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.