30 August 2011

Be the Change

Mohandas Gandhi once said something very interesting:  “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

I think about this statement from time to time, and it resonates very strongly within me–mostly because I don’t follow the advice nearly as much as I wish I could.  Sometimes I see things that I would love to have changed, but I certainly don’t live out the example of that change.  In some things I’m pretty good at it, but by the time I die I hope to be better in many more areas.

For example, do you wish that more people were honest and straightforward in all that they do?  Then it’s up to you to be honest and straightforward in all of your dealings with others.

Do I want to see more friendliness in the world?  Then it’s up to me to be more friendly.

Do we want to experience more compassion and kindness and loving in the world?  Then guess what?  We need to live more compassionate and kind and loving lives.

Do you wish that people you worked with worked harder or better or were more focused on their tasks?  Then it’s up to you to provide the model for them–the change isn’t going to happen without someone to model it.

It’s important to keep in mind that not everything that we model will be followed by others.  If we think it will be, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and frustration.  But if we truly want a change to come about, we have to be that change, or there’s no real use in hoping for it to come about.  If we don’t live it ourselves, we’re simply depending on others to do something without any sort of motivation or encouragement, and that happens rarely.

Be the change.  Be who you are, and be true to yourself.  These are approaches to life that can give us great rewards if we stay true to them, and if we allow ourselves to live them.

24 August 2011

Becoming Our Own Programmers

I’m sitting in the restaurant area of a hotel right now, listening to a television program and its accompanying commercials.  It’s a very frustrating experience–it’s some sort of morning news program on which the people are speaking very loudly at each other–not to each other–and seemingly looking for conflict no matter what they say.  The commercials are borderline fraudulent:  “For only $9.99.  But wait!  If you order now we’ll double your order!”  I’ve listened to people calling all Democrats stupid, and others insult all Republicans for their lack of ethics.

Hearing all this makes me even more glad that we don’t have television in our home.  We have a television set, but it’s hooked up to a DVD player so that we can choose what we want to watch, when we want to watch it.  I have to wonder how people feel after watching an entire hour of this type of conflict, this type of hype, these types of meanness–especially if watching such programs is a regular part of their days.  Whenever I’m reminded of the types of rudeness and the lack of respect that people show each other in our media, it surprises me less that I see such behavior out on the street every day.  After all, what goes in must come out, right?

In many ways, we’re working our way more and more towards becoming a culture of conflict.  Our media are focusing on conflict more and more as it becomes more and more profitable for them.  The key words in programmers’ vocabularies seem to be conflict and competition–but when was the last time we saw significant programming devoted to something such as cooperation?  Love?  Peace of mind?  Hope?

If we start reading a book and we don’t like it, we stop reading it, don’t we?  But if we start watching a television program and we’re not enjoying it, we simply change the channel.  And many times we change it until we find the least objectionable program for us–in other words, we choose the lesser of many evils, while not thinking at all about what effects it may be having on us.  Why not just turn the thing off?

There’s obviously nothing inherently wrong with TV.  But not all programming is created equal.  If we want to feel peace in our minds and hearts, then we can’t focus two of our five senses on negativity.  Television, as with anything else, can have its place.  But as I finish up here, listening to these people interrupt each other, speak condescendingly to each other, insult each other, and dish up healthy doses of self-aggrandizement, then I realize that the decision that my wife and I made well over a year ago to turn off our TV for good to outside programmers is definitely a very healthy decision.  We can program for ourselves with the great selection of DVD’s out there, and that’s definitely the best for us.

17 August 2011

Letting Go

One of the most difficult lessons that I continue to struggle with in life is that of letting go.  There are so many situations in my life that are completely out of my control, yet I somehow feel that I should be able to make them turn out well just with a little bit of effort or with intervention on my part.  This is usually just wrong, though–such situations will take care of themselves much more easily and effectively when I’m able simply to let go of my need to try to make things happen the way that I think they should, and allow them to happen in their natural ways.

Usually when I have trouble letting go it’s because I want to help someone else.  Perhaps they come to me for advice, and I start to think that I somehow can solve their problems for them.  And when I give someone advice, I feel that it’s important that they actually put my advice into practice so that their problems will go away.

The wisest people in the world, though–the truly wise, not those people who claim to be wise–have always said that the best thing to do if we want to help others is to stand back and allow them to live their lives.  Yes, we can give them advice, but then it’s important to leave them be with that advice and allow them to do with it whatever they will.  Perhaps they’ll heed it, and that will be good.  Perhaps they’ll ignore it completely, and that will be good, too.  Either path may not lead to the best of results, but both paths allow them to take actions, see results, and learn from experience.

There are billions of people living their lives right now who have no idea that I exist, much less that I might have advice for them.  And I’m fine with that.  When we get close to people, though, we tend to think that our level of influence and control over their lives grows, but if we want to respect them and allow them to be who they are, we’ll let go of any semblance of what we believe to be control that we can.  Let’s let people live their lives with our input, but without our expectations of what they should do and when they should do it.  That way we can allow them to be free to live their own lives their own way, and we can lose the stress and tension that come from trying to control the lives of others, or even our own lives.  Let go, and let things be–two great pieces of advice that can lead to more happiness and fulfillment in our lives.

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.

16 August 2011

Good Words

Over the last decade or so of my life, I’ve made a major change that I believe has led to more positive results than anything else I’ve ever done.  It was a very simple change, one that anyone can do, but it’s given me more than I ever imagined I could get from something so simple.  I did two things that were very important:  first, I started reading books that encouraged me, that gave me hope, that inspired me, and that taught me important lessons on life and living and myself.  And second, I took the words in those books to heart–I didn’t just read them and put them down, but I read them and pondered their messages and believed what their authors had to say.  I haven’t read blindly, believing everything I’ve read without question, but I have given the writers the benefit of the doubt that they might be right, that what they say may be effective if I just give it a chance.

In choosing my reading material carefully, I’ve given myself a great opportunity to learn a lot of stuff that never is covered in a classroom.  I’ve given myself input into my life from people that I’ll never meet, but who have learned a lot in their lives and have done their best to share what they’ve learned with others.  I’ve been able to learn from people who see the world in completely different ways than I do, and they’ve been able to open my eyes to new perspectives, new thoughts, new ideas.  I’ve felt my mind and my heart and my spirit open up to completely new levels, levels that I never would have reached had I not taken the time and made the effort to read the books that I’ve read.

There are many different reasons for reading.  Reading for entertainment can be a lot of fun.  Reading to learn and to grow and to change our lives can be invigorating and exciting.  Think about it–if you read twenty books during the next year on fishing, you’ll become an expert on fishing, and you’ll be one of the best-read fishers out there.  If you read twenty books over the next year on self-improvement or spiritual growth or the law of attraction or meditation or simply about getting the most out of life, guess what you’ll become an expert in?  That’s right–and how do you think something like that will affect your daily life, the way you feel as you go about being the person you are, living the life you live?

All it takes is a decision and follow-through on that decision.  All it takes is some perseverance and some initiative.  And if you don’t like reading, perhaps listening to audio books would be a good compromise for you.  No matter which way you look at it, though, putting good and positive and encouraging words into your mind and your heart can only do you good, as long as you give the words respect enough to consider them, and to consider their relevance to your life and who you are.  There are many great teachers out there, but they’re not all in the classrooms.  And even if they were, would they be giving classes that we can re-visit whenever we want?  We can when we have the books, and we can remind ourselves of important lessons over and over again.