30 April 2012

What Am I Attracting?

As I grow older, I also grow more and more aware of many things.  One of the most important things about which I've raised my awareness is our ability to attract to ourselves different things, people, and occurrences based on how we're feeling, what we're thinking, and how we're acting.  For most of my life so far, I believed that my feelings were a result of what was going on in my life and that I didn't really have any control over them.  Now I realize, though, that things that I've done and said often have been the result of my feelings, and that those things have attracted results that have perpetuated--or made worse--those same feelings.

When I've been feeling down, for example, I've been acting down.  When something positive would come along, I wouldn't trust it--I would treat it as if it couldn't be real, or as if it couldn't last, and guess what?  I perpetuated my own negative condition by allowing and even exacerbating my own negative thoughts and feelings.  And then I'd blame it all on the unfairness of the world!  It was actually pretty unfair of me to blame the world that way.

On the other hand, when I feel positive, and when I nurture my positive feelings by reading uplifting and inspiring material, I find that many more positive things come my way.  It is a law that like attracts like, and my positive attitude attracts things and people and events that help me to perpetuate that positive attitude.  It's a pretty nice law, when all is said and done, as long as we take advantage of it and help it to be a positive force in our lives.

I would never say that everything bad that happens to another person is always his or her "fault."  But I have had enough experience in watching other people live their lives that I now understand that people who often act and feel negative simply attract more into their life that help them to make that feeling grow stronger.  I've also seen that the people who focus on the positive and the possible tend to find more possibilities and more positive things in life than others.  It's a fascinating law, and one that we can take advantage of to make our lives brighter, or one that we can ignore or even use to make our lives duller.  A law is a law, and what we do with our lives is what we do with our lives.

We don't attract what we want;
we attract what we are.

28 April 2012

Thoughts on Growing Up

When children learn that giving is more rewarding than taking; when they learn that they can't control everything, but they are masters of their own souls; when they learn to accept people whose difference they fear, and that pleasure is found in the power in helping others; when they learn that the value of one's life is best measured not by possession acquired, but by wisdom shared, hope inspired, tears wiped, and hearts touched; when they learn that happiness and lasting contentment are not to be found in what a person has, but in what he or she is; when they learn to withhold judgment of people, knowing that everyone is blessed with good and bad qualities; when they learn that every person has been given the gift of a unique self and the purpose of life is to share the very best of that gift with the world. . . . When children learn these ideals, they will no longer be children--they will be blessings to those who know them, and worthy models for all the world's children.

David L. Weatherford

27 April 2012

Making a Life

Give the best you have received from the past to the best that you may come to know in the future.  Accept life daily not as a cup to be drained but as a chalice to be filled with whatsoever things are honest, pure, lovely, and of good report.

Making a living is best undertaken as a part of the more important business of making a life.  Every now and again take a good look at something not made of hands--a mountain, a star, the turn of a stream.  There will come to you wisdom and patience and solace and, above all, the assurance that you are not alone in the world.

Sidney Lovett

26 April 2012

Right between the Eyes

Sometimes death comes up and smacks you right between the eyes.  It happened to me today, reminding me of some very important truths in life.  Truths that have to do with the fact that this life will one day end, for all of us, and with the idea that if we’re going to be satisfied and content with what we’ve done with our lives once death comes, it’s important that we spend our right nows doing things that will make us satisfied, or just being people with whom we’ll be satisfied on that day when death comes calling for us.

If I want to be content with all that I’ve done on the day I die, then I need to make positive choices today about what I’m doing today and tomorrow.  Is what I’m doing contributing in positive ways to the lives of others?  Will this next action of mine contribute to the peace and hope of the world, or the anger and frustration?

If I want to have a sense of peace on my deathbed (assuming I die in bed!), then I need to be sure that I do things that will bring me–and others–peace.  Starting or continuing arguments will never do that, nor will gossiping or spreading rumors.  Encouraging others and giving them praise, on the other hand, will.

If I want to have no regrets when I’m ready to pass on, then I need to take risks and do things that I dream of doing.  I can’t live safely inside of an artificial shell that is supposed to protect me–that’s the kind of protection that harms me more than it helps me.  Risk is a major ingredient of a fulfilling life, and the lack of risk gives us a life with no seasoning at all–just blandness and boring tastes.

I was reminded today that death will come.  If I keep that fact in mind, I can live my life so that it won’t really matter when it does–I’ll be ready to move on and willing to let go of a life that I’ve lived fully, rather than kicking and scratching to hold on to it in order to get again the chances to do so many of the things that I didn’t do when I had the chances to do them in the first place.  Which way would you prefer to go?

Death twitches my ear.
“Live,” he says, “I am coming.”


24 April 2012

Mother to Son

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor--
But all the time
I'se been a-climbing on,
And reachin' landin's
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you find it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now--
For I'se still goin' honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Langston Hughes

23 April 2012

When I Have Time

I just had a conversation with a friend of mine who wants to do something very special.  He wants to do a lot of traveling with his wife, but the demands of work and home ownership keep him from doing what he really wants to do.  "I don't have time right now," he says.  "We'll start traveling when I have time."

My wife was there during the conversation.  On the way home, she said, "He reminds me of my grandfather.  He and my grandmother were always planning to travel as soon as he retired.  They were going to buy a motor home and take off and see the country during their retirement years.  He died when he was 61, though, before he had a chance to retire.  So they never got a chance to do any traveling together."

Not everyone wants to travel, of course, but the lesson here is important to all of us.  None of us know for sure just how much time we have on this planet, so if there's a dream that you want to go for, then what are you waiting for?  We're not put on this planet simply to wish that we could be doing something else other than what we're doing--we're put on a planet full of potential and possibility and opportunity.  Our limitations are our own, based on beliefs that we develop on our own.  "I own the house, so I can't leave it."  "I have to have money in the bank, so I have to keep working."  All of these beliefs may be fine for some people, but are they really fine for everyone?  Do they really serve everyone extremely well?  If they keep us from living our dreams and following our hearts, then I suppose the answer must be "no."  And of course, if your dream is to own a home and have consistency in your life, then there's no problem with doing that!

I never put anything off until I have time.  Time is something that none of us are guaranteed, and assuming that we're going to have plenty of it is simply a method of fooling ourselves, of making ourselves feel better about putting off what we really, truly want to do with our lives.  That won't always turn out well--just ask my wife's grandparents.

22 April 2012

A Nice Thought

We may dream of a time when we can lie down beneath the night sky and do nothing but be present in its vastness with total attention. But our dreams are too often sabotaged by the busyness generated by anxiety. We seek evidence of our worth through what we produce, become, and surround ourselves with. Boredom has come to be regarded as one of our greatest enemies and we flee from it by generating endless complexity and busyness. Boredom may be no more than a surrender of sensitivity, yet, rather than turning our hearts and minds to rediscover that lost sensitivity, we thirst for even more exciting experiences, drama, and intensity. . . When alienated from inner vitality we mistake intensity for wakefulness.       -Christina Feldman

20 April 2012

Imagine this:  there is a great need to be filled, so everyone in the country is asked to contribute one dime to the cause.  One by one, all 300 million people in the United States line up to toss a dime into the pile, and everyone contributes within a few days.  Can you imagine the size of that pile?  Just from the seemingly insignificant contribution of ten cents each, the people of this country would raise $30 million.

If this ever were to happen, we'd have a huge pile of dimes to serve as visual evidence of people's generosity.  And their generosity certainly wasn't excessive--after all, giving a dime certainly didn't put anyone out.

Now think of our contributions to the peace and love and kindness of the world.  Imagine these qualities as being physical, perhaps in the form of a beautiful green cloud in the sky.  This cloud grows the tiniest of bits every time we give something of ourselves to someone else, every time we lift someone else up with encouragement or a word of thanks.  The cloud diminishes each time we act in selfishness and hurt someone else.

If we had the visual confirmation of our actions, wouldn't it be much easier to make kindness and love the most important part of our lives?  Wouldn't we be sure to treat others very well if we actually saw results of our own actions?  We may not have a cloud that grows and shrinks depending on our actions, but we do have a spirit, and we do know how that spirit feels.  It can be invigorated or it can be down in the dumps without any real energy, and much of its feelings have to do with our actions.  Imagine it as a cloud that others can see, that reflects what we give to the world.  Wouldn't you want it to grow and be beautiful as a reflection of the way that you treat the people in this world?

19 April 2012

The Art of Living Each Day

Each day is a lifetime in miniature. 

To awaken each morning is to be born again, to fall asleep at night is to die to the day.

In between waking and sleeping are the golden hours of the day. 

What we cannot do for a lifetime we can do for a daytime.

"Anyone," wrote Robert Louis Stevenson, "can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down." 

Anyone can hold his temper for a day and guard the words he speaks. 

Anyone can carry his burden heroically for one day. 

Anyone can strive to be happy for a day and to spread happiness around. 

Anyone can radiate love for a day. 

Anyone can rise above fear for a day and meet each new situation with courage. 

Anyone can be kind and thoughtful and considerate for a day. 

Anyone can endeavor to learn something new each day and mark some growth.

Sir William Osler pointed out that just as ships are kept afloat by airtight compartments, living in daytight compartments will help us to avoid wrecking our lives.  Osler gives us a magic word with which to face the day:  Equanimity.

The supreme art of living is to strive to live each day well.

When we fail and fall short, let us forgive ourselves and consider the words of Emerson:  "Finish every day and be done with it.  You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day; you will begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered by your old nonsense."

Live a day at a time and remember that tomorrow is another today.

~Wilferd A. Peterson

18 April 2012

I Wish You

I wish you plenty of obstacles in your road, for obstacles help us to learn more than anything else.  May the obstacles never be too overwhelming for you, and may you always find the strength to deal with them inside yourself.  As the saying goes, "Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors," and we would do well to learn more life skills in order to improve our own lives and to be able to help others to overcome some of the obstacles that they encounter.

I wish you the ability to recognize obstacles for what they are:  either impenetrable barriers that should cause us to choose another path, or hindrances that can be overcome with patience and perseverance.  Too often, people confuse the two and end up wasting time, energy, and spirit trying to attain something that truly is unattainable, or giving up at the first sign of resistance that they encounter in their paths.  But may you not be too quick to jump to a judgment as to which is which--very often, things that we think at the outset are one, end up being the other.

I wish you plenty of company and companionship with people who will be able to help you to overcome the obstacles in your way, for only through accepting help from others can we learn truly to help others.  The giving heart must be able and willing to take, and if we don't allow others the chance to help us, we're robbing them of the opportunity to grow and to change through giving.  We're taking away from them the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from having helped a fellow human being in need.  May you never allow pride to keep you from letting others give you help, no matter how slight the help may be.

17 April 2012

The Arrow and the Song

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly as it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

16 April 2012

Let There Be Light

I don’t think that most of us really consider the importance of this statement.  After all, light is just there, something to be taken for granted, something that we’ve all had, all of our lives, unless we don’t have the gift of sight.  But even the sightless have much to be grateful for in light, for light is the very essence of all that we are–virtually everything that we eat, for example, begins as light making its way to the earth from the sun.  Without that light, we would have no nutrients at all to keep us alive.

But light gives us so much more.  Colors are simply the way that light reflects on different kinds of surfaces, and colors are one of the most important elements of our lives.  They can cheer us up when we’re down, and they can mellow us out when we’re feeling stressed.  Artists use them to create their artwork, and if it weren’t for the light that hits that work, it would mean nothing to any of us.

Light gives us warmth, too.  Not so much in the very far north in the middle of winter, but it does bring higher temperatures that make the cold less intense.   It allows us to function and to go places through difficult terrains, for it’s the light that helps us to see where we’re going.  We’ve even learned how to make light through fire and through the use of electricity, and that allows us to do things during times when previously we wouldn’t have been able to do anything at all.

If there’s something in this world that we all share an incredible debt to, then it’s light.  Without light, none of us would even be alive, and none of us would have the chances to accomplish things with our lives.  “Let there be light,” God said, and one of the most important prerequisites to life was created.  I wish sometimes that we all could appreciate it just a bit more than we do, for then we might see the common thread that light contributes to all of our lives, all the time.

14 April 2012

A Few Instructions for Life

When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

Never take action when you're angry.

Never underestimate the power of forgiveness.

Notice those that love you, and return the gift.

Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.

Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.

Perform a daily random act of kindness.

Pray.  There's immeasurable power in it.

Read between the lines.

Read more books and watch less TV.

Say "bless you" when you hear someone sneeze.

Share your knowledge.  It's a way to achieve immortality.

Smile when picking up the phone.  The caller will hear it in your voice.

Solve your problems rather than just worry about them.

Spend some time alone.

Trust in God but lock your car.

Spend some time with your children.

12 April 2012

Remember that today is all we have

Remember today that you are alive.
Sometimes we tend to forget.
You have a purpose that is all your own.
No one else is you.
You have dreams and hopes and desires.
Listen to your heart for a while.

Remember today all the blessings you have.
There's beauty in every direction you look.
Enjoy the abundance that is already yours.
The world is a wonderful place and you're here.

Remember today that you get what you give.
Your world is a mirror of your inner self.
Love will be yours when you give it away.

Remember today that life is creation.
As long as you live you can always contribute
your own special voice.
Remember today is a special time.
Make the best of it while you can.

11 April 2012


Are you too busy?  Have you ever sat down and considered just what it means to be too busy?  If you haven't, then there's a good chance that you are too busy, that your activities and work in your life are causing you to neglect other areas of who you are that are--or that should be--extremely important to you.

Many people buy into the notion that the best way for us to live our lives is to be as busy as possible, to squeeze in as many activities and projects as we possibly can squeeze into what we consider to be our schedules.  We stop saying "no" to anything, and we stop doing things that we consider to be "fun"--after all, if it's just recreation then we aren't really accomplishing anything, are we?

Perhaps this is a desire to "stockpile" accomplishments.  Perhaps it's a holdover of our desire to pad our resumes by accumulating as much experience as possible in as many different fields as possible.  No matter what the origins of this tendency, though, the simple fact is that it tends to be a pretty destructive habit to be in.

I know people who are so busy that they never have time to spend with their friends.  When someone asks them to get together for a cup of coffee, for example, they have to check their appointment book--just to spend an hour with a friend!  In cases of emergency, they're often at a loss as to what to do, for their time is so filled with tasks that they can't decide which tasks can be let go and which ones need to be followed through on.

We also tend to be a culture that values "multi-tasking," or taking on several jobs at once in an effort to get as much done as we possibly can.  This tendency keeps us even busier than we would be if we took on one task at a time, and it also keeps us from putting our full attention on any one task.  The end result is that the tasks we take on simultaneously never receive our undivided attention, and the quality of the finished tasks never can equal the quality of a finished task on which we focus our attention.

And what do people get for being over-busy?  There are many results, such as ulcers, indigestion, lack of exercise, lack of time with friends and family, and many medical problems related with stress and the lack of relaxation, like skin problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.

Being busy--or over-busy--is usually a question of decisions.  We decide which tasks we'll take on and which deadlines we accept.  Sometimes our motivation seems so strong that we feel pushed into a decision, such as the possibility of losing a job, but the bottom line is that what we do and when we do it is still our decision.  Perhaps removing ourselves from a job that takes too much from us is the better decision for us in the long run, and perhaps setting some limits by saying no to someone can be an extremely important action.

Busyness is something that keeps us away from quiet time, from meditation, from friends and family, from reading, from relaxation.  And these are the things that help us to re-create ourselves, to rejuvenate ourselves, and to grow and develop as human beings.  Making the decision to step away from being busy can help us in many different ways, some of which are completely unimaginable to us while we're still busy, while we're still so scattered in our thoughts that we can't focus on anything else but the immediate task at hand.  We owe it to ourselves to take care of ourselves, and being perpetually busy is not healthy or wise for the vast majority of us.

10 April 2012

A Nice Thought about Love

I wish there were a book I could read each day to tell me exactly what to do to live consciously from my heart and soul. But part of the mystery and magic, part of the reason I'm here, is to try to stumble through and hear what the soul has to say about what it needs at each moment--whether it is to work through an emotional block, discover what the next lesson is, meet the next soul mate (my children are soul mates; my best friends are soul mates), or finish my business with the one I'm with now. Ultimately, for most of us, the journey comes down to the same issue:  learning to love freely.  First ourselves, then other people.

Melody Beattie

from today's e-zine at http:/livinglifefully.com/zine.htm

09 April 2012


I once was on a trip with a group of high school students, and we had to go through a couple of airports to get where we are.  While we were going through them, we had to change levels a few times, as always happens in airports.  I was kind of surprised to hear just how big of a deal the students made of the fact that whenever I came to a choice between escalators and stairs, I took stairs.  To me, it's an obvious choice--when faced with a decision between standing somewhere and being carried to another level and being able to exercise my body and use the muscles, I'm always going to choose the latter unless I'm extremely tired or hurt.

The human body wasn't created to be at rest.  It wasn't created not to be used.  Our muscles and circulatory systems and respiratory systems thrive when they're used regularly, and we can keep our bodies in good shape only by using them regularly.  Personally, I take every chance I can get to exercise my body.  I park further away from stores so that I can walk across the parking lot, I take stairs instead of escalators and elevators, I carry my luggage instead of rolling it when it's not too heavy, and I do other such things when time and circumstances allow.

I don't believe that every labor-saving device that's out there is good for us.  I don't believe that it's in our best interest to take advantage of every device that does things for us, such as walking.  If we really want to live fully, we need to make sure that our bodies are in good working order.  And the only way that we can keep them in good working order is by using them as much as we can in ways that are as healthy as possible.

That doesn't mean that anyone who takes an escalator is lazy or unmotivated or anything like that; what seems to be the case is that so few of us make conscious decisions based on what will be best for this body that's carrying us through this life--and if we start making decisions based on what's best for us, then we can start to enjoy healthier bodies that take us through life much more easily and effectively.  And if we have fewer problems with our bodies, then we can focus on other things that are important in life, like helping others, spreading love and kindness, and being the people we simply were meant to be.

08 April 2012

A Nice Thought

When I found I no longer had the stamina to work long hours clearing the fallen limbs in the woods around my house, I began to bring a lawn chair and a thermos with me.   I still work in the woods, but stop frequently to sit and have a cup of tea.  I’ve identified birds I didn’t know lived here and evidence that a bobcat shares the property.  Since I’ve slowed down some, I see things I never saw before and find that quiet solitude is not lonely but nurturing, allowing my heart to open to the signs and lessons of nature that surround me.

Sallirae Henderson

07 April 2012


Samuel Ullman

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease.  This often exists in a man of sixty more than a body of twenty.  Nobody grows old merely by a number of years.  We grow old by deserting our ideals.Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.  Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like 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 men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.        

06 April 2012

What Do We Allow Others to Do to Us?

It really is quite amazing sometimes to think about just how much influence we allow other people to have over us.  If someone criticizes us, we just may take it personally and avoid doing the activity we got criticized for in the future.  If someone makes a nasty comment about the sweater we're wearing, we may decide not to wear that sweater at all, ever again.  And all that because we so often pay a lot of attention to what other people say and do, while neglecting our own thoughts and ideas.

Perhaps we need to be a bit stronger in our reactions to such things.  Instead of passively accepting things like criticism, perhaps we could challenge the people who criticize us.  I do it all the time.  When someone criticizes me, I usually ask them "Just what do you mean?," or "Why do you say that?"  Usually I get a pretty lame answer, and that gives me a chance to challenge them further.  "Why is it important to you what kind of sweater I wear?" I might ask, or "What criteria are you using to judge the job I did?"  Most people who criticize others are pretty shallow thinkers, and they probably haven't thought through their criticism on more than a very superficial level, so questions like that tend to expose the truth--that their criticism is misplaced and unjustified, designed more to get under your skin than to be constructive.  And if that's their goal, why should we pay attention to them?

If we allow others to put us down, then guess what?  We stay down.  But if we empower ourselves to challenge their misguided criticisms and insults, then we can live our lives freely, without worrying about what others think of us.  For when we're at peace with ourselves, of course, we know that what others think simply doesn't matter, and that we can live our lives from our hearts with no fear of being brought down by the uncaring words and actions of others.

Shrug off the restraints that you have allowed others to place upon you.  You are limitless.  There is nothing you cannot achieve.  There is no sadness in life that cannot be reversed.


04 April 2012

Thoughts on Today from Bernie Siegel

How many of us get up in the morning feeling truly grateful for the day?  Most of us wish we could turn the clock back and keep sleeping.  The truth is, when you are happy to wake up and are grateful for the day, your life does change.
Each new day is an opportunity to pray for your loved ones and to act in a loving manner towards them.  I start out by saying my prayer of thanks and asking for guidance and help from all available resources.  I find I am always grateful for the new day, no matter how hard it is or will be, because I know I am not ready for my days to end.  After all, the alternative to waking up and facing another difficult day is death.  For all I know, after death the unenlightened may be sent back to wake up to the glory of the new day and its opportunities.
I want to experience more days and the difficulties and opportunities they will bring.  I want the chance to test myself.  Maybe this makes me a glutton for punishment, but if I can help one living thing get through the day and not hurt anyone else in the process, I go to sleep thankful for the time I have been given and eager to awaken to tomorrow.

03 April 2012


There is a definite need for conformity in any society. I conform to social norms every time that I get in my car and drive on the correct side of the road, obeying the speed limits and using my turn signals. I conform when I pay the taxes that our government uses to provide services that benefit me and other members of my community, be it on the city, state, or national level. I conform when I wear clothing outside, when I pay my utility bill, when I keep my yard neat, when I say "Excuse me" when I pass in front of another person.

But there are also many ways in which I don't conform. My shoelaces never match, and they're never the same ones that came in the box with the shoes. I don't wear suits and ties, for I find them constricting and uncomfortable. I don't buy the latest fashions, and I don't buy books or see movies or watch television shows just because they're popular. I don't adopt patterns of speech just because everyone around me talks a certain way, and I have a car that's functional and comfortable and inexpensive, not impressive.

Conformity at its root is not a negative thing. Our conformity helps others to be able to depend upon us, which is a great gift to give them. When our actions are somewhat predictable, others can feel more at ease around us. This type of conformity is the result of conscious decisions on our part, decisions that we will be helpful, contributing members of our communities.

On the other hand, there is what I call "blind conformity," and that's the type of conforming that is not the result of any thought or desire for the greater good. This is the type of conformity that causes us to make decisions based on what we think other people will think of us. We buy certain brand names because the people we want to impress will be impressed with our taste if we do. We do certain things because we believe that we're doing what we're "supposed" to do based on the ideas and reactions of other people. We engage in a great deal of destructive behavior, be it smoking, drinking, casual sex, drug use, vandalism, or any of a number of such behaviors because we want others to approve of us.

The simple fact is, though, that if others approve of us only because of our willingness to conform to what they think is right or proper, then those people very obviously aren't worth it. Their approval should mean nothing to us if it's conditional, based upon only our conformity.

Conformity is strongest when we're in our teens and trying to fit into our own place in the world. But it's not limited to the teen years, and almost all of us continue to make blind decisions based upon what we believe others will think of us. The man in debt who pays $40,000 for a new car or the woman who has a closet full of expensive dresses or shoes that she almost never wears, but which she bought because she knows that her friends or associates approve of the brand names are deciding to buy not based upon realistic criteria, but upon a need to conform.

They need to be seen being "right." Doing the "right" thing, buying the "right" car or clothes.

But we don't need to be right. There are tons of people out there who will accept us just as we are in just what we're wearing.

When we conform blindly, we sacrifice our individual authenticity, our unique personalities. We don't allow people to know us as we are, but as we think they want us to be. We'll never be doing more than playing a role, though, as if we were actors in a play or a movie.

Breaking away from conformity takes courage, and it takes complete honesty at the moment of making a decision. We must be honest with ourselves and ask "Am I doing or buying this because I want to, or because I think others will approve of me if I do?" And then we must be brutally honest with the answer, for only then can we start to make decisions based upon who we truly are and what we truly want and like.


02 April 2012

A Lesson in Patience

Nikos Kazantzakis

I remembered one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree, just as the butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out.  I waited a while, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient.  I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it.  I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life.  The case opened, the butterfly started slowly crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them.

Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath.  In vain.  It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun.  Now it was too late.  My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time.  It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.

That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience.  For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature.  We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.

from Zorba the Greek

01 April 2012

The Value of the Personal

I just heard of someone who was rejected as a potential contributor to a website because his writing used the personal “I,” and wasn’t objective enough.  This website wants all of its writing to be completely objective, with no personal experience at all–which is another way of saying that it wants the writing to be dry and personality-free.  I’ve been teaching writing at the college level for over fifteen years now, and I know from experience that while there is a certain value in the ability to write completely objectively, that type of writing is useful only when there’s a great need to get facts completely accurate.  And the idea of considering the use of the personal “I” to be poor writing is simply hogwash, for what do any of us really have to share with others that can help them other than our personal experiences?

People can learn from my failures, from your successes, from her trials and errors.  When I read writing that shows insight and intuition and passion, that writing strikes me very deeply, and it affects me on the level of my humanity.  When I read writing that focuses solely on facts and figures and objectivity, it affects me only on the level of my intellect, and that really isn’t very deep at all.  It certainly doesn’t touch me as a human being who’s sharing this world with many other human beings.

Of course, some people share too much.  But far too many people don’t share enough to allow us to see their humanity, their intellect, their personality.  Because they’ve been told so much not to use “I” in their writing, they think that doing so somehow is poor writing.  From experience I know that that’s garbage–writing touches me deeply when someone is sharing their own experiences, hopes, dreams, and passions.

You have a lot of valuable experience inside of you.  Perhaps it’s time for you to start sharing it with others.  Perhaps it’s time for you to trust that your experience is interesting and valuable, and when you do so you just may find that other people find solace and comfort when they realize that they share with you many of the same thoughts, feelings, hopes, frustrations–you name it.  When you share with others, you help to give them a sense of validation for their feelings, and you’re helping them in ways that you probably couldn’t even imagine.