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1 year ago
  

August 8

  

Today's Quotation:

A little friendship, a little sympathy, a little sociability,
a little human toil. . . is needed in every nook and
corner.  Therefore search and see if there is
not some place where you may invest your humanity.
 

Albert Schweitzer

Today's Meditation:

Every day as we go through life, we're presented with countless opportunities to "invest our humanity" by sharing the best parts of it with other human beings who always could use a little more of the positive things that we're able to give to each other if we really try.  It doesn't always take a huge amount of effort, and in fact may cost us a bare minimum of time.  We may never even see the results, but we know in our hearts that this type of giving can be the most important type of giving there is.

Can you share your smile today?  Can you give a little bit of encouragement to people that you know?  Can you spend a little time listening to someone who needs someone to talk to?  Can you pass on a little card thanking someone for something they've done?  Perhaps a sincere compliment will come to mind, or maybe you'll be able to tell someone else of something kind that someone has done for you.

We tend to put little importance on such acts, partly because we rarely see concrete results.  But sharing a bit of friendship or a little sympathy may be the most important investment of time and thought that we make in the world today, even if we never find out what the act has done for the other person or people involved.  I know that in my life, a sincere compliment is something that I carry with me for a long time, and while it's fresh in my mind my life is just a little bit brighter.  I'm also much more likely to do a nice turn for someone else after someone has done a kindness for me.

Who knows?  Your compliment today may end up spreading to three or four other people, who may end up spreading it even further, who may end up. . . .

1 year ago
  

August 7

  

Today's Quotation:

The aster has not wasted spring and summer because
it has not blossomed.  It has been all the time preparing
for what is to follow, and in autumn it is the glory of the
field, and only the frost lays it low.  So there are many
people who must live forty or fifty years, and have the
crude sap of their natural dispositions changed and
sweetened before the blossoming time can come;
but their lives have not been wasted.

Henry Ward Beecher

Today's Meditation:

Some people peak very early, and many of them are in the public spotlight at a very young age.  Musicians who make popular music, athletes, and actors and actresses are among the people who hit great heights at very early ages.

Most of us, though, take more time to hit our peaks.  Most people can't expect to hit their highest heights until they're well into their thirties or forties, for they've then hit a point at which they can give a very mature, very valuable contribution to the world.  Most of the music written by twenty-year-olds is simply immature and self-indulgent, for the songwriters haven't had enough life experience to allow them to write anything that's not a copy of other songs that they've heard.  Most very young athletes know only athletics, and they tend to get lost in other areas of their lives--how many of them ruin their athletic careers by making the decision to use performance-enhancing drugs in their training?

There's absolutely nothing wrong with blooming late.  All this means is that we've been spending time learning and living, and that our contribution therefore is more balanced, more mature, more loving, less self-centered or self-serving.  And if that's the case, then this contribution can help more people in more ways, which is one of the best gifts we can give to anyone.

Perhaps you haven't hit your peak yet, and your time of blooming has not yet arrived.  Be patient, and keep living and learning.  Your time will come, and when it does, it will be as beautiful as the asters in the autumn, the asters who have waited patiently all through spring and summer while the other flowers all were showing off their beauty.

1 year ago
  

August 5

  

Today's Quotation:

The real secret of happiness is simply this: to be willing
to live and let live, and to know very clearly in one's own mind
that the unpardonable sin is to be an unpleasant person.

Galen Starr Ross

Today's Meditation:

It's almost a contradiction in terms to say "simply" "live and let live."  For most of us, that seems to be one of the most difficult things in the world to do, for we all see better than others which are the best ways to live, and which are the best things to do for ourselves.  It sometimes seems like the human being was born to give advice and to try to control the actions and thoughts of others, for we sure do spend a lot of time trying to do so.

Those of us who are lucky, though, see early on just how harmful that is to others and to ourselves.  We see just how much frustration it causes everyone involved, and we realize that if we don't try to do that any more, we won't have to deal with the frustration any more.

Then, once we've stopped trying to advise others of what they should do in order to be happy, we see just how pleasant life can be when we mind our own business and when we allow ourselves to be pleasant to others no matter what they're doing, and no matter whether we think something is best for them or not.

We're put here to live our lives.  The other people in our lives have been put here to live theirs, not to live according to what we think theirs should be like.  If we love them and we love ourselves, we'll let them live the way they see best fit, and we won't condemn them for mistakes, whether we could see those mistakes coming or not.

Live and let live.  What a beautiful idea.

Questions to

1 year ago
    

August 4

  

Today's Quotation:

There is no true and constant gentleness without humility;
while we are so fond of ourselves, we are easily offended
with others.  Let us be persuaded that nothing is due to us,
and then nothing will disturb us.  Let us often think  of our own
infirmities, and we shall become indulgent towards those of others.

Francois Fenelon

Today's Meditation:

I don't think that Francois is telling us here to judge ourselves harshly and to be down on ourselves all the time.  Rather, he sees the importance of perspective in our relations with other people.  So much of our own discontent is due to our feelings that other people have hurt us or let us down, and very often the hurt or letdown is only in our minds, in our own view of what has happened.

Other people will disappoint us, and they will let us down.  And no matter how hard we try not to do so, we will let others down.  We will disappoint those people we love, and those people with whom we work.  It's called being human, and if we judge others harshly when they falter or commit some egregious error, then we're not allowing them to be truly human, are we?

It's taken me a lot of effort to get to a point at which I'm able to stay non-judgmental when others do things that I'm not too thrilled with, and I'm still not all that good at it.  But I find that life is much, much easier for me, much more enjoyable, when I'm not focusing on the ways that others have offended me or let me down.  I've found out that most of the things that I've taken personally haven't even been meant personally, and I've wasted a lot of time and effort feeling bad about things that shouldn't have affected me at all.

I serve myself much better by being like the duck whose feathers cause water to roll right off its back.  I don't want to get drenched in resentment or anger; I much prefer life when I'm keeping in mind that since I make many mistakes myself, I should do my best not to let the mistakes that other people make bring me down.

1 year ago
  

August 3

  

Today's Quotation:

We act as though comfort and luxury were
the chief requirements of life,
when all that we need to make us really happy
is something to be enthusiastic about.

Charles Kingsley

Today's Meditation:

What am I enthusiastic about?  Just about everything, to be honest.  There are so many things in life that are wonderful and fun and beautiful that it's hard for me not to be feeling a constant sense of gratitude and enjoyment.  I don't need a $40,000 car to make me happy--my car gets me where I'm going with good music playing, and that's pretty much all I need.  I don't need a $100 shirt or pair of pants to feel good about myself--that's possible even without the expensive clothes, and it's my choice.  Our home is well furnished with the least expensive nice pieces of furniture we could find.  We didn't buy the cheapest stuff out there, but we really like what we have bought.

Wordsworth said that "getting and spending, we lay waste our powers," and I believe he also would have included the idea of wanting in there.  What do you want?  Is peace of mind and something to be enthusiastic about enough for you, or are you also interested in the expensive, luxurious trappings that keep you working harder and harder just to keep your head above the water?  Is your life defined by the things that you enthusiastically contribute to the world, or is it defined by the things that you try to get?

We all want to be happy in life, but it's very difficult sometimes to reach a level of happiness that makes us feel content with who we are and what we're doing.  Sometimes if we can just step back and look more carefully at the things we're working hard to accomplish, we can get a clearer idea of just where we're going and just how we're spending our time.

Personally, I want to spend my time on things that I really like doing, and I hope to minimize the time I spend in order to obtain material things.  Comfort and luxury are fine in their place, but their place certainly isn't on the throne of our lives.  If we put them there, we're dooming ourselves to working for them as slaves our whole lives long.

1 year ago
  

August 2

  

Today's Quotation:

One exemplary act may affect one life, or even millions
of lives.  All those who set standards for themselves,
who strengthen the bonds of community, who do their
work creditably and accept individual
responsibility, are building the common future.

John W. Gardner

Today's Meditation:

Who teaches us to set standards for ourselves that will affect other people?  The future of the world is in our hands--right here, right now--yet most of us never have been shown the vision that would allow us to see just how our actions right now will affect tomorrow's world.  We are role models, and we constantly are teaching those who watch us lessons about what it means to work and to contribute to the world.

If a young man or woman watches us do everything we can to cut corners and do our job as quickly as possible without worrying about quality, what kinds of lessons will he or she take into the future?  And what will that person teach his or her children years from now?

Our contribution to the world is very real, day after day.  The encouragement or the compliments that we share today will be a part of tomorrow, as will the insults or the discouragement.  If we accept responsibility for all that we do today, we'll be proud tomorrow of our accomplishments and our willingness to accept responsibility, and we'll teach others the value of doing so.

It can be very difficult for us to see that the common future is in our hands.  Too many people feel that the common future is in the hands of only the politicians or the teachers or the people who work in law enforcement.  And while their professional contributions certainly are in the public eye, each of those people also make personal contributions each day that have nothing to do with their work.

We can make this world a better place--you and I.  We are contributing to the world every day, and it's up to us to decide just what that contribution will be.

1 year ago
  

August 1

  

Today's Quotation:

Life is not easy for any of us.  But what of that?  We
must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves.
We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that
this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.

Marie Curie

Today's Meditation:

Confidence in ourselves is not, for the most part, one of the easiest things for us to muster in our lives.  But do we deserve to have confidence in ourselves?  Absolutely.  We all have been created as marvelous human beings sharing this great planet together, and if we somehow "play small" and let life's hard times keep us from reaching our full potential, then we're robbing the world of our unique, beautiful contribution--the contributions that only we can make.

Perseverance is one of the great keys to confidence.  In my experience with college and high school students, I often see that those who don't make it through what they're doing have given up, have refused to stick it out until the end.  In their minds they can think of many things that are much easier or much less threatening, and they decide to give up the effort and move on to something that won't be as difficult for them.

Many of these students have a great deal of potential, yet most of them will not reach that potential because they haven't believed in themselves and their ability to accomplish what they've set out to do.  Because of this, they'll possibly never know what they could have done because they simply chose the easier way out.

Of course, many people aren't ready for college when they go, and giving up is almost inevitable.  And perhaps these people simply aren't gifted academically, and they're better off searching elsewhere to find their true gifts.


But when we're caught up in trying to accomplish something that we truly want to accomplish, we'll do well to remember that our perseverance today may be difficult, but it's exactly what will help us to make o

1 year ago

  

July 31

  

Today's quotation:

You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money.
You’ve got to love like you’ll never get hurt.  You’ve
got to dance like there’s nobody watching.  You’ve got
to come from the heart, if you want it to work.


Susanna Clark

Today's Meditation:

I've always been someone who doesn't go all out when I do things.  I know that part of this trend comes from my youth and the way I grew up, but part of it is just the way I am, I believe.  I've spent quite a few years trying to change this aspect of myself, though--by holding back in the way I express myself, I definitely am not showing a strong trust that life will take care of me.

As we grow, we face a lot of criticism for things that we do.  If we dance or sing, there always will be someone who makes fun of us or what we do.  It doesn't matter that those people are generally coming from a place of envy or jealousy or low self-confidence--what they say and how they say it still affects us, still makes us feel pretty awful.  And it makes us much more reserved when we dance or sing the next time.  I've seen plenty of young people simply give up when others have criticized them or made fun of them--especially when it's their parents who do the criticizing.

So we learn to do things well, but without putting everything we have into them.  After all, if we put only a part of ourselves into something, then it's only a part of ourselves that someone is making fun of.  And the rest of ourselves is safe from criticism or mocking; in that way we feel that we're preserving ourselves, protecting ourselves.

But in never giving all that we have to something, we're keeping ourselves from reaching our true potential, and we're not giving ourselves the chance to express ourselves as truly as we're capable of.  And we're also robbing others of the chance to see us as we truly can be.  What a shame that is, especially for the young people who could use a good role model or two.

Questions to consider:

In what way

1 year ago

  

July 29

  

Today's quotation:

Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection.  Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection.  When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions.  The real trap, however, is self-rejection.  As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, "Well, that proves once again, that I am a nobody."

Henri Nouwen

Today's Meditation:

You are somebody.  You are lovable.  You are worthwhile and you belong here just as much as any other human being who's ever walked the face of this planet.

How I wish that I had heard more words such as these as I was growing up.  If I had, then I probably wouldn't have spent so much of my life feeling completely unloved and unlovable.  I've been very fortunate because I've been able to make my way through this problem fairly well, though the feelings of being unlovable still haunt me from time to time.  Perhaps I've been lucky because I've never seen success, popularity, or power as true solutions to my problem--these aspects of life never have held any sort of magic for me.  I've always known inside that success is what I determine it to be on my own terms, that power is a fleeting illusion, and that popularity is pretty useless--the "popular" people that I've known are usually among the least happy of all the people I've known.

My good fortune has come in my ability to see my own value--to accept it completely and not to doubt it.  I value my thoughts and my ideas, for I know they tend to be pretty good.  I value my opinions because I know that I don't take them lightly and come up with them off the cuff.

I also follow a very simple rule:  if this person is rude or unjust enough to want to hurt me by insulting me or rejecting me, then that person isn't someone who I want affecting the way I feel about myself.  I love honest, constructive criticism, but I have no tolerance for blind, thoughtless criticism that's given in a spirit of meanness.  I've been through enough in life--I'm not going to make myself miserable just because someone else is mean-spirited and wants to make a victim of me.

1 year ago

  

July 28

  

Today's quotation:

Courage begins when we can admit that there is no life without some pain, some frustration; that there is no tragic accident to which we are immune; and that beyond the normal exercise of prudence we can do nothing about it.  But courage goes on to see that the triumph of life is not in pains avoided, but in joys lived completely in the moment of their happening.  Courage lies in never taking so much as a good meal or a day of health and fair weather for granted.  It lies in learning to be aware of our moments of happiness as sharply as our moments of pain.  We need not be afraid to weep when we have cause to weep, so long as we can really rejoice at every cause for rejoicing.

Victoria Lincoln

Today's Meditation:

One of the things that I really appreciate about Lance Armstrong as an athlete is his down-to-earth practicality and his willingness to face the fact that anything can happen to him on any given day.  Even though he was heavily favored to win the Tour de France for the sixth time, he was very realistic about the reality that just one crash could put him out of contention for the victory, and that just because he was favored to win again, he wasn't immune from crashing and losing his favored position.

Even more importantly, he was very straightforward in saying that even if he didn't win, it wouldn't be the end of the world.  A great disappointment, perhaps, but nothing that would ruin him or take away his love of life.

Of course, as a cancer survivor, his perspective on life has to have changed considerably.  He knows in a way that most of us never will know what it means to survive a life-threatening situation.  He knows that he can't take life or living for granted, and that he must be aware of the beauty and wonder of life if it's to mean anything to him.

We will have the down times.  We will face pain and suffering in our lives.  Being happy isn't a question of avoiding pain--which most of us spend much of our time trying to do--but in dealing with that pain and learning from it and moving on with our lives so that we can become inspirations to others who may look to us for inspiration.

Our lives are filled with wonderful moments, sometimes exciting wonderful moments, sometimes peace

1 year ago

  

July 27

  

Today's quotation:

The journey through life has many valleys that we can't just
skip over, and also many mountains to climb that we can't
just jump over.  It is also true that we need the space and
the freedom to make our own mistakes.  Trial and error seem
to be the only way we can learn and grow.  Life is first and
foremost a process.  And this process is a zig-zag process at that.

John Powell

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes I wish that things would be much simpler, that there wouldn't be so many zigs in the road when I could really use a zag.  Sometimes I look at the mountain in my path and I know that it's going to challenge me pretty dearly, and I think that I would much rather have a straight, flat path ahead of me so that I wouldn't have to do any more heavy work.  Life can become overwhelming at times, and the more trials that we have to face, the more difficult it can be to see the good and the positive and the beautiful.  After all, we can't see a whole lot when our noses are to the grindstone, can we?

I do know, though, that these are the parts of my life that help me to develop my character and to grow as a human being.  Working my way through the valleys and over the mountains helps me to develop a sense of perspective that can be helpful to other people who also are going through trials.  If it weren't for the trials in our lives, we would most probably stagnate and never come close to reaching our full potential.  After all, life tends to know what we need much more than we do ourselves.

If I had the choice, I wouldn't give up the mountains and hills and valleys.  Sometimes I might wish that they would come a few days or weeks or even months later, but when all is said and done I know that I need them.  And I have no idea who will need me in the future, and what kinds of obstacles or trials those people will have needed me to go through in order to get to a point at which I can be truly helpful to them.

Questions to consider:

Why do you think life puts so many mountains
and valleys in our way?

How do you feel after you've successfully made your way th

1 year ago

  

July 26

  

Today's quotation:

Study to be quiet, that is, to dismiss all bustle and worry out of your inward life.  Study also to do your own business, and do not try to do the business of other people.  A great deal of fleshly activity is expended in trying to do other people’s business.  It is often very hard to sit still when we see our friends mismanaging matters, according to our ideas, and making dreadful blunders.  But the divine order, the best human order, is for each of us to do our own business and to refrain from meddling with the business of anyone else.

Hannah Whitall Smith

Today's Meditation:

Sit still and mind your own business--these are words that we would expect from a parent when we're quite young, aren't they?  But in many ways, they are words that if we can heed them, can help us to live our lives in a much more pleasing way, that can help us to be much more content and our lives to be much more fulfilling.

I have to fight to sit still.  I always want to be doing something, always want to be active.  But the times when I force myself to sit still and relax, the times when I take the time to allow my body and brain to take a break from their perpetual activity, are the times when I can find peace, when I can feel the beauty of peace and quiet.  After a few minutes of sitting still and being quiet, I start to see the world in a much different way--in effect, it's only then that I actually start to see the world at all.  In my busy, hurried times, I see very little at all.  And as time goes on and I work at it more, that peace is with me more and more, and I don't have to work so hard to find it.

Likewise, the less I concern myself with trying to help others avoid their mistakes and blunders, the more peace I also feel.  Trying to mind other people's business is a tremendous misuse of my energy--their lives aren't under my control, so why should I try to control their actions, no matter what I feel about what they should be doing?  Their lives are their lives, and my life is much more fulfilling if I don't interfere in their personal learning experiences.  If they ask for help I'll be there, but unless they do so, what they do truly is none of my business (unless they're trying to harm others, of course).

Sit still and mind your own business--these aren't words for children who are misbehaving, but words that can change our lives for the better, if only we would heed them.

1 year ago

  

July 25

  

Today's quotation:

The unhappiness we experience is not so much a result of the difficulties encountered along our journey as it is of our misperception of how life instructs us.  We may see a failed relationship as an indictment of our self-worth when it is really a lesson in using better judgment, in valuing ourselves more, in expressing greater appreciation for our partner--lessons to prepare us for a more loving and fulfilling union.  If we are passed over for a much-anticipated promotion, it may be just the push we need to get more training or to venture out on our own as an entrepreneur.  As we rise to meet the challenges that are a natural part of living, we awaken to our many undiscovered gifts, to our inner power and our purpose.

Susan L. Taylor

Today's Meditation:

We read over and over how our perception of life and what happens to us in life is what truly affects our happiness, the way we treat others, and our feelings of worthiness.  Many people make themselves depressed through the way they choose to see events, and we often see others beat themselves up over some minor incident that to us seems trivial.  In fact, many of the plots that you'll see in television programs and movies and read in books have to do with one person's misreading of another person's intentions, and the characters all have to deal with this person's flawed perception.

Susan Taylor mentions "our misperception of how life instructs us."  If we keep in mind that there's always something important to learn in everything that happens to us, we can approach our setbacks with much more equanimity.  A failure isn't usually that big of a deal, especially if we see it as an important learning experience.  When we were learning addition and subtraction many years ago, we "failed" constantly, but when our teachers corrected us we didn't usually see our failures as statements on us as people.  Rather, we usually just moved on and tried to get the right answer.  What kind of emotional wrecks would we be today if we let those small mistakes build up into something much more than they were?

Mistakes and failures are important, for they teach us much more than successes do.  Success just verifies that we've completed a process in the right way--in the process itself, we probably learned a lot from our errors.  But once we know the process and continue to do the same thing in the same way, we no longer learn anything, and the process becomes a rote exercise.

1 year ago

  

July 24

  

Today's quotation:

The highest and best thing that people can conceive is
a human life nobly and beautifully lived—therefore their loyalties and energies should be devoted to the arrangement of conditions which make this possible.  The sole issue is how to make this world a place conducive to the living of a noble human life, and then to help
people in every possible way to live such lives.

John H. Dietrich

Today's Meditation:

It's a very nice thought, but what does it mean to have a "human life nobly and beautifully lived"?  I think each of us would define that idea for ourselves.  It would be very easy to get caught up in a discussion about what we mean by such a life, but doing so would keep us from looking at the rest of the passage.

John says that the only issue facing us is how to make the world into a place that will allow us to live such lives, no matter how we define them.  He says, in effect, that it's up to you and me--and everyone else on the planet--to make this world into a place where we can live nobly, and it's up to us to help others to try to live nobly.

And when you think about it, what would our lives be like if we were to spend our time and energy trying to turn this world into a noble place and trying to help others to live nobly?  I believe that if I did that, my life would without a doubt be a noble life, one that I could be proud of on the day I die.

People often keep us from focusing on the incredible beauty and wealth of this world, and we spend a lot of our time and energy just getting by.  There is a higher calling, though, a higher way to live and grow and reach for new levels of thought and deed.  How do we make this world a better place for all, where all might live nobly?  We give, and we give, and we give some more.  And no matter how much we give, it will be worth it.

Questions to consider:

Do you live nobly and beautifully?
What sort of things might keep you from doing

1 year ago

  

July 23

  

Today's quotation:

Attention to one’s lifestyle, especially in the direction of
reducing emotional tensions, a modest but regular program
of daily exercise, a diet low in salt and sugar and reasonably
free of fatty meats and fried foods, and plenty of good
drinking water—all these are useful and indeed essential.

Norman Cousins

Today's Meditation:

I like it when people stress the small, seemingly minor details of life.  Their reminders help to keep us aware of just how important it is to maintain our health in an active way.  It does take work to do so, and it is necessary to pay attention to what we eat and how often we eat.  The amount of work need not be so high, though, as long as we're consistent in taking care of our health.

What could be more important to us than our health?  What other aspect of our life has such a strong day-to-day effect on how we feel and how we're able to work and play and live and love?  Yet what other aspect of our lives is more neglected than our health, especially exercise and eating?  These are two of the major "victims" in our lives--as soon as we change jobs or homes or schedules, exercise is one of the first things that we give up to make room for other things.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say "I'm busier now, so I don't have time to exercise."

But the human body was not made to be sedentary, and it will suffer from a lack of regular activity.  Doctors and scientists have documented hundreds of symptoms of not exercising, and hundreds of benefits of regular exercise, yet many, many people find exercise to be too much of a hassle.

We've been given only one body, and how we treat it is up to us, and only us.  We can treat it with respect and have a body that won't fall into disrepair and cause us innumerable aches and pains, or we can neglect it and add to our lives the many negative aspects of having less-than-optimal health.

Treating our body well helps us to feel better, to feel lighter and more ready to take on the world, no matter what may come up.  Putting good food into our systems helps us to keep our blood flowing well, our organs functio

1 year ago

  

July 22

  

Today's quotation:

The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the
least fuss you can muster.  I’m not a professional
philanthropist, and I’m not running for sainthood.  I just
happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the
farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out.

Paul Newman

Today's Meditation:

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone were able to put back what they took out?  If everyone put back only what they took out, and didn't add all their litter and refuse?  I remember a nice passage in Willa Cather's Death Came for the Archbishop in which two characters discuss the Native Americans' ability to live in a place for a while and then move on, leaving no trace that they had spent time there.  They had true respect for the planet and their surroundings, and they knew how important it was to leave things as they should be for the next people who came along--and for nature itself.

For our part, we've inherited a planet on which very few areas have been left in their "pure" state.  We have to deal with a huge number of problems that have been brought on by over-development, overuse, manipulation, and abuse.  People before us took what they could from the land and they put very little back.  It's a legacy that we've inherited through no fault of our own, and to our credit, we've come a long way towards righting some of the wrongs of the past.

That doesn't mean, though, that we don't still have responsibilities to this planet.  What have we given back?  Are we going to leave with little fuss, or will we leave behind a mountain of trash that someone else will have to deal with?  We have a beautiful planet here, and one of the ways that we can help our children and grandchildren to live life fully is to leave them a planet that's still beautiful, that's still healthy, that's still functional.  And that's up to every single one of us, not just those few who are working in conservation.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things can you do to help to conserve this planet for our descendants?

Why does our culture tend

1 year ago

  

July 21

  

Today's quotation:

If we do not rise to the challenge of our unique capacity
to shape our lives, to seek the kind of growth that we find
individually fulfilling, then we can have no security; we will
live in a world of sham, in which our selves are determined
by the will of others, in which we will be constantly buffeted
and increasingly isolated by the changes round us.

Nena O’Neil

Today's Meditation:

Are we unique individuals who are living our own, unique lives, or are we a part of a herd, doing what the herd does, following the will of others who are telling us what to do, how to live, what to think, what to feel?  Does life toss us about, leaving us happy one day, sad the next, depressed and exhausted the next, and joyous the next?  Or do we look at life and say, "Thank you for all that you offer me, but please keep in mind that I'm going to take you on my own terms"?

Stepping up and taking charge of our lives may sound like a control-freak type of thing to try, and it seems to go completely against ways of life such as Zen, but it really is necessary if we're going to get what we can our of our lives.  The Zen concept of letting things be and allowing the river of life to flow unmolested is actually the height of control over our own selves, for those who are able to accept life as it is paradoxically have found enough control over themselves and their impulses to be able to let go of the need to try to control life.

We don't have to do anything in particular in life.  We don't have to learn anything specific, and we don't have to act in any certain way.  We do owe ourselves the effort it takes to shape our own lives, to find our own interests and follow them, and to do our best to live lives that are fulfilling to us, no matter what anyone else may say about the way that we are living.

You are truly unique, but the question is, do you act it?  Or do you act like everyone else, talking about the same things rather than about your true interests, making decisions based on what you know other people will find good and acceptable, and finding change to be frightening and threatening?  Are you a part of a herd, or are you truly yourself, living your unique version of life?

1 year ago

  

July 20

  

Today's quotation:

Love is something you and I must have.  We must have it
because our spirit feeds upon it.  We must have it because
without it we become weak and faint.  Without love our
self-esteem weakens.  Without it our courage fails.  Without
love we can no longer look confidently at the world.  We
turn inward and begin to feed upon our own personalities,
and little by little we destroy ourselves.  With it we are
creative.  With it we march tirelessly.  With it, and with
it alone, we are able to sacrifice for others.

Chief Dan George

Today's Meditation:

I believe very strongly that when Chief Dan George says that we must have love, he's not talking only about being loved, about other people giving us love.  Rather he's talking about the love that we have inside of ourselves, the love that we feel for the rest of the world--all things and creatures in it--and the love that we can share with others.  If I have no love to share, if I don't allow myself to feel love for others, then my life becomes an empty, desolate place in which I slowly destroy myself.

How do we get the love to share if we don't feel it now?  I don't think that it's a question of "getting" anything, but rather a question of letting it out.  Love is inside of us--we're all born with it, and we can't be without it.  Many of us, though, learn early in life how to block it off, how to keep it inside of ourselves so that we don't ever face the risk of being hurt.  It doesn't work, of course, because we end up getting hurt anyway, but we try nonetheless.

Holding our love inside, though, is much the same as having a large bag of bread that we could use to feed many people or that we could keep closed and hidden from view, keeping it all to ourselves so that no one can steal it from us.  And while we may keep others from stealing it, very soon one of two things will happen to the bread:  it will get very hard and become inedible, or it will get moldy and disgusting and inedible.  Either way, the bread's potential--to feed people and become energy for their bodies--has been lost.

I would like to think that my love's potential one day will be reached.  I still have a hard time sharing it, for I have a hard time convincing myself that others want it, but I do try, and I get a little better at it with each week that passes.  But I know that the love I feel for others is one of the most important

1 year ago

  

July 19

  

Today's quotation:

Genuine compassion is based on the recognition that others
have the right to happiness just like yourself, and therefore
even your enemy is a human being with the same wish for
happiness as you, and the same right to happiness as you.
A sense of concern developed on this basis is what we call
compassion; it extends to everyone, irrespective of whether
the person’s attitude toward you is hostile or friendly.

the Dalai Lama

Today's Meditation:

What would this world be like if each of us felt genuine compassion for all of the other people on the planet?  What if, instead of judgment, we passed on love and encouragement for people to find their own ways and live their own lives?  What if we could feel compassion even for those people who hurt us, and not respond to them with anger and harshness and some of the other defensive emotions that we feel and show?

It can be very hard to recognize, though, that the people who most annoy us, who most hurt us, have just as much of a right to happiness as we do.  Sometimes it seems that they make themselves happy by making us miserable, so it's hard for us to see that they need our compassion.  But no matter what a person does to us or says about us, that person has just as much of a right to be happy as we do.  It's not an exclusive right.

Perhaps that person's actions are the result of a poor influence, someone who has taught him or her that hurting others is a way to make oneself happy.  In that case, the person deserves even more of our compassion, because he or she is traveling a road that certainly won't lead to happiness.

Compassion isn't just for the objects of our compassion-- it's much like forgiveness in that it serves a great purpose for us, ourselves--it gives us greater peace of mind and a stronger sense of love of life.  And once we know that everyone deserves our compassion, things get easier for us because we no longer have to try to decide who deserves our compassion and who doesn't.

Questions to c

1 year ago

  

July 18

  

Today's quotation:

If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed
to preside over the christening of all children, I should
ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of
wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout
life as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, the sterile preoccupation
with things that are artificial, the alienation from
the sources of our strength.

Rachel Carson

Today's Meditation:

What a great gift this would be to anyone--a never-ending sense of wonder!  I've been pretty fortunate in life, for my sense of wonder never has left me, and in many ways it's much stronger now than it ever has been.  I find wonder in almost everything I see, and it certainly makes this world a very special place when I can see the fantastic in the things that so many others find to be somewhat boring or drab.  I consider this to be one of my greatest gifts in life, and I consider myself very fortunate that I have this gift.

I can't remember ever being bored in recent years.  There's just too much to do, too much to see, too much to enjoy.  Even the down times, when I "don't have anything to do," are very positive as times of rest and recuperation for me.

If I could wrap up a sense of wonder in a package, I'd do so and go out into the world and give it away to everyone that I met.  I know that many people would appreciate having this sense returned to them after so many years, and I know that their lives would be richer for having this sense as a vital part of who they are.

Sometimes being childish is desirable, and if we could see the world with the same wonder that a child sees the world with, our lives couldn't help but be much more enjoyable and hopeful, and we couldn't help but be stronger people-- stronger for our perspectives that keep us seeing the beauty and wonder of life.

Questions to consider:

1 year ago

  

July 17

  

Today's quotation:

May we never let the things we can’t have or don’t have or
shouldn’t have spoil our enjoyment of the things we do have
and can have.  As we value our happiness, let us not forget it.
One of the greatest lessons in life is learning to be happy
without the things we cannot or should not have.

Richard L. Evans

Today's Meditation:

It's kind of funny how childish we can be sometimes when it comes to our possessions.  There are times when I want something so much that I think about it constantly until I get it, even though the number of things that I do have far outnumber the number of things that I want.  I say childish because it's so common to see children completely focused on getting something new for themselves, and we definitely do act that way ourselves.

We should remember, though, that not everything that we want is best for us to have.  That's why we don't always get everything that we want.  My car is now eight years old, and I was recently thinking about getting a new one.  I fought the temptation, though, and now my state of mind is such that I'm quite satisfied to hold on to this car another two or three years.  There's absolutely no reason not to do so, and now I'm pretty happy that I don't have something that I "wanted" so badly just a few months ago--and I also don't have the new payments.

Richard's point about spoiling the enjoyment of the things we do have shouldn't be missed, either.  If we get so caught up in wanting something that we no longer can enjoy the things that are still positive parts of our lives, then we're making a pretty big--and pretty basic--mistake.  We have a lot in life, and it's important that we not take what we have for granted as we desire to have something else.  If we do so, we're only hurting ourselves.  But we can't miss that point or pretend it's not true--we definitely are hurting ourselves.

Questions to consider:

Is there something that you don't have that you've been focused on getting or wishing for?  How has that focus affected you?

Can you be truly happy without some of the things that you d

1 year ago

  

July 16

  

Today's quotation:

Being stuck is a position few of us like.  We want something
new but cannot let go of the old—old ideas, beliefs, habits,
even thoughts.  We are out of contact with our own genius.
 Sometimes we know we are stuck; sometimes we don’t.
In both cases we have to do something.

Inga Teekens

Today's Meditation:

Letting go of the old--how difficult it can be.  We tend to hold on to those things that we "know" simply because we learned them at one time, but from whom did we learn them?  Were our teachers enlightened people?  Happy people?  Loving people?  Was their focus on teaching us what was best for us as unique individuals, or on passing on their own brand of wisdom, something that might have worked for them but which might not have been best for us?

Our own genius lies in looking at the new, the untried, the different.  Our genius lies in growth, and the one constant in growth is change.  Without change, there is no growth, and without letting go of yesterday's beliefs and ideas, there is no room for new thoughts and beliefs.

There's something rather comforting about our old ways.  They can be like an old friend who helps us to feel a sense of continuity, of history.  In some ways they can represent safety, but in many ways, safety isn't the best thing for us.  Sticking to the old and the known is like putting up a curtain in front of our windows and not letting in this morning's sunlight, for we saw yesterday's sunlight and we believe in it, and we want to keep it.

Inga says that "in both cases we have to do something."  We have to be active in letting go of our old ideas and learning new ones.  We have to consider them closely and ask ourselves if they help us or hinder us.  We must be truthful and thorough, for the more we hang on to in our lives, the less can get in later on, for we have to leave room for the new, and not keep our minds cluttered with beliefs and ideas that serve no one or no thing.

Questions to consider:

Are you holding on to any old beliefs that may be
holding you back in some ways?

1 year ago

  

July 15

  

Today's quotation:

One day my dad was repairing the light fixture in the bathroom.
He asked me to hold one of his hands and to grip the faucet of
the bathtub with my other hand.  I did this.  Then he licked the
index finger of his free hand and stuck it up into the empty
socket where the light bulb had been.  As the electricity
passed through him and into me and through me and was
grounded in the faucet of the bathtub, my father kept saying,
“Pal, I won’t hurt you.  I won’t hurt you.”  If I had let go
of the faucet, both of us would have died.  If I had let go
of his hand, he would have died.

James Allen McPherson

Today's Meditation:

What a powerful story this is, and what a powerful lesson this man taught his son.  I can't read this passage without realizing that I simply never could do what that man did--and therefore, I could never teach such a lesson in such a strong way.  That's okay, of course--we all have different lessons to teach in our own ways.  But what an incredible moment to share with another human being, and what an incredible lesson in trust he taught his son.  He taught him to have trust in him, but he also taught his son that he trusted him completely with his very life.

There are those who would call this action reckless, who would say that the man was playing with fire and that he had no right to risk his life and his son's life in that way.  These people may have a point, but that's irrelevant--the act is over and we should take from it what we can learn from it rather than trying to categorize it or define it or judge it.

This father took a great risk, one person would say.  Another person could counter with the point that he took absolutely no risk at all--as long as his son held on to his hand and the faucet.  And this latter fact is absolutely true--given the properties of electricity and grounding, there was no risk at all of either of them being injured.

The boy learned about trust, but he also learned the importance of being grounded.  When we are firmly grounded, then the potentially harmful things that life puts in our paths are really just like the electricity-- something that will pass right through us without hurting us.  Where we ground ourselves--in our religion, our sense of self, our God, our knowledge--will be different for each person, but we should search out that grounding with all our hearts, for that's what's going to allow us to get through everything we need to get through.

1 year ago

  

July 14

  

Today's quotation:

Conscience, as I understand it, is the impulse to do the
right thing because it is right, regardless of personal ends,
and has nothing to do with the ability to distinguish
between right and wrong.

Margaret Collier Graham

Today's Meditation:

May my conscience be my guide, but only if I trust it and follow it truly.  My conscience knows what's right and what's wrong, but my rational mind tends to play around with all that my conscience tells me is right and true.  "It's right to do this," my mind says, "but doing it doesn't help me financially; not doing it holds financial rewards that may benefit my entire family."  So by not doing it, I help my whole family, even if I'm not doing what I know is right.

When we try to judge the differences between right and wrong, we fall into the trap of passing judgment, and that rarely helps us out.  Margaret puts it simply:  conscience is the impulse to do the right thing because it is right.  If we leave the idea there, many of our decisions become much simpler, less bogged down in the right/wrong argument.  We don't have to define our terms, and the grey areas are fewer and less foggy.

What is the right thing?  Sometimes we do the right thing and we see disastrous results; perhaps the disaster was the most important thing that's happened to the people involved.  Sometimes we do the right thing and see no results at all, but we never know how our actions will affect other people years down the road.  The question becomes much simpler when we don't have to define "right" and "wrong," when we trust ourselves to do what we know inside is right.

Questions to consider:

Why is it sometimes difficult to do things that we know are right?

What are some of the positive effects of doing the right thing based on our conscience?  What are some of the negative effects?  Which effects tend to be long-term, and which short-term?

Why d

1 year ago

July 13

  

Today's quotation:

When we recognize that nothing has to go right for us
to be happy, that people do not have to behave for us
to love them, our walk home can be surprisingly simple.
We have enormous power not to manipulate the world,
but to be happy and to know peace.

Hugh Prather

Today's Meditation:

What do we use our power for?  Do we try to manipulate the world, making things turn out the way we feel they should turn out (for the good of everyone, of course), trying to make everyone act as we think they ought to act and to make everything turn out just so?  If we do act this way, guess what?  We're setting ourselves up for failure after failure, for there's really no way that we can make others act the way we want them to or to make sure that everything will turn out the way we think it should.

We can use our power instead to ensure that we're doing the things we know we ought to do, that we're behaving as we should, that we're giving as much as we're able to the world.  We can use our power to spread love and encouragement and words of hope.  We can use our power to be there when others need us.  We can use our power to love unconditionally, instead of putting conditions on the love we share with others.

We have enormous power to know peace.  We have great power to be happy.  But when we use our power to try to control things that are out of our control, that power is wasted.

Our "walk home" can be very simple, depending on where we are and what we try to do with the ample power to control our own destinies that we've been given.  We're not here to push others in directions in which we think they ought to go--we're here to be ourselves, to live and to love, to be and to share.

It really is rather simple.

Questions to consider:

What do you use most of your power on?

1 year ago

  

July 12

  

Today's quotation:

I am willing to put myself through anything; temporary pain
or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that
the experience will take me to a new level.  I am interested
in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through
breaking barriers, an often painful process.

Diana Nyad

Today's Meditation:

Freud said that human beings are driven by two main motivations:  the search for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.  If he's anywhere close to right, then these words by Diana Nyad go against our natural impulses, and I personally believe that she's right, even though the idea is such a departure from what we find desirable and comfortable.

I know as a runner that what she says is undeniable.  When I try to improve my running times, I always have to go through training periods that are quite painful--the level of discomfort is extremely high, but I know that my times never will improve unless I push myself to the limits of my abilities.  If I can run a mile comfortably in seven minutes, I'll never improve if I run just one mile in seven minutes every day for the rest of my life.  I have to look for ways to improve--I have to run longer distances, and I have to push myself past my level of comfort to a level of discomfort if I want to get faster.

The scary part when you're pushing yourself is the fear that you're not going to make it to the end.  In a five-mile race, it's very hard to push yourself to the limits for the first three miles because you know you still have a long way to go, and you have to save something for those last two miles.

But just like Diana, I'm willing to put myself through (almost) anything if I find something to be important enough.  Life is about reaching new levels and taking risks and helping others to do the same, and if I can do so consistently, I can help others just by being an effective role model for them.

Questions to consider:

What are some levels of discomfort that you find very
difficult to approach?

1 year ago

  

July 11

  

Today's quotation:

The road to happiness lies in two simple principles:
find what interests you and that you can do well, and
put your whole soul into it—every bit of energy and
ambition and natural ability you have.

John D. Rockefeller III

Today's Meditation:

These are such simple lines here, but they're so difficult to follow and put into practice, especially when we talk about jobs and ways that we make our livings.  The simple fact is that most of us end up doing work that we've taken because it was there and available to us, whether or not it was work that we truly loved doing.  I can't even begin to count how many people I've talked to who are doing work that they don't love--that they don't even like--but who feel stuck where they are because they need to pay bills and to have money for all of the expenses in life.

Because they don't like what they're doing, what are the chances that they'll put everything they have into it?  Obviously, there's almost no chance at all that this will happen, which is quite a shame because they're in a vicious circle that will never end:  how can you even start to like a job that you're not willing to give everything to?

Many people find hobbies that they truly love, and they put their non-work hours into their hobbies, which is a great way to compromise.  Other people, though, just go along disliking what they do, and putting nothing into it.

I hope that if I ever end up doing work that holds absolutely no gratification for me, I'll be able to take the risk and quit it, and move on to something that brings me more of a sense of accomplishment.  I hope that I'll always be able to give all that I have to whatever work that I do.  Because if I don't, then I'll probably fall into the same trap that so many people fall into:  blaming my job, not my own lack of effort, for my dissatisfaction.

Questions to consider:

How can we be sure that we put our effort into
things

1 year ago

  

July 10

  

Today's quotation:

Do you know the more I look into life, the more things it
seems to me I can successfully lack—and continue to grow
happier.  How many kinds of food I do not need, or cooks
to cook them, how much curious clothing or tailors to make it,
how many books I have never read, and pictures that are not
worthwhile!  The farther I run, the more I feel like casting
aside all such impediments—lest I fail to arrive at the far
goal of my endeavor.

David Grayson

Today's Meditation:

I like David's perspective here, probably because I agree with it so strongly.  When I read his words, I think immediately back to my youth, when television was such an important part of our lives.  It was almost a disaster when we would miss a week's episode of a certain show--we simply felt we couldn't do without seeing each episode.  We could, though.  There have been so many things in my life that have seemed to be extremely important, yet when I haven't had them any more I've found that I haven't missed them.

In many cases, I've found not only that I haven't missed them, but that lacking them has freed me up to explore other things, to learn new things, to open up my eyes to many things that I otherwise might not have seen at all.  Now that I watch little television, there are so many other fascinating things to do with my life that I never would have known about had I continued to arrange my evening hours around the programs that were on the tube on a given night.

We're taught to want things--always more and more things.  Many of our teachers do so inadvertently, too, for they just want to share their own positive experiences with some material object that they've found to be particularly useful or helpful.  But when we can start casting these things aside, we find that our time is better spent on things that help us to grow and learn, that our energy is better spent on things that help to contribute to the world, in whatever small ways that we find to be the most helpful and useful.

So many things are great in this life, but almost none of them are truly indispensable to us in our lives.  We have to be able to let go of the things that truly do little to nothing for us, in order to be able to focus more strongly on those things that we really can't do without.

Questions to consider:

1 year ago

  

July 9

  

Today's quotation:

If you could once make up your mind never to undertake
more work than you can carry on calmly, quietly, without
hurry or flurry. . . . and if the instant you feel yourself
growing nervous and out of breath, you would stop and take
breath, you would find this simple common-sense rule doing
for you what no prayers or tears could ever accomplish.

Elizabeth Prentiss

Today's Meditation:

Two simple strategies--that's all that Elizabeth offers here.  How powerful these strategies can be, though!  How great it would be to be able to make ourselves the promise to follow these strategies faithfully, and then actually do so!  What would my life be like if I never committed myself to doing more than I'm able to do without losing my peace of mind?  How would I feel if I were able to stop and take a deep breath every time I needed to?

It's unfortunate that there are so many role models in our society who take on much more than they're truly able to accomplish without losing their peace of mind or without becoming super stressed.  And not only do they stress themselves out, but they often expect other people to live up to their particular standards of performance, no matter how unhealthy they may be, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

How many young people are bullied into working 50- or 60-hours a week by a boss who doesn't know the first thing about balance or about healthy work habits?  These young people often fall into the trap of thinking that it's normal to work so much, and they don't even realize how much of life they're missing by devoting themselves blindly to their professions.  How many people get pressured into volunteering much more time and effort than they truly can afford, only to have their relationships and families suffer from their lack of balance?

It takes a firm decision not to overextend ourselves.  We must keep our eyes open and our minds clear so that we can see when we're hurting ourselves and those we love.  Our lives are far too short to spend them in hurry and flurry, but unless we keep our awareness levels very high, we'll spend plenty of time being stressed instead of at peace, which is where we should always be.

Questions to consider:

1 year ago

  

July 8

  

Today's quotation:

Accept that all of us can be hurt, that all of us can—and surely
will at times—fail.  Other vulnerabilities, like being embarrassed
or risking love, can be terrifying, too.  I think we should
follow a simple rule:  if we can take the worst, take the risk.

Joyce Brothers

Today's Meditation:

I will be hurt in life.  That's really all there is to it:  I will be hurt.  People will hurt me intentionally, unintentionally, unknowingly and knowingly.  How I react to the hurt, though, is the most important thing to me.  And how I react to the possibility of being hurt when I choose what I will do in life is just as important to me in the long and short runs.

I spent many years being unwilling to take risks with relationships.  My fear of rejection and fear of being humiliated kept me from asking girls out when I was young, and they kept me from asking women out when I was older.  While I certainly wouldn't want to change my current life, I do know that I spent many a miserable day because of my fear and the way that it controlled me; I have to wonder how much more I would have gotten out of life if I hadn't spent so much time feeling bad about myself and my world.  How much more beautiful would my world have been if I had been willing to take risks?  How much more would I have been able to give to others if I hadn't made myself so miserable?

If we know that our reactions to events determine our own feelings about them, we will know that we can take the worst.  The "worst" is rarely as bad as we imagine it to be--millions of people every day deal very well with loss and pain and frustration and seemingly hopeless situations.  If they can do it, so can we, no matter how "bad" things are.  And we all know that so-called "bad" things often turn out to be the best things for us.

Questions to consider:

What's the worst that can happen to you if you take a certain action?
Is that "worst" thing really all that bad?

Are you able to "fail" without worrying about how others will see you?  About how you'll see yourself?

Have you ever known so

1 year ago

  

July 7

  

Today's quotation:

Doing is a quantum leap from imagining.  Thinking about
swimming isn’t much like actually getting in the water.
Actually getting in the water can take your breath away.
The defense force inside us wants us to be cautious,
to stay away from anything as intense as a new kind of action.
Its job is to protect us, and it categorically avoids anything
resembling danger.  But it’s often wrong.  Anything worth
doing is worth doing too soon.

Barbara Sher

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes it's easy to fall into a rut of inactivity.  Action seems to us to be a sure route to disaster, or a sure way to lose all that we've spent so much time building up in our lives.  After all, the status quo for most people in first-world countries these days is much more than bearable, and the idea of taking risks that may sabotage our successes is not a pleasant thought.

But many of us need to make changes in our lives--we need to take actions that provide us with something different in our worlds.  We need to treat people differently if we're to be more satisfied with ourselves, or we need to do our jobs better or we need to find a completely different job, one that doesn't force us to compromise our ethics or morals if we happen to be in such a position.

Starting an exercise program, taking charge of our financial situations, telling a loved one that his or her behavior is not acceptable, starting a college degree, stopping one of our own destructive behaviors--all of these need action on our part, yet all of them are threatening actions.  All of them include the possibility of failure, and all of them require that we recognize a need that may be painful to recognize.  But all of them will provide results that will have been worth the risk, and will have been worth the time and effort involved to reach the conclusion that we desired.

Questions to consider:

Do you make any of your choices based on the idea of "staying safe,"
or on not changing the way things are?

What kinds of positive actions might you take today if you felt like doing so?

1 year ago

  

July 6

  

Today's quotation:

Human beings are human beings before they are lawyers, or physicians, or merchants, or manufacturers; and if you make
them capable and sensible human beings, they will make
themselves capable and sensible lawyers or physicians.

John Stuart Mill

Today's Meditation:

It seems to be very easy for us to forget that first and foremost, all day, every day, we are dealing with fellow human beings in our day-to-day lives.  One of the great tragedies in life is to forget this fact, and thus lose our opportunities to connect with other humans and enrich our lives significantly.

After all, all of the other humans with whom you come into contact have lived their own lives up until this point, learning their own lessons and figuring out their own answers to their problems.  They can offer us the benefit of their experiences, and we can learn about different ways of looking at the world and the lives we live.

But it's very easy for us to categorize, and once we do that people lose a bit of their humanity.  It's easy in a restaurant to think "This is my waitress," and deal with her as some sort of order-taking machine.  On the other hand, if we were to think "This is another human being who is working hard to meet her responsibilities and commitments, someone who has a different perspective on life that is no less valid than mine," and treat this person as if she were a fellow human being, our interaction with her could be much more rewarding.  It needn't reach the depths of a friendship for it to be valuable to us, and while we may not see the immediate value to us, it may prove to be very valuable to the other person.

We're all human beings.  We all have thoughts, hopes, dreams, ambitions, and desires, and we all need recognition of our humanity.  Isn't it about time that we started giving that recognition regularly to the other people in our lives?

Questions to consider:

Is it easy for you to see the humanity in other people,
or do you tend to take them for granted?

1 year ago
  

July 5

  

Today's quotation:

The other day I was in the grocery store and witnessed an incredible display of patience.  The checkout clerk had just been chewed out by an angry customer, clearly without good cause.  Rather than being reactive, the clerk defused the anger by remaining calm.  When it was my turn to pay for my groceries I said to her, “I’m so impressed at the way you handled that customer.”  She looked me right in the eye and said, “Thank you, sir.  Do you know you are the first person ever to give me a compliment in this store?”  It took less than two seconds to let her know, yet it was a highlight of her day, and of mine.

Richard Carlson

Today's Meditation:

Compliments have one of the greatest returns on investment of anything in life, much like encouragement.  The actual investment is zero--a compliment costs us nothing at all.  The potential return, though, is not measurable.  The effect that our compliments can have on other people is simply beyond measure, and the cumulative effect of many compliments, of course, can be even more astounding.

Most of us don't tend to do a lot of complimenting, though.  For various reasons we get so caught up in our own lives, so focused on our own needs, that we don't even realize just how much of a contribution we can make to the lives of others if we were to share just a few positive words about another person, if we were to tell another person how much we appreciate the contributions he or she has made to the world.

I remember having dinner in a small restaurant once, and the waitress "especially" recommended the mashed potatoes.  Whenever I hear something like that, I order the special recommendation; after we ate, I made a special point of complimenting the potatoes, which really were quite good.  "Thank you," she said.  "I made them myself."  She was very proud of her potatoes, and very glad to hear the compliment.  I had made a small contribution towards brightening her day, and it hadn't cost me a cent--just a few true words.

We can add to the positive energy of this world very simply.  Life is about energy, and the more positive energy there is in the world, the better things are for all of us.  All it takes to add to it is a compliment here, and a compliment there, sincere words that recogniz

1 year ago

 

July 4

  

Today's quotation:

One does not need to fast for days and meditate for hours
at a time to experience the sense of sublime mystery
which constantly envelops us.  All one need do is to
notice intelligently, if even for a brief moment, a blossoming
tree, a forest flooded with autumn colors, an infant smiling.

Simon Greenberg

Today's Meditation:

One of the most constant themes of Living Life Fully--of quotations, articles, poems, and everything else that we use on the site--is that of awareness.  I know that it's a recurring theme because it's one of the most important aspects of our lives--without awareness, just who or what are we?

You see, this world is a beautiful place.  Each day we're surrounded by beauty that is always there for us, always accessible and always true to itself.  This is a richness that we all have that not all of us actually see or take advantage of, and that's tragic.  Rather than open our eyes to the beauty of all things, we tend to focus on the ugly and the bad, in a large part due to what we're given in the news media which tend to focus on such things.

The effect of this focus on us should be obvious.  What goes in, of course, is what affects our mindsets most strongly.  If I can focus on the beautiful, my mind will constantly be thinking of and appreciating beauty.  If I focus on the bad and the ugly, that's where my mind will be.

Is it any wonder, then, that we feel so bad about life, about ourselves, and about other people?

The world gives us much beauty, and if we can make that beauty our strongest focus, guess where our minds will be most of the time?  And guess how we'll feel most of the time if our minds are on beautiful thoughts?

Questions to consider:

Are your thoughts usually focused on the beautiful things in the world?

1 year ago

  

July 3

  

Today's quotation:

You were trying to be simple for the sake of being simple.
I wonder if true simplicity is ever anything but a by-product.
If we aim directly for it, it eludes us; but if we are on fire with
some great interest that absorbs our lives to the uttermost,
we forget ourselves into simplicity.  Everything falls into
simple lines around us, like a worn garment.

David Grayson

Today's Meditation:

There are those who claim that a return to simplicity is a challenging task, and I tend to agree with them.  Returning to a simple lifestyle can be very difficult, especially given the amount of conditioning that we've been exposed to that has tried to convince us to complicate our lives at each step.

But a lack of simplicity--a lack of an ability to get by without the most basic of things in our lives--often arises from people having too much time on their hands.  If we don't have something to do that we feel is important, we look for other things to keep us occupied, entertained, and amused.  It's easier that way, as the more complicated our lives are, the less likely we are to examine ourselves and our lives to see how we are truly doing.  We don't have to reflect if we have to spend all our time maintaining our things.

I've traveled to Spain for six weeks for each of the last five years, and during that time I get by on the clothes and other things that I can carry in a large backpack.  The job is very intense and it keeps me very busy; I don't need anything else to get by, and I truly enjoy my time there.  If the time were extended to three years, for example, there's no reason to think that I couldn't continue to get by with the same amount of stuff, just replacing clothes as they wore out.

But the reality is that after three years, I most likely would have complicated my life significantly by acquiring more and more things that I "need," even though that word is truly relative--we "need" almost none of the things that we have.

If I continued to be as busy for those three years, though, as I am for the six weeks, the chances are that I would have less time to go about complicating my life, and I probably would continue to live as simply as I could.

1 year ago

  

July 2

  

Today's quotation:

Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most
important requirements for happiness.  My answer was: “A
feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around
you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Today's Meditation:

It's pretty telling that Eleanor's response here had nothing to do with money or social status or possessions.  Two of her most important requirements are feelings and the ability to love others.  Does that mean that we can be happy without any of the other stuff in life?  In theory, yes--it does mean that.  There have been plenty of human beings who have rejected the allure of possessions and lived without any at all, and they've found a great deal of happiness.

Others, of course, have done the same thing and have been miserable.  My guess would be that they became miserable partly because they started to focus on the things they didn't have--the very things that they rejected--as opposed to the things they did have.  I would also guess that the unhappy ones, much as unhappy people everywhere, haven't been honest with themselves, haven't given their all to their work, and haven't made an effort to improve their own ability to love others.

It's not hard to be happy.  We tend to convince ourselves that it is, though, because we want to think that happiness can come without effort and that we don't have to work at being happy.  Nothing could be further from the truth, though--happiness does take effort, and it does take dedication.  We can't give just a few minutes of effort each day and expect happiness to drop out of the trees onto our heads.  We have to continue to put our best efforts into our search for happiness, and that search can lead only inside, where our true selves live, often hidden from the outer world in our efforts to protect it from the dangers of the world.

Questions to consider:

How much effort do you put into developing your happiness?

Do you allow your inner self to shine through,
or do you try to protect it?
1 year ago

  

July 1

  

Today's quotation:

A man ninety years old was asked to what he attributed
his longevity.  “I reckon,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye,
“it’s because most nights I went to bed and slept when
I should have sat up and worried.”

Dorothea Kent

Today's Meditation:

I can't tell you how many times I wish that I had gone to bed and slept rather than worried.  My mind can create so many problems for itself that I've often found myself worrying about little things that really didn't matter to anyone at all--not to me, and not to anyone else.

As I grow older, fortunately, I find that it's much easier not to worry about things.  In fact, these days I tend to annoy other people because I don't worry about things that they think I should be worrying about.  But I know that life takes care of itself and it takes care of us, and we really have no need to worry.  Besides, I can worry all I want and I still won't change a single thing about a situation.

It's nice to be able to go to bed with a clear mind, even if there are things in life that are trying to demand my attention and concern.  It's taken me a long time to learn to say to myself, "I'll deal with that tomorrow, and it will wait."  Now that I know how to do so, though, my life is much, much easier and much more pleasant.

It's a great goal to have--seeing things for what they are and not allowing worry to cloud our minds or our judgment.  Worry is a result of fear, and we can't let fear rule our lives if we're going to live happy, fulfilling lives.  Go to bed, clear your mind, and sleep very, very well.

Questions to consider:

What would your life be like if you never allowed yourself to worry?

Have you ever seen worry actually accomplish something useful?
1 year ago

  

June 30

  

Today's Quotation:

The best portion of a good person's life,--
Their little nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love.


William Wordsworth

Today's Meditation:

I was a bit disappointed a few years ago when the books about "Random Acts of Kindness" came out.  If you didn't see them, they were full of stories about people's acts of kindness to others, all nicely documented for the rest of us to read.

I was disappointed because writing them down seemed to diminish them.  They no longer were "unremembered," and they had lost their purity, so to speak, by now being in written form for others to read and judge.  If I do a nice act today, I don't want to remember it for the rest of my life--I want to move on tomorrow to do a completely new and different kind act tomorrow, or even later today.  Once I start keeping track of them, then they lose their true purpose--sharing kindness with others.

The best portion of our lives can be these nameless acts of kindness and love.  We can fill each day with such acts, and it takes very little effort when all is said and done.  I can drop a piece of someone's favorite candy onto his desk without him knowing where it came from, or I can do a little chore for someone else before she even knows she needs to do it.  I can give a flower to a stranger, or I can throw someone's newspaper closer to their front door when I'm taking a walk in the morning.  I can give someone the forty-five cents that they're short in the supermarket, and I can pay the toll for the car behind me if I want to.

Acts of kindness and love don't have to be expensive, and they don't have to be flashy.  They just have to come from our hearts, and if we can build the better portion of each day on such acts, then definitely the better portion of our lives will have been spent performing acts of kindness and

1 year ago
  

June 29

  

Today's Quotation:

Life holds no promises as to what will come your way.
You must search for your own ideals and work toward reaching them.
Life makes no guarantees as to what you’ll have.
It just gives you time to make choices and to take chances
and to discover whatever secrets that might come your way.
If you are willing to take the opportunities you are given
and utilize the abilities you have, you will constantly fill your life
with special moments and unforgettable times.

Dena Dilaconi

Today's Meditation:

"If you are willing to take the opportunities you are given and utilize the abilities you have. . . ."  In some ways, I think that we could whittle down the search for a happy, fulfilling life to these words.  Life gives us a great deal of opportunity, but are we willing to accept it?  Are we willing to use the abilities that we have to make our lives brighter and happier?  Or do we back away from using them because we might then face the unknown or the unexpected?

We all make our own choices and take our own chances.  It's when we attach expectations of the outcomes that we face disappointment, that we tend to stop taking the chances that can make our lives brighter.

Life isn't made up of long, extended periods of happiness and bliss.  Life is made up of moments, and we make the choices with each moment concerning what we're going to do with our lives.  If we want many special moments, then we must make special moments.  If we want unforgettable times, then we have to take advantage of our opportunities and abilities and make the times unforgettable.

Life promises us nothing.  It's better that way, for if it promised us bliss, then how would we ever learn what it means to create the very special moments of our lives?

Questions to ponder:

1.  Do you choose to take advantage of opportunities?
What may hold you back from doing so?

2.  Have special moments in your life just come to you, or have they
been a result of effort (yours or someone else's)?

1 year ago
     

June 28

    

Today's Quotation:

I have never been bored an hour in my life.  I get up every morning wondering what new strange glamorous thing is going to happen and it happens at fairly regular intervals.  Lady Luck has been good to me and I fancy she has been good to everyone.  Only some people are dour, and when she gives them the come hither with her eyes, they look down or turn away and lift an eyebrow.  But me, I give her the wink and away we go.

William Allen White

Today's Meditation:

I can truly identify with William here--there's far too much to do in this world to be bored.  There are places to go, people to see, music to listen to, programs to watch, things to do, naps to take, books and magazines to read--in short, there's tons to do, all the time, in so many different ways!

The only times I think I was truly bored were in the Army, and that was because I was forced to be in situations with nothing to do, for long periods of time.  And if we tried to find things to do, we got in trouble.  I remember trying to read a book (the Bible) and being told to put it away--more than once.  I tried to use my imagination to fill the hours then, and it worked for the most part.

What new strange and wonderful things will come about in your life today?  What will you do when it comes?  Will you even recognize it?  Will you do something with it, or will you let it slide right past you into yesterday, never taking advantage of the possibilities that it offered?

Do you turn away when life says "Come on, let's go!"?  Do you think "That's not for me, for I've never done that before!"?  Or do you say, "Okay, life--show me what you mean, and let's go!"?  If you do, you know what it means to let life take you where it will, to let it lead you in ways that you never could have imagined yourself.

Life has been good to you and me.  And if we trust her, no matter what we call her, she will continue to be better to us than we ever could have imagined.  Run with her, play with her, let her keep you company, and take from her all those wonderful things that she keeps trying to give to you.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago
  

June 27

  

Today's Quotation:

I have always found that each step we take in life is
to be regretted--if we once begin to wonder how many
other steps might have been possible.

John Oliver Hobbes

Today's Meditation:

This is another way of looking at our tendency to focus on what we don't have rather than focusing on what we have right in front of us.  Dale Carnegie spoke of our tendency to think of all the rose gardens in the world rather than the roses that are growing right outside our window (a poor paraphrase, I know!).  But much of the time that I spend with students is taken up with trying to convince them to look at their accomplishments rather than their failures, the positives rather than the negatives.

We can never go back to other roads in our lives that we chose not to take, for the roads now are different--they have changed as we have changed.  Even if you decide to do something now that you wanted to do ten years ago, like go to college or take a certain vacation, that road isn't the same as the one that it would have been then.  You are a different person with different experiences behind you, and your life situation has changed a lot, if only because you're now ten years older.

There are many ways that I could have gone in life in my past, many directions that would have led to a different now for me.  But I honestly don't even think about them any more, for they're in the past, and they didn't happen.  I am where I am, and I want to make the most out of that.  If I spend my time and energy regretting the things that I didn't do, how much time and energy will I have to contribute to today?

Questions to ponder:

1.  What kinds of regrets do you have?  Do they help you live your today?

2.  How many other routes would have been possible in your life?
Do you think that the fact that you didn't take them means anything to you?

1 year ago
  

June 26

  

Today's Quotation:

Most of life is routine--dull and grubby,
but routine is the mountain that keeps a person going.
If you wait for inspiration you'll be standing on the corner
after the parade is a mile down the street.

Ben Nicholas

Today's Meditation:

I like dull and grubby--there's nothing wrong with it.  I think it's when people start to think that "there has to be more to life than this" that their own sense of dissatisfaction turns their lives into something less than they truly are.  Life doesn't become unsatisfying--we start to see it as such, and our belief makes it so.

We have to accept the routine and work from there.  Within each day is the potential and possibility for a great deal of inspiration--artistic and emotional and intellectual.  When we start wishing that life were more, then we stop seeing the abundance that exists here among the dullness and grubbiness of our everyday lives.

The treasure may be in the words of a friend or family member that inspire you to write a novel, a poem, or an article.  Listen carefully to everyone today--can you hear the inspiration?

The inspiration may be in a flower or an animal or a person's face that makes you want to take a photo or draw or paint a picture.  Look carefully today--can you see the inspiration?

Can you hear the song of the bird or the wind, and can you imagine a piece of music that would reflect what you hear?  Can you taste the wonderful flavors of something new that may inspire you to cook something new and unique?  Can you feel the texture of the tree's bark or the dog's fur or the rock's surface that inspires you to think of feeling in new ways?

1 year ago
  

June 25

  

Today's Quotation:

The need to make wise choices encompasses every area of our lives.
Since we have time for only a limited amount of stuff, we need to choose wisely what stuff we're going to allow to take up that time.  Since we have only a limited amount of time to spend with friends or to engage in leisure activities, we need to choose our friends and our activities wisely.

Elaine St. James

Today's Meditation:

I know some people who take whatever comes along in the "friends and activities" category.  They don't practice discernment at all--they never sit down and ask "is this what's best for me?"  They tend to live without being aware of their own needs, without being able to see when certain activities or people are harmful to them.  I know many students who go out drinking with certain friends who constantly convince them to do so, even if they'd rather spend the evening studying for tomorrow's test.  In this case, neither the friends nor the activities have been chosen wisely at all.

Many people spend years doing the same activities, over and over again, long after the newness and true enjoyment have worn off.  Other people can spend years doing the same activities and never feel a sense of diminished enjoyment.  One person would need to choose to find new activities, while the other would be fine doing the same thing forever.

But life is short--we all know that.  We may get overwhelmed by what's going on in our lives and by the many options available unless we learn to choose wisely and effectively.  When all is said and done, life is about making decisions--the people we will be tomorrow depend upon the decisions that we make today.  And how do we learn to choose wisely?  We observe the results whenever we make decisions.  Do I feel belittled or depressed when I'm with this person?  Then being with him or her probably isn't the best thing.  Does this activity make me feel better the next day?  Does this person or this activity bring me peace or conflict?

Once we learn to observe and ref

1 year ago
  

June 24

  

Today's Quotation:

Life is not always what one wants it to be, but to make
the best of it, as it is, is the only way of being happy.

Jennie Jerome Churchill

Today's Meditation:

If my today were to be exactly how I would like it to be, it probably wouldn't be much like the today I'm going to have.  There would be much more free time in there, and there would be time for writing and reading and doing things that are more hobbies than work.  A couple of the people who are in my life probably wouldn't be in there, especially those who cause a great deal of strife and stress.

But my life is as it is, and while I can work my way towards my wants and towards making life what I would really like it to be, the fact is that today is here, and it is how it is.  It has bumps and blemishes and great things and some things that aren't so great.  What will make this day truly positive or not, of course, is how I choose to see all of the elements of my own day, and what I choose to make of everything.

If I focus on the negatives and make the most out of them, then guess what my day's going to be like?  If I focus on the positives and make the most out of them, then guess what's going to happen?

For better or for worse, life has given me many gifts.  They probably aren't the gifts that I would have asked for, and they probably all aren't what I would see as positive, but here they are.  I can make the best out of them and make my life into something that I truly will enjoy, or I can sit around and wish that my life were somehow better.

My life is up to me, isn't it?

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago

  

June 23

  

Today's Quotation:

The truth of the matter is that you always
know the right thing to do.  The hard part is doing it.

H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Today's Meditation:

My experience tells me that what Schwarzkopf says is true--the right thing to do is inside of me, something that I know internally and instinctively.  Knowing this, it should make it easier to make tough decisions when they face me.  It often isn't, though, especially when my decisions affect others in ways that they see as negative or hurtful.

I may feel that my current job is not right for me, or I may have ethical problems with the work that I do.  But how will it affect my family if I leave the job?  I may feel that I need to turn in a neighbor for certain criminal activity, but if that person is a friend, what kind of friend will I seem to be?  I may know that a certain "opportunity" isn't in my child's best interests and I may deny permission, which puts me in a pretty negative situation.

Situations like these make doing the right thing the "hard part."  Sometimes we want nothing more than to maintain peace--peace of mind and peace of heart, and introducing these types of conflict into our lives can be difficult.  But if we know in our hearts that we are doing what is right and best, then we have to do so, or face other consequences further down the road.

Trust yourself.  Trust your heart.  You have in you everything you need to make the hard decisions, as long as you make sure that you get enough information to back up what you're doing, and as long as you don't make them based purely on self-interest.  Your conscience is a wonderful gift, and if you listen to it truly, then you will do the right things.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Is what's "right" for you always right for others, too?

1 year ago
  

June 22

  

Today's Quotation:

The world does not stand or fall with discoveries or inventions,
nor with the trample of armed hosts and the thunder of
bombing planes.  The world stands or falls with the laws
of life which Heaven has written in the human conscience.

Pierre Van Paasen

Today's Meditation:

In other words, the world stands or falls with us, and with what we do.  In our conscience is the answer to all of life's questions, the "why are we here?" and the "what's the meaning of life?" type questions.  We've been trained to think that those things that affect the entire world are those things that are huge in scale and that affect millions of people in very immediate ways, but reality couldn't be farther from the truth.

The world is truly affected by our day-to-day actions, those things that we do on a human-to-human level.  The true goal of our growth is neither economic nor political; we are here neither to gain power nor to gain riches.  We are here to develop spiritually and to help others to do the same.

The desire for powers and riches comes when people are afraid of their spirituality, when they are taught that success depends on power or material goods.  They feel that if they let go of their power or their riches they somehow will fail, and that's rather sad.  In holding on to this perspective, they are keeping up a very real wall between their true selves and their conscious selves, and they are avoiding the very things that can bring them true happiness in life.

The laws of life are written in your conscience.  Pay attention, trust yourself and live those laws, and you'll find that life is an incredibly beautiful experience that keeps you richer than any materially wealthy person ever has been.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What kinds of laws of life do you know in your heart to be true?

1 year ago
  

June 21

  

Today's Quotation:

I will tell you that there have been no failures in my life.
I don't want to sound like some metaphysical queen,
but there have been no failures.
There have been some tremendous lessons.

Oprah Winfrey

Today's Meditation:

I have this image in my mind of someone who has always been hard on him or herself for failure reaching heaven at the end of life.  "What am I doing here?" this person might ask St. Peter.  "I shouldn't be here--my life was filled with failure after failure."

St. Peter shrugs.  "So what?" he asks.

And that's it.  The whole story.  Because I think that says it all--so what?  We aren't here on this planet to be perfect, and failure is an inherent part of each one of us.  So what?

Oprah's perspective is fairly common and quite refreshing.  Thinking about "failure" is just a way for us to keep ourselves down, to keep ourselves from reaching our potential and focusing on the possible.  When we see the results of our actions as learning rather than success or failure, then we're casting off the old way of looking at things that has done very little to help people grow.

We must embrace a new way of seeing the world and our selves if we're to get the most out of the many valuable and beautiful lessons that life gives to us.  Success and failure are old paradigms that serve almost no one except those who already are in power, and it helps them only to hold on to their power when they can assign such a label to what we've done.

1 year ago
  

June 20

  

Today's Quotation:

Virtually nothing comes out right the first time.  Failures,
repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement.
The only time you don't want to fail is the last time you try
something. . . . one fails forward toward success.

Charles F. Kettering

Today's Meditation:

Wayne Dyer says that if you try something and it doesn't come out right, then you haven't failed--you've just created an outcome.  Perhaps the outcome isn't exactly the one that you had hoped to create, but what of that?  It's not such a big deal, is it?  The fact is that our attempts that result in outcomes that we hadn't intended are some of the greatest learning experiences that we possibly can have.

I'm always uncomfortable with our ideas of "success" being to make exact copies of what other people do.  When I sing along with songs, I often throw in my own lyrics or sing their lyrics at different times than the singers do.  People I know have a hard time with this, and consider me to have "failed" because I wasn't singing along exactly--they think I've forgotten the lyrics or something.

But some of our "failures" can lead to new discoveries that are our own achievements.  Perhaps your chocolate chip cookies aren't exactly like your mother's, but with some experimentation, they can become uniquely yours.  The danger with getting them right the first time would be that you stop experimenting because you already know how to do it "right."

We have to give ourselves a chance.  I grew up with a fear of failure because I always thought that people would judge me harshly if I failed at something.  If I did fail, I wouldn't ever admit it.  I'm over that now, and I know now that everything I do will go through several different variations before it comes out right.  That's why poems and novels and stories are revised--they may be pretty good after the first draft, but that's just the core of the expression--the art comes with the revision, with the second and third and fourth tries.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago

  

June 19

  

Today's Quotation:

Place yourself among those who carry on their lives with passion, and true learning will take place, no matter how humble or exalted the setting.  But no matter what path you follow, do not be ashamed of your learning.  In some corner of your life, you know more about something than anyone else on earth.  The true measure of your education is not what you know, but how you share what you know with others.

Kent Nerburn

Today's Meditation:

It's very tempting to consider what we know to be somehow not "as important" as what other people know.  After all, the people we see in the news who are sharing their knowledge are usually earning quite a bit of money and tend to be in demand by others.  The Wall Street analyst or the sports analyst or the legal analysts all have a great deal of knowledge that they share with others, very often getting paid very well for it.

But we aren't all here to be or do or know the same things.  There are many things that you know that others just don't see.  There are aspects of your work that make you really good at what you do that other people haven't discovered yet.  Some of these things are quite obvious to you, but others are hidden at some level even to you, and you don't get to share them with others.

A woman who's "just" a housewife, for example, might know just what it takes to get a baby to stop crying.  How many people would love to have that knowledge?  An administrative assistant might have developed a system for making his or her work much easier, yet feel that that's not worth sharing with others.

We've all made mistakes, and we've all gained knowledge from them that could help others to avoid the same mistakes (though this desire leads to probably most bad parenting decisions, too--when we're in positions of control, helping others to avoid mistakes can be more like meddling).  What you have learned in your life has much value, but it's waiting for you to see it clearly; otherwise it can't reach its full value.

1 year ago

  

June 18

  

Today's Quotation:

There is no evil in the universe which is not the result of ignorance,
and which would not, if we were ready and willing to learn its lesson,
lead us to a higher wisdom, and then vanish away.

James Allen

Today's Meditation:

I think that the concept of evil is given too much emphasis in our lives.  Yes, there are many awful things that human beings do to each other, and there are some people who seem to have abandoned all that we consider to be good and just, but it seems to be too easy to regard something as "evil" and therefore have a simple, straightforward answer to something that isn't at all simple or straightforward.

When awful things happen, we can learn about how they came to be, how they ended up happening, and then we can hopefully learn how to avoid a re-occurrence of them in the future.  If we simply say that a serial killer was evil, then we don't need to look at his or her actions and their causes, for we have a simple explanation that keeps us from learning at a deeper level.

Likewise, there seemed to be evil at work on 9/11 in the States and 3/11 in Spain.  In both cases, though, chalking it up to the evil that people do gives us an excuse not to look at the political, social, and economic causes that have led to the rise in religious extremism the entire world over.


If we can look at the causes of anything instead of simply labeling it, we can learn, we can grow, and we can prevent similar evil in the future.  It's our choice--the easy way out, or the useful, productive way that may take a bit more effort.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Why do we tend to label things "evil"?
Does this label help us to understand root causes?

2.  Can learning from "evil" really lead us to higher wisdom?

3.  Can we grow in wisdom if we turn our back on things like evil acts?

1 year ago

  

June 17

  

Today's Quotation:

People can learn to study their life force in the same way that
a master gardener studies a rosebush.  No gardener ever
made a rose.  When its needs are met a rosebush will make
roses.  Gardeners collaborate and provide conditions which
favor this outcome.  And as anyone who has ever pruned
a rosebush knows, life flows through every rosebush
in a slightly different way.

Rachel Naomi Remen

Today's Meditation:

We go through life like an amateur gardener:  we buy a plant or some seeds at a store and we plop them into the ground, water them a bit, and expect nature to take her course and provide us with a wonderful flower or a bumper crop just because we went through this small amount of effort.  But we don't tend to the plant--we don't prune the extra growth that is stealing energy from the plant, we don't feed it with the nutrients that help it to develop into something more than just an ill-fed, ill-tended plant.

We could learn from the master gardeners, though.  They know that if a plant is going to grow, it needs the right amount of light, water, and pruning, and it needs good soil and the right amount of fertilizer.  And even with optimal conditions, each plant is going to grow in a slightly different way, becoming its own unique self.

"When its needs are met a rosebush will make roses."  When our needs are met, we will become the people we are meant to be, and we shall bloom forth in our own special, unique way.

What we have to remember, though, is that we are our own gardeners.  Each of us is on this planet partly to take care of our own needs; once our own needs are taken care of, we can begin to help others to meet their needs.  Do not neglect your own needs as life goes on along its daily course, for all of us would like to see you in your fullest, most beautiful form.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Do you give yourself the right amount of light and nourishment,
and do you put yourself in fertile soil?

2.  In what ways do you neglect your own needs?
What could you use more (or less) of?

1 year ago
  

June 16

  

Today's Quotation:

We are all flowers in the Great Spirit's garden.  We share a common
root, and the root is Mother Earth.  The garden is beautiful
because it has different colors in it, and those colors
represent different traditions and cultural backgrounds.

Grandfather David Monongye (Hopi)

Today's Meditation:

Using the image of flowers as a metaphor for our diversity as people is very fitting.  Flowers are very beautiful, and much of what makes them so is the way that their contrasts stand out so strongly.  We don't tend to judge flowers so harshly for not being a particular color or for having a distinct shape (although as human beings we
do have the tendency to like or dislike particular flowers, as opposed to just accepting them for what they are).

The garden of life is beautiful.  The garden of humans is also beautiful--we have all shapes, sizes, colors, and behaviors to see every day of our lives.  We have beautiful faces and unique faces that have a beauty all their own, if we but choose to notice it and accept it.  Our garden is also blessed with sound, and the voices that we hear are as varied as the faces themselves, and our garden is also blessed by a rich diversity in artistic and logical expression.

We have been blessed with a richer garden than we ever could have dreamed up for ourselves, and this blessing is something that we unfortunately tend to take for granted.  Can you walk by the most beautiful garden in the world without taking a good look at the riches that it holds?  I didn't think so--I know that I couldn't do so.  Most of us, though, don't recognize the beauty of the garden of people of which we are a part, for we've seen it so often that we don't notice it any more.

How poor we are, in the midst of great riches, if we don't see and understand the wealth that is all around us, all the time.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Why do prejudices and biases against other people tend to come up?

2.  If you could change one thing in the garden of people, what would it be?

1 year ago

  

June 15

  

Today's Quotation:

If you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following
your deepest instinct, your life will be safe, expedient, and thin.

Katharine Butler Hathaway

Today's Meditation:

I can do whatever I want with my life.  I can let fear and greed rule me if I so choose, and I can do my best to spend my life accumulating material things.  I can live from my ego, my most superficial self, and I can live for self-gratification above all else.  No one can stop me from doing so--it's my life.

The question I have to ask myself if I do so, though, is what my life will turn out to be like if I do so.  If I don't live from my deeper self, from my better self, what kind of person will I turn out to be?  Will I find peace and happiness, or will I turn out to be miserable and frustrated?

If I allow fear to keep me from doing things that I know in my heart to be right and true, what will my life be like?  I may get through things more quickly and easily because I'm not making any waves or facing any conflict, but what will my heart say to that?  Will I be satisfied that I've truly been me, or will I regret not having pursued those things that my heart told me were true and necessary?

"Safe, expedient, and thin."  These are words that should serve as warnings--words that should make us see what we may become if we choose to let our fear make our decisions for us.

I can live my life letting my fear control me, but what are the consequences of doing so?  Who will I be if I let my fear build who I am, rather than letting the higher parts of myself do the building?

Questions to ponder:

1.  Can you think of ways that your fear has determined
your actions in certain situations?

2.  Have things turned out well when you've obeyed your

1 year ago

  

June 14

  

Today's Quotation:

It is not that you must be free from fear.  The moment you try
to free yourself from fear, you create a resistance against fear.
Resistance, in any form, does not end fear.  What is needed,
rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any
other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it,
learn about it, come directly into contact with it.  We are
to learn about fear, not how to escape from it, not how
to resist it through courage and so on.

J. Krishnamurti

Today's Meditation:

"Banish fear from your life!"  How often have you heard that statement or something like it?  Some people would lead us to believe that we can live lives completely free from fear, that we can just push fear out of our minds for once and for all.

It's not possible, though.  There always will be a certain amount of fear that remains as a part of who we are.  Krishnamurti's advice here is quite beautiful--understand your fear so that it doesn't have a hold over you.  Find out what it's trying to teach you.  Give it a chance to be a constructive rather than a destructive force in your life.  If you try to banish it, you create the resistance that he mentions, and all of a sudden you have another source of stress in your life--the tension between fear and your efforts to keep it out of your life.

Someone who has a knee injury knows that even if the knee won't ever heal properly, he or she can build up other leg muscles to compensate a lot for the knee problems.  Rather than trying to banish fear, we can build up other aspects of our lives to make certain situations less fearful.  By developing our problem-solving skills, for example, we can give ourselves a method for coping with future problems in our lives.  And by building and developing, we contribute positively to our lives, and fear naturally will diminish.

Learn about your fear and your fear no longer will control you.  Let your fear be a part of you, one of your most important teachers, and you can keep your fear as opposed to letting your fear keep you.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Have you ever tried to understand your fear and its sources?
How did it feel to examine it?

2.  Wh

1 year ago
  

June 13

  

Today's Quotation:

Fear can infect us early in life until eventually it cuts
a deep groove of apprehension in all our thinking.  To
counteract it, let faith, hope and courage enter your
thinking.  Fear is strong, but faith is stronger yet.

Norman Vincent Peale

Today's Meditation:

When we feel fear strongly, it's very difficult to remind ourselves that there are forces in this world that are stronger than fear.  Fear tends to take control of us, to overwhelm us, to put us in a state in which we can notice only the fear.  And in those circumstances, the fear tends to build on itself like a fire, growing as it catches hold of other parts of ourselves.

If we can keep our minds open to the idea that there are forces stronger than fear, though, we can provide ourselves with a way out of the fear.  As I grow older, I find that I have ways to counteract fear when it appears, and most of them have to do with reminding myself of the reality of the "big picture" rather than focusing so strongly on the particular situation that's causing me fear.

Fear depends on our attention to survive.  If we don't give it the attention that it needs, if we're able to focus our thoughts elsewhere and maintain our peace of mind, we're making sure that fear doesn't have the conditions that it needs in order to thrive.  If I can focus on my faith in the good things in life, then my fear will not rise past a healthy level--and yes, a certain level of fear can be very healthy.

Faith does not mean a particular set of beliefs in God as defined by any particular religious groups.  Faith is our knowledge that life and God are positive, loving forces that will take care of us, and that have been doing so since we arrived on this planet.  Faith is the knowledge the the truths in life are stronger than the lies that many people spread in an attempt to gain whatever they need or want for themselves.

Fear is as strong as we let it be.  Faith is the same way.  Which do you choose to be the stronger force in your life?

Questions to ponder:

1.  Where does fear come from?&

1 year ago
  

June 12

  

Today's Quotation:

What keeps our faith cheerful is the extreme persistence of gentleness and humor.  Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things:  through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music, and books, raising kids--all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through.  Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people. Lacking any other purpose in life,  it would be good enough to live for their sake.

Garrison Keillor

Today's Meditation:

I love to be around gentle people.  These are the human beings who make me feel peaceful, at ease, accepted.  They remind me in a beautiful way that the world is not about conflict and anger and dissatisfaction, but about acceptance and balance and the sharing of peace.

Some of the most gentle people I've ever known have been the strongest physically.  Their physical strength, though, wasn't anything that they've taken advantage of.  Rather, it simply was a fact, something that they could use if absolutely necessary, but that they truly didn't need.

I would like to be one of these gentle people.  I would like to provide a presence that other people find peaceful and reassuring.  I would like them to know that if they are with me, they will leave behind the greed and vanity that's so predominant in our world.  My gentleness, if I ever achieve it, can be a haven to them, a place where they can escape the stress of the world and be themselves.

Gentleness seems to be one of the side effects of enlightenment, and I believe that if I ever reach a state of enlightenment, gentleness will naturally be a part of me.  This is a good reason to pursue being gentle now--perhaps our practice of the gentle arts of life can help us to reach an enlightened state.  And from that state, we can be much more helpful to others.

Everyday life doesn't have to be the stress and violence that we read in the papers or see in the news.  Everyday life is what we make it, what we search out, how we choose to spend our time and whom we choose to spend it with.  And the gentleness is there, just waiting for us to be there, too.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago
  

June 11

  

Today's Quotation:

The wise person in the storm prays God,
not for safety from danger, but for
deliverance from fear.  It is the storm within
which endangers us, not the storm without.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today's Meditation:

I sometimes wish that Emerson had been my grandfather or uncle or something like that.  I'm sure that if I had had the chance to hear his wisdom over and over again while growing up, some of it would have rubbed off on me and I would have avoided many of the problems I've gone through.

Many of those problems have been caused by fear, for I grew up fearful of many things.  The fear is gone, for the most part, but I certainly can vouch for Emerson's words here:  the storm within endangers us.  I can't count the number of hours and days that I've spent with some fear in the front of my mind, overwhelming all of the other things that I've been trying to do.  I can't count how many of my actions have been motivated by a fear of what would happen if I committed another action, rather than by a desire to do what I felt should be done.

If we were to be given safety always, we would never find ourselves in positions in which we have to test ourselves, in which we would have to learn and grow.  Danger in whatever form causes us to make decisions and re-evaluate our priorities and beliefs.  But if our reaction to danger always is fear, we don't give ourselves the chance to deal with that danger in a productive way.  Instead, we retreat from confronting it, and we end up losing the chance to take something from it.

If we can calm the storm within ourselves by finding peace and trusting life and God, danger of whatever sort no longer holds the power that it once did.  Instead of causing us to feel terror, it will cause us to examine the ways that we will confront it and hopefully overcome it.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Have you ever seen anything that seemed to be very dangerous
turn out to be something rather innocuous?
Was the fear that people felt justified?  Did it help anything?

2.  Does a danger have to be life-threatening if we're

1 year ago

  

June 10

  

Today's Quotation:

It need not discourage us if we are full of doubts.  Healthy
questions keep faith dynamic. In fact, unless we start
with doubts we cannot have a deep-rooted faith.  One who
believes lightly and unthinkingly has not much of a belief.
One who has a faith which is not to be shaken has won it
through blood and tears--has worked his or her way from
doubt to truth as one who reaches a clearing through
a thicket of brambles and thorns.

Helen Keller

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes in my life, I need validation.  I need to know that I'm not the only one who thinks a certain way or who believes in certain things.  This particular quotation was a Godsend to me, at a time when I was filled with doubts about what was being told to me at church.  I was surrounded by people who seemed to feel that doubting was a sign of a lack of faith, and some of them even would have gone so far as to claim that any doubts I had must have come from Satan himself.

There is much to doubt in any religion, for the religious norms and ceremonies that we witness today are the results of people's interpretations of the Bible, not anything that was mandated by God himself.  We were given the gift of logical thought, and we were given the gift of discernment, and anyone who says that we don't have the right to doubt is just afraid of losing the "power" that clinging to religious traditions brings to him or her.  Doubts send us in directions that we never would explore if we were to hold on blindly to beliefs that we adopt as our own from others.

But clinging to tradition and believing blindly the teachings of others leads to a shallow spirituality.  There's very little opportunity in such an approach for a direct relationship with God, and without having gone through a time of doubts, a faith never has been tested.  It's only by testing that we truly validate anything.

Do you have doubts?  Then embrace them, explore them, find out all you can about them.  Doing so will lead you to a newer and more vibrant faith.  It probably won't happen immediately, and it may take much longer than you ever were prepared to have to wait, but you will reach the point of faith that you were meant to reach.  And once you're there, the chances are that more doubts will come up, leading you down a completely new road that you're meant to explore. . . .

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago

  

June 9

  

Today's Quotation:

You are the person who has to decide.
Whether you'll do it or toss it aside,
You are the person who makes up your mind.
Whether you'll lead or will linger behind,
Whether you'll try for the goal that's afar.
Or just be contented to stay where you are.

Edgar Guest

Today's Meditation:

There are no bad choices here.  Any of the options in this short poem can be the right one, depending on circumstances, feelings, emotional states, or possible consequences.  Edgar's point, though, is well taken:  we must make our own decisions about all of these things.

After all, we're leading our lives.  No one else should be leading our lives for us, and no one else should be making the important decisions for us.

Nor should we be trying to make the important decisions for anyone else (except, perhaps, small children, but only until a certain point).

I really like the way that Edgar puts together what seem to be opposite possibilities; they're not truly opposites, but just choices between two different paths of action.  Sometimes we can lead others, and sometimes we can be led; both are perfectly acceptable choices depending on where we are at the time.

Today you can lead or follow.  As Paul says in the Bible, there is a time to reap, and a time to sow; a time to laugh, a time to cry.  We must be true to who we are and where we are at this moment if we're going to be able to lead our lives with peace and love, and we must learn to accept ourselves and our actions as indicators of just where we are.

Some days it's better to sit on the couch and read a book than it is to keep working towards a goal.  Some days it's better to go after that goal than it is to sit around and read.  Respect what your body and mind and heart are telling you, and you won't have any problems listening to them.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago
  

June 8

  

Today's Quotation:

Not all of your decisions will be correct.  None of us is perfect.
But if you get into the habit of making decisions, experience will
develop your judgment to a point where more and more of your
decisions will be right.  After all, it is better to be right 51 percent
of the time and get something done, than it is to get nothing done
because you fear to reach a decision.

H.W. Andrews

Today's Meditation:

Many people fear making decisions because they fear that they'll be wrong.  They fear making mistakes and then being mocked or ridiculed or being held responsible for those mistakes.  Probably the most tragic result of these fears is that they never learn what it's like to make a decision that's right, that's effective, that's helpful.  They go through their lives deferring to others, letting others make decisions for them.

I've never had this problem, fortunately.  At times, though, my decisions have been flawed because of my fear of being wrong, and I've made decisions that my heart told me were wrong because I thought others would want me to make them that way.  Most of the time, though, I have no problems making decisions and sticking to them and taking responsibility for them.

Part of the reason that it's so easy for me is that there are so few other people who are willing to do so.  It reaches a point at which someone has to decide, so I do so.

I know when I'm deciding, though, that my decision may be wrong.  I hold no illusions that my decisions are always the best course of action.  But at least I try, and at least I don't regret later having missed out on an important opportunity to make a decision that affects my life directly.

I will be wrong--and I'll be wrong often, I'm sure.  But it's often better to be wrong than it is to do nothing at all, for in being wrong, we learn.  In doing nothing, we stay at the same place.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Why does our culture value being "right" so much?
How does this value system affect the things we do (and don't do)?

1 year ago

  

June 7

  

Today's Quotation:

Rest assured that, generally speaking, others are acting in
exactly the same manner that you would under exactly the
same circumstances.  Hence, be kind, understanding,
empathetic, compassionate, and loving.

Gary W. Fenchuk

Today's Meditation:

It's so easy to say that "If it were me in that same situation, I would. . . ."  When we see the ways that other people are acting, it's tempting to see ourselves acting in much more acceptable, mature, responsible ways if we were in the same situation.  It's easy for us even to tell people how they should act or feel when something has happened to them, based on how we think we would feel, and what we think would be best for them.

When we do this, though, we lose compassion for them.  After all, compassion is understanding how people feel, or sharing their pain, and not minimizing their pain by thinking they should be acting differently.

Yes, we might act differently.  We might not spend as much time pining if a loved one leaves us; we might not mourn as deeply at the loss of a loved one or of a job.  But that's because we all are different.  When someone is down and hurting, the things that help them the most usually are kindness, understanding, empathy, compassion, and love.  Judgment and suggestions to act differently usually don't help much.

We're all human, and we have to assume that we're all trying our best to be the best humans we can.  If you were to have the same shoulder pain as your friend, you may focus just as much on the pain as your friend does, no matter how much you think you'd be able to grin and bear it.  The fact is that if we don't feel it, we can't know it; if we don't know it, it's inappropriate for us to be anything but caring and compassionate.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Have you ever thought someone was exaggerating a pain, but then
experienced the same pain and found out how much it really hurt?

2.  Why do we tend to judge rather than understand and feel compassion?

3.  How can we re

1 year ago

  

June 6

  

Today's Quotation:

Courage takes many forms.  There is physical courage,
there is moral courage.  Then there is a still higher type of
courage--the courage to brave pain, to live with it, to
never let others know of it and to still find joy in life; to wake
up in the morning with an enthusiasm for the day ahead.

Howard Cosell

Today's Meditation:

Courage has been romanticized and exaggerated for a very long time.  We tend to see it as an extreme quality, brought out only when someone is facing death or serious injury, or capture by enemy troops.  We reserve our claims of courage for soldiers and police officers and firemen, or other people who face dangerous situations regularly.

But some of the bravest people I've ever known are those who face each day with a great deal of courage, no matter what their situation.  I know a woman whose husband left her in an awful way, causing a great deal of damage and pain.  She went on with her life, never pitying herself, still helping others to get on with their lives.  I know someone else who deals regularly with depression and other emotional problems, yet he still faces life as bravely as I've seen anyone face life.

And we've all seen the stories about the children and adults who have life-threatening illnesses, but who still are able to look at each day as an opportunity to live life a bit more, and their courage is an example for us all, helping us to realize just how much we have in our lives every day.

You have just as much courage as anyone else--the only question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you use it.  Is it a regular part of your life and actions, or is it something that you save for certain situations?  The courage of your life is in your hands, and the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What kinds of situations in your life demand courage?

2.  When is it easiest for you to show courage?  When is it most difficult?

3.  How do you define courage?

For further thou

1 year ago
  

June 5

  

Today's Quotation:

Courage is required not only in a person's occasional crucial decision
for one's own freedom, but in the little hour-to-hour decisions
which place the bricks in the structure of one's building of oneself
into a person who acts with freedom and responsibility.

Rollo May

Today's Meditation:

Are you courageous?  What about right now, or in the next hour or two?  Will there be an opportunity for you to demonstrate your courage?  Will you need to make a decision or plan a course of action that may take a bit of courageous determination?  Or will you be tempted to follow the easy path, the road more often taken, so that things are easy and you won't face the possibility of failure while treading on unknown roads and byways?

Today, I want to do at least one thing that's courageous, one thing that tests me a little more than I'm normally tested.  I want to try something new and different, and I want to do so honestly and lovingly.  Perhaps I know someone who could use a bit of constructive criticism that I've avoided giving.  Perhaps there's another job I can apply for, one that will challenge me much more than the one I have now.  Perhaps I can suggest change in a system that desperately needs change.  Perhaps I'll dare to spend the money on something I definitely need, trusting that I'll still have enough money to meet my needs in the future.

Freedom.  It comes only from inside, and it can come only when we cut the chains of fear that keep us shackled to old behaviors and old ways of doing things.  Courage isn't, of course, the absence of fear, but the forging ahead even though we do fear.

So many of our little decisions are based on fear, that we keep ourselves out of a state of freedom.  The only ones who can provide us with the freedom that we so desperately need are ourselves, and the only place that the freedom can come from is deep inside ourselves.  And the only thing that can pull it out from the deep is our own courage, even on the small, day-to-day level.

Questions to ponder:

1.  How has fear held you back recently?

2.  Do you know anyone whom you see as courageous?  Why do you consider that person to be courageous?

1 year ago
  

June 4

  

Today's Quotation:

The world is not perishing for the want of clever or
talented or well-meaning people. It is perishing
for the want of people of courage and resolution.

Robert J. McCracken

Today's Meditation:

Am I contributing to the downfall of the world?  Am I providing a role model for others of someone who stands by my beliefs and is willing to support other people who are being abused and manipulated, or am I providing a role model of someone who is completely self-interested, without a thought given to others?  And remember, even if we do think of others often, we can't be a role model through thought alone--people can see only what we do, not what we think.

I'm not sure that I believe that the world is "perishing," but I do know that the world situation isn't nearly as positive as it could be, and many people suffer needlessly at the hands of others.  There are many injustices that we could do something about if we made the effort.

On the other hand, we all have only so much time in each day, and we all have responsibilities and obligations that may prevent us from devoting time to things that demand our courage.  I remember a Dickens novel--Bleak House, I believe, in which a woman spent most of her time trying to raise money for the poor children of some far-away undeveloped country, while her own children were completely neglected, with clothes that were falling apart, having to make their own meals.

Sometimes, it takes the greater courage to toil away in silence, unnoticed, as we make sure that the people we love don't suffer from our neglect.  One day we'll send them out into the world, and the type of persons we send out--ones who will contribute to the love and peace of the world or ones who will contribute to the greed and enmity of the world--depends on our willingness to stick to our resolve to provide.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What things that you've done have taken the most courage?

2.  What's the most important part of being a role model to you?

1 year ago
  

June 3

  

Today's Quotation:

A cup is useful only when it is empty; and a mind that
is filled with beliefs, with dogmas, with assertions,
with quotations is really an uncreative mind.

J. Krishnamurti

Today's Meditation:

How much water can you put into a cup that's full of sand?  How much new information, and how many new ideas, can fit into a mind that is already decided on what's right and what's wrong, what's acceptable and unacceptable?  How many of us have missed wonderful opportunities for learning because of preconceived notions or beliefs that we've adopted from others because we thought they were "right"?

How many times have we missed beautiful sights or events because our minds were full of racing thoughts about things that really weren't all that important in the long run?

How many times have we rejected people who might have been great friends because they believed something that we didn't believe, or didn't believe what I believed?  I've known people who have no friends if they're not Christians, and I've often marveled at their willingness to reject categorically the majority of the world's population.

But how can we empty our minds?  Perhaps the first step is simply realizing that we don't have the answers.  Our minds are limited, and when we adopt a belief, it's important to keep in mind that it may be mistaken.  And that means any belief.  If we can do that, then we won't hold so tightly to them, especially when we see evidence that we might have been wrong.

We won't learn anything if our minds are filled.  The person who is sure that it's raining outside will stay indoors for hours, even after the sun comes back out, because he or she "knows" what it's like outside.  But if we remember that things change--even the weather--we'll know that what we were sure of an hour ago may not be the case right now.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What kinds of beliefs do you hold most dearly?

2.  How do you think you could best empty your own mind?

1 year ago
  

June 2

  

Today's Quotation:

I hope that my achievements in life shall be these -- that I will
have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked
for that which mattered, and that I will have given help to those
who were in need that I will have left the earth a better
place for what I've done and who I've been.

C. Hoppe

Today's Meditation:

It's really pretty cool to think of the idea of us leaving the world a better place when we die.  It's really a pretty easy task, too, for there are many, many ways that we can improve life on this planet.  What do you think you would accomplish if you were to encourage a young person as often as possible over the next twenty years or so?  Would that boy or girl grow up to make a positive contribution to the world?  And would that contribution then be indirectly partly yours?

If I were to pick up five pieces of litter a day for the next ten years, that would make over 18,000 pieces of litter that I've helped to send on their way to landfills, beautifying places where I live and visit.  If I regularly give of food or money or clothing to people who need it, I'll be contributing acts of kindness that may help those people to see life in a brighter, more positive way.

My greatest achievements will have little or nothing to do with money or fame or power--I can almost guarantee you that.  But I do hope that they have something to do with sharing courage and hope and enthusiasm and love.  And I hope that I never turn away from sharing out of fear of not having enough for myself or my family.  Risk is an important part of life, and the life without risk is a limited life, indeed.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Can you make a list of the achievements you'd most like to reach?

2.  Do you think that list will stay the same for many years to come?

3.  What are some of the things that keep you from taking risks?

For further thought:

The gr

1 year ago

  

June 1

  

Today's Quotation:

Each moment of your life is a brush stroke in the painting of your
growing career.  There are the bold, sweeping strokes of one 
increasing, dynamic purpose.  There are the lights and shadows
that make your life deep and strong.  There are the little touches
that add the stamp of character and worth.  The art of achievement
is the art of making life--your life--a masterpiece.

Wilferd A. Peterson

Today's Meditation:

Every day we contribute to the person we will become one day.  If you envision yourself as a portrait, you'll see how we continue to add to the who we are in what could be called brush strokes, some bold and brilliant, some subtle and understated.  We may have a bit of an idea of what the portrait will look like when we finish, but that's just an idea--there's a very good chance that our contributions to our lives will lead us to be much different than we now think we will.

Can my life be a masterpiece?  Absolutely.  Will it hang in the Louvre?  Definitely not.  Some of the most beautiful paintings that I've ever seen have been hanging in doctors' or dentists' offices, or they've been on the wall in some college or gallery.  And they've been true masterpieces--beautiful works that are full of great details and lots of character.

I always remind myself that my life probably isn't one that is going to be up for public scrutiny.  My masterpiece may be seen by no one when it's finished one day, but that's okay by me--I want the brush strokes to mean something to me, and something to the people I touch in life.  Even if my masterpiece hangs in some hidden room that few people ever visit, that's okay by me--the fun is in the creation of it, without being attached to any expectations of what will happen to it when it's done.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What are you contributing to your masterpiece today?

2.  Will it be a tragedy if your masterpiece isn't known the whole world over?

1 year ago

  

May 31

  

Today's Quotation:

My greatest accomplishments shall never be known, perhaps even to me.  Having made someone smile and see the world a bit brighter, having given someone hope for the future, having helped someone see potential inside him or her self that he or she never might have seen otherwise, having helped someone to see just how beautiful he or she really is--these to me are the achievements that most can help this world to be a brighter, more loving place.

tom walsh

Today's Meditation:

What have you accomplished today?  What are you going to accomplish with the rest of the day?  There are many, many things that we can do that can add to the positive energy of this world, if only we keep our focus on adding to the positive.  We may brighten one tiny corner of the world for just a few minutes at a time, but isn't that enough?  Shouldn't our goal be to contribute to the positive in the world rather than the negative?

We're all surrounded by people who could use a day-brightening comment or a compliment to make them feel better.  Many people in this world find their lives brightened by just a cheerful "hello" and a smile, and they can take that with them and let their memories re-use it to make them feel better later.

It doesn't matter if no one else on this planet knows what we've done.  We know, and that matters.  We've given to the world and contributed to the greater good, and as long as we don't hold any expectations of what should come of our giving, then we can be happy with the fact that we've given in a positive way.  Once we expect something in return, though, we no longer can hope that our giving will have the same positive effect on others.

If you give, you will get.  What you give, you will get in return.  These are two laws of life that we tend to sabotage by expecting something specific in return, and then we face disappointment.

What would this world be like if everyone saw their greatest achievements as the everyday little contributions that they make to others?  What will your world be like if you see things that way?

More on giving.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago
  

May 30

  

Today's Quotation:

Will you be satisfied with the fruit of your life's work? Will the
efforts you are making now bring you satisfaction when the
things of time are receding, and eternity looms ahead?

Raymond L. Cox

Today's Meditation:

I'm not at all a morbid person, but I often think of how I would feel if I were to die tomorrow, or this afternoon.  Am I truly ready to go, even though I am still relatively young?  Would I feel a sense of equanimity and satisfaction, knowing that I've done all that I can with my life, or would I feel a sense of dread, thinking about the many things that I haven't yet done?

So far, I think I'm in a pretty good place, and I believe that's because I think about it so often.  By keeping my mind on what I'll feel like when I leave this life, I can continually do my best to make sure that I accomplish in this life as much as I'm able to accomplish, as well as I'm able to accomplish it.

Many of us start to think that the quantity of our accomplishments is the key to satisfaction, but we have to remember that the more we commit ourselves to do, the lower the quality of each of those things will be.  We have to find a level that's both comfortable and do-able, and that will also allow us to continue to achieve.

We can't judge ourselves too harshly.  We aren't here to do everything.  We can't fix other people's lives for them.  We can't cause the world to live in peace, though we can work for peace in our own small ways.  Our lives are made up of small victories and accomplishments, with the occasional larger ones; when we realize this, we can be easier on ourselves and start accomplishing more.

I will leave behind unfinished business when I go.  There will be things I could have done but didn't.  But that's true for every single person who ever has lived.  Once we accept this fact, we can face our transition to whatever comes next with a sense of adventure and curiosity.

More on achievement.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago

  

May 29

  

Today's Quotation:

Many people have the ambition to succeed; they may even have a special aptitude for their job. And yet they do not move ahead.  Why?  Perhaps they think that since they can master the job, there is no need to master themselves.

John Stevenson

Today's Meditation:

What an interesting concept:  "to master themselves."  It sounds in a way somewhat rigid, somewhat controlling.  On the other hand, it also sounds quite necessary if we're ever going to work our way past some of the obstacles that we face in life.  If I want to excel at the work I do, learning how to do the work is only half of the battle.  Learning how to work effectively so that I can do a great job is another big part of the process.

My stepson tells me of someone who works with him in the electronics department of a large department store.  This guy, he says, will do a little bit of work and then spend half an hour watching whatever video happens to be showing on the display monitor.  Obviously he's learned how to do his job, but his inability to master his own work habits guarantees that he won't be one of the people who get promoted any time soon, and if they ever need to cut back on employees, he'll probably be the first to go.

We constantly read about people who "burn out" in their jobs.  Unfortunately, they seem to be unable to manage their time and their work to make sure that they don't overwork themselves.  If they learn how to master themselves, they probably would be able to spend quite a bit more time at a job without burning out.

Not mastering ourselves leads to poor work habits, gossiping, incomplete work, and high levels of tension and stress on the job.  Mastering ourselves can help us to make sure that we don't overstep any boundaries that we shouldn't overstep, and that we excel at the work that we do rather than just doing an adequate job.  It really is up to us and the attitude we bring to the jobs we do.

More on self.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What's the difference between mastering a job and mastering oneself?

1 year ago

  

May 28

  

Today's Quotation:

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to
you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what
happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.

John Homer Miller

Today's Meditation:

I got into my car at 3:30 the other day, looking forward to getting home a bit early.  I turned the key, but nothing happened.  I tried a few more times, but still nothing.  I tried jumper cables, and I tried push-starting the thing, but still, nothing.  Years ago, the situation might have stressed me out.  I probably would have gotten angry and upset and more than a little stressed out.

The fact was, though, that it was a beautiful day.  And while there were other places I would rather have been, there are nice woods and a stream right next to the parking lot where I was stuck.  It was a very nice afternoon, and I had a chance just to relax and enjoy the weather while I waited for the tow truck, which wasn't going to cost me anything because of my AAA membership.  And for whatever reason, I was where I was, and getting upset wouldn't change that a bit--it would only affect whether or not I enjoyed the time I waited.

Besides, who knows about the grander schemes of life?  Perhaps if I had been able to drive off when I wanted to, I might have ended up getting into an accident that I avoided by being where I was.  Or maybe if I had arrived home early I would have fallen down the stairs for some reason or another.  There are many possible hypothetical situations that I could come up with, but who knows?

My car was dead--it wasn't the end of the world.  It was a nice afternoon, and for whatever reason, I was forced to slow down a little bit and enjoy the day.  I had a choice--I could enjoy the time I had, or I could get stressed out about what I was missing by not being somewhere else.  When we can look at things that way, the choice becomes pretty easy, doesn't it?

More on attitude.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Why do unexpected "disasters" so often affect the way we act and the way we see the world?

1 year ago
  

May 27

  

Today's Quotation:

Your attitude is your choice.  It always is.  We live in an age that has developed the art of shifting blame to very high levels, and sometimes we get caught up in that same tendency.  "Well, if you had my job you wouldn't be so positive."  "If you had my kids, you wouldn't feel so good."  "If only my boss were different, I could be a positive person."  In other words, "My bad attitude is not my fault!"
   The truth is, however, your attitude and mine are always our choice.  No matter how bad things are, no one can force you to have a bad attitude if you don't want to.  Now that should come as really good news because it says our attitudes don't have to be victims of our circumstances or of other people.  We choose our responses.

Mary Whelchel

Today's Meditation:

One of the greatest lessons in life is that of learning that our attitude is our choice.  There will be days of sickness or of physical discomfort when we can't put on the positive face that we would like to, but those days tend to be relatively rare.  Most of our days, the way we approach the day is our choice.

Unfortunately, we often let our attitudes be the result of reactions rather than of actions.  When something "bad" happens to us, we let our attitudes change as a result of the happening.  When someone insults us or hurts us, we let our attitudes reflect the "victimization" that we feel rather than the true power of who we are as people.

One of the secrets to having a consistently positive attitude towards life is to take charge of it, and to realize that when we react to others and what they do, we're giving them control over the way we see the world.  If someone does something negative to me, then I give that person extra power over me when I allow my attitude to change because of it.

Our attitudes should be the result of decisions, not reactions.  Once I decide the kind of person I truly want to be, I should try consistently to be this kind of person.  Only when I'm consistent in the effort will the world start treating me as just that kind of person.  And when the world starts treating me that way, then I'll see just how easy it is to maintain a consistently positive attitude all day, every day.

More on attitude.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago

  

May 26

  

Today's Quotation:

The world has a way of giving what is demanded of it.  If you
are frightened and look for failure and poverty, you will get them,
no matter how hard you may try to succeed.  Lack of faith in
yourself, in what life will do for you, cuts you off from the good
things of the world.  Expect victory and you make victory.

Preston Bradley

Today's Meditation:

I've read many, many books in the last few years that talk about the power that we have to create our own lives, to make things happen in our lives rather than waiting passively for them to occur.  It's kind of a scary thought, because it implies our responsibility for the way things are in our lives.  If things are going wrong, then we have contributed to the negative occurrences through our own thoughts and actions.

The more I read and try to put into practice the principles that I read, the more I'm convinced that Preston is right--if we expect negative things in our lives, that's exactly what we'll get.  If, on the other hand, we expect prosperity and peace and positive things, guess what we'll get?

Unfortunately, most of us aren't able to make a shift like this for the long run.  In our age of immediate gratification, if we try to be positive for a month and we don't see great changes in our lives, we're likely to give up and say "See?  Even when I try this, it doesn't work!"

The world is a mirror.  It gives back to us what we give to it.  If we give it a frightened, tentative attitude, it responds on that level.  It has to, because it responds to what we give it.  We're not talking about what other people give us as individuals, but what the world as a whole gives to us.

A consistently positive attitude creates a consistently positive return.  You do have it within your power to prove this in your own life, and of turning your life into a reflection of an attitude that focuses on beauty and empowerment and love.

More on positive thinking.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago
  

May 25

  

Today's Quotation:

At its root, the ad for the new boat wants you to feel unhappy,
discontent, lacking, inferior, temporary.  Because materialism--
in essence, the doctrine suggesting that things, not relationships
 make the world go around--is a replacement for something else.
And when we're content with that something else--the something
else you can't buy with a credit card--we won't need to adorn
our lives with the unnecessary goods and services being
flashed before us at every turn.

Bob Welch 

Today's Meditation:

I was born with a sort of innate disgust at being manipulated.  I've always hated it when people try to manipulate me by trying to get me to do something or think something.  Fortunately for me, this meant that I learned very early to recognize what was going on with advertising.  They were trying to make me feel bad about myself, bad enough so that I would go out and buy whatever product was being advertised.

We do have many positive, productive advertisements in our culture.  But most of them are based on one goal--to make the consumer feel dissatisfied with his or her current life condition.  Car commercials imply that buying their model will help a man to meet more--and more desirable--women.  Make-up commercials imply that a woman currently isn't attractive enough, or that she's somehow "flawed," and their product will help to hide the flaws.  Food commercials try to convince us that we'll be happier or healthier or that life will somehow be better if we eat their products.

But we're also taught that true happiness comes from within, so these commercials create a tension that most of us just don't understand on a conscious level.  We go through our lives hearing these assaults on our self-concept, but even if we reject them on a conscious level, we still face the nagging questions and possible self-doubt that they leave with us.  "Perhaps I would be happier with a new living room set," we think.  "After all, it would probably be more comfortable."

But our true needs are simple.  There's nothing wrong with fulfilling wants, but our needs are another thing.  Most of what we see advertised is completely unnecessary, and we usually don't even want it until we see the ads.

The ke

1 year ago

  

May 24

  

Today's Quotation:

Ask yourself:  If I know something to be true, am I
prepared to follow it, even though it is contrary to what
I want or to what I have previously held to be true?  Will I
follow it if it means being laughed at, if it means
personal financial loss, or some kind of hardship?

Eric Liddell

Today's Meditation:

Conviction tends to be hard to come by.  The line between conviction and stubbornness seems to grow dimmer all the time as we tend to see standing by one's convictions less as a sign of strong character and more as a sign of a closed mind.  The trick lies in recognizing what is truly the truth, and what is something that we believe for now, but that may change.

For example, I used to believe that competition is always a very positive part of our lives, and that teaching kids how to function in competitive situations was very important for them.  I don't believe that now.  I believe that we overdo competition, and our kids suffer a great deal of stress and undergo many problems because of our emphasis on it.  I wouldn't have changed my perspective if I hadn't been open to hearing and accepting the views of others who disagreed with me, or without having a mind open enough to recognize that what I was seeing didn't support my beliefs.

On the other hand, I believe very strongly that children should be treated with dignity and respect, and I will stand up for that belief whenever I'm called to, for the rest of my life.

But that's an easy one--there are few people who would cause me to stand up for that by presenting an opposing view.  One that wasn't so easy was a few years ago when I complained to our city government about softball games that were going on until midnight at a field a couple of hundred yards from our house.  I was seen as a selfish person, a killjoy, even though my major complaint was that our school-aged children were being kept awake until midnight by cheering crowds when they should have been able to sleep.  (To the city's credit, they did make some significant changes.)

What are you willing to stand up for?  On the day I die, I have a feeling that I'll be more concerned about the things that I stood up for than about the things that didn't interest me so much. 

1 year ago

  

May 23

  

Today's Quotation:

The Buddha spoke gently, "Once a person is caught by
belief in a doctrine, one loses all one's freedom.  When
one becomes dogmatic, that person believes his or her doctrine is the only truth and that all other doctrines are heresy.  Disputes and conflicts all arise from narrow views.  They can  extend endlessly, wasting precious time and sometimes even leading to war.  Attachment to views is
the greatest impediment to the spiritual path.  Bound to
narrow views, one becomes so entangled that it is no
longer possible to let the door of truth open."

Thich Nhat Hanh

Today's Meditation:

I'd love to write a book on this subject.  It makes me sad to see just how many people limit their own perspectives by clinging to views and ideas that they've embraced just because someone else has taught them that they're true.  It's like we're willing to sacrifice our own freedom just to hold on tightly to a belief that may or may not be true.  Most dogma is based on the beliefs of people--Christian dogma, for example, is based on the interpretations of people, not on the words of Christ.  Many churches hold on to interpretations that have been disproved by new translations, yet because someone hundreds of years ago interpreted the Bible in a certain way, the churches still cling to the ideas because they're now "tradition."

If we want to become truly spiritual beings, we must embark on our own journeys into our selves and our personal relationship with God or life.  The answers to my spiritual questions are not in someone else's interpretation of anything--I must learn to trust myself and my own perspective on life.

Have you ever thought someone was mad at you, and it made you feel awful?  This was a belief, and it held you back because you didn't like having someone angry with you.  When you later found out that the person wasn't angry with you, your belief was shattered, and it no longer made you feel awful.

Likewise, if we keep ourselves open to learning and growing, we will find out that some of the beliefs that we hold on to are actually holding us back, making us feel awful, and if we were able to cast them aside we'd be able to move on and to grow more.  We owe it to ourselves to walk on a clear path, one that's not overgrown with the dogma that other people have created, trying to get others to believe exactly what they believe.

More on beliefs.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago

  

May 22

  

Today's Quotation:

To tell a lie in cowardice, to tell a lie for gain, or to avoid
deserved punishment--are all the blackest of black lies.
On the other hand, to teach one to try one's best to avoid
the truth--even to press it when necessary toward the
outer edge of the rainbow--for a reason of kindness,
or of mercy, is far closer to the heart of truth than to
repeat something accurately and mercilessly that will
cruelly hurt the feelings of someone.

Emily Post

Today's Meditation:

"A lie is a lie," we're taught.  "The truth is always the best."  Because of these misguided teachings, we often find ourselves in a huge ethical dilemma when we don't feel that the complete truth is going to be helpful--how can we "lie" to someone, especially someone who's dear to us?  The people who think that everyone has to know the complete truth all the time tend to act in cruelty at times.

If a friend shows me a story that he or she has written and I can't stand it, do I hand it back and say that I hate it?  No, I don't, even though that might be the full truth.  I'll look for some constructive comments to make, and I'll tell my friend that it's not my kind of story.  I have to ask myself what purpose it would serve to tell the full truth, and the answer usually is "none."  As a teacher, I find myself in situations in which parents are asking for a bit more information than seems appropriate.  Telling them that their son or daughter seems to be struggling a bit may lead to awful consequences for the son or daughter, so it's usually better to say that the student is trying hard and doing his or her best, and keep working with them.

I don't like to lie.  I hold the truth in very high regard.  But sometimes, simply saying "I don't know" when I really do know saves pain and heartache for many people, while being legalistic about the truth would lead to much more stress, aggravation, and even anger than a situation calls for.

We have to make decisions all of our lives, and we have to trust ourselves when we do so.  Truth is not a black-and-white issue, no matter how hard some people try to convince us that it is.  Deciding when to hold back some truth or to tell the whole truth is a part of life that we all must face, and we have to do so by examining the possible consequences of our actions.

More on truth.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago

  

May 21

  

Today's Quotation:

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of
listening when you'd have preferred to talk.

Doug Larson

Today's Meditation:

I like to talk.  Often, I feel obligated to talk.  After all, I'm a teacher by profession, so I find that people expect me to have the answers, that they expect me to be able to explain concepts and ideas to them in a way that they'll understand.

But much of my talk falls into the category of sharing like experiences, and it's usually pretty unnecessary.  If someone is telling me about his or her vacation and they mention taking a certain hike, my tendency is to come back with something like "I went on a hike just like that," followed by a detailed description of my hike.  That's not listening, though--it's simply waiting for cues to give my own input.

A couple of weeks ago I had a great talk with a dear friend.  She had just gotten back from a vacation and she had tons to tell me.  I told myself at the beginning of the conversation that I was going to practice listening, and do very little talking.  Over the next hour I learned much more about my friend, her experiences, her perspective on life, her children, and so much more that I was kind of amazed.  I didn't sit there passively like a sounding board--I asked questions and I responded to her words.  But I didn't put in my two cents' worth just because it popped into my head.  And it was a great conversation for me, just as it was for her, too.

There are whole books written on listening and its power.  It's one of those aspects of ourselves that helps us to learn and grow if we practice it, but one that we usually neglect.  Others won't think less of us if we speak less, but they certainly will appreciate being with someone who's willing to listen closely to what they have to say.  Some of the most drastic problems in the world are brought about by people feeling as if there's no one there to listen to them; by listening we can grow wiser and help others at the same time, which sounds like a pretty fair trade to me.

More on listening.

Questions to ponder:

1.  How many role models of good listeners have you known?

1 year ago

  

  

May 20

  

Today's Quotation:

Just because your voice reaches halfway around
the world doesn't mean you are wiser than
when it reached only to the end of the bar.

Edward R. Murrow

Today's Meditation:

Bigger is not always better.  Having better clothes or a better car doesn't make us better people.  Having a whole world of information at our fingertips doesn't make us any wiser at all--it just means that we have access to more information than people used to have access to.

Many of us mistake this information as wisdom.  To be wise, though, we can't just know things--we have to understand them, and understand the principles behind them.  If we're going to be wise, we can't just share facts and figures--we have to share why's and how's.  We must reach a deeper understanding of most things and then share that understanding with others, or else our wisdom will be for naught.

Wisdom isn't using big words--most wisdom is breathtaking in its simplicity.  Wisdom isn't having the answer for everything--it's often wiser to allow someone else to find his or her own answers to a problem or dilemma than it can be to solve their problems for them.

These days we're tempted to feel wise because we know more, but quantity doesn't mean quality.  What we share can reach much farther through the Internet and the phone lines, but distance doesn't mean as much as depth.

More on wisdom.

Questions to ponder:

1.  In what ways are you truly wise?

2.  In which ways are you most effective in sharing your wisdom?

3.  How can you grow to be even wiser?

1 year ago
  

May 19

  

Today's Quotation:

Some have narrowed their minds, and so fettered
them with the chains of antiquity that not only do
they refuse to speak save as the ancients spake,
but they refuse to think save as the ancients thought.
God speaks to us, too, and the best thoughts are those
now being vouchsafed to us.  We will excel the ancients!

Savonarola

Today's Meditation:

Why do we get so attached to the things that have been passed down to us from generation to generation over the course of many, many years?  Why do we so often see the words of some guy who wrote 1,000 years ago as somehow more valid than our own thoughts?  If God is everywhere and omniscient, as most of us believe, no one in the history of the world has been any closer to God than you are right now.  If that's the case, trust yourself!  Trust your thoughts and your urges and your ideas, for you are a wonderful creation who is living right here, right now, just like the rest of us.

It's a shame that we don't give ourselves more credit, and that we stay tied to the thoughts and beliefs of people who came before us.  When we do so, it keeps us from exploring our own inspiration in order to develop our own beliefs that we can live by.  And any time we try to live by someone else's beliefs about what our lives should be like, we do ourselves a great disservice; we keep ourselves from growing and learning from our own mistakes and successes.

We've been given the gift of a great deal of history that we can learn from, but that history should help us to develop ourselves, not keep us chained to the beliefs and thoughts of people who didn't have the advantage of many years of the development of newer thoughts.  Athletes improve over the years because they learn from those who came before them and they add their own training and performance techniques to what was there already.  An athlete who doesn't do so stays at the same level always, rather stagnant, never progressing.

Our spirits call us to grow and to listen and to trust ourselves and our God, whatever we perceive God to be.  No one ever has been closer to God than we are, right here, right now.

More on letting go.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What sorts of things m

1 year ago
  

May 14

  

Today's Quotation:

The great composer does not set to work because he or
she is inspired, but becomes inspired because he or she is
working.  Beethoven, Wagner, Bach, and Mozart settled down
day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as
an accountant settles down each day to his or her figures.
They didn't waste time waiting for an inspiration.

Ernest Newman

Today's Meditation:

Somehow people have gotten us to believe that inspiration is something that "hits us," that it's some sort of divine touch from heaven or somewhere else that causes us to be creative.  And because so many of us believe this, millions of us never really create anything, but we spend our time waiting around for something that will cause us to create, rather than just getting to it and working at it.

I've written five novels, and believe me, they didn't just come to me.  The basic ideas were there in my head, but the actual words themselves came when I spent two or three hours a day locked up in a small room with just my computer and a stereo.  Each novel took several months to write at that rate, and that doesn't include the rewriting and revisions.  I had to make a commitment to working on them, and then I had to spend the time necessary to do so, sacrificing many other things in order to finish them.

The best things seem to look the easiest--the best paintings, writings, athletic performances, or anything else that you see tend to look effortless.  But a good performance on stage or on the basketball court is good because of the thousands of hours of practice and rehearsal that have culminated in this moment.

Yes, inspiration does come to us, but when it does, we have a choice to make--are we going to take it for what it is and work really hard to turn it into something special, or are we going to let it slide into the back of our minds, never to see the light of day as the product of a lot of time and effort?

More on inspiration.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Are you waiting for inspiration?  Why?
What will you do with it when it comes?

1 year ago

  

May 13

  

Today's Quotation:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune.

William Wordsworth

Today's Meditation:

I'm planning on writing a book on the concept of laying waste our powers.  Wordsworth's image here is one that I think of every day:  "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers"; what that says to me is that we have this incredible amount of power in ourselves, yet we use it on trivialities.  It's like we take a huge tractor that can tow 200 tons, and we hook it up to tow a 50-pound rock to a place fifty miles away.  If the trip takes five hours, imagine how much potential power is being wasted by using such a powerful tractor for such a banal task.

Every day, our bodies and minds create an amazing amount of power and potential.  What do we tend to do with that energy?  Well, there's television for one--many people spend four or five hours a day in front of the tube, and all their potential is soaked up by the couch or the armchair.  Shopping is important when we need to fulfill needs, but if our major focus in life is in making money just to spend it, then we're definitely laying waste our powers.  If we allow ourselves to bow out of the rat race, if we have fewer or simpler needs, then we won't need to spend as much, which means that we won't have to work as much, which means that we'll have more time and power for other things that matter so much more, like developing our spirits and our knowledge of who we are and why we're here.

Wordsworth claims that by using up our powers on getting and spending, we've lost our connection to nature, a force that can do us much more good than we can imagine, if only we let it.  We've given our hearts away and we've lost touch with the important things in life, great gifts that we leave alone to gather dust in the closet.  We don't go for the walks in the woods on a regular basis, and we don't spend time with the natural things of the world.

What's worse, though, is that we don't seem to learn--he wrote this poem in 1802.  I wonder when we'll finally take works like this to heart and learn from them. . . .

More on power.

1 year ago
  

May 12

  

Today's Quotation:

It is the mind which creates the world around us, and
even though we stand side by side in the same meadow,
my eyes will never see what is beheld by yours, my heart
will never stir to the emotions with which yours is touched.

George Gissing

Today's Meditation:

There's comfort in uniformity and consistency.  Comfort, however, usually is a danger sign, a signal that we're not being challenged, that we're not growing.  It tends to be comfort that we seek, though, and that's why we've been taught for so long that things are as they are, and that we all see things exactly the same.  People who see things differently tend to be a threat to the uniformity and conformity of people, and if we threaten those things, we threaten the very fabric of our being--for most of us, anyway.

But your world is not my world.  What I see is not the same as what you see, even if we're standing together.  Your experiences and your likes and dislikes make your view completely unique, just as my experiences make mine very special.

Our inability to see or accept this fact is one of the greatest contributors to discord and dissatisfaction in the world, though.  We get frustrated when people don't see things "our way," and millions of kids and adults every day are taught to see things in the teacher's way.  They're even graded as to whether or not they've adopted the teachers' perspectives, and they're penalized with low grades if they don't see the information in the way the school wants them to see it.

We have to wake up to realize that seeing things differently is a blessing, not a curse.  If someone disagrees with us, we don't have to take that disagreement personally--that's the way that person sees the world.  If we can't grasp a particular concept, it's often better to move on to something that we can grasp rather than agonize over our inability to see something the way someone else sees it.

We weren't all meant to do things the same way--art and music would be very boring if we were--yet somehow we've bought into the idea that we all should see the world in a similar fashion.  That's not the way it is, though--we all see the world in our unique way, and we should celebrate not just our unique vision that may not fit in with someone else's, but the unique visions of others, even thought they may not fit in with ours.

1 year ago
  

May 11

  

Today's Quotation:

Humility does not mean false modesty.  Humility does not mean taking a back seat.  When you take a back seat consciously and deliberately in order to show others how humble you are, you are not being humble at all.
   False humility is what slaves show to their masters.  Slaves know that if they do not obey their masters blindly, if they do not show this kind of outer humility, the master will punish them.
   True humility is something totally different; it is the feeling of oneness.  Humility means giving joy to others.  Here on earth we want to get joy.  But how do we get joy?  Real joy we get from self-giving, not by possessing or by showing our own supremacy.  When we allow others to get joy, then we feel that our joy is more complete, more perfect, more divine.  By making others feel that they are either equally important or more important, we show our true humility.

Sri Chinmoy

Today's Meditation:

Every day in our lives we see people who claim to be something but who really are not.  We see people who claim to be deeply religious but who lead lives that reflect no true religious conviction at all.  We see people who claim to be humble who show no humility at all.  It makes it hard for us to learn just who is who and what is what, doesn't it?  How many people claim to be humble just because they think that humility is a trait that others will value in them?

But "humility means giving joy to others."  If this is true, then we see that our humble actions should allow for others to act in ways that will help them to get more out of life, even if it's just for the moment.  It may mean listening during a conversation instead of putting in our two cents' worth--the other person may have a need to talk right now, and by spending a lot of time talking ourselves, we rob them of fulfilling that need.  It may mean letting someone else take the credit for something that we contributed to, without correcting the claim.  It may mean allowing someone else to take the last ticket to a concert and finding something else to do ourselves.

It seems contradictory, as do so many other aspects of life:  we can get what we want in life by giving up what we want in a truly humble spirit.  I think it comes down to an important distinction:  without humility, we're letting our ego make our choices for us, and our ego always will choose things that boost its own power.  With humility, our choices become more authentic, and they serve to make us truly happier people at a much deeper level than our egos can conceive of.

More on humility.

Questions to ponder:

1 year ago
  

May 10

  

Today's Quotation:

There is no true and constant gentleness without humility.
While we are so fond of ourselves, we are easily offended with
others.  Let us be persuaded that nothing is due to us,
and then
nothing will disturb us.  Let us often think of our own infirmities,
and we will become indulgent towards those of others.

Francois Fenelon

Today's Meditation:

When I read stories about monks and other people who are incredibly humble, I find myself feeling a bit of envy.  I would love to be able to live a truly humble life, to be a truly humble person.  In fact, that's one of the things I'm working on regularly through reading and other methods.  Humility is in many ways the cause of a beautiful life, but it's also the result of a beautiful life, I think.  It seems like a Catch-22 situation--you can't be humble until you tame your ego, and you can't tame your ego until you learn humility.

I think that Fenelon is right on--one of the most important aspects of humility in our own lives is the effect that it has on the way we treat others.  True humility doesn't allow us to judge others, and it doesn't allow us to beat them down for what we see as their transgressions or their mistreatment of us.  Everyone has faults and shortcomings, but they become magnified when we judge them, and that magnification turns them into something worse than they really are.

If we are due nothing, then we won't feel resentment when we get nothing.  We won't be disturbed by other people's failure to give us what we think we have coming, which is often a misconception, anyways--either we really don't have anything coming, or it's not up to someone else to give it to us.

Humility helps us to live in balance.  If we're humble, we're able to let go of expectations and be satisfied with all that life has to offer, and that satisfaction helps us to live happy, healthy lives. 

More on humility.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What parts of ourselves and our minds tend to keep us from humility?

2.  Does our culture value humility in theory?  In practice?

1 year ago
  

May 9

  

Today's Quotation:

   
Ruby stepped toward him. "Edward," she said softly. It was
the first time she had called him by name. "Learn this from me.
Holding anger is a poison.  It eats you from inside.  We think that
hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us.
But hatred is a curved blade.  And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.
    Forgive, Edward.  Forgive.  Do you remember the lightness
you felt when you first arrived in heaven?"
    
Eddie did.  Where is my pain?
     "That's because no one is born with anger. And when we die,
the soul is freed of it. But now, here, in order to
move on, you must understand why you felt what
you did, and why you no longer need to feel it."
     She touched his hand.
     "You need to forgive your father."

Mitch Albom

from The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Today's Meditation:

When we're angry with someone else, especially for long periods of time, we do harm to ourselves.  It's such a simple concept to understand, but understanding it doesn't usually make it easier to control our anger.  After all, some things that people do to us or to others are so bad that we "have to" stay mad, we "have to" hold onto the righteous anger that results from their actions.  It sounds logical, but it's completely untrue.

When we're angry or resentful, we hurt ourselves.  It's worth repeating, over and over, every day of our lives, until we're free of such feelings.  Anger will never help us to move on to higher levels of self, for it stunts our growth and keeps us locked in negativity while we should be growing in positive ways.

Forgiveness helps us to cast away our anger.  So do compassion, love, and understanding.  We have so many gifts available to us that can help us to grow as people that are held in check by our negative emotions that we risk being held prisoner at low levels of being by them.

If we're going to move on, we can't take our anger with us.  We have to leave it behind or it will hold us down while we beat our wings in a futile effort to fly.  It takes a strong decision on our part, and it takes a lot of effort to follow through on that decision, which is probably why so few people are willing to make the commitment to try to live anger-free.  It's easier to be angry than it

1 year ago
  

May 8

  

Today's Quotation:

Resentment is the number one offender.  It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.  From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Today's Meditation:

If we're overweight and we want to do something about it, we watch what we eat, what we put into our bodies.  If we have an upset stomach, we watch what we put into our bodies so that our stomach can get better.  If we get a splinter, we take it out so that the harmful foreign object can't continue to hurt us.

There are so many things that hurt our spirit, though, that we just leave as they are, and we make little effort to get them out of our lives.  Something like resentment can eat us up inside like a cancer, turning our days and nights into miserable experiences, yet there's no such thing as a pair of tweezers that will pull out resentment or anger like there is to pull out splinters.  Besides, these things that hurt our spirits are invisible, and we really can't see them to pull them out.

But we have to take care of our spirits just as we take care of our bodies--in fact, if we do take good care of our spirits, we'll find that our bodies are much healthier as a result.  As will be our relationships with others, our work performance, our state of mind, and so much more.  Our stress levels will be lower and our outlook on life will be more positive, leading to even greater improvements in all aspects of our lives.

If you resent someone or something, you are doing no harm at all to the object of your resentment.  You are, however, harming your own body and spirit in a significant way, holding yourself back from improving yourself and your life.  Spiritual illness shows itself in physical ways, so if you can imagine a pair of resentment or anger or jealousy tweezers, use them to pull that negative part of yourself right out.  Your spirit--and your body--will appreciate the effort.

More on resentment.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What

1 year ago
  

May 8

  

Today's Quotation:

Resentment is the number one offender.  It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.  From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Today's Meditation:

If we're overweight and we want to do something about it, we watch what we eat, what we put into our bodies.  If we have an upset stomach, we watch what we put into our bodies so that our stomach can get better.  If we get a splinter, we take it out so that the harmful foreign object can't continue to hurt us.

There are so many things that hurt our spirit, though, that we just leave as they are, and we make little effort to get them out of our lives.  Something like resentment can eat us up inside like a cancer, turning our days and nights into miserable experiences, yet there's no such thing as a pair of tweezers that will pull out resentment or anger like there is to pull out splinters.  Besides, these things that hurt our spirits are invisible, and we really can't see them to pull them out.

But we have to take care of our spirits just as we take care of our bodies--in fact, if we do take good care of our spirits, we'll find that our bodies are much healthier as a result.  As will be our relationships with others, our work performance, our state of mind, and so much more.  Our stress levels will be lower and our outlook on life will be more positive, leading to even greater improvements in all aspects of our lives.

If you resent someone or something, you are doing no harm at all to the object of your resentment.  You are, however, harming your own body and spirit in a significant way, holding yourself back from improving yourself and your life.  Spiritual illness shows itself in physical ways, so if you can imagine a pair of resentment or anger or jealousy tweezers, use them to pull that negative part of yourself right out.  Your spirit--and your body--will appreciate the effort.

More on resentment.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What

1 year ago

  

May 4

  

Today's Quotation:

We are possessed by the things we possess.
When I like an object, I always give it to someone.
It isn't generosity--it's only because
I want others to be enslaved by objects, not me.

Jean Paul Sartre

Today's Meditation:

I don't think Jean Paul really wants bad things for other people.  At least, I don't read this passage that way.  It's like the line "Tonight thank God it's them instead of you" in "Do They Know It's Christmas"--it's not saying that we should be thankful that other people are starving, but that we're not.  In this case, it's important that we know whether or not we're enslaved by our material possessions because if we are, it's time to give them to someone who doesn't mind allowing material objects to define who they are, who doesn't see any problem with the idea of letting their happiness or level of contentedness depend on how many or what type of things they own.

Unfortunately, many people live their lives this way.  It's unfortunate because the "happiness" that comes from material things is more like a sense of satisfaction that affects the ego only, and not our deeper selves.  If I buy a new large-screen TV, it doesn't say a thing about what I am as a person; it says only that I have enough money (or credit) to buy such a television.  And when the new TV leads us to buy a new home theater system, and then new movies, and then a new living room set, then we start to see how we can be ruled by things.

If you've lost a particular material object and the loss is making you miserable, then that object had a hold on you.  Sure, it might have reminded you of something or someone special, but you still have those memories whether you have the thing or not.  It might have made you feel special in some way, but you're special whether you have the object or not.

In theory, we're free from our objects on the day we can give them all up with no problem--when we know that a fire that destroys our home and everything in it while we're at work really won't matter, because all the fire destroyed were things, and our lives aren't defined by the things we own--we're no slaves to our objects.

More on possessions.

Questions to ponder:

1. 

1 year ago
  

May 3

  

Today's Quotation:

No one can get inner peace by pouncing on it, by vigorously
willing to have it.   Peace is a margin of power around our
daily need.   Peace is a consciousness of springs too deep
for earthly droughts to dry up.   Peace is the gift not of
volitional struggle but of spiritual hospitality.

Harry Emerson Fosdick

Today's Meditation:

I like the term "spiritual hospitality."  Peace is something that we allow into ourselves, that we allow to happen in us.  It's not a question of exerting our will in order to be peaceful inside.  It's not a question of forcing peace to happen.  Rather, we have to let down the barriers that we've put up against peace, and we have to welcome peace into ourselves and make it such an important guest that it will stay as long as we wish it to stay.

Peace is inside you and me right now.  In fact, perfect peace is in there.  We know this because we know that something like peace can't come from outside of ourselves.  Other people can't give it to us, and it won't result naturally from a new job or a positive change in our financial situation.  Perfect peace is inside of you and inside of me, right here, right now.

Peace comes when we allow ourselves to unwrap it and to admire it and to believe in it.  It's like a gift that's been given to us, but that we've thrown it into the closet, still wrapped, and over time it's been covered up by all of our worries and cares and concerns.

Not a very hospitable thing to do to something as wonderful as peace, is it?  So take it out, dust it off, open the package, and believe that it's truly for you.  Let it be a part of your life with no questions asked--trust it, and love it.  It most definitely will love you back, unconditionally.

More on peace.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Where is your peace these days?  In your conscious
self, or buried somewhere in your subconscious?

1 year ago
  

May 2

  

Today's Quotation:

All of nature offers lessons on living, free of charge.  One morning I noticed a dead tree supporting many living things--fungus, vines, lichen--which taught me that even after death we can continue to support those who live on.  Living trees on our property teach other lessons.  One tree has grown around a barbed wire fence.  Another has grown around a nail, and a third through a chain link fence.  These trees teach me how to accept irritation, absorb the pain and grow around problems.  Nature teaches me how to find my place, grow toward the sunlight and bypass obstacles.  To survive, we must be able to change in response to whatever is required by the challenge of the moment.  Our bodies know this, but our minds often rebel when change is necessary.

Bernie S. Siegel

Today's Meditation:

Resilience and adaptation.  These are qualities that can be quite beneficial to us, but with which we tend to struggle greatly.  First of all, we tend to do our best to avoid situations in which we need to show these qualities, for they're very often unpleasant.  Why do we need to show our ability to adapt unless someone's put some barbed wire in our way?  Why do we need to adapt unless we need to grow around a nail or through a chain link fence?

If someone does put an obstacle in the way of the direction in which we're growing, we tend to complain a lot before we even think of adapting to the new obstacle.  We tend to say it's not fair, and the obstacle should be removed!  Unfortunately, I think, we far too often succeed in removing the barrier before we ever have to learn how to grow around it, and we end up learning nothing from a potentially great learning opportunity.

We can learn from the trees who stand their ground day after day, just doing what trees do.  They grow to be strong but flexible, and it's not their strength that allows them to withstand severe storms, but their flexibility.  When they meet an obstacle, they grow slowly but surely around it, without a single complaint (that we know of, anyway!).

This moment requires something from you, be it patience, understanding, strength, courage, or something else.  There are examples of all these things to be found in the natural world, role models for us to learn from and to take valuable lessons from.  The lessons are there for us, but the question is whether or not we see and accept them.

1 year ago
  

May 1

  

Today's Quotation:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows
into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness
into you, and the storms their energy, while cares
will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.

John Muir

Today's Meditation:

Nature can give us much more than we could ever imagine, but most of us tend not to be ready to take what it has to offer.  I think that's partly because we aren't taught how to take it and make it our own, how to let nature calm us down or lift our energy levels.  We learn to take it for granted, to see it as something apart from ourselves rather than something of which we're an important part.

I used to live in a place that had a beautiful forest about a mile away.  When I'd go running, the mile getting to the forest was okay, but as soon as I entered the woods, things changed.  My energy level would go up immediately, which I believe was caused by the higher level of oxygen in the air (after all, that's what trees do, isn't it--create oxygen that allows us to survive?).  The trees were great company as I ran, and the paths took me through beautiful scenes and showed me some amazing stuff, including deer, frogs, snakes, birds, and many other animals and parts of the natural world.

The forest gave much to me, but only because I was willing to accept it and acknowledge it.  I was able to forget for a time the cars and concrete and pollution and noises of the so-called "civilized" world, and enjoy the peace and serenity of the "wild."

And when we think about it this way, isn't it somehow surprising that we call our world of stress and hurry and pressure "civilized"?  And at the same time, we call the forests  and natural world that gives us so much peace the "wild"?  For some reason, the logic of this escapes me. . . .

More on nature.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What is the source of "Nature's peace"?

2.  How peaceful is m

1 year ago

  

April 30

  

Today's quotation:

I call that mind free which is not passively framed by
outward circumstances, which is not swept away by the
torrent of events, which is not the creature of accidental
impulse, but which bends events to its own improvement,
and acts from an inward spring, from immutable principles
which it has deliberately espoused.

William Ellery Channing

Today's Meditation:

Is your mind free?  Are you able to make the best of every situation, or at least see the best if the situation is out of your control?  Or do circumstances determine how you feel, how you react, and how you see yourself?

Part of the purpose of our life experiences, I'm certain, is to help us to learn to be independent of circumstances.  Yes, things happen, and many bad things happen to us and to those we love.  But when we finally reach a point at which our own peace of mind or our own self-esteem aren't affected by what happens to and around us, then we are close to becoming the people we were meant to be.  When we constantly react to situations, the person that other people see is depending on the circumstances to define him or herself.  We should be able to define ourselves on our own terms, not on the terms of circumstance or coincidence.

Yes, it is difficult.  It takes focus and effort to learn from events rather than to let them define us.  It takes courage and commitment to devote ourselves to our principles that will allow us to live freely and lovingly, and to maintain that devotion even in the face of diversity.

Life flows, life moves, life changes.  Part of our task while we're here on earth is to establish ourselves as islands in the stream, islands that will stand strong no matter what the weather, islands that will withstand the torrents of any kind of weather, living a life of principles that will keep us strong no matter what life is sending by us or to us.

Questions to consider:

Why are principles so important to a person who's trying to be happy?

Why do we so often let life "get the best of us"?

1 year ago
  

April 29

  

Today's quotation:

The differences in human life depend, for the most part, not on what people do, but upon the meaning and purpose of their acts.  All are born, all die, all lose their loved ones, nearly all marry and nearly all work, but the significance of these acts may vary enormously.  The same physical act may be in one situation vulgar and in another holy.  The same work may be elevating or degrading.  The major question is not "What act do I perform?" but "In what frame do I put it?"  Wisdom about life consists in taking the inevitable ventures which are the very stuff of common existence, and glorifying them.

Elton Trueblood

Today's Meditation:

Elton gives us a very high standard to reach for--that of making sure that the significance of our acts be of extremely high importance to us.  It's important that we think not just "What am I doing?," but also "Why am I doing it?"  Am I trying to help this person because the person needs my help, or am I trying to look good in the eyes of others?  Am I trying to convince this person to do something because I truly believe that it's best for him or her, or do I want to know there's someone else who agrees with me and who's doing the same thing I've done?

Our days are filled with actions and reactions, and it's up to us to determine the significance of them, to determine which of the motivating forces within us we follow, for the outcomes of our actions will be much different if we're true to what we know is best than if we allow a motivating force such as greed or resentment to cause us to act in a certain way.

What I do today can be holy, or it can be vulgar.  It can be truly helpful to others, or it can be helpful on my terms only, in my way only.  I have a lot to do today, and what I do can be truly positive, contributing to the good of the world, or it can be tainted by my desire to try to impose my own will into the results of my actions.  The meaning of what I do will long outlive the results themselves, whether they be positive or negative, and my hope is that my strong positive intentions win out and help to make my actions holy.

Questions to consider:

What sorts of "holy" actions have you contributed to the world?

Think of a recent action of yours--what was the significance of that action?  To yourself?  To someone else?  To the world in general?

1 year ago
  

April 28

  

Today's quotation:

The past is gone, and I don't know what's coming in the future.  It's obvious that if I want my life to be whole, to resonate with feeling and integrity and value and health, there's only one way I can influence the future:  by owning the present.  If I can relate to this moment with integrity, and then this moment with integrity, and then this moment with integrity, wakefully, then the sum of that is going to be very different over time, over many moments that stretch out into what we call a life, than a life
that is lived mostly on automatic pilot, where we are reacting and being mechanical and are therefore somewhat numb.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Today's Meditation:

I greatly fear a "mechanical" life in which everything I do, I do on automatic pilot.  Automatic pilot is good for airplanes, but not for me.  When you set the automatic pilot, you're telling the airplane or ship exactly where to go, based on longitude and latitude, and there's no room for variation at all.

Airplanes, though, always have specific destinations.  The pilots know exactly where they're supposed to go and what time they're supposed to get there.  They know the route they're supposed to be on because they've probably done that particular route before.  Automatic pilot for an airplane is fine, because the trip is purely functional and there's no need to do anything except get to the destination.

For us, though, automatic pilot would mean that we've already determined our end goal.  We've already decided what we want to do and be, and there would be no room for learning or changing our minds or ideas in the present moment, for that would drastically change our destination.  We wouldn't be allowed to deviate our journey based on new knowledge or new ideas that we learn along the way.  Our decisions of this moment would be determined by the desire to reach a pre-set destination or objective.

If we can look at this moment for what it is, though, and figure out what's best for this moment, we can build a solid base upon which our future will rest quite comfortably.  Perhaps this moment is one for rest, or a moment for getting some work done or a letter written.  We'll know what's right for us in any given moment if we just live them all with integrity, as Jon says, and if we're honest about what each moment needs from us.

Questions to consider:

1 year ago

  

  

April 27

  

Today's quotation:

The only way to live is to accept each minute
as an unrepeatable miracle, which is exactly
what it is:  a miracle and unrepeatable.

Storm Jameson

Today's Meditation:

How can each minute be an "unrepeatable miracle"?  Isn't that somehow cheapening the meaning of the word "miracle," if we say that every minute that we live is a miracle?  Aren't miracles supposed to be the super-special moments or actions or occurrences that happen only once in a while, if ever?  Well, that's what we've been led to believe, anyway--that miracles are the exception rather than the rule, and that we can live our whole lives without seeing a "genuine" miracle.

This perspective, though, is a perspective that focuses on lack, on the poverty of our experiences, rather than on the riches of the world in which we live.  Don't we define things and experiences for ourselves?  And if we do, doesn't the way we see things depend on us?

Einstein said that there are two ways of seeing the world: one as if nothing were a miracle, and the other as if everything were a miracle.

In this minute, we're alive.  Our eyes and ears and hearts and lungs are functioning, all on their own.  The computer's working and pulling this information from a server hundreds or thousands of miles away from you, so that you can read it in the comfort of your own home, or at your workplace.  Or perhaps it's been sent by email to your inbox, and all you had to do was click on the subject line to read it.  Your home or work is serviced by electrical lines that allow you to have light and heat and music and so much more.  Right now, trees and plants are producing oxygen so that we can breathe and continue to survive.

The web of life continues, even in this very moment, and there a

1 year ago
  

April 26

  

Today's quotation:

Do we need to make a special effort to enjoy the beauty of the
blue sky?  Do we have to practice to be able to enjoy it?  No, we
just enjoy it.  Each second, each minute of our lives can be like this.  Wherever we are, any time, we have the capacity to enjoy the
sunshine, the presence of each other, even the sensation of our breathing.  We don't need to go to China to enjoy the blue sky.
We don't have to travel into the future to enjoy our breathing.
We can be in touch with these things right now.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Today's Meditation:

"Each second of our lives can be like this."  Can it really be true that we can fill every single moment of our lives with wonder and appreciation for the beautiful things in our lives?  Is it possible for us to live our lives in a perpetual state of gratitude and appreciation?  To be honest, I believe it is.  What's the secret of reaching that point?  Lots and lots of effort, I think, in order to cast off our ideas of how we think things should be and accept things for the way that they are.  Only then will we see the beauty in everything and everyone around us.

When we do reach that point, we'll start to see just how sacred is the life that surrounds us all the time, just how beautiful everything around us is.  Emerson wrote once that we start to think that life would be great if we just lived in some exotic place like Venice, so we pack our bags and sell our stuff and move to Venice.  When we get there, though, we find that Venice is very nice, but we're still the person we were before we left--and life is very much the same for us, no matter how exotic our surroundings.  How we see the world is more important than what our surroundings look like.

Enjoyment and appreciation are matters of choice.  "Wherever we are, we have the capacity to enjoy the sunshine."  Wherever we are, and whenever we're there.  It's pretty simple, yet very hard to put into practice.  It takes work, and it takes constant effort.  It takes opening our minds and our hearts to the possibility of seeing--truly seeing--our surroundings and all that they hold.

Why should we have to go somewhere else to be happy, when there's so much right where we are that could make us so, if only we were to allow it all to make us happy?

Questions to consider:

1 year ago
  

April 25

  

Today's quotation:

People should never be ashamed to own they have been
in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that
they are wiser today than they were yesterday.

Alexander Pope

Today's Meditation:

I've always been afraid to make mistakes and have other people judge me because of them.  Somewhere along the line, I fell into the trap of thinking that mistakes were somehow wrong and that they somehow are a reflection of me as a person.  It's always been important to me to be "right," no matter what the circumstances.

This need to be right has put a huge burden on me, one that I never deserved to have to carry.  Part of it, I know, is cultural--in this age of information at a moment's notice, we've come to expect people to have answers--the right answers--at the drop of a hat.  I feel very fortunate that over the last decade or so I've been able to leave the need to be right behind me and move on with my life with a more healthy perspective.

I'm now willing not just to admit that I'm wrong, but also to stick my neck out with ideas or thoughts that may be wrong.  The possibility of being wrong no longer threatens my emotional well-being; if I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and I learn from that.

In Paul Young's song "Everything Must Change," he sings:  "I was never one to back out of an argument and say I was wrong / Even when I'd seen the other side, I'd hide my foolishness and carry on."  This line describes so many of us--continuing to argue even after it's very clear that we're wrong.  But what's wrong with being wrong?  Absolutely nothing, and it's even a great thing when we consider why we're wrong and learn from it.  If we take it too seriously and too personally, we're in trouble.  If we use it to help us to grow in wisdom, we're right on course to a better life.

Questions to consider:

Do you ever argue points about which you're not completely sure?  Why?

How often do you say "I was wrong"?
What are some barriers to saying so?

1 year ago

  

April 24

  

Today's quotation:

We distinguish the excellent person from the common
person by saying that the former is the one who makes
great demands on him or herself, and the latter
the one who makes no demands on him or herself.

Jose Ortega y Gasset

Today's Meditation:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a "common person," if that's what one wishes to be.  Many people don't feel the desire to excel, and they don't feel the need to make something "more" of themselves.  While such a lifestyle isn't one that most of us wish to follow, how can we criticize those who do wish to make that type of life for themselves, if that's what they wish?  In such a lifestyle, they certainly avoid many of the problems that other people face.

For the rest of us, though, we do have a desire for "excellence," however we choose to define it.  We have the desire to make something more of our lives than we currently have or are, and we have a need to achieve something that we see as special, something that contributes to the world on a certain level.  In order to do this, we have to make demands on ourselves--we have to work hard, we have to focus, we have to persist.

Culturally, though, we all see the effects of "grade inflation," which happens when someone who has done mediocre work is told that the work is exceptional.  The "C" paper is given an "A," thus rewarding average quality with the illusion of excellence.  We've blurred the line between exceptional and normal, high quality and mediocre quality, and sometimes it's hard to tell what truly is exceptional and what isn't.  Mediocre movies and books and songs go to the top of the charts, while high quality work often sells poorly.

All we can do, though, is look at ourselves and ask one very important question:   If I want my work to be exceptional, am I putting forth enough effort to make it so?  After all, our own work is the only work that we have any control over, and if we want to avoid allowing our lives to slip into "commonness," we have to be willing to work to keep them up at the levels we wish them to be at.

Questions to consider:

Why do some people wish to excel, while others don't care to do so?

1 year ago
  

April 23

  

Today's quotation:

Sometimes during the day, I consciously focus on some ordinary
object and allow myself a momentary "paying-attention."  This
paying-attention gives meaning to my life.  I don't know who
it was, but someone said that careful attention paid to anything
is a window into the universe.  Pausing to think this way, even for
a brief moment, is very important.  It gives quality to my day.

Robert Fulghum

Today's Meditation:

What gives quality to my day?  There are many things that do so:  When someone smiles at me, for one.  Many more people smile at me when I smile at them than otherwise.  Noticing a perfect drop of dew on a leaf or a blade of grass.  I see many more of those when I look for them.  Birds singing in the trees, filling the air with their beautiful songs.  I hear them well when I stop and listen to them.  A compliment on something that I've done well.  I get more compliments when I put a lot of work into something than when I do things quickly.  A heartfelt "thank you" adds quality to my day, too.  I get many more thank you's when I've done something for which someone thanks me than I do when I haven't done anything for anyone.

I see and feel and receive the things that give quality to my life when I actively try to see and feel and hear those things, and when I actively try to put quality into the world.  Paying careful attention is work, but it's not particularly hard work once you get used to it.  And much of the work consists in learning how to ignore all those other things that are competing for our attention, all those other things that don't give quality to our days.  The noise of cars and planes, the ads on radio and television, the negativity of political campaigns and the news--all of these things may have some importance to us, but if we pay too much attention to them, then where's the room or time for paying attention to the other things that add quality?

Questions to consider:

What adds quality to your life?  How many things that are completely free
and that you can't own (like a bird's song) add such quality?

What kinds of things compete for your time and attention?  Are they all worthwhile things?

Have you ever actually practiced paying attention?

For further thought:

1 year ago

  

April 22

  

Today's quotation:

As you take a few minutes each day to quiet your mind, you will
discover a nice benefit: your everyday, "ordinary" life will begin to
seem far more extraordinary.  Little things that previously went
unnoticed will begin to please you.  You'll be more easily satisfied,
and happier all around.  Rather than focusing on what's wrong with
your life, you'll find yourself thinking about and more fully enjoying
what's right with your life.  The world won't change, but your
perception of it will.  You'll start to notice the little acts of kindness
and caring from other people rather than the negativity and anger.

Jack Canfield

Today's Meditation:

Who ever defined "ordinary" in the first place?  And how did that word come to have such a negative connotation in our lives?  There's absolutely nothing wrong with the ordinary, with the things that we see and experience each day.  If there are problems with it, then they come from our perception of the ordinary things rather than from the ordinary itself.

Life is in itself extraordinary.  We have been blessed with a lifetime of experiences and people and things, yet we always seem to be waiting for something "better" to happen.  But really, who cares what's going to happen tomorrow?  The important thing is what's happening right now.  We may have grand plans for tomorrow, but there's no guarantee that they're actually going to happen.  But this moment, right here and right now, is happening.

Quiet your mind.  Relax.  Think peaceful thoughts for three or four minutes.  See the beauty in the things that surround you, see the wonder in the simple things.  When you truly are able to do that, your life will change.  Many of the cares that have dogged you for years will simply become something much less bothersome, and they won't affect your peace of mind any longer.

It truly is all up to you, and how you choose to see the world, the people in it, and the wonderful gifts that we've all been given.

Questions to consider:

Do you take time each day to relax and quiet your mind?
What are the potential benefits of doing so?

1 year ago
  

April 21

  

Today's quotation:

We are
all so bent and determined to get what we want, we miss
the lessons that could be learned from life's experiences.  Many
of my AIDS patients discovered that the last year of their lives
was by far their best.  Many have said they wouldn't have traded
the rich quality of that last year of life for a healthier body.
Sadly, it is only when tragedy strikes that most of us begin attending
to the deeper aspects of life.  It is only then that we attempt to go
beyond surface concerns--what we look like, how much money
we make, and so forth--to discover what's really important.


Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross

Today's Meditation:

I'm going to die one day.  I repeat this to myself very often, usually when I'm tempted not to do something that could be very important or that could help me to learn something new through a unique experience.  The "deeper aspects of life" are the most important ones we have, yet they are the ones that we avoid in favor of maintaining our illusions of security and consistency.  Neither true security nor consistency are possible in this great world of ours, yet we value both of them to an extreme degree it seems, and we pay for our attempts to maintain them with our neglect of the deeper, more important things.

What would you do tomorrow if you knew that you were going to die next week?

So what are you waiting for?

We would make that time valuable by telling those we love just what they mean to us.  We would look deep into ourselves to find out what we truly believe about life and love and peace and happiness.  We would find joy in the simple things that life has given us, and we would shine with that joy so that others would see us and wonder what it was that could make us so happy.  We would realize that the surface means very very little when all is said and done, and that the work that we've done to reach the depths of who we are is what has brought us to a fuller understanding of life.

1 year ago

  

April 20

  

Today's quotation:

Clay is fashioned into vessels; it is on their empty hollowness
that their use depends.  Doors and windows are cut out to
make a dwelling, and on the empty space within, its use
depends.  Thus, while the existence of things may be good,
it is the non-existence in them that makes them serviceable.

Lao Tzu

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes I forget to slow down and think about things more clearly.  I often forget to appreciate what people aren't as well as what they are.  I know someone who's very self-serving and unreliable, which can be a major annoyance.  But on the other hand, this person isn't rude, isn't argumentative, doesn't abuse alcohol or drugs, doesn't have an abusive personality. . . . and the list goes on.  What this person isn't--but easily could be--far outweighs the supposed "negative" traits that I see.

Even more frustrating to me is my tendency to want to see people fill their empty spaces.  This person should be more giving and should focus more on others, I think, but that thought is simply me trying to determine what another human being should be--and it doesn't work that way.  If generosity is one of this person's "empty spaces," then that's the way it is, and I don't have the right to judge him or her on that fact.  Perhaps this person will be the most generous person in the world five years from now, but he or she just hasn't learned the necessary lessons yet.

This world is a marvelous, magical place.  So much of what it gives us is absence and emptiness, because it knows just how important those two things are.  Socially, we tend to want to do, to fill our time and to judge things and people based on what's there, and not on what's not there.  If we were to judge a coffee cup that way, we'd be upset that there's so much empty, "wasted" space inside the cup.  But the cup itself has been crafted to create that empty space, for it's that empty space that makes it a cup.

Questions to consider:

What are some of your own most important empty spaces?

How can we learn to see and appreciate the empty spaces
in things and people?

1 year ago

  

April 19

  

Today's quotation:

The surest way to corrupt young people is to teach
them to esteem more highly those who think alike
than those who think differently.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Today's Meditation:

What are we doing to our children when we tell them that things can't be done in a certain way, simply because "that's not how it's done"?  What are we doing to them when we encourage them to "conform" because we want to spare them the pain and anguish that may result when others see them as "different"?  How many of the most important scientific, medical, and philosophical advances in the world never have happened because the people who had the ability to make those advances were convinced that the most important thing they could do was to think like everyone else and to do things the way they were told?

"Go with the flow," we're told; "Don't make waves."  "This is how you're supposed to act in this situation."  What purpose do these admonishments have other than to maintain the status quo, to keep comfortable the people who are comfortably established in their ways of doing things?

Of course, there are completely inappropriate ways of acting, especially those ways that bring harm or shame to others, but shame is often self-defined; one parent may be ashamed at his or her child's behavior, while another may be grateful that the child is demonstrating a bit of individuality and letting his or her personality shine through.

Am I corrupted if I believe that the people who think alike are more admirable and estimable than those who think for themselves?  If no one thought differently, then where would our innovations come from?  How would we ever advance beyond the status quo?  Corruption isn't just moral or ethical in nature--rust is a form of corruption, one that eats away at its host like a parasite, constantly making it less than it was the day before.  The belief that we should hold in greater esteem those who think alike is a form of rust, something that doesn't allow our young people to grow beyond the limitations already established by those who do think alike.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tell young people to think and do as others think and do?

1 year ago
  

April 18

  

Today's quotation:

We do not succeed in changing things according to our desire,
but gradually our desire changes.  The situation that we hoped
to change because it was intolerable becomes unimportant.
We have not managed to surmount the obstacle, as we were
absolutely determined to do, but life has taken us around it, led
us past it, and then if we turn around to gaze at the remote past,
we can barely catch sight of it, so imperceptible has it become.

Marcel Proust

Today's Meditation:

It's nice that we grow up.  As pleasant as the idea of holding on to our youth or childhood is, there are so many nice things about maturing and gaining a strong sense of perspective on the world.  Our perceived wants and needs change, and the things that used to seem so important to us, the things that we allowed to cause us so much pain, later seem to be completely unimportant.  All of the time that we spent worrying or agonizing over them now seems to be wasted time.  And hopefully, we mature enough not to repeat that kind of mistake.

One of the greatest joys of growing up and maturing is the strengthening of our ability to let go.  When we let go of our desire for things, our desire to have other people do and act as we wish them to, our desire to "take care" of things no matter what they are, we grow stronger, more peaceful, more aware, and more able to spread our peace to others.  We're able to pull away from competition for things that don't truly matter, saving our energy and our focus for things that do.

Today's desires one day will seem small and insignificant, but that doesn't diminish their importance for us today.  But we don't have to diminish something's importance to be able to face it with a clear mind and a readiness to take care of it.  If we can back off and look at it from a perspective of seeing a bigger picture, though, and realize that it won't be the end of the world if this desire goes unfulfilled, then we'll be able to put this desire in its proper place.

Questions to consider:

What do you want right now?  Do you want someone to change,
or do you want some material item?  Will getting this change you or help you as a person?

Think of a desire from two or three years ago.  How did it affect you then?  How important does it seem now?  Would it affect you in the same way today?

1 year ago
  

April 17

  

Today's quotation:

Slow down and take the time to really see.  Take a moment
to see what is going on around you right now, right where
you are.  You may be missing something wonderful.

J. Michael Thomas

Today's Meditation:

You may be surprised at just how many great things are around us all the time.  Sometimes we don't see them because we're in a hurry and we don't make time to see them.  Sometimes we don't see them because we get so used to them that we start to take them for granted and we lose sight of them.  We have some very beautiful pictures in our house, and I have to say that I don't usually see them because they're too familiar--every once in a while I'll notice one and stop and look at it, and ask myself why I don't see and recognize and appreciate its beauty every day.  It's there for me every day, but I'm not open to its presence.

It makes me wonder how many other things I miss.  The sad truth is that I'll never know, because I've missed them.  It feels sometimes as if I've been given some wonderful gifts that I just walk right by, never opening them or even noticing them.

Slow down.  Possibly the wisest words we'll hear in our lives.  "But I can't," we say, "because of all the demands life puts on me."  But then comes the question, "Just how pressing are these demands that we can't even take a few minutes to appreciate the world?  If they're that pressing, are they truly worth it?"

We think we can see because our eyes work, because we've been seeing almost since the day we were born.  But there's much more to seeing than having our eyes open.

Questions to consider:

Have you ever practiced something like seeing and noticing things?

What kinds of wonderful things are you missing right now?

1 year ago
  

April 16

  

Today's quotation:

One does not need to fast for days and meditate for
hours at a time to experience the sense of sublime mystery which constantly envelops us.  All one need
do is to notice intelligently, if even for a brief moment, a blossoming  tree, a forest flooded with
autumn colors, an infant smiling.


Simon Greenberg

Today's Meditation:

Awareness.  There's nothing that can beat it for teaching us important lessons about the world in which we live.  If I am aware, then every moment is a prayer, and everything I see is a miracle of life.  If I am aware, I know and appreciate all of the great gifts that I've been given, and I see the value in every person I know.  If I am aware, then the world starts to be a much different place--not a place in which I must fight to make my place in the world, but a beautiful place that welcomes me to take that place, and is grateful that I'm willing to do so.

There is a sense of sublime mystery which constantly surrounds us.  There is the wonder and the awe-inspiring order of the world that could teach us so many things about how we fit into the world, if only we'd take the time to open our eyes, clear our minds, pay attention, and listen.  The spring breeze tells us secrets of the winter past and the summer to come; the crying of the baby tells us of the trials of infancy and the power of comforting words and actions; the song of the bird teaches us of the blessing of being able to hear and of the hope of the new day.

All we need do is notice intelligently.  All we need do is allow ourselves to slow down and look and listen and feel, focusing on the natural world around us rather than the world of tasks and information into which we throw ourselves day after day.  We can experience the beauty of the world, but we have to decide to do so, and we have to allow ourselves to follow through on that decision.

Questions to consider:

How many miraculous things have you noticed so far today?  Now that you're thinking about it, how many miraculous things surround you right now?

What keeps you from noticing such things "intel

1 year ago
  

April 15

  

Today's quotation:

Join the great company of those who make the barren places of life
fruitful with kindness.  Carry a vision of heaven in your hearts, and you
shall make your name, your college, the world, correspond to that
vision.  Your success and happiness lie within you.  External conditions
are the accidents of life, its outer wrappings.  The great, enduring
realities are love and service. Joy is the holy fire that keeps our
purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.  Resolve to keep happy,
and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulty.

Helen Keller

Today's Meditation:

Helen Keller tells me that it's all within my control.  That what I do and the way I approach the world determine whether or not I'm happy, whether or not I'm successful.  My life and my happiness are not a result of the "accidents of life," but a result of the "vision of heaven" that I carry in my heart.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not all that good at consistently carrying such a vision.  I am quite good at seeing things in a somewhat negative way, at being judgmental and jumping to conclusions.  I miss many opportunities to serve others, mostly because my mind and self are caught up in something else, and I completely miss the chances that so often come my way.

But when I read passages such as this one, I'm reminded that the world I live in corresponds to what I put into it.  It's a mirror, and if I face it with darkness and want, then that's what it gives back to me.  If I bring to it kindness and thoughts of success and love and service and joy, guess what the world gives back to me?  Sometimes it takes a while, because the world gives back in its own time, but it does come.  God's the same way--he does things in his time, because he knows when the best time for us has truly arrived.

If I face the world with an attitude of want and boredom and criticism, then guess what the world gives back?  On Christmas and birthdays, we don't give crappy presents to the people we love, so why would we give a gift of a crappy attitude to this life that has given us so much?  Especially when we know that if we give a crappy attitude, that's what life is going to reflect right back at us?

Questions to consider:

1 year ago

  

April 14

  

Today's quotation:

There is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized
by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before
you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature
instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances
complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

George Bernard Shaw

Today's Meditation:

George may seem a little harsh here on the people who spend their time whining and complaining that life isn't fair and that there's nothing to do, but when you consider just how high the stakes are it seems that harshness may be the most effective way to pull some people out of their complaining mode and into an active one.

There is so much to do in this world, so many ways to contribute.  And we don't always have to be actively contributing--sometimes finding a quiet place and reading for a few hours is the best thing we can do for ourselves and others.  We all have purposes for being here--one of our most important tasks is to find the purpose or purposes that we can and should be fulfilling now, and get to it.  That's how we find happiness, by doing something that brings us fulfillment and that serves other human beings.  Happiness doesn't just come to us when we sit around in the same spot, waiting for it to come and do its thing in our lives.

I'm not a professional runner, but I do like to run in races.  And one thing that I know is that at the end of any race, I want to have nothing left.  I want to know that I gave my all out there on the track or on the course, and I know that the more I have left in me when I finish, the faster I could have gone--but didn't--while I was running.  I know that once the race is over I'll have time to recover, but I won't have the chance to go back out there and improve my performance.

Life is like that.  We get one shot in the big picture, but in the little daily picture, we get chance after chance after chance to excel and to make something special of our lives and of the people we are.  When my life's over, I want to look back and smile and say "I did all I could, I think, with what I was given, and even more than others who were given similar situations.  I truly believe I gave life the best I had to give it."

Questions to consider:

1 year ago
  

April 13

  

Today's quotation:

Joy is what we are, not what we must get.
Joy is the realization that all we want or need in life has been
etched into our souls.  Joy helps us see not what we are "going
through," but what we are "growing to"--a greater sense of understanding, accomplishment, and enlightenment.  Joy reveals
to us the calm at the end of the storm, the peace that surpasses
the momentary happiness of pleasure.  If we keep our
minds centered on joy, joy becomes a state of mind.

Iyanla Vanzant

Today's Meditation:

Joy always has been one of the most difficult concepts for me to comprehend.  The way I see joy, it's a feeling of complete happiness, peace, and celebration, and something that seems to be out of reach for me.  Seems to be.  I've learned as an adult that as an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, one of the tendencies that I'll always have is that of not trusting happiness and positive feelings--there's something in my mind that tells me that they won't last, so I'd better not let go and give myself up to them.  I believe that's why I find joy so hard to conceive of--I've never let myself go to experience it fully, so it remains elusive.

As time goes on, though, I'm beginning to think that I'm joyful much more than I think.  When Iyanla says that "joy is what we are," I start to think that I determine each day my own level of joy, and that it's up to me to decide just how joyful I'm going to be.  I'm also learning that joy isn't the ecstatic feeling that comes as a result of those special moments when everything seems to come together perfectly, but it's more the feeling of peace that comes to me when I feel at one with the world.

In short, I've always seen joy as a sort of pinnacle of happiness, a running-through-a-meadow-while-singing-at-the-top-
of-my-lungs feeling, while in reality I may be expecting far too much from it.  The idea that joy can be a state of mind for me is somewhat liberating, and I can go about looking for joy in many more places and situations, knowing that it has as much to do with what I bring to it as it does with what I find.

Questions to consider:

Are you joyful?  Is it easy to be so?

Which situations bring you the most joy?  Are these the situations in which you find you

1 year ago
  

April 12

  

Today's quotation:

Whether or not we realize it each of us has within the ability to
set some kind of example for people.  Knowing this, would you
rather be the one known for being the one who encouraged others,
or the one who inadvertently discouraged those around you?

Josh Hinds

Today's Meditation:

Are you a role model?  Yes, you are.  We all are, actually.  The major difference between the so-called "good" role models, though, and the "bad" ones is that the good ones have made a conscious decision to be role models.  They have decided that they are going to live in such a way as to be examples of love and kindness and helpfulness, as well as strong morals and ethics.  They know that others see them all the time, and they've decided just what they want others to see.

And they haven't decided to model these qualities for their own gain.  Instead, they know that if they can show others the positive effects of leading positive lives, then others can decide to emulate them and make their own lives much more positive and fulfilling.

If someone--and especially a young person who is still learning many of the basic aspects of life--sees me constantly complaining and being negative, he or she gets the idea that life is something to complain about, and that person very often will look for things that reinforce this idea.  This person very likely could become someone who complains and focuses on the negative side of life.  Likewise if I constantly criticize others, or if I say that life is unfair, or if I gossip or break the law or hurt others--I'm setting an example.  And all of these things can be very discouraging for the people who are watching me because I'm a part of their lives.

I would much rather know that I've tried to model the positive, that I've been loving and encouraging, and that others think positively when they see my model.  If I am to be that way, I have to make a conscious decision to be so, and I have to stick to it.  Otherwise, who knows what I teach others?

Questions to consider:

Are you a role model? 

1 year ago
  

April 11

  

Today's quotation:

One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach
out to the risk of living with both arms.  One has to embrace the
world like a lover.  One has to accept pain as a condition of existence.
One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing.  One
needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance
of every consequence of living and dying.

Morris L. West

Today's Meditation:

Morris tells us something very important for our lives:  that we have to stop trying to avoid pain and unpleasantness if we're going to get the most out of life.  Freud claimed that the avoidance of pain was one of our greatest motivational forces (along with seeking pleasure), and that we spend much of our time doing our best to avoid the "negative" things that life can bring our way.

If we follow this path, though, we can say good-bye to learning.  We can count on not growing any longer, not changing, not becoming better people than we were yesterday.  Our best and deepest learning takes place as a result of the difficult moments and periods that we make our way through.  Our next relationship will be stronger because of what we've learned from the failure of this one.  My next attempt to start a business will be more successful because of the mistakes I've made this time.  I took a great risk and it came up short, but I least I didn't just sit around doing nothing, waiting for life to bring success to me.

"Total acceptance of every consequence."  Boy, does that sound difficult.  I know that he doesn't mean acceptance to include the concept of approval, but just an acknowledgement that this consequence has happened, and that it can't be changed.  If we can act this way, then nothing in life can broadside us unexpectedly and take away our will to live and learn and continue--we'll know that doubt and darkness are just as much a part of our lives as anything else, and our lives will reflect that knowledge in the way that we respond to the risks and the setbacks with acceptance and a willingness to continue reaching out to embrace life.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things do you tend to avoid?  Why?

What are the hardest things for you to deal with?  How might you make them easier to accept as a part of your life?

1 year ago
  

April 10

  

Today's quotation:

This is the art of courage: to see things as they are and
still believe that the victory lies not with those who avoid the bad,
but those who taste, in living awareness, every drop of the good.

Victoria Lincoln

Today's Meditation:

There is so much good in this world that we simply do not see.  If we were to believe that the world is a reflection of our newspapers and newscasts, it would be a world full of crimes and death and destruction.  But when we consider how many days we've lived on this planet and how few real crimes we've actually witnessed (depending on where we live, of course), and when we consider the number of good and kind actions that we've seen that never have been in the papers, we start to see the world in a different way.

The good is here--it's all around us, just waiting for us to tap into it, to take from it, to contribute to it.  It's in people who care and who give all they can to others.  It's in the small acts of kindness and mercy that we see regularly.  It's in the people who volunteer to help others and the people who make a living by helping others, like doctors and firemen and police officers and teachers.

We can spend our lives avoiding bad things, doing our best not to have the unpleasant aspects of the world make their marks on our lives, but if we try to do so, we'll be backing away from life.  And when we back away from it we're backing away from the good as well as the bad.  Our greatest successes have come as the result of learning through many failures and setbacks, and it's important that we keep in mind that what we might see as bad may be a necessary stepping stone to get to the good.

Questions to consider:

Have you ever had something that you thought was bad turn out to be good?  How did that make you feel about your original evaluation?

Are there times when the need to avoid the bad outweighs the possibility
of missing potential good things?

How can we strengthen our awareness to include more of the good things of this world?

For further thought:

1 year ago

  

April 9

  

Today's quotation:

The hallmark of courage in our age of conformity is the capacity
to stand on one's own convictions--not obstinately or defiantly
(these are gestures of defensiveness, not courage) nor as a gesture
of retaliation, but simply because these are what one believes.

Rollo May

Today's Meditation:

What do I believe, and what do I believe in?  These aren't questions that are covered in school, usually.  They aren't questions that we tend to be asked in job interviews or in casual conversation.  Many people think that their beliefs are limited to religion--that their own personal ideas of what God is or isn't form the core of their belief systems.  Many others adopt the beliefs of other people--especially religious leaders--as their own, as they seem to be unable to develop their own core beliefs and live by them.

Rollo is talking about living by our beliefs, but it's important that we have beliefs first.  It's important that we recognize them and value them for what they are, and then put them into practice in our lives.  If I believe that criticizing others in a negative way is bad, then not only must I not do that, but I have to state my beliefs when I see other people doing so.  I don't have to attack them or tell them they're wrong or make them feel bad--after all, I may be wrong in my interpretation of a situation--but I do have to stand up for my convictions while respecting the fact that other people have other sets of convictions.

Today I must pay attention to what I see going on around me, and I have to be aware of how things fit with or contradict my convictions.  I must see these things because our convictions always are a work in progress, and I can't refine them and allow them to evolve if I don't pay attention to them.  Other people don't have to live their lives according to my convictions or beliefs, but if I don't live my own life according to them, then my life becomes much less rich, much less full, and I have only my own inattention to my beliefs to blame.

Questions to consider:

Do you regularly examine your own convictions on certain issues?

What's the danger in comparing your convictions and beliefs with those of other people?