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1 year ago

  
  

December 14

You never conquer a mountain.
You stand on the summit a few
moments; then the wind
blows your footprints away.

Arlene Blum

  

Today's Meditation:

I've always had a less-than-strong relationship with the idea of "conquering" anything.  I think that we tend to adopt certain vocabulary simply because it's convenient and because we haven't really thought about what things mean in any deep and significant manner.  The truth is, though, that people don't conquer things like mountains--we may conquer our fears in order to climb them, or our limitations or our preconceived notions, but we certainly cannot "conquer" a mountain.

I love Arlene's complete acceptance of the idea of the transitory nature of all that we do, even our most vaunted accomplishments.  No matter what we do, eventually the wind and the rain and the sun will wash away all indication that we've ever been where we've been at all.  We may think that we've made a lasting mark, but really we've made a miniscule mark that won't last long--and not only is that okay, but it's the way things should be.  We aren't meant to be permanent fixtures on this planet, and I think this world would be a much better place if more people simply were to accept that fact.

Can we leave behind the need to "conquer"?  Can we not feel that it's important that we "defeat" and always "battle against"?  Can't we work with, cooperate with, and enjoy the company of?  To me, climbing a mountain is much more fun if I enjoy the journey and all that the mountain offers me:  beauty and challenge and obstacles that help me to grow stronger.  Even if I don't make it to the peak, I can still get tons out of a climbing expedition, can't I?

I'm fine with standing at the peak for a few moments, or even a few hours, and then letting the wind wipe away any trace that I've ever been there.  I don't make myself a better person by using the word "conquer."  Heck, I'll even try not to leave any trace, and I'll wipe away my tracks before I leave, and not tell anyone that I climbed it--the growth is in the journey and the experience, not in making sure that others know what I've done.

Questions to consider:

Why do we use so many words like "conquer"  in our vocabulary?  Are those words accurate? 

From where do we get the urge to "defeat" and subjugate?  Why is it important to us to have the sense of having defeated someone or something?

Is it a negative thing that the "wind blows your footprints away"?

For further thought:

Mountains are not Stadiums where I satisfy

1 year ago

  

December 13

Let the world know you as you
are, not as you think you should
be, because sooner or later, if you
are posing, you will forget the pose,
and then where are you?

Fanny Brice

  

Today's Meditation:

Authenticity is a goal that can make our lives much simpler, much more fulfilling, and much less liable to give us unpleasant surprises.  But it's often difficult to be authentic because of the pressure that we feel--real or imagined--to be what we think other people want us to be.  Personally, I'm much less concerned about forgetting the pose than I am about other people discovering that I am posing, for that would let them know that I'm not the person that I'm trying to make them believe that I am.

That's the main reason I don't pose, and I'm very glad that I learned long ago not to do so.  It makes my life much easier only having to deal with whether people accept me as I am or not, and not having to deal with any fallout if they find out that I've been dishonest in the ways that I present myself.

Some people would like to convince us that we need to put on a different face in order to be accepted, that we need to act certain ways in order to make other people like us or want to work with us.  If that's true, that would mean that we have to spend most of our time literally lying about who we are, about what we value, about what's important to us.

Who are you?  Do you let that reality shine through, or do you try to hide it behind an inauthentic mask?  If the latter is the case, please remember that you were put on this planet to be a completely unique individual, not a copy of others that someone else thinks that you should be.

Questions to consider:

Do you let the world know you exactly as you are?  What are you like?

Why do so many people feel that it's important to pose as someone else, someone who they're not?

What are some of the traits of the completely authentic you?  Do you let those traits shine through?

For further thought:

1 year ago

  
  

December 12
  
You can change your beliefs so
they empower your dreams and desires.
Create a strong belief in yourself
and what you want.

Marcia Wieder

  

Today's Meditation:

As a teacher, I probably see more people who do not believe in themselves--yet--than other people do.  In fact, I see one of my most important jobs as a high school teacher to be that of helping my students to create and develop belief in themselves and their abilities.  And I'm able to witness regularly just what happens when a not-so-simple shift occurs--when a student goes from not believing in him or herself to believing in him or herself.

Everything picks up when a person starts to believe in oneself:  work performance, self-image, feelings of happiness and contentment, self-confidence, even relationships, for it's easier to be with someone who believes in him or herself than it is to be with a person who doesn't.

Do your beliefs support you and your dreams and desires?  In my life, mine rarely have, and I've paid the price for that.  Dearly.  But as time has gone on my beliefs have come much more into line with my dreams--in other words, I now believe in my own ability to make those dreams reality, and when I believe that, then anything can happen, can't it?

One of the things that we aren't taught in life is that we can create our own beliefs and cast out those beliefs that have been hanging around for years, without us ever even realizing how much they've been hurting us.  Just as I wouldn't want to go outside wearing clothes that I don't like, I prefer not to go through life allowing beliefs that don't support me to define who I am and what I do?

Questions to consider:

Where do your beliefs come from?  How did you get them?

How might you go about creating your own beliefs about your own life and the ways that you live it?

Why is it important to adopt and maintain beliefs that support your dreams and desires?

1 year ago

  
  

December 11
  

Beauty is a radiance that
originates from within and
comes from inner security
and strong character.

Jane Seymour

  

Today's Meditation:

More words on "inner security."  More words that remind us that if we can find out what it means to be secure in ourselves, to feel that our source of strength and security comes from inside and not as a result of outside influences, then we can become the people that we were meant to be--beautiful people who radiate peace and love and beauty.

I can become a beautiful person.  If I develop the important things in my life such as character and inner strength and faith, then I can be one of those people that others look at and realize that there is something special about them.  I'm not talking about the skin-deep type of beauty, obviously, but of that beauty that comes from being a loving, kind and compassionate human being who isn't always buffeted by the winds and rains of circumstance and happenstance.  True beauty has no measure of being a one or being a ten, and it doesn't involve make-up or expensive clothes or any of that type of trapping.

Do you want to radiate beauty?  Then accept yourself, know yourself, and love yourself.  Recognize the fact that you are an amazing child of God, and that even though you'll never land a modeling contract with a clothing company, that fact simply does not matter--you are beautiful and wonderfully made.  This is a simple fact--you have much beauty.  The question is, do you radiate that beauty for others to see and feel, or do you keep it hidden behind that door that's guarded by your fears and your insecurities?

If you do the latter, then isn't it time that you fire those guards and let your beauty shine for the world to see?  When you can radiate beauty, you can serve as a beacon to those who wish to do the same thing.

Questions to consider:

Why do most people in our societies define beauty through visible criteria?

Why do most of us not see ourselves as beautiful?

Who are the most beautiful people you know?  Is their beauty only physical, or is there more to them than the physical looks?

For further thought:

If either man or woman would realize that the full
power of personal beauty, it must be by cherishing
noble thoughts and hopes and purposes; by having
something to do and something to live for that
is worthy of humanity, and which, by expanding
and symmetry to the body which contains it.

1 year ago

  
 

December 10
     

I believe that in our constant search
for security we can never gain any
peace of mind until we are
secure in our own soul.

Margaret Chase Smith

  

Today's Meditation:

When we're kids, it's only natural that we look to others for our security.  After all, we're pretty defenseless on our own.  If we were left to our own devices, it's pretty obvious that we would die pretty quickly.  But that's when we're very young--when do we reach the point at which we find our security in ourselves?  At what point do we learn that something like a sense of security could not and should not come from someone else?  (Not talking about, of course, people who live in dangerous areas and who may depend on paid security people.)

When we seek our security in someone else, we put an awful lot of pressure on them, pressure that no one else really deserves to have.  We also undermine our own feelings of self-reliance and self-respect.  If we don't feel comfortable with who we are and what we do, we may try to find our security outside of ourselves, in our bank accounts, in other people, in our work, in the homes that we buy, in the material objects that fill those homes, in the insurance policies on which we spend so much money.

But what does it mean to be "secure in our own soul"?  I think it means to trust ourselves to do what's best for others, and not to allow the reactions, actions, and criticisms of others to affect our decisions about our own lives.  We don't allow those things to affect how we feel about ourselves.  We don't allow those things to affect how we treat others.

Our culture wants to teach us to build up the security outside ourselves, and then work on the inner sense of security.  Unfortunately, our culture has it backwards, and also unfortunately, we tend to pay a bit too much attention to what our societies teach us.  We must make the transition from getting our sense of security from others to getting it from ourselves, for that's where the only true security comes from.

Questions to consider:

From where do you get your strongest sense of security?

Why does our culture seem not to value the transition from depending on others to self-dependence?  How much teaching do we receive on this aspect of our lives?

What does it mean to you to be "secure in your own soul"?

For further thought:

1 year ago

  

December 9
  

  
Faith is an excitement and an
enthusiasm, a state of intellectual
magnificence which we must not
squander on our way through life.

George Sand

  

Today's Meditation:

I was always taught when I was young that faith is a mysterious, unknown element of our lives that depended upon us trusting in a mysterious, unknowable deity in the exact same ways that other people trusted in it.  I've since come to know, though, that faith is a personal issue, and that each of us has a faith that is completely unique, and that it's my choice completely as to where I place that faith, be it in God, in people--even, as some people do, in money or my work.  There are some things that we have faith in that inevitably fail us, of course, such as money, but it's still my choice to put my faith where I want.

When we find the true faith that allows us to continue doing what we're doing with complete trust that it will serve a valuable purpose for ourselves and others, life takes on a different light.  When I allow faith to be an important part of my life, I'm really saying "yes" to life and to the concept of living, for I know then that it is all worthwhile, and it deserves my full cooperation and effort.  And really, that's what faith is:  an acceptance of the idea that there is a much better picture than we're aware of, and a willingness to contribute to that picture, even if we never shall see the finished product ourselves.

Because I've always had trust issues, I've often not been able to live my faith, to have faith in my faith, if you will.  And the times in my life when I've had little faith have been by far the darkest.  But when I do trust, when I do live by my faith, then my life brightens because so much of the burden of everything is taken off my back, for I know that in the bigger picture, much of what I carry around as burden simply isn't all that important.

Living in faith truly is a wonderful experience.  And I'm not talking about another person's idea of faith--I'm talking about the faith in ourselves to allow our faith to extend in the directions that our spirits tell us are true and loving and honorable.  Faith allows us to be, and there really is no other goal that's more important than that.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many people want us to adopt their versions of faith?  If they need others to adopt theirs, then is what they have really faith?

1 year ago

  

December 8

Giving presents is a talent;
to know what a person wants,
to know when and how to get it,
to give it lovingly and well.

Pamela Glenconner

  

Today's Meditation:

Giving is an important element of life--it's something that can give us great satisfaction, can make us feel better about ourselves, and can make other people in our lives feel very positive about life and living in general.  It's a shame, though, that we often put little thought into what we give, or that we so often give what we think a person should want instead of what would really make the person happy. 

As Pamela says, gift-giving is definitely a talent, and I see this truth when I encounter someone who's really, really good at it.  There are many people who have gift-giving down to an art, and those people light the way for the rest of us.  These are people who really listen when people tell them what they want; they pay attention to who the person is, and they aren't swayed by what they think the person should be.  I want to be like that--I want to see the people I love in their true light, and be able to give them gifts that they'll truly enjoy and appreciate, not gifts that they'll have to be polite about and thank me for even if the gifts aren't really what they wanted or can use.

Pamela's words are about paying attention to the people in our lives.  Getting to know them.  Understanding them.  Listening to them when they speak.  Watching them live their lives to see their likes and dislikes.  And not imposing our own likes and dislikes on others.  Sometimes it may even mean giving a gift that we never thought we'd give to someone else, simply because we know that the person would really like it.

When we give "lovingly and well," we share our love with others.  We tell another person that we've cared enough to pay attention and to get to know them.  And what better message can we give to important people in our lives?

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often tend to put so little thought into our gift-giving?

How might we learn more about what our loved ones truly want, and how we might give that to them? 

How would you feel if someone were to give you just the right gift at just the right time?  Is that a feeling you'd like to give to someone else? 

For further thought:

When I think of giving as an art. . . I pour more of myself into
giving.  I tune in to ways I can support others and give
meaningful gifts that will delight the receiver.  Divine ideas
come to mind as I shift my focus away from "things" to
the art of true giving.  As I write a letter to a friend with
whom I've lost contact or give an encouraging smile
to a struggling stranger, I know that just what is needed
is mine to give.  I am inspired to give more as new creative

1 year ago

  

December 7

Having harvested all the knowledge
and wisdom we can from our
mistakes and failures, we should
put them behind us and go ahead.

Edith Johnson

  

Today's Meditation:

I have one of the richest stores of knowledge and wisdom of anyone on this planet, for I have made more mistakes than most people I know.  Of course, I don't know all the mistakes that others have made--heck, I don't even know all of mine--but I do know that I have done some really, really stupid things in my life.  I have failed big-time in several areas of my life.  But I've also been very lucky, for I never have had the tendency to dwell on those mistakes.  Some of them have stuck with me for a while, but most I've been able to put into my past and move on without dwelling on them.

Putting them in the past does not at all diminish the importance of our mistakes, or the importance of making amends if others were involved.  What it does is allow us to move on with our lives and focus on the present moment and its possibilities.  If I'm worried about the stupid words I said yesterday, I can learn from them and not repeat them.  But if I allow them to affect me too strongly, I might be afraid to say anything at all, and thus lose some important opportunities.

Some people, though, don't want us to forget our mistakes.  They want to remind us of them, and somehow, in a sad and warped way, make themselves feel better by making us feel worse.  It's not a trap that we should fall into.  What's done is done, and there's still plenty to do and to live through before our dying day.

Mistakes and failures have much to offer us, but we do have to be aware enough to recognize that fact, and willing to internalize the lessons and messages that they have.  I'd hate to think that I've gone through the frustration and embarrassment of many of my mistakes for no real reason, and if I pull the lessons from them, then there certainly is reason enough.

Questions to consider:

What have been some of your worst mistakes?  What have you learned from them?

1 year ago

  

December 6

There might be false starts and
do-overs.  You are entitled to
experiment before you find
your calling.

Jane Pauley

  

Today's Meditation:

It's interesting to see just how many people start their careers extremely early in life--in their teens if they head to college with a certain degree in mind--and end up burning out rather early because they end up doing something that may bring in money, but that doesn't fulfill them in any way.  I've known plenty of people who aren't at all happy in their jobs, yet they feel that they're stuck in what they're doing and can't get out, especially if they now have families who depend upon their income.

One of the most fortunate things I ever did was spend three years living and working in Europe.  There I found that many, many people don't consider starting a career until their late 20's, after their studies and after their travels.  They don't consider their first choices of careers to be their last choice--the people that I met knew that it might take several tries to find just the right career for them.  And that perspective helped them to be able to be honest with themselves.  "No, this job really isn't for me" is a very valid response to doing certain types of work.

There's often a lot of pressure on us to start our careers and start earning an income.  If we bend to that pressure too early without finding out about several different types of work that we may be suited for, there's a good chance that we'll never be able to work in the areas of our true callings.  And when we find our true callings, then we're able to earn a living doing something that we truly love, and when we love our work, our contribution to that work can be much, much stronger.

You are entitled to do-overs.  It's one of your rights--and often needs--in life.  If you don't take advantage of this right, then do your best to love the work that you do find, even if it may not be your true calling.

Questions to consider:

Why do we often feel pressure to start our careers earlier?

What kinds of things do you really love, and do you feel that you're really good at?  Are you working in that area?

If you could do things over, which field(s) would you go into?  Why?  Are there opportunities for you to work in that field or those fields now?

For further thought:

1 year ago

  

December 5
  

  
Each day, and the living of it,
has to be a conscious creation in
which discipline and order are
relieved with some play
and pure foolishness.

May Sarton

  

Today's Meditation:

It happens so often that we see people who go too far in one direction or the other here.  I know many people who feel that life is work and discipline and seriousness and who never have a bit of fun.  I know other people who think that fun and foolishness are all there is, and who really aren't able to contribute in a positive way to this world of ours.  But what May is saying rings true--we have to be conscious of the lives that we're forging, and balance our discipline and hard work with plenty of play and silliness so that we don't end up taking ourselves too seriously.

If we don't do this, then our lives simply can't be creative efforts.  We simply cannot live each day fully if we never balance out what we do, for we'll get so caught up in one side or the other that what we're trying to create will obviously end up warped.

Today I need to get my work done, and I need to take it seriously enough so that my students actually learn something in my classes.  But if I make it too serious, I'm not going to have my mind open to other ideas and opinions and thoughts, and I'm going to be so focused on the results of my efforts that the journey to the end is going to be harsh and difficult and unimaginative.  In order to avoid this, I have to be sure to be open to moments of levity and enjoyment--sometimes when the class clown speaks up, it's better to play along with him or her than to try to keep that person quiet.

"A conscious creation."  What an amazing responsibility that is!  And what an incredible opportunity!  My today shall be what I make it, and I hope that I can keep it in a very healthy balance.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often see moments of play and foolishness as negative things?

What kinds of foolish things can you do to actually make your day more bearable and more productive?

What do you think that May means when she says that each day is a "conscious creation"? 

For further thought:

The creation of something new is not accomplished by
the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner
necessity.  The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.

1 year ago

  

December 4
   
   
You don't need endless time and
perfect conditions.  Do it now.
Do it today.  Do it for twenty
minutes and watch your
heart start beating.

Barbara Sher

  

Today's Meditation:

I often choose to put things off.  Sometimes it just seems that circumstances aren't right for doing anything from starting to write a new novel to changing the oil in our cars.  I may not start the novel because I have too many other things to do, and the time just isn't right--I've used that excuse before, and I'm sure that I'll use it again.  But when I look back upon each day, I usually can find at least twenty minutes to half an hour during which I could have worked on one--and a year of twenty-minute segments definitely would allow me to finish a novel, since I can easily write a page in twenty minutes.

But I usually don't do so.  I wait.  And I shouldn't.  Maybe I'm too tired; perhaps I'm just too preoccupied.  No matter what the case, my lack of action is my decision.  And from my experience, it's not the best decision I can make.  I've often felt like not doing something, but when I've "forced" myself to do it, I've ended up enjoying myself immensely, or at least getting a strong sense of satisfaction from having accomplished something that I needed to accomplish.

As someone else has said--probably many people--conditions are never just right.  There's always something else going on, something that we can use as a convenient excuse for not acting, for not doing something we should or could do.  But usually action simply takes a decision to act, and we end up finding reasons to make the decision not to act.  After all, not acting is easier, and there's no risk of failure in it. 

Tomorrow, when I look back upon today, I want to at least recognize that I did something.  I want to see that I didn't let circumstances and fears control me or push me into decisions that aren't the best for me.  No matter how daunting a task may appear, we'll never know just how daunting it truly is until we actually undertake it, and that requires us to act.  Here, and now.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things often keep us from actually getting up and starting on something that we want to start on?

Why do so many people seem to want to discourage us from taking action on seemingly risky tasks?

What does Barbara mean when she says, "watch your heart start beating"?  Isn't it beating now?

For further thought:

Conditions are never just right.  People who delay
action until all factors a

1 year ago

  

December 3
  
The great thing about getting
older is that you don't lose
all the other ages you've been.

Madeleine L'Engle

  

Today's Meditation:

I'm not sure that I get this idea from Madeleine in the way that she means it, but I certainly do get it.  I've felt this often in my life--a strong connection to the kid that I was at age eight, to the teen I was in high school, to the young adult that I was in college and when I was in the Army.  The connection that I feel to those other people that I've been is inexplicable, as if they're completely different people than me, even though it was I passing through those ages of my life.

Some people try to deny their past, or at least forget it, as they age.  And to a certain extent, there's value in staying focused on the today in which we're living right now, and not dwelling on the past that's gone for good.  But on the other hand, I think that in our past experiences--the past ages that we've lived through--there are innumerable riches that can be quite beneficial to us if we allow them to be.  After all, much of who I am now is a result of who I was then, and which decisions I made at different points in my life.

The people who we are today are less a result of include the people we have been.  I have been a six-year-old, so I know the joy of running through the sprinkler on a hot summer day.  I've been a 14-year-old, so I know the joy and the agony of crushes and infatuations.  I've been a 30-year-old, so I know the satisfaction of a job well done and the expectation and adventure of moving to new places and visiting new lands.

The question is, of course, this:  are these parts of me that I appreciate and understand and make use of, or are they things that I've forgotten and make no effort to remember?

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often think that our pasts aren't useful or important to us today?

What are some of your  most positive experiences at each of the different ages that you've lived through?

How might you get in touch with the ages that you have been without losing touch with the person that you are?

For further thought:

If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.

Abraham Sutzke

1 year ago

  

December 2
  
It's good to have an end to
journey toward, but it is the
journey that matters in the end.

Ursula K. LeGuin

  

Today's Meditation:

I hear this idea often in different words from different people, and they always strike an important chord.  They always force me to stop for a moment and simply realize that I am on a journey, so that I can then ask myself whether I'm doing anything it ensure that I'm making the most out of the journey, or if I'm so focused on doing that I'm not able to enjoy.

If I'm on a train, do I look out the window and enjoy the view, or strike up a conversation with the person next to me to learn something about another person?  Or do I keep my eyes buried in a newspaper or continue doing work that could be done at another time?  Do I spend all my time thinking about the end station?  Am I enjoying the trip and making the most of it, or am I getting caught up in the minutiae of planning for the next leg of the trip, and therefore neglecting this leg?

One of the things that I like about being a teacher is that there really is no system of promotions.  If I really wanted to, I could earn more pay as an administrator, but that isn't a necessary step at all.  This lack of needing to try for a promotion helps me to stay focused on the day-to-day reality of my classroom, and I really love that.  It doesn't make me lazy at all--I've earned four graduate degrees--and it does keep me from thinking too much about what I need to do to get promoted (an end), and allows me to stay present with my students and the work that we're doing (the journey).  (Of course, the standardized testing element sabotages this situation, but that's a different story!)

Right now, at this moment, you're on a journey.  Your life is filled with beautiful scenery, cool people, rude people, obstacles, rewards, new experiences, and chances to re-address older experiences.  What are you doing to make sure that when you do reach your goal or aim or end, you'll look back and say, "Boy, what a wonderful journey that was!"?

Questions to consider:

How do we start to get focused on the end rather than the journey?  Does such a focus really help with anything?

What are some of the first steps you can take to make yourself aware of how your journey(s) is/are going at this moment? 

1 year ago

  

December 1

People have a need to feel their
pain.  Very often pain is the beginning
of a great deal of awareness.  As an
energy center it awakens consciousness.

Arnold Mindell

  

Today's Meditation:

Have you ever learned that you have a particular muscle only because you've strained it and now it hurts?  I've often heard people talk about muscles they never knew they had, after a hard day's work has left them sore.  Our pain can be very beneficial to us if we pay attention to it, for it can let us know things that we still have to take care of, things that aren't as strong as they could be.

For most people, though, pain is simply a signal to take painkillers.  No learning takes place, no paying of attention, no questioning as to the true cause of the pain.  There's nothing saying that we should sit there in agony just to try to "experience" our pain, but the truth is that there is a lot to learn from it.  Sometimes it's not a deep lesson--I swung the racket in an awkward way, and I pulled a muscle.  But often the pain comes from a deeper source, and it can be worth our while to explore it--and the only way to explore it is to experience it. 

This goes for emotional pain as well as physical pain.  I spent years feeling horrible amounts of pain from relationships, until I took the time to actually explore the pain and learn from it--I found out some very important things about how my own mind was causing that pain because it associated what was happening to me in relationships to what had happened to me as a child.  When I became aware of that dynamic, I learned ways to break that pattern of association, and the relationships stopped affecting me in the same ways.

Pain can be unpleasant, but it rarely is unbearable.  For the unbearable kind, fix it quickly, in the best way you can.  But for the other kinds, take a few moments before you fix it to find out what it may be trying to tell you--for there surely is a message for you, possibly from you yourself, there in what we call pain.  And if we can learn that message, then perhaps what we call pain may cease to feel like pain after all.

Questions to consider:

Why do we seem to want to banish pain as soon as we feel its first touch?  What parts of pain are we afraid of?

How might we learn to pay attention to our pain? 

What kinds of lessons have you learned from pain in the past?  Have they been valuable lessons? 

For further thought:

Our culture teaches us how to numb and distract ourselves but not how to listen to our pain and learn from our difficulties.  Think what we learn about pain from television.  We learn that pain is to be avoided at all costs and that there are a variety of pain relievers for every conceivable pain.  I would like to see a commercial that sa

1 year ago

   

November 30
    
The work an unknown good person
has done is like a vein of water
flowing hidden underground,
secretly making the ground green.

Thomas Carlyle

  

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes I get very frustrated because all the good things that I try to do for others seem to be staying beneath the ground, never being seen, never being recognized.  But then I realize that in the big picture, that doesn't matter at all--the important thing is that the good works continue.  The frustration comes at times when I'm tired or when things aren't going well, and I know from experience that I can't trust my feelings during those times.

The simple fact is that this is how most of our good work should be done--as an unknown, in secret.  Why is that?  Because once we commit a good act or do a good work in order to be recognized for it, the act changes.  It's no longer motivated simply by the desire to do good, but it's now also motivated by the desire for accolades.  And when that's the case, the act changes, and we face the prospect of not getting the reaction that we desire.  And if we don't get that reaction, then we run the risk of feeling awful, or worse, trying to make others feel awful because they didn't react how we had hoped they would react.

The best of our work should be done for others, and it should be done simply for the sake of doing good.  Yes, it can get frustrating, but we all face times of frustration no matter what we do or how we do it.  When we can look proudly at the green ground which has been nourished by our contribution, we can take pride in our contribution, and then look for other areas that might need such nourishment.  Us receiving compliments or acknowledgment of our contribution will not change the fact that we've done something good, and not receiving praise for our work will not diminish the work in any way.

We do see others receiving accolades and rewards for their good work all the time.  They are who they are, and we are who we are.  Some of us toil in relative obscurity, others toil in the spotlight.  No matter where we are, we should not stop trying to do good for others, because they most definitely need us.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often want to be recognized for the good things that we've done when we've done them?

What kinds of good things have you done recently for which you've received no acknowledgment?

Whom do you know who does good things for people without asking for recognition?  How do those people approach life?

For further thought:

Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one's
self.  We must be purposely kind and generous, or we
miss the best part of existence.  The heart that
goes out of itself g

1 year ago

  

November 29
  

  
We will never be spiritual
until we give up trying, and
become aware that we
are already spiritual.

Walter Starcke

  

Today's Meditation:

This is another fascinating paradox in life that Walter presents us:  the fact that we can't get something until we stop trying to get it.  It's so true in life, though, that when we think we're lacking something, we feel that we need to pursue it and find it.  It's very often true, though, that what we seek is within us all along and that we're just so busy or so preoccupied with other things that we never bother to look inside ourselves to find that which we seek.

Trying to be spiritual is a fascinating goal to have, for if we're anything at all, we're definitely spiritual already.  We are spirits spending time in these human bodies of ours--we're not human beings trying to be spiritual.  We feel inside that there's much more to who we are, to what our lives are all about, and that feeling comes from our knowledge of our spirituality--the very spirituality that gets buried beneath the layers of responsibilities and worries and desires.

Just as I don't need to search for my nationality or my gender, I also don't need to seek my spirituality.  Perhaps I can strengthen it and develop it, but there really is no need to "become" spiritual.  First I need to be aware that I am a spirit, and I need to accept the fact that I am a spirit.  Once I do these two things, the question then changes from "How do I become spiritual?" to "What am I going to do with my spirituality?"  Shall I develop it, share it, hide it, let it fly free in the world?

Sometimes we just have to stop searching for things, especially things that are already present in our lives.  Sometimes we just need to open our eyes and our hearts to the truths that are already a part of us, and let those truths help to determine who we are and what we do.  Are you trying to be spiritual?  The good news is that you can stop trying, for you've been a spirit since before the day that you were born, and that's a wonderful gift already.

Questions to consider:

Why do we often find it hard to acknowledge our spirituality?

How do you define "spiritual"?

What kinds of thing

1 year ago

   

November 28
  
  What is the use of going
over the old tracks again?
You must make tracks
into the unknown.

Henry David Thoreau

  

Today's Meditation:

We see words like this over and over again in the course of our lives, yet how many of us truly take them to heart and set our sights down roads that haven't yet been traveled?  How many of us take an honest look at who we are and what we're best suited for, and then make a decision to try something new and different, something that not many others have attempted?

Many of us prefer safety to fulfillment.  We take jobs that are well defined for us, so that we don't have to take the work to any sort of "next" level.  We keep our relationships limited to those who are like us in many ways.  These aren't necessarily bad traits, but when we ask ourselves if they allow us to spread our wings and fly in new directions, the answer most certainly has to be "no."

The unknown is inviting, but it's scary.  If someone else has paved a way for us, then doesn't it make much more sense to stay on the pavement so that we don't get lost, or step in the mud, or get stuck with a thorn or three?  It does make sense if we want to stay safe, and if we want our kids to see parents who aren't willing to take risks and follow their hearts.

Thoreau is talking about blazing trails--what if you were to blaze a trail that someone else could follow and learn on?  Then your contribution to the world would be ever expanding, as more and more people follow that trail--and they will, because they prefer to stay safe, unlike you, and you've provided them with a safe trail to follow, now that you've taken the risks and enriched your life.

Questions to consider:

What's the most frightening aspect of taking off in unexplored directions?

Why do we tend to stay on the trails that already have been blazed?

What kinds of opportunities do you have to blaze new trails in your life today.  They're there--but where?

For further thought:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

1 year ago

   

November 27

I feel the capacity to care
is the thing which gives life
its deepest significance.

Pau Casals

  

Today's Meditation:

As much as I hate to admit it, I've always had a problem with caring for others.  You see, to me caring always has been a risk--if I care about someone or something, then that person or thing has the potential to hurt me.  If I hold back my caring, then I can't be hurt.  Or at least that's how my warped logic tried to keep me from getting hurt for many years. 

What I've learned in the later part of my life, though, is that the hurt that comes from other people comes from me, myself.  People do what they do, and then I react to it.  And my reactions are the things that are the most harmful to me.  This revelation has made my life more enjoyable, for when I learned this truth, I also learned that caring isn't nearly as risky as I thought it was!

Now I'm not only able to care, but I'm able to share that caring, and actually tell people that I care for them.  I'm actually able to put myself in a position in which before I thought I might get hurt, but which now I think is just a situation.  And that caring brings a richness to my life that simply was missing before--it's a wonderful feeling to care for others and to be able to let them know that I care without worrying about how they'll react or what they'll do.  Yes, there will be those who don't appreciate my caring, or who even will try to take advantage of it, but as long as I'm aware of that possibility and am willing to take it for what it is, then I shan't be hurt when and if it does come to pass. 

The capacity to care sometimes has to be learned and/or exercised.  Doing so, though, can be one of the greatest gifts that we give to ourselves, for then we enable ourselves to give the wonderful gift of caring to others who may need it desperately.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the reasons that we tend to hold back our caring?

What are the things and who are the people you care most about?  Do you let that feeling of caring be known?

Why isn't caring a more prominent subject of conversation and discussion in our culture?

For further thought:

Caring about others, running the
risk of feeling, and leaving an
impact on people, brings happiness.

1 year ago

  

November 26
  

  
If you can't be thankful for what
you receive, be thankful for
what you escape.

Unattributed

  

Today's Meditation:

It's so much easier to notice and pay attention to those things we have, those things that we have received--or those things that we wish and hope for, but don't receive.  It's a bit more difficult to keep in mind all of the things that haven't happened to us that would make our lives much more difficult, and actually to feel gratitude that those things haven't been a part of our experiences.

I try to be thankful for being able to run every time I go running.  There are so many things that could have kept me from running over the years, and they simply haven't happened at all.  When I eat, I sometimes think of people who have lost their sense of taste or who have digestive tract disorders, and I'm very thankful that I haven't had to deal with either type of issue.  There are so many things that haven't happened to me that it would be downright silly not to be thankful for having avoided those things.

Sometimes our problems outweigh our gratitude in our minds.  Sometimes it's not that easy to feel a sense of gratitude for what we have, especially when it seems that we never have quite enough.  But when those times come, as our unattributed author reminds us, it could be very beneficial to us to keep in mind those pitfalls and obstacles that haven't come into our lives, and to feel thanks for having avoided their touch.

Ideally, we'll always be grateful for what we have.  Ideally, we also should be grateful for those things that we've avoided.  The fire or tornado that's never destroyed our house, the illnesses that we haven't had, the crises that haven't visited us--there's an almost unlimited quantity of gratitude wrapped up in these things, if we only keep them in mind for a short while.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things haven't happened to you for which you can be grateful?

Why do we so rarely think about things that haven't happened to us as things for which we should be thankful?

How might we remind ourselves of the things we've avoided?

For further thought:

Even though we can't have all we want,
we ought to be thankful we don't
get all we deserve.

Unattributed

1 year ago

  

November 25

Keep a grateful journal.  Every
night, list five things that you are
grateful for.  What it will begin
to do is change your perspective
of your day and your life.

Oprah Winfrey

  

Today's Meditation:

As much as I don't like to admit it, I'm a person who needs constant reminders.  When I appreciate something, it's easy for me to take that something for granted because I simply forget how much I appreciate it.  When someone does something kind for me, I often forget it when tomorrow becomes today and a new set of challenges and experiences arises.  When I do remind myself that there are things in my life for which I'm grateful, then I recognize how rich my life is, even when there are other things that are threatening to bring me down.

When we work on changing our perspective to a more positive outlook, then we can get a much more accurate idea of what's going right in our lives.  We tend to focus so long and so hard on the bad things that a dose of reality each night in the form of a simple list can do wonders to help us to realize just how many positive aspects of our lives we do, indeed, have.

What Oprah is suggesting is an active exercise to counteract the passive approach that we so often slip into.  We can just let life happen and then move by without even noticing what went on if we're not careful.  If we're not active in our own lives, then we're not really living--we're just existing; life, though, rewards action, and our perspectives can grow only if we actively exercise and expand them.

When we change our perspective on our todays, our perspective on our life as a whole begins to shift.  After all, our lives are made up of a series of todays, and each today is made up of a series of moments.  What we bring to those moments through our perspective is just as important as what actually happens in each moment, as our perspective affects our attitudes and our ability to learn and grow.  It's well worth it to begin some sort of active exercise, and focusing on gratitude is definitely a good place to start.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things do you have in your life today for which you can be grateful if you choose to be?

How many positive things slip by us without our acknowledgment that they are, indeed, things for which to be grateful?

Why do so few of us take an active approach to our lives?

For further thought:

Sometimes we need to remind
ourselves that thankfulness
is indeed virtue.

1 year ago

  

November 24
   

  The people who are successful are those
who are grateful for everything they have.
Giving thanks for what we have always
opens the door for more to come, and
ungratefulness always closes the door.

Alan Cohen

  

Today's Meditation:

The power of gratitude is far-reaching.  When we feel thankfulness for the things and the people and the situations in our lives, we're acknowledging that we are, indeed, blessed, and that our blessings are very special.  Yes, there are things that do go wrong, and things that aren't so positive in our lives, but those things are bearable and survivable as long as we stay focused on the gratitude we feel for the many other things that are positive in our lives.

Many, many things have gone wrong in my life.  I say that simply as a fact--I've been through some awful times, many through no fault of my own, and many as a result of poor decisions that I've made and poor approaches that I've taken.  But through it all, there have always been many positive aspects of my life--family, friends, work, possessions, living situations, books to read, etc.  And much of the time (though definitely not always), I've been able to stay thankful for those positive things in spite of the negative ones, and that has been one of the saving graces in my life.

When we are thankful for what's in our lives, as Alan says, we are keeping a door open to allow for more of the positive things to come.  Our gratitude and our appreciation set us up to receive those positive things, and when we are ready to receive, then things finally can come to us.  If we're not ready to receive something, there's no way that it will reach us.

This is one of the most fundamental realities of our lives, one that's been taught to us for centuries by religious leaders, writers, teachers, friends and family.  And once we do start to make active gratitude an important part of our lives, we'll find that we've opened the door to much, much more for which we can be grateful.

Questions to consider:

How do you see the relationship between gratitude and success? 

Why do so many of us allow gratitude to take a back seat in our lives? 

What do you have in your life right now for which you can be grateful, but for which you haven't realized or shown that gratitude?

For further thought:

A grateful mind is a great mind which
eventually attracts to itself great things.

1 year ago

  

November 23

Words do not express thoughts very
well.  They always become a little
different immediately after they are
expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.

Hermann Hesse

  

Today's Meditation:

If anyone has ever known words, Hermann Hesse has.  He made a living from them, and he crafted them very carefully to create works like Siddhartha and Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers, one of the most influential books in German history.  I think that what he says is very important because of the way that we depend so much upon words to express our desires and feelings, without stopping to consider just how ineffective those words tend to be, even if we consider them very carefully before we say them.

If we depend upon our words too much, eventually we're going to learn just how limited they are.  Our feelings are incredibly complex, yet more often than not our words are not.  In addition to this limitation, our words are also interpreted by others, and that interpretation isn't always in sync with what we think that we're saying.

I believe that this is one of the main reasons for which it's very important that we practice our use of words and actually make an effort to learn how to use them more effectively.  But even more importantly, we have to be aware of the limitations of the words we use.  If we are aware of those limitations, then we can choose our words more carefully and even acknowledge that they aren't expressing our feelings as accurately as we would like.  If we do this, then we may be able to keep certain situations from getting out of control or being misunderstood.

Our words are very, very important to us.  They're important to us in our relationships, our jobs, our social contacts, our creativity.  When we are aware of the limitations of those words, then we can take them seriously and do our best to use them in much better, much more effective ways.

Questions to consider:

How often have you been "betrayed" by your own words?  How aware were you of the importance of those words before you used them?

Why do so few of us take our words more seriously, even after we've seen evidence of their limitations?

What does Hesse mean when he says that words "become a little different"?

For further thought:


All our words are but crumbs that
fall down from the feast of the mind.

1 year ago

  

November 22

Truth does not reveal itself in the
chatter of conversation, nor can it
be coaxed to betray its secrets
upon a printed page.  Truth speaks
only in the deep stillness of silence.

Shantidasa

  

Today's Meditation:

I think that I would be much more in tune with the truth of this statement if there were more silence in my life.  As it stands, there are very few times when I'm able to experience true silence deeply, and because of that, I'm not nearly as able to reach the "deep stillness" of which Shantidasa speaks.  The few times that I have been able to do so, though, have given me a hint of the truth of which he speaks.

I've been fortunate enough to be able to do a lot of hiking in the Grand Canyon during the off-season (I lived and worked there for a year).  During those hikes, I've been able to experience a deep and profound silence, one in which my thoughts have the chance to slow down and relax a bit, in which I can take a deep breath and actually hear that breath.  And during those silences I get a glimpse of the bigger picture of life, the importance of just being as opposed to always doing, the amazing miracles that surround us all the time.

Truth tends to be a relative term in our day-to-day lives, for we constantly have to redefine our truths based on our new realities--new friends, new neighbors, new co-workers, new bosses.  But truth in the greater sense really is unchanging, and we're never going to get close to it when we talk about last night's TV show or yesterday's football game.  Those things may be interesting to talk about, but such conversations contribute nothing to who we are and how we live our lives.

If we never seek out silence, then we're choosing to keep ourselves immersed in chatter--noise that may sometimes be useful and sometimes productive, but which in the final analysis doesn't allow us to learn anything deep about ourselves.  When we find that silence, we must use it to slow ourselves down, slow our thoughts down, relax and let ourselves be and let the world be.  Only then will we start to get glimpses of what our lives are all about on a deeper level, and only when we're able to see that will we be able to begin our journey towards that level.

Questions to consider:

Why are we so obsessed with making noise and dispelling silence?

What kinds of truths have you seen or felt during your truly quiet times?

How can we go about finding moments of silence in our lives?

For further thought:

This withdrawal from the day's turmoil into creative silence is
not a luxury, a fad, or a futility. It is a necessity, because it tries
to provide the conditions wherein we are able to yield ourselves
to intuitive leadings, promptings, warnings, teachings,

1 year ago

  

November 21

Creative thinking may simply
mean that there is no
particular virtue in doing things
the way they have always been done.

Rudolph Flesch

  

Today's Meditation:

We all define "creative" in different ways.  What's creative to me may be weird or unpleasant to you.  But creative thinking doesn't have to be appreciated or particularly innovative in order to be creative at heart.  What our thoughts need to be in order to be creative is simply to explore new paths--new ideas and new ways of thinking about things.

We start living by rote when we stop thinking creatively.  We simply do the same things we've always done for the same reasons, and with the same results.  Some things make sense if we keep doing them the same way--I really like coffee the way I make it, so I'm not going to change it.

But I do have to admit that if I were to make coffee differently, I might meet up with a concoction that I like even more than I like the coffee I make now.  There really is "no particular virtue" in the way I do it now--only that I like it.  That doesn't mean, though, that I wouldn't like it other ways, and I'm certainly not thinking creatively when I start to make coffee, though. 

On the other hand, I've been seriously and deeply rethinking the ways that I teach writing and reading.  I constantly think of different ways of evaluating students' work.  I have to stay creative because if I keep doing things the ways that I've always done them, I'm going to grow stagnant and unchanging--and while I may still like my coffee a certain way after so many years, I can guarantee you that I would not continue to be an effective teacher if I were to do things the same way for many years.

We're all creative at heart.  Some create when they work on machines, some are artistically creative, others are creative as salespeople or athletes or managers.  We've got to remember always that creativity is within our grasp, and all it takes is the thought that there's no real particular reason for continuing to do something in the way that it's always been done--so let's look for other ways.

Questions to consider:

How would you define creative thinking?  Do you practice it? 

In what ways might you be able to approach things that you do more creatively?

What is the value in continuing to do things the ways we always have done them (other than safety, or knowing that this way works)?

1 year ago

  

November 20

To be nobody but yourself in a world
which is doing its best, night and day,
to make you everybody else means
to fight the hardest battle which any human
being can fight; and never stop fighting.

e.e. cummings

  

Today's Meditation:

While I'd like to disagree with Edward here, I really can't.  My own experience tells me that over the years I've had a great struggle trying to be true to myself and my feelings and my wants and needs and desires.  I've so often found other people's ideas creeping in and trying to become my own that it has required constant vigilance on my part to make sure that the thoughts that I'm thinking actually are my own, that I really do want the things that I think I want, that I really believe the things that I think I believe.

And with the incredibly intrusive nature of marketing and advertising these days, I find that it's at times even more difficult to be sure that I'm being authentic.  And I can only hope that the young people--who have been exposed to much more advertising and marketing that I have--are able to find their authentic selves in the midst of so many people telling them who they should be and what they should want.

You are you, and you are a wonderful person.  Perhaps there are many layers of defense and fear hiding all of your wonderful qualities, but one of our most important tasks in life is to work our way through those layers and allow our wonderful attributes to shine through--and to make sure that we're showing our unique attributes rather than showing what we think others want to see.

It is a battle to be ourselves, but it's not necessarily a battle against others.  It's more like an internal battle to be sure that we're being authentic, that we're making decisions that are true to who and what we are, and that we're not letting others influence us to a point of taking away our uniqueness.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the most important motivations for the decisions that you make?

Why do so many others feel that it's their right and duty to make us think and feel in the same ways that they think and feel?

What is one strategy that you can adopt that will help you to be aware of your uniqueness and authentic wants, needs, and feelings?

For further thought:

We need to find the courage to say NO to the things and people
that are not serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves
and live our lives with authenticity.

1 year ago

  

November 19

The only person who is really
free is the one who can turn
down an invitation to dinner
without giving an excuse.

Jules Renard

  

Today's Meditation:

If we truly wish to be free people, then we definitely have to let go of our needs to meet other people's expectations.  We can't call ourselves free, yet still be chained by our need to meet with the approval of others.  We must know that our actions are just and moral and ethical and necessary, and if we know that, then we never have to give an excuse for anything that we do, simply to make someone else feel better or think differently about who and what we are.

I have to say that these days, if someone were to invite me to dinner on a Friday night, there's a very good chance that I'd say no.  My weeks are extremely busy, and they're busy with dealing with high school students for more than seven hours a day.  I love doing it, but it's exhausting.  The question is, though, can I turn them down with a simple "No, thank you," without telling them why?  Can I simply state my preference for not going without giving an excuse for that preference?

There's a part of me that says that it's more courteous to give that explanation, that I'd be sparing their feelings if I were to do so.  There's another part of me, though, that agrees with Jules and says that when I reach a point of true freedom, I'm not going to base what I do and say on how I think others will react.  Their reactions, after all, are about them, not about me, and a simple "No, thank you" should suffice.  Shouldn't it?

I may never become "the only person who is really free."  But I most certainly can aspire to become that person, and the closer I get to being truly free, the more positive my life will become.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often feel a need to explain our decisions to others?

What kinds of things can we do to grow more free as time moves on?

Do you agree with Jules' statement?  Does it make sense?

For further thought:

Who stops us from being free?  We blame the
government, we blame the weather, we blame
our parents, we blame religion, we blame God.  Who
really stops us from being free?  We stop ourselves.

Don Miguel Ruiz

1 year ago

  

November 18
   

  
You're not going to make me have
a bad day. If there's oxygen
on earth and I'm breathing,
it's going to be a good day.

Cotton Fitzsimmons

  

Today's Meditation:

Well said, Cotton!  It is about whether others can ruin our days, isn't it?  In my life, I've been in plenty of situations in which others have tried to ruin my day.  In all truth, I've learned how not to let people do that because at first, I used to let them ruin my day.  Someone would do something rude or hurtful or obnoxious, and I'd spend a lot of time feeling awful about it.  As time went on, though, I finally realized that my awful feelings weren't due to the actions themselves--they were simply my reactions to those actions.  In other words, others made me make my own day miserable.

If you make me have a bad day, it's actually not you making the day bad.  It's me.  I've made a choice to let your words or your action affect me.  But the fact is that the world goes on, life goes on, and I go on.  The question is, of course, how do I go on? 

We're offered an amazing array of miracles every day that we're on this planet--oxygen to breathe, food to eat, water to drink, friends with which to pass time, music to listen to, words to read, sights to see.  With all that going for us, why would we let the words or actions of another person--a person who is probably acting or speaking out of fear or malice--turn a day into a negative experience?  It simply doesn't make sense.  We do have a choice. 

It is easier said than done, not letting another person bring us down or ruin our day.  But it is possible to learn how to let things go and let things pass by.  When we learn how not to be affected strongly by another person's actions, we learn one of the most important lessons in life:  how to determine our own attitude and perspective rather than simply reacting to someone else's actions.

Questions to consider:

Why is it so easy to react instead of act?

Why do we so often let others bring us down?  What does that help?

How might we start to not let the actions of others affect us so strongly? 

For further thought:

Each of us makes our own weather, determines the color
of the skies in the emotional universe which we inhabit.

Fulton J. Sheen

1 year ago

  

November 17
  

I arise in the morning torn
between a desire to improve
the world and a desire to
enjoy the world. This makes
it hard to plan the day.

Elwyn Brooks White

  

Today's Meditation:

What a lovely way to look at the world!  If I had only this dilemma before me when I awoke each day, then I think that life would be a very fascinating experience.  But when I think about it, isn't it my choice as to what lies before me?  Isn't it my choice to focus on what's most important to me?  And if it is my choice, perhaps it makes sense to make these two desires my primary focal points each morning.  After all, I do have it within my power to accomplish both of these goals, don't I?

There are many, many ways in which I could actually improve the world.  I have within my power the ability to improve, encourage, create, clean, recycle, teach, rejuvenate, restore, and care for, among many other possible actions.  Any positive contribution that I make to the world, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, works to improve the world.

But there's so much here to enjoy!  Parks and lawns and beaches and people and kids and ice cream and chocolate and movies and music and clouds and breezes. . . this list could be almost never-ending.  And if I decide each morning to enjoy whatever comes my way, then I'm setting myself up for a very pleasant day, aren't I?  Yes, there will be illnesses and unpleasant things that aren't very enjoyable, but most of us have it within our power to decide to enjoy our circumstances and surroundings, yet we don't always take advantage of the possibilities.

Planning my day needn't be difficult.  I like the fact that Elwyn is speaking with his tongue in his cheek here, for he knows that there's no need to choose between the two approaches--they're complementary, and we can always choose to pursue both aims each day that we're alive.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things can you do to improve the world today?

What kinds of things can you enjoy today?

How might you find ways to contribute more and to enjoy doing so?

For further thought:

It is something to be able to paint a particular picture,
or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful;
but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere
and medium through which we look.
To affect the quality of the day--that is the highest of arts.

1 year ago

  

November 16
  

Those who are lifting the world
upward and onward are those who
encourage more than criticize.

Elizabeth Harrison

  

Today's Meditation:

The world goes on, and life goes on.  The question is, in what direction is it going?  Is it going in a way that promises a better life for those who come after us, or is it going in a negative direction?  And what is our contribution to its direction?  Our contributions, as much as we may tell ourselves they don't matter, actually are real contributions to the way the world goes, and if we want to provide a better and kinder world for our descendents, then doesn't it make sense that we should be contributing good and kind acts and words?

It's easy to see fault and to criticize.  After all, it seems to be in our nature, but my hunch is that it results more from nurture.  We learn that to make things better, the quickest and easiest route is to criticize, to shame someone else into improving what they've done.  And that type of action may have what we see as a positive short-term result, but it most certainly isn't something that works towards making our world a better place.

What do you give to those around you?  Are you a person that people tend to avoid because they know that you're going to criticize what they do, or are you a person that people look forward to seeing because they like the way you make them feel with your kind and loving words?  It is possible to get things changed using encouragement--it just takes more expertise in order to learn how to do it well.  We can't look at an awful job and compliment it, but we can look at the person who did that job and encourage him or her to do better next time.

There are people who are contributing to making this world a kinder and more caring place by sharing kind words and encouragement.  It isn't always easy to do so, of course, but when we think about the bigger picture and the type of world we hope to leave for our children, then it seems obvious that we should be doing our best to lift the world upward instead of helping to drag it down.

Questions to consider:

What kind of encouragement can you share with others today?

Why is it so much easier to criticize and point out faults?  Why do we sometimes even feel a need to do so?

Which people have helped you to advance the most--those who have focused on criticism, or those who have focused on encouragement?

For further thought:

Tell your child, your spouse, or your employee that he or she is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, has no gift for it, and is doing it all wrong, and you have destroyed almost all inc

1 year ago

  

November 15

My only advice is to stay
aware, listen carefully, and
yell for help if you need it.

Judy Blume

  

Today's Meditation:

It's nice that Judy offers a limited amount of advice.  Sometimes we get overwhelmed with all the things that other people suggest that we do, and it can be hard to distinguish between advice that is helpful and advice that can be useless to us.  That said, I also like the advice that she gives, for these are three acts that can be very useful to us as human beings on this planet of ours.

I've grown convinced over the last few years that awareness is one of the keys to everything.  After all, we can't deal with anything in our lives, good or bad, unless we're aware of the different elements of our lives and how they're going.  How can I decide that I want to gain or lose weight if I'm not aware of what is a healthy weight for me, and what I weigh now?  I never could have dealt with many of the issues I grew up with as an Adult Child of and Alcoholic if I hadn't become aware of the fact that many of my thoughts and behaviors had been instilled in me very early, and that I was causing much of my own misery because of those very behaviors.

Listening carefully is one of the most important things that we can do in life, for in the listening we find awareness.  Too often we want to talk, to share our opinions or our wisdom or our thoughts.  But it's in the listening that we learn--it's in the hearing that we grow.

Finally, yell for help?  Absolutely.  The myth of independence--as opposed to interdependence--is firmly rooted in today's human being in most countries, and sometimes we forget that there are many wonderful people out there who would most certainly help us out if we were to ask them.  If we don't ask, they won't experience the positive feelings that come from helping others, and we won't get the benefit of getting aid in dealing with something that we probably shouldn't have been dealing with alone anyway.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things can we do to become more aware?  Of what things should we become more aware?

How often do you purposely take the time to listen?

Why is it so difficult for us to ask for help, even if we need it badly?

For further thought:

I shall open my eyes and ears.  Once every day I shall simply
stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person.  I shall not
then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be
glad that they are.  I shall joyfully allow them their
"divine, magical, and ecstatic" existence.

Clyde S. Kilby

1 year ago

  

November 14


Not all of us have to possess
earthshaking talent.  Just
common sense and love will do.

Myrtle Auvil

  

Today's Meditation:

It's a shame that so many people don't get this.  Because the people who think that in order to be successful, we have to have amazing talents, eventually become parents, and they teach their kids to abandon many things they love because they'd be better off doing something that they're "better" at.  Well, Jasmine may be better at math than she is at art, but if she dislikes math and loves art, there's still room for her in the art world, and a lifetime of working with numbers may be something close to hell for her.

There are many, many decent writers who are making a living doing what they love.  They'll never win the Pulitzers or the Nobels, but they certainly do contribute to the world and do work that they love doing.  There are other writers who have incredible talent but who squander it in various ways, and I'd say it's the former who are doing better in life.

I've watched many, many people lose their enthusiasm for things that they love because of the discouragement that other offer them instead of encouragement.  I see others who never are satisfied with the work that they do because they constantly compare it to the work of others who are more talented than they are.

But the world is made up of different people of different talents and abilities, and it's important that we keep in mind the fact that though we may not have the greatest talent in a certain area, we can still enjoy the work that we do in that area, and we can still be very proud that we work to the limits of our talents, or even push those limits further to improve on our talent.

Questions to consider:

From where do we get the idea that we have to be super-talented at something if we want to be good at it? 

In how many fields have you done very good work even when they haven't been fields of your greatest talent?

Why do others tend to discourage us if we want to pursue goals in fields in which we don't possess huge amounts of talent?

For further thought:

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent
if no birds sang there except those that sang best.

1 year ago

  

November 13

Failure comes only when we
forget our ideals and objectives
and principles and begin to
wander away from the road
that leads to their realization.

Jawaharial Nehru

  

Today's Meditation:

These are words that could--or should--lead us to redefine "failure."  Failure is not necessarily a lack of success in doing things that other people think we should do.  Failure does not lie in not living up the expectations of others.  If those things happen, then it's simply a lack of success, and a great learning experience.  Failure, though, must be deeper if it's to earn the name.  Failure is when we stop being authentic, when we stop being true to ourselves and our values and our integrity.

What Jawaharial is saying is that as long as we stay true to our principles, then we cannot fail, no matter what may be the outcomes.  And as I consider this idea, I have to agree--a loss on the surface may be a victory inside if we've made decisions based on our ideals rather than on expediency of on the wishes of others.  I know that many people can't understand why I "settle" for the pay of a high school teacher when I could be making much, much more money teaching college, but I know in my heart that I'm doing what I'm called to do--I'm "losing" the chance to make more money, but it most certainly is not a failure in any sense of the word.

We must be true to ourselves--otherwise, what's the point of doing anything?  Of course, we don't have to stick always to the same way of thinking--as we grow and change, often our ideals and principles will change, too--and that's fine.  But if we look at failure realistically, then we'll see that we define failure ourselves, and what many would consider a failure most definitely isn't so, as long as we're being true to our authentic selves and our principles and ideals.

Questions to consider:

Why do others want us to feel that we've failed if we don't live up to their expectations?

Who defines "failure" in your life?  Do you allow them to do so?

How do you define "failure" yourself?  If you stick to your principles and ethical ideals, can you really fail?

For further thought:

There really is no such thing as failure.  There is only
the rearrangement of plans and surrender of ego.

Susan Falter-Barns

1 year ago

  

November 12
  
  Change seems to happen when you
have abandoned the chase after what
you want to be (or think you should be)
and have accepted--and fully
experienced--what you are.

Janette Ramwater

  

Today's Meditation:

Somewhere along the line, most of us develop an idea of our ideal selves, the perfect self, the person that we should be in order to be perfectly acceptable to everyone all the time.  We think that if we can just achieve that self, then everything else will fall into line.  And so we go about trying to turn our lives into what we think it should be for us as those perfect selves.  I know that when I first started teaching, there were plenty of people who wanted to tell me who I should be as a teacher, but it wasn't until I fully accepted myself as the type of teacher that I am that I was able to make positive things happen in the classroom.

For example, I used to think that I needed to be more of an authoritarian, especially with the high school students.  It didn't work--things were never bad, but there was just too much tension in the class.  I figured out very quickly that I needed to be the person that I was--someone there working with the kids, not teaching at them--in order for them to be able to respond to me authentically.  How could I possibly expect them to be authentic with me when I was being less than authentic with them?

I constantly tell new teachers to be true to who they are, because kids sense very quickly when they're trying to be something other than who they are.  And when they do accept who they are and act as such, the kids respect that, and things in the classroom go much more smoothly.  We aren't all teachers, of course, but we do all have the choice to act according to our authentic nature or act in some other ways--and when we finally accept our authentic nature and live it fully and passionate, then we open the doors for good things to happen in our lives.  But not until then.

Questions to consider:

Why does it sometimes seem easier to act as if we were someone else, rejecting our true thoughts, feelings, and desires?

Why might it be that change doesn't tend to happen as long as we're trying to be something we're not?

Who are you, really?  Have you accepted that reality?

For further thought:

It is finally when you let go of what people expect you
to be and people's perceptions of you that you're able to be
the version of yourself that you're supposed to be-- like
in God's eyes.  It doesn't matter if you're half crazy, or eccentric,
or whatever it is-- that you have to be true to who
you were born to

1 year ago

  

November 11
  

 Too many dreams are cast
by the wayside in deference
to opinion and tradition.

Alan Cohen

  

Today's Meditation:

Too many--this is absolutely true.  How many people have given up on their ideas of doing certain jobs or pursuing certain careers because women just don't do that kind of work, or because you're going to go into your father's line of work, or because that's a stupid job and you'll never make anything of yourself doing it?  How many potentially wonderful novelists or poets haven't written a word because some ignorant someone told them they didn't stand a chance of being published?

Our dreams and our aspirations really are the only things that set us apart from others--and our decisions to pursue those dreams.  When we give up on our dreams, when we throw them aside like a useless piece of trash, then we're giving up our chance to fully realize who we are, the chance to pursue a unique dream that is special to us.  As a teacher, I've met many adults who gave up on their educations early on because a husband told them they were stupid or a parent told them that they were useless.  Now, years later, they're back trying to make up for lost time; it's good that they're doing it now, but just think of all the lost time and potential!

Have your dreams been cast by the wayside?  If they have, you'd better turn right around and go and get them!  After all, they were gifts to you that could be helping to define just who and what you are.  If you're not carrying them with you, then a huge part of who you are is simply missing.  Don't be among those who abandon their dreams at the first sign of adversity--rather, be one of the shining stars that pursues your dreams and who can serve as a wonderful role model for people who need to be able to do just what you're doing.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things contribute to making us cast our dreams aside?

How do dreams help to define us as unique individuals?

Why is it important to hold on to our dreams, even if circumstances delay us from pursuing them?

For further thought:

There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, “Yes, I’ve got dreams, of course, I’ve got dreams.”  Then they put the box away and bring it out once in a while to look in it, and yep, they’re still there.  These are great dreams, but they never even get out of the box.  It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, “How good or bad am I?”  That’s where courage comes in.

1 year ago

  

November 10
  

 
You do not have to be rich to be
generous.  If you have the spirit of
true generosity, a pauper can give
like a prince.

Corinne U. Wells

  

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes I feel that if I had more money, I'd be more generous.  After all, if I had more to give, I could give more, right?  That's what logic tells me.  Fortunately, I have my heart here to argue with my logic, and it tells me that my generosity is not measured by the amounts I give, but by the ways in which I give.  It's the spirit behind the giving that determines the true level of my generosity, and that's important to keep in mind.

I remember a television show in which a character bought a car for his parents, even though his parents didn't even want a car.  And it was a luxury car to boot, which his parents definitely didn't want.  The son thought that he was being incredibly generous just because he was buying an expensive car for them, but in reality he was simply fulfilling his own need to feel generous.  He didn't once consider his parents wants and needs--he only thought about what he wanted to give, and he got upset when his parents told him they didn't really want the car.

Our giving should be from our hearts, and our giving always should take into account the needs of the people to whom we're giving.  If we're able to follow those simple rules, then we definitely can give in the spirit of true generosity, and that's the spirit that benefits everyone equally.  The giving shouldn't come from a desire to gain from it (though it's okay if that does happen), and it shouldn't come from a desire to make someone else owe something back to us.  True generosity genuinely fulfills needs, and it comes from a place of simply wanting to fulfill those needs.

I would love to be rich--I can think of tons of ways that I could benefit others if I were wealthy.  But I'm not, and that's that.  That simple fact does not mean, though, that I can't be a genuinely generous person.  My generosity is not dependent on my wealth, but on my spirit and my heart.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many of us feel that it's important to give in high amounts if we're to be truly generous?

What kinds of needs can you fulfill in others with your current resources?

How might you go about showing the spirit of true generosity?

For further thought:

Generosity consists not of the sum
given, but of the manner in which
it is bestowed.

1 year ago

  

November 8

Spiritual life and secure
life do not go together;
to save oneself one must
struggle and take risks.

Ignazio Silone

  

Today's Meditation:

I'm not sure what Ignazio means here by "to save oneself," but I do have a good idea--it feels like he's talking about making our lives more than mediocre, to instill meaning and fulfillment into these lives that we're leading here on this planet while we're here, instead of settling for mediocrity and allowing our spirits to lead the lives of quiet desperation that Thoreau talked about when he was around.

"Spiritual life," of course, is redundant--there is no life apart from our spiritual lives, yet somehow we come to regard ourselves as truly being this package of skin and bones and blood and brain and muscle that we see in the mirror.  To that being, there really is no problem with not taking risks, as the body simply goes on doing what it can as long as it can, and then expires.  To our spirits, though, the part of ourselves that's integral, the part that feels love and compassion and emotional pain and ecstasy, the lack of risk-taking leaves them in a state of stagnation, leading inevitably to dissatisfaction with ourselves and despair.

We are spiritual creatures, and as such it's important that we do what we can to allow our spirits to thrive.  It's important that we use our creativity, that we allow ourselves to take risks that challenge ourselves, that we allow ourselves to feel for people and situations that may not turn out in the most positive ways.  Spirit is meant to be dynamic, even if body is often static; living from a perspective of allowing our spirits to thrive can be risky, yes, but our spirits are much more resilient than we give them credit for, and even when risks don't turn out as we hope they will, we can learn much from at least having taken that risk.

You are a spiritual being, and you have a spiritual life.  While safety is often tempting, it most certainly isn't something that allows our spirits to grow and to learn the lessons they're meant to learn here in this life.  Sometimes we have to take risks so that our spiritual lives can come close to reaching their potential.

Questions to consider:

Why do we often feel that safety is such an important thing to strive for?

How can we start to allow ourselves to take risks that aren't foolish, but that can help us to grow and learn? 

How do we so quickly lose sight of the fact that our spiritual sides are so important, and end up neglecting that aspect of ourselves? 

For further thought:

The spiritual life is, at root, a matter of seeing.  It is all of life
seen from a certain perspective.  It is waking, sleeping, dreaming,
eating, drinking,

1 year ago

  

November 7

The pain and suffering that comes
to us has a purpose in our lives--
it is trying to teach us something.
We should look for its lesson.

Peace Pilgrim

  

Today's Meditation:

I usually don't want this to be true.  Quite simply, it means that many of our most important lessons come through pain and suffering, so if we're people who want to learn important lessons, we must pretty much expect pain and suffering.  On the surface, this seems to be a fatalistic perspective.  In reality, though, we all have to face such things in our lives, and when they do come, it's good to know that they do bring us something more than just the pain on the surface.

Mildred (aka the Peace Pilgrim), isn't telling us that we should invite pain and suffering into our lives, and she isn't telling us that we should celebrate when it does enter into our reality.  What she is telling us is that we should pay attention to it when it's here, for it can bring more to us than itself.  Some of the most devastating breakups have led many people to realize just how self-sufficient they can be; some terrible medical diagnoses have led people to re-examine their lives and bring a new richness and fullness to their reality.

The question we must ask ourselves is how we react to pain.  Do we try to deny it and try to thrust it out of our lives, or do we accept it and try to find out what messages it may be bringing to us?  Are our minds closed to the possibility of learning from suffering, or do we open our minds to possibilities even as the pain makes itself known?

Pain and suffering are something that we spend a lot of time and energy avoiding, and rightly so.  But when they do force their ways into our lives, we must do our best to figure out what they're bringing us other than themselves--they're a part of something bigger and better, if only we can see it.

Questions to consider:

Why do so few of us recognize the positive side of situations that are painful?

What kinds of lessons can be given to us through things such as pain and suffering?

What kinds

1 year ago

  

November 6

There is no loneliness
if one is satisfied
with oneself.

Hans-Ulrich Rieker

  

Today's Meditation:

I used to spend a lot of time feeling lonely, feeling like I needed someone else around to give me the validation that would make me feel better about myself and my life.  It wasn't until I finally realized just how damaging that perspective was to me--my loneliness was a result of my lack of self-image, and not a result of me being alone.  When I finally became comfortable being alone, not feeling a need for someone else to be there, the loneliness departed.

It's not always easy to feel satisfied with ourselves, especially if we set very high standards for ourselves.  It's not easy to feel that we aren't lacking anything if we believe that things outside of ourselves are necessary for our lives to be complete.  And loneliness can be devastating--in our attempts to avoid it, we may seek out the company of people who are very bad for us, and continue to see them even if we know that they're bad for us.

We all have times when we feel frustrated and disappointed with ourselves, but we need to be sure that we don't let those frustrations lead to an overall dissatisfaction.  If we do, we face the possibility of bringing other feelings such as loneliness and depression into our lives, and we really don't need such feelings around, do we?

We can be satisfied with ourselves even when we're alone.  And loneliness isn't necessarily a natural result of being alone--our time alone can be some of the most valuable and interesting times of our lives if we focus on the possibilities that are present in each moment instead of what isn't there.

Questions to consider:

How do you define loneliness?  Why is it such a difficult feeling for so many people to deal with? 

What are some of the most important elements of being satisfied with ourselves?

Why do so many of us have difficulties being by ourselves?

For further thought:


When we cannot bear to be alone, it
1 year ago

  

November 5
  

The weakness of our age is our
apparent inability to distinguish
our needs from our greeds.

Dan Robinson

  

Today's Meditation:

It's been going on for quite some time:  people in marketing and advertising have been doing their best to make us feel that we need certain things that aren't actually needs, but wants.  And it's working, too--there are many, many people in the world who have a difficult time distinguishing between needs and wants, and many others who want something so badly that they allow someone else to convince them that they need it.  After all, that's how a consumer-based society functions, isn't it?

In business, it astonishes me to see that banks and business strive for a seven-billion dollar profit instead of a four-billion dollar profit.  Instead of keeping it as profit, those extra three billion dollars could go towards hiring and training new people and improving and expanding services for customers.  But those things aren't in their lists of priorities, it seems, and a four-billion dollar profit just isn't enough.  That's greed.

We do need to have enough to eat in our lives, and we do have to have shelter and clothing.  These things are needs.  We also need to have time to relax, and we need to have relationships with others.  We need to have some level of security, and we need to have available health care.  Some couples live in 250-square foot RV's, and their needs are met nicely; I know other couples who live in 2500-square-foot mansions, all by themselves.  That's greed, too.  Sometimes it's greed born of insecurity and fear, but it definitely is a case of people using more resources than they need for no really good reason.

If we want to distinguish between our own needs and our greed, then we first must be aware of things that we wish we had.  And then we need to be honest.  As I grow older and gain more experience with things, this gets easier for me, and I get by with much less, and I recognize my wants vs. my needs much more easily.  And the best part is that when I do see the difference, my life grows much more simple.

Questions to consider:

Why do we sometimes convince ourselves that we need something when we really don't?

How much of an effect do marketers and advertisers have on our perspectives towards the things we want?

Why do so many people make greed a way of life?

For further thought:

Our desires always increase with our possessions.
The knowledge that something remains yet unenjoyed
impairs our enjoyment of the good before us.

1 year ago

  

November 4
   
   
We should have no regrets.  We
should never look back.  The past
is finished.  There is nothing to
be gained by going over it.

Rebecca Beard

  

Today's Meditation:

If we were to gauge the importance of different things in our lives based on how much we think about them, how much we fret about them, how much time and effort we spend wishing they were different, then most of us probably would find our past way up there on the list.  We do spend tons of time in the past, from talking about yesterday's football game to wishing we hadn't said what we said three days ago, to thinking about some sort of glory days when we had tons of friends and lots to do and life was good.  But like Rebecca says here, there really is nothing to be gained by looking back at our pasts, except perhaps learning the lessons that we need to learn from our mistakes.

Right here and right now, I have a life to live.  I have lots of choices about things to do and places to be and people to help.  The here and now is the most important part of my life, for only  right now can I affect my life in positive ways, and even affect my future by choosing to do something positive in the now.  But if I squander the moments I have in my now by focusing on regret about something I did or didn't do in the past, I'm definitely losing many opportunities, moment by moment, of improving myself and improving my life.

It's important that we recognize and acknowledge mistakes that we've made.  But once we've done that, it's time to move on and continue with our lives--continuing to dwell on those mistakes in the form of regret doesn't help us a bit. 

Let the past be.  No, you didn't tell that other person what you felt before he or she left or passed on, but you can tell people today what you feel about them.  Yes, you did make a huge mistake, but now it's time to make amends for it and focus on not making more such mistakes in your present.  Regret does nothing for us, and living in the past sabotages our present; right now is the only time we have to do good, so let's do all the good we can.

Questions to consider:

How do so many people come to have deep regrets that they're unable or unwilling to let go of?

What good does it do us to continue to allow our minds to focus on the past?

How might we teach ourselves to recognize when we're dwelling on regrets, and how to pull ourselves out of them?

For further thought:

Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to
look back.  Regret

1 year ago

  

November 3
    
The characteristic of the ignorant person
is that he or she strives to be other than
what he or she is. . . . To the enlightened
one, there is none who are ignorant.

Yoga Vasistha

  

Today's Meditation:

In our culture, of course, we tend to use the word "ignorant" as an insult, though the word has negative connotations only if we perceive it to have them.  An ignorant person is simply someone who doesn't know something--for example, I'm completely ignorant when it comes to calculus, and I would have no problems being called ignorant about calculus.  That said, Vasistha's words here make sense--he's simply talking about "the characteristic of the person who is not enlightened."  But then he turns the idea on its head by saying that the enlightened person sees that no one is actually ignorant. 

To some extent, we go through life trying on different clothes in order to find out what fits.  I'm not a football player, but I played football in high school, and it was fun.  So even though it seemed that I was trying to be something I wasn't, that wasn't really the case--I was simply a non-football player who was playing football for a while.  Likewise, I once was in a community play, and I was a non-actor who for a short time was acting.  Was I ignorant to try to be something I wasn't?  Or was I just trying on a different shirt for a while to find out what it felt like to wear it?

The enlightened person realizes that there really is no room for judgment.  Even if this person is trying to be someone or something else, then that person is going through something that he or she needs to experience in life.  Perhaps the person needs to learn about authenticity or dissatisfaction, and the best way for that person to learn is through such an experience.  While it's easy for us to say, "You should be yourself," if the other person hasn't yet discovered his or her self, then how are they supposed to do that?

One thing I've learned about life holds true:  people do some weird stuff.  And trying to be other than what we are is weird, but it also can be very valuable (as most weird stuff can).  And if we claim any sort of level of enlightenment at all, we must realize that it isn't for us to judge what others are doing, for we have no idea what their path calls them to do.

Questions to consider:

Why does it seem that so many people are trying to be something other than what they really are?

What does it mean to be enlightened?

How can trying to be something that we're not actually help us in life?

For further thought:

1 year ago

  

November 2
  
True growth is a process
which one allows to happen
rather than causes to happen.

Gerald May

  

Today's Meditation:

Gerald gives us another way of looking at the concept of letting go--allowing life to bring lessons to us rather than trying to find and go through only those lessons that we want to go through, or paying attention to only those things that we feel are important at the time.  The truth is that life will give us all sorts of wonderful lessons that will help us to grow in spirit, in mind, and at heart if only we're willing to pay attention to what life is saying to us.

Unfortunately, many people don't seem to want to grow except in ways that they've chosen for themselves, and as people with limited perspectives, we aren't really the best ones to be choosing our own lessons.  After all, if we don't know something, how do we know that we're supposed to learn it?  How do we know that we could use some growth in the area of compassion unless life sends us a lesson that shows us what we need?  How do we know that we should take more time to rest if life doesn't give us that lesson?

But of course, the lesson is only half the battle--we have to pay attention to the lesson, and we have to take something from it if we're to say that we've truly grown.  And I believe it's about those lessons that Gerald is speaking--it's not for us to choose which lessons we respond to by growing and developing, but in paying attention to those lessons we become more loving, more caring, more patient.

When we plant a seed in the ground, we don't make it grow.  We simply provide the conditions necessary for the seed to germinate and develop into a plant of some sort.  Likewise with ourselves--by staying aware and accepting of life, we create conditions in which love and compassion and wisdom can grow, and once those conditions are good, we still can't force any of those things to grow--we can only accept the conditions and allow them to grow inside us until they flower or bear fruit--or both.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many of us try to control every element of our lives instead of letting go and accepting what life sends our way?

How might you go about creating the conditions inside yourself for positive things to grow? 

1 year ago

  

  

November 1

When one is prey to one's emotions,
one is not one's own master.

Baruch Spinoza

  

Today's Meditation:

I would never argue that our emotions are negative aspects of who we are.  To me, our emotions provide an important guide and meter as to how we're doing in life, and it's important that we honor them and pay attention to them.  But like Baruch, I've seen that if we let our emotions control us, if we allow ourselves to be swayed constantly by those emotions into behaving certain ways and making certain decisions, then we can no longer say that we have any sort of control over our own lives.  We cannot even say that we make our own decisions or our own choices if those decisions and choices are based on our emotions rather than our instinct or our logic.

It is easy to become too attached to our logic, of course, but that's not the point here.  The point is that no matter how valuable they may be, our emotions are not trustworthy indicators of just how things are going or just what is the right decision to make in any given situation.  I love following my instinct, but whenever I feel my emotions getting in the way of any decisions, I see a huge red flag going up, for I know that my thinking isn't necessarily clear when I'm letting my emotions sway me. 

We've all seen people make emotional decisions, and we've all had the experience of wishing that they wouldn't do so, wishing that they would wait until they calmed down a bit to react or decide or act.  None of us are ever completely in control of our own lives, of course, but when we allow our emotions to run things for us we definitely are giving up much of the control that we actually do have, and we run the risk of losing any mastery that we may have.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of problems can arise when we let our emotions take charge of our lives?

Why is it so often so tempting to follow our emotions instead of our reason?

How can we be aware of when our emotions are influencing us too strongly? 

For further thought:

When you look at things emotionally, you will not see
them clearly; when you perceive things spiritually,
you will understand.

Peace Pilgrim

1 year ago
  

October 31

I didn't belong as a kid, and
that always bothered me.  If only
I'd known that one day my differences
would be an asset, then my early
life would have been much easier.

Bette Midler

  

Today's Meditation:

I was kind of like Bette when I was a kid, always feeling that I didn't belong.  What I've come to learn since then, though, is that most of that lack of belonging came from me, from my own feelings of not belonging, and not necessarily because I really didn't belong.  I felt like I didn't belong, so I acted like I didn't belong.  And as long as I acted like that, how else were other people supposed to treat me?

Much of the way I felt came from the fact that my father was in the military and we moved around rather often.  That meant that I was often starting out in new schools where I didn't know anyone else.  That really didn't end up mattering, as I always made a friend or three to spend time with, but the fact was that even with them, I felt that I didn't belong, and that they were somehow doing me a favor by being my friend.  But again, those were my feelings, not the way that things were.

We don't realize as kids that having a couple of good friends is all that anyone can ask for, and once you have those, it doesn't really matter if you "fit in" with the social order as it stands.  So what if you don't "fit in" with those people who are always wearing the latest fashions, or who are smoking across the street or who are going hunting as soon as the season opens?  You are who you are, and one of the important tricks in life is to be with the people who accept you as you are and enjoy your company--and whose company you enjoy.

We all have differences, but many of us hide them so that we'll "fit in" with others.  Those differences, though, if we develop them and celebrate them, can help us to make something very special and very unique of our lives, so we shouldn't worry at all if we're not just like everyone else--we should be grateful that that's the case. 

Questions to consider:

What are some of the major differences inherent in who you are as a person?

Do you ever feel that you don't belong in some sort of setting?  Where do you think those feelings originate?

How might we help ourselves to realize that as human beings, we fully belong to communities of other human beings (except in those situations in which people make a purposeful effort to exclude others)?

For further thought:

The individual has always had to struggle to keep
from being overwhelmed by the tribe.  If you try it, you
will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened.  But no price
is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

Friedrich Nietzsche

1 year ago
  

October 29
  

  
Reflect on your present blessings,
of which every person has many,
not on your past misfortunes,
of which all people have some.

Charles Dickens

  

Today's Meditation:

How many blessings do I have in my life right at this moment?  Oh, my goodness--if I really were to sit down for five minutes and make a list of the people and things and situations in my life that are positive, those blessings would far outweigh my past misfortunes, and they also would outweigh the current negative things, of which there are relatively few to speak of.

Charles gives us some really good advice here.  If we spend our time thinking of misfortunes already past, then our minds are occupied in the present moment with negative thoughts and ideas, and just how can that possibly help us to live in a positive way in the here and now?  We always have a choice as to what we focus on in our minds, and if we choose to keep our minds on negative things from the past, no matter how justified we feel in doing so, we're still keeping our minds focused on the negative.  And what good does that do?

One of the reasons for which I prefer to stay focused on my present blessings is that I've found from experience that the more I stay focused on blessings, the more blessings come my way in the future.  It's like by focusing on the positive, I'm opening a door that lets in more positive; conversely, when I focus on the negative, I'm opening a door for the negative and more negative things push their way into my life.

We've all faced misfortune.  Some of us keep ourselves miserable by continuing to focus on those misfortunes, and not allowing ourselves to open up to the positive.  Others of us, though, allow those misfortunes to lie in the past, where they belong, and we focus on the blessings that we have.  The ability to make the most of our here and now lies in our decisions concerning where we keep our own focus.

Questions to consider:

Why is it so easy for so many people to stay focused on past misfortune?  What good does it do them?

How many blessings do you have in your life right now? 

How might we go about keeping our minds on our blessings?

For further thought:

Let go. Why do you cling to pain? There is nothing
you can do about the wrongs of yesterday. It is
not yours to judge. Why hold on to the very thing
which keeps you from hope and love?

1 year ago
   

October 28
  
  The one thing that doesn't
abide by majority rule is
a person's conscience.

Harper Lee

  

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes I think that Harper's words here should read "The one thing that shouldn't abide. . ."  In our world we all see people doing things that they know they shouldn't do just to be cool, or just to be accepted, or just because others expect to do something.  When we deal with our internal conflicts with our consciences, there's often a good chance that we will rationalize the decision that makes things the easiest for us or the one that's going to get us accolades and/or acceptance.  And here's the scary part--we often allow ourselves to justify what we've done by adjusting our consciences to make the action okay.

Do we have the ability to adjust our conscience?  Can we truly convince ourselves that something wrong is actually right, and not feel the least twinge of remorse for doing that thing or for not feeling wrong about it?  Sometimes, I believe we do--but I also know that not everyone is willing to do so.  Most people aren't even willing to try to do so.

Why is it so difficult to listen to our consciences, though?  Why do we not want to acknowledge what it's telling us to be true or wrong or right?  It really does seem to be that pressure from others that makes things difficult for us, be they friends or colleagues.  But no matter what pressures we face, the final decision about whether to follow our conscience or not rests with us; and the final decision about whether to accept what it tells us lies with us, also. 

Our conscience should not abide by majority rule.  Many people squelch the important voice inside themselves by telling themselves that everyone else thinks a certain way, so why should I think any different?  But the question is not whether you're thinking differently or not, but whether you're following what you know in your heart and soul to be true.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the pressures that weigh against us following our consciences?

Why is it so easy sometimes to just go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing, whether we agree with it or not?

How might you be sure that you keep yourself open to the messages that your conscience is sending you?

For further thought:

Conscience, as a mentor, the guide and compass of every
act, leads ever to happiness.  When the individual can
stay alone with his or her conscience and get its approval,
without knowing force or specious knowledge, then he
or she begins to know what real happiness is.

1 year ago
   

October 27

The world will never have lasting
peace so long as people reserve
for war the finest human qualities.
Peace, no less than war, requires
idealism and self-sacrifice and a
righteous and dynamic faith.

John Foster Dulles

  

Today's Meditation:

We do spend a lot of money on war.  We spend a lot of time and effort and money and energy on creating things that will harm our fellow human beings because we're afraid that if we don't do so, we'll be vulnerable to attack and conquest, that we'll lose our chosen way of life and be forced to live the ways that other people want to force us to live.  What would happen, I wonder,  if we were to spend just as much money and time and effort pursuing peace? 

What would happen if our peace budget were as much as our defense budget?  What could we accomplish in this world as individuals if we were to focus on creating peace in our own lives, and in our own relationships, as much as we focus on making money and doing things that we think others want us to do?  The finest human qualities to which John refers, I believe, are things like dedication, perseverance, focus on accomplishment, hard work, courage, and sacrifice.  Do we put these things into practice each day in our relationships and into our communities?

There's something about hardship that seems to stimulate our survival instincts.  And once those are stimulated, we seem to be able to reach inside and tap into reserves of qualities that are among the best we have.  It's unfortunate that we so often wait until adversity strikes to reach inside and find those strengths--for they're strengths that could contribute much to the spread of things like peace and community and compassion if we were to apply them to those things.

I can imagine some of the qualities that I might find inside myself in times of great turmoil and struggle.  The trick is to tap into them during other times so that I might use them in ways that will contribute positive things to this world of ours while I'm here.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many people not tap into their finest qualities every day in order to work towards lasting peace?

What does "lasting peace" mean to you?  Is it just a pipe dream, or is it a possibility?

Who is responsible for lasting peace in our world?  Is it just the leaders, or are more of us actually responsible for contributing to it?

For further thought:

The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.

1 year ago
  

October 26
  
 
 Life is not made up of great
sacrifices and duties but of little
things in which smiles and kindness
given habitually are what win and
preserve the heart and secure comfort.

Humphrey Davy

  

Today's Meditation:

Yesterday I was walking through the elementary school wing of our building and I saw a little girl about five years old walking towards me.  She was wearing shoes that had lights in them, and she looked incredibly friendly.  Our eyes met and we smiled at each other.  "Your shoes are really cool," I said, and her smile grew even bigger and she positively beamed.  Her smile made my day much, much brighter, and it's something that sticks in my mind and brightens each moment that I think of it.

Many years ago, on a cold and dreary winter morning in Salamanca, the same thing happened to me.  A little girl on the street, holding her mother's hand--our eyes met, and we shared a smile that has stuck with me for three decades.  That smile is still with me, while so many other things that I thought might have been very important to me have fallen by the wayside, and are no longer in my mind.  In my life I remember more the smiles and the hugs and the words of encouragement that I've been blessed to give to and receive from others than I remember the jobs or the tasks or even many of the "accomplishments" that I've achieved.

That's why I fully believe in Humphrey's words.  The things that have touched my heart are the things that stay with me and that keep me constantly remembering how positive life can be, how powerful a simple smile can prove.  I've shared such smiles with adults, too, but more rarely--children seem to have a greater ability to include their hearts in their smiles.

I've had very big successes in life, but to be completely honest, if I were to choose which memory I would like to have foremost in my mind all the time, I would choose one of these smiles from people that I don't even know than I would a graduation or an award.  I would choose my wife's smile at our wedding over the wedding itself, and I would choose times spent sharing silence with loved ones over any times spent in cheering crowds.  Life is filled with simple, deep moments, and if we can truly appreciate the depth and beauty of those moments, much of the rest of life becomes much more positive.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend to undervalue the simple kindnesses that others show us?

What to you is the best part of a shared smile or a simple kindness?

Do you search out opportunities to share smiles and simple kindnesses of your own?

For further thought:

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity.
They are but trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along
life's pathway, the good they do is inconc

1 year ago
  

October 25

Few people think more than
two or three times a year.
I have made an international
reputation for myself by thinking
once or twice a week.

George Bernard Shaw

  

Today's Meditation:

While I recognize that George's tongue must have been firmly in his cheek when he said this, he's not at all far from the truth with this comment.  True thinking is, indeed, rare--rather than think on our own, we tend to react with our thoughts; rather than ponder concepts and ideas carefully, we tend to skim over them with our first reactions and not take our time and think our ways to the core of the matters at hand.

Most of the work that I do, I can do quite easily without tons of effort--and I do it that way.  Most of my relationships I can maintain with a minimum of effort--and I do so, because I can and because other things take up my time and my thoughts.  Most things that I need to think about deeply, I think about superficially, mostly because I don't feel that I have the time to consider something on its own when there are so many other things that need my attention, also.

But our best inventors, our best scientists, our best architects are all people who are able to give their undivided attention to something and stick with it.  They're willing to take the time out of their days and make the efforts to think deeply about one thing for long stretches of time.  I sometimes feel that way when I'm writing, especially novels--they force me to put my mind on the topic at hand and think it through more deeply than I'm used to, and that really is a good feeling when it happens.  Yes, I do neglect other things at those times, but that neglect isn't anything terrible--I just get to other things a bit later.

If we want to really think--to really exercise our minds and our ability to ponder--then we need to make time for it and we need to make the effort clearly and fully.  True thought isn't the multitude of thoughts that race through our minds each day as we go about our business and shift from thought to thought all day long.  True thought is keeping our attention on one thing and considering it from different angles and perspectives, and true thought is something that can enrich us greatly and add a beautiful dimension to our lives.

Questions to consider:

How would you define truly thinking?  How often do you participate in that activity? 

Why do we tend to get caught up in our racing thoughts, unable to slow them down or control them?

What are some ways that you can practice thinking at a different level than you think now?

For further thought:

Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rath

1 year ago
  

October 24
   

  Creativity is so delicate a flower that
praise tends to make it bloom, while
discouragement often nips it in the bud.
Any of us will put out more and better
ideas if our efforts are appreciated.

Alex F. Osborn

  

Today's Meditation:

While Alex's words are very true, they can't help us much if we're waiting for others to praise our creativity.  If we wait for someone else to compliment us or encourage us, we could end up waiting a very, very long time and becoming very discouraged.  That's why when I look at words like these, I think about the other people in my life and the positive effects that I can have on them.

Sometimes I find it especially difficult to be encouraging about creativity because I simply don't like something creative that someone else has done.  It may be aesthetically unpleasing to me, it may offend me, it may make be feel nauseous--whatever the reason, there are simply some creative things that I don't like, just as I don't like sushi or coconut or any number of foods.  In that case, though, it's important that I put my likes and dislikes aside and try to focus on the fact that someone has spent time and effort creating something, and I now have the choice between encouraging or discouraging.  After all, just because I don't like something doesn't mean that it isn't good.  As long as I'm aware of the choice, it becomes much, much easier.

The up side to me being encouraging is that my encouragement may contribute directly to there being more creative material in this world of ours.  Any time that someone reaches inside and takes the risk necessary to create, the world becomes richer and there is more potential in it, simply as a result of the creative work of individuals.  And I can be a part of that when I give kind words of praise for someone's creative efforts.

Questions to consider:

How do we tend to respond when we don't like something, even if we recognize the creativity and talent behind it? 

Why is praise so important for so many of us? 

What kinds of praise do you most like to hear?  Do you give that same kind of praise to others?

For further thought:

Most of us, swimming against the tides of trouble the
world knows nothing about, need only a bit of praise
or encouragement-- an

1 year ago

  

October 23

Live as if everything you do
will eventually be known.

Hugh Prather

  

Today's Meditation:

I long ago gave up on the idea that I can do anything that won't be found out.  No matter what my motivation for doing so, I've learned that everything that I do eventually becomes known by someone, and therefore it's important that I do only those things that I'm fine with other people knowing--especially where other people are concerned.  There really are no secrets, after all.

But what I like about Hugh's words is the fact that he's not talking about living this way just to preserve your good name or to stay out of trouble.  What he's giving is advice that will help us to consistently make decisions that are healthy and worthwhile, decisions that will make us people and that won't allow us to things that are destructive or harmful.  If I constantly make decisions based on the assumption that others will know what I've done, I don't have to do so just to preserve my good name in their eyes; rather, I do so because I want to lead a good life.

Sometimes it's very hard to see which decision would be best, especially if one might benefit us in ways that are possibly unethical or that present a double standard.  I would take Hugh's words even further to say "eventually be known to a very young person who trusts you completely to do what's right."  In that case, my decisions will be much, much easier to make.

I don't think we even have to live "as if," for the truth is that all that we do is known by us.  And while I don't recommend being harsh judges of ourselves, I do think it's important that we have some kinds of standards that we can live by, and that we can apply to our lives so that our decisions are easier, better, and more able to stand the tests of time and scrutiny.

Questions to consider:

How often do you think about others finding out about things that you've done?  Does that often help you?

What's the difference between fearing the judgment of others and wanting others to recognize the good in you?

What does it mean to you to think that everything you do eventually will be known by others?

For further thought:

Peace of mind just can't be bought.
Trust me:  Even if your conscience
doesn't stop you from playing dirty
to get what you want, once you get
it, it will keep you from enjoying it.

Patti LaBelle

1 year ago
  

October 22

Emptiness is a symptom that you are not
living creatively.  You either have no goal
that is important enough to you, or you
are not using your talents and efforts
in striving toward an important goal.

Maxwell Maltz

  

Today's Meditation:

Whether or not we're working towards something that's important to us always is a question of choice.  It may be that our jobs don't allow us a lot of opportunity to be creative and daring, but we don't live our whole lives at our jobs.  Life is about giving and sharing, after all, and it's important that we find every opportunity that we can to do so, or else we will feel that sense of emptiness that Maxwell is talking about.

Some of the happiest people I've ever known have been those who have set up a shop or a crafts room where they can pursue things that interest them, things that they can share with others.  In this way, they're able to use their talents on something productive, something that calls to them most days and says, "Come make use of those great talents that you have!"  I read an article once about a woman who started propagating and growing flowers and houseplants for shut-ins, and just this new hobby of hers pulled her back from depression and despair and gave her something to look forward to in life.

Perhaps you don't have a goal like that college degree that could help you get a promotion, or a certain sales figure, or a certain amount of money in savings by a certain time.  Perhaps you'd like to meet a certain number of people in the next few months, or finish that short story or poem or novel by a certain date.  If this is the case, then make concrete goals out of these things, and pursue them as important, vital goals.

We spend far too much time looking outside of ourselves for reasons to thrive.  Such a strategy really doesn't do much for us--we each have our own unique gifts and talents, and it's when we actually put them to use that we're able to benefit from them with a happier and more fulfilling life.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many people neglect to make goals or work with their own special gifts?

What are some of your unique gifts?  How might you put them to use to add a dynamic aspect to your life?

What's one important goal that you haven't made yet because you're afraid you won't be able to reach it?

For further thought:

If you observe really happy people you will find them
building a boat, writing a symphony, educating their children,
growing double dahlias in their gardens, or looking for
dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. They will not be searching
for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled
under the radiator. They will not be striving for it as a goal
in itself

1 year ago
  

October 21

There are as many nights as days, and
the one is just as long as the other in the
year's course.  Even a happy life cannot
be without a measure of darkness, and
the word "happy" would lose its meaning
if it were not balanced by sadness.

Carl Jung

  

Today's Meditation:

This concept is one of Jung's most important contributions to my life.  Other people have said the same thing, of course, but long ago when I first read this idea by Jung, I suddenly didn't feel so alone in my down times; I suddenly realized that everyone was going through their own dark times; I realized that there really can't be life without the darkness, and the darkness was no longer as painful to me.  This was during a time when I was going through some rather severe bouts of depression, and Jung's idea did help me to keep in mind that what I was going through was a part of life, and that this, too, would pass.

We learn from darkness just as we learn from light.  We gain new insights, new ideas, new perspectives from going through difficult times, and if our lives were devoid of them, then we never would be able to help other people through their difficult times.  No, we don't search out sadness and depression on purpose so that we can learn from them, but when they do visit us, we can get through them more easily with a healthy perspective, one that tells us that life still goes on in spite of the darkness, and that tomorrow's sun will rise just as it did today and yesterday. 

I know people who would consider Jung's words to be pessimistic, who would say things like "why focus on the negative when there's so much positive?"  But there's a difference between negativity and realism, and sadness is simply a natural part of the human experience--when we keep in mind that it is natural and temporal, then we can work our way through it much more easily, and while the pain may not lessen, it should be less destructive. 

You will have your nights.  I will have my nights.  And life will go on, and this, too, shall pass.  It's comforting to me to recognize that fact and hold it close to my heart.

Questions to consider:

How can thinking about the dark parts of life help us to get through our bad times?

Would our times of happiness and cheerfulness be as uplifting if they weren't balanced out by times that are difficult?

What are some of the long-term benefits of having gone through difficult sad times in our lives?

For further thought:

1 year ago
  

October 20

The older I grow, the more I listen
to people who don't talk much.

Germain G. Glidden

  

Today's Meditation:

Some people think that people who don't talk much don't have much worthwhile to say.  Sometimes, I'm sure, this is the case.  In my experience, though, I've found that the people who talk a great deal tend to have the least to say, while those who talk less also know the value of silence because they're truly listening to others who are speaking.

I've been disappointed as I've grown older to find that many people aren't interested in learning more as they grow older.  Many people actually stop listening to others because they're so attached to their own beliefs as to what is right and wrong that they aren't willing to learn from others about many of the important things that still remain to be learned.  My personal goal is to continue learning until the day I die, because I never know when I'm going to learn more things that make me happy and allow me to enjoy life more.

The people who speak less, it seems, often are the people who speak only when it seems important to do so.  They don't speak just to hear themselves speak, but to relate something important to others.  And because they speak less than others, they are able to spend time listening and thinking about what they hear rather than just trying to come up with something else to say.

I think an apt analogy is the difference between sap and syrup.  A person who talks a lot is like sap--you can get tons of it from a tree, but it has little value and no flavor.  And it can take more than 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup, which has been distilled and processed to become something wonderful.  People who talk little are those who have listened to those who talk much and have taken just the good stuff to give us some very valuable syrup.

There are people who talk a lot who have some great things to say, of course.  But I'll follow Germain's advice here and pay closer attention when I hear the words of someone who doesn't speak an awful lot, for in the fewer words I believe I'll find the greater treasure.

Questions to consider:

How often do you spend time listening closely to people who talk little?

Why do so many people who talk little have such great things to say?

Why do so many people who talk a lot have so few good things to say?

For further thought:

There is a silence that matches our best possibilities
when we have learned to listen to others.  We can
master the art of being quiet in order to be able to
hear clearly what others are saying. . . . We need to
cut of

2 years ago
  

October 19

Look at your life as a beautiful fabric
woven from wonderful rich colours and
fine cloth.  Make a plan, one that is full of
obtainable goals for a happy life.  Read
through the plan daily so that it becomes
a permanent part of your thought process.

Sara Henderson

  

Today's Meditation:

For some reason, most of us go through life without ever really having any sort of plan at all.  We have no plans in place for advancing in our careers, no plan in place for improving our relationships (or even maintaining them), no plan in place for reaching goals that are important to us.  But when it comes to a vacation or a party or a dinner, we'll plan out every minute detail, and we'll be greatly satisfied when our plans come to a successful result.

There are many, many things that we can plan that don't involve other people.  We can plan to read a certain number of books on a topic that's related to our careers by a certain date.  We can plan to do something kind for someone, somewhere, each day of the week.  We can create a plan that should lead to a promotion, based on quantifiable criteria.  We can plan ways to make sure that we have money in the bank for times when we need it.

The fabric of our lives is created thread by thread, but most of us use whatever thread happens to be lying around, without really thinking of ways to find brighter, more colorful, more durable threads.  When we make our plans an integral part of who we are, then we'll be finding and using threads that will give us those rich, wonderful colors that will make our lives something beautiful to regard from any perspective.

Doing so does take a plan, though, and it takes a lot of effort to stick to our plans.  We can be sure, though, that the best fabric comes from the best materials, and we go about creating those materials each day of our lives.

Questions to consider:

What kind of fabric are you  creating--rich with deep and vibrant colors, or just another generic fabric that doesn't take much effort? 

How can you create a plan that will help you to make of your life a very rich and deep fabric?

What's the difference between people who take whatever threads happen to be lying around and those who make sure that they create rich and colorful threads for their fabric?

For further thought:

The tapestry of life continues to be woven.  Occasionally a
chance arises to repair an older, tattered piece of the weave.
Something happens to jolt our awareness back in time to an
event that resulted in tears and rips.  With new, more mature
vision, we see the circumstances in present time and have
compassion for the unclear events of the past.  While the new
experience is being woven into the design, the old rip is
simultaneously being repaired.  All is well.

2 years ago
  

October 18
   

Believe you can, and you can.
Belief is one of the most powerful
of all problem dissolvers.  When you
believe that a difficulty can be
overcome, you are more than
halfway to victory over it already.

Norman Vincent Peale

  

Today's Meditation:

I've spent much of my life believing that things couldn't be changed, that things are the way they are and the there are simply unavoidable problems and obstacles that come up in life and slam us to the ground, forcing us to do little more than try to deal with the problems--but certainly not thrive and do well.

It took me a very long time to learn that my beliefs helped to cause this sort of thing to happen.  I believed something negative would happen, and therefore it did:  a simple cause-and-effect relationship that nobody had ever taught me anything about.  And because they would happen, they would reinforce my beliefs, which would then lead to. . . well, you know.

There's a big difference between believing in limitations and impossibilities and believing in possibilities and potential.  When we believe in the possibilities, then we approach them as if they can be accomplished, and it's that approach that allows us to actually get them done.  Many of the difficulties in our lives hang on because we believe in them and we believe in their power to harm us and to be problematic to us, whereas they could be overcome quite effectively--if perhaps not extremely simply--if we were simply to believe that we can overcome them.

One of the things that separates Olympic and professional athletes from others is the way that they believe that they can do whatever they try to do--they know it may take a lot of work to get to the point at which they can, but since they do believe, they're willing to put forth the work necessary to accomplish their goals.

Because this topic isn't one of the things that we teach in our schools or that most of our parents have passed down to us, most of us tend either not to know the power of our beliefs or not to believe just how powerful they are.  We can overcome that deficiency, though, by changing what we believe and living as if we do believe the things that will make our lives much more positive than they are when we believe the negatives.

Questions to consider:

How have your beliefs in life originated, and how have they developed? 

Why does no one teach us about the power of our beliefs?

What kinds of things might you accomplish if you truly believe that you can?

For further thought:
 

2 years ago

  

October 17
  
The religion of non-violence is not
meant merely for the rishis and saints.
It is meant for the common people as
well.  Non-violence is the law of our
species, as violence is the law of the brute.

Mohandas Gandhi

  

Today's Meditation:

We commit a violent act every time we try to put another person down, either by physical force or by words and actions.  We commit a violent act each time that we harm another living creature, whether it be person or animal.  We've been taught that violent acts are sometimes necessary, so it's very easy for us to justify our actions when we commit them ourselves.  But they're not okay, and until we actually accept that truth and live by it, then we are following the "law of the brute."  And if we choose to follow that law, what does our choice make us?

Of course, the brute him or herself will follow the law also, so there may be times when we need to defend ourselves and/or our loved ones.  Fortunately, in this day and age in most countries, such a need is relatively rare.  If we do so, though, we need to be aware that we're stepping into the brute's world, and it's important to bring ourselves back as quickly as we can.

We have been given the gifts of intelligence and rational thoughts, of community and the ability to persuade and reason.  While these gifts may sometimes fail us in our effort to be non-violent, they should be our first line of defense, and certainly our only tool in dealing with others on our own terms.  Let's use the gifts that define us as loving, caring, compassionate creatures rather than the violent urges that put us on the level of the beasts.

For the vast majority of us, the vast majority of the time, we can live our lives in non-violent fashion, sharing our love and our compassion with others in our lives.  It's a choice that we should make for our own sake and for the sake of those people with whom we share this beautiful planet we're on.  We can contribute to the peace and love in this world instead of contributing to the violence and anger--and I know what I prefer my contribution to be.

Questions to consider:

Why is violence so predominant in our societies?  Why do so many people find it to be an acceptable form of conflict resolution?

How can we make sure to keep non-violence as our own personal religion?  Why might we want to?

What did Gandhi mean when he said that "violence is the law of the brute"?

For further thought:

Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the
goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all
other living beings, we are still savages.


Thomas A. Edison
2 years ago

  

October 16
 

Don't think!  Thinking is the enemy of
creativity.  It's self-conscious, and
anything self-conscious is lousy.
You can't try to do things;
you simply must do them.

Ray Bradbury

  

Today's Meditation:

Very, very often I over-think things.  My mind tends to function in a highly rational manner, and I try to analyze things very carefully and come up with logical plans for everything that I need to do.  Much more often these days, though, I'm able to fight that tendency and truly stop thinking, which usually proves to be a great thing, for it allows me to feel things more deeply and allow them to influence me rather than trying to exert my influence over them through my thoughts.

When we come from anything that's centered on ourselves, such as our thoughts, then our perspective is flawed--our ego always gets in the way and disturbs our efforts to act in a pure way that isn't simply an effort to have our will be done.  The old prayer "thy will be done" is a wonderful expression of letting go of the need to think through everything--it allows us to see what others can do and simply respond to those things without trying to make it a reflection of who we are.

It's very difficult to stop thinking sometimes.  Our ego wants to be in charge, and thought is the only method it has to trick itself into thinking that it has that type of control.  But coming from an empty mind, we can be truly creative because we're coming from a mental state of nothing, from which all true creation necessarily comes.  If we come from a state of thinking, then we'll be coming from the self, and we'll mostly be copying, not creating.

One of the most creative minds of the 20th century, Ray Bradbury should know about creativity.  And since he recently passed away, I'm going to take these words as his major piece of advice to me when I want to be creative:  Don't think!

Questions to consider:

What does it mean to you if someone tells you "don't think!"?

Why do we tend to value so much the logical, rational parts of our minds and the results of using them?

Why do Zen teachers so often teach that we should try to empty our minds?

For further thought:

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything;
it is open to everything.  In the beginner's mind there are
many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.

2 years ago
  

October 15

When in doubt, make a fool of
yourself.  There is a microscopically
thin line between being brilliantly
creative and acting like the most
gigantic idiot on earth.
So what the hell, leap!

Cynthia Heimel

  

Today's Meditation:

While I'm sure that there are limits to what Cynthia proposes, and definitely times and situations in which this would not be good advice at all, for the most part I think she's right on.  We worry so much about what other people think and say about us that we tend not to take risks at all.  In order to save face, we often pass up opportunities to make something new and different of ourselves, something that perhaps never would have come to be had we not leapt, had we not conquered our fear of looking stupid and did something that we really, really wanted to do.

Creativity is not fostered in a safe environment.  Creativity demands that we try something new and different, or else it isn't creativity at all--it's just copying other people.  I've found that some of my most creative ideas have come after I've said or done something almost ridiculous.  The act of thinking the ridiculous thought or committing the ridiculous act has taken my mind so far out of its "normal" ways of thinking that it's latched on to new ideas out there in Neverneverland.

After all, we'd never know what an octopus looks like unless someone had left the safety of land to explore the sea.  Somehow we're willing to leave our houses, which are the safe refuge of the body, but we're not willing to stray from the regular thoughts of the brain, which are the safe refuge of our minds.  What a shame this is!

Sometimes taking that step and doing something silly--or outright stupid--can open up our selves and allow us to see or feel something that we can't see or feel in our normal, everyday lives.  Perhaps it's time to allow ourselves to be silly for a change!

Questions to consider:

Why is the safe and comfortable so darned attractive to us?

When do you normally have your most creative thoughts and ideas?  Is there a pattern to when they show up?

How might we allow ourselves to do some silly things for a while, without fearing what others may say or think about us?

For further thought:

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks,
breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.

Mary Lou Cook

2 years ago
  

October 14


Human felicity is produced not so
much by great pieces of good fortune
that seldom happen as by little
advantages that occur every day.

Benjamin Franklin

  

Today's Meditation:

"Human felicity" is such a great way of saying "happiness."  It sounds joyful as it rolls off the tongue so gracefully.  And Benjamin is so right--our happiness isn't produced nearly as much by the big things as it is by the little things, as long as we let them make us happy.  Unfortunately, though, I watch many people either ignore those little things or take them for granted, and those people never let those things contribute to their happiness as human beings because they feel that they're just too small and insignificant.  But they most certainly are not small, and they are not insignificant.

I used to think that I had to wait for something big to happen before I could be happy.  I would have to meet that certain someone or get that certain job or go to that certain place.  I can't begin to add up how much time I've wasted feeling down because the big things weren't happening, even though my life was filled with very positive things--that I never took full advantage of, to my great regret.  If my focus could have just shifted to recognition and acceptance of the little advantages that were all over the place in my life, many days could have been spent in much better moods and with much less suffering.

Since those days, I definitely have been able to shift my focus, and I'm eternally grateful for the ability to do so, for not only do I feel much better about life myself, but I'm also able to help others to recognize the many little advantages that they have themselves in their lives.  And I've learned that richness in life isn't about what we have, but more about how we look at what we have.

If we can keep our eyes on those little things, then we most definitely can keep in mind that our lives are very rich and fulfilling just as they are.  And when we realize and accept that fact, only then can we actually and truly enjoy all the gifts that we have.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so dearly yearn for the "great pieces of good fortune"? 

What are five "little advantages" that are a part of your life today?

How might we go about recognizing more of the positive elements of our lives each day?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

October 13

The knowledge that another has felt
as we have felt, and seen things not
much otherwise than we have seen
them, will continue to the end to be
one of life's choicest blessings.

Robert Louis Stevenson

  

Today's Meditation:

Robert's right here, of course--it is a wonderful feeling when someone sees things the way we do.  But why?  Shouldn't it also be a wonderful feeling when someone sees things completely differently than we do, when we have clear evidence of the amazing diversity of people's perspectives and opinions?

Whatever the case, there really are few things that are comparable to shared feelings and shared perspectives.  When I find myself agreeing completely with another person about something, I feel a bond with that person, and the unity that so strongly defines the human being is much more real to me, much more clear and focused.  I feel more a part of life in general, and I feel a sense of understanding and shared reality for which there really is no substitute.

I know that one of my goals in life shall be to work away from needing to know that someone else feels as I do if I want to feel that good, that close to unity and togetherness.  I should be able to access that feeling at any time, simply because we all breathe the same air and share the same planet.  Life's choicest blessings are all about us, all the time, yet sometimes we just don't open ourselves up to that fact enough to enjoy them.

Whatever the case, though, and whatever the truth of the matter, Robert's statement is true--it is a great blessing when someone else agrees with us and shares our feelings and perspective--and it always shall be a blessing.  Let's make sure that it's a blessing that we appreciate when it comes along so that we can be doubly blessed--by the blessing itself and by our appreciation of it.

Questions to consider:

How often do other people feel the same ways that we feel about certain things?  How does it feel when someone does share our feelings?

Why do we tend to appreciate agreement from others more than we appreciate divergent opinions?

What can we do to help ourselves to understand other people's perspectives and ideas more?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

October 12
  
  There is sacredness in tears.  They are
not the mark of weakness but of power.
They speak more eloquently than ten
thousand tongues.  They are messengers
of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition,
and of unspeakable love.

Henry Irving

  

Today's Meditation:

I've never really had a problem with crying, even though in our culture we don't have a whole lot of acceptance of people's tears--especially among men.  But I've always felt better after a good cry, so when I do feel the urge to cry I find a place where I can be by myself and I do so.  Tears to me are a cleansing force.  I don't know how they work, but if they can take away even a small bit of the pain or frustration or hopelessness that I feel, then they're welcome in my life.

When I see someone else who is moved to tears, I see someone who is able to feel deeply and accept those feelings.  I see a strength of expression--a person who is feeling so strongly that he or she isn't at all worried about what others might say about their tears.  If I'm watching a film that makes me cry because of someone else's pain, I realize that the fact that I'm moved to tears is a good sign because I'm able to feel what someone else is feeling, even if that person is a fictional character.  This compassion is one of the things that I most value in my life, for it lets me know that I am trying to live a life of connection to others, a life lived not just for myself alone in my own little world, but a life that is touched by the lives of others, and that tries to touch the life of others.

I want to be strong enough to express what I feel when I feel it, and if tears are that expression, then so be it.

Tears are a blessing.  Because we tend to save them for sadness, we do them a bit of a disservice.  Tears speak more about who we are and what we value than any of our words could, and even though they're not always appropriate, when they do come they're very powerful indeed.  If we can learn to love our tears and pay attention to the messages they bring us, we may just find our lives growing in ways that we hadn't imagined before simply because we're seeing and feeling things--and expressing--that we hadn't really allowed ourselves to feel before.

Questions to consider:

Why have tears been looked on so much as a sign of weakness?

Why do so many people use tears as a form of manipulation?  What about us responds to tears in a way that would allow people to do so?

How could tears possibly be seen as a mark of power?

For further thought:

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before--more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.

2 years ago
  

October 11
  

 The moment you have in your heart
this extraordinary thing called love
and feel the depth, delight, the
ecstasy of it, you will discover that
for you the world is transformed.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

  

Today's Meditation:

Personally, I believe that we all have "this extraordinary thing called love" in our hearts, all the time.  And the only thing that keeps us from feeling it in the glory of its fullness is ourselves--our fears, our hesitancies, our judgment, our lack of experience of just how glorious it is to feel unconditional love at all times for all people.  We've learned through our lives to be suspicious of all people, and we've learned the ridiculous art of "keeping safe" our emotions and feelings, and those things have taught us to withhold the love that we feel, to disguise it or even hide it until we're "certain" that it's worth our while to accept the love we feel, and that it's safe.

But it's never "safe."  And it's always worthwhile.

One of the biggest obstacles to love is our desire for a return on our love.  If I do loving things for you, then I expect loving things in return, or at least a smidgen or two of gratitude.  But as soon as I expect anything back, then my love is conditional, isn't it?  And when love is conditional, there is nothing of the "depth, delight, the ecstasy of it."  But when we open our hearts to the love that already is a part of us and we allow ourselves to feel and express that love, then our lives are transformed.

Sometimes I think that we're like cars sitting in a parking lot, everything in working order and the gas tanks full.  The only thing that's missing is the key, and we're keeping that in our pockets because once we take them out someone might steal them.  It's this fear of bad things happening that keeps us from showing the love in our hearts, so we never experience the wonderful things that can happen when we risk taking out that key and firing up the engine.  There will be stop signs and potholes and slowdowns because of construction and even the occasional accident, but there will also be the many moments of ecstasy that we never would have experienced had the key stayed useless in our pockets.

Is your love being expressed fully, or is it sitting useless in your pocket?

Questions to consider:

Why and how do we learn to fear expressing our love.

Think about the people who have taught you about love.  Who have they been?  Have they been good at it themselves?

Think of one way that you can express your love today, no matter how small or insignificant an expression it may seem.

For further thought:

When love fills your life all limitations are gone.
The medicine this sick world needs so badly is love.

2 years ago
  

October 10
  

  
If  someone listens or stretches out
a hand or whispers a word of
encouragement or attempts to
understand a lonely person,
extraordinary things begin to happen.

Loretta Firzaris

  

Today's Meditation:

I've seen this principle over and over again with my high school students, so much so that I've worked hard to make it a habit to share encouragement rather than criticism, to listen to needs rather than to give expectations and judgments.  When people hear sincere encouragement--not cheerleading or the loud, enthusiastic "you can do it!"--they start to believe in themselves and in their abilities to do things that they might have doubted previously.

We all have the ability to share such encouragement and understanding every day of our lives.  And we can contribute to the positive side of the world and start watching the extraordinary things start to happen as a result of our action, and it's one of the most wonderful feelings in the world to see those results.

The problem is that very often, the ways that other people act make us want to put them in their place more than they want us to encourage them or understand them.  What becomes truly important is our decision to be the kind of person who decides to fill our days with encouragement and understanding of others, rather than with judgment or simply ignoring others.

People always need encouragement, whether we recognize that need or not.  And we can make great things happen, whether we actually witness those great things or not--very often they may show up long after we're gone.  But that's okay--we know that we can contribute positively to the lives of others through our actions, and if we know this, we should simply do so.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so rarely consider what we can contribute to the lives of others when they need us to do so?

In what ways can you encourage at least two people today?  To whom can you listen and show understanding?

How would you define "extraordinary things" that can happen when you show caring to another person?

For further thought:

Most of us, swimming against the tides of trouble the world
knows nothing about, need only a bit of praise or
encouragement-- and we will make the goal.

Jerome P. Fleishman

2 years ago
  

October 9
  

  
When we can honestly ask ourselves which
persons in our lives mean most to us, we
often find that they are those who, instead
of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have
chosen rather to share our pain and touch
our wounds with a warm and tender hand.

Henri Nouwen

  

Today's Meditation:

Pain is difficult to go through, we all know.  But sometimes our friends and loved ones can inadvertently make things worse by trying to give us advice, trying to "fix" things when what we really need is a sympathetic ear, someone to just be there.  Someone who, when we tell them how we're feeling, doesn't say, "Well, you should. . ."  When we're hurt, the best thing we can do is allow our feelings to be, and to try to deal with them and let them pass.  You may feel that your advice is valid, but we must keep in mind that what works for us more than likely won't work for others.

It's so tempting to want to be helpful.  It's so tempting to want to "make" a loved one feel better.  But when I'm feeling down, I may react best to laughter.  You may react best to journaling about the pain--and your advice to me to journal would be heartfelt and sincere, but not at all helpful.  You being there for me to just share the pain that I feel and help me to deal with it would be extremely helpful.

I would like you to be there for me.  I want to be there for the people in my life.  But being there doesn't mean that you or I have to "fix" anything for anyone else--our compassion and our company can be the most effective medicine that we can offer to someone who means a lot to us in life.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend to want to give advice and tell people what they should do when they're dealing with problems?

How can we remind ourselves to stay quiet and simply listen when our loved ones need someone to hear them?

Who in your life is someone who is there for you when you need them, without trying to tell you how to solve your problems?

For further thought:

Silences make the real conversations between friends.
Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.


Margaret Lee Runbeck

2 years ago
  

October 8

Be not like they who sit by their
firesides and watch the fire go out,
then blow vainly upon the dead ashes.
Do not give up hope or yield to despair
because of that which is past, for to
bewail the irretrievable is the
worst of human frailties.

Khalil Gibran

  

Today's Meditation:

It's very easy to mourn that which we've lost, but the best strategy to avoid this problem is not to lose it in the first place, or to make sure that we set other plans in motion to compensate for that which we're losing.  We can get up and stoke the fire and add more fuel before it goes out.  We can be fully aware of the way things are playing out and do our best to compensate for them.  If the fire's going out and we're running out of wood, then it's time to get more wood instead of continuing to sit by the fire, isn't it? 

We will lose things--relationships, jobs, money, material goods, peace of mind, prized possessions.  And that's okay.  It's not always pleasant, but that's simply how life works.  It's very important to keep in mind that virtually nothing is forever, not even the mountains that seem like they'll never change.  If we know that things will pass, then we can deal with the loss much easier when they do.  My wife and I have lost some very significant things in the last couple of years due to unavoidable financial issues, and while we miss the house we had bought and the other things, we've simply moved on because there was absolutely nothing we could have done about the situation.

What has happened hasn't been our fault, so we've spent no time blaming ourselves.  We've found other places to live, and we've found other things to replace those things that are gone.  All that really could have been affected by the losses has been our attitudes, and we weren't about to lose time crying over spilt milk; we simply wiped it up and poured ourselves a new glass.  As soon as we've turned our attention to doing what we needed to do to move on, we simply never had time to bewail our loss--nor did we have the inclination to do so, because we were busy and our minds were busy being productive with our new plans.

That which is past is past, and that which is irretrievable cannot be retrieved.  The way we deal with such things is completely up to us.  And to spend our time focused on the things that we cannot get back is simply a waste of the little time that we have to live our lives--and it's time much better spent devising strategies for recovery and for moving on, and actually working towards those goals.

Questions to consider:

What purpose can we possibly serve by staying focused on things that we can never get back?

How might we help ourselves to stay focused on shifting our attention from that which we've lost to planning for improvement and change? 

What happens to us when we give up hope because of something that we've lost instead of keeping our minds on what we still have? 

For further thought:

2 years ago

  

October 7

Who will tell whether one happy moment
of love or the joy of breathing or
walking on a bright morning and
smelling the fresh air is not worth all
the suffering and effort that life implies?

Erich Fromm

  

Today's Meditation:

Could it be so that all of the trials and heartbreak and adversity that we pass through is made worth it by the wonderful by those moments when everything seems perfect, when we feel that elation that the crisp morning air or the beauty of the love we feel for a mate, a sibling, a child, or a friend?  After all, life is made up of  us working our ways towards such moments--ever working our ways closer and closer to the special moments when we feel a part of everything, a kinship to nature and our fellow people, a joy that doesn't necessarily last very long but that stays with us forever.

When a troubled youth graduates or reaches an important goal, we know that all the difficulty we faced in helping him or her was worth it.  We all have memories of certain wonderful moments with our spouses, and even though we go through trials and problems with them, is it possible that those moments make the whole relationship worthwhile?

Of course, if we're keeping score we may never find anything worthwhile.  Sometimes the suffering and effort so far outweigh the rewarding moments that we don't feel that it's at all possible for them to make everything else worthwhile.

But what if they do, and we just don't notice it?  Then aren't we losing out on what life is about--the positive sides of our experiences here on this planet?

Erich brings up a very important possibility, one that we truly must consider closely and carefully.  If we don't, it is possible that we can miss the rewards of our lives simply because we don't have our minds open wide enough to the possibility that these small moments, these wonderful, seemingly unimportant moments, may be what we're working towards in our lives.

Questions to consider:

How do we come to think that only the big things are really important to us?

Why do we feel that there has to be more than "walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air"?

What does it mean to you for something to be "worth it"?

For further thought:

2 years ago

  

October 6

In our life, there is a single color,
as on an artist's palette, which
provides the meaning of art and
life.  It is the color of love.

Marc Chagall

  

Today's Meditation:

Love.  If we want to provide meaning in our lives, then we must learn to love, and to love unconditionally.  Only when we learn how to do so can we truly feel the sense of completion that is already within ourselves, but that we keep repressed under the layers of fear and control and feelings of inadequacy.  Here's one of the many secrets of life:  when we learn to love unconditionally, we no longer need to fear, and we no longer need to protect ourselves.  When unconditional love becomes a true way of life--all the time--then our lives will be so filled with that one color that we'll find that other colors no longer matter, and that therefore we'll have access to all the colors that we want, all the time.

It is quite paradoxical, but it is true that we finally learn to accept love from others when we've learned to give love of ourselves.  We learn to feel good about ourselves when we spend more time making others feel good about themselves.  We feel the most peace when we do our best to help others find peace, without controlling or dominating them.  And the key in all these situations is to do what we do with love and caring.

I always used to feel sorry for myself because there wasn't enough love in my life, because love had somehow passed me by.  What I thought was love, though, was actually dependence.  I felt that my life had no meaning because I didn't have that "one love," the romantic love that we're taught is so important in our lives.  But that's not what brings meaning to us.  The love that brings meaning is the love that we give and share, the love between friends and even enemies, the giving of ourselves and our feelings with others who need to feel love.

Most of the people who give their love unconditionally don't even need to use the word "love."  It's clear in their actions, in their self-reliance, in their gaze, in their way of being.  And when we learn to paint our lives with that color, what a beautiful mixture of colors we'll receive in return as each person shares their own colors of love with us.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the things that keep us from loving unconditionally-- external and internal factors? 

How might we go about strengthening our ability to share our love unconditionally with that people in our lives?

Why do we tend to feel that love must be returned if we're to continue to give our love to others?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

October 4
   
Life is a pure flame, and we
live by an invisible sun within us.

Thomas Brown

  

Today's Meditation:

I have to wonder what my life would be like if I were to be able to truly see life the way that Thomas sees it--a pure flame that is brilliant and illuminating.  What would my life be like if I lived with the idea that within me there is an invisible sun that can illuminate the lives of others, that can spread its light to anyone with whom I come in contact, and that the flame that I am can bring warmth and comfort to the people in my life.

Sometimes I realize that I don't really have a particular way of viewing life at all.  I don't see it as a flame and I don't see it as a river and I don't see it as a road. . . life is just life.  But could I strengthen that life and the way I share it by adopting a view like this one, a view that would allow me to share my life and my enthusiasm for life with others?  I'm not talking about adopting some corny slogan or anything like that--I'm thinking about the ways that I look at life and living.

Because we can bring light to other people's lives.  We can warm them and we can illuminate their lives.  We can be comforting and we can bring hope and joy--but don't we really have to look at our lives as something that has the potential to do so?  Don't we have to consider our spirits as something special if we want to bring something special to others?  The life force that is within us actually is a very, very special blessing, yet we seem to think of it as potatoes that we hide away in a dark basement until we happen to need their nourishment--and then we bring them into the light only long enough to cook them and eat them. 

Isn't it time to let our life force shine?  Isn't it time to release that sun and allow it to be a blessing for others?  Isn't it time that the invisible sun no longer is kept invisible, but allowed to shine in all the glory with which it was created in the first place?

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often tend to keep our spirits bottled up and hidden instead of allowing them to shine forth as the glorious things that they are?

What does it mean to say that "Life is a pure flame"?  Do you live as if it truly were such?

How might you let your invisible sun shine forth for a change?

For further thought:

O beautiful human life!  Tears come to my
eyes as I think of it.  So beautiful,
so inexpressibly beautiful!  The song should
never be silent, the dance never still, the laugh
should sound like water which runs forever.

Richard Jeffries

2 years ago
  

October 3
  
  
Keep away from people who try to
belittle your ambition.  Small people
always do that, but the really
great make you feel that you,
too, can become great.

Mark Twain

  

Today's Meditation:

It's very difficult to "keep away from people."  After all, they're our species, and there is a draw to others with whom we share so much.  But sharing DNA and physical similarities really isn't enough--just as a thief can rob us of our possessions, many people can rob us of attributes such as our self-esteem and our confidence, qualities that are extremely important for getting along and moving ahead in our lives. 

I used to have friends that brought me down pretty constantly.  They weren't bad people, but they weren't people who made me feel good, either.  One of the hardest things that I ever did in my life was to cut them out of my lives, and it was astonishing to realize after a week of not being with them just how good I felt about everything.  I came to realize that the things that they focused on in life were not the things I wanted to be focusing on, and the ways that they talked and the things that they said were destructive and not constructive.

We all have people in our lives who belittle us because we're all in company of people who are insecure and who really don't love themselves at all.  When people feel that way about themselves, they tend to lash out at others, making fun of them and their ambitions, treating them poorly, trying to belittle them so that they can feel better about themselves (even though they really don't).  One of the most important strategies that we can develop in our lives is to stay away from such people and search out the company of those who encourage us, compliment us sincerely, and make us feel good about ourselves.

Life is short--too short to spend it in the company of people who make us feel bad.  So find those people who make you feel good, hang around with them and do your best to make them feel good, too--and you just may find some very positive and helpful relationships developing!

Questions to consider:

Why is it so easy to continue to hang around people who make us feel bad?

How might we start to recognize those people who make positive contributions to who and what we are?

What can we do to make sure that we're people who make others feel good, and not people who belittle their ambition?

For further thought:

People build closeness by giving friendship priority, by being honest and
showing their feelings.  I like to call it being transparent.  They communicate warmth, touch, talk about their affection, give each other space, allow change, limit expectations, listen, and offer loyalty and trust.
They avoid trying to control or manipulate their friends.  They don't
criticize and they don't become dependent.

2 years ago
  

October 2
     
To have reason to get up
in the morning, it is necessary
to possess a guiding principle,
a belief of some kind,
a bumper sticker, if you will.

Judith Guest

  

Today's Meditation:

When I see a statement like this, I immediately ask myself, "Do I have such a guiding principle?"  Because I usually don't think of such things--I just keep on keeping on, doing my thing--whatever that happens to be on any given day.  Most of us are content with having to use the bathroom as our reason to get up in the morning, or having to be at work or school.  But doesn't there have to be more to it than that?  Is the threat of losing our jobs enough to actually get us up in the morning, ready to face a new day?

I'm not sure that it is.  I think that what Judith would argue is that if your only reason for getting up is to use the bathroom or to get to work on time so you don't get fired, then you really aren't making the most of your life.  You really haven't figured out what your purpose here is, what you're doing on this wonderful planet that offers us so many opportunities.  Perhaps it's time that we all adopt what we would call a guiding principle, something that would give us direction each day of our lives.  My main guiding principle is service, and I'm fortunate enough to be in a line of work that I love--teaching--that also allows me to serve others.

Sometimes, though, we find that it's difficult to get up and at 'em, to move into our day with vigor in our step and enthusiasm in our eyes.  Even with a guiding principle, some days just are flat.  On those days, though, having that principle can get us through because we know that we have a purpose, and it should be important to us to fulfill that purpose, for the sake of the other people who benefit from our actions.

Judith makes a good point when she suggests that we have a guiding principle to give us a reason to get up and start each day as it comes.  It's up to us to define that principle, though, and once we do we'll find that our lives brighten from the early hours of each morning until the late hours of each evening, and the fulfillment that we experience will be worth the time it takes to work out in our own minds and hearts just what that principle is.

Questions to consider:

What gets you through each day?  How could a "guiding principle" make each day of yours richer and more fulfilling?

How do we tend to go so long through life without any sort of guiding principles? 

What are your major reasons for getting up in the morning?  Are they enough?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

October 1

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your
expectations, and you are not in this
world to live up to mine.  You are you
and I am I.  And if by chance we find
each other, it's beautiful.  If not,
it can't be helped.

Frederick Salomon Perls

  

Today's Meditation:

How often do we get caught up in the idea that other people should be doing "our thing"?  Why do we feel that other people should see the world as we see it and do things just as we would do them?  If we were asked about it, we would say that we didn't feel others should be copies of us, but what about the disappointment we feel when someone doesn't follow our advice?  And what about the judgment we pass when someone else does something that we deem as "wrong"?

Other people aren't in this world to live up to our expectations--it's as simple as that.  Unfortunately, though, we often think that if someone isn't living up to what we expect of them, they're somehow failing, somehow disappointing us, when the fact of the matter is that the disappointment is something that we're doing to ourselves.  While most of us would claim to believe in the concept of "live and let live," how many of us would qualify that statement with, "as long as. . . ."?

Many parents are disappointed when their children choose not to go to college, yet many of those children go on to live happy, fulfilling lives even without a diploma in a frame.  Many people are disappointed in their friends because of decisions they make, but isn't it their lives that they're leading, and isn't it their right--their responsibility--to make the decisions that feel right to them?

Diversity on this planet is one of the few givens.  Diversity is visible, as in race and gender, but it's also invisible, and shown in the ways that we make decisions, the ways that we do things, the ways that we show our love, and in many other ways.  One of our most important tasks in life is to stop trying to run the show and not just allow others to be different, but to celebrate those differences and to take advantage of all that those differences offer us.

Questions to consider:

Why is it sometimes so difficult to let others "do their thing"?

How might we go about learning to let go of expectations and allowing others to lead their lives as they see fit? 

Whose expectations do you try to live up to most--your own, or someone else's? 

For further thought:

We need in love to practice only this:  letting each other go.
For holding on comes easily--we do not need to learn it.

2 years ago

   

September 30
    
My home is my retreat and
resting-place from the wars.
I try to keep this corner as a haven
against the tempest outside, as I
do another corner of my soul.

Michel de Montaigne

  

Today's Meditation:

I'm not sure that I would refer to our day-to-day lives as "the wars," but Montaigne's words are very profound here.  So many of us tend to see our homes as functional places--places to eat, to sleep, to store our furniture and our cars, to shower, and on and on.  When we see it as a functional place, then it can't serve as a retreat, a place where we can find a way to rejuvenate ourselves and gather our strength for continuing on in our lives.

If we do treat our homes as retreats, if we do turn them into comfortable places where we can renew ourselves and our spirits, then we can give ourselves an important edge when things do get difficult and the stress levels rise.  Wars or not, we all face stress and challenges, and if we're well prepared spiritually to deal with those things, then they won't debilitate us when they rear their heads in our lives.

If we do want our homes to be resting-places, then we need to take the time to make them places that we love to come to, places where we love to spend time.  That doesn't mean spending tons of money on decorations, but it does mean trying to eliminate clutter and finding things that are aesthetically pleasing with which to fill our living space.  It means minimizing television and noise, and keeping the home as a peaceful place where we can find pleasant shelter from the storms of life.

Our homes should be our allies in our journeys through life.  If we make them into pleasant places where we love to be, they can serve us very well as we face the normal stresses and strains of the lives that we're living.

Questions to consider:

How can we make our homes into pleasant retreats without doing tons of spending on redecorating?

Why do so few people pay attention to the comfort levels of their homes?

How have our homes become much more functional than rejuvenating?

For further thought:
   
They are the happiest, be they king or peasant,
who find peace in their homes.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

2 years ago

  

September 29
  

Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate'er you may believe.  There is an inmost center in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness.

Robert Browning

  

Today's Meditation:

And what is truth?  For most of us, it's what we've learned from others that it is--from parents, religious leaders, teachers, professors, mentors, friends, older relatives.  Most of us really haven't ever slowed down and looked inside long enough to actually look for our own truths, much less discover them and live by them.  If we were to do so, the truth may frighten us, for there's a very good chance that the truths that we've adopted from our exposure to outward things--the truths that we've come to depend on for much of our security--really aren't valid at all, and the ones deep inside ourselves are more compassionate and loving and caring.

There is an "inmost center in us all," but unfortunately for most of us it's unexplored territory, a place that we just don't choose to visit.  And it's not just that we don't go there often enough--it's that we don't go there at all.  And that truly is a shame, because that's where love abides, and in love we find more authentic truth than we find in any other aspects of our lives.  Because in unconditional love we find what truth really is, and that unconditional love is not concerned at all with outward things.

I love how Robert also points out that there isn't necessarily a connection between what we believe and what it true.  For example, for years I bought into our cultural norms and believed that life is a competition; since I've grown a bit and learned a bit, though, I've come to know that life is about cooperation, not competition.  Cooperation allows me to practice love and spread it to others; competition does not--or it can, but only to those on "my side."

What are your truths?  Unfortunately, until you take the time to be alone with yourself and ask yourself some very important questions, you may never find out.  And wouldn't it be a tragedy to leave this planet on the day we die never having discovered our own truths?  They're a wonderful gift that's been given to us, but for most of us they still lie uncovered.

Questions to consider:

Why do most of us consider our truths to be the ideas and ideals that lie in the outward things of our lives?

What would be the benefit of uncovering our truths rather than continuing to depend on our beliefs?

Why do most of us not take the time to go inside and actually try to uncover the truths that lie there, waiting for us to find them?

For further thought:

2 years ago
   

September 28
  
The purpose of life is to matter--
to count, to stand for something,
to have made some difference
that we lived at all.

Leo Rosten

  

Today's Meditation:

Making a difference seems to be one of our core desires, one of the deepest yearnings of our hearts and spirits.  It's also something that's relatively simple--at least, it's simple until our rational mind and ego start telling us that what we're doing really isn't making a difference and that we're wasting our time being useless.  Both the rational mind and the ego seem to need constant reinforcement if they're to allow us to believe that our efforts are worth something.  They need to hear "thank you for making a difference" over and over again until they leave us in peace.

But it is always possible to stand for something, whether we actually choose to do so or not.  And it's more than possible to stand for something wonderful and positive, and not just something pedestrian and safe.  When we do this, we are making a difference even if we can't actually quantify the difference that we are making.  We cannot know the difference that we're making all the time, nor should we try (unless we love to be frustrated).  The difference that we make is often one piece in a puzzle for others, who may not even recognize the positive influence you've had in their lives.

I've had crummy days made brighter by cashiers and waiters or waitresses, and have then gone on to make the day even better, enabled to do so by the slight change in perspective that those people gave me.  I've heard a kind word from a student and have felt empowered enough to do something different that day, or to be kinder to other students, and I haven't made the connection between my kindness and the kindness of the student.  I know that my life has been made better by many, many people whom I've never acknowledged--and thus I know that I've contributed in a positive way to many other lives, even if I don't regularly receive positive responses. 

You do make a difference, so be kind to yourself and leave behind the need to hear that truth from others.  Keep on keeping on, and keep on being kind, and you'll find that your life will brighten in many ways as you make the lives of others brighter--even if your contribution is just one small candle of many hundreds or thousands.  That light relies on the contribution of every single candle, and no candle is worth less than any other.

Questions to consider:

Why is it hard sometimes to think that we're making positive contributions in the lives of others?

Why do we sometimes think that our contributions have to be major and quantifiable in order for them to be "significant"?

How might you find new ways to make a difference in the world?

For further thought:

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful,
to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make
some difference that you have lived and lived well.

2 years ago
  

September 24
   
Real development is not leaving
things behind, as on a road, but
drawing life from them,
as from a root.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

  

Today's Meditation:

Roots provide a solid base upon which a tree can grow to its full capacity.  If we completely reject the things of our past--our experiences, our education, our friendships and other relationships, even many of our possessions--then we're casting them off, leaving ourselves without that base that can give us stability and balance in our lives.

I bought a bike once, over three decades ago.  That bike still is with me in the form of an important lesson that I learned--I bought it because it was the cheapest I could find, and I was short on money.  Unfortunately, it was a horrible buy, and within two weeks I had to buy another, new bike.  Instead of getting a great deal on a used bike, I ended up paying for a new bike AND a used bike that I wasn't able to sell myself.  And I learned the importance of the adage, "You get what you pay for."

I've learned in relationships, and if I choose to completely forget those relationships, then I also choose to forget what I got out of them in the form of learning and development of myself as a person.  I also choose to forget what I gave to them, and the kinds of good, positive things that I put into them.  If I want to develop as a person, it does me good to have strong roots that will keep me steady and balanced and that will allow me to bend in the wind of the life storms that sometimes turn the life I have into a difficult trial that I need to get through.

So I may not be comfortable with my religion as I know it or my relationships or my education or the ways that I treat others, but that doesn't mean that I have to reject them out of hand and cast them away.  Sometimes that may actually be the best strategy, but usually we need just to adjust, using the things that we wish to change as the base for a new direction, as new roots from which we will draw life as we grow taller and stronger.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often feel that our best strategy is to reject those things that we're not comfortable with? 

How should we distinguish between the things that we should cast away and the things that we should use to draw life from?

What kinds of experiences and possessions in your life make up the roots that hold you steady and give you life?

For further thought:

2 years ago

  

September 23

To learn, to desire, to know,
to feel, to think, to act.  This
is what I want.  And nothing
else.  That is what I must try for.

Katherine Mansfield

  

Today's Meditation:

It's important that Katherine knows what she wants--how many of us have actually sat down, thought this concept through, and come up with a list that says "This is what I want. . . and nothing more"?  How simple would life become with such a list in hand?  How easy would it be to make decisions once we've considered what we really want out of our experiences here during our lifetimes?

Of course, we could quibble all day long about the contents of such a list.  Looking at Katherine's list, I would immediately say that I'd have to have the words "to love" in there somewhere.  But this is her list, not mine, and she may see the love there in another one of her words, like "to act" or "to feel."  The words themselves aren't so important, and it's not necessary for us to share our lists with others--the most important thing we can do is simply to come up with such a list and to start to live according to that list.

I imagine that such a list would be under constant revision.  If you made such a list and included something like "to become debt-free," then you'd have to change that item once it comes to pass, perhaps to "live debt-free."  And right now I may find it very important to focus on my job, whereas five years from now there may be other elements of my life, such as new relationships or new children, that become more pressing than the work that I do.

Katherine says "that is what I must try for," which is also important.  She doesn't say these things are what she must accomplish, just that she must try.  And after all, isn't that what life is about:  deciding what is best for us and then doing our best at it, succeed or fail?  It's the trying that develops us and helps us to become the people we are, and it's important that we never lose the chance to continue trying.  And it would be great to have a list to guide us as we do so.

Questions to consider:

What are the things that you most want?  Have you ever written them down?

What would such a list look like for you?

Why do we not tend to look at life from the bigger picture perspective, instead focusing on the minute details of our day-to-day goals?

For further thought:


The reason most people never reach their goals
is that they don't define them, or ever seriously
consider them as believable or achievable.

Denis Waitley
2 years ago

  

September 22

The best antidote I have found is
to yearn for something.  As long as
you yearn, you can't congeal; there
is a forward motion about yearning.

Gail Goodwin

  

Today's Meditation:

We are often told that to get along in life, we need to give up our wants and simply accept life as it is.  Desire, after all, is often a negative thing, something that keeps us feeling discontent with our lives and our situations in life.  But that doesn't take into account human nature, and who we are as human beings.  We are creatures who do desire, and when we can use that desire as a catalyst for changing our lives for the better, then what can be wrong with yearning for something realistic and positive?

And of course, there's the rub.  Many of us spend so much time yearning for things that are simply materialistic and not positive or helpful.  We can also spend time yearning for things that are simply unrealistic and that could even be harmful--yearning for some time with that married person we know, or for that diamond ring we saw that would put us seriously in debt.  These kinds of desire are negative, and they can harm very deeply both us and the people we love.

But healthy yearning can be a catalyst, a feeling that can propel us into new situations and new states.  A great desire to walk the Great Wall or spend time in the Grand Canyon can cause us to economize and simplify our lives in order to be able to afford to go there.  Wanting to get a college degree can help us to find the motivation to figure out ways to make it happen--as Gail says, yearning can propel us into a "forward motion," as opposed to staying where we are, stagnant in the status quo.

If you feel stagnant, then there really is nothing like finding something positive and healthy to yearn for.  A good home for your family, an education for your children or yourself, a vehicle that's safe and practical and reliable, a relationship with a person who can be very good for you, good grades in classes that are difficult.  There are many things that we can desire that can be very, very good for us and that can cause extremely positive changes in our approaches to life.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things do you tend to yearn for?  Do these things tend to be positive for you, or do they add to stress and tension in your life?

What kinds of things might you change in your life to make the things that you yearn for actually become reality?

Why do so many people yearn after things that are ultimately bad for them?

For further thought:

And yes, there definitely are many good desires.  For example, without the desire for food we would not stay alive.  It is when our desire becomes an unquenchable craving or obsession, or causes us to do harm to ourselves or others, that it creates suffering and unhappiness.  If you have ever been hurt because you tied your happiness or well-being to a person, place, opinion, self-identity, behavior, or goal, then you

2 years ago
  

September 21

I would like to thank. . . the birds
outside my window who constantly
reassured me that nothing is
desperately important and the
joy of life is just looking at it.

Alec Guinness

  

Today's Meditation:

Birds do what they do in life, and they keep on keeping on, no matter what.  We tend to think a lot, and sometimes we forget to remind ourselves that on a level that's bigger than we are, not much in our lives is really as important as we tend to think it is.  How many times have we felt that what was going on in our lives right now has been "desperately important," only to find out six months later that we look back on it as something that wasn't really that bad at all?

It's very easy to get stressed about how our lives are going, to feel that what's happening to us is the most important thing in the world.  Sometimes we need to find ways to remind ourselves that everything is relative and that even if something seems to be terrible or awful, life still goes on and it's there for us to love and appreciate--if we're able to get our minds focused enough on it and off what we think is so terrible. 

There are plenty of things that we can focus on if we want to keep our minds on the joy of life.  Birds are a great start, but there's also sunshine and rain, cool breezes, children's smiles, puppies and kittens playing, kind acts, sunsets and sunrises, trees and flowers--there are many, many things that can remind us that looking at the life that surrounds us constantly can be one of the greatest joys of all, and that we don't have to do anything or accomplish anything to get this kind of joy. 

So look around.  See.  Feel.  Appreciate.  Love.  Laugh.  Cry.  Sigh.  Say "thank you."  React in honest awareness to the things that this wonderful world of ours has to offer us, but that we so very often don't see at all when we're so focused on the things that we deem to be very, very important.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend to think that so many things are desperately important?

How can we teach ourselves to be more aware of the many things that are around us all the time that we could and should appreciate?

When was the last time that you noticed and appreciated the birds who have songs for us all the time?

For further thought:

A heightened state of awareness comes when we look,
and then look again, and then relax into whatever situation
we are in.  When we have a capacity for fascination with
simple things, we are able to sit peacefully for hours on a
park bench, or in an airport, engrossed by the different gaits
and gestures of

2 years ago

  

September 19

The happiest people seem to be those
who are producing something; the bored
people are those who are consuming
much and producing nothing.

William Inge

  

Today's Meditation:

When all is said and done, it really doesn't matter what we're producing (unless it's illegal and/or harmful), but that we are producing.  We don't have to be running the most popular restaurant in the city, but if we love cooking and we're good at it, then we need to be cooking instead of microwaving.  We don't have to sell millions of units of our crafts, but if we love doing crafts, then we need to be making them and giving them away or selling them.  Being productive is a way to keep our minds working and our spirits fulfilled.

Too many people allow boredom to be a dominant element of their lives because it's easier to turn on the TV than it is to undertake a new project.  It's easier to just sit there than it is to be active and work at something.  For many people it's a question of fear--they don't want to take on new projects because they're afraid that they may not finish them, or that others will criticize the results of their work.

If that's the case, then we're letting the fear of what others might say rule our lives and our actions.  If we refuse to start producing something real and tangible that we may take pride in in the future because of what may or may not happen, then we're sabotaging our own lives and putting ourselves in a position in which it's very difficult to find happiness or even peace of mind.

We all can produce something, and doing so leads to feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction, and the successful production of one thing usually leads to the hope of the successful production of something else, giving us something to aspire to and to hope for and to look forward to.  Boredom is usually the result of a passive approach to our life situations; happiness is usually a result of being active in carving our own lives out of the stuff of everyday existence.

Questions to consider:

What do you think William means when he says, "those who are producing something"?

What kinds of things are you good at?  How often do you actively pursue your chances to produce things?

Why do so  many people get caught up in merely consuming without producing?

For further thought:

If you observe really happy people you will find them
building a boat, writing a symphony, educating their children,
growing double dahlias in their gardens, or looking for
dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. They will not be searching
for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled
under the radiator. They will not be striving for it as a goal
in itself. They will have become aware that they are happy
in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of the day.

W. Beran Wolfe

2 years ago
  

September 18
   

Time is the coin of your life.  It is the
only coin you have, and only you can
determine how it will be spent.  Be careful
lest you let other people spend it for you.

Carl Sandberg

  

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes we get careless about our time.  Sometimes we allow it to be lost, to be wasted, to be squandered like the quarter that we drop and that rolls into the gutter.  How we spend our time is, after all, a great indication of what we're becoming as human beings.  So much of our time is spent on stuff that simply doesn't matter, just because someone asked us to do something that we might not have wanted to do in the first place.

When I was in the Army, one of the biggest frustrations that all of us had was that we were not in charge of our own time.  We had literally no control over how we spent our time--it was decided for us by the drill sergeants and the commanders and the first sergeants and anyone else who had any sort of authority.  I can't even begin to consider just how many hours I spent doing absolutely nothing, standing around waiting, just because I was told that I had to do so. 

Most of us, though, aren't in the military.  Most of us seem to have control over our own time--but few of us actually use that time wisely, instead allowing others to dominate it because we're afraid of hurting someone's feelings, afraid of losing our jobs, or afraid of getting someone angry at us.  But so many of the ways that we spend our time do so few things to help our fellow people or ourselves that sometimes it's a shame the ways we waste time.  Why do we spend hours and hours watching TV shows that we've already seen when we could be doing something for ourselves or someone else? 

We have entire industries whose survival depends on us being convinced that we should spend our time using their products, watching their shows, attending their games.  But we have families who would like for us to spend time with them, friends who could use someone to talk to, selves that are just dying for some quiet time.

Carl makes an important point.  Your time is yours.  Just as you're careful about how you spend money, you should be careful about how you spend time.  Money?  You can earn more of that.  But time?

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend not to consider carefully how we spend our time?  Why do we just "let" things happen?

In which ways could you make sure that you're spending most of your time wisely, in ways that are helpful to yourself and others?

How many people try to convince us that our time is best spent serving them and their purposes?  Why do they do this?

For further thought:
 

2 years ago
  

September 17
  

If I had two loaves of bread,
I would sell one and buy hyacinths.
For they would feed my soul.

the Qur'an

  

Today's Meditation:

There is a huge difference between feeding our bodies and feeding our spirits.  It's very easy to buy food to feed our bodies, and we do so regularly, sometimes without even giving it much thought.  When we need to eat, when we feel hunger, we eat if we're fortunate enough to be able to access food.  But what about our spirits?  What about our souls?  They grow hungry, too, but they're usually neglected.  We may hunger for beauty, for kindness, for positive input into our lives, yet never take the time or make the effort to feed our souls.

I know people who never really do anything for themselves on a spiritual level.  They would never buy flowers just to add beauty to their lives.  They would never make the time to take a hot bubble bath in order to calm themselves and allow themselves to relax.  They would never give themselves an hour of complete silence to try to still the voices and thoughts in their heads that keep them tense and wired.

When we're thirsty, we drink; when hungry, we eat.  But when our spirits hunger for something, we neglect it--thus neglecting ourselves.  And can that be good for us?  What kind of long-term effect does such neglect have on us?  We may never know, for no one is doing research on the topic.  We take our spirits for granted and we don't feed them, and our lives do suffer for that.

What does you soul crave?  Even if you don't know specifically, beautiful flowers really couldn't hurt, could they?  Some time to yourself in a peaceful, silent spot definitely can't be bad for you, and the nourishment that you would give to your soul just may be fulfilling a longstanding need that has yet to be met.  When you feed your body, feed you spirit also, and you'll find that the attention you give to your spirit will be attention well placed.

Questions to consider:

What is the cost to us if we neglect our spirits?

In what ways might you feed your spirit in positive, fulfilling ways?

Why do we tend to take our spiritual side for granted?

For further thought:

You can open yourself to the possibility of nourishing your soul, and you can make it a priority.  Take careful stock of the way you spend your life energies doing things that are not so nourishing.  Often, in the middle adult years especially, people find that they have been busy being productive in some task-oriented way, some way in which their souls were excluded.  The responsibilities of everyday life--taking the kids to school, paying the bills, doing the grocery shopping, all the stuff that life requires of mature adults--expand to fill the entire life.
2 years ago
  

September 16
  

A loving person lives in a loving
world.  A hostile person lives
in a hostile world.  Everyone you
meet is your mirror.

Ken Keyes, Jr.

  

Today's Meditation:

This is one of the most common concepts that you'll find in self-help literature, and I think that it's a very important one.  But I also think that often it's taken too far, as will most concepts when you add words like "always" or "everyone."  We all meet so many people in our lives that it just makes no sense to say that "everyone you meet is your mirror."  We will meet people who are racists, who are angry at the world, who are angry at themselves, who are socially inept, who are rude and obnoxious, whether we are all those things or not.

I'm sure that there were loving people in the theater in Colorado when the gunman opened fire, just as there have been loving people in the wars of the world and in places where disease has spread.  There were loving people in the middle of the Holocaust.  And we do read literature from people like Viktor Frankl who did not lose his ability to love and see hope even in the concentration camps, but for that period of time, he certainly did not live in a "loving world."

It's important that we view life pragmatically--though we strive to build a loving world around us, the rest of the world does intrude on what we try to build.  Though we strive to choose our friends carefully, we still must get jobs and work with people whom we may not wish to have as friends.  And yes, our attitude does go a long way towards making any situation much more bearable, or even pleasant, but there are times when our attitude simply doesn't change anything around us.

Be loving, and create a loving world, but remember that a non-loving world may intrude upon your love.  Be caring, and build a caring world; be compassionate and be encouraging.  We do have the ability to create our own worlds in the best ways we know how--but everyone else is creating their worlds, and we need to know how to deal with it when their worlds--which may or may not be similar to ours--intrude on ours.

Questions to consider:

Is it really possible for "everyone" in the world to be a mirror of who we are and how we approach the world?

What are some of the problems that could arise if we do believe that everyone is a mirror of ourselves?

How might you go about preparing for the intrusion of someone else's world on your own?  Should such a thing make you change the ways that you do things or see the world now?

For further thought:

The world is a looking-glass, and gives back
to everyone the reflection of our own faces.
Frown at it, and it in turn will look sourly
on you; laugh at it and with it, and it is
a jolly, kind companion.

2 years ago
  

September 15

I could do nothing without my problems;
they toughen my mind.  In fact, I tell
my assistants not to bring me their
successes for they weaken me, but
rather to bring me their problems, for
they strengthen me.

Charles Franklin Kettering

  

Today's Meditation:

We tend to like to avoid problems, don't we?  We like to have things easier than problems allow us to have them, but we don't always keep in mind that it's the problems that keep us thinking and learning, the problems that keep our minds and wits sharp and functioning well.  In fact, without problems, how many of us would have jobs that keep us gainfully employed if it weren't for problems and issues that must be solved?

There have been times in my life when I've wished that problems  would just go away, and that my life would get easier.  But what I haven't known is that my life wouldn't necessarily have gotten easier if the problems had gone away; rather, I might have just had some momentary relief from problems.  And I would have lost the opportunity to do much of the learning that has been most valuable to me in the long run.

Charles recognizes the importance of dealing with problems in the long run.  He recognizes that our brains and our psyches need challenges to deal with if they're to be kept sharp and if they're to continue to grow and develop.  It's hard sometimes to understand his position when we start to focus on the negative side of problems, but when we see them as something that must be overcome in some way, then we start on the search for a solution to them, and in that search lie growth and expansion.  In the avoidance of problems lie stagnation and boredom.

While most people in the world try to avoid problems, we can welcome them--within reason as to the type of problems, of course.  And in welcoming them we can know that we're pushing our own limits and improving our selves and our minds in one of the most important ways possible.

Questions to consider:

How do we come to regard problems in negative ways?

Think of some "problems" in your life that have turned out to be blessings.  How did they seem originally?  What would have happened if you had been able to avoid the problem?

How do problems strengthen us?

For further thought:



The problem is not that there are problems.  The problem is expecting
otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.

Theodore Rubin
2 years ago
  

September 14


One's friends are that part
of the human race with
which one can be human.

George Santayana

  

Today's Meditation:

I like reading quotations like this about friendship because they give me an idea of how I should be acting as a friend.  We don't have nearly as many role models of being true friends these days, as most of the people we know get wrapped up in their own lives, in being busy and not being able to be there for the people they care for and who care for them.  The years of focus on self and self-indulgence have created a generation that's marked more for its ability to overwork and overeat than for its ability to make and keep friends.

We're in a culture of "independent" people who sometimes seem to be just looking for some reason to cut you out of their lives, for that would simplify life for them, especially if you're going through problems that you need to talk over with others.  And if that's so, I have to ask myself if I do the same things, or if I provide friendship that other people are able to depend on when they need me to be a friend.  Am I the type of person with whom other people feel comfortable being themselves, mistakes and problems and all, or am I the type of "friend" whose judgment other people fear, so they tend not to share openly their thoughts and fears and hopes and desires?

I think that many of us see people not being themselves around us and wish that they would be themselves, and just themselves.  We don't realize, though, that we're the part of that equation that is keeping them from being completely open and honest with us.  Perhaps it's because we don't listen closely, or because we tend to judge others' statements, or because we don't take them seriously enough.

Our goal in being a friend should be just to be a friend, not to change our friends or "fix" them in any way.  Once we start trying to do that, then the true friendship is over and we're in an acquaintanceship.  I want to let others be just what they are, and I want them to be comfortable enough with me to be just that.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often get so tempted to "fix" our friends--their problems, their personalities, their quirks and habits? 

With what kind of person do you feel the most welcome and comfortable?  Are you that type of person for your friends?

What specific things might we do to make sure that we allow our friends to be completely human, completely themselves, when they're with us?

For further thought:

Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe
with a person; having neither to weig

2 years ago

  

September 13

Life is made up of small pleasures.
Happiness is made up of those tiny
successes.  The big ones come too
infrequently.  And if you don't collect
all these tiny successes, the big ones
don't really mean anything.

Norman Lear

  

Today's Meditation:

I've known too many people who have made themselves miserable because they've believed that they should be accomplishing the big things in life that are recognized by many, many people if their lives are to mean anything.  They berate themselves for not measuring up, for not "succeeding," even when they've accomplished many things that other people would be proud of.

"Tiny successes" mean much more to me.  These are the kinds of successes that build on themselves and each other, the kind that add up in the end to a successful life.  Putting in a new faucet in the kitchen, helping a friend to do something important, getting a plant to grow, making a loved one feel good about him or herself, getting that promotion at work, setting goals and reaching them, losing those ten pounds--and setting a goal for ten more instead of starting with a goal for twenty--all of these things are small successes with which we can decorate each day of our lives.

I do like to see Olympic athletes win gold medals, and I do like to see authors sell millions of copies, and I do like to see what we call the "bigger" successes.  But think about it for a moment:  Most of what we consider to be huge successes in our society have to do with entertainment (singers, writers, actors) or sports than anything else.  And given the nature of those fields, there are relatively few people who can be great successes in them--and most of us aren't even in those fields to begin with.

In our own fields, in our own lives, we have plenty of opportunities for success.  We must acknowledge and appreciate the smaller successes so that we can build on them and grow as people and allow ourselves to reach new levels of success.  Otherwise, we're kind of squandering our opportunities to see ourselves as successful people, and our chances to be happy with what we do and how we do it.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many in our society see success as being strictly financial, or based on fame?  Is that really what success is limited to?

What kinds of small successes have you achieved in the last six months?  In the last year? 

What are some of the small pleasures that are most dear to you?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

September 12
  
I have sometimes been wildly,
despairingly, acutely miserable,
racked with sorrow, but through
it all I still know that just to be
alive is a grand thing.

Agatha Christie

  

Today's Meditation:

I could use Agatha's words precisely to describe many times in my life, times when depression has been extremely strong and hope has been extremely weak.  Those have been times that have pushed me almost to the end of my ability to stand them, but always in the back of my mind was that small voice that said, "You feel horrible, but life is good.  Just stick it out."  I always argued with that voice, but it always won out.

To be alive is a grand thing.  To be able to experience this life and its gifts and its challenges for the very short time that we're on this planet is an amazing adventure, a wonderful experience, and a fulfilling journey, all wrapped into one--if we allow it to be so.  Despair will raise its head, as will sorrow and frustration and anger and so many other things that seem to want to push us to the point of giving up, but we must never do so.

It's okay to be sorrowful, and it's okay to be angry and sad and frustrated and lonely and all those other things.  They're just as much a part of human existence as everything else is.  The trick is not to let those things define us, not to let them overwhelm us and turn us into something that we don't want to be or something that we shouldn't be.  Agatha Christie was one of the world's most successful authors, yet she still went through her times of despair--and she still came through those times because she knew in her heart that life itself is beautiful, no matter what kinds of feelings try to tell us that it isn't.

Sorrow is a sign of life, a sign of feeling.  A woman once told me that we feel things like despair and depression because we live more deeply and feel more deeply, and the despair is one of the prices we pay for doing so.  And I have to say that if I had it to do over again, I would prefer to live deeply and still have to deal with the sorrow over not living deeply at all and living sorrow-free.

Questions to consider:

Is being alive a grand thing?

How much of sorrow's hold on us do we give to it ourselves?

Why is it important that we not let ourselves lose all hope, even when we're in the grip of sorrow or despair?

For further thought:

Sorrow comes in great waves. . . but rolls over us, and
though it may almost smother us, it leaves us.
And we know that if it is strong, we are stronger,
inasmuch as it passes and we remain.

2 years ago
  

September 11
  

 

When I begin to sit with the
dawn in solitude, I begin to
really live.  It makes me treasure
every single moment of life.

Gloria Vanderbilt

  

Today's Meditation:

Most of us develop patterns very early in life--when we're teens, one of our biggest desires is to be able to stay up late, especially to watch some of the TV shows that are unavailable to us when we're going to bed early.  When we finally are out on our own, we find that many of our contemporaries are out late, trying to make the most of their non-work time.  And staying out late, of course, means staying in bed as long as we can the next morning to get as much sleep as we can.

Because of this, most of us miss the dawns.  Most of us end up on a schedule that really isn't natural to our bodies' rhythms, and we tend to spend the dawn hours still asleep or grumpy.  It is a shame because those hours are among the most peaceful and invigorating hours of the day--sitting quietly while the sun comes up can be an incredibly spiritual experience, though we never will know until we try it.  Most people's experience with dawn includes getting up "earlier than normal," which means that they're not at all in the proper frame of mind to actually enjoy the time.

The dawn, of course, isn't for everyone.  But quiet moments of peace should be.  The dawn offers a beautiful time of the day for us because it tends to be quiet by nature--the world still hasn't started its noise and hustle and bustle that tend to draw us in, keeping us wired and stressed.  If rising early enough to experience dawn--truly experience the peace and solitude that it offers--isn't realistic for you, then it is important that you find some time, somewhere, during which you're able to slow down, be quiet, and be alone so that you can start to feel your connections to the life all around you, rather than always hurrying and worrying and feeling cut off from the rest of the world.

After all, life really does become richer when we treasure every moment.  It's in our act of treasuring the elements of our lives that they actually become the treasures that they have the potential to be.

Questions to consider:

Why do most of us find it impossible to carve out from our day times of peace and quiet?

How can being alone in a peaceful setting at a peaceful time help us to "begin to really live"?

Why does solitude seem so frightening to so many people?

For further thought:

Deliberately seeking solitude--quality time spent away
from family and friends--may seem selfish.  It is not.
Solitude is as necessary for our creative spirits to develop
and flourish as are sleep and food for our bodies to

2 years ago
  

September 10
  

How can a society that exists on
instant mashed potatoes, packaged
cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant
cameras teach patience to its young?

Paul Sweeney

  

Today's Meditation:

If we don't like what our young people are becoming, then we really shouldn't point our fingers at them and blame them.  Rather, we should look very carefully and honestly at what we've taught them as teachers and as role models, and then ask ourselves what we would have turned out like if we had had those same lessons when we were young.

Patience is a virtue that can help young people if they learn it.  So much of what we do poorly at in life has to do with being impatient and not allowing processes to take the time they need to come to term.  Life works in its own time, and impatient people are constantly trying to modify it in order to meet their perceived needs, a strategy that almost always ends in failure.  I watch young people quit a sport because they're not a superstar their second day at it; I see kids get frustrated and give up because they get an "D" on their first paper, instead of realizing that they have a whole school year ahead of them during which they'll have plenty of opportunity to learn enough to get and "A" or a "B."

In our society, we have plenty of influences that try to convince us that things need to be sped up.  There are plenty of commercials that try to convince us that faster is better so that we'll buy their products that take less time than those of their competitors.  And we buy into it, even though the quality of the quick product very often is much lower than that of the competitor's product.  And how often are we yelling at kids to hurry up, so that we can get to the mall at 10:25 instead of 10:35?  It's a sad world when we can't relax and take our time for most things.

Patience.  We definitely should practice it ourselves so that our young people learn it from us.  If we do so, we're making our lives more pleasant and we're providing a role model that can give kids a great tool in their lives for dealing with life's frustrations, instead of teaching them to be impatient themselves.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many people have to do so many things so darn quickly?

What are some of the advantages to having developed patience in our lives?

How will patience help young people if they're able to develop it?

For further thought:

The greater our hurry, the longer the way;
the greater our patience, the sooner we reach the goal.


German proverb

2 years ago
  

September 9
  
  And I recall an account of Trollope
going up to London to pick up a
rejected manuscript from a publisher,
getting on the train to return home,
laying the bulky bundle on his lap
face down, and beginning a new book
on the back pages of the rejected one.

unattributed

  

Today's Meditation:

Now this is a man that I would love to say I have some similarity to, but I'm not sure that I can.  This is a beautiful story of not letting one's situation get one down, and making the best of the way things are. . . and not giving up just because an obstacle a rose in one's path.  So the novel got rejected--big deal.  I'll write another one!  That's the only kind of attitude that truly helps people to advance in life, to grow from where they are to becoming someone or something else.

For Trollope, the writing was a driving force in his life, and it was something that he probably couldn't have given up even if he had wanted to, for he was dedicated to it.  That level of commitment to his craft was what allowed him--or forced him--to begin a new novel immediately.  Writing was simply a part of who he was because he had committed himself to the art, and it was that commitment that helped him to find the strength and courage to persevere.

We all face obstacles and setbacks.  They are valuable lessons to us in life, for they have the potential to help us see where we can improve if we want to do things better--be better writers, better cooks, better friends, better parents.  It's person who gets on with things and doesn't let the obstacles bring him or her to a standstill that keeps moving and eventually succeeds big time.  When things get bad for me I often picture Trollope in that train, writing away on the paper that held his rejected novel.  In every adversity, in every setback, there is something there for our future, and it's up to us to find it and make it work for us.  Otherwise, we just allow ourselves to be victims and we start letting life slide by without getting out of it all that we can.

Questions to consider:

How many people do you know who would have given up writing after a difficult rejection--or at least set it aside for a long time?

Why is it sometimes difficult to start again at something at which you've yet to have significant success?

How can setbacks and adversity actually be positive for us?

For further thought:

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

2 years ago
  

September 8
  

I have found the paradox
that if I love until it hurts,
then there is no hurt,
but only more love.

Mother Teresa

  

Today's Meditation:

Some people think that they're able to "hold love back," and they try to do so to keep from hurting themselves.  They think that by not showing their love, they can save themselves from hurting when the person leaves or when something bad happens.  Love, though, cannot be held back.  We are creatures of love, after all, and the lives that we lead are to a great extent defined by the love that is in us and that we share with others. 

When love is the dominating force in our lives, then there is no hurt in a person leaving, for we always want the best for all others and we don't attach our own well-being to the actions of others.  When we live by love, we understand that other people do what they do because of who they are and not because of who we are, and therefore there is no hurting involved.  It may be difficult to conceive of this because of the fact that so few of us are able and willing to have our lives defined by our love, and most of us still feel hurt deeply when others do things that we perceive as hurtful to us.

I have known older people who are like ducks when it comes to hurt--when the hurtful things come, they simply roll off the backs of these people, falling harmlessly to the ground, as rain does on the back of ducks.  Some things that would have devastated me have had no real harmful effect on these people--they've certainly expressed their compassion for the people who would have harmed them, but they weren't hurt themselves.  They really did live from a place of love, not of neediness or control or fear.

Can we get rid of our fear and admit that we love everyone?  Can we show that love appropriately, all day every day?  If we can, then we'll find that our lives are transformed from being one scary situation after another, with some good stuff thrown in, to being a long series of positive situations in which we learn about others and about ourselves, about how to give and about how to feel true compassion no matter what happens.  A lofty goal?  Castles in the air?  Perhaps, but the most important possibility we must consider:  perhaps not.

Questions to consider:

Why do we feel that if we hold our love back, we'll have less chance of getting hurt?  Does that make sense, or is it just a defective defensive strategy?

How can there continue to be more love if we love all we can?

What does it mean to you to be hurt?  Is that the same meaning that everyone would give the concept?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

September 7

My life is spent in perpetual
alternation between two rhythms,
the rhythm of attracting people
for fear I may be lonely and the
rhythm of trying to get rid of them
because I know that I am bored.

C.E.M. Joad

  

Today's Meditation:

Boy, can I relate to this.  I love being around people, but I also love being by myself.  There are so many positive elements of each state that it's sometimes difficult for me to decide which one I want to seek at any given moment.  The difference between me and Joad is that I don't seek out people for fear of loneliness--I seek them out because I enjoy being with other people.  And I don't want to get away from them because I'm bored--I just want to have some quiet time to think and rest.

Finding a balance is often difficult.  Sometimes we find ourselves in one situation until we reach our point of saturation with it and we become completely overwhelmed.  At that point, if we're not able to escape from it and get a rest from it, we face some pretty major results such as crankiness, anger, conflict, or burnout.  If we spend too much time in one of our many rhythms, we neglect the others to our own detriment and often to the detriment of the people we love.

At times, when I'm doing some important work or I'm working on a novel, I crave to get out among people.  I know, though, that it's important for me to stay focused and to keep going with the work or I'll never get it done.  I have to keep a clear view of what I'm doing, how important it is, and my chances of actually finishing something if I leave it every time I get the desire to do something else.

Life is about balance.  And if you do seek out others for fear of being lonely, keep in mind that times being alone are valuable, too.  Likewise, if you head home because others are doing things that you don't want to do, then keep in mind that time on our own is valuable, too.  Too much of anything is simply too much, and too little of anything keeps us wanting more, sometimes to the point of distraction.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the advantages of being with other people?   Of being alone?

Why do most cultures not value the idea of balance in our lives?

How might you go about figuring out how you're going to achieve balance in your own life?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

September 6

The best way to be more
free is to grant more
freedom to others.

Carlo Dossi

  

Today's Meditation:

I knew some parents once who were so afraid that their teenage daughter was going to get into trouble that they micro-managed her life, allowing her virtually no freedom at all.  They gave her rides to everything and picked her up, they didn't allow her to stay over at friends' house, the whole deal.  The girl was miserable, and needless to say, the parents were pretty miserable, too.  It got to be so stressful when the daughter finally rebelled that the parents just threw up their hands and said "Fine, do what you want."

The parents were amazed--and quite humbled--when it turned out that their daughter was a pretty responsible young lady.  She made a few mistakes, but none that were drastic.  The parents learned that when they gave her the freedom to be who she was, they no longer had to try to mold her into who they thought she would be, and their lives became much, much easier.  We see the same things in relationships between spouses, lovers, siblings, and friends--try to control the other person's behaviors and actions and thoughts and reactions, and you're only setting yourself up for misery.

If I want to be truly free, I have to let others be free to be who they are and do what they want.  When I try to control others, I suffer just as much as they do.  I see this often in my classroom--when I'm able to let the students be because they're behaving well, my stress level is very low.  When someone starts acting up, though, my stress level rises because I now have to take away another person's freedom because they're abusing their freedom in an inappropriate situation.

If you want to be truly free, then let others be free.  Otherwise, freedom is just a word or a dream, but not a true experience.

Questions to consider:

In what ways do we try to control the actions and thoughts of others? 

How are we able to "grant more freedom to others"?

Why do so many people insist on trying to control others, even after they realize that they're making themselves miserable by trying?

For further thought:


Anything you strive to hold captive will hold
you captive, and if you desire freedom
you must give freedom.
2 years ago

  

September 4
  
  
Supply is infinite, but there must be
receptivity.  We can have all the supply
we will give.  But that is where the
barrier is--the unwillingness to give.
That is where the lack or limitation is.
  
 

Joel Goldsmith

  

Today's Meditation:

It seems that Joel is contradicting himself here, doesn't it?  Most of us would say that we can have all the supply that we will take, but Joel turns it around in a seeming paradox--we can have all that we will give.

Giving is most definitely a prerequisite to getting.  It's not that we give in order to get paid back, but that giving opens up our receptivity and creates the conditions that allow us to tap into the supply that the universe and our world have available to us.  Most people focus on lack, which almost guarantees that they won't be doing much giving.  "I have no time" means that one won't be giving of time; "I have no money" is a way of saying that one won't be giving of money; "Nobody needs anything from me" can mean that one won't be giving any encouragement, compliments, talents or skills to others.

We can be receptive to anything as long as the conditions are right.  Nobody will give us a paycheck unless we work; no one can be expected to give us their loyalty until we actually earn it.  And there is plenty in life for all of us to receive, though most of us simply aren't receptive to bigger and better things because we're too afraid of losing what we have by giving away too much. 

We can make our lives such that we can receive wonderful things from life, from positive emotions and love and friendship to financial gain and better jobs--life is always in a giving mood, but because we're usually in a taking mood, we don't match the giving mood and we lose out on it, closing our receptivity because of our unwillingness to give.

Questions to consider:

How do we become so afraid of giving that we close our receptivity?

In what ways might you be able to practice your giving and open your receptivity?

What does Joel mean when he says that "Supply is infinite"?

For further thought:

Do you want there to be enough for you and for everyone? 
Then choose that and know, "There is abundance of all things."
"There is an unlimited supply."  "There is so much magnificence." 
Each of us has the ability to tap into that unlimited invisible supply
through our thoughts and feelings, and bring it into our experience.
So choose for You, because you're the only one who can.

Rhonda Byrne

2 years ago
  

September 3
  
  
Become a possibilitarian.  No matter
how dark things seem to be or actually
are, raise your sights and see possibilities--
always see them, for they’re always there.

Norman Vincent Peale

  

Today's Meditation:

A "possibilitarian"--what a nice word!  I'd like to think that I'm a person who focuses mainly on possibility and potential, rather than on limits and obstacles.  I'd like to think that I have enough faith in life and living to believe that better things are possible for me and others, for a possibilitarian is a person who lives with hope as a best friend and a person for whom dreams are a sign of the future and not idle wishes. 

If I can focus on possibilities, then my life won't get bogged down in the mire of the status quo when things aren't going well.  If I become a possibilitarian, then I'll have an extra tool in my kit that can help me through difficult times, for the hardest part of difficult times is dealing with the fear that they'll always stay hard or that they'll get even worse.  And I can also help others to see possibilities in their own lives, and the friend who might not have dared to go back to school or who might not have taken on the challenge of opening her own restaurant may be able to take heart and face the challenge that otherwise they might have backed away from.

"Raise your sights."  It sounds easy enough to do, but the truth is that it's often very difficult.  Being someone who believes in the possibilities of the human spirit isn't something that comes naturally to most of us, and we do tend to have to work at it.  The impossible sometimes seems so strong that it tricks us into thinking that it's the only way to see things.  But it really is up to us to work our ways towards seeing possibilities--after all, why would we have been put on this planet full of so much potential if we were intended only to get mired in the muck and never accomplish anything, and never reach any of our dreams?

I prefer to be a possibilitarian and focus on what may be if I put my mind and effort to it.

Questions to consider:

How often do you get stuck looking only at limitations and impossibilities?

How might we help ourselves to learn to become better at seeing the possibilities in life?

When things are dark, why is it so difficult to think of things getting brighter?

For further thought:

If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish
for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of
the potential, for the eye which, ever young and
ardent, sees the possible. . . what wine is so sparkling,
so fragrant, so intoxicating, as possibility!

2 years ago

  

September 2
  
  
Sadness is related to the opening
of your heart.  If you allow yourself
to feel sad, especially if you can
cry, you will find that your heart
opens wider and you can feel
more love and more joy.


Shakti Gawain

  

Today's Meditation:

From where do we get this notion that we can't show our feelings?  Why do people, when they see us sad or grieving, tell us to "cheer up" or even "get over it"?  What if I don't want to cheer up--is that so bad?  What if I want to stay with the sadness long enough that I can deal with it completely and allow it to work its way out of my system?  I have every right to do so, but others seem to think that their lot in life is to push us to feeling better, when doing so may be the worst thing for us (even if they see it as the best thing for them).

Telling someone who's sad to "cheer up" borders on cruelty, for it doesn't acknowledge the true feelings that the person is going through--it tells that person that they're doing something wrong and that they need to change.  It isn't acknowledging the important idea that "to everything there is a season," including sadness.  It would be silly to think that we can go through all our days on the planet without feeling sadness, though some people do act as if they can on the outside.  But as Shakti says, it's important that we allow ourselves to be sad so that we can open ourselves up to other emotions that are also important.

(Even as I wrote the last sentence, I almost wrote "other, more positive emotions."  Sadness, when we don't allow ourselves to get mired up in it, is a positive emotion, for it allows us to move past certain incidents or stages in our lives.)

There seem to be two more dominant problems with sadness:  other people have problems dealing with our sadness, and sometimes we allow the sadness to go on for too long, until we lose sight of the beauty and wonder of the world.  But just because others have a hard time dealing with our sadness doesn't mean we should shove it back inside ourselves and not allow ourselves to feel it, for then we'd be moving on in life with unfaced issues that need to be dealt with.

Others can help us when we allow sadness to take us over, for they often have a perspective that's much more objective than our own.  Sadness can be an attractive state to be in, depending on our state of mind, and we don't want it to take control of us.  Because it is true that "to everything there is a season," there's also a time when we must move on from sadness and, as Shakti says, "feel more love and more joy."

Questions to consider:

2 years ago
  

September 1

When we have painful memories
from hurting experiences, we may
feel justified in holding on to the
resentment.  But resentment is
corrosive.  It doesn't affect the person
we feel anger toward, it destroys the host.

Susan L. Taylor

  

Today's Meditation:

It's important to remember that what we keep in our minds does affect us, and it tends to affect us very strongly.  One who holds on to jealousy suffers needlessly, as does one who holds on to resentment.  When we do keep thoughts of resentment and anger in our minds, it usually doesn't have any effect at all on the person of whom we're resentful, even though we like to fool ourselves into thinking that our negative feelings are, indeed, having an effect.

Resentment hurts me if I'm resentful.  It hurts me because it keeps me focused on negative things like anger and bad experiences, and it doesn't allow me to stay fully present in the now.  Resentment is a result of the ego having its say--it's been bruised, so therefore it's going to take charge and make sure that we keep our minds on that bruised ego.  It truly doesn't do us any good at all, but it is a very real phenomenon that holds many people hostage to negative feelings that never go away until one learns how to let go of the resentment and move on with their lives. 

As Susan says, we all have had to deal with hurtful experiences.  Usually, we're able to move on and leave them behind without keeping our minds on the negative things that others might or might not have done.  When we're not, though, we hold ourselves hostage to our own ego, which makes the demand, "Satisfy me!"

The only way to move on and move up is to honestly let go of the resentment, to acknowledge our hurt and our pain and let it take its place in our past, where it belongs.  Because as long as we keep it alive and allow it to interfere with our present, we'll continue to give others power over us by allowing their actions to affect us long after we should be over it. 

Questions to consider:

Why is it so easy to feel resentment?  What part does your ego play in telling you that it's okay to feel it?

What does Susan mean when she says that resentment "destroys the host"? 

What are some strategies for letting go of resentment completely and moving on with your life?

For further thought:

Anger, resentment and jealousy don't change
the heart of others-- they only change yours.

Shannon Alder

2 years ago

  

August 31


Overstraining is the enemy of
accomplishment.  Calm strength that
arises from a deep and inexhaustible
source is what brings success.

Rabindranath Tagore

  

Today's Meditation:

We see very often that people try to overplay their hands, that they try so hard to do something or control something or somebody because they want others to think that they're super strong.  They're posing.  Many kids in my high school classes are posers in this way.  Someone hurts them and they say they don't care when they really do.  Someone takes something of theirs and they have to threaten the other person with physical violence, just so that others can see that they're "strong."

But real strength doesn't manifest itself in overexertion or threats against others or in being "better" than others.  Real strength is seen in the person who can look at a situation and act truly and authentically, without worrying what others may think of him or her.  Real strength is seeing the situation and determining what is an appropriate response no matter what onlookers may think of it.

One of the strongest people I've ever known never, ever had to prove her strength, and she never talked about how strong she was.  She did the work she needed to do without doing 60-hour weeks, and her work was better than that of others who were killing themselves at her job.  She was confident and she knew what needed to be done and she did it well, without forcing herself to do more.

If we want to be successful, it's important that we keep in mind what Rabindranath has said here.  It's the calm strength that comes from deep inside that helps us to be truly successful, that helps us to accomplish wonderful things.  We may do some things well without that calm strength, but that success is fleeting, and we can't count on it to repeat itself.  The inner strength is the great gift that we can give to the world, for with it we can contribute great successes that are lasting.

Questions to consider:

What's the difference between inner strength and superficial strength?  Whom do you know who has each kind?

Why does inner strength seem to be more rare than superficial strength?

Why do people who depend on superficial strength tend to overstrain so often?

For further thought:

2 years ago
   

August 30
    
     

If people concentrated on
their responsibilities,
others would have their rights.

Stuart Briscoe

  

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes we tend to think that everything is our responsibility, that we're supposed to have our hands in everything.  This perspective not only tends to cause us an awful lot of stress, but it affects other people as well.  We all have witnessed the micromanagers at work, people who not only do their jobs, but also try to tell others how to do their jobs to the most miniscule details.

This isn't a "live and let live" approach, though--it's more like a "live and tell others how to live" approach.  It keeps others from being able to do things on their own, in their own ways, often under the threat of retaliation or firing or withdrawal of affection.  It keeps others on edge, uncomfortable, even fearful.

I worked in a unit in the Army with a Commanding Officer who was like this.  In that situation, none of us really had the right to do our jobs the way we had been trained to do them; instead, we all had to do the best that we could, knowing that this CO would show up eventually and tell us to re-do our work, his way.  His interference (or meddling, to be fair) kept us all from working effectively, and kept us all miserable at work, for we never knew what was coming next.  In families, parents can have this effect, and in offices, managers can; in schools, principals and superintendents and even teachers can.

We all have our own responsibilities to take care of, and when all is said and done, that's enough, isn't it?  Why do we so often feel that we need to tell others how to take care of their responsibilities?  When we do so, we interfere in a very real way with the lives they're trying to lead and the work that they're trying to do, and don't they have the right to do what they're doing without constant interference or meddling?

Questions to consider:

What causes people to want or need to interfere in the lives of others instead of taking care of their own responsibilities?

How often do you find yourself telling others how they should do things under the guise of "advice"?

How is telling others how to deal with their responsibilities or how to live their lives, taking away their rights?

For further thought:
   
Letting go doesn't mean we don't care.  Letting go doesn't mean we shut down.  Letting go means we stop trying to force outcomes and make people behave.  It means we give up resistance to the way things are, for the moment.  It means we stop trying to do the impossible--controlling that which we cannot--and instead, focus on what is possible--which usually means

2 years ago
  

August 29
  

Prayer is believing in something bigger
than yourself, or anything you've ever
touched or known.  It's telling a river or
an open field that you need a little help.

Ashley Rice

  

Today's Meditation:

"Telling a river or an open field."  What beautiful words of wisdom, and what a refreshing perspective on prayer.  For centuries, dogmatic religious types tried to tell people how to pray, where to pray, when to pray, even which words to use, and I think that people ended up being just a little frustrated with their experiences in prayer.  After all, prayer is supposed to be a personal experience, but the highly-directed forms of prayer were anything but personal.

Most of my best praying comes when I'm out for a walk in the woods or mountain or on the beach.  At such times I have far fewer distractions and I'm in the presence of creation--and not just the human side of creation, which really is a small portion of creation as a whole.  When I'm out for a walk in nature I can feel the immensity of our world and my smallness in it, but also I can feel that I belong to it.  And my doubts about God fade in such situations, and I feel a closeness to divinity that I usually don't feel on a busy day in a place where I have lots of obligations and responsibilities.

There truly is nothing wrong with asking God for help, and when you feel God closer is usually the best time to ask.  After all, do we ask our parents or friends for help more often when they're far away, or when they're closer?  The closer we feel to God, the more likely that we feel that the effects of the prayer are positive, and since prayer is almost just as much about ourselves as it is about God, how we enter prayer and how we feel about our prayers goes a long way towards determining the effectiveness of our prayers.

As an omnipresent being, God is with everything and in everything.  It makes sense to speak to a lake when our intention is to speak to God, for the lake is just as much a part of creation as anything else, and its beauty and peacefulness provide a very appropriate backdrop for the prayers we send forth.  Communication consists of sender, receiver, and medium, and a beautiful part of nature is a great medium through which to contact God.

Questions to consider:

Why do we get locked into certain prayer rituals or methods?

Where do you pray the best?  Where do you feel that your prayers are most effective?

How can we teach ourselves to look for new ways to pray?

For further thought:

I love to think of nature as

2 years ago

   

August 28
  
Fishing provides that connection with the
whole living world.  It gives you the opportunity
of being totally immersed, turning back into
yourself in a good way.  A form of meditation,
some form of communion with levels of yourself
that are deeper than the ordinary self.


Ted Hughes

  

Today's Meditation:

Personally, I'm not a fisherman.  I enjoyed fishing when I was a kid, but it's not something that I've stuck with as an adult.  But the important part of Ted's words here isn't the part about fishing, but about having an activity that allows a person to be completely immersed in the moment, focusing only upon that particular activity and not thinking about the other things in life that tend to get our minds going 'round and 'round without being able to stop-- which is definitely one of the main causes of frustration and burnout in people.

When you have forms of meditation of your own, when you have activities in which you can become completely immersed, then you have ways to deal with the hectic pace of life.  You have methods for calming your mind and finding clarity.  You have a strategy for breaking out of the rat race and defining your participation in it on your own terms.

I've got many such strategies for meditation, and none of them involve sitting quietly in one place for hours (I always fall asleep when I try it that way!).  I bike, I run, I do dishes, I shovel snow, I wash my car, I read good books, I go for long walks, I listen closely to music that's playing.  Anything that keeps my mind occupied on one particular task and keeps it from going off on all the tangents that it so loves to explore is helpful to me, and I finish those tasks feeling refreshed and revitalized, ready to face the world and deal with it on my terms.  When I neglect doing these sorts of things, I find myself getting stressed and feeling frantic and frustrated, and I don't like feeling that way. 

What will do it for you is obviously up to you.  You are who you are, and you have your own interests and abilities.  Perhaps drawing or painting, or cleaning the house, or ironing clothes.  Anything that keeps you focused fully on what you're doing, keeping your mind occupied on something you're doing, can be a very helpful and useful part of your life.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things do you do that make you feel refreshed and make your mind clearer when you're done with them?

Why do we focus so much on what we think other people want us to do instead of on what we know is good for us?

How might we discover new things to do that are forms of meditation?

2 years ago
   

August 27


If your actions inspire others
to dream more, learn more, do more
and become more, you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams

  

Today's Meditation:

I'm sometimes astonished to find out which people don't consider themselves to be leaders.  I know people who are wonderful role models of honesty, courtesy, love and compassion, but who don't think that they have any effect on others at all.  I know teachers who can get kids to do anything they want, but they separate the term "teacher" from "leader," and they don't see themselves as being leaders.  The simple fact is that we all have the potential to be leaders, whether we're leading people to think differently by sharing a different perspective or do something differently or better by teaching them, showing them, or guiding them--or all three.

Most of us learn to be followers, because we tend to put our leaders up on pedestals that we think we never can climb up.  We think that they have gifts that we don't have, and the they have abilities that we lack.  When we see ourselves in their place, we just know that people would argue with us, cut us down, and make the job of leadership impossible.  But it certainly is not impossible for any of us.

Part of the question we have to ask ourselves is just whom shall we lead?  I led college students through writing and literature courses for 15 years; now I lead high school students through different courses.  Parents lead their children through learning and self-discovery and lessons on how to deal with others and how to help and be compassionate.  In an office, one person can lead his or her peers to feel better every day by sharing important thoughts, photos, or even a snack or a kind greeting or words of encouragement.  Leaders don't necessarily tell people what to do--leaders inspire and teach and share.

"Dream more, learn more, do more, and become more."  What a beautiful thought.  And what a beautiful set of circumstances to which we can make a definite and powerful contribution, as long as we really do see ourselves as leaders and take that role seriously.

Questions to consider:

Why do so few of us actually see ourselves as leaders?

In which situations do you actually have to exercise leadership skills?

How might you strengthen your ability to lead others in subtle ways that may be very valuable to them?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

August 26
  

  
When we begin to take our failures
non-seriously, it means we are ceasing
to be afraid of them.  It is of immense
importance to learn to laugh at ourselves.

Katherine Mansfield

  

Today's Meditation:

I used to see failures as disasters.  If I failed, that meant that others wouldn't trust me any more, that they would see me as a failure, that they would judge me harshly and avoid me.  I was pretty silly.  Failure is simply failure--trying something and not being able to do it.  Some of my biggest failures have been some of my greatest learning experiences, and I don't regret them a bit.  In fact, I'm very glad of them.

Because I saw failure in such a dramatic light, the fear of failure was one of my strongest driving forces.  I wasn't driven by the desire to do the best I could or the desire to learn or the desire to help others; rather, I was driven by the fear of failure and judgment, and while I did accomplish a lot of things in those days, I never really reached my full potential in anything because I simply wasn't striving to reach my potential--I was striving to avoid failure.

Nowadays, I'm the first person to recognize my failures, and I'm the one who points them out to others so that they can have a good laugh at them, too.  "Look what I tried," I can say now, "and it sure didn't work."  And by being open about the failure instead of trying to hide it, I can actually learn from it and grow as a person.  I can also help others to deal in a healthy way with their failures--not by laughing at them, of course, but by helping them to accept the failures and not judge themselves as failures because of something they've done or haven't done.

This is all fine, of course, to a certain extent.  When others are depending on me and I'm doing something that we all know I'm capable of and that's important, then failure isn't an option.  When I've made promises, failure to come through on those promises is not something to laugh at.  When I'm driving, failure to follow the rules of the road isn't something to take lightly, for other people's safety is at stake.  But all in all, since I've stopped taking most of my failures so darned seriously, my life has been much more fun and much less stressful, and I like both of those changes.

Questions to consider:

How do we learn that failure is such a "drastic" thing?

Why are we so willing to judge ourselves harshly for failing to do something, even if it's something we've never done before and have had no preparation for?

What's  your most recent failure?  How drastic was it really?  Was it life-changing, or just something you did or didn't do?  If it was life-changing, how might you avoid repeating it?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

August 25

When something does not insist
on being noticed, when we aren't
grabbed by the collar or struck on
the skull by a presence or an event,
we take for granted the very things
that most deserve our gratitude.

Cynthia Ozick

  

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes it's the lack of attention-grabbing that is the most important to us.  How many times have we read the stories of the kids who were no problem to their parents, how they felt neglected and lonely because the parents were always focused on the kids who were always in trouble and neglected the kids who caused no trouble.  In a case like that, we should be incredibly grateful to the child who is well behaved, yet the truth is that we do, indeed, take him or her for granted.

There are many things that don't grab our attention.  The toilet that doesn't back up, the car that doesn't need servicing, the television that lasts for years and years, the friends who never borrow money or make us feel uncomfortable, the co-worker who is reliable and dependable and who always has everything done--all of these things and people are deserving of our greatest gratitude, for they help our lives to move on smoothly without terrible bumps or bruises.  Yet we tend to keep our minds focused on the problems, and we forget to be thankful for the things that are going well.

There are also events that are like that--the birthday party that flows smoothly, the trip to the baseball game, the class we attend that goes off without a hitch each week, the meeting or the meal that flows smoothly and is enjoyable--we don't keep our minds on these things because they don't call our attention like the party that has problems or the trip to the ball game that involves the car breaking down or the meal that's ruined because the bread gets burned and there's too much salt in the soup.

One of the most important skills that we can develop in life is that of making gratitude an active part of who we are.  When we can recognize the things that really do deserve our thankfulness, then we can actually recognize just how well we do have things, and just how blessed our lives truly are.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend to be more thankful for some things than for others?

Think about the last few times you've felt deep gratitude.  Does it tend to happen after some sort of trying event, or on a daily basis with the ordinary things that you have and go through?

Name two strategies for actively developing our sense of gratitude.

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

August 24
   

Remember that the body is the temple
of the soul.  Those who mistreat the
body tend to mistreat the soul within.
Observe vital health laws, such as
exercise, healthy diet, and self-control.

Susan Santucci

  

Today's Meditation:

So many of us treat our bodies as enemies.  We abuse it through neglect, overuse, covering it with chemicals, filling it with chemicals, and all sorts of other activities that don't serve at all to prove that our bodies actually are temples for our souls.  This body is a wonderful gift, and if we abuse it, we're making sure that it doesn't function properly and therefore diminish the quality of our time here on earth.

In addition to being a temple, though, the body generally gives an accurate reflection of how we treat ourselves as spiritual beings, too.  Do we neglect our bodies, not giving them enough exercise or healthy foods?  Then there's a very good chance that we neglect our spiritual side, too.  Do we mistreat our bodies by indulging in harmful chemicals from things like cigarettes and unhealthy foods?  Then guess what?  We're probably mistreating our spiritual selves, too, by introducing unhealthy thoughts, ideas, and images.

Most people don't even tend to think of some of their most unhealthy habits as even being related to the body.  It's easy to drink four or five sodas a day without even thinking of the effects of the caffeine and the corn syrup on the bodies we have.  It's easy to eat fattening foods and highly processed foods and even too much food without keeping in mind that for every pound of fat we put on, our hearts have to work that much harder and our muscles have to compensate to carry around more weight and our joints are strained and unable to function at optimal levels.

Taking care of ourselves is a full-time job, obviously.  But just how do we care for ourselves?  Are we fully aware of all that we're doing--and not doing--to make sure that we're giving our bodies the best of chances to be healthy and functional?  Some people may want subconsciously to have a body that gives them problems because that gives them freedom to ignore other deeper, more important problems, but that really is no way to live.  Our bodies are the temples of our souls, and we really should treat them with respect, dignity, and care.

Questions to consider:

How does it become so easy for us to neglect our bodies over long periods of time?

What kinds of things do you do that keep your body from being the best that it can be?  Why do you do them?

What does it mean for our bodies to be the "temples of our souls"?  How do we normally treat temples when we visit them?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

August 23

The danger for most of us lies not
in setting our aim too high and falling
short, but in setting our aim too low,
and achieving our mark.

Michelangelo Buonarrati
(attributed)

  

Today's Meditation:

It is possible that it wasn't Michelangelo who actually said or wrote these words, but that's okay.  The words themselves are the important part, and it's basically another way of saying that if you aim for the treetops and reach them, then what?  But if you aim for the stars and reach only the heights of the sky, then you're still better off than if you were in the treetops.

I agree only partly with this idea, though.  I do believe that it's important that we set our sights high, that we create real challenges for ourselves that will force us to step out of our areas of comfort and push ourselves harder than we would without the lofty goals.  If we "settle," if we set our aim low--be it for a job, a spouse, a vacation, a new car--we could end up with a job we despise, a spouse who treats us poorly, a horrible vacation, a clunker of a car that's unreliable and costs more to maintain than a more expensive car would have.

On the other hand, I've learned from teaching over the last two decades that one of the most important things we can give ourselves in our efforts to improve ourselves is a series of successes--we must feel that we've accomplished something sometimes if we're to have the confidence to take on the next challenge, to learn the next thing, to accomplish the next project.  If our goal is to reach the stars and we never do so, then we never will have successfully reached goals we've set for ourselves, even though we had to accomplish a great deal to get where we did.

I've had students on the track team who could have trained with the best coaches in the world for years, and who still NEVER would have won state in their events.  And that's okay.  In working with them, we set goals for improving their times, for reaching personal records, for doing well in the regional meets and the invitationals-- even reaching the state meet sometimes.  We never would have set a goal of winning state because it simply wouldn't have come to pass.  Those students finish the track season having succeeded in most of their goals, and they have the experience of having set realistic goals and then doing the work necessary to achieve them.

We must be careful with our goals.  It is important to set our aim high, but it's also important to include goals that are very achievable so that we can keep track of our successes and know that we are moving forward and upward in life.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the dangers of setting our aim too high and then never reaching those goals?

What are some of  the dangers of setting our aim too low and then "settling" for something that's far below our potential?

Are goals important in the first place?  How do they help us in our lives?

For further thought:


Goals are simply tools to focus your energy in positive
di
2 years ago
  

August 22

We'd all like a reputation
for generosity, and we'd all
like to buy it cheap.

Mignon McLaughlin

  

Today's Meditation:

There's nothing at all wrong with wanting to be known by others as being a generous person.  I would love to have such a reputation.  Unfortunately, though, reputations cost something to develop, and I'm usually not able to pay the price to gain a legitimate reputation for something such as being generous.  It's not that I don't want to pay the price; it's more like I'm not able.

We can be generous with time, with money, with goods, with food.  We can share anything and everything that we have, including wisdom and cars and ice cream.  But sharing is one thing, and being generous is something else.  Generosity comes from the heart, and the person who is truly generous doesn't think at all about the returns of what he or she is giving.  That's something that I'm still unable to do at least half the time--very often I do think of the returns on what I'm giving, which makes my giving much less of an act of generosity and more of an act of self-interest.

I believe that true generosity is something that we work towards our whole lives long.  I'm not ashamed to say that I'm interested in returns because that's the way I've learned to give throughout my life, and I definitely am working myself away from that attitude; I'm simply not there yet.  I have a ways to go, and that's okay.

I know that whatever reputation I have, I must earn.  I can earn a reputation for generosity only by being truly generous, and one day I hope to be there.  For now, I think I have a reputation for being fairly generous, because that's all I've earned.  When I learn to truly give with all my heart and without thought of recompense, then I'll be able to start earning a reputation for generosity.  And it won't come cheap, but at that point I won't care about that.

Questions to consider:

How do you define "generous"?  Do you fit your definition?

How can we learn to give from our hearts in a spirit of true generosity?

What kinds of reputations can be bought "cheap"?

For further thought:

Generosity consists not of the sum
given, but of the manner in which
it is bestowed.

2 years ago
  

August 21

I think everyone should go to college
and get a degree and then spend six
months as a bartender and six
months as a cabdriver.  Then
they would really be educated.

Al McGuire

  

Today's Meditation:

Having gone through many, many years of college and then taught college for another decade or so afterward, I would have to agree completely with Al.  Students leave college programs well acquainted with information and theory, but very few social skills, very little wisdom.  Knowledge does not equal wisdom, yet many people stay completely satisfied with knowledge their whole lives through.

Bartenders and cabdrivers have jobs that demand that they deal with other human beings their entire shift long.  Much of their contact can be negative, of course, and neither job is necessarily a dream job, but they sure can teach you valuable lessons about how to deal with your fellow human beings.  They can teach you how to be tolerant of others' shortcomings and mistakes, and they can help you to learn to judge less and listen more.  They can teach you to value the truly important things in your life because in those jobs, you have to deal with many people who are going through many different experiences themselves, and often having a very hard time of it.

Perhaps the most important element of these jobs, though, is that they put people in positions in which they have to listen.  Listening--and truly paying attention while doing so--is a skill that can prove to be one of the most valuable skills of our lives, if we ever actually cultivate it and practice it. 

We all have people in our lives whom we tend never to listen to, but if we can strike up conversations with the janitors, the vendors, the waitresses, the mechanics--we just may find that we learn something about life and living that we haven't ever learned from the people who are already in our lives.  And if we ever do learn to truly listen when others are speaking, then we can really enrich this experience that we call life.

Questions to consider:

What's the difference between learning information and theories and learning about life and living?

When was the last time that you had a conversation with someone you don't normally converse with?  Did you learn anything about that person?

Why do we tend not to stretch our limits by finding new people to listen to and learn from?  How are we biased in choosing which people we'll listen to closely?

For further thought:

The teaching which is written on paper is not the true teaching.
Written teaching is a kind of food for your brain.  Of course
it is necessary

2 years ago
  

August 20

One day our descendants will think it
incredible that we paid so much attention
to things like the amount of melanin in our
skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender
instead of the unique identities of each
of us as complex human beings.

Franklin Thomas

  

Today's Meditation:

It is amazing how much we dwell on surface matters.  We still do think differently about people from different nations, people with different skin colors, people who speak different languages.  I do.  It's something that was taught to me as I was growing up, but it's not something that I'm proud of.  It is something that I do my best to keep in check, that I try very hard to correct as soon as any thought of difference enters my mind.

Probably the most important reason for which we still have biases against others is simply because we don't know them.  They may be great, great people, but if all of our judgment is based only upon what we see, then we're going to judge incorrectly.  It's only when we get to know a person that we actually can get a sense of who they are and what they're capable of.  But not knowing leads to another problem:  fear.  We fear the unknown, and we fear the loss of our own systems of belief, our own ways of looking at the world.  When all is said and done, people who are different represent a threat, and when we're threatened we tend to get defensive; when we're defensive, we don't think nearly as clearly.

We spend our lives wanting other people to know us for our uniqueness--our personality, our character, our abilities and talents.  Yet we don't try to do the same thing for others, especially if those others are "different" than we are.  It really is quite a shame, too, for those different people surely have much to teach us that would be of great value to us.

One day when our descendents are discussing just how strange it was that we focused so much on skin color and eye shape, make sure that your descendents will be able to say about you, "Yes, but not my grandmother (or grandfather).  She never judged on such things--she was fair and open-minded.

Questions to consider:

From where do most of our prejudices come?  Why do we allow them to stick around, even after we've grown to learn the truth about them?

How might we go about  teaching our young people to be not just tolerant, but loving and accepting of other people's differences?

What kinds of things do we think were incredible for our ancestors to believe? Why did they believe such things?

For further thought:

2 years ago
  

August 19

That you may retain your self-respect,
it is better to displease the people
by doing what you know is right, than
to temporarily please them by doing
what you know is wrong.

William J.H. Boetcker

  

Today's Meditation:

I can't even begin to count how many times I've done things that I've thought were wrong just to please other people, just to fit in, just to make others think that I was somehow "cool."  The major problem always has been that I've had to live with my regret afterwards, knowing that I've done something that I knew was wrong before I ever did it.  Fortunately, it's something that I almost never do nowadays, for the price that I've paid in embarrassment and regret has been a very good teacher, and I hope to avoid both as much as I can in my life.

I think William is completely correct when he says "temporarily please them."  If someone is asking you to do something that he or she knows is wrong today, you can be sure that if you do it, there will be more similar requests in the future.  Today you may cover up the missing cash or hide the mistake of a co-worker, but what's that going to lead to next week?  And when we do something that we know is wrong, we also set ourselves up for having to lie about it somewhere down the road--something else that we know is wrong, but that we have to do to save face (or even more).

Our self-respect is a precious resource in this life of ours, and it can be lost cheaply, or maintained at what seems sometimes a high cost.  But anyone who asks you to do what you know is wrong and then decides to shun you when you refuse is not someone who is going to be good for us in the first place.

We maintain our self-respect with decisions, over and over again.  What we decide to do either strengthens or diminishes our self-respect, and it's much better to go after the long-term benefits of doing what we know is right than to go after the short-term benefits and resulting difficulties of doing what we know is wrong.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the other factors that go into making decisions to do things that we know are wrong?  How strongly do those factors influence us?

How might we clearly see what is right and wrong in any given situation?  What kinds of questions can we ask ourselves?

Think of a time when you've done something you knew was wrong?  How did it make you feel?  How might you have felt had you decided not to do it?

For further thought:

Self-respect cannot be hunted. It cannot be purchased.
It is never for sale. It cannot be fabricated out of public relations.
It comes to us when we are alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places,
when we suddenly realize that, knowing the good, we have done it;
knowing the beautiful, we have served it;
knowing the truth, we have spoken it.


Whitney Griswold

2 years ago
  

August 18
   
  
Example is not the main thing in
influencing others—it is the only thing.

Albert Schweitzer

  

Today's Meditation:

Very often in our modern cultures we learn that we can influence people best through the use of words or manipulation.  Usually we find that our influence in such cases is fleeting, at best.  If we've used words or manipulation, as soon as we're out of the picture, the people whom we've affected start to doubt themselves and the message that they've received.  "Something's not right," they think, and that's true.  Such influence simply isn't authentic, especially if we say one thing and then turn around and do something else.

Our most important influence is on children, for we can help them to grow up to be happy individuals who contribute to society--but only if we provide them with strong positive examples that they can see regularly.  They are incredibly perceptive, a fact that we tend to forget, and they learn more from our examples than they do from our words or our threats. 

Many people in positions of authority feel that it's enough that they tell their subordinates to do things, and they don't feel that it's important that they follow their own mandates.  But if I want to have an office or a factory or a restaurant of hard workers who are kind to others, then I need to be a hard worker who is kind to others myself.  If I treat my subordinates poorly, they'll tend to treat others poorly, without kindness or dignity or respect.  If I criticize my daughter or son or start arguments, it's obvious what kind of example I'm setting for my grandchildren.

All of our decisions should include at least the question, "What kind of example would I be giving to a child here?"  When we decide to break a law by speeding or talking on a cell phone while driving, we're setting an example.  When we fasten our seat belts and follow the rules of the road and drive courteously, we're also setting an example.  And someone sees it--even if it's only ourselves.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of examples do you wish to set for young people?  For your own children or grandchildren?

Why do most people not think about the idea that they're always providing examples, no matter what they're doing?

How might we go about making sure that the examples that we're setting are positive and helpful? 

For further thought:
 

2 years ago

  

August 16
  

Walking takes longer than any
other known form of locomotion
except crawling.  Thus it stretches
time and prolongs life. Life is already
too short to waste on speed.

Edward Abbey

  

Today's Meditation:

We all seem to know that the things that are most important in our society aren't the best things for us, yet few of us are willing to look at exactly what those things are and do something about them.  One element of life that our society values that can be very damaging to us as people is speed--there's very little actual need for it, and our efforts to speed everything up can have very negative effects on our lives.

Only when we purposely slow ourselves down and refuse to jump into the speed game that we see just how calming and relaxing something like taking a casual walk--not a speed walk to burn a maximum number of calories--can be.  In fact, for many people taking a walk is quite the same thing as meditation, and the walks allow them to think things through more clearly, arriving at clarity much more quickly and accurately than they would have if they hadn't taken the time to slow down.

There are things that do take speed.  A doctor in an emergency room doesn't have a lot of time to make decisions; factory workers with quotas to meet do need to work quickly; a journalist with a deadline mustn't dally; but in our lives there are many more situations that could benefit from our slowing down, thinking clearly, and pondering things more deeply.

Walking is wonderful exercise for the body and the mind and the spirit, and it's very easy to do--and also very easy to neglect.  If we could spend more time walking and taking life easy, we would spend more time feeling good about ourselves and what we're doing.

Questions to consider:

Why do so few people make or take the time for walking?

How could you fit more walking into your daily schedule? 

What benefits does speed really have for most of our activities?  Are those benefits worth the trade-off of losing time to slow down?

For further thought:

Slow down and enjoy life.  It's not only the scenery you miss by going to fast--you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.

Eddie Cantor

2 years ago
  

August 15
  

To seek after beauty as an end, is a
wild goose chase, a will-o'-the-wisp,
because it is to misunderstand the very
nature of beauty, which is the normal
condition of a thing as it should be.

Ade Bethune

  

Today's Meditation:

We all are beautiful.  It's just too bad that most of us can't see the beauty in each other, or in ourselves.  We've been trained to look for flaws, so our personal searches for beauty have become searches for flawlessness rather than searches for the beautiful.  If our goal is to make ourselves beautiful, we're wasting our time.  We're already beautiful, whether we're willing to admit it or not.  We've just put up so many barriers to our beauty over the years in the form of biases and beliefs and walls to protect ourselves that our beauty simply isn't the part that's most obvious--our protective layers are.

Our normal condition is beauty.  There really isn't more to it than that.  What we tend to believe is beauty, though, is what our society deems to be beautiful, some sort of ideal that only a very few reach.  This is a crock, quite simply.  Some of the most beautiful people I've ever met have been those who are completely fine with themselves the way they are, and they focus on things other than trying to reach that ideal--things like helping others and nurturing themselves and giving and caring.

Are you seeking beauty in yourself?  Well, it's already there, and it's fabulous.  Are you seeking beauty in others?  Again, if you're not seeing it then it's not because it isn't there, because it most certainly is there.  And if you can't see it, then you must ask yourself:  are you seeking beauty, or are you seeking an ideal?  Because there's plenty of the former, yet very little of the latter.

When we misunderstand what beauty is, then we doom ourselves to looking for something that we'll never find.  It's like searching for diamonds, but not knowing what they look like.  We may see many of them, but never recognize them.  When you really do open your mind enough to actually see the beauty in the people and the world around you, and in yourself, your world will transform, and you'll find that your life will transform, also.

Questions to consider:

From where do we get our ideas of what beauty actually is?

Why do most of us not recognize true beauty when we see it?

How can we go about learning to understand more clearly and accurately just what beauty is?

For further thought:


The fact that we can't see the beauty in something doesn't suggest
that it's not there.  Rather, it suggests that we are not looking carefully
enough or with a broad enough perspective to see it.
2 years ago
  

August 14

If you have a belief that the people
who love you will leave you, then sure
enough, it will happen.  Over and over
again.  So you had better become
aware of your unconscious beliefs.  They
are creating your experience of life.

Leonard Jacobson

  

Today's Meditation:

There are certain principles in life that are pretty consistent, and this is one of them.  How we act usually determines how we are treated, and what we believe usually determines how we act.  In the case that Leonard mentions, if you believe that people who love you will leave you, then either you're going to treat them badly or with distance or you're going to try to hold on to them too hard, and either way you're engaging in behavior that tends to make people want to put distance between themselves and you.

Most of us don't pay much attention to our unconscious beliefs because we never go deep enough into ourselves to figure out what they may be.  Do you believe that you're not meant to be wealthy?  That you're not meant to be happy?  That you're not meant to have a strong, healthy relationship?  That you don't deserve to be treated well?  I can't tell you how many people I've met who have had chances at great relationships with loving, caring people, but who have rejected those people in favor of others who treat them so poorly that it's completely unbelievable that they actually chose this other person.

In my case, one of my strongest battles is with the belief that I will always struggle financially.  It's a lesson that my parents instilled in me over and over again, and one that I internalized deeply.  It's a belief that I make true through my actions, and those actions come about because of the unconscious nature of my belief.  It's silly, but it's the way things are, and while I constantly work to change my situation, I also constantly work to change the beliefs that continue to make the situation reality.

In which areas of your life do you struggle?  Have you dug deeply and been honest with yourself about your true beliefs about those areas?  Are your problems in a relationship related more to the other person's actions, or to your beliefs about how the other person should act?  We all go through struggles in life, and many of them we cause ourselves, making them completely unnecessary, but no less true.  When we uncover those beliefs and work to change them, we can start to move ahead more quickly, for we will start to see our lives change, and then adopt a new belief to replace the old, silly one.

Questions to consider:

How do we come to have the beliefs we have? 

How can the beliefs that we have affect th

2 years ago
  

August 13


Today I bent the truth to be
kind, and I have no regret, for
I am far surer of what is kind
than I am of what is true.

Robert Brault

  

Today's Meditation:

Those little white lies.  Some will tell us that every single instance when we "bend" the truth is wrong, for the "truth" must always be told.  As we grow older and wiser in life, though, we learn that sometimes the truth itself can be very harmful, and that we may want to watch what we say when we're faced with an opportunity to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or a version of the truth that may be more helpful and compassionate to others.

Sometimes it can be good to bend the truth to spare someone else's feelings.  When a child brings something that they've drawn to me and asks me if I like it, the answer's going to be "Yes, I do."  Even if I don't like it, what possible positive purpose would I be serving by telling a child the full truth?  If someone wants to start an argument with me and asks me a question, I'm fully within my rights to react to another person's negative intentions with words that may not be completely true.

When we lie for self-gain or in an attempt to deceive maliciously, then we have a problem.  The truth is a very important element in our lives, but is the full truth a non-debatable element of our integrity?  Does every single person on this planet deserve the truth from us in every instance?  And will the words I say contribute to the lives of others in positive or negative ways?  All of these are questions that must be answered when we decide exactly what we're going to tell someone else, and when and how we're going to tell it.

When I was a kid, I tried oil painting.  I loved art.  I did a painting that I was pretty proud of and I showed to to my grandmother, who proceeded to tell me everything that she saw that was wrong with it.  I quit painting immediately, and didn't take it up again until almost twenty years later.  Yes, I was pretty sensitive at that age, but