13 December 2012


As a basketball coach, I have a slightly different perspective on the game than many other coaches.  Mostly what I hear when I listen to people talk about basketball is just how competitive a sport it is, just how important the competition is.  There are five players out there going all out against five other players, and it's important to rise up to the level of competition.

Personally, though, I see basketball as a sport that's based on co-operation.  I see the game as five players working together to try to score and to try to stop the other team from scoring.  And yes, that does imply a certain level of competition, but to me the fact remains that unless those five players cooperate together well, nothing about competition really matters at all.  If there's no cooperation, a team simply will do poorly all the time.

Cooperation is probably one of the most important concepts that members of the human race can embrace and celebrate.  When we work together to achieve goals and to try to accomplish things, then there really are no barriers to what human beings can accomplish.  That's one of the reasons why it's so incredibly sad to me to see what political parties are trying to do to us--trying to fragment us and tear us apart, focusing on our differences rather than on our similarities, all in the hopes of gaining a few votes come election time.

How can you cooperate with other human beings today to accomplish something truly important?  What can you do today with someone else that will leave a mark, no matter how small that mark may be?  What can you and someone else give to the world that will make the world a better place?  We're limited only by our own thinking, by our own judgments and personal prejudices.  I would love to be remembered someday as someone who put cooperation above all else, someone who taught others the value of working together with other human beings to accomplish truly important goals.  Just as I hope my basketball team reaches success through cooperation, I hope that I myself can find some small successes by cooperating with other people to make life better for someone, somewhere.

07 December 2012

What Do I Stand for?

I believe that it’s true that we have to decide over and over just what we stand for in life.  I believe we have to decide constantly because what we think, what we believe, and what we feel changes as we grow older and learn more about life and more about ourselves.  It seems to me as I meet and get to know more older people, I learn how important it is to trust ourselves, to trust our hearts, and to trust our intuition.  And these parts of ourselves can help us to learn just what we stand for in life.

Do we stand for honesty?  Integrity?  Fairness?  Kindness?  All of the above?  None of the above?  We all have certain areas that affect us more strongly than others, certain topics that make us feel more strongly, that arouse our passions, much more than other areas do.  When we learn to recognize what they are and to trust our feelings about them, then we can start to learn what we stand for in life.

It’s hard to conceive of someone standing for the same things at 80 as he or she stood for at 20.  I know that in my life, my thoughts and ideas and passions have changed considerably over the last few decades.  There are certain things that I considered to be extremely important years ago that no longer feel so urgent to me, and other things that are much more pressing.  For example, the tendency to encourage other people was very weak in me when I was younger because I didn’t think that anyone would be affected by my encouragement back then.  Now, though, I realize that it’s important to encourage others because I have no idea at all what will affect them and what won’t.  And there’s a good chance, I’ve learned, that my encouragement will be not only heard, but helpful.

Many people prefer not to stand for anything, choosing instead to allow life to go on without thinking about their own contribution to it all.  And because they never really consider the contributions that they’re making–or could be making–they often end up not contributing at all.  Taking, probably, but contributing, no.

I hope that when the end of my life here on this planet rolls around, I can look back and say that I really stood for something, that I tried to teach others about something very important.  And it won’t matter if what I stood for at 20 was the same as what I stood for in my 60’s–as long as I’ve examined my heart and my conscience and trusted what they had to tell me about where I should stand and what I should do.

25 November 2012

What Are You Afraid of?

All of us are afraid.  Each of us fears different things to different degrees, of course, but the bottom line is that we all have fear.  Some people fear spiders, some fear heights, some fear war--but all of us fear life to one extent or another.  All of us fear what life can do to us if we let go of the control we think we have, if we let down our guard, if we don't do the things we're supposed to do, if we get caught doing the things we're not supposed to do.

But it's important to keep in mind that our fears have been taught to us.  And they've been taught to us by people who are just as afraid of things--of life--as we are.  So these are teachings that aren't really in our best interest to believe, much less to cause us to modify our behavior.  It's not our fault that we're afraid, nor is it other people's fault that they're afraid.  It seems to be a human trait to pass on our fears to others--after all, in our early days as a race those fears kept us from getting killed.  And survival is one of our most important genetic imperatives.

We don't have to be afraid, though.  Life is what it is, and it doesn't have anything personal against us.  It keeps on doing its thing while we keep on doing ours.  Our fear of life is often what actually causes many of the things we fear to happen--we bring it on ourselves by focusing on what we fear.  But what happens if we don't focus on that fear--what happens if we actually are able to recognize our fears and let them go, thus not fearing life any more?  What would our lives look like if our actions and reactions weren't motivated by fear--fear of loss, fear of rejection, fear of success, fear of injury?

Imagine your life that way, and then work to make it that way.  A life without fear is a life of peace, a life of acceptance, a life of authenticity.  And why can't your life be that way?  Or can it, once you let go of the fear that keeps you down?

We're afraid of living life, therefore we don't experience, we don't
see.  We don't feel.  We don't risk.  And therefore we don't
live--because life means being actively involved.  Life means
getting your hands dirty.  Life means jumping in the middle of it
all.  Life means falling flat on your face.  Life means
going beyond yourself--into the stars!
Leo Buscaglia

19 November 2012

What We See

I was a weird kid when I was small.  Don't worry--I'm not cutting myself down.  To me, weird is good, so I see the term as something of a compliment.  In any case, I was weird because I used to think weird things that other kids didn't think about.  I know they didn't because I asked them.  I would wonder things like whether words were really words or just sounds that we agreed had meaning, and what would happen if we assigned a different sound to an object--for example, if we assigned the sound "blurb" for chair.  Is it possible that we could forevermore refer to chairs as blurbs?  I also used to wonder if we all saw colors the same, or was it possible that what I see as blue, someone else sees as my red, but because they've been taught that it's blue, that's the term they use to describe it.

I think about this sort of thing a lot.  I wonder why I see certain people as attractive and other people as unattractive, while others see different people as attractive and unattractive.  I wonder why what I see as frightening (heights, for example), other people see as just something else in life.

What you see may not be exactly what I see.  I think that we're making a big mistake when we assume that other people see things exactly as we see them, for when we make that assumption, we open ourselves up to the possibility of making some unfair and unjustified judgments.  I know that people have judged me for how I react to certain things that I see just because I don't see them as they do.  You may see a certain incident as dangerous, and thus expect me to respond to it as something dangerous, whereas I see it as something interesting.  When I don't react to it as something dangerous, you may call me careless or irresponsible for not reacting as you expect me to react.

When I see a red light, I see a certain shade.  Who's to say that when you see a red light, you don't see it as what I see as blue?  Questions like these keep the world really interesting for me, for I know that our perception is a huge part of our reality, and much of what we call reality is based on that perception.  Let's try not to judge other people based on our expectations of what we think they should see, for there's a very good chance that they're perceiving reality in a very different way than we are--and that sort of difference is something that we should celebrate and try to learn from rather than judge and condemn.

13 November 2012

I Just Want to Celebrate

A great song came out a few decades ago.  Called "I Just Want to Celebrate," the lyrics said, "I just want to celebrate another day of living; I just want to celebrate another day of life."  What a great thought that is.  Most of us slog through our days just getting by, doing our best not to fall back a few steps as we try to advance more.  We deal with annoyances and frustrations and all sorts of things that come our way, but let's be honest--how many of us celebrate another day of living each day?

Celebrating is a wonderful way to shape and improve our outlook on life.  The mere act of celebration shows the world and ourselves that there really is something to celebrate, something special in our lives--even if it is simply another day to spend on this beautiful planet with so many wonderful people.  The celebration doesn't have to be huge or pretentious, either--it could be simply toasting the new day with a glass of wine or saying a small "thank you" as you drink your cup of coffee in the morning.  We should define celebration for ourselves, for only then can our celebrations be authentic.  And if you want to celebrate each new day with a piece of cake and a glass of milk, then for goodness' sake, do so--it's your celebration, so make it what you want it to be.

I want to celebrate each day, but usually I forget to add celebration to my often-busy schedule.  When I do celebrate, though, it raises my awareness of the great world in which I live--and that awareness helps me to appreciate all the wonderful gifts that I have, and reminds me that there are even more things to celebrate than I had thought.

Why celebrate a birthday only one day out of the year?
Why not celebrate life every day?  I can!
I can make every day a day for giving thanks!

09 November 2012

Lost Chances

It's fascinating teaching English to high school students.  First of all, pretty much none of them have any idea at all what the parts of speech are--nouns, adjectives, adverbs?  Forget it.  Secondly, they insist that they've never been exposed to the material at all, not in grade school, not in middle school, not ever.  The problem is that I know that this claim isn't true--this material is covered in earlier grades.  But from watching them in my classes, it becomes quite clear that they have very little focus and very little desire to learn, so the chances are very good that the material was covered in an earlier class, but that most of the students simply weren't paying attention when it was.

It gets me thinking about myself.  How many opportunities have I let slip by simply because I was too focused on something else to pay much attention?  How many things have I missed learning because something different was on my mind?  Even if the numbers are relatively low, they're still too high for comfort.  I know that learning is a gift, and it's up to us to try to avoid squandering that gift to the best of our ability.  We all have chances to learn all through life, but sometimes we're like my students who are far too interested in who might be texting them right now to stay focused on a lesson on adverbs.  And because of that lack of focus, they and we miss out on some wonderful things that we could know about us and our lives.

Sometimes we reach certain situations sure that we've never been prepared for them.  While this sometimes may be true, it may also be true that we have had lessons in life that could have prepared us for a current situation, but that we chose to do something else and never even noticed that a potentially valuable learning experience has been in our lives.

In my past, I've been a person who has ignored or who has simply been unaware of learning situations.  Now that I'm older and (hopefully) wiser, though, my hope is that I'm aware of learning opportunities when they come my way, and I hope that I'm not like my students--that I won't complain that something is too hard or that I've never been exposed to certain information before.  After all, learning involves taking leave of our comfort areas and moving into unknown territories, and I sincerely hope that learning always is a part of my life.

Learning is not attained by chance.  It must be sought for
with ardor and attended to with diligence.

Abigail Adams

31 October 2012

Giving the Best

One of the biggest frustrations, by far, of being a teacher is watching the students be so satisfied with mediocrity that they pretty much never put forth any extra effort in their work.  No matter how much cajole, encourage, or motivate, and even with the threat of lower grades hanging over their heads, the majority of our students simply do the minimum amount of work that they have to do to get by, and they're unwilling to put forth the extra effort necessary to excel at what they do.  For them, the minimum is good enough, and they simply don't take any pride in the work that they do.

Of course, I'm not talking about all the students.  There still are many who take a great deal of pride in the results of their work, and in the work itself.  There are quite a few who excel regularly, and who make a point of pushing harder and challenging themselves in order to improve their skills and knowledge.

I don't think this is necessarily a sign of the times.  It's not a phenomenon limited to "these days."  I do believe, though, that the percentage of students who settle for mediocrity has raised, while the share who strive to excel has lowered.  This may not be happening at schools where the majority of students are planning on going to prestigious colleges, but from what I've seen in our public schools, there isn't a lot of emphasis being placed on excelling these days--it's a question of getting by.

And I have to think of myself and my life when I consider this reality.  In how many things do I actually strive to excel, rather than just get by.  Actually, in how many things should I or can I strive to excel?  If I try to excel at everything that I do, how much time would I have for anything at all? Some things just don't call us to excel--when I make the bed in the morning, it doesn't have to be perfect, and when I dust or clean or vaccuum, who really cares if I miss a spot or two?

But what about washing dishes?  Can I be careless in that, when the health of everyone in my household is potentially at stake?  If I change the oil in my car, can I be careless?  I can if I want to risk the entire engine seizing up, and having to replace it.  When I write a letter to a friend, who cares if I misspell a word?  Well, I do--and I'm constantly looking up words, even if I'm pretty sure I know how to spell it already.

I read a "news" blog yesterday that had several severe grammatical errors in it.  It was embarrassing for the author, but the comments section floored me.  When a couple of people pointed out the errors and commented that a journalist shouldn't make such mistakes, other people slammed those people, calling them awful names and saying that it's none of their business whether there were mistakes there or not.  These people were not only okay with very low-quality work, but they were willing to insult others to defend another person's right to do his or her work at an extremely low level of quality.

The question I ask myself is whether I want to be one who is known for a high level of quality, or for a low level.  I do make mistakes on the website from time to time, but they're due to typos that I've missed in the proofreading (it's very difficult to proofread one's own material).  And the agonizing question that I ask myself is "How can I get my students to care about the quality of the work that they do?"  If I'm not able to do so, they're dooming themselves to a future full of mediocrity, for it they're unwilling to strive for excellence, then who is going to want them in their companies doing work for them, unless that work requires no real skills at all?

24 October 2012

What I'm going to do today

It's really early in the morning right now, and I've been up just over an hour.  When I wake up, I start doing work on the website and the daily meditations and the daily quotations, usually.  I don't really see it as work, though--it's more like a hobby, one that's fun to work on and quite fulfilling overall.  At this point in the morning, I still haven't thought about what I'm going to be doing with the day that stretches out before me, since I've been focused on doing the work before me.

But eventually, I have to shift my focus from that work to the day ahead; otherwise, the transition into that day is going to be quite ineffective and often very frustrating.  And when I think of what I'm going to be doing with this particular day, I have to consider what I can contribute to it, what kinds of positive marks I can leave on it, for otherwise, what's the point?

As a teacher, I have many opportunities to contribute in positive ways.  I can encourage others--students and teachers alike, as teachers need encouragement more often than students do sometimes.  I also have the chance to build obstacles for students to overcome, since sometimes our most important lessons come from having to overcome adversity and difficulties.  I do have to be careful in doing so, for the wrong obstacle for the wrong student could lead to pretty negative effects.

So today I'm going to encourage, I'm going to spread kind words, and I'm going to look for ways to challenge my students.  But what else can I do that can be helpful?

One thing that I often neglect, but which has a power that is very real, is prayer.  I can pray for others.  It doesn't matter my religion or creed or individual beliefs--a prayer to the Creator, whatever we perceive him or her to be, can give a huge boost to someone else, even if they're never aware of our particular prayers.  We all are interconnected, and the positive thoughts that I send out to others are not simply lost in some sort of nether world--they do reach their mark in some way.  Prayer also helps me to stay centered and to remember that I'm not in this alone, no matter how isolated I may seem.

So today, I'm also going to pray, be it during a quiet alone time or as a quick positive thought sent out for the sake of someone else.

I'm also going to take care of myself.  I'm going to rest when I need to, and I'm going to eat well--not too much, but enough.  And I'm going to enjoy it.  I'm going to find time to be by myself when things are getting overwhelming, just to get a grip on things that may be getting frustrating.  That time can rejuvenate me and help me to do my work better, whereas if I don't take it, I'm going to continue to function below my abilities because of the frustration.

There are many more things I can do today.  I could list them all, but I don't want to be writing all morning.  This is a good start, and at least I have my mind focused on how I'm going to be productive in positive ways on this new day in my life--and with my mind focused in that way, it's going to be much easier to actually make these things happen!

16 October 2012

Today--A Collection of Moments

It's a new day today, isn't it?  Ahead of us stretch out many, many moments, all of which will provide us with opportunities to do positive, helpful things--all of which provide us with the chance to contribute to the positive side of this world.  It doesn't take much--a kind word here, a bit of encouragement there, picking up a piece of litter, helping that person in line at the supermarker with fifty cents when they come up short.  There are tons of things that we can do today to make the day brighter and more fulfilling, but we do have to decide to do something with all those moments.

Of course, we're not required to do anything positive at all.  We're not required to contribute to the positive in this world if we don't want to.  If we're feeling cranky or down or betrayed, it may be easier to simply do nothing, or even to contribute to the negative energy of the world by calling names, insulting, feeling anger and resentment, or simply sulking.

But isn't there enough negative energy in the world?  Aren't enough moments defined by negativity?  Do we really need to throw more of that out there?

Personally, I hope that I'm aware of each moment as it comes, and that I keep my heart and eyes and mind open to ways that I can contribute in positive ways to this day.  The fact is that the world can use more and more positive energy to balance out all the negative that's out there, and when I picture a scale holding both kinds of energy, I also see myself contributing to the positive side of the scale.  After all, when we have so many moments to work with, we sure can throw a lot of good out there, can't we?

We only need to decide to do so, and then act on that decision.  Over and over, moment after moment.  All the small contributions most certainly will add up!

11 October 2012

When Things Change

Dealing with change is one of the most difficult things that any of us face, it seems.  So often when we see someone acting rude or obnoxious or depressed or detached, we find out later that something has changed in their lives--the status of a relationship or job, living situations, money situations--and the way that they're acting is simply a reflection of the ways in which they're dealing with (or not dealing with) those changes.

In my life, I grew up dealing with huge changes constantly.  As a child in a military family, I experienced many major moves, often from coast to coast, to places where I never had lived before and where I knew nobody at all.  Because of these experiences, major change doesn't affect me much at all--in fact, I tend to thrive on it.  I also spent seven years in the military myself, which further developed my abilities to deal with change.  That doesn't mean that I'm completely unaffected by change, of course, but I do have a pretty practical perspective when it comes to dealing with change in my life.  There are a few things that I've learned that help me deal with any changes that come up, and these things help to keep me sane and help me to move effectively with the change.

First of all, it's very easy for me to accept change.  Whereas I used to want to keep things the same for safety's sake (a strategy that never worked), I now look at the change in my life and think, "Okay, that's the way it is--what do I do about it?"  I can either be the person who moves with the change and incorporates it quickly into my life, or I can be the person who complains about how much better things were in a futile attempt to get things back to the old way.  There are times, of course, when someone's proposing changes that are just plain stupid, and then it's time to argue; if the changes already have become policy, though, and argument is moot, then there really is no point in clinging to the past.

Another thing that I do is try to build my expertise in the new areas as quickly as I can.  I don't like working if I'm not familiar with what I'm working with or on, so it does me good to know as much as I can about the "new" ways.  When I do this I can also help others to adjust and to learn and to grow themselves.  I also become immune to the people who complain and who try to make others afraid of the changes to  try to get them "on their side" against the changes.  This strategy really does nothing that's productive, so it's one that's best avoided, and best confronted when it arises.  Just because I'm not comfortable with a change doesn't mean that I have the right to try to make others uncomfortable with it, also.

When it comes to changes in relationships, including loss of relationships, I keep in mind that we all have different paths in life, and that a friend's path may begin to diverge from mine--and that's okay.  Why should I try to hold a friend in place instead of allowing that friend to move on in life and explore new territory?  A true friend will be back, someday, and will always be in my heart.  Letting go of the way things were is perhaps  the most important aspect of dealing with change.

Over the past three and a half years, my wife and I have had to deal with an astonishing amount of change, much of it moving in seemingly negative directions.  The effects of those changes continue to affect us every day.  That's okay, though, because we know that no matter what changes we go through, there are still elements of who we are that are unaffected by those changes, and it's up to us if we wake up each day miserable, or if we wake up able and willing to face a new and beautiful day on this planet.  Many people have remarked upon the paradox that change is the only constant in our lives, and our reactions to change are among the most important indicators we have of a happy and fulfilled life.

07 October 2012

"Taking" Time

Sometimes I get surprised at just how often I have to "take" time to do certain things.  I often get so caught up in things like work and preparing for work (I'm a teacher) that I start to feel guilty about taking time to do things like hike or run or even just sit around and drink a cup of coffee and read for a while.  But time for such things isn't something I should have to "take"--these things should be simply a natural part of my life the way I live it.  I shouldn't always have to be productive, or busy doing things for which I can quantify how much I've done.  Rather, I should be focused on things that will keep me sane, relaxed, and ready to face obstacles when they come up, instead of being so busy all the time that I get stressed out and I can't deal well with obstacles.

I do have to say, though, that I consider myself lucky--I recgnize the problem and I'm able to deal with it pretty well.  When I catch myself thinking, "No, I can't do that," I regularly stop myself where I'm at and reconsider my decision--and very often I end up putting down whatever I'm doing in order to take that walk or go for that run or even to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and do nothing for half an hour or so.

I know too many people, though, who aren't able or willing to do that same thing.  Unfortunately, they end up being very stressed in their hectic lives, never realizing that their lives are hectic because of decisions that they make, not because that's the nature of life.  They don't allow themselves the simple pleasures of slowing down and enjoying themselves, for they feel that doing so would take away from their productivity, or that they'd miss something important while they were "wasting" their time.

What is your relationship with time like?  Sometimes I have to remind myself that there are 24 hours in a day, and not all of the waking hours need to be productive--heck, if I spend four hours doing non-productive things, then I still have 13 waking hours to accomplish things I need to accomplish.  The question then becomes, am I not able to take time for more enjoyable things because I'm not using my productive time well?  We all have a relationship with time, and for most of us it's a pretty complicated one.  Have you examined and evaluated yours yet?  When you do, make sure you consider the time that you should be "taking" for your emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.  Those may be the most important hours of your day, and if you're not taking them, then you're neglecting something quite essential.

03 October 2012

Difficult Days

We're all living through diffficult times right now.  For some of us they aren't that difficult personally, but for many of us they're the worst times we've ever lived through.  High unemployment, rising prices, lost homes, forced moves, high divorce rates, huge student loan debts--it seems impossible to get ahead and prepare for the future for many of us, and that can make it very difficult to be living our lives fully and completely.

For my wife and me, the economic downturn hit us very severely.  I was laid off, we were forced to foreclose on our home, and other severe economic and personal issues have arisen to make life very challenging.  We even ended up living four hours away from each other for seven months, which was a very difficult time in many ways.  And even though the layoff happened three years ago, we most certainly haven't yet recovered from it--a full "recovery" won't happen for a while, we know.

What that means to us, though, is mostly that money is very, very tight.  We still enjoy ourselves and our lives--we just don't have as many options available to us as to what we can do with our time.  We most definitely can't plan a trip to visit friends in Germany, and we can't plan to spend a week in the Bahamas.  But there are other things that we could do and that we can do, and we enjoy those things, too.  We just have to make choices based more on money now, and that's okay--that's what we have right here and right now, and while we definitely aren't going to roll over and give up, we also are going to make sure that we aren't being irresponsible during a time that can most accurately be called a recovery period for us.

These days are difficult for us, but not impossible.  These days hold challenges, but we do our best to rise up and meet the challenges for what they are.  Whether we enjoy our lives and what we're able to do is completely up to us, and we constantly make the decision to be content with what we have and to enjoy the opportunities available to us rather than bemoan the opportunities lost.  And we do our best to speed the recovery along by watching what we spend and where and how we spend it, though we haven't yet gone so far as to live a Spartan lifestyle--after all, Spartans we are not.

Difficult days must be accepted for what they are, and we must make decisions that allow us to live through those days in the best ways possible.  With the acceptance comes a practicality that otherwise wouldn't be a part of our lives, for when we accept the difficulties, we can deal with them on our terms instead of allowing them to blow us about as if we were a piece of paper outside on a windy day.  You're probably going through your own difficult days in your own ways, and I wish you all the best in doing so--hang in there and don't give up, and you will find that light at the end of the tunnel.  I wish you a bright, bright light and a quick journey to it!

25 September 2012

Putting Things Aside

One of the more difficult decisions that I ever have to make is when to put something aside that I love to do, in favor of other things that are more pressing and more important.  For the past four weeks, for example, I've had to stop posting on this blog and stop working on a novel because school has started once more, and it's more important to me to make sure the school year starts well--especially for the sake of the students.  But that's okay, because I know that it's been for a time, not for good, and that I would be back to doing this thing that I enjoy doing.

In our culture, though, it seems as if there are too many pressures not to put anything aside.  Once you start something, that's it--at least, until you burn out and quit it completely.  That's what happens to volunteers in church groups and the like.  They just keep giving and giving and giving until they can't give any more, and then the quit for good.  Is it the pressure they put on themselves that keeps them going, or pressure from outside sources?  Who can say, really?  But perhaps it's worth our while to examine those things that we're doing in our lives to see if other things can benefit if we were simply to drop something for a while.

It's okay to let something go for a while, and it's okay to let something go for good.  When you were born, there was no instruction manual saying "this person is intended for this task for this long."  When you die, God's not going to get mad at you and say, "You should have kept that up longer!"  If we're truly honest with ourselves, we can recognize just what we don't necessarily need to do and put it aside for a while so that other things can benefit.  I've gotten a lot of work done in the last four weeks, and this blog hasn't exactly suffered because of it.  Now that things are stabilized for the most part, I can get back to doing this, and even look forward to it.  If it had turned out to be a permanent change, that would have been okay, too--but I'm glad it wasn't!

27 August 2012

Paying attention to my spirit

It’s really easy to try to improve my intelligence.  I can read books, practice with puzzles and logic problems, listen to tape programs or take classes–in short, there are many things that I can do to make my intelligence stronger.  It’s easy to improve my physical well being, also.  I can exercise, I can eat well, I can avoid certain activities that may be detrimental to my physical health.  There are also ways that I can improve my emotional well being, from talking with friends to seeing a counselor even to taking medications.  But what I find the easiest to ignore and neglect in my life is my ability to take care of my spirit, to strengthen my spiritual side, to make my spirit an area of focus.

It’s interesting how many of us believe that we have spirits–or that we are spirits having a human experience–yet don’t take the time or make the effort to pay attention to that spirit and attend to its needs and wants.  It’s as if we just assume that the spirit doesn’t need our conscious attention, that this part of who we are is fine on its own without any attention from us.  When we think about it, though, it makes little sense to assume that this most important part of who and what we are isn’t deserving somehow of attention that we can can give it.

Perhaps we ignore our spiritual sides because there are so few people who truly can help us to get in touch with our spirits.  There are very few role models who live from their spirits, truly and fully.  There are very few people who take seriously the idea that our spirits are the essence of who we are, the part that is closest to God, the part that guides us through our days and through our lives.  And perhaps we ignore the spirit because it frightens us, because we know inside that the closer we get to our integral selves, the less we’ll need and want the trappings of life that seem to be so important to us now.

Let’s not neglect our spirits.  Let’s strengthen them by spreading love.  Let’s develop them by examining them, by paying attention to them, by responding to them.  We truly are spiritual creatures here on this planet for a short while, so let’s honor our true selves by keeping them highest in our regard and in our minds.  I don’t want to neglect my spirit as much in the future as I have in the past, and the only way to make sure that I don’t is by payng close attention to what my spirit needs and wants.  My spirit is me, and I am my spirit.  We deserve each other, and each deserves the best that the other can give to it.

Whether you know it or not, one of the most important relationships
in your life is with your Soul.  Will you be kind and loving to your
Soul, or will you be harsh and difficult?  Many of us unknowingly
damage our Souls with our negative attitudes and actions or
by simple neglect.  By making the relationship with your Soul an
important part of your life, however, by honoring it in your daily
routine, you give your life greater meaning and substance.  Use
your experiences–all of them–as opportunities to nourish your Soul!
Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross

16 August 2012

TV News and Horror Movies

Every time I accidentally turn on television news, I swear off it once more.  It’s difficult for me to believe what the people who make the programs see as news, what they present simply in the hopes of having better ratings.  This weekend I saw a three-minute newscast during halftime of a football game, and the top stories had to do with a little girl dying, a car accident in which someone died, and a shooting.  In a city of several million people, were these really the only “news” stories that they could find?  Why do they think that their viewers want to see only death and destruction?  And what does it do to us and our outlook on the world when we constantly fill our minds with such horrible things?

Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to think that anything that involves death is front-page news.  And we even see it become fornt-page news again sometimes, on the anniversary of an unsolved horrible murder, for example.  But there’s so much more to the world than this–so much more to our lives than deaths of people we never knew, or crimes done by people we don’t know, perpetrated against people we’ll never meet.

What do you fill you mind with?  Do you fill it with positive and uplifting ideas and material, or do you fill it with murder and mayhem, horror movies and crime novels?  Our entertainment also has taken a strong turn towards the awful, as horror movies–and even television shows–become much more graphic with their violence and crime.  And while it is “only” entertainment, we have to wonder what the cumulative effect of filling our brains with this sort of thing can have.  After all, cookies and candy are “only” cookies and candy, but if we fill our bodies with them regularly, we will see extremely negative effects on our physical health.  So what are we doing to our mental health when we constantly watch victims being brutalized by criminals, whether it be fiction or not?

Personally, I’ve sworn off horror movies.  I feel too strongly for the victims, and I feel awful after having watched a couple of hours of brutality.  I never want to reach a point at which I’ve desensitized myself, at which I can watch a rape or a murder without feeling intense feelings for the victim.  My sensitivity is what allows me to feel the compassion that I feel for my fellow human beings, and I don’t want to lose that.

We all have decisions to make in life.  Sometimes we fall into ruts in which we don’t realize that we really should make a decision, such as allowing tons of negative stuff into our brains.  It took me a while to realize that unless I was willing to close the door to that sort of thing, I would continue to hurt myself and desensitize myself by constantly watching the same types of violence over and over again.

(And on an artistic note, this type of violence in film and on our TV news shows nothing but a lack of creativity and originality on the part of the people who make the movies and programs.  It takes true creativity to present violence in ways that aren’t so brutal, and true originality to look for the true news in any community–and most of the people in the business are just doing what’s easy, following the status quo and not taking the time or making the effort to be creative and original.  It’s kind of a shame, really!)

13 August 2012

The Mind and Regression

by Leonard Jacobson

At the level of mind, you exist as a
collection of memories from the past.
The mind is like a curtain which acts as
a barrier between you and the reality
of the present moment.
When you are in the mind,
you are somewhere in the past.
You are not in the reality
of the present moment.
Generally, you are not too far
into the past, and so you can function
reasonably well at the level of mind.
But this is not always the case.
Sometimes you experience periods
of stress, worry and anxiety.
Sometimes you feel upset, hurt or angry.
Sometimes you feel rejected or judged.
Sometimes you feel needy or afraid.
What is happening in each of these
situations is that you are moving further
away from the present moment.
You are moving further away from reality.
You have regressed, and it usually
occurs at an unconscious level.
You have regressed to a past experience,
probably from your early childhood
and you are projecting that past experience
onto the present moment.
In a very real sense, you are dreaming
and you are in difficulty because you
believe that the dream is real.
If you could see that you are
simply regressed to a past experience
which you are projecting
onto the present moment,
then there would be no problem.
You would know that what you are
experiencing has no foundation in reality.
You would wake up out of the dream.
Once you can identify the nature
of the dream, it is easy to awaken.

12 August 2012

Fear (from our Obstacles page)

I can talk about fear quite easily because it's been such a big part of my life -- actually a driving force behind many of my actions (and inaction) for all of the years the I've been on this planet.  Fear has been with me since early childhood and the fear of getting in trouble or the fear of a spanking, through my adolescent years with the fear of doing something wrong and the fear of rejection, and through my adult years, and the fear of being alone and the fear of things falling apart out of my control, though I'm happy to say that the fear has diminished a great deal over the last few years.

I've come to learn that fear's kind of silly in most situations.  It does little except make me nervous and aggravated, but it doesn't change the situation at all.  Now, if fear actually helped I'd be all for it, but it usually doesn't do much good at all.  It's the result of unrealistic expectations, and there are those who believe that we aren't actually afraid of situations or people themselves, but of what we consider those situations or people to be.  In other words, we create our own fears through the way that we look at the world and the way that we see things.  If we see something as a threat, we feel fear; if we see that same thing as a challenge, the fear becomes thoughts of how to overcome that challenge.

We see this principle in action in athletics all the time.  How often have we seen someone conquer his or her fear and perform wonderfully in sports?  We give our children pep talks and tell them that even though they may be afraid to get out there and play, they'll never know how well they could do if they don't at least try.  And if they trust us, they'll take us at our word and go and try, usually finding out that it isn't nearly as bad as they thought it was.

We have an awesome power as parents and adult role models to help kids get over their fears if we want to help them in that way, and in that power is a great responsibility.

We adults also have plenty of people in our lives who try to help us by encouraging us to face our fears, but since we're their peers, we usually don't allow them to have the same power of authority over us.  My co-worker or wife can encourage me all they want, but I'm an adult now, and they don't know any better than I what's good for me.  So except in certain situations, I'll listen to their input, but I'll act on what I know to be true.   In this way, fear keeps its hold on us.

Fear also can be self-sustaining.  If I'm afraid to make friends, my fear will cause me to do very poorly when I finally do try to do so.  Because I do poorly, the situation is extremely awkward and difficult, and chances are very good that I'll fail in my attempt.  Because of the failure, my fear grows, and my chances of success the next time are even slimmer.

In many ways, fear is a form of a lack of faith, and those who feel a great deal of fear aren't trusting life or their God to be with them.  Of course, I'm not talking about the kind of fear that we feel when a car comes careening around a corner right at us at sixty miles an hour--that's an instinctive, reflexive fear over which we have no control at all.  But the fear that keeps us from helping other people, from improving ourselves and starting school again, from giving of ourselves for fear of rejection, from sharing our feelings for fear of ridicule--these fears show that we're not willing to trust that even if there is rejection or ridicule or failure, God will be there with us and for us, giving us the support that we need to deal with those fears.

Many of our fears--the fear that a relationship will end, the fear that we'll lose our jobs, the fear that the world will end tomorrow--are fears that have been with us since our very young years, caused by some sort of lacking in our childhood.  It could have been the lack of a trustworthy adult role model, or the lack of intimacy, or the lack of a stable place to live, but whatever the cause, it has stayed with us and makes our lives difficult today.  Adult children of alcoholics or of gamblers, for example, have very strong issues with fear, and it's a lot of work--spiritually, emotionally, and mentally--to overcome the fears that have been built over years.

The most important thing that we can do about our fears is to acknowledge them, and then take steps to understand them and their sources.  Once we take this step, we can work to overcome them.  Fears are our way of keeping ourselves "safe," but the safety brought about by fears is the false safety that we could get by locking ourselves alone in a small room for the rest of our lives.  We wouldn't ever catch the flu again or get hit by a car or face rejection, but we also never would grow into the people we were meant to be.

All of us must face rejection, failure, pain, humiliation, the anger of others, and many other unpleasant aspects of life.  Dealing with these adversities, though, is what helps us to develop our characters and define who we are.  If we listen to and obey our fears, we'll never find out just how strong and admirable our character may grow to be.

10 August 2012

My Meditation

Do you meditate?  Most of us tend to think of meditation in the “classic” sense–sitting in a particular position and staying silent while listening to our breathing or focusing on mental images that bring peace, good health, and clear skin–or whichever other benefits we believe meditation to bring.  There have been times when I’ve felt as if something were missing in my life because I never did this, because I never meditated at all.  I’ve come to realize, though, that I do meditate in my own way, on my own terms.

I meditate when I run, for example.  I can run for an hour and come back feeling completely refreshed mentally, even if I do feel a bit drained physically.  When I run, the rhythm of the steps and my breathing brings me to a clear place in my mind, a place at which I can ponder problems or situations in my life, or consider solutions to problems, or think of things I’d like to do and how I’d like to do them.  It’s the repetitiveness of the steps and breathing that brings me to such a place, and it’s a very nice place to be.

I also meditate when I do the dishes or sweep the floor or paint a room.  Again, during these activities the repetitive motions and the strong focus on the task allow me to reach places in my mind that I usually don’t reach.  I don’t find either task to be annoying or in any way awful; I do find these tasks to be thought-provoking and relaxing.

I don’t need a special pad to sit on and I don’t need to learn any special positions.  And while people who do meditate in the more classic way are obviously served well by their methods, I have to remember that not everything is for me.  I have my particular strengths and needs and weaknesses, and even if I am unable to sit in meditation as many people do, there’s nothing saying that I can’t run in meditation or do dishes in meditation.  Sometimes it’s important to define things in our own terms so that we can make them our own and let them affect our lives positively, rather than adopt other people’s paradigms in an effort to make them try to work in our lives.

Meditation is not a way of making  your mind quiet.  It's a way of
entering into the quiet that's  already there— buried under
the 50,000 thoughts the average  person thinks every day.

Deepak Chopra

06 August 2012

Long-term Vision

One of the gifts that I've been given in life is the ability to see things in the long term, as opposed to seeing simply short-term aspects of things that I do.  I was thinking about this yesterday when I was running.  It was a pretty difficult workout--I would run five minutes at nearly my fastest pace, then five minutes slow, then five minutes fast again, then five slow. . . and this went on for fifty minutes, or over seven and a half miles.  The feeling in my legs obviously was not a pleasant one, yet each time I was due to speed back up again, I was able to do so.  You see, I wasn't focusing on the feeling in my legs as I was running; rather, I was focusing on the facts that first, this was just one workout of a much larger plan and if I didn't complete it, the larger plan would be compromised; and second, I knew that after I finished the workout, I would feel really good about myself and the fact that I had stuck to the workout even when it was presenting me with a difficult challenge.

The temptation to quit was incredibly strong.  I could have stopped running fast for those intervals and simply finished the run at an easy pace at any time, yet I was able to keep going with the plan.  For this ability, I consider myself very fortunate.

Too often we react only to the immediate circumstances and feelings, quitting something before we really give ourselves a chance to work through difficulties, giving up on something before we give ourselves the opportunity to make ourselves feel good about ourselves by overcoming challenges and obstacles.  If we're able to look more closely at the long-term effects of our actions, perhaps we'll be able to persevere more easily and accomplish some things that we never think we'll be able to accomplish.

When I coach track and field, I see some athletes give up during workouts because they're starting to feel the strain of the workout.  I see others fight their ways through the negative feelings, and these are the athletes who end up improving greatly by the end of the season.

When I'm at work, I see people quit new jobs because they're getting a bit difficult and the people are afraid they won't be able to deal with the job if it gets any harder.  They simply don't see that any trial that they go through makes them stronger, if only they're willing to take the necessary lessons from the trial.  They don't look at the long-term benefits of working through difficulties; they see only the short-term discomfort and inconvenience.

I hope that I'm always able to see the long-term benefits of anything that I do, for keeping my mind on the bigger picture always helps me through the smaller parts of that bigger picture, no matter how hard they may be to get through.  After all, any long-term goals that we have consist of completing a series of shorter-term goals, and if we give up on those, we give up on ourselves, don't we?

02 August 2012

A Poem

The Sweetest Lives
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The sweetest lives are those to duty wed,
Whose deeds, both great and small,
Are close-knit strands of unbroken thread
Where love ennobles all.
The world may sound no trumpets, ring no bells;
The book of life the shining record tells.

The love shall chant its own beatitudes
After its own life working.  A child's kiss
Set on thy sighing lips shall make thee glad;
A sick man helped by thee shall make thee strong;
Thou shalt be served thyself by every sense
Of service which thous renderest.

01 August 2012

You Are a Beautiful Person

I wish that I could tell every person that I meet that he or she is a beautiful person--and have them believe it.  I wish I could look them in the eyes and tell them of their beauty and have them accept the words for what they truly are--the truth, plain and simple.

You know what I mean, don't you?  You and I both know that most people will deny their beauty, expressing what they feel is modesty or humility.  It's easier for us to be told that we're talented or intelligent--our own beauty is something that we don't want to face.

You could help me to convince people of their innate beauty.  You could agree with me in an effort to reinforce the message.  You could give a few specifics to illustrate just what we're talking about when we say the person is beautiful.  You could reassure the person that I'm not saying it to flatter or to try to win the person over or get something out of the person, but just trying to express in words the beauty I see when I look into that person's eyes and see the human being there, the person who gets happy and hurt and who laughs and who cries.

You can help me by reminding the person that beauty isn't about comparing ourselves with others, but about the part of us that shines when we love others and love life.  It's not all physical and it's not all spiritual, but a tender combination of all that we are.

And when that person says, "No, not me," you could argue the point and ask him or her not to talk down about him or herself, to admit to the beauty that's there, to accept it, to thrive in it.  Because you know just as well as I do that this person can hurt his or her own self-image and feelings by denying the beauty.

So I ask you:  Please help me to convince people of their own beauty.  Will you do that?  Thank you.  And we'll start right here, with you:  You're a beautiful person.

The rest is up to you.

tom walsh

31 July 2012

Fountain of Youth?

I just saw an episode of an old television show in which some characters had found a fountain of youth, and they were more than willing to compromise their principles and their integrity in order to partake of the liquid that promised them youth that had long before gone away.  It’s funny how every time we see shows like that, there are negative consequences for desiring to work against nature, against the “natural” order of things.  We’re meant to get old, and we should just accept that fact and live with it rather than trying to regain our youth.
But what does it mean to get old?  Does it necessarily mean that we give up things that we enjoy?  I don’t believe so for a minute.  A few years ago, I weighed right around 200 pounds, and the fastest I could run a mile was over seven minutes.  That’s okay, people told me (and I told myself), you’re just growing older.  These things happen.  But I wasn’t willing to accept that explanation–it didn’t feel right to me.  I knew I was gaining weight because I was eating more and exercising less than I was used to, and it didn’t feel at all that it was inevitable to me.  To make the long story short, today I weigh 170 and I can run a mile in less than five and a half minutes.  That’s not such a big deal to most people, but since I love to run, it’s important to me.

I’m not trying to be young again, and I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone.  But this body that I’ve been given is a great gift, and why shouldn’t I try to make it work as well as it can for as long as it can?  Losing my abilities and growing older and heavier and slower would have been a choice for me–the choice to be complacent and not to go through the hard work of losing weight and working on my fitness levels.  I’m not trying to recapture my youth–I’m just trying to keep my body functioning at healthy levels no matter what age I’m at.

There obviously is no fountain of youth, except for the one that’s in our minds.  Our minds can keep us young at heart and young in spirit, but it’s up to us to make decisions if we also want to allow our bodies to age gracefully and to stay healthy.  It’s not a negative thing to desire some of the things of youth, but it can be if we desire those things to come to us from an outside source, like some silly fountain.  Those things come from inside of us, from our hearts, from our spirits.  And only we can access them there.

26 July 2012

From "On the Open Road," by Ralph Waldo Trine

Our complex modern life, especially in our larger centers, gets us running so many times into grooves that we are prone to miss, and sometimes for long periods, the all-around, completer life.  We are led at times almost to forget that the stars come nightly to the sky, or even that there is a sky; that there are hedgerows and groves where the birds are always singing and where we can lie on our backs and watch the treetops swaying above us and the clouds floating by an hour or hours at a time; where one can live with his or her soul or, as Whitman has put it, where one can loaf and invite one's soul.

We need changes from the duties and the cares of our accustomed everyday life.  They are necessary for healthy, normal living.  We need occasionally to be away from our friends, our relatives, from the members of our immediate households.  Such changes are good for us; they are good for them.  We appreciate them better, they us, when we are away from them for a period, or they from us.

We need these changes occasionally in order to find new relations--this is a twofold sense.  By such changes there come to our minds more clearly the better qualities of those with whom we are in constant association; we lose sight of the little frictions and irritations that arise; we see how we can be more considerate, appreciative, kind.

In one of those valuable essays of Prentice Mulford entitled "Who Are Our Relations?" he points us to the fact, and with so much insight and common sense, that our relations are not always or necessarily those related to us by blood ties, those of our immediate households, but those most nearly allied to us in mind and in spirit, many times those we have never seen, but that we shall sometime, somewhere be drawn to through ceaselessly working Law of Attraction, whose basis is like attracts like.

And so in staying too closely with the accustomed relations we may miss the knowledge and the companionship of those equally or even more closely related.

We need these changes to get the kinks out of our minds, our nerves, our muscles--the cobwebs off our faces.  We need them to whet again the edge of appetite.  We need them to invite the mind and the soul to new possibilities and powers.  We need them in order to come back with new implements, or with implements redressed, sharpened, for the daily duties.  It is like the chopper working too long with axe underground.  There comes the time when an hour at the stone will give it such persuasive power that he can chop and cord in the day what he otherwise would in two or more, and with far greater ease and satisfaction.

We need periods of being by ourselves--alone.  Sometimes a fortnight or even a week will do wonders for one, unless he or she has drawn too heavily upon the account.  The simple custom, moreover, of taking an hour, or even a half hour, alone in the quiet, in the midst of the daily routine of life, would be the source of inestimable gain for countless numbers.

If such changes can be in closer contact with the fields and with the flowers that are in them, the stars and the sea that lies open beneath them, the woods and the wild things that are of them, one cannot help but find oneself growing in love for and an ever fuller appreciation of these, and being at the same time so remade and unfolded that one's love, one's care, and one's consideration for all mankind and for every living creature, will be the greater.

25 July 2012


I'm convinced that one of the reasons that so many people tend to be unhappy is that they tend to generalize far too much about the world.  I see this tendency pretty consistently in my students' papers--they write about how "no one" helps other people any more, how "everyone" cheats when they get the chance, how "nobody" values family any more, and many similar ideas.  But I can't agree with what they say at all, for two reasons.  First of all, as a writing teacher I know that using such generalizations is almost always inaccurate, and secondly, I know from my own experience that there are people who care in this world, and there are many people who most definitely value concepts such as family and honor and honesty.

When we talk a lot in generalizations, we put the world into a little box that we basically define ourselves.  We think we know what the truth is, and more than likely, that truth is unpleasant.  It's very easy to blame our problems and the problems of the world on the way that "people" are, for that absolves us of all responsibility for our own personal perspective, our outlook on life and the world and the people with whom we share the world.

Personally, I noticed my tendency to generalize quite a while ago.  It made things easy for me in a way, but not in a pleasant way.  What I would say when I made such claims simply wasn't true, yet I was claiming that it was, and I was convincing myself that life was more negative than it actually happened to be.  So now I'm careful to avoid the generalizations that can keep me focused on what isn't good in life--and I probably would be completely wrong if I were to make any sort of generalization about the negative ways that "people" are.  This world is a beautiful place, and many, many, many of the people in it are very good people.  If I'm careful to avoid generalizing, then I can be sure that I won't be bringing myself down by seeing the world more darkly than it really is--and it really isn't dark at all, is it?

21 July 2012


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.

18 July 2012

The Fence

There once was a little boy with a bad temper.  His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he should hammer a nail in the back fence rather than take it out on other people.

On the first day, the boy drove 37 nails into the fence.  As the days went by, though, the number of nails gradually dwindled down.  He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all.  He told his father about it, and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.  The days passed, and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.  The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.

He said, "You have done well, my son, and I'm very proud of you.  But look at the holes in the fence.  The fence will never be the same.  Remember that when you say things in anger, your words leave a scar just like this one.  You can put a knife in a man and draw it out, and it won't matter how many times you say 'I'm sorry'--the wound is still there.  A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one."

Author Unknown

17 July 2012

A New Day

Shirley Morgan
Outside my window, a new day I see,
Only I can determine the day it will be.

It can be busy and sunny, laughing and gay,
Or boring and cold, unhappy and gray.
My own state of mind is the determining key.
For I am only the person that I let myself be.

I can be thoughtful and do all I can to help,
Or be selfish and think just of myself.
I can enjoy what I do, and make it seem fun,
Or gripe and complain, make life hard on someone.

I can be patient with those who may not understand,
Or belittle and hurt them as much as I can.
But I have faith in myself, and believe what I say
And so I intend to make the best of my day.

16 July 2012

Things I Like

I've always liked the song "My Favorite Things."  "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. . ."  It's a bright, cheerful song, but even more than that it's a great reminder of the power of simply thinking of things that we like.  I know that when I think of things that I like, my thoughts get cheerful and I see the world more brightly.  So in honor of the power of the thoughts, I'd like to write down some of the things that I like.

I like cool breezes that make my skin feel just a bit cold.

I like hot tea on cold days.

I like iced tea on hot days.

I like hearing little kids tell about things that happened to them.

I like the taste of butter and honey on english muffins.

I like chocolate.  A lot.

I like to lay on the couch with a good book on a dreary day, and gently drift off to sleep.

I like to hear a really good song, really loud.

I like the sound of a stream in the mountains, and the feel of its water.

I like to pet friendly dogs and feel their energy that they so willingly share.

I like to see my students "get" something, and I like to see their confidence grow as they learn.

I like to watch funny shows while I'm eating dinner.

I like to go for long, long runs on cool days.

I like the feel of cotton sheets in the summer, and flannel sheets in the winter.

I like nice conversations with nice people.

I like, I like, I like. . . there are many more things I could write, but I'm feeling pretty good right now.  Try it sometime--write down a list of things that you like, and don't stop until you get at least fifteen or twenty.  And then see how you feel!  You'll be amazed at the power of your thoughts to change your feelings.

10 July 2012

More Precious Than Diamonds or Gold

I’ve always been amazed at how much value we put on things like gold and diamonds.  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to value them so highly–after all, they’re just stones and metal.  They can’t really do anything for us except shine, and without light they’re pretty useless, aren’t they?
What’s more precious than diamonds or gold?  That’s easy–you are!  After all, you can comfort me when things have gone badly and I need to hear some words of encouragement.  A diamond would just sit there, with no compassion, no love, no kindness.

You can make me feel better just by giving me a smile.  I’ve never seen a diamond smile.  Sparkle, maybe, but that’s nothing compared to your smile and the light in your eyes when you do smile.

Your friendship is very special to me because you accept me just as I am, faults and all.  Gold doesn’t really care who I am–in fact, it doesn’t have the capacity to think at all.

I love the way that you listen to me–it makes me feel special to know that someone cares enough to hear what I have to say.  No precious stone can hear what I have to say, nor can it care about what I do say.

You are about as precious as anything gets.  You are completely unique and very beautiful, even if your particular beauty isn’t the type that’s admired by the majority of the human beings on the planet (but just what does the majority know?!).  Your thoughts are yours, your words are yours, your pain and your passions are yours alone.  And the value that they hold is truly immeasurable.  I can measure a gold in troy ounces, and I can measure a diamond in karats.  I cannot measure your heart, and I can’t measure your love.  They’re simply beyond measurement.

It’s funny what we value.  We can work for years to earn enough money to buy a diamond ring for a loved one, but not work a second to make ourselves better people who will learn how to treat that loved one better.  You deserve that better treatment.  You deserve the best–because you’re one of the most precious things on this planet.  An immortal spirit spending time in a body, learning to love and to cherish and to treat others with dignity and respect.

Really, no diamond, no gold, can come close to holding a candle to you!

08 July 2012

There's Little like Being Prepared

In all of the talk about being completely present in the moment of “right now,” I sometimes think that we lose a bit of perspective concerning the future.  No, it’s not healthy or productive to focus entirely on the future, but it can be very important to make informed decisions about the present moment by thinking about what’s coming up in the future.

This principle was demonstrated very clearly this past weekend when I attended the state track meet with our high school team.  Having worked with the team for several months, I was very aware of who had been working hard for those months and who had been working less hard.  At the meet, it was very clear who had been doing what–and there were some very sad young people who had had talent enough to make it to state, but who had made decision after decision during the season not to try to improve their abilities through hard work.  In their series of present-moment decisions, they had decided to talk to friends, to spend time texting, even to skip practice to do other things, while others were making the decisions to work hard in order to try to improve.

In the right now, it can be tempting to put something off in order to “make the most of this moment.”  Sometimes, though, making the most of this particular moment can involve preparing for future moments–and that could mean that we decide now to work hard, or even to do something that we find unpleasant, simply to avoid making future moments completely miserable.  This isn’t at all a sacrifice of the present moment, but a productive use of it with an eye towards the future.

Living in the moment doesn’t always mean having the most fun possible or doing only things that we like to do.  It means being aware of our lives and our surroundings–and even our future–and doing what we can to make the now special and prepare for the future nows.

05 July 2012

The Trouble with Grown-ups

According to a class full of ten-year-olds in a Sunday school class, these are the problems with grownups:

1.  Grownups make promises, then they forget all about them, or else they say it wasn't really a promise, just a maybe.

2.  Grownups don't do the things they're always telling the children to do--like pick up their things, or be neat, or always tell the truth.

3.  Grownups won't let their children dress the way they want to--but they never ask a child's opinion about how they should dress.  If they're going out to a party, grownups wear just exactly what they want to wear--even if it looks terrible, even if it isn't warm enough.

4.  Grownups never really listen to what children have to say.  They always decide ahead of time what they're going to answer.

5.  Grownups make mistakes but they won't admit them.  They always pretend that they weren't mistakes at all--or that somebody else made them.

6.  Grownups interrupt children all the time and think nothing of it.  If a child interrupts a grownup, he gets a scolding or something worse.

7.  Grownups never understand how much children want a certain thing--a certain color or shape or size.  If it's something they don't admire--even if the children have spent their own money for it--they always say, "I can't imagine what you want with that old thing!"

8.  Sometimes grownups punish children unfairly.  It isn't right if you've done something just a little wrong and grownups take away something that means an awful lot to you.  Other times you can do something really bad and they say they're going to punish you, but they don't.  You never know, and you ought to know.

9.  Grownups talk about money too much, and bills, and things like that, so that it scares you.  They say money isn't very important, but the way they talk about it, it sounds like the most important thing in the world.

10.  Grownups gossip a lot--but if children do the very same thing and say the same words about the same people they're being disrespectful.

11.  Grownups pry into children's secrets.  They always think it's going to be something bad.  They never think it might be a nice surprise.

12.  Grownups are always talking about what they did and what they knew when they were ten years old--but they never try to think what it's like to be ten years old right now.

Does this sound familiar to you?  If it does, it might interest you to know that these complaints were made in 1953--more than half a century ago.  Just what have we learned about being adults and treating children over the last five decades, if we continue to perpetuate some of the treatments that were unfair so long ago?

03 July 2012


I've read two books back to back about mindfulness and the benefits that it brings to our lives.  I didn't necessarily choose to read them--they were both given to me by two different people, and since I try to go with the flow of life, I took the gifts as a message and read them both through all the way.  Both of the authors explore the concept of being fully aware of our lives at all times, rather than taking things for granted, hurrying through our days, and not noticing the beauty and wonder all around us.  If we can be mindful of our blessings and the beauty of the world and its people, we can enrich our lives incredibly--simply by noticing what's already there.

So many of our actions are rote actions, things that we do but hardly even notice.  If we need to go to the store for milk, we very often take the car and expose ourselves only to parking lots, the car interior, and the store.  We miss the fresh air, the flowers in the gardens that we could see on the way, and the sounds of the birds and people and animals who are living their lives so near us right now.  If we have to do the dishes, we rush through the task without paying much attention, except maybe to make sure all the food is off the dishes before we rinse them.  If we have to shower, then we do so quickly, treating it as a task to be accomplished rather than a unique experience.

To be mindful takes a bit more time than it takes not to be mindful.  When we're mindful, when we pay attention to the people and things around us, it's much harder to hurry past them and miss them.  It takes a bit of work to be mindful, too, for we have to concentrate harder and maintain our focus--that usually doesn't just happen.  But these are very, very small prices to pay for the ability actually to see the world around us, to wonder at it, to appreciate it, to notice its intricacy and complexity and beauty.

As Christina Feldman says, "The richest, deepest moments of our lives have all been moments of mindfulness--the moments in our childhood when our hearts sang with delight over the simple arrangement of the pebbles on the path, the moments when we have stood speechless before the majesty of a forest, the moments we have rejoiced in a sunset, the moments when we have been a silent, listening presence with a friend in pain."  These moments aren't accidents, but they are far too scarce for most of us.  Let's bring more of them into our lives through a bit of concentration and effort, so that we can enrich our lives greatly!