31 January 2012

Count Your Blessings

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.

If your parents are still alive and still married, you are very rare, even in the United States.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone's hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer healing touch.


30 January 2012

Food for Worms

I'd like to think that one day I'll be food for worms, as Robin Williams' character in Dead Poets Society tells his young students that they one day will be.  It's kind of a nice thought that one day, when I'm no longer using this body, it will be used by worms for sustenance, starting out the amazing food cycle that keeps this world in balance.  If worms eat from my body (and it won't be mine after I'm dead), and they're then eaten by birds or snakes, who are then eaten by some other animals who are in turn. . . .  You get the point, right?  In any case, I like to think that one day this body will contribute to the world on a very basic level--hopefully after I've contributed as a person on somewhat more than a basic level.

I think it's a healthy perspective to keep in mind that this body of ours one day will serve no real purpose other than to act as food for other beings or plants.  Unfortunately, we as humans have pulled ourselves out of the food chain, locking these bodies up in sealed boxes so that we can't be part of the circle of life once we pass on, so there's a good chance that my body won't contribute anything to the world I live in.  All of the nutrients that are wrapped up in my skin and flesh will simply deteriorate without nourishing any other animals who would be more than glad for the meal.  But if I keep in mind that this body really doesn't have anything more in its very long-term future than the possibility of feeding other animals, then I won't grow to attached to it, and I'll always remember that my immortal spirit is simply here for a time, using this body as a means to learn and to experience and to grow.

"Food for worms."  A lot of people would find this idea distasteful and unpleasant.  Others of us, though, find such an idea to be a great reminder of the importance of getting the most out of every day, of living our lives fully and exploring all we can of this world and its wonders and its peoples while we still have a chance, while these bodies still are part of who we are, before they become the food for worms that they always have been destined to be.

28 January 2012

I Wish You. . . .

I wish you forgiveness, both the power to forgive and the wisdom and strength to seek forgiveness.  One of the most powerful forces in the world, forgiveness frees us from anger, resentment, and the lack of peace that results from these emotions.

Forgiveness allows us to move on with our lives, leaving the mistakes of the past where they belong--in our pasts rather than in our present.  I wish you the ability to see clearly when it's important for you to ask forgiveness for the hurts that you might have caused others.  Often, we don't clearly see the results of our own actions, and others suffer needlessly, wondering why we've done what we've done.  We often can clear the air and clear our lives and ease our minds with a simple apology, but we need to know when such an apology is necessary, and when one will be helpful.

I wish you the graciousness and the grace to accept apologies when they are offered sincerely.  Such forgiveness is important both for yourself and the person who is apologizing; refusal to accept an apology affects you more than it affects the person who is apologizing.  Accepting apologies is another way of saying "I am ready to move on with my life, and I am ready to put behind me the things that belong there."  Forgiveness is one of the strongest healing forces in the world, and it must not be asked for or accepted lightly or without sincerity; it must also not be rejected when offered sincerely.

27 January 2012

Stopping for Food

I’ve done a lot of long-distance traveling, by car and plane and bus and even running, and one of the things that I enjoy the most while taveling is stopping to eat.  There are a couple of problems with eating while traveling, though.  First of all, many of the places that have food don’t have healthy food–just fast food or junk food, with very few fruits and vegetables or other healthy fare available.  Secondly, if you do want healthy food you often have to stop at a restaurant, which means sitting down, choosing from a menu, getting servings that are often far too large, taking a lot of time, etc., etc., etc.  I don’t eat often in restaurants, mostly because their portions are far too large for me.  It’s not that the food is bad, but it often isn’t very healthy and is much more than I usually eat.

So what does this have to do with my journey through life?  It’s about choices to me–as I’m going through life, I have to seek out nutrients and sustenance.  I need food to nourish myself physically, and when I’m traveling, the food that’s available to me isn’t the best for me.

But what about the nourishment that I need for my spirit?  For my emotions?  For my intellect?  What am I choosing to put into my brain in the form of reading, of music, of films?  What am I feeding my brain and my heart and my spirit?  There’s a whole world of nourishment for my soul out there, and I have to choose what I’m putting into my mind and spirit–no one else can choose that for me.  Am I feeding my spirit with positive, uplifting, creative materials, or am I spending my time perusing negative, degrading, and destructive material?  Am I consciously looking for things that will expand my mind and my perspective, or am I settling for whatever’s in reach, whether or not it helps me to grow into being a better person?

We have to feed ourselves in many different ways.  We have to make our stops for nourishment, or else we simply cease to function.  Likewise, we need to feed our spirits, and we constantly need to decide just what goes in to who we are.  Are we going to settle for the intellectual and spiritual equivalent of fast food or junk food, or are we going to feed ourselves material that will help us to grow into loving, caring, compassionate human beings?  The choice always is ours.

25 January 2012

Young Ones

I find it fascinating to hear people complain about just how bad our young people are, just how disrespectful they treat adults, just how awful our future is because these young ones never will be good leaders of respectful adults.  I've been working with young people for many years now, both in high school and in college, and I know from experience that most of the young people in the world are very good people who are only working hard at finding their ways through life--often without much guidance from the adults who so strongly disdain them.  The adults like to complain and criticize, but what about helping?  It doesn't happen nearly as often as it could or should.

The young people of today are just the same as young people have been forever.  They're working their ways through problems with relationships, friendships, school, parents, sex, temptations, confusion, mixed messages, and so much more.  They're also one of the first generations that have had to deal with a lifetime of television and the influence of highly invasive marketing.  They've been told some things by some sources, other things from others, and they're somehow expected to decide unerringly which of those messages are valid and which aren't.  We have very high expectations of them, but we give them less and less input as parents become busier and communities become more and more fragmented.

But my experience tells me that the adults of tomorrow want to be fair and true and honest and hopeful and compassionate.  They want to help other people, and they want to find work that is fulfilling for them.  They want to be productive members of society who are treated fairly and with respect, and they want to be respectful of others.  They are good people, and our future is bright because of them.

In the eighth century B.C., a man named Hesiod supposedly made the following claim:

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint."

Just as he was mistaken, so are the people now who complain about our young.  Let's start looking at the positive side of the kids of today so that we can treat them as they deserve to be treated--with dignity and respect--so that they'll grow to be dignified and respectful.


23 January 2012

Hope for Our Future

I really refuse to be pessimistic about our future.  It’s easy to see the world darkly and act like things are going to get much worse before they get better, and that may even be true, but I don’t believe that the world is in as bad of shape as most people seem to think it is.  And I say this because I know a lot of young people, the very people that adults like to characterize as selfish, lazy, self-indulgent, immoral, and many other things; and what I see in these young people is hope, the hope for a better world, for these people, young and immature as they may be, are very good people.

Most young people these days are facing many more challenges than us older folks ever had to deal with.  Most of the kids in school are expected to know much more than we ever knew, and they’re held to standards of behavior that we never were held to (no matter how much we like to claim that the opposite is true).  These young people are afraid, just as we were, they’re doubtful about their own power and beauty and abilities, just as we were, and they’re dealing with emotional and mental and physical problems, just as we were.  When we see them in bad moments–which is usually when most adults notice them–it’s easy to generalize and say just how much worse things are today than they used to be.  But that’s simply not true.

I watch young people involved in sports who play with intensity and who work very hard at what they do, and who play with great integrity and high levels of sportsmanship.  I see young people work hard to improve their math or science or writing skills, even when the subject may be difficult for them.  I see them asking important questions as they try to discover their own ways through life and living, as they try to define their own worlds for themselves.  I see young people displaying compassion and creativity and love and caring in ways that we never dared when we were their age, and I’m very impressed with most of what I see.

This all comes from working closely with them.  If I didn’t do so, then I’d probably see only the negative stuff that gets on the news, the stuff that makes us feel bad about other human beings, that makes us feel that the adults of the future will be selfish and violent and self-centered.  But I’m blessed to be in a situation in which I get to work with young people very closely, and I feel very fortunate that this is the case.  Because in them I can see that the better parts of humanity are not skipping over this new generation–the kids may not be completely comfortable expressing what they know to be true to us adults or even to other young people, but they do have within them the most beautiful traits of humanity, and when I see it shine through I know that the future of the human race is a bright future, and that the spirits that have been in this world for less time than others will mature into great people of whom we’ll be proud, and into whose hands we can trust the future of the human race.  Do you feel a bit hopeless about the future now and then?  Well, don’t–the kids of today have much more potential for love and compassion than we ever did, for our generation is teaching them many of the things that the generations before ours neglected to teach us.  And these kids are learning the lessons well, even if we’re not able to see the results in ways that are as direct as we’d like to see them.  So have faith, and smile–the future is bright, and while there will be the inevitable potholes along the way, the youth of today will overcome them and build a better world than we could even imagine.  I’m sure of it.

20 January 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.

18 January 2012

Asking for Directions

It’s an overused stereotype that guys don’t like to ask for directions.  We’ve all seen it in sitcoms, variety shows, movies, plays–any type of entertainment that’s looking for a cheap laugh with an overused cliche will eventually turn to the guy not wanting to ask for directions.  It’s a stereotype that I can relate to, but not because I don’t want to ask for directions–my problem is actually forgetting to ask for directions, or even neglecting to do so until I’m underway and it’s too late.

Asking for directions is actually a pretty positive thing to do.  If you ask for directions, that means that you’re fulfilling one of your own needs.  In doing so, you’re also allowing someone else to help you, and how many people want to be there to help their fellow people with their needs?  I know that I enjoy giving directions when I know the way somewhere–it makes me feel good to help someone else out with something that’s pretty simple for me.

My problem, again, is that I forget to ask for directions.  This applies even to everyday life, when I’m faced with decisions that are difficult to make.  I forget to ask for advice, from either someone who’s been there before or from someone who’s experienced something similar or even from God, as I perceive God–and my relationship with God–to be in my life.  There are plenty of sources of directions out there, but directions are one of those things that you almost never get at all if you don’t bother to ask for them.

I want to get better at asking for directions.  I want to give more people the chance to help me, and I want to allow myself to be helped more often.  Doing this will help me a lot to learn things without having to go through the long process of exploration and discovery.  This latter can be a great process to go through, of course, but it isn’t always helpful or appropriate.  Directions are a major part of life, and the better we get at asking for them, the closer we’ll get to other people and the more integral a part we’ll play in more people’s lives–and we’ll accomplish that by asking for and getting help on our own journeys!

17 January 2012

Instant Feel-Goods

Over-tip breakfast waitresses.
Hide a love-note for your child or honey to see.
Every once in a while, take the scenic route.
When you feel terrific, notify your face.
Be the first to smile.
Let cars in traffic.
Take a night class.
Plant flowers. And smell them.
Forgive someone who doesn't deserve it.
Wear wild, shocking underwear under business attire.
At grocery check out, occasionally allow others in line.
Or offer change.
Go to a Bookstore.
Always have a motivational tape in your car.
Tape record your parents' or childrens' laughter.
Put your photos in an album.
Watch a sunset.
Watch a sunrise.
Every once in a while, let adventure rule.
Start your day with music.
End your day with music.
Love someone who doesn't deserve it.
Buy a bird feeder.
Take a bubble bath by candle light.
Count your blessings.
Giving is receiving.

Larry Lipman

16 January 2012

Valley of Death

My wife and I once spent a few days at Death Valley.  It’s a pretty amazing place, full of things that you simply won’t find elsewhere in the world.  It’s been a truly unique experience, one that will stick with us for a very long time.

I think that what I most like about this place is the way that you can find life in some of the most unlikely circumstances.  Bushes and flowers literally grow out of rocks, getting the nutrients that they need from miniscule amounts of soil that fill the cracks of the rocks.  Lizards and snakes and insects thrive in places that seem too inhospitable for any life to exist at all, much less thrive.  Coyotes and kit foxes and kangaroo rats and rattlesnakes make lives for themselves in situations that seem to be impossible for any life to continue at all.  Even the pupfish has adapted over many years to be able to exist in salt water rather than fresh, which is really the only water they can find here.

It heartens me to see the survival in harsh conditions here, for I know that many of my fellow human beings find themselves regularly in situations that are just as harsh as the physical environment here, and that are just as hard to survive in as blistering heat and a lack of natural resources.  Life is resilient; living things are resilient, and as long as there are coyotes living here in Death Valley, there’s hope for any living thing, anywhere, not just to survive, but to thrive.  The survival against the odds of the many different creatures here makes it clear that surviving against the odds is possible for us all, no matter what our situation.  Things may look impossible, but appearances most definitely can be deceiving.  Just ask the lizards that I saw today in Mosaic Canyon, an area seemingly devoid of life except for a few plants here and there.  Somehow those lizards find the means for survival, even if those means aren’t immediately obvious or even visible.  They find water in waterless regions, and they find food in areas with no food available.

The desert is an amazing place, for almost everything that lives here does so against the odds.  So if I want to thrive, if I want to succeed at something that other people haven’t succeeded at, then I can do so against the odds, also.  All I need to do is find the means to do so, to find the means to do what seems impossible.  The means are there.  I just have to take the time to look for them, and I have to find them.  They are there already.

14 January 2012

A Lesson from a Pebble

Drop a pebble in the water and with just a splash it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling where the end is going to be.

Drop a pebble in the water and in a minute you forget,
But there's little waves a-flowing, and there's ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing to a great big wave have grown;
You've disturbed a mighty river just by dropping in a stone.

Drop an unkind or careless word and in a minute it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading from the center as they go,
And there is no way to stop them, once you've started them to flow.

Drop an unkind or careless word and in a minute you forget;
But there's little waves a-flowing, and there's ripples circling yet,
And perhaps in some sad heart a mighty wave of tears you've stirred,
And disturbed a life that was happy ere you dropped that unkind word.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness and in just a flash it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn't believe the volume of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness and in a minute you forget;
But there's gladness still a-swelling, and there's joy circling yet,
And you've rolled a wave of comfort whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water just by dropping one kind word.

James W. Foley

13 January 2012

The Weather's Always Good

I've lived in many different places in my life, with all different kinds of weather.  I've lived in New England, where we got humidity in the summer and plenty of snow and ice in the winter; in San Diego, where we really had no winters to speak of and very mild summers.  I've lived in the Arizona desert, with temperatures in the 100's for months on end, and in the mountains, where it almost never got above 80 in the summers and where the winter storms were amazing in their intensity.  And one of the things I've learned from all this is quite simple:  the way that we see the weather has just as much to do with how we feel about it as the weather itself.

I remember ice storms and severe cold spells in New Hampshire that kept us indoors for three or four days in a row.  At first, it was tempting to complain about the weather, for it definitely was uncomfortable and nasty when we thought of things that we might like to be doing.  There was no going for walks, no cross-country skiing, no building of snowmen or snow forts.  But after a while I began to notice how nice it could be to have the opportunity to stay indoors, doing chores and working and reading books without feeling the need or any pressure to go outside and get something else done.  There was nothing else calling me to do it, and I was able to stay snug and warm in my home, doing things that I enjoyed doing but without the distraction of other things that needed doing.

I found the same thing in Tucson during the intense heat of the summer months--it was nice to stay in the air-conditioned home when the blistering temperatures outside prohibited us from doing some of the things we kind of wanted to do.  And even if we did go outside, as long as we didn't stay out too long, we were fine.  Of course, I have spent time working in the desert in the summer, loading trucks with rocks in 110-degree heat.  There was no indoors to escape to, so we simply found shade when we had to wait for the next truck to arrive.  Even that wasn't so bad, once we got used to it.

The weather of the world can be extreme and somewhat uncomfortable, but it's important that we keep in mind that it's not designed for our comfort or ease.  We're visitors to wherever it is that we may live, and as such, it's important that we accept the conditions that the places where we live offer us.  If we can do that, we can keep in mind that whatever today's weather is like is important for the place where we live--for the flora and the fauna, part of the world's complex and beautiful way of being.  And when we can accept whatever weather the world throws at us, then we're much less likely to find things to complain about--and to enjoy the ways that we find to compensate in our own ways for whatever the weather might be like today, for there really is no such things as "bad" weather.  It all is simply weather in the world's eyes.

Acceptance is not a talent you either have or don’t have.
It’s a learned response.  My meditation teacher made a great point
about the difference between a reaction and a response:  You may
not have control over your initial reaction to something, but you can
decide what your response will be.  You don’t have to be at the mercy
of your emotions, and acceptance can be your first step toward
empowerment . . . For me, acceptance has been the cornerstone
to my having an emotionally healthy response to my illness.

Morrie Schwartz

12 January 2012

When You Thought I Wasn't Looking

unknown author

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I learned that little things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there is a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in God.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing, and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don't.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I felt you kiss me good-night, and I felt loved and safe.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't feel good, and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it's all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I learned most of life's lessons that I need to know to be a good and productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, "Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn't looking."

11 January 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.

09 January 2012

Some Nice Words

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams,
before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken,
because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The people who risk nothing, do nothing,
have nothing, are nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.

Chained by their attitudes, they are slaves;
they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.


08 January 2012

What "Success" Means to Me

I've seen lots of definitions of success, and the ones that I feel most comfortable with are those that talk about success being a result of doing things for others, of doing things that one really feels called to do, of taking risks and doing the best one can do no matter what the outcome.  As a teacher, I feel a great sense of success when I see a student (or two, even!) "get it," and suddenly realize something very important.  I feel successful when I see a student's writing improve over the course of the year to a point at which the writing is quite good and the student's confidence in his or her writing is very high.

I'm not at all attracted to a type of success that would gain me fame and fortune.  While there are certain advantages to both fame and fortune, I don't feel called in that direction at all.  I feel a calling to work one-on-one with people to help them reach inside and find the talent, the ability, the skills that have been buried for so long.  And when I see that happen, I feel very successful.

The most successful people I've known in life have been those who have followed their callings, their gifts, and have done what their hearts guide them to do.  These people aren't in the news or on the covers of magazines, but they're held dearly in the hearts of people who love them and who appreciate all that they've done for them.  And on the day I day, whether that be tomorrow or forty years from now, I want to look back on my life and feel that I've used my God-given gifts to contribute to the lives of others in ways that have been truly unique to me.

My success doesn't depend upon recognition or reward.  It doesn't depend on financial gain or material wealth.  My success comes as the result of giving all that I can give to people who have need of what I can offer, and doing so without thinking of rewards or recompense.  Because if success is to be the result of giving, then shouldn't that giving be unconditional?

Most people see success as being rich and famous or
powerful and influential.  Others see it as being at
the top of their profession and standing out from the rest.
   The wise see success in a more personal way; they see
it as achieving the goals they have set for themselves,
and then feeling pride and satisfaction in their
accomplishments.  True success is felt in the heart,
not measured by money and power.
   So be true to yourself and achieve those goals you set.
For success is reaching those goals and feeling
proud of what you have accomplished.

Tim Tweedie

07 January 2012

The Balanced Self

by Wilferd A. Peterson
The man walks out on the high wire over empty space, sways above the breathless crowd, defies the law of gravity. . . .

The successful living of a life can be compared to walking across a high wire.

The indispensable quality needed is balance.

The balanced self is the well-integrated self.  A harmonious combination of all the constructive elements of personality makes the self whole.

The balanced self practices moderation, avoids extremes, follows the maxim "Not anything too much."

The balanced self meets the challenges of life with equanimity.  It is neither exalted by success nor dejected by failure.  It meets despair with hope and climbs the heights with humility.

The balanced self maintains mental equilibrium. It has ideals without illusions.  It separates fact from fancy.  It keep a level head.

The balanced self is mature.  It considers everything from a grown-up viewpoint balanced by a child's simplicity.

The balanced self balances dreams with action.  It uses the power of inner thought to inspire outer achievement.  And it uses action to stimulate further dreams.

The balanced self guards against quick emotional reactions.  It does not jump to impulsive conclusions.  It delays action until it has had time, calmly and fairly, to balance all the factors involved.

The balanced self is resilient; it is flexible to change.  Like a tree in the wind, it bends without breaking.

The balanced self knows the error of constant effort.  It renews itself through prayer and relaxation, that it may apply a higher impact of energy and creative power to the task at hand.

The balanced self lives a balanced life.  It balances work and play, love and worship.

The balanced self maintains the I AM of the spirit at the center of self, in full command of its destiny.

06 January 2012

Younger Every Day

I think it’s a mistake to define youth as simply having fewer years than others.  Youth has to do more with our state of mind, our way of seeing the world, and our way of receiving what the world has to offer us than anything else.  Most very young people aren’t even aware enough of what they have to take advantage of their youth, so I think it’s time that we start looking at youth as something that we are, something that we grow into as we move along in life.

Youth is yours, if you want it.  It’s in the way that you feel a sense of awe and wonder when you see a rainbow or hear the song of a bird.  It’s in the way you laugh when you hear something funny, or how your eyes tear up when you see or hear something sad.  Your youth is in the way you wake up, with enthusiasm and energy, ready to take on the world–which is easily something you can train yourself to do, even if you have stopped waking up that way.  Youth is in the way you trust others with your secrets and the way you’re proud of your flower collection or your scrapbook.  Your youth is simply a part of who you are, and while it’s possible to allow your youth to grow into a magnificent, wondrous part of yourself if you hang on to it and continue to nurture it, most of us leave it behind when we have a few more years under our belts, and we neglect it and refuse to nurture it.

Your youth, though, is a very special part of who you are.  Don’t leave it behind.  You don’t have to be a kid to be young, and some of the youngest people I’ve ever known have spent quite a few decades on this planet.  Love your youth, and feed it constantly with the beauty and wonder of the world and the people you know, and one day you’ll find that when Jesus was talking about being as a child, he wasn’t simply speaking in metaphors.  Live youthful, think youthful, and stay youthful.  It’s completely up to you.

Whether 60 or 16, there is in every human being’s heart the lure
of wonder, the unfailing childlike appetite of what’s next and the
joy of the game of living.  In the center of your heart and my
heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages
of beauty, hope, cheer, courage, and power from people
and from God, so long are you young.
Samuel Ullman

05 January 2012

An Important Thought

I often think of an old man who lives near us.  He lives in near poverty and is a curmudgeonly sort.  His livelihood is making doghouses.  We live in a very poor part of the country where there is little money for people houses, much less doghouses.  Yet this man insists on selling his doghouses for more than people around here can pay.

At one point I needed a doghouse.  Unaware of his prices, I went over to see him.  I told him how much I had.  I was five dollars short.  "My price is my price," he said, and slammed the door.

Now, when I drive by his house I see his yard crammed with doghouses.  His house is falling down.  His life is mired in poverty.  But he will not change his price.  He has established a value in his own mind and no one shares that value.  His life cannot go forward until he frees himself from his conviction that he cannot take a loss.  He will die surrounded by his doghouses, and they will be sold for five dollars apiece at a yard sale.

Learn from the old man.  He is fixated on the doghouses, not on what they will enable him to do.  Nothing should be worth more to you than its value in helping you live your life.  If you are willing to slough off the past, even at a loss, you are keeping yourself free, and your world continues to grow.  If you insist on holding to some abstract valuation, you are being held hostage by that possession, and you are trapped in a prison of your own device.

Kent Nerburn from Simple Truths

04 January 2012

What I Am Not

Sometimes I think that it could be a good thing to celebrate the things that we are not.  After all, what we are and what we do goes only part of the way towards defining us as people; so much of who we are has to do with the things that are absent in us.  For example, I'm not dishonest, I'm not angry, I'm not petty, and I'm not vindictive.  I'm not cynical, judgmental (usually--I'm still working on this one.  Let's say "overly judgmental."), ruthless, cruel, spiteful, jealous, envious, or lazy.

I don't hurt people, I don't gossip, I don't take advantage of other people's failings, I don't kick people when they're down--rather, I try to help them up.  I don't covet, lie, cheat, or steal.

I don't try to intimidate others, I don't try to use fear to motivate others, I don't try to manipulate other people to do my will.  I'm not focused on money or power, and I'm not greedy.  I don't feel desire to take what's not mine.

I think I could go on with this list for quite a while, but it's enough to remind myself of just some of the things that I'm not.  And to remind myself that I'm not these things because I've decided not to be them--and in these cases, I think I've made good choices.  So what kinds of things are you not?  What kinds of decisions have you made that have molded you into a kinder, gentler person in this world of ours?

01 January 2012

The conventional Happy New Year approach is to think of the New Year as something that happens outside of our selves.  It is a good luck wish that the New Year, in some magical way, will bring us our heart’s desire.  We look to the New Year to make us happy.  When we expect happiness to come to us from the outside, we are usually disappointed.  Happiness is not guaranteed by sunny weather, a raise in pay, a new car, a beautiful home or anything else of a material nature.  External things are often possessed by very unhappy people.  Happiness does not come out of a New Year, it comes out of men and women.  Life does not change when we hang a new calendar on the wall or when the clock strikes midnight and a New Year begins.  The only way life will change for us is when we change ourselves.

Wilferd A. Peterson