge into traffic ahead of you?  Perhaps you paid a sincere compliment, or helped someone do something they needed help with?
No matter what form your kindness took, it certainly was welcome in this world of ours.  Kindness is a soothing balm, a piece of heaven here on earth.  When we show kindness, we're contributing in a positive way not only to the life or lives of the person or persons to whom we show the kindness, but we're also contributing to the overall positive energy of the world as a whole.  And who knows--perhaps someone witnesses our kind act and decides to show a bit of kindness themselves, causing a ripple effect from one small act of kindness.

Our kindness doesn't need to be earth-shattering.  It doesn't need to affect thousands of people.  Our kindness can be diverting our step so as not to step on a bug, and that act to spare a life is still a positive act in the world.  Kindness, though, is your choice--and most of us choose to be kind only on special occasions or when we see that someone really needs it.  Kindness shouldn't be limited to certain times or places, though--we improve our lives and the lives of others when we show kindness, so why not show it as often as we possibly can?  It doesn't take much effort usually, even though it's a force that truly can change the world for the better when we employ it.  I know that I often lose chances to be kind--leaving the supermarket without saying something nice (other than "Thanks.  Have a nice day!"), driving to work without letting other drivers merge into traffic, not showing interest in someone else's life or job or situations.  Perhaps when I learn to take advantage of those opportunities, my life will improve as I add to the amount of positive energy I share with the world. . . .

We restore the holiness of the world through our loving-kindness
and compassion.  Everyone participates.  It is a collective task.
Every act of loving-kindness, no matter how great or small,
repairs the world.  All those ever born have shared this
collective work since the beginning of time.
Rachel Naomi Remen           

26 December 2011

What We Have

How often do you start to focus on things that you want rather than things that you have?  How many times do you see something new that you would love to have, only to start feeling a bit down because you can’t afford it or don’t have room for it?  People in this world are very good at coming up with new things that somehow start us down the path of dissatisfaction once we start to focus on what we don’t have rather than on the things that we have already.

How much do you value all that you have in life right now?  How much do you appreciate the gifts and the people and the things in your life?  How often do you step back and look in an objective way at all of the cool and valuable things that are in your life, seeing them for the great parts of your life that they are?

The goal of marketers and advertisers is to make us lose our satisfaction in what we have so that we’ll go out and buy something that we don’t have.  If they can accomplish this, they can make more money for their companies.  If they get you to want a new car because yours isn’t big enough, then they’ve created dissonance in your life, and you’ll need to act to resolve that feeling if you want it to go away.  Unfortunately, the only way that most of us know how to deal with such dissonance is to buy the thing that we want, to attain the goods or materials that we think will make us more satisfied.  But we can also deal with that dissonance by realizing the source of our new desires or “needs,” and that can help us to stay more centered, more peaceful, in our lives.

If I’m on a diet, I want food.  If I give in to that desire, I put more calories into my body than the diet will stand, and my efforts to lose weight might have been wasted.  If I’m trying to save money and I want something new that I really don’t need, then all of my fiscal discipline will have been for naught once I buy something that ruins my budget, and all the rationalization in the world won’t make any difference.

Yes, we do have needs.  But just how many of our desires are based on needs?  My guess is that it’s a relatively small number.  Once we can start looking at what we have with a strong sense of appreciation and acceptance, then we can look at many of our other wants as simply that–wants.  And we can realize that fulfilling those wants won’t necessarily make us happier or more fulfilled people–rather, they can create other areas of regret in our lives due to having done something that certainly hasn’t helped us, and that may even cause us harm.

I have a great deal in life.  Sometimes, though, my focus shifts to things that I don’t have–but want–and then I lose sight of just how blessed I am to have what I do.  It’s a shame when that happens, but as I grow older I find that it happens much less.  And it’s always up to me to do what I can to continue to make it happen even less as time goes on.

23 December 2011

Important Thoughts from Wilferd A. Peterson

The Art of Keeping Christmas

How can we best keep Christmas?  How can we best defeat the little bit of Scrooge in all of us and experience the glory of the Great Day?

By sinking the shafts of our spirits deep beneath the sparkling tinsel of the surface of Christmas and renewing within us the radiance of the inner meaning of the season.

By following the Star on an inward journey to Bethlehem to stand again in awe and wonder before the Babe in a Manger.

By rediscovering the faith and simplicity of a little child, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

By being still and listening to the angels sing within our hearts.

By quietly evaluating our lives according to the Master's standards as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount.

By reaffirming the supremacy of the spirit in our conquest of ourselves.

By rededicating ourselves to the Master's ideals of Peace, Brotherhood, and Good Will.

By resolving to give ourselves away to others in love, joy and devotion.

By using the light of Christmas to guide us through the darkness of the coming year, refusing to go back to the dim kerosene lamps of the spirit when the brilliant electricity of Christmas is available to show us the way.

22 December 2011

What They Are, Or What We Think They Should Be?

Since I work with teens all the time when I'm teaching high school, it's really fascinating for me to witness how adults treat the kids.  Somehow, there seems to be almost always an unspoken expectation that the kids are going to live up to what we think they should be, and among adults I rarely see unconditional acceptance for the kids just as they are.  After all, we're adults, right?  So we know how they should be acting and what they should be doing.

But that couldn't be further from the truth.  None of us knows how another human being should be acting.  None of us knows just how another person feels or thinks.  These are things that are integral parts of who people are, but that aren't accessible to others.  Someone may tell us how he or she feels, but do the words adequately express the feeling?

Our children deserve our best, and our best isn't telling them what to do.  Our best is helping them to discover who they are and what they're good at and what they love.  Our best is helping to put them on the road to develop their own personalities and skills and talents.  Our best is accepting them unconditionally as they are, not accepting them only when they become what we think they should be.

We all want to be accepted.  We all want love and support from others, but we neither want nor need to be changed by others just because they think we should be something else.  Change comes from the inside, and it's important that we don't try to impose it upon other human beings, no matter what their age.  Sometimes it's difficult to see people make mistakes and do things that we know are harmful, but at least we know that they're learning as they go.  And we can learn along with them and even from them, if we just allow them to be themselves.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.

21 December 2011


Tell your child, your spouse, or your employee that he or she is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, has no gift for it, and is doing it all wrong, and you have destroyed almost all incentive to try to improve.  But use the opposite technique--be liberal with your encouragement, make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his or her ability to do it, that the person has an undeveloped flair for it--and that person will practice until the dawn comes in the window in order to excel.

Dale Carnegie

20 December 2011

What's Now?

I was just thinking about how much we ask ourselves and each other “What’s next?”  It’s a short, simple question that we hear quite a lot, even if it’s not always in those exact words.  We spend a lot of time and effort and energy looking towards that next thing, very often neglecting what’s going on now as we keep our focus on possible futures.  But any possible future that we consider is simply that–possible.  No more, no less.  But what’s here and now is definitely real, definitely a part of our lives, and it’s extremely important that we make the most of our present moments in order to build a string of positive moments that one day we’ll look back on as a positive life.

So I want to keep asking myself another question instead of “What’s next?”  I want to ask myself “What’s now?”  I want to keep focused on the present moment so that I don’t lose any opportunities that are right here and now, so that I don’t neglect any chances that I have to contribute to life and living.  I want to ask myself “What’s now?” so that I can remind myself that in my life right now are many beautiful and positive things, many of them just waiting for me to notice them and become fully aware of them.

Many people spend their lives constantly waiting for whatever’s coming next.  It’s easy for us to anticipate some coming thing, some better job or some great opportunity, or some spectacular event that’s going to add something great to our lives.  But what’s it going to add to?  It’s going to add to what we have right here, right now, and that in itself is pretty spectacular, too.

The only time that any of us have to grow or change or feel or learn
anything is in the present moment.  But we’re continually missing our
present moments, almost willfully, by not paying attention.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

18 December 2011


 Give me wisdom over book knowledge any day.  I've spent many years in college--twelve years as a student and twelve teaching, and I can say without hesitation that I would prefer the company of an unschooled wise man or woman to that of a person who knows much, but feels little.  The two aren't mutually exclusive, of course--many educated people are also wise, and many unschooled people are also unfeeling.  But it seems that the more knowledge we have, the more we tend to look at ourselves as knowing what we need to know, and that couldn't be any further from the truth.

What I need when I talk to people is feedback about my life, about me.  If I'm to advance as a human being and become better (which to me means becoming more useful to my fellow human beings), then I need feedback that helps me to see what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong.  I need a wise person to tell me that this person's course of action is ineffective because he or she isn't taking something important into consideration, to tell me that my words were too harsh or too soft for a situation, to tell me that what somebody did to me wasn't at all as I perceived it, but something different entirely.

Most of all, though, I appreciate the examples of the wise--the lives they live and the way they tend to be content with just what they have.  They tend to be much more accepting and understanding, for they see where people are coming from inside--they're able to see past the facades and the attention-getting and know what a person is about.

Wisdom is a quality that I strive after, and I would rather have a pound of wisdom than a ton of knowledge.  It's too late, though--I already have a ton of knowledge, and I'm trying my best to purify it, to take what I need to live a useful life from it and leave the rest behind, so that I may grow in wisdom and thus grow in usefulness to my fellow human beings.  it takes a great deal of maple sap to make maple syrup, and what's not necessary or vital is evaporated as the sap is boiled down.  It's a mistake to think that all of our knowledge is necessary--we need to let some of it evaporate as we search for the wisdom that will most help ourselves and others.

17 December 2011

Where's the Wonder?

It gets very easy to walk through the world without noticing the really cool things that are all around us.  It gets very easy to lose our sense of wonder and have it replaced with a sense of the mundane, with the idea that nothing's all that special because we see it every day.  We seem to be a part of the "been there, done that" generation, as if just because we've already been somewhere or done something, there's nothing more to be seen or experienced that's worth our while in that place or circumstance.

If we're to have a sense of wonder in this world, then it's a sense that we need to nurture.  If we're to see the special and amazing in all the places and things that are special and amazing, then believe it or not, it's up to us to see and feel those things--it's not something that just happens all the time.  Imagine feeling the way you feel when you see a beautiful sunset--all the time!  You can feel that way if you just make the effort to do so.  The people that you meet each day all have wonderful parts of themselves that have yet to be uncovered; the places you've been to have wonderful aspects to be discovered; just as the books that you've already read and the movies you've already seen will reveal more of their wonder to you upon a second reading or viewing.

I feel myself losing my sense of wonder very often, and usually after three or four days of moving like a sleepwalker through life.  But then I wake up, and my eyes open, and I see the wonder and the amazing qualities of everything that's around me.  I guess we just need to keep waking ourselves up, over and over again, so that we can truly see what's truly around us.  If we can do that, there's no telling just how magical the world around us will be--it won't become magic because it already is so, but at least we'll be able to see all the amazing things that are there.  And once we can do that, then can't we teach others to do the same?

If a child is to keep alive his or her
inborn sense of wonder, he or she
needs the companionship of at least
one adult who can share it, rediscovering
with the child the joy, excitement
and mystery of the world we live in.

Rachel Carson

15 December 2011

How Will I Be Remembered?

Once I went to a memorial service for a student from our school who passed away.  He was an 18-year-old senior who seemed to have learned an awful lot about life in his short time on this planet.  Cancer took him away, but he left a legacy of cheerfulness, encouragement, and love among all of the people who knew him.  Speaker after speaker remembered the way that he cared, the way that he loved, and the way that he was able to have a tremendous amount of fun with anything he did.  It really is rare to know of someone so young who truly was living his life fully, especially since doing so means treating our fellow human beings with dignity, love, and respect.  It usually takes us a bit longer than 18 years to learn such lessons in our lives.
It got me to thinking once more how I’ll be remembered.  Will people have pleasant thoughts of me and remember me in positive ways?  Or will they be indifferent?  I certainly hope that they won’t be glad, though when you’re teaching high school it’s probably inevitable that someone, somewhere holds something against you. . . .  I know, though, that if I want a memorial service that resembles this student’s, then I have to make decisions and take actions today that will make positive impacts on other people’s lives.  They don’t have to be major things, just simple things such as encouraging, complimenting, and loving.

But even more, it means living by example.  If I tell people they should have fun in life, do I have fun?  If I tell people that smiling and laughing are important, do I smile and laugh?  Do I make the time for things like hikes in the woods and runs through the desert?  Do I enjoy myself and partake regularly in fun things that I love to do?

If I don’t do these things, then there’s really very little chance that I’ll be remembered as someone who loved life.  I might be remembered as someone who talked about loving life, but did I really live it as if I loved it?

This is a question that I need to start asking myself all the time.  And then I need to take action depending on what my response is.  A life half-lived, after all, is really no life at all, is it?

13 December 2011

Some Nice Thoughts

If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again
If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd fingerpaint more and point the finger less
I'd do less correcting and more connecting
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes
I would care to know less and know to care more

I'd take more hikes and fly more kites
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play
I'd run through more fields and gaze at more stars
I'd do more hugging and less tugging

I would be firm less often, and affirm much more
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later
I'd teach less about the love of power,
and more about the power of love.

-Diane Loomans

12 December 2011

Peace Be with You

Peace of mind and peace of heart come usually as the result of decisions that we make.  And more often than not, that decision is simply to drop (or not to drop) something.  To drop it out of our minds and leave it be while we move on to more productive and healthy and helpful thoughts and pursuits.

Two family members and I were treated extremely rudely by a man at a car dealership recently.  There’s no need to go into details, but we ended up walking out of the place after spending two hours with two other people trying to make a deal on a car.  This third person came and treated us very rudely, and we felt it best to leave.  We weren’t going to let that man ruin our peace of mind, though–-even though it would have been quite easy to stew and steam all day long at his mistreatment.  We simply moved on to another dealership where we (fortunately) weren’t treated poorly, bought a car there, and left behind the rudeness and the insulting behavior.

Did someone insult you recently?  Well, that says more about them than it says about you, so leave it behind and keep your peace of mind!  Did you lose something valuable, or make a huge mistake on something important?  If you berate yourself too much for it and destroy your own peace of mind, just how will that help you?  Are you worried about your future?  That worry could be taking away your peace of mind right now, while if you hold on to that peace, you could make decisions and take actions now that could make your future brighter.

I’m not always good at holding on to my peace of mind.  But I do know that when it’s not with me, it’s not the result of external circumstances; rather, I’ve allowed it to slip away due to things that I’ve decided to hold on to instead of letting them go.  Peace is one of the most valuable parts of our lives, and when we experience it we’re healthier, happier, and more productive.  So why would we make the decision to hold on to things that take that peace away?  We seem to be conditioned to think that if we lose peace in our minds and hearts, it’s the result of outside circumstances.  The truth is, though, that those outside circumstances don’t cause us to make the decision to hold on to them.  That decision comes from inside ourselves, and it’s one of the most destructive decisions we can make.  Letting go and moving on, though, are two of the most positive decisions that we can make.

Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but
go on in fortune or misfortune at their own
private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.

11 December 2011

An Important Thought

Soon the child's clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions.  Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armor of the ego.  Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn.  The sun glints through the pines, and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise.  After that day. . . we become seekers.

Peter Matthiessen

10 December 2011

A Little Bit of Work

As a teacher, I’m sometimes astonished to see just how many students make so much effort to avoid doing just a little bit of work.  I can give very simple assignments and have half of my high-school students simply not do it–and they don’t seem to care at all that their grades are affected strongly by their lack of work.  While I’ve had other problems and issues in my life, this hasn’t been one of them–a little bit of work never has been a problem for me, and I’m usually more than willing to do my share of the work, especially when I see that I’m doing it for my benefit.

Perhaps my students simply don’t see the benefit of doing the work.  Perhaps they don’t understand how doing the work can make their lives easier or richer or more interesting.  And try as I might to tell them the benefits, they simply choose not to believe my words, believing instead that avoiding work is more beneficial to them than actually doing it.  After all, it does free up an extra half-hour or hour today, doesn’t it?  And they can spend that half-hour texting friends or playing video games or talking on the phone or watching TV.

But realizing that a little bit of work almost always has advantages for us is one of the keys to life–one of the keys to helping ourselves to make a difference in our own lives.  That work can prepare us for something important in the future, it can help us to understand something perplexing us in our present, or it can earn us a bit of money or a decent grade.  That work can enrich us in ways that we can’t even imagine–if we never do it.

Sometimes when I see a task ahead of me I balk at first, not wanting to commit myself to getting it done.  For I know that once I commit myself, I’m into the task for good.  But experience tells me that even with the somewhat unpleasant tasks, it’s much better to get it done and to move on to something else than it is to delay or to avoid doing it.  There are almost always repercussions and consequences to delaying and avoiding, and there are almost always rewards and benefits to getting the job done, and getting it done right and well.

Don’t be afraid of a little bit of work.  It’s all of those little bits added up to a whole that make our lives what they are, which means that what we are is a result of decisions we have made.  And what we will be shall be a result of decisions that we will make one day.  When there are tasks ahead of us, that means that there are also decisions involved.  And what will your decisions be?

I studied the lives of great men and women, and I found
that the people who got to the top were those who did
the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had
of energy and enthusiasm and hard work.

Harry S. Truman

09 December 2011

A Nice Thought

A woman once told me that she did not feel the need to reach out to those around her because she prayed every day.  Surely, this was enough.  But a prayer is about our relationship to God; a blessing is about our relationship to the spark of God in one another.  God may not need our attention as badly as the person next to us on the bus or behind us in line in the supermarket.  Everyone in the world matters, and so do their blessings.  When we bless others, we offer them refuge from an indifferent world.

Rachel Naomi Remen

08 December 2011

Do I Know You?

It's interesting just how consistent we are about building walls between ourselves and our fellow human beings.  It seems that we're so interested either in protecting ourselves or in keeping others out of our lives that we look for any reasons that we can find to keep people from knowing us, or to keep ourselves from knowing other people.  After all, once we know someone else, most of us feel a kinship with them, and that isn't always a good thing because it can cause problems and distractions in our lives.  And we don't want those, do we?

It is true that knowing other people often can be a pain.  There's a certain person in our apartment complex who's a very nice guy, but who won't stop talking if you stop to talk to him.  I don't want to be a stranger to him, but whenever I run into him he talks and talks and talks, without ever giving me a chance to participate in what he calls a "conversation."  The unfortunate thing is that my experiences with him sometimes make me hesitate when I have a chance to get to know someone else here.

In other words, sometimes the walls seem logical and sensible.  Sometimes it seems that the best thing that we can do is to keep other people at arm's length in order to avoid many possible negative situations.  The problem is when we start to put everyone in the category of "don't get close," for then we most certainly can rob ourselves of some pretty positive social interaction.

We can be positive about the people we get to know well, the people who become more than acquaintances to us.  We can choose carefully based on what we know about people, and not be afraid to say either "no" or "yes" when we're deciding whether or not we want to get to know someone.  The most important thing to keep in mind, though, is that none of us can make it through this journey here completely alone, and we do need the company and often the help of our fellow human beings.  There are many humans out there who would be great people to get to know, too, if only we were willing to take the chance to do so more often!  Set your rules and set your limits, but try not to keep everyone out of your life.  If you do, you'll be the one who suffers the most.

Treat people and live amongst them in such a way
so that when you die they will cry over you,
and while you are alive they long for your company.

traditional Muslim saying

05 December 2011

What Can I Do?

The hour before me is a blank slate.  The day before me is as yet unwritten.  There's plenty of time before me that's just waiting for me to do something, to make my mark on the world, to accomplish something unique or to rest myself so that I can recharge my energy for some future need.  What can I do with this time?  What can I contribute to the world in the next hour?  In the next day?  What can I, as a simple person alone, add to the world that will make a difference?

Does the difference have to happen on the level of many people being affected by what I do?  No, it doesn't--I can make a difference in the life of just one person, and then trust in the ripple effect, which means that a good act will spread as the recipient of that action is inspired to commit a positive act him or herself in response to their positive experience.  Do I have to know just what that person does--if anything--in response to my action?  No, I don't; in fact, not knowing shows more trust that the world can take care of itself and doesn't need me to make sure that everything's okay with the world.

Does my act have to be acknowledged in order for me to know that it's had a positive effect?  Not at all.  Sometimes the unacknowledged acts, the things that we do that simply pass into history without anyone else noticing them, are the most important of our lives.  Do I need to let someone else know what I've done in order to feel better about it myself?  Not at all--and often when we tell others what we've done, we do so with the intention of being rewarded with some sort of compliment.  If we do this, then there's a good chance that we can diminish the purity of what we've done--a simple good act for the sake of a simple good act becomes a simple good act for the sake of acknowledgement or praise.

What can I do today?  What can I do in the next hour?  How can I affect the world in simple, positive ways without having to change my life or the lives of others?  What things can I do that will brighten someone's day, or hour, or even someone's few moments.  What can I give someone else that they can take with them throughout their day and remember the good feelings they had when they first received the encouragement or praise or simple gift?

What can I do?

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait
a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Anne Frank

03 December 2011

There's Always Someone

Over the last few years I’ve read more and more about people in prison being released because new DNA testing procedures have proved their innocence of the charges for which they were imprisoned.  The latest man I read about had been in prison for 26 years, but he’s now a free man.  And while I do see the negative aspect of these situations–this man had spent 26 years of his life in prison for someone else’s crime–I also see an amazing positive side to this phenomenon.  Specifically, I find it very encouraging to see that there are people out there who care enough about other human beings to take the time to develop and administer tests that can be used to vindicate other people, whom they’ll probably never meet, and get them released from prison.

There are lots of great people out there, doing great things that benefit other members of the human race.  The human race isn’t all about greed and selfishness and violence and fanaticism; rather, it’s about giving and sharing and doing things for other people.  It’s about serving and helping.  We human beings get along best when we’re doing things for others, hopefully in a field in which we really enjoy working.  There are doctors who love being doctors who do great things for people, and teachers who love being teachers who also contribute great things to their fellow human beings.  We tend to see more of the unhappy people in the news, though–the teachers- or artists-to-be who live frustrating lives because they’ve chosen a different career in order to make more money and pay more bills.

It gives me a lot of hope to see that people are developing these DNA tests.  It gives me a lot of hope to read about doctors and lawyers who contribute their time and effort to other people who normally wouldn’t be able to afford their services.  I’m hopeful when I see people holding doors open, picking up trash, helping someone else carry something.  We humans have a wonderful ability to help others, and there are plenty of us out there who are making just that their most important goal.  I only hope that I’m able to live up to my potential when it comes to contributing something positive to the lives of others–and I think that if I make that a major focus of mine, then I most certainly will live up to that potential.

 You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
Khalil Gibran

02 December 2011

An important thought

You can think about your problems or you can worry about them, and there is a vast difference between the two.  Worry is thinking that has turned toxic.  It is jarring music that goes round and round and never comes to either climax or conclusion.  Thinking works its way through problems to conclusions and decisions; worry leaves you in a state of tensely suspended animation.  When you worry, you go over the same ground endlessly and come out the same place you started.  Thinking makes progress from one place to another; worry remains static.  The problem of life is to change worry into thinking and anxiety into creative action.
Harold B. Walker

01 December 2011

Somewhere Close

My wife and I finally had a day off together today, the first one in a long time.  Over the course of the last week, we talked a lot about what we were going to do with the day.  All sorts of things came to mind--day trips to mountains about four hours away, trips to visit friends a couple of hours away, even the possibility of taking an overnight trip somewhere.  Finally, though, we thought of going somewhere nearby, a spot in a National Forest that was supposed to be quite nice.  So that's what we did--we drove less than an hour to get up into the mountains close to where we live, and we parked the car and went for a nice two-hour walk.  We saw a few deer, hawks, and lots of other birds.  We didn't hear any cars or other noise pollution, and we were out in the wild, enjoying the fresh air and the silence and the sunshine and the clouds and the breeze.
Sometimes it seems that if we want to do something new and different, we look far away for our inspiration.  Believe it or not, though, there are many wonderful things to see nearby, close to where you live.  We just tend to think that since they are so close, we'll always have a chance to see them, so we put them off until some other time.  This is why so many New Yorkers die before they see the Statue of Liberty, and why so many people in Arizona and Southern California and Nevada never have seen the Grand Canyon.

But we don't have to go far away to have a good time or to see something exciting.  We can find those things close by--all we have to do is look for them, and make the decision to visit them as soon as we can.  If we don't do this, we risk missing out on some of the nicest things around, thinking that the better things to see have to be further away.  It's a lot like we treat ourselves, thinking that the best things are outside of ourselves, while we have some pretty marvelous characteristics and traits inside of ourselves all the while.

What's near you that's beautiful?  What's amazing that's located nearby that you haven't yet seen or experienced?  You can find those things and enjoy them immensely, but only if you look for them and then make the decision to visit them and make them a part of your life, a part of your memories, a part of all that you've experienced on this beautiful planet of ours.

28 November 2011

What Can I Leave behind?

There are many things in my life that I really would like to leave behind completely right now.  I wouldn’t mind leaving behind some of my tendencies to be judgmental, and I surely don’t need all of the insecurities I carry around with me.  It would be good just to leave behind some of my shyness and reticence to meet new people, and I definitely wouldn’t be devastated if I were to let go of some of my impatience.

I already have left behind a lot of things that didn’t serve me well, that tended to make me unhappy or frustrated or aggravated.  But there are still some other things that hang on with me like barnacles on the hull of a ship–attached tightly, almost unremovable, it seems.  But it just seems that way; I know that one of the reasons that they hang on is because I hold on to them.

So I ask myself sometimes, what can I leave behind?  What traits or beliefs or ideas do I have that aren’t serving me well, or that are even damaging me?  What can I think of this moment that I would rather not have as part of my life tomorrow if I had a choice?  Because I do have a choice, don’t I?  While it may be difficult sometimes, I really can leave behind parts of who I am that I no longer desire to have as part of me.  And those would be the parts of me that stand in the way of love and compassion, that keep me from feeling the positive feelings that can benefit other people in the world.  I can leave behind those things that keep me from reaching my higher self, that keep me from achieving my higher aims, that hold me back from progressing towards my higher callings.

Sometimes we simply need to let go, to leave behind.  Identifying what we’d be better off without is a relatively easy process, and leaving those things behind, while difficult, is easier than we might think it is when we don’t try.  It’s a tricky process, but one that will benefit us–and many others–when we allow ourselves to explore it fully.

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell

25 November 2011

What's Now?

I was just thinking about how much we ask ourselves and each other “What’s next?”  It’s a short, simple question that we hear quite a lot, even if it’s not always in those exact words.  We spend a lot of time and effort and energy looking towards that next thing, very often neglecting what’s going on now as we keep our focus on possible futures.  But any possible future that we consider is simply that–possible.  No more, no less.  But what’s here and now is definitely real, definitely a part of our lives, and it’s extremely important that we make the most of our present moments in order to build a string of positive moments that one day we’ll look back on as a positive life.

So I want to keep asking myself another question instead of “What’s next?”  I want to ask myself “What’s now?”  I want to keep focused on the present moment so that I don’t lose any opportunities that are right here and now, so that I don’t neglect any chances that I have to contribute to life and living.  I want to ask myself “What’s now?” so that I can remind myself that in my life right now are many beautiful and positive things, many of them just waiting for me to notice them and become fully aware of them.

Many people spend their lives constantly waiting for whatever’s coming next.  It’s easy for us to anticipate some coming thing, some better job or some great opportunity, or some spectacular event that’s going to add something great to our lives.  But what’s it going to add to?  It’s going to add to what we have right here, right now, and that in itself is pretty spectacular, too.

The only time that any of us have to grow or change or feel or learn anything is in the present moment.  But we’re continually missing our present moments, almost willfully, by not paying attention.

Jon Kabat-Zin

24 November 2011


Creative gratitude is an attitude.
It is magnetic and will draw good to you.
It is good therapy, a road to happiness.
Thankfulness is a way of living more fully.  Be thankful for your health
and you will have health in more abundance.  Be thankful for
the love you receive and it will be increased.  Be thankful for your success
and you'll open doors to further achievement.  Be thankful for your friends
and more friends will come to you.  Be thankful for beauty
and you'll experience it more deeply.
Thankfulness is a way of enhancing relationships.
Expressions of gratitude create in others an eagerness
to reciprocate.  When we become more fully aware that our success
is due in large measure to the loyalty, helpfulness, and encouragement
we have received from others, our desire grows to pass on similar gifts.
Gratitude spurs us on to prove ourselves worthy of what others
have done for us.  The spirit of gratitude is a powerful energizer.
Thankfulness is a way of worshiping.  All through the Psalms
the emphasis is on thankfulness:  "Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving". . .
"Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving". . .
"O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love
endures forever". . . "I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart."
When Jesus healed the ten lepers only one returned to fall
at the feet of the Master and give thanks to God.
With this in mind someone has written that nine were healed,
while the one who gave thanks was made whole.
The expression of gratitude made the big difference.
Creative gratitude is a force for harmony and goodwill.
It brings people together in love and understanding.
It is high on the scale of creative qualities to be practiced
day in and day out in our moment-to-moment contacts.

22 November 2011

Giving Thanks

I like the idea of "giving" thanks.  It incorporates an active verb, to give, and a part of our lives that's extremely important to nurture if we want to live these lives as fully as we can.  What's probably most fascinating to me, though, when I consider the concept, is that I'm not sure just to whom or what we're giving thanks--after all, who receives these thanks of ours?

If you give me a nickel, then I have a coin in my possession, and I can do something with it.  If you give me a bottle of wine, I have another possession and I can do with it as I please--and most probably, I'll drink it.  But if you give me thanks, just where does that go?  Just what do I actually have when you thank me?

Of course, most of us realize that this type of giving is the most important of all.  It's great to give things to people, after all, but it's even greater to give more than that, to give parts of ourselves that aren't "things" at all, but true parts of who we are.  "Thanks" falls into this category, as do love, compassion, encouragement, peace, compliments, and a host of other concepts that we somehow don't take as seriously as we could simply because we can't see, touch, or feel them.

So on this day, I give my thanks.  I thank the people I work with and live with, and I thank the many people who do the things that help me to eat, to live comfortably, to sleep safely, to travel and to work and to create.  I thank the people who visit Living Life Fully, for their visits give me purpose--reason to go on with the site and to continue adding to its content.  And I thank you, for here you are on this wonderful world of ours, and in these words our lives cross for this ever-so-brief moment.  You being who you are is a great contribution to the world, and I appreciate that contribution of the good and the noble more than you can imagine.

I give these thanks knowing that I'll never see them land, and never see any concrete effects of their journey out into the world.  But on this day dedicated to the concept of thanks, I look inside myself and find that part that knows that in my gratitude is my love, and in my love is life itself, and in life itself is God him or herself, whatever you and I conceive God to be.  In my thanks is the unity of the world, and if we all could dedicate ourselves more to thanks than to other, less productive, thoughts and feelings, we most certainly will go about our lives making this world a much, much better place.

Thank you!

20 November 2011

Helpful People

I’ve met a lot of very helpful people in my life.  In fact, if I were to be able to categorize some people as “jerks” (which I prefer not to do), the helpful people would outnumber the jerks by a huge margin.  It’s sometimes amazing to me to think of all the people I’ve known who spend so much time and make so much effort to help other human beings in their journeys through life.

Personally, I hope to become a very helpful person when and if I ever grow up.  I hope to be someone who focuses on making it a priority to encourage others, to help others, to make life easier for others.  It’s not always easy to do so, though.  Sometimes I get quite caught up in my needs that I simply don’t see–or recognize–the needs of others.  In order to help others, though, I need to be aware that they have needs that need to be filled–and I have to be aware that I have the ability to fill some of those needs.

I’m not talking about huge things.  I can’t pay off someone’s bills or make their mortgage payments for them.  I can’t get rid of their pain or their mourning.  But I can do a task for them that will free them up for something else.  I can teach them something that will be beneficial for them to know (as long as they’re open to learning something from me!).  I can encourage them or compliment them.  I can show an interest in who they are and what they do.  I can buy them a small gift like a candy bar for no reason other than just to give them something as a small token of how glad I am that they’re in my life.

Helpful people are great teachers for me.  They show me what it means to be human, to be unselfish, to allow ourselves to be a part of the larger whole, rather than a lone individual who exists apart from everyone else.  I appreciate their lessons, and I hope to live up to them!

 The human being who lives only for him or herself finally reaps nothing
but unhappiness. Selfishness corrodes. Unselfishness ennobles, satisfies.
Don’t put off the joy derivable from doing helpful, kindly things for others.
 B.C. Forbes

18 November 2011

Questioning Myself

  I often ask myself if what I'm doing from day to day is useful or not.  Does going to school and trying to teach English to high school students serve a greater purpose in the world?  Are there other people out there who would do it better than I?  Am I really accomplishing anything?  Am I really helping, or is there a different direction that I could or should go in?

I don't ask myself these questions to agonize myself or to wallow in self-doubt.  In fact, from talking to other people I've learned that most people ask themselves similar questions all the time.  While some people might advise us not to think of such things, or not to doubt ourselves or our careers, I think it's quite healthy to keep an open mind about what we're doing and why.  When we're asking the questions, we tend to look for answers a bit harder, and we may find them in the smallest of things that we otherwise might overlook.  In the case of a teacher, we may hear an answer in a student's comment about feeling more comfortable with his or her writing, or a remark about feeling safe in my classroom.  I might see an answer in a piece of writing that's extremely expressive, which shows that a student is able and willing to share deeper ideas with me as a reader.

In other career areas, the answers to our questions may be less clear or obvious.  Cashiers at a supermarket, for example, serve a very important purpose for all of us who want to buy food, but their contact with us is fleeting at best.  They may see the feedback they need in a smile and a sincere "thank you," though.  They may feel appreciated when a customer feels comfortable enough with them to engage in a conversation, however short it may be.

Questions help us to move further, to examine critically, to look for answers and ideas that otherwise we might never look for.  Rainer Maria Rilke advised Mr. Kappus in a letter to him:  "I must beg you as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart, and to learn to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and books written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the key is this, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, without hardly noticing, you will live along some distant day into the answers."

16 November 2011


I like a lot of words that start with the letter "P."  Over the last decade or so, though, two words that have come to mean the most to me are "possibility" and "potential."  They're great words to focus on throughout the day, as the meanings behind them are so much more positive than words like "impossibility" and "limitation."  I find that the more I keep these words in mind, the easier it is for me to accomplish just about anything I put my mind to.  If a challenge faces me, I simply remind myself that many things are possible that we sometimes think are impossible, and that each of us has the potential to do many things that we originally think we can't.

I know that the way that I think about something contributes a great deal to how I approach that something.  If my thoughts are on the downside, if I'm feeling negative about my chances or my abilities, then the chances are that I'm going to have a much harder time accomplishing something, if I do so at all.  If, on the other hand, my mind is on the ideas of possibilities and potential, then my chances of doing what I set out to do are greatly enhanced.  Our thoughts go incredibly far towards creating situations and improving them, and if we keep the positive (another "p" word!) in mind, then we can create situations that end up in the best ways possible.

Much of the power (another one!) that we experience in our lives comes from our attitudes towards what we set out to do.  It really is our choice--do we keep our minds on the possibilities, or do we say that something's impossible before we even start?  I've known plenty of students who simply haven't written papers for class because they've determined that it's impossible for them.  And guess what?  Their focus on the impossible becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when they get a failing grade on the paper and in the class.  When our minds are on the impossible, that simply becomes our reality.

They're great words, words that I would recommend for anyone to keep in focus.  Possibility.  Potential.  Our lives are filled to overflowing with both, yet our perspectives sometimes keep us thinking that they're qualities that are reserved only for other people.  When we invite them into our lives, though, we find that they become words that define who we are, what we do, and how we act.  And I'd much rather act from a position of seeing the potential and possibilities in this beautiful world of ours than act from a focus on limitations.  My life is much brighter when I do!

14 November 2011

Give It a Rest

One of our cross-country runners went home sick from school today.  She went home around mid-day, feeling too crummy to make it through the rest of the day.  Interestingly enough, though, she showed up for cross-country practice, still feeling miserable, but determined not to miss a practice.  We sent her home.  The last thing in the world that we want is for her to get even sicker just because she wants to run--no matter what the circumstances, the best thing for her to do is to pay attention to the messages that her body is sending her and allow her body to heal by resting and relaxing.

It's important that we trust our bodies and the messages they give us.  It's important that we not push them past their limits, especially when they constantly give us warnings that we're reaching those limits.  The little pains that we feel, the slight colds, the headaches, the muscle aches--those are all messages from our bodies about something important, and we must learn to read those messages if we're to maintain our health--physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Most of our cultures, though, don't reward us when we're resting.  Rather, they reward us when we're competing, when we're pushing ourselves harder than others, when we're working longer hours than anyone else, when we're accomplishing more things than anyone else.

But it doesn't matter what our cultures tell us if we're good about listening to our bodies.  Personally, I don't care if other people expect me to work harder than others--if my body tells me that it needs to lay down, then I'll take a nap.  If it tells me that I shouldn't run today, then I'll take a break from running.  If it tells me that it can use some medicine, then I'll find a medicine that treats whatever it is that's ailing me.  I really like my body--it's taken me to many marvelous places and carried me many thousands of miles of both running and walking.  It doesn't demand much of me, so when it does ask for a little favor like a rest here and there, then I'm more than glad to give it what it needs.  After all, we have a pretty close relationship, and I don't want to let it down.  It's too good of a friend for that!

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass
on a summer day listening to the murmur of water,
or watching the clouds float across the sky,
is hardly a waste of time.
John Lubbock

09 November 2011

Go Ahead and Doubt

I’ve always had an interesting relationship with faith.  As I grew up, I saw very little evidence that faith ever was rewarded; because I never saw returns on faith, it didn’t make much sense to me.  My faith was stuck in a Catch-22:  unless I experienced the fact that faith actually “worked,” it was impossible for me to have faith; until I had faith, I’d never see the return on it.  It was a pretty frustrating position to be in for someone who strongly desired to have a deep faith.  Of course, the stories from some of the religious teachers around didn’t help–just have faith, and everything you want and desire will be yours.  Those of us who didn’t have a strong faith–through no fault of our own–obviously were excluded from having everything we wanted and desired.  It’s a pretty vicious circle that most religious people paint for us.

Fortunately, though, I’ve come to learn that faith isn’t about results.  Faith is, rather, about peace of mind and peace of heart.  Faith is about trusting God and life to know what is best and to do what is best, and even the doubts that I sometimes have cannot change the loving nature of God as I’ve been told it would.  After all, aren’t we generally punished for a lack of faith, according to many?  I’ve never understood why God would want to punish me for my thoughts, when it was him that gave me the brain that’s capable of such thoughts in the first place.

Your doubts are what help you to learn and to grow.  People having doubts is one of the greatest causes of change on the planet.  People doubt that that’s the fastest we can go, that the way we’re doing something now is the best way, that we’ve exhausted all our possibilities for new ways to do something.  Our doubts cause us to re-evaluate, to re-think, to reconsider.  And very often those reconsiderations lead us to an even stronger belief in our original stance.  We don’t always change our minds just because we doubt–sometimes we reinforce our convictions.

You doubting God or your faith or the goodness of humans or the possibilities for the future isn’t going to change any of those things.  But the reflection that your doubt causes you to go through can help you to change yourself and your own mind, and when all is said and done, isn’t that what we want to be open to all the time, anyway?  After all, a mind and a heart closed off to change and growth really are a lifeless mind and heart, aren’t they?

It need not discourage us if we are full of doubts.  Healthy questions keep faith dynamic. In fact, unless we start with doubts we cannot have a deep-rooted faith.  One who believes lightly and unthinkingly has not much of a belief. One who has a faith which is not to be shaken has won it through blood and tears–has worked his or her way from doubt to truth as one who reaches a clearing through a thicket of brambles and thorns.

07 November 2011

Hard on Yourself

If you’re like most people, you’re pretty hard on yourself.  You judge yourself pretty quickly, and you’re pretty harsh when you do so.  Never mind that you wouldn’t judge others nearly as harshly as you judge yourself, for you’re able to convince yourself that you deserve your judgment, while others deserve sympathy and compassion from you.

I recognize this trait in others because I've suffered from it myself.  And while I sometimes try to kid myself that I’m over it and have been for a while, I know in my heart that this simply isn’t true.  I judge myself harshly, and it’s not easy for me to forgive myself for silly or stupid or ignorant things that I’ve done.  And this hurts me, for it keeps me hanging on to my past, while I should be much more focused on the present.

I made a mistake a few days ago, and I’m still pretty upset at myself for having done so.  It doesn’t really matter what that mistake was, and most people probably would think nothing of it.  But every time I think about it, I cringe.  I wish I could have that time back, and I feel a momentary twinge of guilt and anxiety for having made that mistake.  It takes me a few moments to remind myself that it’s over, that I’ve made amends for it, and that I need to leave it in the past, where it belongs.  But even as I write about it now, I’m wishing that I could re-do what I did then.

I know that part of my tendency to beat myself up over mistakes is a pretty common trait of Adult Children of Alcoholics.  As one of those people, I have to keep in mind that I will show some of the traits inherent in growing up in a household with an alcoholic as one of the parents.  But on the other hand, I do know this already, so my mind tells me that it should be possible to rid myself of my tendency to be so hard on myself, to lower my expectations of myself to more realistic levels.  My mind can say that, but it’s also my mind that tends to judge me and make me feel the guilt and anxiety that result from my previous mistakes.

What purpose does it serve for you to be unnecessarily hard on yourself?  If you were to sit down and write down the positive effects of being so and the negative effects, how long do you think each list would be?  I know that for me, there’s no real purpose served in beating myself up and making myself miserable over things that already have gone by, as long as I’ve made amends to any people to whom I’ve made amends.  Life is about living in the present moment, and when I pull myself into a negative moment of the past, what am I doing to my present?

I’ve decided that this is one of my major goals for the time being–to work on being less harsh with myself, judging myself more fairly and without unrealistically high expectations.  I want to be kind to people, and I want to do good things, but I don’t feel that I deserve the harsh feelings that I give myself over relatively minor mistakes.  When I can leave them in the past, where they belong–after having learned from them–then I can free myself up to live more fully and completely in the now.  And that’s a beautiful place to live.

04 November 2011

Uninvited Guests

What would you do if you had uninvited guests in your house?  I'm not talking about friends who drop by unexpectedly, or about someone you know who's having hard times and who needed a hand.  I'm talking about guests who are there in your house whom you don't want in your house--guests that you wouldn't invite into your home for any reason whatsoever.  But there they are.  Wouldn't you get rid of them?  After all, it is your home, and you want to keep it in the shape that you want it to be in.  You want to have control over the people who make their way into your home, and who stay there.  So if someone is rude and insulting, if they damage your furniture or decorations, if they make your life miserable there in your own home, wouldn't you get rid of them, get them out of your home?  It's only logical that we do so.

Why is it, then, that we allow something like unwelcome thoughts to take up residence in our heads?  How can it be that we allow negative thoughts about ourselves, thoughts that are damaging and unpleasant, to live on in our heads, never doing anything to get them out of our minds?  If we were to see our minds and thoughts as homes, how long would we put up with abusive guests?  Or even more importantly, why would we allow the negative influences to hang around longer than the positive ones?

I'm thinking about this because I just had a talk with a friend who told me that she always thinks that the worst is going to happen.  She says that she can't help it, that the thoughts just come into her mind and stay there.  As we talked, we both started to think about just how one would go about getting rid of such thoughts, and what we can do to evict them from the premises of our minds.  The most important things we can do, of course, is to recognize those thoughts for what they are--just thoughts, and not reality.  Then we have to redirect our thoughts, finding something else to focus on so that our minds can be occupied with more positive things.  It takes effort, just like everything else in life--real mental effort that may be difficult to direct in the appropriate directions.

Our minds are ours, yet we far too often give them over to invaders, to uninvited guests who tend to make us miserable.  Until we recognize those guests, though, and do something about their presence, we put ourselves at their mercy.  Yet when we free ourselves from their influence, we find that our lives become brighter and more enjoyable, all because of a decision we've made to keep our minds clear of unwanted thoughts and worries.

02 November 2011

Carrying a Burden

I know a few girls on a sports team who carry around with them a pretty huge burden.  As the best players on the team, they find that there are huge expectations for them to perform at extremely high levels all the time.  And if the team happens to lose, pretty much all of the responsibility for the loss–as well as the coach’s dissatisfaction–falls on their shoulders.  Add to this burden all of the things that happen at home, with family, with friends, at school, etc., and it becomes pretty clear that there’s a lot of pressure on these girls.

I was talking to one of them the other day when I got an idea.  I walked over to a bookcase and pulled out several very heavy textbooks and brought them back to her.
“Will you do me a favor?” I asked her.  “I’d like you to carry these books around all day, and never put them down for any reason, not even for a second.”

“Are you crazy?” she asked me, laughing.  “No way!”

“Well,” I told her, “these books present you with a pretty clear choice.  They’re extremely heavy, and they’re visible and you can hold them.  But the emotional and mental burdens that we carry around aren’t physical things, so we often don’t realize when we’re carrying them around.  But we still have a choice–we still can choose not to carry around something that someone else tries to burden us with.  We have to be aware of what’s going on, and we have to be willing to make a conscious decision, but that decision certainly isn’t impossible to make.”

And as I spoke, I realized that I often need to take my own advice.  I think that next time someone wants to burden me with a problem or issue that really isn’t mine to be burdened with, I’m going to think about some very heavy textbooks.  And then I’m going to decide not to carry that burden with me, and in the process make my life much more pleasant.

31 October 2011

A Nice Passage on Attitude

It is not the events of today that happened to you that matter (such as that you lost something or something went wrong or someone forgot you or spoke to you harshly, etc.), but how you reacted to it all--that is, what states of yourself you were in--for it is here that your real life lies and if our inner states were right nothing in the nature of external states could overcome us.  Try therefore to distinguish, as an exercise in living more consciously, between inner states and outer events, and try to meet any outer event, after noticing its nature, with the right inner attitude--that is, with the right state.

And if you cannot, think afterward about it--first try to define the nature of the event and notice if this kind of event often comes to you and try to see it more clearly in terms such as "This is called being late" or "This is called losing things" or "This is called receiving bad news" or "This is called unpleasant surprises" or "This is called being ill."  Begin in this very simple way and you will soon see how different personal events, and so how in this respect one's outer life, are changing all the time, and what you could not do at one moment, you can at another.

Maurice Nicoll

30 October 2011

Hard Times, New Habits

I read a story in the paper recently about a man who has moved into a smaller apartment nearer to his job because of the current recession (and even though some economists claim the actual recession is over, most of the people I know are still living through it).  He now walks to work most of the time, and he doesn't have nearly as many possessions as he used to.  He seems pretty happy, too, which isn't a surprise because this recession is causing him to do many things that many people say lead to happiness--even if he isn't following a pre-planned program.

One of the most common paths to happiness is letting go of possessions.  When we let our possession rule our lives, then we can't reach a point at which we're free from them.  And possessions can take us over and rule us when we place too much importance on them and their maintenance.  When my wife and I spent a year living in an RV, we had one of the best years of our lives--we had almost no possessions at all, and it was great.

He's also walking or biking to work, which gives him the chance to improve his health on a regular basis.  He's not tied to his car, and he's not spending much of his money on fuel for that car, giving him much more financial independence.  He probably also is noticing more about the world around him, and the nature that surrounds him as he sees the differences in air temperature, types of weather, types of wind, and all the things that affect him much more now that he's out in the fresh air much more often.

He's also learning to be satisfied with less--less space, fewer possessions that will fit in that space, and so on.  After all, it's not what we have or where we are that determines our happiness, but whether or not we're able to find satisfaction with what we have or where we are.

I would in no way say that this recession is a blessing, especially considering the ways that it was brought about by people who cared more about money and profit than they cared about ethics and honesty.  But it is what it is, and we can do ourselves a great favor by looking for the positive in anything that is, for there most definitely is positive in there.  It may be hard to find and it may not be obvious today, but it is there.  What good can come from difficult times?  Well, it changes for each of us, and we all have to do our own looking, our own reflecting, and our own finding.