29 May 2016

When things are fine

Sometimes, things are fine just as they are. Sometimes we don't need to change anything to make things better, to get more out of life, to be happier. Sometimes we can go for weeks or months in a state that we really enjoy, and there's absolutely no reason to search out anything to make us feel better. These are the times when we should become better at what we do, when we should read more books that we love, when we should strengthen our relationships that may need that strength when things turn. And they will turn.

Life isn't always a trial. We're not always fighting battles that threaten to tear us apart. When we do reach the plateaus of comfort and plenty, though, it's important that we take advantage of them to focus on areas in which we can improve ourselves and our lives. We can read books about our career fields to try to improve the work that we do. We can take up a productive hobby that allows us to spark and exercise our creativity. We can get ourselves into better physical shape so that we're able to go on longer walks or hikes and get to know the world better. We can invite friends out for coffee or lunch so that we strengthen the relationships and get to know other people better.

Many of us put money away for rainy days, but what about putting it away for bright, sunny, cheerful days? We often plan for disaster, but how many of us plan for prosperity? Life is full of ups and downs, and we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy thinking about and preparing for the downs. Let's plan for the ups--let's take advantage of the good times to make ourselves wiser or stronger or more compassionate while we're not really struggling. Many people take advantage of the lack of struggle to sit in front of the TV, watching shows or movies or playing video games.

But just as adversity should coax us into action in order to deal with the adversity, so should properity goad us into action in order to improve ourselves while we have the chance--and when we do so, the next time adversity shows up in our lives, we'll be stronger and more capable of dealing with it. Use your good times well.

21 May 2016


My wife and I are just wrapping up our first real vacation in quite a few years. We've taken almost two weeks to travel, something that we haven't done in many years. We've had many "micro-vacations" over the years, but we haven't had a full-fledged vacation in a very long time. It's been really good for us in many ways, and we're both glad that we've done it, even though it cost us much more than we could comfortably afford. We've had to scrimp and save, but it's been worth it.

It seems that many people are foregoing vacations these days, either because they can't afford them or because they're "too busy." Some people even think that if they take a vacation, their world will come to a halt and the workplace will fall apart without their presence. But vacations are one of the most important things that we can do for ourselves, and especially if we live in cultures in which vacations are even possible, it's important that we take advantage of our opportunities to take them when they come.

The most important benefit of a vacation for me is the reminder that life goes on all over the place. When I'm stuck in my world, it's easy to forget that there are people everywhere going about their lives every day, speaking various languages and living in many different countries and following different social rules. In my own little world, life can get a bit routine, and I forget that the world is much, much bigger than my world allows for. I like being reminded that the world is full of individuals who love and live and breathe and hope and dream and suffer and feel. Such a reminder helps me to remember that I'm a part of something much, much bigger than I, and when I keep that in mind, I can more easily feel the humility and compassion that make my life richer.

The break from the routine, of course, is also important. It allows me to come back to my own world and tackle problems with a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of purpose. It helps me to see my situation in a much more positive light, and when that happens, I'm able to contribute more and better to my world.

Of course, vacations cost, in time, money, and effort. Not everyone is able to take full-fledged vacations every year or even every other year. For us, this vacation was many years in coming. Yet we do find time for the occasional three-day weekend somewhere else to help us to recharge ourselves. This vacation that we've just taken has reminded me of the importance of getting away, one way or another, just to recharge your motivation and enthusiasm and to make sure that our day-to-day lives don't wear us down completely and make us start feeling negative about our lives. Even if we find just little ways to get away for short periods of time, our vacations are extremely important to us, and they're a gift that not everyone on the planet shares the possibility of having. Which adds gratitude to the list of benefits of the vacations we are able to take.

05 May 2016

Enjoy Today!

This is just a note to say hello and to wish you the best of all this day has to offer you! We have the gift of a new Thursday in our lives--so what are we going to do with it?

Personally, I have quite a lot of work to do today, so I'm going to get to it pretty early so that I can finish early and enjoy the afternoon by being more relaxed because a lot of the work is behind me. The work is a bit tedious but not really difficult, so it should go fairly quickly. If I do my work early, then I can do things like go running or go out for a cup of coffee, and not have the need to work hanging over my head.

I've decided that when I see people today, I'm going to say hello and smile. I'm going to listen to them when they talk, and not try to think of what I want to say. I'm going to find some way to encourage and/or compliment them--each meeting that I have with another human being is an opportunity to add something positive to the world in the form of positive feelings and attitudes, for I can contribute to others feeling good about life and about themselves.

I've decided that I'm going to take the time to see the beautiful flowers that are all around, as well as the beautiful houses that people have built, and the beautiful smiles that people have. I'll say hello to children because they're people, too, and do not deserve to be ignored by anyone.

If something goes "wrong," I'll look for the positive side of the situation, and I'll try to see the problem in a positive light.

My day is in my hands--I'm not a "victim" of chance. I can do a lot today to make my day brighter and more enjoyable, and I'll certainly do all that I possibly can!

01 May 2016

One Thing I Can Do Today

I think that today, I'll consciously practice being mindful. That is, I'll do my best to be fully aware of my surroundings, and I'll try to look more closely at everything I can, whether it interests me or not. A mindful existence is not a judgmental existence, so it's important that I keep my mind and heart open to new things, new experiences, and new details.

What will the benefit to me be if I'm more mindful today? For starters, I'll learn more about the world, even if my mindfulness is focused on something seemingly trivial. So much of what we see represents on a micro scale the world on a macro scale. For example, I just looked at a leaf on the Ficus tree next to me and I noticed how each leaf is held be a slender stem to the branch from which it grew. The leaf itself has grown and developed independently of the branch, but the branch has provided much of the nutrients that it needs to do so. It reminds me of a child's relationship with the family, or an individual's relationship with God, or a student's relationship with the teacher. A slender, tender stem keeps us connected with so many things as we grow and develop on our own.

And the leaves were all very pretty, and each completely unique. It's a beautiful tree that I don't look at or appreciate nearly enough.

If I'm mindful, I might hear the catch in the voice when someone says "I'm fine." I may see the attempt to avoid eye contact that tells me something's wrong. I may realize why what I've been trying to do hasn't been working. I may have that epiphany that I've been hoping to have. If I'm not mindful, I can guarantee you that I'll have none of that.

So today, I'm going to consciously practice being mindful.