31 May 2011

A Thought

The longer I live the more my mind dwells upon the beauty and wonder of the world. . . I have loved the feel of the grass under my feet, and the sound of the running streams by my side.  The hum of the wind in the treetops has always been good music to me, and the face of the fields has often comforted me more than the faces of people.

I am in love with this world. . . I have tilled its soil, I have gathered its harvest, I have waited upon its seasons, and always have I reaped what I have sown.

I have climbed its mountains, roamed its forests, sailed its waters, crossed its deserts, felt the sting if its frosts, the oppression of its heats, the drench of its rains, the fury of its winds, and always have beauty and joy waited upon my goings and comings.

John Burroughs

30 May 2011

Compassionate People

Isn't it a shame that the compassionate people of the world don't tend to make the headlines?  It seems strange to me that our newspapers and news broadcasts tend to be full of people who practice deviant behaviors, such as hurting or killing other people, stealing money, deceiving people for their own gain, and other such things.  If I were a stranger to this planet and I were to pick up a copy of most of the papers that are published, I might even think that there is no compassion in this world, or at least so little that no one valued it.

I know for a fact, though, that our world is full of compassionate people.  There are many human beings who focus strongly on helping and serving others, who love and care deeply for others.  I know that there are people who give constantly out of a sense of compassion, and not out of a need to have others think they're generous.  There are many people who listen to the problems of others, who help out people who have been hurt, who have a very strong sense of compassion for their fellow human beings, for animals, for the planet we live on.

It's kind of interesting sometimes to try to recognize compassionate people, to try to recognize acts of compassion for what they are.  I like to see people helping other people, for it makes me feel a sense of hope, as well as a desire to act in the same way.  When we act compassionately, someone else benefits from our feelings and our actions, and usually it's someone who has a pretty strong need to be on the receiving end of compassion.

Who needs to feel compassion in your life now?  Can you share your compassion with that person by finding some appropriate and useful ways to help him or her?  Perhaps you can be the light that shines, the example that other people would like to follow, just by finding out the needs of someone else and fulfilling a small portion of those needs.  The world has many, many compassionate people in it, people who never will be on the news or on the front page of the paper.  One of my biggest hopes is that when I die, someone who's mentioning my name will find the word "compassionate" when they're describing me.  For that to happen, of course, I need to act in ways that will make someone think of that particular word.

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen
awareness of the interdependence of all these
living beings, which are all part of one another,
and all involved in one another.

Thomas Merton


More quotes and passages on compassion

29 May 2011

Creative Listening

The art of Living

Wilferd A. Peterson

One of the most important habits of a creative thinker is to be a good listener. Stand guard at the ear-gateway to your mind, heart, and spirit.

Listen to the good. Tune your ears to love, hope, and courage. Tune out gossip and resentment.

Listen to the beautiful. Listen to the music of the masters. Listen to the symphony of nature--the hum of the wind in the treetops, bird songs, thundering surf. . .

Listen critically. Mentally challenge assertions, ideas, and philosophies. Seek the truth with an open mind.

Listen with patience. Do not hurry the other person. Show them the courtesy of listening to what they have to say, no matter how much you may disagree. You may learn something.

Listen with your heart. Practice empathy when you listen. Put yourself in the other person's shoes.

Listen for growth. Be an inquisitive listener. Ask questions. Everyone has something to say which will help you to grow.

Listen creatively. Listen for ideas or the germs of ideas. Listen for hints or clues that may spark creative projects.

Listen to yourself. Listen to your deepest yearnings, your highest aspirations, your noblest impulses. Listen to the better person within you.

Listen with depth. Be still and listen. Listen with the ear of intuition to the inspiration of the Infinite.

28 May 2011


We used to live very near a lake in Arizona, where there had been a prolonged drought for seven or eight years.  When we moved in, the lake was at extremely low levels.  It was a very small lake because most of the bottom was out in the open air, since there wasn’t enough water to cover the areas that usually were covered.  During one period of several weeks, though, we had some pretty significant rainstorms–and the lake filled!  It was huge compared to what it had been, and the wildlife around there seemed to be having a great time of it, enjoying the new marshes and channels and places to live and explore and feed.

The lake got me thinking about cycles in life.  There are times of drought, and there are times of plenty.  We all seem to know this on an intellectual level, but it seems to escape us sometimes in our spirits.  The times of want seem to hit us particularly hard, usually because we fear that they will stay with us and that we won’t be able to escape them.  The financial droughts that we go through threaten our sense of well-being, and the emotional droughts that hit us make us wonder if we’ll ever again love or feel peace or security.  The spiritual droughts keep us feeling separated from life and from God, making us wonder whether or not we’ll ever again feel a sense of connection.

But the lake came back–it was full and healthy, and the previous seven years of drought were no more than a memory.  And while there will be more droughts in the future, for the time being it was fine–and the present moment is what truly matters, isn’t it?  I like to see reminders that even if things aren’t going exactly as we wish they would, even if we don’t have all the things we feel we need, the better times will come.  Life works in cycles, and it’s important that I accept the current cycle for what it is, even if I am working to get out of it if I find it to be negative.  I truly hope that I can find the wisdom inside my heart and mind and spirit to allow life’s cycles to continue, and not fight them as if they were my enemy.  There’s something important to learn from each cycle that we go through, and we’re all going through several stages of various cycles all the time.  I hope to learn all that I can from life, and I know that life is very good at presenting its cycles to me.  Even if I’m feeling a bit empty, I know that the rainstorms will come and fill the lake once more–just as I will be filled.  I need to keep my faith in life’s cycles and the better days ahead.

27 May 2011


When you're helping, from your limited vantage point, appreciate that person's struggles and suffering yet also respect their privacy and boundaries.   Ascertain with delicacy and care the extent to which your friend may wish to open up and talk.   Don't take responsibility for solving that friend's life; just be there. Let any feelings of compassion and selflessness come naturally. Watch your feelings so that, if you feel superior or prideful, you can shush your mind and tell it that it should feel grateful for the opportunity to serve. For, in serving by doing what you can to alleviate suffering, you are transcending boundaries and glorifying the One Power in us all.   As you give your life to others, compassion grows; and as compassion grows, you become worthier to receive grace.   Grace is what enables you to grow in you divinity and what helps you gain your true life.

Michael Goddart

[Note that this passage isn't from the above book, but from Bliss:  33 Simple Ways to Awaken Your Spiritual Self.]

26 May 2011

The End Is Nothing

Willa Cather is one of my favorite novelists, mostly because of the caring that she shows for all of her characters.  She said once, “The end is nothing; the road is all,” words that make me stop and think every time I hear them.  After all, they seem to go contrary to what most of us believe in life–that we’re here to reach some sort of destination, to make it to some sort of final goal on this planet in our lifetimes.  But really, nothing could be further from the truth, we can see if we think about it for a while.

Every life always is a work in progress, and it should be until the day we die.  After all, when have we finished learning?  When do we ever stop growing and changing?  When has a person ever finished everything they ever wanted to accomplish on the day that they died?  It simply doesn’t happen–there’s always still something that we could be adding to the world and to our lives at any given moment, and we also could die at any given moment.

If we spend all of our time and effort focused on the end of a journey, then just what do we give to the journey itself?  If we’re always looking ahead in anticipation, then when are we looking around in appreciation and wonder?  If we’re always thinking about how things are going to be, just when can we love the way things are?

In Zen and Buddhist teachings, there’s a strong focus on going with the flow, and of letting that flow carry us where it will.  In many other cultures, people focus on determining where they want to go or be, and then forcing the flow to bend to their will and take them where they think they want to be.  This latter perspective shows little trust in life or God or whatever we perceive to be an ultimate source of power, and it assumes that the human brain is capable of figuring out just what will be the best for each person on the planet.  Most of us, though, if we think about how often we’ve been wrong in life, would realize that our brains simply don’t have the ability to know what’s best.  They’re extremely amazing tools, obviously, but they’re parts of our bodies that we’re only using temporarily, so they do have many limitations.

I want to keep my focus on the journey.  I want to look around and love and appreciate and do my best to take good care of myself all the time.  I want to give my all to the journey not in an effort to make it to an end, but in an effort to make the journeys of other people a little more pleasant or a little easier, and effort to make the most of the gifts that I’ve been given every day of my life, rather than focusing on the possible rewards of an uncertain future.

25 May 2011

"Just Listen"--an excerpt from Rachel Naomi Remen

I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen.  Just listen.  Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.  And especially if it's given from the heart.  When people are talking, there's no need to do anything but receive them.  Just take them in.  Listen to what they're saying.  Care about it.  Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it.  Most of us don't value ourselves or our love enough to know this.  It has taken me a long time to believe in the power of simply saying, "I'm so sorry," when someone is in pain.  And meaning it.

One of my patients told me that when she tried to tell her story people often interrupted her to tell her that they once had something just like that happen to them.  Subtly her pain became a story about themselves.  Eventually she stopped talking to most people.   It was just too lonely.  We connect through listening.  When we interrupt what someone is saying to let them know that we understand, we move the focus of attention to ourselves.  When we listen, they know we care.  Many people with cancer talk about the relief of having someone just listen.

I have even learned to respond to someone crying by just listening.  In the old days I used to reach for the tissues, until I realized that passing a person a tissue may be just another way to shut them down, to take them out of their experience of sadness and grief.  Now I just listen.  When they have cried all they need to cry, they find me there with them.

This simple thing has not been that easy to learn.  it certainly went against everything I had been taught since I was very young.  I thought people listened only because they were too timid to speak or did not know the answer.  A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well intentioned words.

24 May 2011

One Strict Rule

I passed a hitch-hiker the other day on my way home.  I immediately felt an urge to stop and give him a ride, but just as quickly I remembered one of my few hard-and-fast rules in life:  don’t stop for hitchhikers.

In some ways it seems to be a contradictory rule in my life–after all, I try to focus on serving other people and doing things for others.  And I used to pick up hitchhikers and give them rides all the time.  It seemed like the right thing to do.

But then I read too many articles about people who had picked up hitchhikers who ended up being robbed or murdered.  From experience I know that being next to someone you don’t even know in a very small space can be awkward and even dangerous.  And I also started thinking about my wife and step-kids, and how it would affect them if I were to become a victim of someone to whom I gave a ride.

So I made a decision one day:  I won’t pick up hitchhikers.  It was a firm decision, and one that I’ve stuck to.  And while I have very few strict rules in my life, this one seemed to make very good sense on many levels.  I prefer to let life and its situations flow on their own and to deal with things as they come up, but I didn’t like the vulnerable situation in which I put myself when I would give someone a ride.

I think that we all need some hard and fast rules in our lives.  Not all that many, but ones that feel right in our souls, in our hearts.  Like not to cheat on a spouse, or not to abuse a child, or to pray for people who can use our prayers, or to share what we have with others.  Life is always changing, and not all rules fit all situations, but we can help ourselves by making sure that when it comes to some things we never even have to agonize over what we think we should do, for the decision already has been made.  If we’re careful about what those decisions are, then we can take away a lot of doubt and anxiety, and add a lot of certainty in situations in which certainty may be helpful.

23 May 2011


Two friends were walking through the desert.  During some point of the journey they had an argument and one friend slapped the other one in the face.

The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand:  "Today my best friend slapped me in the face."

They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath.  The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him.

After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone:  "Today my best friend saved my life."

The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone.  Why?"

The other friend replied, "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away.  But when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."

22 May 2011


Whenever I hear a cynic talk about how uncooperative people can be, I think of our highways and roads and streets.  I think of the hundreds of millions of people who are out there driving, day after day, and I think of just how cooperative the vast majority of us are.

Think about it:  besides the obvious rude and obnoxious people that we deal with on the roads as we drive, almost everyone else is extremely cooperative with other people.  We yield the right of way, we turn when we’re supposed to turn, we let other people into our lanes at extremely high speeds, we use our turn signals to let others know what we’re going to do, we stop when lights are red and go when lights are green.  This type of behavior, to me, shows human beings at our best, cooperating in very positive ways with our fellow people in order to keep the flow of traffic moving.  It’s a beautiful sight, if you think about it, one that takes place all over the world, every day.

This type of behavior shows us reaching a bit of our potential.  It shows us how we can work together to make things go well for us all.  And yes, I do realize that there are the exceptions to this rule, and we all see them, but they can’t diminish the fact that for the most part, hundreds of millions of people cooperate with each other on the roadways every day of our lives.  And that type of cooperation could change the world, if it were just channeled into other types of activities.

Human potential has no boundaries, no limits.  We limit ourselves, though, when we think limiting thoughts about ourselves and others.  If you want to see what human beings can accomplish when we put our wills and minds together to achieve a common goal, just look out on our roads to see just a hint of our potential for working together.

21 May 2011

A Psalm of Life


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!--
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

20 May 2011

I wish you plenty of obstacles in your road, for obstacles help us to learn more than anything else.  May the obstacles never be too overwhelming for you, and may you always find the strength to deal with them inside yourself.  As the saying goes, "Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors," and we would do well to learn more life skills in order to improve our own lives and to be able to help others to overcome some of the obstacles that they encounter.
I wish you the ability to recognize obstacles for what they are:  either impenetrable barriers that should cause us to choose another path, or hindrances that can be overcome with patience and perseverance.  Too often, people confuse the two and end up wasting time, energy, and spirit trying to attain something that truly is unattainable, or giving up at the first sign of resistance that they encounter in their paths.  But may you not be too quick to jump to a judgment as to which is which--very often, things that we think at the outset are one, end up being the other.

I wish you plenty of company and companionship with people who will be able to help you to overcome the obstacles in your way, for only through accepting help from others can we learn truly to help others.  The giving heart must be able and willing to take, and if we don't allow others the chance to help us, we're robbing them of the opportunity to grow and to change through giving.  We're taking away from them the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from having helped a fellow human being in need.  May you never allow pride to keep you from letting others give you help, no matter how slight the help may be.

19 May 2011


Have you complimented anyone today yet?  Have you sincerely told someone something good about themselves, something that they do well, something that makes them stand out?  All of us have some qualities and do some things that are deserving of compliments, yet other people seem to feel that we don't need those compliments for some reason.  They seem to think that we're doing okay without the compliments, so why bother paying one to us?

We, for our part, tend to see other people as doing fine, too.  Often we see them as doing much better than we are, so why would they need a compliment from us?  So when they do something really cool or really nice, we neglect to say, "Wow, that was a really cool thing for you to do."  When we see something they do well, we neglect to say, "Boy, you're really good at that!" or, "I really admire the way you took care of that situation."

Compliments are free, too--they don't cost anything at all to give.  So imagine what the return on your investment will be when you give something for free and see appreciation, good feelings, and positive emotions in response to your words.

Of course, compliments must be sincere if they're to have any meaning at all.  And using sarcasm in the form of a "compliment" is a sure way to hurt someone rather than helping them (not to mention that it will undermine your credibility in the future!).

We have many powerful tools in our lives for creating and maintaining positive and uplifting energy.  The compliment is one of the most effective tools of all, and isn't it time that we made the sincere compliment one of our most-used tools in our lives?

There is a sad tendency in our world today
for persons to cut one another down.  Did you
ever realize that it does not take very much
in the way of brainpower to make remarks that
may wound another?  Try the opposite of that.
Try handing out compliments.

Gordon B. Hinckley

18 May 2011

Thoughts from "The Four Agreements"

There was a man who wanted to transcend his suffering so he went to a Buddhist temple to find a Master to help him.  He went to the Master and asked, "Master, if I meditate for four hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?"
The Master looked at him and said, "If you meditate four hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in ten years."

Thinking he could do better, the man then said, "Oh, Master, what if I meditated eight hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?"

The Master looked at him and said, "If you meditate eight hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in twenty years."

"But why will it take me longer if I meditate more?" the man asked.

The Master replied, "You are not here to sacrifice your joy or your life.  You are here to live, to be happy, and to love.  If you can do your best in two hours of meditation, but you spend eight hours instead, you will only grow tired, miss the point, and you won't enjoy your life.  Do your best, and perhaps you will learn that no matter how long you meditate, you can live, love, and be happy."

Don Miguel Ruiz

17 May 2011

Food, or a Cell Phone? Decisions. . . .

I just read an article about how many college students are applying for and receiving food stamps and other types of aid.  This in itself doesn't really seem surprising, since many students are quite poor and struggle a lot to get by.  What struck me more than anything else, though, was what one girl said about her situation.  She said that with her wages, she wasn't able to afford both food and her cell phone, so she had to apply for food stamps.  In other words, with the money she's earning she finds it more important to pay for her cell phone than to buy food.

Both my wife and I had the same response:  Get rid of the stupid cell phone!  Human beings have gone thousands of years without having the luxury of cell phones or text messages or special ring tones, and there's no reason in the world why we can't continue to do so.  But somehow or another, people aren't being taught to make decisions based on common sense any more--most decisions that people make these days seem to be about what they want, rather than what they need.

I'm not against cell phones at all.  They're pretty handy in their own ways, and they can serve important functions.  But are they necessary?  If I had to make a decision as to whether I would have a cell phone or whether I'd be able to eat, guess which decision I'd make?  It seems rather simple to me, but I guess it isn't so cut-and-dry for everyone.

We all have decisions to make in life, all the time.  If we're going to make decisions that lead us to happier and more fulfilling lives, it's important that we pay attention to the decision-making process.  It's important that we learn how to weigh the options and foresee the potential results of each option, rather than arbitrarily making decisions based on what our wants are currently.  If we can do that, then we'll find that our decisions get a bit easier to make, and that the results of our decisions will make our lives much more pleasant.

What is right is often forgotten by what is convenient.

Bodie Thoene

16 May 2011

Thoughts on Forgiveness

The practice of forgiveness can play an important role in your relationships with others. Forgiveness will enable you to correct distortions in your relationships and to improve the quality, intensity, and meaningfulness of relationships. It means letting go of past resentments toward others so that you can experience them in the present. Even if you do not "feel" like forgiving someone, forgiving them will release you from the hold of the past and allow you to experience the world in a new way. To forgive is to step outside the vicious circle of interpretation, where concepts from the past dominate experience, and to begin to live in terms of a larger, more worthy purpose. Forgiveness eliminates fear and anxiety, weakness and vulnerability.

-Ari Kiev

15 May 2011


I read a fascinating sentence from a man named Stephen C. Paul.  It’s pretty simple:  “Every time you let go of something limiting, you create space for something better.”  I love the sentence for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort in my life holding on to fears and things like anger and resentment.  This strategy, believe it or not, never has helped me to improve my life or to be any happier.  And second, as life goes on and I get older I’m starting to realize the amazing importance of letting go of things that serve no real purpose for me or for anyone else, whether I’m letting go of anger or blame or expectations.  Learning to let go of things has been one of the most freeing strategies I’ve ever encountered, and I’m very grateful that I’ve been exposed to the concept.

But I never had seen the results of letting go as a displacement.  Something better comes into my life when I let go of something negative.  When I’m not angry, I can think of peaceful thoughts.  When I have no artificial expectations, I can appreciate what I see and hear without judgment.  When I let go of someone’s unfair criticism of me, I then have room in my thoughts for hearing a beautiful song or writing a nice little poem.

There are better things in the world than the things we hold on to.  But when we occupy our minds with the negative things, we don’t leave much room for the positive things, do we?  So it’s up to us to take charge of our lives and allow ourselves to let go of the things that are taking up precious room in our minds and thoughts.  It may feel somehow gratifying to see ourselves as martyrs and obsess about someone’s unfair judgment of us, but just what does that get us other than a false gratification?  Absolutely nothing, you may say, and you’re right!

We seem to assume that anything that’s supposed to come into our lives can do so, just because.  But how often do we consider the possibility that we’re keeping out some of the best things by occupying ourselves with some of the worst?  After all, if I spend the next ten minutes being angry at someone, just how much of those ten minutes are going to be spent thinking about positive, hopeful things?

I want to make room.  I want to leave room for anything new that’s positive, anything positive that’s new.  And I don’t want that space to be filled with the negative stuff that we tend to call “baggage,” that stuff that by its very nature keeps us down when we wish to move up.  And it’s up to me to make that space by letting go, isn’t it?

We must learn to let go, to give up, to make room
for the things we have prayed for and desired.

Charles Fillmore

14 May 2011

A Thought from Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross

"Crises" can help us discover much about ourselves and enrich our lives. Another wonderful experience that can grow out of a seeming disaster is the joy of appreciation. AIDS patients who relearn how to walk, for example, are often delighted at being able to take two or ten steps again. They appreciate tremendously something that they took for granted their entire lives. How many "healthy" or "normal" people are grateful that they can walk or talk? My guess is, very few. But how much value is there in something taken entirely for granted? If "disaster" enriches our lives with gifts that would otherwise have been taken for granted, is it really a disaster? Or is it a gift in disguise?

Elisabeth Kuebler- Ross

(Please note that this passage doesn't come from the book listed here--this book is simply one of her master works.)

13 May 2011

Cool People

I’m surrounded by really cool people.  I meet people all the time who are kind, considerate, caring, and enjoyable company.  I meet people who try hard to do their best as much as they can.  They make mistakes, of course, but don’t all of us?  I meet people who are incredibly talented, who have artwork and writings and scrapbooks and music that they’ve created that just blow me away when I see them.  There are tons of people who volunteer tons of time and ask for nothing in return, and people who give away lots of money to great causes and who don’t expect anything from anyone because of it.

There are people who let other people in their cars merge in front of them rather than cutting them off, and people who allow other people to get in line in front of them, even if they may be in a bit of a hurry.  I see people all the time who share kind words and encouragement, who take the time to help little kids with a project or a problem.  I see people donate clothes or goods to charitable organizations, and I see people cook dinners for families that may be going through medical crises or other kinds of problems.

I know people who give up their time to coach kids’ teams, not worrying a bit that they don’t get paid for it.  I know of other people who visit seniors just to keep them company, and others who work with patients in hospitals or specially challenged people in a variety of settings.

I guess my question is this:  with all these wonderful people out there doing marvelous things, just why is so much of the focus of our media and our conversations and our thoughts on the people who do the bad things?  The murderers and the criminals and the people who hurt and discourage us are outnumbered by a huge margin, yet so much of our focus in our culture is on them. . . . and why?  This tendency doesn’t help us at all, does it?

Personally, I want to keep my focus on the good people, and all that they do.  When I watch the good people do good things, it inspires me greatly, and that inspiration keeps my life brighter and lighter than it would be otherwise.  So to all you people who do such kind things and who inspire me so much. . . . Thanks!  I appreciate all that you give to the world and to me!

11 May 2011


I come from a background in which anger and resentment were rather normal.  It wasn't that the people in my life liked being angry and resentful--they just hadn't learned how to deal with their feelings in other ways.  Because of this background, though, it took me many years during my young adulthood to unlearn this pattern, to realize that such thoughts were not only negative, but also harmful.

One of the most important accomplishments in my life has been to learn how to forgive.  I don't always do so quickly enough to save myself a few miserable days, but I have learned to view people's actions in a much more objective light, taking them much less personally.  Usually I see behavior that affects me negatively as a reflection of bad things that are going on in other people's lives, and this helps me to forgive much more easily.  Did that guy cut me off in traffic? Maybe he's in a hurry because someone's sick.  Did that person talk about me behind my back? Well, maybe she's feeling insecure about herself, and she has to knock someone down to make herself feel better. Her words don't change who I am.

Being able to see things this way has almost no effect at all on the other people involved in any situation, but it does have a strong effect on me:  I'm able to feel more peaceful, more relaxed, and more able to help others.  I feel that things are okay apart from this one small aspect of my life, and my forgiveness helps me to realize the relative insignificance of this aspect.  I'm not here on this planet to control other people and have them ask for forgiveness when I feel they should do so--the only person's actions and thoughts over which I have any sort of control are my own, and I can forgive if I choose to do so, knowing that doing so helps me.

There's a common misconception that forgiving someone implies that the action that's being forgiven was okay, but I always keep in mind that I'm forgiving the person, not the action. Hurting other people is always wrong, but we all make mistakes and hurt others.  I'm very thankful that some people in life have forgiven me for some of my actions, so why shouldn't I show the same courtesy to others?  Forgiving doesn't make wrong right or take away responsibility--forgiveness just says it's not up to me to judge, and I'm not going to hold a grudge against you just because you made a mistake.

Keeping score of old scores and scars, getting even
and one-upping,  always make you less than you are.

Malcolm Forbes

10 May 2011

I went to see the doctor yesterday for a physical.  When I got to his office, a receptionist helped me--she took all my information, took care of the billing through my insurance, created a file for me, and later made a new appointment for me.  After she was done, a nurse came out and called me in, and then she took my pulse and weight and blood pressure, then she even did an EKG for me.  Then the doctor came in and went through a lot of questions with me, checked me out, and then gave me a few suggestions and referred me to a dermatologist.

After I was through at the doctor's office, I went to the supermarket to buy dinner.  I asked someone who worked there where I could find something, and he showed me where it was.  When I took it to the cashier, she cheerfully rang up my purchase and took my money and gave me change, passing my food back to the guy who put it into a bag for me.  On the way home, I passed a man who was directing traffic as he was working on a road crew--he kept the drivers safe from vehicles that the construction crew was using.

When I got home, I stopped at my mailbox, where our postal delivery person had put our mail earlier in the day.  The mail was from all over the country, and it had made its way to our home through the efforts of who-knows-how-many people.  One of the pieces of mail was a DVD that had been sent to us by someone who works for the company from which we rent the DVD's.

When you stop to think about it, it can be simply astonishing just how many people are dedicated to serving us.  As we go through each day, person after person serves us in one way or another--some more effectively than others, of course, and some rather poorly at times--and it can boggle the mind to consider just how many people have served us in our lifetimes in many different ways.  Teachers, food servers, cashiers, clerks, bellhops, doctors, lawyers, police officers and firefighters--the list is almost endless.  Whenever I stop to think about it, I always come to a conclusion:  that I want to serve the other people on the planet as well as so many people have served me.  For that approach, I'm sure, is one of the clearest and simplest ways to live our lives fully that we can find.

The only ones among you who will be truly happy are
those who will have sought and found how to serve.

Albert Schweitzer

09 May 2011

Thoughts on Play

To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as though nothing of consequence will happen.  On the contrary, when we are playful with each other we relate as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise; everything that happens is of consequence.  It is, in fact, seriousness that closes itself to consequence, for seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility.  To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion.  To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself.

James Carse

08 May 2011


I knew some people a while ago who wanted to do something new and different–specifically, move to a new state and attend college there.  There was a problem, though–the change scared them.  The idea of picking up and moving, of leaving behind everything they knew, kept them from fulfilling their dream for over two years.  Finally, though, they did make the leap and moved.  I saw them yesterday, and both are thriving in their new situation, doing extremely well in school and enjoying the lives that they’ve made for themselves in their new location.

I worked with a woman once whose husband was laid off after almost thirty years at his job.  They were shocked when it happened, as there weren’t too many other possibilities for work in their area for people of his age with his type of experience.  They didn’t let it get them down, though–instead, they decided to live out one of their dreams.  They sold their home and moved elsewhere, where the sun shines more and the dreary days occur very infrequently compared to where they had lived.  He found work and she opened her own business, and both ended up being quite happy in their new homes.

Change is frightening, but there are literally millions of stories of people who took the risk to change something important in their lives because they knew in their hearts that the change was best for them, and who were truly glad that they had taken the risk.  Change is one of the most important constants in life, if we allow it to be so.  So many people spend so much time fighting change, though, that it often seems like it’s something to fear, and many of us buy into that idea and avoid change at all costs.

I like to change little things in my life as much as I can.  I like to change big things, too, for every time I ever have made a big change, I’ve found great treasures in the results.  I’ve met new people and had new experiences and learned new things that I never could have learned in a previous situation, and after all, isn’t that why we’re here–to learn all we can about life and living and love and our fellow human beings?

Are there any changes that you’ve been putting off because of fear?  Not all changes are meant to happen immediately, and often it is better to wait.  But if the only reason for waiting is fear, then it’s doubtful that the waiting is going to be all that beneficial to you.  I would never tell anyone that they have to make changes in their lives, or that they should make changes, but I would encourage everyone to examine their motives for avoiding change.  And then, if the motives just don’t add up to something that’s contributing positively to your life, perhaps it is time to take the risk and make the changes that your heart is crying out for.

One must never lose time in vainly regretting the past or
in complaining against the changes which cause us discomfort,
for change is the essence of life.
Anatole France

06 May 2011


We all have centers.  These are places in ourselves at which we’re in balance, at which we feel comfortable with life and living.  We each have a state of being where we feel peaceful, calm, and in control.  These are our centers, and we would do well to try to find this place, this way of being, in order to bring more peace to our lives.

To a dancer, everything comes from the center.  It’s easy to see a new dancer who hasn’t yet found his or her center, for that dancer looks to be out of control, ungraceful, even clumsy.  When the dancer dances from his or her center, though, the rest of the body follows, showing the control and the form that the dancer has worked hard to gain.

When I’m coming from my center, things rarely get out of hand.  When I take a deep breath to center myself, a hectic situation calms down.  When I take a step back from a tense situation to see the bigger picture, I allow myself to access my center and bring a much more effective approach to what’s going on.  My decision-making improves, my trust in myself grows, and my ability to help others improves, also.  Like the dancer, my actions seem more compact, more together, more in control simply because I’ve chosen to access a part of myself that is always there, but not always used.

Some people will call the center “God.”  Others will call it “spirit” or "self," and still other wouldn’t call it anything at all.  But it’s there in each of us, and one of the keys to doing things well and being effective is to be able to access our centers.  When we can do this, the dance of our lives will be simpler and so much more beautiful. . . .

If we locate the kingdom of heaven within,
we can experience the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Susan Santucci

05 May 2011

A Thought or Two

You are so much more powerful than you give yourself credit for.  Even if it occurs subconsciously, you are fashioning your life to support the image of who you think you are.  If you see yourself as a helpless victim, you will attract events and scenarios to support the story of "Poor me, why does this always happen in my life?"  It happens because you create it.  The universe is simply doing its job of giving you what you say you want.  Maybe on the unconscious level, you enjoy the negative attention that being a victim brings, and if you convince the universe that you are a victim, the universe will deliver.  Isn't that a good enough reason to change your negative, self-defeating thoughts into those that exude power and possibility?  Let that victim role go, and start thinking of yourself as a magnificent, powerful, and courageous being.  Then sit back and enjoy the gifts the universe showers on you.  These new, fresh experiences will reflect your healthy, empowered vision of yourself.

Lucinda Bassett

04 May 2011


I bought a book once because it had in it the following line:  “The cemeteries are full of people who believed they were indispensable.”  I like this not-so-subtle reminder that we tend to take things just a bit too seriously, and we tend to think that we have to be doing everything all the time or it will never get done.  The fact is, though, that if I die today, life will go on and the tasks that I haven’t completed yet will be completed by someone else.  There will be a substitute teacher in my classes on Monday, and everyone will get by just fine.

I like keeping this in mind because it keeps me from falling into the trap of thinking that I’m responsible for everything that I touch in my life.  The fact is, though, that I’m really not responsible for all that much, and any responsibility that I have in life is responsibility that I’ve decided to have.  Too often I think that if someone else is unhappy, it’s up to me to cheer them up, or if someone else is having problems, it’s up to me to solve them.  But the simple fact is that I can be much more helpful by encouraging them to deal with their problems themselves, for when I do that I’m helping to empower them.  Sometimes I want to solve their problems for them, though, for it gives me that “indispensable” feeling.  But in all honesty, that’s not a feeling that’s healthy–or realistic–for me to feel.

One day my body will be gone--probably burned to ashes.  And when the day of my death comes around, I hope that I’m going to go with the realization that life will go on just fine without me, but I also hope that I’ll be quite glad to have contributed all that I could while I was here.

03 May 2011

A Thought on Fun

While ideas such as discipline and focus are undeniably important, so is the idea of having fun.  With a small amount of effort, we can extract all the fun and joy out of most parts of our lives--our relationships, our work, even our leisure time.  We can put so many restrictions and should's on everything we do that our very lives become dull, overly ponderous, and routine.  Before long, we find ourselves living up to a set of rules--and we're not certain where the rules came from or whose they are.  Let yourself go.  Have a little fun with life.  Or, have a lot of fun with life.  If you've spent years being extremely disciplined, reliable, and somber, maybe part of achieving balance is having a decade of fun.

Melody Beattie

02 May 2011


Probably the hardest part of being a teacher is listening to the students.  After all, as teacher I'm supposed to have all the answers for them, and I'm supposed to be explaining things to them and giving them exercises and homework to do.  My job is not to listen, but to speak and to guide.  It's very hard sometimes, finding the right ways to ask questions and simply listen to students' ideas once in a while.  It was easier at college, but now that I'm teaching high school, I find that I'm much more inclined to speak instead of to hear.

Part of this has to do with the students, of course.  Most of my students have little to no life experience, and what they have to say very often is so far off the mark that it doesn't help anyone's learning.  And teens tend to be very judgmental at times, too, so finding objective opinions is quite a rarity.

But nevertheless, it's important that I take the time to hear what my students have to say, to listen to their words and ideas and respond to them with respect and dignity.  After all, this is a deep longing of almost all of us--the longing to be heard and respected.  So I have to ask myself whether my job is about spreading information to the students, or about helping them to learn and to grow by encouraging their thinking and expression not just by allowing them to speak, but also by responding to their words and ideas with some of my own, of the encouraging sort.

You and I want to be heard.  The person in the elevator next to you, the person in the car behind you at the stoplight, the man at the supermarket checkout, the woman giving the newscast this evening--they all want to be heard.  We can make this world a better place simply by listening to others, by allowing them to express themselves and then responding in positive, uplifting, encouraging ways.  It's our choice whether we're going to listen to others or not, and if we do so, then we're contributing to a happier, healthier planet.

Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing.
It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of                   
our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes in the
people around us.  When we listen, we offer with our attention an
opportunity for wholeness.  Our listening creates sanctuary for the
homeless parts within the other person.  That which has been denied,                   
unloved, devalued by themselves and others.  That which is hidden.
Rachel Naomi Remen

01 May 2011

Thanksgiving Is Not Just for November

When awareness of everything you have dawns in you, how do you feel?  Don't you have an extraordinary abundance to be thankful for?  Gratitude is being thankful, grateful for what you have.  With gratitude firmly rooted in your heart, you are humble and open and receptive and inducing your Benefactor to shower you with more gifts, physical and spiritual.  And it's more than gifts!  A grateful heart is a grace-full heart.  A grace-full heart is one that is open, alive, and growing toward communion with its Benefactor.

Do you realize that you have been given exactly what you need just so that you may proceed with the spiritual lessons and growth that you, you alone, need to master?  Yes, life can be absolutely daunting, but you can have gratitude when you realize that you have just what you need.  Gratitude is the virtue that shifts our energy in order to facilitate our great growth to the next levels.  Without the hankering after what we don't have, we allow ourselves to receive from God just what we need.  Then we have and use just what we need to, so that we're prepared for greater gifts and gains inside.

~Michael Goddart