28 February 2012

Let It Be

It’s kind of cool how a song that came out when I was just a kid can come back to remind me of something very important so many years later.  I was listening to an old Beatles song the other day, and its message struck me very strongly as something that I’ve discovered recently for myself is very true in life:  that sometimes the best thing that we can do is “Let it be.”

“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom:  Let it be.”

Most people aren’t at all comfortable with the idea of letting things be.  Doing so means that they have to let go of some of their control over situations, some of their idea of being able to make things happen–or prevent them from happening.  Most of us seem to have a tendency to want to deal with our troubles by fixing everything, by making everything better, but sometimes the best thing that we can do is to allow situations to resolve themselves, to allow things and situations run their course.  Often when we do this, we find that the natural resolution to times of trouble is much more positive than we ever could imagine on our own.

“And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me; shine until tomorrow, let it be.”

Our times of trouble will happen, but in every cloudy night there still is a light shining, sometimes many lights, but we close our eyes to them when we focus on our troubles.  If we are able to “let it be,” though, then our minds won’t be so strongly focused on the clouds, for we won’t be trying to make them go away.  We’ll be satisfied to let them be, knowing that they will soon pass, and then we’ll be able to keep our minds on more positive things like the lights that we otherwise wouldn’t see.

“Let it be.”  Seven beautiful letters that make three beautiful words.  Words that if we take them to heart can help us to approach life in much healthier ways, words that can help us to see the beauty and wonder of the processes of life, if we let life be and stop trying to make life what we think life should be.

There's an important difference between giving up and letting go.
Jessica Hatchigan

26 February 2012

Our Time

  "This very instant" is all we have.  We make plans for the future, we
invoke memories of the past, but really, all we have to deal with
and to act in is the moment at hand.  We cannot stop its going; we
cannot hurry the next moment on its way.  Like everyone else in the
world, we're partners in the dull, humdrum, dazzling, fabulous,
totally unpredictable moment.

     And if we have a time that is "our time," it's right now.  It has to be,
because there isn't any other.  Maybe we've had times in the past that
were special for us; maybe the future will hold precious moments.
But the only time that is truly "our time" is this time, where we
are, right now.  And what we do with this time is ours to decide.


25 February 2012

What Can You Do Today?

Sometimes I ask myself what I can do today that I haven’t done for a long while.  What can I add to my life, right here and right now?  What can I decide to do to make my life a little brighter, or my self a little happier?

There are lots of things that I can do.  I can dance.  I can sing, listen to music, watch a great movie, or read a great book.  I can read an uplifting article, I can visit a museum, I can walk through a store that I like, I can visit a friend that I like to visit.  I can exercise, I can run, I can drink a glass of cold milk and have a couple cookies with it.

I can write a card to a friend, or I can have a bowl of ice cream.  I can put on a favorite episode of a favorite show, or I can sit quietly and enjoy the silence.  I can visit an uplifting website, I can take a nice long walk, I can take a nice short walk, I can clean a little, I can sit outdoors and enjoy the fresh air.

I can focus on a lovely memory of a special person or special people in my life.  I can read an uplifting self-help book, I can take a nice hot bubble bath, or I can pray quietly and peacefully for as long as I wish.  I can call someone I haven’t talked to for a while, I can go for a bike ride, I can go for a drive in the country, I can take a nap.  I can read some inspiring quotations, I can write down my goals and aspirations for life, or I can write down all that I appreciate in life and about life.

There are many things that I can do to pick myself up, to make my day brighter, to get more out of the present moment.  All it takes is a decision to do something for myself, and once I make that decision, I just need to do it.  Life gives me many opportunities, and I guess it’s a bit of a shame that I take advantage of so few of them.  It’s all up to me whether I do so or not!

23 February 2012

Thoughts on Attitude from Earl Nightingale

Our attitude tells the world what we expect in return.  If it's a cheerful, expectant attitude, it says to everyone with whom we come in contact that we expect the best in our dealings with the world.  You see, we tend to live up to our expectations.  And others give to us, as far as their attitudes are concerned, what we expect.  Our attitude is something we can control.  We can establish our attitude each morning when we start our day--in fact, we do just that, whether or not we realize it.  And the people in our family--all the people in our world--will reflect back to us the attitude we present to them.  It is, then, our attitude toward life that determines life's attitude toward us.  Cause and effect.  Everything we say or do will cause a corresponding effect.  If we're cheerful, glad to be experiencing this miracle of life, others will reflect that good cheer back to us.  We are the kind of people others enjoy being around.

22 February 2012

I Hope So

Hope used to be something that never seemed to come my way.  Sometimes when I would feel a touch of it, I would squash it because I didn’t want to be disappointed any more when I dared to hope, only to have those hopes crushed.  I had convinced myself that it was better for me to crush my own hope than it would be for someone else to do so.

I was wrong.  First of all, I’ve learned since then that in crushing my own hope, I probably killed off many possibilities for things to change in positive ways in my life.  Since I so rarely acted in hope, I almost never had the chance to put my best foot forward, so to speak, or to make other people see the better sides of me.

Second, I didn’t give myself the chance to create any realities that were the result of hopeful thoughts and feelings.  The realities that I created came from a lack of hope, a lack of seeing potential and possibility in my life.  That really was quite silly of me.

Finally, all I had to replace hope with was despair.  Despair is not a good substitute for hope, and it would be my advice that no one ever try to use it as such.  Hold on to your hope–it’s a much better bedfellow than despair or depression or sadness, all of which were common companions to me in the days when I neglected and abused the hope in me.

Nurture your hope.  Treat it well.  Respect it.  Learn from it.  Let it be your guide from place to place, from act to act, from incident to incident.  Nowadays when I have hope, I try to love it, to let it be an important part of who I am.  And when I do so, I find that I’m more creative, more focused, more centered, than when I don’t.  I know that not all that I hope for will come through or true, but I do know that without hope, it’s much more difficult for life to send anything wonderful our way or to put anything positive in our paths.

 Hope works in these ways: it looks for the good in people instead
of harping on the worst; it discovers what can be done instead
of grumbling about what cannot; it regards problems, large or small,
as opportunities; it pushes ahead when it would be easy to quit;
it “lights the candle” instead of “cursing the darkness.”


21 February 2012

Anything Is Possible (unattributed)

If there was ever a time to dare,
to make a difference,
to embark on something worth doing,
Not for any grand cause, necessarily. . .
but for something that tugs at your heart,
something that's your inspiration,
something that's your dream.

You owe it to yourself
to make your days here count.


Know, though, that things worth doing
seldom come easy.
There will be good days.
And there will be bad days.
There will be times when you want to turn around,
pack it up,
and call it quits.
Those times tell you
that you are pushing yourself,
that you are not afraid to learn by trying.


Because with an idea,
and the right tools,
you can do great things.
Let your instincts,
your intellect,
and your heart,
guide you.


Believe in the incredible power of the human mind.
Of doing something that makes a difference.
Of working hard.
Of laughing and hoping.
Of lazy afternoons.
Of lasting friends.
Of all the things that will cross your path this year.

The start of something new
brings the hope of something great,

20 February 2012

Loving Ourselves by Debbie Ford

I believe that loving who we are is one of the most difficult yet vitally important tasks that each of us is given in this lifetime.  Loving ourselves means loving all of who we are--the brilliant and beautiful, the flawed and foolish, the selfless and self-absorbed, the courageous and fearful.  It means loving, honoring, and accepting the totality of our humanity.  It means cherishing ourselves and appreciating our individuality and our uniqueness.  When we choose self-love, we claim our greatness.  When we love ourselves, we accept ourselves as a brilliant piece of architecture that is whole unto itself rather than a project under construction that constantly needs to be fixed, changed, and rebuilt.

Loving ourselves means loving what we believe, loving where we came from, loving our quirks and handicaps.  Each of us comes into this world with particular sets of strengths and weaknesses, and since these aspects of ourselves are more than likely not going to go away, our job is to embrace them all by finding compassion and understanding for the imperfections in our human selves.

from her book The Right Questions

19 February 2012

The Humble among Us

I truly admire humble people.  I love the way that they do what they feel is necessary, they do it well, usually excelling at it, but then don't seem at all concerned with any sort of recognition for what they've accomplished.  It's that lack of need for recognition that makes me admire them so.  They seem to be at peace with themselves, with others, and with their place in the world.  Their perspective and their humility is something that I definitely aspire to, something that I hope one day I'll be able to practice on my own.

Humility isn't about showing people how humble we are, either.  It's not about needing to hear that other people have recognized and appreciated our humility.  True humility is a true and complete recognition that absolutely nothing gets done without the help of other people, and that our contribution to the world is possible only because of the contributions that others have made to us.  I may be a pretty good teacher, but only because I've had some pretty darned good teachers myself who have taught me how to teach.  A person may be a good photographer, but who taught him or her their craft?  And what good is a photographer without subjects, be they people or nature or buildings?

I hope one day to be truly humble.  I believe that the path that I'm on has me going in that direction, but that's yet to be seen.  I do believe that goals are attainable if we set our minds on reaching them, so it seems logical that one day I will be a truly humble person, and I really look forward to that day!  How peaceful my life will be then. . . .

be humble and you will remain entire.  the sages do not display themselves,
therefore they shine.  they do not approve themselves, therefore they
are noted.  they do not praise themselves, therefore they have merit.
they do not glory in themselves, therefore they excel.


18 February 2012

I've Learned

I've learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it.

I've learned that you can make some one's day by simply sending them a little note.

I've learned that the greater a person's sense of guilt, the greater his or her need to cast blame on others.

I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I've learned that hotel mattresses are better on the side away from the phone.

I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things:  a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.

I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life."

I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands.   You need to be able to throw something back.

I've learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you.  But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.

I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love that human touch -- holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.


16 February 2012

What Can I Give Up?

My wife and I are in a time of forced austerity that keeps us from spending the money that we earn in our normal ways.  Now, we aren't by any means extravagant spenders--we rarely eat out, we don't go out to movies, we don't have expensive home theater systems or any of that.  But because of circumstances completely out of our control, we're facing a certain amount of time during which we spend even less than normal.  And in order to be able to make ends meet, we're going to have to give up some of the things that we take for granted right now.

I don't think it's important to sit down and make a list of things that we'll do without.  Such a list, I believe, leads to inflexibility and probably resentment about our austerity.  And heaven knows what kind of effect it would have on me if I were stupid enough to put something like chocolate on such a list--and believe me, in a moment of unjustified optimism, I could see myself naively putting chocolate on the list of things I would do without.

I think the important thing that we've done has been to prepare ourselves mentally for making small decisions every single day, and making larger decisions as time goes on.  When I go to the store and I see something really cool that I don't really need, I'll have to decide that I can do without it, even though sometimes I tend to get such things, especially when they're on sale or on clearance.  When we have to decide whether or not we want to eat out, we'll have to ask ourselves whether we want to spend 50 or 60 dollars at a restaurant or to put that money into our account to take care of necessary payments.

No matter what, these will be simply decisions that we'll have to make.  They won't be that difficult, for we know what we really want and we know what our priorities are.  Life is like that--when we decide what we truly want, then making the decisions necessary to make that a reality is suddenly a simpler task, and making sacrifices definitely is not something that causes pain or resentment--rather, it's something that helps us to achieve the goals that we have in mind.

Our time of austerity/recovery will end eventually, but for now, we're still in it.  And we want to be happy while we're in it, not suffering, and the best way to do that is to be fully aware of our situation and make good decisions based on that awareness.

15 February 2012

Meditation on Love

from Thich Nhat Hanh:

The source of love is deep in us, and we can help others realize a lot of happiness.  One word, one action, or one thought can reduce another person's suffering and bring him or her joy.  One word can give comfort and confidence, destroy doubt, help someone avoid a mistake, reconcile a conflict, or open the door to liberation.  One action can save a person's life or help him or her take advantage of a rare opportunity.  One thought can do the same, because thoughts always lead to words and actions.  If love is in our heart, every thought, word, and deed can bring about a miracle.  Because understanding is the very foundation of love, words and actions that emerge from our love are always helpful.

14 February 2012


Love is easily one of God's greatest gifts to us--as Diane Warren says in her song "You Were Loved":  "You'll hold this world's most priceless thing / The greatest gift this life can bring / If you can look back and know / You were loved."  But we tend to forget that in order to be loved, we must love.  We must learn to love unconditionally, and the gift of love includes so many other elements that it's impossible to list them all:  tolerance, forgiveness, gratitude, acceptance, giving, taking.

In his book The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm calls love an art, and as with any art, he says that it must be cultivated, cared for, learned.  It doesn't come naturally to us--we must develop our capacity to love.  It's not that squishy feeling inside that makes us so nervous when we meet that "special someone"--that feeling wears off eventually, leaving us wondering "what happened?"

How often do we have to hear wise people tell us that love is more than something that we "fall" into?  Can we read Paul's words about love in Corinthians (see below) and actually live out those ideas, making them a part of how we act and how we treat others?  I hope so.  I have to admit, I'm not all that good at it yet, but I'm working at it.  I hope that someday I have some wise words of my own to add to the subject. . .

Though I speak with the tongues of people and of angels, but have not love,
I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have
the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and though I have faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love,
I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,
and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade
itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own,
is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices
in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
endures all things.     Love never fails.

The Apostle Paul
I Corinthians 13, 1-8

12 February 2012

Words of Wisdom

Take nothing for granted: watch water flow, the corn grow,
the leaves blow, your neighbors mow.

Set your own pace. When someone is pushing you,
it is okay to tell them they're pushing.

Remember a happy, peaceful time in your past. Rest there.
Each moment has a richness that takes a lifetime to savor.

Taste your food. God gave it to delight as well as to nourish.

Notice the sun and the moon as they rise and set.  They are
remarkable for their steady pattern of movement, not their speed.

Talk and play with children. It will bring out the unhurried
little person inside you.

When you walk with someone, don't think about what
you'll say next. Thoughts will spring up naturally if you let them.

Quit planning how you are going to use what you know,  learn or
possess. God's gifts just are; be grateful and their purpose will be clear.

Allow yourself time to be lazy and unproductive.
Rest isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.

Listen to the wind blow. It carries a message of yesterday
and tomorrow, and now. Now counts.

Create a place in your home, at your work, in your heart,
where you can go for quiet and recollection. You deserve it.

10 February 2012

That First Step

I’ve worked with a lot of students who have a hard time getting work done.  Most of the time, I find, their problem isn’t simply that it’s difficult for them to get the work done–they actually have a hard time getting started in the first place.  I’ve met many students–and people in other situations–who have such a hard time getting started that they almost never get anything done.  And usually, I find, they have a hard time getting started because they’ve psyched themselves out to believe that they can’t do a good job in the first place–so why even start?

Sometimes it can be attributed to an extreme sense of perfectionism–if what I do isn’t going to be perfect anyway, then why even do it?  What these people don’t want to hear is that almost no one’s work is perfect–and most people are willing to do the best they can, even if it isn’t the best job in the world.  In real life, the best we can do is almost always adequate, and very often much more than adequate.  But the people who don’t begin rob themselves of the ability to learn this lesson.

Sometimes people don’t begin because they constantly shift their focus to something else, either out of disinterest or fear.  Sometimes it simply grows too late to start, and they miss important deadlines.  Sometimes they resent having to do the job in the first place, so they’ll show the person who assigned it to them!

I’ve found in my life, though, that the most important step I can take in anything is that first step.  Once I have that behind me, I can almost always find the road all the way along, even when it goes in directions that I never anticipated.  That first step provides me with motion, with inertia, and maintaining motion always is easier than creating it–that’s simply a fact of physics.

What in your life is waiting for that first step from you?  Your first step doesn’t need to be perfect, and it doesn’t even need to be in the right direction.  It simply needs to be a first step, one that will get you started, and one that will make that second step–and the third and fourth–easier.  I’ve got a few first steps of my own that need to be taken, and I think that I’m going to take the time right now to decide what they’re going to be, and when I’ll take them.  Some things just have to be done, don’t they?

09 February 2012

A Thought

Most very successful people can remember that their success was discovered and built out of adversity of some kind.  It's not the problems that beset us--problems are surprisingly pretty much the same for millions of others--it's how we react to problems that determines not only our degree of growth and maturity but our future success--and, perhaps, much of our health.      -Earl Nightingale

08 February 2012

Seize Today!

Today is all that we have!  There's no guarantee that tomorrow ever will come into our lives, and there's certainly no guarantee that our lives will extend into tomorrow, so why do we approach today so timidly?  Why do we back off and allow today to go by without exerting our will upon it in the least?  We do have a will, and we do have desires, so why do we not make our desires come true?  Why do we not try to do something special today, something new, something unique that only we can do?

Almost everyone who talks about getting the most out of today is focused on the idea that we don't know how long we'll live.  And if we don't know that, then why do we waste so many days just trying to do the same old things over and over?  If I were to find out that I'm going to die in six months, I'm sure that my life would change out of my effort.  But do you know what?  I may just die in six months even if it's not something expected, like cancer taking me.  It could be a meteorite falling from the sky or something else as ridiculous; whatever it is, though, my hope is that when I go I don't regret not having taken advantage of each day that has been given to me as an extraordinary gift, and not having left my mark on the world, no matter how small or insignificant that mark may be.

How can you seize today?  What can you do to make it special?  How can you make your mark on the world today?  You can do virtually anything you want, you know, so why not make it something special on this very special gift of a day that you've been given?

07 February 2012

A Thought from Earl Nightingale

There are millions of human beings who live narrow, darkened, frustrated lives-- who live defensively--simply because they take a defensive, doubtful attitude toward themselves and, as a result, towards life in general. A person with a poor attitude becomes a magnet for unpleasant experiences. When those experiences come--as they must, because of his attitude-- they tend to reinforce his poor attitude, thereby bringing more problems, and so on. The person becomes an example of self-generating, doom-fulfilling prophecy. And it's all a matter, believe it or not, of attitude. We get what we expect. Our outlook on life is a kind of paintbrush, and with it, we paint our world. It can be bright and filled with hope and satisfaction, or it can be dark and gloomy--lugubrious.

05 February 2012

Your Vision

You have vision, though many are hesitant to trust that vision of life, of living, of who we are and what we're meant to be as human beings.  Sometimes your vision runs contrary to the visions of others who somehow have "authority," so you relegate your vision to the basement of your mind, going down sometimes to visit it and dust it off, but never bringing it out into the light where it may grow into the astonishing view of life that it was meant to be.

The uniqueness of your vision makes it all that much more important to others who are caught up in their own visions, who see the world in their own limited way.  We all have limits to what we can see, and it's important that we learn from the vision of others if we're to see this world as fully as possible.  Vision gives us a view of all that affects us and teaches us ways to deal with the trials of life, and a broader sense of appreciation for the gifts and pleasures of life.

Trust your vision--allow it to be an important part of who you are.  But do not hesitate to change your vision as times demand.  As you learn more about life and your self, you will find that your vision shifts, that you see different things and that you see them in different ways.  Holding on to yesterday's vision for fear of letting your vision go somewhere that you may not want it to go is simply trying to control your life to make it what you want it to be, rather than allowing life to teach you and help you to grow into something that you simply cannot imagine right now.

Share your vision with me.  Two weeks ago I had a talk with a friend about things being "meant" to happen.  I disagreed with him, and he disagreed with me, but we each shared our vision of that topic.  The next day I realized that his view made perfect sense, and that I now agreed with him, and I told him so.  My vision of life is now somewhat different, but I feel strongly that this new idea was very important for me to learn.  Today or next week or next month I'll talk to someone else whose vision will allow my own vision to shift and become something slightly different, and I'll be ever grateful to that person for having shared.

04 February 2012


I just finished taking a class of high school students through the book Dances with Wolves, exploring the changes through which the main character passes in the course of the narrative.  The most fascinating thing about making our way to the end of the novel, though, was realizing just how strongly the novel explored the concept of identity, and the idea that perhaps the identities that we were born with and raised under aren’t necessarily our true identities.

In the novel, Dunbar is an Army lieutenant, but he’s a man who never has felt a part of anything.  He’s always considered himself to be an outsider, someone who doesn’t belong.  When he finally “becomes” Comanche, though, he finds his true identity, and he feels authentic for the first time in his life.  It’s not that he’s rejecting what he was, but more like he has reached an important place in his life towards which he had been traveling a very long time.

How long do most of us hold on to the identities that we’re born and raised with?  How many people do you know who would fight to the death to maintain the identities with which they feel the most comfortable?

Could it be, though, that our true, authentic identities lie elsewhere than we think they do?  Is it possible that one of our purposes in life could be to find out, to discover, who we truly are inside, as opposed to what we’ve been taught we are (which very often is more like what someone else wants us to be)?  For example, I’ve always considered myself to be a college teacher, but now that I’m teaching high school for the first time, I find myself very comfortable there.  So which am I–a college teacher, or a high school teacher?

The students really appreciated the idea that this man found his identity in something that previously had been outside of himself.  They appreciated the fact that he had an open enough mind just to consider that there might be much to learn and appreciate in the Comanche way of life, as opposed to the other white men of his time who thought that Indians were simply savages who should be exterminated.  They appreciated the fact that he had enough presence of mind to see clearly who treated him as a human being, and who treated him as just another soldier.

What is your identity?  It’s not an easy question to answer if we think it through carefully.  We can learn a lot, though, from the novelist if we think that our identities may be somewhere other than where we think they are–who we are is inside of us, and our authentic selves may fit better in different contexts than the ones we’ve been taught they should fit in.  If we keep our eyes and hearts open, we may someday find the places and the people we’re meant to be with, and it may surprise us a great deal to find out who and where that is!

02 February 2012

If I Want. . .

If I want the world of the future to include respectful, caring people, then I must treat children of today with respect and caring, being a role model to help them to grow up well.

If I want to see and hear less gossip in the world, then I must not gossip and share information that I’m unsure of that may hurt others.

If I want my days to be full of kind words and gladness, then I must share kind words and gladness with others.

If I want the young people in my life to have a stronger chance of achieving their goals and reaching their dreams, then I must encourage them and help them to build their confidence.

If I want my friends to live happier, healthier lives, then I must encourage them and be there for them when they need me with what they need, rather than trying to tell them what to do in order to be happier.

If I want the planet upon which we all must live to thrive and be healthy, then I must actively work to make it so, even if my contribution is as small as driving less and picking up some litter.

If I want to be promoted or to find better work, then I must work to improve myself by reading or otherwise learning the information and skills that will make me invaluable at any work that I choose to do.

If I want to feel peace of heart and peace of mind, then I must search out periods of time when I can be at peace in peaceful surroundings.

If I want to be healthier, then I must eat healthier, exercise regularly, and find productive ways to deal with stress in my life.

If I want strong relationships, then I must work at communicating effectively, I must stop trying to control other people’s thoughts and actions, and I must develop realistic expectations of what others can and cannot do.

If I want to be able to help others, I must love myself, I must trust myself, and I must develop the compassion necessary to recognize the needs of others.

If I want to be special, then I must recognize that I am special, and I must know that there’s no need to prove how special I am to anyone.