24 June 2012

Observing Me

In my recent readings I've become aware of another "me," a part of myself that is constantly observing myself, that is somehow distinct from the person who interacts with the other people in my life.  There's a deeper side to me, an inner self that is both aware of being part of what I call my life and aware of something more, something much more vast and expansive than this somewhat simple world in which we live.

I've always been aware of this other side of myself, but no always on a conscious level, it seems.  I've always known that part of me that says "Don't do that!" when I'm about to make a mistake, the part that notices the sunset first and feels the peace it brings before I even stop to look closely at it.  Deepak Chopra puts it this way:  "As you read this page, turn your attention to the one who is doing the reading. . . . you will immediately sense an awareness that is alert, awake, uninvolved, silent, yet intensely alive. . . . you have interrupted the act of observation to catch a glimpse of the observer."

Other writers also describe this self as an "observer," or the part of ourselves that witnesses our actions.  Our actions usually are the result of training or conditioning that we've received from other people, and they thus reflect the influence of others.  Or they are reactions to other people, which also reflect the actions or words of other people.  But there's a part of us that tries to keep us from saying something we'll regret later--the part that wants to keep peace and that sees the wiser course of action.  If someone calls you a horrible name and you're just about to say something back that probably isn't appropriate, isn't there a part of you that knows that it's not the right thing to do?  In my experience, though, I often ignore that part of me because saying something back "feels" good--probably to my ego, which definitely isn't an ally of my higher self.  That other part has been subjugated, put down, not listened to.

One of my goals in life now that I'm growing more aware of this part of me on a conscious level is to get to know it better and to trust it more.  I hope to let it guide me more than I let my ego guide me, because so far me ego hasn't done me much good at all.  And if I succeed in doing so, then I know that I'm going to see much in life that I would have missed had I continued to push this part of myself down because it was something that I didn't really know, and which thus scared me more than just a bit.

22 June 2012

When We Share

The impossible becomes possible.

When we share laughter, there's twice the fun;
When we share success, we've surpassed what we've done.

When we share problems, there's half the pain;
When we share tears, a rainbow follows rain.

When we share dreams, they become more real;
When we share secrets, it's our hearts we reveal.

If we share a smile, that's when our love shows;
If we share a hug, that's when our love grows.

If we share with someone on whom we depend,
That person is always family or friend.

And what draws us closer and makes us all care,
Is not what we have, but the things that we share.

Author Unknown

21 June 2012

The Way Things Are

How many people ever truly realize that there's absolutely no way to change the way things are?  No matter how hard we may try, the way things are is the way things are, and we can do nothing about that.  The only way that we'll ever find peace in our lives and in our hearts is to recognize and accept that things are the way they are, and there's nothing we can do about that.

Now, that's not to say that we can't have a strong effect on the way things are going to be.  And if we don't like the way things are, then we can do our best to make sure that things won't be the same way two minutes from now, or two days, or two years.  We always can have an effect on the way that things are going to be in the future, and if we think that changes are in everyone's best interest, then let's do our best to make changes.  Just because things are the way they are doesn't mean that we have to allow them to continue to be that way.

But we're only putting ourselves in a position to feel a lot of frustration and annoyance if we worry too much about the way things are.  We're only setting ourselves up for disappointment if we wish that things were different.  We may want to see change, but change comes with time, not with wishing.  If we want to be the instrument of change then we certainly can be so, but the change isn't going to be immediate.

It probably isn't a good idea if we don't like the way things are to do nothing about it.  But we have to keep in mind that causing things to be a certain way two hours from now doesn't do anything to change the way things are at this moment.  With every change we see or cause, we see a new way that things are.  And it's worth avoiding the mental anguish of wishing they were some other way because there simply is no way to change the way things are.  So let's live with it, and enjoy it.

19 June 2012

Edmund Pollard

Edgar Lee Masters

I would I had thrust my hands of flesh
Into the disk-flowers bee-infested,
Into the mirror-like core of fire
Of the light of life, the sun of delight.
For what are anthers worth or petals
Or halo-rays? Mockeries, shadows
Of the heart of the flower, the central flame!
All is yours, young passer-by;
Enter the banquet room with the thought;
Don't sidle in as if you were doubtful
Whether you're welcome--the feast is yours!
Nor take but a little, refusing more
With a bashful "Thank you," when you're hungry.
Is your soul alive? Then let it feed!
Leave no balconies where you can climb;
Nor milk-white bosoms where you can rest;
Nor golden heads with pillows to share;
Nor wine cups while the wine is sweet;
Nor ecstasies of body or soul,
You will die, no doubt, but die while living
In depths of azure, rapt and mated,
Kissing the queen-bee, Life!

from Spoon River Anthology

18 June 2012

Hard Times, New Habits

I read a story in the paper recently about a man who has moved into a smaller apartment nearer to his job because of the current recession.  He now walks to work most of the time, and he doesn't have nearly as many possessions as he used to.  He seems pretty happy, too, which isn't a surprise because this recession is causing him to do many things that many people say lead to happiness--even if he isn't following a pre-planned program.

One of the most common paths to happiness is letting go of possessions.  When we let our possession rule our lives, then we can't reach a point at which we're free from them.  And possessions can take us over and rule us when we place too much importance on them and their maintenance.  When my wife and I spent a year living in an RV (thrice so far!), we had one of the best years of our lives--we had almost no possessions at all, and it was great.

He's also walking or biking to work, which gives him the chance to improve his health on a regular basis.  He's not tied to his car, and he's not spending much of his money on fuel for that car, giving him much more financial independence.  He probably also is noticing more about the world around him, and the nature that surrounds him as he sees the differences in air temperature, types of weather, types of wind, and all the things that affect him much more now that he's out in the fresh air much more often.

He's also learning to be satisfied with less--less space, fewer possessions that will fit in that space, and so on.  After all, it's not what we have or where we are that determines our happiness, but whether or not we're able to find satisfaction with what we have or where we are.

I would in no way say that this current (or recent, depending on your situation) recession is a blessing, especially considering the ways that it was brought about by people who cared more about money and profit than they cared about ethics and honesty.  But it is what it is, and we can do ourselves a great favor by looking for the positive in anything that is, for there most definitely is positive in there.  It may be hard to find and it may not be obvious today, but it is there.  What good can come from difficult times?  Well, it changes for each of us, and we all have to do our own looking, our own reflecting, and our own finding.

17 June 2012

Nice thoughts on youth

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.

16 June 2012


tom walsh

what shall i tell a child if she asks me what is life?
will i recount the pain and hurt and focus on the strife?
or shall i paint a picture of the beauty that is found
in sailing ships and chocolate chips and bugs beneath the ground?

i'd like to think i'd give her hope of all that is to come
but if she reads some poems of mine, her hope shall be undone
i cannot bear to think that i may dim a child's eyes
present to her a world of just confusion, pain, and lies

for if i am to tell her early on of mountain streams
and help her build the pillars that will hold up all her dreams
i'd paint the birds that fill the trees with beauty and with song
a sanctuary in her mind to help when thing go wrong

and in that place in her mind's eye the flowers would grow free
in meadows under blue skies by the mighty loving sea
she's have a place for comfort, have a place to be alone
amidst tomorrow's challenges, no matter how she's grown

i pray to learn my lessons from the children whom i meet
i dream of sowing sunshine on a crowded city street
i pray my words shall never hurt the child here inside
i pray that never shall i fear the child in me has died

i must reject some words of mine if i'm to feel i'm free
embracing hope, i must hold on to how good life can be
that i may treat the children with respect that they deserve
for i shan't live for self alone--i give my life to serve

15 June 2012

What Does (S)he Need?

There's a question that I've begun to ask myself whenever I'm in a one-on-one situation with another person.  It's a pretty simple question, really--what does this person need?

You see, my role in any interaction is up to me.  Usually we just follow along in a simple role without giving it much thought.  If someone starts talking to us, we just start talking back, and our role is just as a participant in a conversation.  But often we have the opportunity to be something different--something more, even--if we take the time and make the effort to try to assess the situation.

For example, someone may come to me and ask for advice.  On the surface, that's fine, and I may start giving advice.  But if I ask myself, what does she really need?, I may come up with a different response.  I may realize that she doesn't really want advice, but just wants someone to talk to so that she can make up her own mind.  In that case, I can serve her best by listening closely, and maybe asking a few well-times questions, such as "What do you think would be best to do?"  Or I may see that the person is feeling a bit lost, and could use a little encouragement.  So rather than responding to his comment about a rough day by talking about just how rough my own day has been, I can reply by offering that encouragement, sincerely, from the heart.  The encouragement will go a lot further than just playing the one-upmanship game.

Someone who just injured himself may be afraid, and may need to talk about the injury and his fears rather than hearing about how I hurt myself in a similar way.  Someone who's having relationship problems may need to be directed to think about how his or her partner feels rather than being given advice on how relationships work, or how to fix them.  If I truly and sincerely ask myself, "what does this person need?," then I can serve that person in the best way that I know how.  Just falling into a casual conversation usually isn't going to lead to the best of outcomes for the other person, so it's up to me to try to give all that I can to anyone who needs it--and most people need something from us at least some of the time.

13 June 2012

It's All in How We See It

It's the end of the school year, and the end of the year always reminds me of a senior prank at one of my schools.  Over the long weekend some students got into almost all of our classrooms and put all the desks up on the roof.  When we got to school on Monday morning, our classrooms were empty of desks, and when the students showed up there was nowhere to sit except on the floor.  When all is said and done, it was a pretty good prank to pull, though the amount of work to fix it will be much more than anyone really thought of before they actually did what they did.

I witnessed two important lessons in the couple of days after we got back to school.  First of all, I noticed that some teachers were miserable because of the lack of chairs.  Nothing felt right to them, for the status quo had been changed.  Some of them lost the important feeling of being in control and being able to manage their own space and their own classes.  Some of them were angry and upset for the whole two days, and their anger didn't help anything, much less themselves.  Students told me that some teachers were completely unable to deal with the lack of desks, saying that they couldn't teach their classes at all if there were no desks.  Other teachers, though, went with the flow.  No chairs or desks?  No problem.  We'll just work on the floor, and life will go on.  Their situation hasn't changed their moods or their perspectives, and they'll make do with what they have.

The other lesson that I saw had to do with the students.  When they got to school on Tuesday, they thought that the prank was one of the coolest things they'd ever seen.  I can't tell you how many times I heard the phrase, "This is awesome!"  But as time went on, the thrill wore off.  By the end of the second day of sitting on the floor (we didn't have the available people to spend as much time as would be necessary to take the desks down), many were complaining loudly and wishing that the desks were back.  I think they learned that appearances can be deceiving, and that what at first looks pretty cool can turn out to be quite a drag.  And I hope that what the pranksters learned is that what seems like a fun thing to do is often going to affect many, many people in ways that you really can't predict, so maybe it would be better to more closely consider any pranks that you want to do when you have the chance.

When all is said and done, it was a very minor occurrence in the world.  But even in such trivial events, there are lessons to be learned, if we only do our best to notice them.  They are there, if we open our eyes to them!

12 June 2012

My Symphony

To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury;
and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable;
and wealthy, not rich;
to study hard, think quietly,
talk gently,
act frankly;
to listen to stars and birds,
to babes and sages, with open heart;
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely,
await occasion, hurry never;
in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and
unconscious grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.

William Henry Channing

11 June 2012


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

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

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

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

09 June 2012

What Has Passed, Is Gone! by Robert Taylor

How many of us are guilty of living in the past?  Some spend their whole lives trying to live in the past and others only brief moments.  Our lives are right now, right this moment.

We should look to the past only to learn from the mistakes we have made and the lessons we have learned.  We then apply this knowledge to the present (present has also been defined as a gift).

We may also look briefly to the past in consideration of fond memories and pleasant occurrences.  These brace us to face some of the unpleasantries we often face.  This should only be used as a tool to help us get past current difficulties, and not as an anchor which keeps us eternally in the past.

We may consider life as a constantly flowing river.  The waters of that river never pass the same spot twice.  They are always passing something new, and never return to that which they have already passed.

Living in the past is comparable to living in a sealed pond, where there is no influx of fresh waters.  The pond becomes stagnant and covered with scum.  Our lives are the same when we insist on living in the past.

We need a constant inflow of new ideas and circumstances to stay fresh and continue our growth.  Even thought some of these new ideas and circumstances my prove painful, they are essential in our development. When we cease to grow and change, we cease to live life to the fullest.

And...Who wants to be stagnant?

08 June 2012

Is Love an Art?

(Excerpted from chapter one of The Art of Loving)
Erich Fromm

Is love an art?  Then it requires knowledge and effort.  Or is love a pleasant sensation, which to experience is a matter of chance, something that one "falls into" if one is lucky?  This little book is based on the former premise, while undoubtedly the majority of people today believe in the latter.

Not that people think that love is not important.  They are starved for it; they watch endless numbers of films about happy and unhappy love stories, they listen to hundreds of trashy songs about love -- yet hardly anyone thinks that there is anything that needs to be learned about love.

This particular attitude is based in several premises which either singly or combined tend to uphold it.  Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one's capacity to love.  Hence the problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable.  In pursuit of this aim they follow several paths.  One, which is especially used by men, is to be successful, to be as powerful and rich as the social margin of one's position permits.  Another, especially used by women, is to make oneself attractive, by cultivating one's body, dress, etc.  Other ways of making oneself attractive, used by both men and women, are to develop pleasant manners, interesting conversation, to be helpful, modest, inoffensive. . . . what most people in our culture mean by being lovable is essentially a mixture between being popular and having sex appeal.

A second premise behind the attitude that there is nothing to be learned about love is the assumption that the problem of love is the problem of an object, not the problem of a faculty.  People think that to love is simple, but that to find the right object to love -- or to be loved by -- is difficult. . . . to a vast extent people are in search of "romantic love," of the personal experience of love which then should lead to marriage.  This concept greatly enhances the importance of the object as against the importance of the function.

The third error leading to the assumption that there is nothing to be learned about love lies in the confusion between the initial experience of "falling" in love, and the permanent state of being in love, or as we might better say, of "standing" in love. . . . people take the intensity of their infatuation, the being "crazy" about each other, for proof of the intensity of their love, while it may only prove the degree of their preceding loneliness.

This attitude -- that nothing is easier than to love -- has continued to be the prevalent idea about love in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love.  if this were the case with any other activity, people would be eager to know the reasons for the failure, and to learn how one could do better -- or they would give up the activity.  Since the latter is impossible in the case of love, there seems to be only one adequate way to overcome the failure of love -- to examine the reasons for this failure, and to proceed to study the meaning of love.

The first step is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.

Could it be that only those things are considered worthy of being learned with which one can earn money or prestige, and that love, which "only" profits the soul, but is profitless in the modern sense, is a luxury we have no right to spend much energy on?


07 June 2012

A Nice Thought from Ray Bradbury

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.

It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.

Ray Bradbury
(Rest in Peace, Ray!)

06 June 2012

Little Things

I hope always to be a person who is moved more by the little things than the big things.  I also hope to be a person who actually notices those little things so that I can be moved by them.  For life is made up of little things much more than big things--little things happen in our lives pretty constantly, while the big things tend to occur sporadically at most.

One of my colleagues offered me a piece of chocolate the other day.  It was just what I needed at the moment, and it tasted fantastic.  It was a very little thing that brightened my day and made me feel much better.  A student came into my room just to talk, and that was something that made me feel very good inside, especially since we had a nice conversation.  My wife put a little note inside my lunch, and that made me feel appreciated and loved.  The cashier at the supermarket yesterday was extremely friendly, kind, and cheerful, and my short conversation with her lifted my spirits on a day when they could use a bit of lifting.

Yesterday we had a terrific lightning storm.  This morning I saw a beautiful picture on the Internet.  When my wife and I went for a walk the other day, we saw beautiful, huge spiders as well as a snake, lizards, a magnificent hawk, and big yellow butterflies.  I heard a great song on the radio that I hadn't heard in years.  I saw a couple of little kids playing in a playground, having a blast.  I ran my hand over the flowers of a lavender bush and then held my hand to my nose--it was one of the best smells in the world, I'm sure.

All around me are little things; before me are seemingly insignificant moments that are just waiting for me to notice them, to love them, to appreciate them.  They are there all the time, and they occur all the time--but it's up to me to make the effort to notice them and to appreciate them.  Things like that don't just happen; they must be made to happen.  And if I do try hard to be aware of them and allow them to affect me in positive ways, then that effort shall enrich my life.

For most of life, nothing wonderful happens.  If you don't enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are you're not going to be very happy.  If someone bases his or her happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn't going to be happy much of the time.  If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.

Andy Rooney

05 June 2012

What Makes a Friend

author unknown

In kindergarten your idea of a good friend was the person who let you have the red crayon when all that was left was the ugly black one.

In first grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went to the bathroom with you and held your hand as you walked through the scary halls.

In second grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you stand up to the class bully.

In third grade your idea of a good friend was the person who shared their lunch with you when you forgot yours on the bus.

In fourth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who was willing to switch square dancing partners in gym so you wouldn't have to be stuck do-si-do-ing with Nasty Nicky or Smelly Susan.

In fifth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who saved a seat in the back of the bus for you.

In sixth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went up to Nick or Susan, your new crush, and asked them to dance with you, so that if they said no you wouldn't have to be embarrassed.

In seventh grade your idea of a good friend was the person who let you copy the social studies homework from the night before that you had forgotten about.

In eighth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you pack up your stuffed animals and old baseball cards so that your room would be a "high schooler's" room, but didn't laugh at you when you finished and broke out in tears.

In ninth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went with you to that "cool" party thrown by a senior so you wouldn't wind up being the only freshman there.

In tenth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who changed their schedule so you would have someone to sit with at lunch.

In eleventh grade your idea of a good friend was the person who gave you rides in their new car, convinced your parents that you shouldn't be grounded, consoled you when you broke up with Nick or Susan, and found you a date to the prom.

In twelfth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you pick out a college, assured you that you would get into that college, helped you deal with your parents, who were having a hard time adjusting to the idea of letting you go. . .

At graduation your idea of a good friend was the person who was crying on the inside but managed the biggest smile one could give as they congratulated you.

The summer after twelfth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you clean up the bottles from that party, helped you sneak out of the house when you just couldn't deal with your parents, assured you that now that you and Nick or you and Susan were back together, you could make it through anything, helped you pack up for college and just silently hugged you as you looked through blurry eyes at eighteen years of memories you were leaving behind, and finally on those last days of childhood, went out of their way to come over and send you off with a hug, a lot of memories, reassurance that you would make it in college as well as you had these past eighteen years, and, most important, sent you off to college knowing you were loved.

Now, your idea of a good friend is still the person who gives you the better of two choices, holds your hand when you're scared, helps you fight off those who try to take advantage of you, thinks of you at times when you are not there, reminds you of what you have forgotten, helps you put the past behind you but understands when you need to hold on to it a little longer, stays with you so you have confidence, goes out of their way to make time for you, helps you clear up your mistakes, helps you deal with pressure from others, smiles for you even when they are sad, helps you become a better person, and, most important, loves you!


04 June 2012

Somewhere Close

My wife and I finally had a day off together today, the first one in a long time.  Over the course of the last week, we talked a lot about what we were going to do with the day.  All sorts of things came to mind--day trips to mountains about four hours away, trips to visit friends a couple of hours away, even the possibility of taking an overnight trip somewhere.  Finally, though, we thought of going somewhere nearby, a spot in a National Forest that was supposed to be quite nice.  So that's what we did--we drove less than an hour to get up into the mountains close to where we live, and we parked the car and went for a nice two-hour walk.  We saw a few deer, hawks, and lots of other birds.  We didn't hear any cars or other noise pollution, and we were out in the wild, enjoying the fresh air and the silence and the sunshine and the clouds and the breeze.

Sometimes it seems that if we want to do something new and different, we look far away for our inspiration.  Believe it or not, though, there are many wonderful things to see nearby, close to where you live.  We just tend to think that since they are so close, we'll always have a chance to see them, so we put them off until some other time.  This is why so many New Yorkers die before they see the Statue of Liberty, and why so many people in Arizona and Southern California and Nevada never have seen the Grand Canyon.

But we don't have to go far away to have a good time or to see something exciting.  We can find those things close by--all we have to do is look for them, and make the decision to visit them as soon as we can.  If we don't do this, we risk missing out on some of the nicest things around, thinking that the better things to see have to be further away.  It's a lot like we treat ourselves, thinking that the best things are outside of ourselves, while we have some pretty marvelous characteristics and traits inside of ourselves all the while.

What's near you that's beautiful?  What's amazing that's located nearby that you haven't yet seen or experienced?  You can find those things and enjoy them immensely, but only if you look for them and then make the decision to visit them and make them a part of your life, a part of your memories, a part of all that you've experienced on this beautiful planet of ours.

02 June 2012

Some Nice Thoughts on Grace

Grace is something you can never get but only be given.  There's no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.

A good night sleep is grace and so are good dreams.  Most tears are grace.  The smell of rain is grace.  Somebody loving you is grace.  Have you ever tried to love somebody? . . .

The grace of God means something like:  Here is your life.  You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you.  Here is the world.  Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Don't be afraid.  I am with you.  Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe.  I love you.

There's only one catch.  Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it.

Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift, too.

Frederick Buechner


01 June 2012

Take a Walk!

Have you been wondering what you might do differently in your life to add something new?  Has there been something missing, but you can't figure out what it is?  I've found that when people start to feel that way, it's usually because they've grown so accustomed to their day-to-day lives that they've stopped seeing just how marvelous and astonishing the world they're in actually is.

I like to go for walks often to remind myself just how many cool things there are on this planet, and just how many of those things are available to me to experience.  When I walk in the woods, I have to pay attention as I walk to be sure that I don't walk by the tiny white flowers or the beautiful green grasshoppers or the moths that my wife and I call "hummingbird moths" because they hover and fly just like hummingbirds, and they feed at flowers just as hummingbirds do, with a long proboscis.  It's fascinating to watch the changes of light and to feel the changes in temperature and in the breezes as I walk, too.

But maybe forests aren't your thing.  They can be buggy and muggy and just plain uncomfortable sometimes, can't they?  Well, I also like walking in downtown areas to watch people, to experience what it's like to be surrounded by many people, feeling the energy and vibrations that all the people give off.  I like to look at their faces and wonder what kind of people they are, knowing that if I do try to describe them based on looks alone, I'll almost certainly be wrong.  But anywhere that gives me access to seeing and being with people is a great place to spend some time, truly observing others, not just seeing them.

And that may not interest you, either.  Maybe you're the type of person who likes a more controlled environment, be it a park or a mall.  Parks are usually well landscaped and well maintained, which tends to give us a sense of security, a feeling of comfort.  Malls, too, are strongly controlled environments that allow us to see some of the remarkable things that our fellow human beings are inventing, producing, and trying to sell to us, from new novels to novelty items to unique fashions.

No matter where you prefer to walk, of course, one of the most important things that you can be sure of is that you're contributing to your health, helping to strengthen your heart and tone your muscles.  And if you walk while fully aware, you're helping to remind yourself of just what a wonderful planet we live on, and just how cool your place on it and in it can be.

Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation,
a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind.
Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.

Gary Snyder