27 August 2012

Paying attention to my spirit

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

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

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

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

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

16 August 2012

TV News and Horror Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 August 2012

The Mind and Regression

by Leonard Jacobson

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

12 August 2012

Fear (from our Obstacles page)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 August 2012

My Meditation

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

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

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

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

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

Deepak Chopra

06 August 2012

Long-term Vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

02 August 2012

A Poem

The Sweetest Lives
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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

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

01 August 2012

You Are a Beautiful Person

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest is up to you.

tom walsh