START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
Group Discussions
label:  
 
|
« Back to topics
1 year ago
  

February 25

  

Today's Quotation:

People who won't help others in trouble "because they got into
trouble through their own fault" would probably not throw
a lifeline to a drowning person until they learned whether
that person fell in through his or her own fault or not.

Sydney J. Harris

Today's Meditation:

I've been the person who got into trouble on my own, through my own mistakes, and believe me, some help would have been appreciated at those times.  But I also know that it's very important to learn how to deal with adversity on our own, without someone else bailing us out whenever we get into trouble, so therein lies an interesting dilemma--how do we decide when our help is necessary and when our help is damaging?  Are we going to let someone else founder and lose their faith in people, or are we going to become enablers by pulling them out of their own mess?

I don't believe that the answer is often easy to find.

I think that what Sydney says is important, but it simplifies a very complex situation.  There have been times when I would have loved to help someone else, but I recognize that allowing that person to work his or her way out of the problem can be one of the best learning experiences possible on that person's journey to self-realization.  Stepping in and pulling that person from the mess can be just my desire to play hero coming out, and it can hurt that person's growth in the long run.

Discernment is the key, it seems, and if we can accurately judge the situation, then we can take appropriate action.  If our own children have been careless and have broken something, it's important that we not make amends for them--taking care of the situation on their own will help them to grow up to be responsible people.  If someone at work was carrying too much and dropped it all, what's the harm in helping them pick it up?  They probably will learn their lesson whether they get help or not.  If a life or someone's health is at risk, then we must always step in, unless it would put our own lives or the lives of even more people at risk.

I often wonder where I would be if someone had helped in certain situations, and I never would have learned what it took to get out of them on my own.  It might have been very bad for me.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What kind of situations might we not want help to get out of?

2.  What kinds of signs can we look for to figure out if helping
someone else is truly the best thing that we can do?

3.  How often when we help are we just making people
more dependent on others?

For further thought:

It is the individual who is not interested in his or her fellow
people who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides
the greatest injury to others.  It is from among such
individuals that all human failures spring.

Alfred Adler

1 year ago
  

February 23

  

Today's Quotation:

One is happy as a result of one's own efforts--once one
knows the necessary ingredients of happiness--simple tastes,
a certain degree of courage, self-denial to a point, love
of work, and, above all, a clear conscience.

George Sand

Today's Meditation:

The way George puts it, it doesn't seem like the effort it takes to find happiness (or to bring it out of ourselves) is all that difficult.  Is it true that if I stick to these principles, I'll be happy?  Of course, there is no true recipe for happiness, but this does come close, doesn't it?

Simple tastes seem to come up in every definition of happiness that I see.  I think that comes from our tendency to feel dissatisfied when our elegant or complex tastes leave us always wanting more.  And of course, we have to be brave if we are to allow ourselves even to have simple tastes--after all, what will others say when they see how simple our things are?  Besides, to have a clear conscience we must be courageous enough to make some difficult decisions from time to time.

Self-denial is also important, because if we don't practice it we risk becoming self-indulgent, and then nothing will satisfy us.  It's also important for our health, when we look at that last piece of cake and remember the weight we've been gaining, or how high our cholesterol levels or blood pressure have been going.  Self-denial also frees up resources that we can use for other people in our lives--what we don't spend on ourselves can go to the greater good, if we so choose.

Love of work can be the hardest, for many of us end up taking the first job we can get, happy to have work and an income.  It's often hard to love that kind of work.  Not all of us are blessed enough to be doing work we love, and that's where courage comes in again--finding that work and doing what we need to be able to do it.  No matter what our work, though, we can love it if we continue to remind ourselves that we're filling other people's needs by doing it.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What concrete steps can you take today to work
your way towards happiness?

2.  Can you think of any other ingredients for happiness
that don't depend on other people's actions or feelings?

3.  If these are the ingredients for happiness, what are some of the
obstacles that may be keeping us from bringing it out in ourselves?

For further thought:

Happiness cannot come from without.  It must come from within.
It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us
which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do,
first for the other person and then for ourselves.

Helen Keller

1 year ago
  

February 22

  

Today's Quotation:

The secret to happiness is this:  Let your interest be as wide as
possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that
interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.

Bertrand Russell

Today's Meditation:

I used to dislike The Simpsons.  I had never seen an entire episode of the show, but I had heard and seen enough to be sure that I didn't like it.  Then I watched a couple of episodes all the way through, and I was amazed at just how funny and clever the show actually was.  I was also amazed at just how closed-minded and limited I had been to reject a show that I had never seen.  I've done this with other things, too, including movies, music, people, authors, websites--you name it.  I've later been proven wrong in my judgment and willingness to reject something due to first impressions.

Have you ever suggested something that you know to be wonderful to someone else, only to have that person say, "I'm not interested in that"?  It can be one of the most frustrating things in the world because you know just what that person is missing, and you know that it's great.  But they won't have anything to do with it.

Do we do that ourselves, though?  Even if we aren't reacting to another person's suggestion, don't we reject things because it's not in our field of interest?  How many great learning experiences do we miss out on because we keep our interests artificially narrow, and we react to things that are different or somehow threatening by keeping them out, pushing them away from us, at least mentally if not physically.

We don't have to be interested in everything.  I truly don't care who wins the next NASCAR race or the NBA championship, but I do know enough about both sports to be able to understand a conversation that I might be a part of.  Many people in the world are interested in such things, and if I can at least understand where they're coming from without being judgmental, then we have a touchpoint, something in common that will allow us to make at least some sort of contact.

Keeping our interests wide and varied keeps us wide and varied, and opens up many doors that otherwise would be closed.

Questions to ponder:

1.  In what ways do you limit your own interests?

2.  How do you feel when someone judges your own interests
as "stupid" or a "waste of time"?

3.  How easy is it to be friendly rather than hostile?

For further thought:

The life that is sharing in the interests, the welfare, and the happiness
of others is the one that is continually expanding in beauty and
in power and, therefore, in happiness.

Ralph Waldo Trine

1 year ago
  

February 21

  

Today's Quotation:

I think that all human systems require continuous renewal.  They rigidify.
They get stiff in the joints.  They forget what they cared about.
The forces against it are nostalgia and the enormous appeal
of having things the way they always have been, appeals to
a supposedly happy past.  But we've got to move on.

John W. Gardner

Today's Meditation:

How have you "renewed" yourself today?  Have you done anything new or different that you might have feared doing in the past?  Have you read something that gives you a new perspective to consider, or watched a movie that may be at odds with some of your deepest-held beliefs?  Have you listened to a person with whom you don't really agree, or considered a newspaper editorial that expressed an opinion that doesn't sit well with your own?  There are many ways that we can grow and move on, and if we don't do so, we risk a great deal.

I had a friend once who lived in the past--all of her conversations revolved around times that had been years earlier.  She listened to music from that time, and she remembered the movies from that time.  Mostly she talked of people she knew and things that happened in high school.  Ironically enough, to hear her speak those times weren't all that good to her--they weren't happy, and a lot of very negative things happened to her.  But somehow, they were safe to her, and focusing on the past allowed her to deal with her todays.

But she wasn't growing, and it seemed as if her mind had stagnated, caught in some sort of pool of murky, dirty water that didn't flow at all, just lay there in a puddle that grew less and less fresh and inviting every day.

We need renewal.  We need to refresh ourselves--we can't just assume that it will happen automatically without any effort on our part.  Some of the most important lessons that I've learned have come from sources that I thought I would hate because their views were so completely different than my own.  But I don't want to rigidify and become a person who hangs on to a "supposedly happy past," not seeing the beauty of the present.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Why is it so tempting to try to keep things
the same way they've always been?

2.  Do we learn when we're comfortable, doing the same things as always?
When and how do we learn the most important lessons of our lives?

3.  How often does taking a risk turn out to be a complete disaster?

For further thought:

It seems necessary to completely shed the old skin before the
new, brighter, stronger, more beautiful one can emerge. . . .
I never thought I'd be getting a life lesson from a snake.

Julie Ridge

1 year ago
  

February 20

  

Today's Quotation:

If there is righteousness in the heart there will be beauty in the character.
If there be beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

Anonymous

Today's Meditation:

What's in my heart?  I know there's some righteousness, but I'm not sure that it's always there for everyone to see.  Other things get in its way, and thus it's possible that the beauty in my character isn't able to shine as it should be able to shine.  Does that mean that its lack of ability to shine affects my character?  Probably.  Which means that my character's lack of ability to shine affects my home, and so on.

This is a pretty strong statement, for it puts the responsibility for world peace squarely on the shoulders of all of us as individuals.  If we can claim the righteousness that is in our hearts and allow it to be our guiding force in life, we can ultimately cause peace in the world.  The righteousness is there, but we have to make it one of the guiding forces of our lives if it's to have any power at all.  It's like a car in the driveway--if we don't turn it on and put it in gear and give the engine gas, then where can it take us?

I have to keep in mind, though, that there is no "universal righteousness."  What is righteous for me may not be so for you, and that's okay, as long as we're not hurting others.  We each have our own hearts and thoughts and drives, and we must be true to what we know inside to be true.  While priests and ministers can talk a lot about what constitutes righteousness, the bottom line is what we know in our hearts to be right and true.

Find the righteousness in your heart, and live by it.  It's not always the easiest thing to find, because fear and doubt do their best to keep it hidden, but it is always there.  And if we live by it, we're giving a great gift to the world.

Questions to ponder:

1.  How can one person's righteousness affect the entire world?

2.  Do we always see the results of righteous living?
What might some of the unseen results be?

3.  Do you know people who live righteous lives?  What are their lives like?

For further thought:

We all have choices to make about the quality of our presence and
how we will affect those around us.  The quality of our presence is
dependent not on what we can or cannot “do” but on the essence
of who we are and how we relate to others.  Becoming the presence
we would like to be is an intentional work.  It grows while
we make peace with ourselves and with life.

Sallirae Henderson

1 year ago
  

February 19

  

Today's Quotation:

Self-respect cannot be hunted. It cannot be purchased.
It is never for sale. It cannot be fabricated out of public relations.
It comes to us when we are alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places,
when we suddenly realize that, knowing the good, we have done it;
knowing the beautiful, we have served it;
knowing the truth, we have spoken it.


Whitney Griswold

Today's Meditation:

While I've always considered myself to be high on self-respect, I know that the reality of my world is a bit different than I see it.  Self-respect isn't always my strongest suit, and I often sell myself short when I consider my own actions, thoughts, and deeds.  It's not something that I do consciously, but the negative thoughts have come nonetheless.

I'm getting much better at it since I started making decisions on less of a "what-do-I-get-out-of-it" basis and more along the lines of Whitney's last, long sentence above.  If I know what needs to be done, if I know what's right, then there's only one possible action, isn't there?  Such a thing is easy to say, but far more difficult to act on, and the less we're able to act on such knowledge, the harder it is to come by self-respect.

My somewhat selfish decisions haven't been the result of greed, I know, but of fear--fear that I won't get an opportunity to do something again, fear that I won't have the chance to get something again, fear that I'll lose the chance to get to know someone or something or some place.  Knowing that, it's easy enough not to judge myself harshly, but in the absence of doing the good and serving the beautiful and speaking the truth, it's still very difficult to build self-respect.

My first step is to accept myself exactly as I am and as I have been.  My second step is to make decisions based on my conscience and my morals and my ethics, for these are my guides in life, and though they may change in perspective as I grow and learn, they still lead me true for who I am right here, right now.  And once I build my self-respect, then I can start showing love, compassion, and respect for others.  But not until then.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What are some of the barriers that we face in building self-respect?

2.  How do others affect our own self-respect?
How can we deal with the way they affect us?

3.  Can we truly respect others if we do not respect ourselves?

For further thought:

The Hasidic rabbi, Zuscha, was asked on his deathbed what he thought the kingdom of God would be like.  He replied, "I don't know.  But one thing I do know.  When I get there I am not going to be asked, 'Why weren't you Moses?  Why weren't you David?'  I am only going to be asked, 'Why weren't you Zuscha?  Why weren't you fully you?'"

Alan Loy McGinnis

1 year ago
  

February 18

  

Today's Quotation:

We can be thankful to a friend for a few acres or a little
money; and yet for the freedom and command of the whole
earth, and for the great benefits of our being, our life,
health, and reason, we look upon ourselves
as under no obligation.


Marcus Annaeus Seneca

Today's Meditation:

When I look up at the sky and see the clouds that bring us rain, what are my thoughts?  Do I think of the annoyance of the rain and the cold, or do I think of the importance of the moisture in this world?  When I walk past some trees or bushes, do I think about the oxygen that they put into the air so that we can breathe and survive?  When I go for a drive and see beautiful landscapes, do I feel any sort of obligation for the beauty, or do I just look at it and enjoy it?

I don't think Seneca was talking about an obligation to go out and save the earth, even though that would be a noble thing to attempt.  No, his first sentence mentions being thankful, and his next then talks about obligation.  He takes the idea of gratitude even further than most people do--it's no longer an option that would enrich our lives, but an obligation that will reinforce our relationship with all that we have on this planet.

If my gratitude is an obligation, then I must be thankful for everything within my realm of being.  If I'm not thankful, then I'm doing this world a disservice, and this world certainly doesn't deserve for me to do it a disservice after all that it's done for me.

I can think.  I can see.  I can feel.  These are truly miraculous gifts, and I must be thankful for them if I'm to live my life fully.  I can get into my car and go anywhere that I need to go, even driving to the airport to catch a plane to go to the other side of the world.  Just knowing that this is possible is something to be thankful for.

If Marcus were standing right here and he were to see me not be thankful for some wonderful gift, I'm sure he would tell me that I'm not living up to my obligations, and that I'm less of a person for neglecting my duty.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Is it being to hard on ourselves to expect us to be grateful for everything?

2.  When was the last time you thanked the planet
for something it gave you?

3.  Are thanks to inanimate or abstract
objects (the world, for example) wasted?

For further thought:

Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted--
a paved road or a washing machine?  If you concentrate on finding
what is good in every situation, y

1 year ago
  

February 17

  

Today's Quotation:

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.
It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today's Meditation:

I'm trying to develop an attitude that reflects gratitude for everything.  It's a strange concept, I know, because what happens when I get sick?  Am I supposed to be thankful for the sickness?  Well, when I think about it, I can be thankful that my body's immune system fights off the invading germs or virus.  I can be thankful for the time I have to recover, and the people who have spent so much time and energy doing research and development so that there are medicines that will help my body.  There was a time when pneumonia was often fatal, yet in our era we have antibiotics that kill it before it can kill us.  And there are still some countries where people don't have ready access to those medicines.

Life becomes rich when I'm thankful.  I see the things I have and receive for what they are--blessings that enrich my life.  I can choose not to see life this way, and then I'd take everything for granted.  But what's the use in that?  It would just turn me into a self-absorbed person who doesn't have any appreciation for the efforts of others.

I've learned through experience the value of a heartfelt "thank you," even if no one ever hears it.  I can say thanks for a hot bubble bath at the end of a long day, and those thanks change my perception ever so slightly, keeping me focused on the fact that I have such blessings in my life.  The thanks keep me reminded that I'm not in this life on my own--my life is intertwined with the lives of so many others, people who do things for me whom I'll never know.  Who made that computer for you?  Who put it together?  Who wrote the programs that make it run?  Who shipped it to where you live?

So thank you for who you are and for all of your contributions to this world in which we live.  Thanks for focusing on the positive, for the more of us who do so there are, the more positive life and energy there will be in the world, and eventually it will grow so much that it will be impossible to ignore.  My thanks to you enriches my life, just as your thanks to your neighbor or waitress or clerk enriches yours.

Questions to ponder:

1.  How many things do we have to be thankful for?

2.  How many people could we thank for those things
if we were to research their origins?

3.  What effect does saying "thank you" have on your life?

For further thought:

When awareness of everything you have dawns in you, how do you feel?  Don't you have an extraordinary abundance to be thankful for?  Gratitude is being thankful, grateful for what you have.  With gratitude firmly rooted in your heart, you are humble and open and receptive and inducing your Benefactor to shower you with more gifts, physical and spiritual.  And it's more than gifts!  A grateful heart is a grace-full heart.  A grace-full heart is one that is open, alive, and growing toward communion with its Benefactor.

Do you realize that you have been given exactly what you need just so that you may proceed with the spiritual lessons and growth that you, you alone, need to master? 

1 year ago
  

February 16

  

Today's Quotation:

Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment
that will never be again . . .  And what do we teach our children?  We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France.

When will we also teach them what they are?

We should say to each of them:  Do you know what you are?  You are a marvel.  You are unique.  In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you.  Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move.

You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven.  You have
the capacity for anything.  Yes, you are a marvel.  And when you grow up,
can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel?

You must work - we must all work - to make the world worthy of its children.

Pau Casals

Today's Meditation:

Did you know this?  You are a marvel!  You are a miraculous creation on a miraculous planet, completely unique and wonderfully crafted.  Do you give yourself credit for that?  Probably not--most of us don't.  But that's what you are, and there's no way to deny that fact.

Even if you don't become a Shakespeare or a Beethoven, you still are a marvel with wonderful potential.  Most people's poetry is in how they live, not what they write.  Most people's symphonies are in their relationships and in the way they help other people to deal with their problems and in how they share their lives with others.  A symphony depends on harmony and cooperation, as does a well crafted life.  If you don't see yourself as a marvel, though, it can be very difficult to give yourself credit for being able to create a symphony of your life, to find the harmony that allows our lives to flow smoothly all through our days, no matter what the outside throws at us.

Many people's misery is a result of the way that they see themselves, the way that other people have told them they are for so long.  What they don't seem to realize is that the other people have a very limited view, a limited way of seeing the world, and when they tell anyone anything about themselves, they're bound to have very incomplete information.

You are a marvel.  Are you able to say "I am a marvel" and believe it?  You must be able to do so if you're to be able to live this life you've been given fully and happily, and if you're to be able to give to the rest of the world pieces of the marvel that you are.  You must believe it, because it's true--you are a marvel.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Why is it so hard for many people to believe that they are marvels?

2.  Why has each of us been given our own unique beauty?

3.  What would life be like if we all believed in our beauty and
we were all able to treat others as if we believed in it?

For further thought:

1 year ago

  

February 15

  

Today's Quotation:

Only the wise person draws from life, and from every stage of it,
its true savour, because only he or she feels the beauty, the
dignity, and the value of life.  The flowers of youth may fade,
but the summer, the autumn, and even the winter of human existence have their majestic grandeur, which the wise
person recognizes and glorifies.

Henri Frederic Amiel

Today's Meditation:

Give me wisdom over knowledge any day!  Give me the ability to appreciate this world we're in, to understand my fellow human beings and be able to help them in concrete ways, to be able to give and receive and live and love.  I know plenty of people who are incredibly book smart, but who don't feel life because they're always too busy analyzing it and trying to find purposes and reasons.  This kind of approach is important to us as a species, but in balance with other approaches, with other views.

If I'm wise, I won't worry about growing old, for I know that there's a time for everything.  I won't worry about whether someone likes me or not, for I know that all things can't be.  I won't worry about the things that I don't have, for not having them diminishes me not one bit.  I won't worry about the future and regret the past, for I know that only the present moment truly matters, for it's all that we can live.

If I'm wise, I will keep my eyes open and notice things that other people pass by or dismiss as trivial.  I will stop and smell the flowers and marvel at the snow and ice.  I will give of myself as much as I can, knowing that in giving comes our true growth.  I will be grateful for each new day of life that I receive, for I know that each day is a gift, and it's up to me to make something of that gift.

I would truly regret going through life without seeing "the beauty, the dignity, and the value of life."  It would be like paying for a first-class ticket on a long flight and spending the entire trip standing in the aisle in coach.  Let me be wise!  Let me see, and feel, and love.  Knowledge helps me in my job and in conversations with others, but wisdom helps me to live!

Questions to ponder:

1.  What do you see as the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

2.  How does wisdom grow in us?
Does it just happen, or do we have to work at it?

3.  Who is the wisest person you know?  Why is that person wise?

For further thought:

You must learn day by day, year by year, to broaden your horizon.  The more things you love, the more you are interested in, the more you enjoy, the more you are indignant about--the more you have left when anything happens.

Ethel Barrymore

 
1 year ago
  

February 14

  

Today's Quotation:

A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able
to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned
that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who
walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life,
knowing that in this world no one is all knowing
and therefore all of us need both love and charity.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Today's Meditation:

I remember once walking down a hallway at a college with one of my professors.  Someone had marked an entire wall with marker from end to end, just holding the marker against the wall as he or she walked.  It was a pretty awful act of vandalism, and my professor looked at it and said "Someone must have a lot of anger inside to do something like that."  No "What a jerk" or "What a stupid thing to do."  No condemnation of the culprit, no expressed desire for "justice."  She was almost sad as she said it, for she recognized that something like that was the result of another person carrying around a great deal of pain inside.

It was a very powerful lesson for me, one that I try constantly to emulate.  I realize that every person on this planet is dealing with problems that I would have a difficult time dealing with, and it's not up to me to judge and condemn them for their actions.  Rather, it's up to me to show compassion and to try to understand the root source of the problem.

Throwing a person in jail for stealing something is often like putting a band-aid on skin cancer--it's a quick fix to make society look like a better place for the time being, but that person will get out and probably still have the anger and frustration inside that made him or her do the crime in the first place.  (Don't worry--I'm not saying that we shouldn't have jails or laws!)  We as individuals can choose to "walk humbly and deal charitably," and we'll then be contributing in our own small ways to making this world a better place, even if it's just by showing compassion for someone else and making that person feel better about something in his or her life.

There is good and bad in everyone.  Jung called the bad side our "dark" side.  I feel fortunate that in my life, the darker side rarely shows.  I know that the people who show that dark side, though, often aren't in complete control of what they do, and would prefer not to show it.  My compassion and love and understanding are going to go much further towards teaching them how to access their bright side than my anger and judgment will.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What does it mean to be objective?  Is it easy to be so?

2.  Why does Eleanor say that "no one is all knowing"?
Why is that important?

3.  At times when you've needed others to be non-judgmental and understanding, how has it felt when they've been that way?  When they haven't?  How did each type of reaction affect you?

For further thought:

The true joy of humankind is in doing that which is most proper
to our nature; and the first property of people is to be kindly affected towards them that are of one kind with ourselves.

1 year ago
  

February 13

  

Today's Quotation:

There is no greater mistake in the world than the looking upon
every sort of nonsense as the want of sense.

Leigh Hunt

Today's Meditation:

I have fun with nonsense.  I find that when I look at things from a ridiculous perspective, my eyes are opened to an entirely new way of seeing things.

The Wright brothers probably told people that they thought it was possible to build a machine that would fly.  How many people do you think thought the idea was nonsense?  A group of young people once thought that personal computers would be as common as television sets.  Nonsense, people would say--computers are for scientists and mathematicians.  Why would the average everyday person want a computer?

Look around.  How many of the things that you see today used to be thought of as impossible?  How many people used to think that considering making these things indicated a complete lack of sense (non + sense)?  But they're all here.  Cell phones that work the world over by utilizing satellites that are orbiting our planet.  Digital cameras and photo printers that produce higher-quality photos than I ever got from any store.  Entire movies on small discs, more than 1000 songs in MP3 format on the same-sized disc.  We've landed on the moon and we've sent robots to Mars.  The light bulb, something that we all take for granted, is a remarkable invention that used to be considered impossible.

Whenever I hear a statement that seems to be complete nonsense, I try to pay closer attention to the meaning behind that statement, for I know that somewhere in there is a grain of truth that may fly in the face of what we "know" to be right and true, but that can provide me with a truly new and unique way of seeing things.  And it's the new that keeps my life vital and dynamic, not the old, "sensible" way of looking at the world.  Besides, most of the "sensible" beliefs about life and living are disproved eventually, leaving us to wonder why we believed in them anyway.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Have you ever seen something that seemed like nonsense become solid truth or fact?  Why did it seem so nonsensical to begin with?

2.  How many things can you see at this moment that at one time probably
were considered to be a nonsensical fantasy by many people?

3.  What does it mean to have an "open mind"?  If we do have one,
can we pick and choose what we're open to?  Do we still have an open mind if we decide what we're open-minded about?

For further thought:

I am sure it is a great mistake always to know enough to go in
when it rains.  One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge,
but one misses a world of loveliness.

Adeline Knapp

1 year ago
  

February 12

  

Today's Quotation:

A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action,
for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he or she
who fills our memory with rows on rows of natural objects,
classified with name and form.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Today's Meditation:

It's a shame that most teachers I know have forgotten this concept.  It usually isn't their fault--they become involved in schools or school systems that value numbers.  Test scores, attendance figures, grades and grade averages--these have become the important indicators of whether a teacher is effective or not.  Whenever the system becomes more important than the individual, then individuals suffer.

Teachers aren't nearly as able to look at their students as human beings--thinking, caring, feeling human beings--as they should be.  They have to spend so much time on lesson plans and changing curricula and grading and classroom management that they often aren't able to focus on being a human being who teaches other human beings.  In addition, "arousing feelings" isn't a concept that's all that valued, for feelings aren't quantifiable.  Besides, learning about facts and figures and information is valuable; it's just that its value is overrated.

All that said, we know that the teachers tend to do the best job they can in their situations, and most of them try very hard to be valuable influences in the lives of their students.  But we can help them.  Not all teaching takes place in the classroom, and not all teachers are hired by schools to teach entire classrooms full of students.

We definitely have the ability to be teachers ourselves.  We may not be qualified to teach algebra, but we certainly can read a poem to a child (or even a friend!) and discuss what it might mean to us.  We can go through a book on animals, looking at amazing pictures, learning ourselves by reading captions as we "teach" someone else.  We can listen carefully as someone explains his or her ideas, helping that person to clarify those ideas.  There are many, many "teaching moments" in every day, and if we keep our eyes and ears open, we can recognize them and use them for all that they're worth.  And the more we do it, the more we learn ourselves, and the better we get at it.

The important lessons in life rarely happen in a classroom.  But if we step back and think that we can't teach because we're not "teachers," then we lose many opportunities to do many wonderful things.  And if we don't teach because we assume that someone else will, then everyone loses.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What have been some of the most important lessons that
you've learned?  Where have they taken place?

2.  What are you really good at, and how could you pass along your knowledge and passion for the topic?

3.  What do you think is the most important lesson anyone could learn in order to put them on track to live a happy, fulfilling life?
Is this lesson taught in schools?

For further thought:

Real education should educate us out of self
into something far finer--
into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.
1 year ago
  

February 11

  

Today's Quotation:

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas
of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it
towards others.  And the more peace there is in us, the more
peace there will be in our troubled world.

Etty Hillesum

Today's Meditation:

The peaceful people that I've known in life have been those who have most affected me in positive ways.  I've always admired the way they accept things that happen without losing their peace of mind over them--if they decide that something's bad, they simply resolve to do something about it, and then they do that something.  Their peace doesn't leave them.

When peace leaves me, it's usually replaced by frustration or anger or resentment, but never by anything else that's healthy and positive for me.  My tension level goes up, and that affects the way I deal with other people, my health, and my perspective on life.  In other words, I become a person who's not very helpful to other people.  I cannot spread peace and goodwill while peace is not the dominant aspect of who I am.

I love Etty's use of the term "reclaim."  This puts the idea of looking for peace in an entirely different framework, one that makes me think that the peace is already there, just waiting to be pulled to the surface.  And when I do find peace after periods of tension or frustration, that's exactly what it feels like--that I've re-established contact with something that's been inside of me all along.

Perhaps my goal should be to keep the door to my inner peace open all the time, and not to let these other feelings close it when they want to have control of who I am.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Is there peace inside of you?  Where is it today?

2.  How can I help others more when I'm at peace?

3.  It seems that most of the things that we lose our peace over look
much less important in retrospect.  How can we try to see their true
importance (or lack of importance) while they're affecting us, instead of after?

For further thought:

If we have no peace, it is because
we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

Mother Teresa

1 year ago
  

February 10

  

Today's Quotation:

We all have within us a deep sense of what we need, and what
is right and true for us.  To access this we need to pay attention
to our feelings and our intuition.  We need to learn to listen
deeply to ourselves and to trust what we hear.  And we need to
risk acting on what we feel to be true.  Even if we
make mistakes, we must do this in order to learn and grow.

Shakti Gawain

Today's Meditation:

You and I have a lot in common.  But what is "right and true" for you isn't necessarily right and true for me, even though when I hear what's right and true for you, there's something inside of me that tells me that it should be the same for me.  Does that make sense?

I know many people who feel that everyone somehow has the same wants and needs, and that when people try to fulfill their individual needs, they're somehow being anti-social or selfish.  These people generally are very insecure, and if they can convince other people to have the same needs, they somehow validate their own feelings (unfortunately, many of these people make their livings in organized religions).

Isn't it ironic that in places where individualism and uniqueness are celebrated and considered to be of primary importance, we tend to lead our lives looking for conformity and "fitting in"?  I can't tell you how many times I hear students tell me "I can't do that because society says I can't."  And not once has any of these people been able to tell me just who "society" is, and just who says they can't.

The truth is, we're much more afraid of what we think "society" will say than what other people actually will say.  We tend to repress our own wants and needs because we fear that others will see us as selfish or self-absorbed.  But when am I more effective in helping other people?  It's when my needs are being met and I'm taking care of myself.  It's when I listen to my inner self--my spirit--and actually heed its message, taking time for myself or reading what I need to read or not overwhelming myself with obligations.

We're taught to listen to our parents, to our elders, to our teachers, to our bosses, to our leaders, but we're never taught to listen to ourselves.  It's time that we learn that lesson ourselves, for it's a very important one, whether it's taught widely or not.

Questions to ponder:

1.  When was the last time you truly listened to yourself and heeded the message?  What were the results?

2.  Do you trust yourself enough to act on the messages
that come from inside?

3.  How can we practice listening to ourselves and heeding the messages?

For further thought:

To set us on a clear path, it is important to communicate well,
at least with ourselves.  To know what we want, to know what we
mean, and to learn to express ourselves clearly, with as little confusion
as possible.  If you are confused about yourself, you can expect to be misunderstood by those around you.  You have to set your mind straight,
and that is a task that no one else can undertake for you.

1 year ago
  

February 9

  

Today's Quotation:

I have walked with people whose eyes are full of light but who
see nothing in sea or sky, nothing in city streets, nothing in
books.  It were far better to sail forever in the night of
blindness with sense, and feeling, and mind, than to be
content with the mere act of seeing.  The only lightless dark
is the night of darkness in ignorance and insensibility.

Helen Keller

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes I close my eyes very tightly and try to imagine what it would be like to be blind.  I know that I never truly can imagine just what it would be like, for I've already spent many years seeing, and I would have the memories of vision there in my mind.  The blindness of not seeing would be a tragedy for those of us who have experienced the visual splendor of our world.

But what have I missed in life even though I can see?  What has passed me by because of my insensibility, my unwillingness or inability to see the world around me and the people in it?  Helen Keller is willing to accept physical blindness for what it is, but she calls us to task for not seeing even though we have the physical capability to do so.

Literary works throughout the ages have explored the concept of blindness--probably the most famous is Shakespeare's King Lear.  He knows his daughters as his daughters, but he's completely blind to their true natures because he refuses to know them deeply and truly.  In the play, another character ends up actually losing his eyes as a result of his ignorance and blindness.

If we can see, we take what we see for granted.  If we can hear, we take things like music and the wind in the trees for granted.  If we can taste, we take flavors for granted.  We work ourselves into a state of ignorance of the true nature of things, and we lose our ability to see past the surface of people and things.  Being busy and being in a hurry can make this process even more drastic.  Since we're not physically blind, shouldn't we take full advantage of the gift of the sense of sight and actually see the world in which we spend our lives?

Questions to ponder:

1.  Think of some things that you see regularly, but don't really "see."
How long after we buy a new piece of artwork for our home,
for example, do we stop noticing its beauty regularly?

2.  Can you think of any exercises you might do to notice things more?

3.  What does it take to "see" past the surface of a person?
How does seeing "cure" us of ignorance?

For further thought:

Why do some people always see beautiful skies and grass
and lovely flowers and incredible human beings, while others
are hard-pressed to find anything or any place that is beautiful?

Leo Buscaglia

 
1 year ago
  

February 8

  

Today's Quotation:

Perhaps the clearest and deepest meaning of brotherhood is
the ability to imagine yourself in the other person's position,
and then treat that person as if you were him or her.  This
form of brotherhood takes a lot of imagination, a great
deal of sympathy, and a tremendous amount of understanding.

Obert C. Tanner

Today's Meditation:

Have you ever walked a mile in someone else's shoes?  Have you tried to see life from someone else's perspective, tried to feel what that person feels and think what that person thinks?  If we could do so, I think that we'd find that rudeness, selfishness, arrogance, and other traits that tend to affect others so negatively result more from fears than from anything else, and that these people's negative behavior is a self-defense mechanism that they've adopted because nobody's taught them yet about self-acceptance and self-love.

If children shows signs of being afraid, such as crying and hiding, we do our best to comfort them.  We hug them, and we try to calm them down.  We give them our sympathy and our love.

When an adult shows signs of fear, though, in the form of rudeness or obnoxiousness, we respond by trying to put that person in his or her place.  We have little sympathy, and we often feel hurt or diminished by that person's actions or words.

Have you ever seen someone act in a way that was hurtful, and then found out later that something drastic, such as the death of a loved one, had just happened to that person?  Once we have an explanation for the behavior, it's not just acceptable, but understandable.

Obert is asking us to look for that explanation for everyone.  Imagine being that person, having his job, working with her co-workers, dealing with children who are getting in trouble, trying to recover from a childhood with an abusive parent, still hurt by that painful divorce, still feeling diminished from being laid off from work.  This is how we can truly prove our desire to help others--by understanding even those who don't even seem to need our understanding.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Can you think of someone with whom you're at odds who may
need your understanding?  What would that understanding do for you?

2.  Can you imagine yourself living through someone else's situation for a day?  For a week?  What would that time be like for you?

3.  Has anyone ever tried to understand what it's like to be in your shoes?
Why is it so rare for people to do this?

For further thought:

We will recognize that each person needs to nourish and be nourished
by many persons. . . . It is right, even necessary, to make yourselves available to one another in new loving, caring, and fulfilling ways --
without the spectres of old guilts.

Quaker newsletter

1 year ago
  

February 7

  

Today's Quotation:

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving
the individuals.  To that end each of us must work for
his or her own improvement, and at the same time
share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular
duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.

Marie Curie

Today's Meditation:

I have to improve myself.  I don't say that because I think I'm flawed or unworthy, but because that's what life's all about.  Life is about growth and development, not stagnation.  It's about being more next year than I am this year because I've been open to learning from the many lessons that come my way each day.

This growth is not just for my benefit.  In fact, it's less for my benefit than it is for the benefit of those whom I touch with my life every day.  I'm a good teacher now, but have you ever had one of those teachers who's been doing everything exactly the same way for the last twenty years?  These teachers don't learn new methods or materials--they've found a comfort level that they like, and they've stayed there, stagnating just like water that stands in one place for too long.  Water is meant to flow and to mix constantly with new water, not to stand on its own without new influence.  But these teachers do just that, and what do we learn from them?  In my experience, not much.

Of course, we're obligated to improve ourselves only if we want to make this world a better place.  If we don't care about that, then we can spend our lives being entertained passively, learning nothing new at all.  But then we're not fulfilling our responsibility of contributing to the world.

Watch the movie Tuesdays with Morrie when you get the chance.  Morrie knew that he was dying, but he also knew that he still had the chance to teach other people, to touch their lives in a positive way.  And the people who knew him came away richer, and we just know that the people in their lives in turn were enriched by their new growth.  We can change the world, one small act at a time.

I think the only thing I would change about Marie Curie's passage above would be to say that that we have an "opportunity" to help, rather than a duty, because as we enrich others, we also enrich ourselves and our own lives.  It's all in how we look at it.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What can you do today to make the world a better place,
even if it's on the smallest level possible?

2.  How can you improve yourself today?  Tomorrow?  This year?

3.  How many people are affected by your actions each day, on any level?
Is the effect that you have on them positive and helpful?

For further thought:

Each person takes care that his neighbor shall not
cheat him or her.  But a day comes when we begin to care
that we do not cheat our neighbors.  Then all goes well.
We have changed our market-cart into a chariot of the sun.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

1 year ago
  

February 6

  

Today's Quotation:

You may not have saved a lot of money in your life,
but if you have saved a lot of heartaches for other folks,
you are a pretty rich person.

Seth Parker

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes I wish that money weren't an issue in my life, and that means that I wish I had enough to take care of all of our needs without worrying about whether there will be enough money left when the bills come due.  Sometimes I think that if I had just saved more money systematically as I went through life, I would be in a position in which money weren't an issue.

But then I think about the nature of money--most religious leaders warn against stockpiling possessions, and money is a possession.  Spending a lot of energy trying to save cash takes away from other pursuits, such as helping other people and showing kindness to our neighbors.  These are the things of lasting value, the things that make a life truly successful.

On the day I die, would I be prouder to stand there and say "I have a lot of money in the bank," or would I be prouder to say "I've contributed to making other people's lives easier or more fulfilling"?  I know the answer to that one.  Every single day that we live, we have the opportunity to help someone else.  We can encourage, we can compliment, we can lend a hand carrying something or taking care of some chore for that someone.  We can teach someone how to do something, or we can give them moral support as they learn elsewhere.  The number of ways that we can give to others truly is unlimited, and we can make ourselves very rich if we can focus our energies on these things.

Yes, it's nerve-wracking.  We have creditors.  We can't stop earning and paying money just to perform altruistic deeds.  But we can keep a sense of perspective.  One of the most important lessons I ever learned in my life came in three short words.  A friend who was the father of six children took them all once to an amusement park, and they invited me along--and they even paid my way.  That evening when we were talking about the day, I mentioned how expensive it must have been.  With a wry half-smile, he said simply, "It's only money."

Questions to ponder:

1.  What do the words "it's only money" truly mean?
Can we live our lives according to that belief?

2.  How many different ways can you give to others that
have nothing to do with money?

3.  What are the repercussions on your immortal soul if you die
without having a lot of money in the bank?

For further thought:

You will find, as you look back upon your life,
that the moments that stand out are the moments
when you have done things for others.

Henry Drummond

1 year ago
  

February 5

  

Today's Quotation:

Half the joy of life is in the little things taken on the run.
Let us run if we must--even the sands do that--
but let us keep our hearts young and our eyes open
that nothing worth our while shall escape us.

Victor Cherbuliez

Today's Meditation:

The little things can be so cool--they're the things that make life worthwhile every single day.  The big things can be fun, but they also can be very stressful.  The little things are rarely stressful and often highly gratifying, especially if we can go around "gathering" them as time goes on.  If we do so, our memories will be full of wonderful and awesome things, and the way we see today will be strongly influenced by the brightness that's there in our memory.

There's a tree in a small Spanish town in the mountains, just on the Spanish side of the border with France.  It's not a particularly special tree, but years ago someone put up a barbed-wire fence next to it, and all the time since, this tree has been growing around the barbed wire.  The wire now enters one side of the tree and comes out the other side.  The tree lives on in my memory as one of those cool little things that make life so much more interesting, as long as we make sure we see them.

A couple of weeks ago as we were walking past a newly-frozen pond, I skipped some rocks out on it, and the sound they made was something straight out of a science-fiction movie.  If I keep my eyes open, I see bugs and snakes and intricate tiny flowers and cool rocks and nice smiles and beautiful architecture and gentle kindness.  If I keep my heart young I notice great places to play, nice sunsets, cool hideouts, neat ice formations, and strange and unusual birds and animals.

Life is never ordinary.  We can make it seem ordinary by closing our eyes and hearts to its wonder, but that's not life's fault.  I prefer to notice the little things and then leave them be--never trying to take them with me or preserve them--because that's what life's supposed to be, and that's what makes me happy and keeps away disappointment.

Questions to ponder:

1.  How important are the "little things" to you?
Do you think they'd be more important if you noticed them more?

2.  What does it mean to keep our hearts young?
How can we do so?

3.  Are you ever so busy or so rushed that you don't notice anything as you go by?  What do you think you may be losing when that happens?

For further thought:

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.  Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.  Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.  One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face into the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.

Mary Jean Iron

1 year ago
  

February 4

  

Today's Quotation:

Become aware that you already possess all the inner wisdom,
strength, and creativity needed to make your dreams come true.
This is hard for most of us to realize because the source of
this unlimited personal power is buried so deeply beneath
the bills, the car pool, the deadlines, the business trip, and
the dirty laundry that we have difficulty accessing it in our daily
lives. When we can't access our inner resources, we come to
the flawed conclusion that happiness and fulfillment come only
from external events.  That's because external events usually bring
with them some sort of change. . . . We can learn to be
the catalysts for our own change. . . . you already possess
all you need to be genuinely happy.

Sarah Ban Breathnach

Today's Meditation:

Why haven't I given myself credit for the qualities that I possess?  Have I been afraid of being arrogant?  Of seeming to think myself as superior to others?  Have I been trying to be humble and modest, while all the time sabotaging my potential because I wouldn't admit just how truly valuable I am as a human being?

Have I let the things of daily life bring me down so much that I've been trapped under a mountain of worries and stress-causing problems?

If so, what a tragedy that is!  Not just for me, but for the people in my life who might have benefited greatly if I had reached my full potential.  There are many people who might have been more encouraged, more confident in themselves and in me, more relaxed and at ease because I was close to reaching my potential rather than struggling to try to escape from all the problems that were keeping me down.  My "unlimited personal power" that Breathnach talks about has been limited by outside sources and my own limited perspective, rather than allowed to be a major part of who I am.

My own choices play a large part in this, I know.  I'm probably going to leave my current job because there's no empowerment there for me at all--I'm strongly limited in what I can do.  But for the last four years, I've watched my ability to help others diminish significantly, and I have to choose between continuing to do work that limits me and moving on to something that's more promising, even if it means sacrificing things like insurance and pay into my retirement account.  It's not the job that's keeping me unsatisfied, but the fact that I haven't left the job to look for something else that allows me to reach my potential.

Personally, I haven't grown up with influences that focused on my personal power and potential, so I've had a hard time focusing on it as an adult.  It's a lot of work, to be honest, but work that's well worth it.  You are a very valuable person, just as valuable as world leaders and doctors and lawyers and other people who are constantly in the news.  Your value may not manifest itself in the world arena, but when it does manifest itself, you can be sure that it provides a great boost to people other than yourself.  Strive to reach your potential, not just for yourself, but for the others who will be positively affected by your actions when you've acknowledged just how valuable you truly are.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What kinds of things keep you from seeing your own value?

2.  Can you think of any concrete methods for pulling yourself
away from the influence of these things and focusing
your energy on more positive things?

1 year ago
  

February 3

  

Today's Quotation:

The moment one gives close attention to anything,
even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome,
indescribably magnificent world in itself.

Henry Miller

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes we forget to pay close attention, and because we're not doing so, we forget what we're missing.  Paying close attention to anything in our lives helps to remind us of the beauty and wonder of this world, two elements of our lives that thoroughly enrich our experience here.  But only if we allow it to, and we can allow it to only by paying attention to it.

Perhaps it's a question of semantics:  we say that we're "paying" attention, and the word "pay" to us indicates some sort of cost, some sort of sacrifice.  Miller's words are "gives close attention," an idea that implies that there's no payment involved, just free will.

In either case, it's important that we stop sometimes and examine things on a different level than that on which we normally see them.  If we don't do so, everything remains "normal," and that would be sad, indeed.

Have you ever counted the number of petals in a rose?  Have you ever watched an ant drag something much larger than itself towards home?  Have you ever watched a bee gather pollen on its hind legs?  When was the last time that you looked very closely at a piece of fruit that you were eating, noticing the incredible complexity of it?  When was the last time that you actually spent time staring into a pond, noticing all the life that was there for you to see?

Even sitting still on a lawn can open up to you a whole new world, if you look long enough and closely enough.  There is a great deal of life available to you in such a place, but we usually miss it as we walk quickly over it.  Once I taught in a building that had a tree growing right next to it, so from our third-floor window we had a great view of the top of the tree and all the bugs and birds that lived there or were stopping by for visits.  That close view taught me a lot about the tops of trees, and I can't look at trees in exactly the same way any more.

Stop today and look.  Learn.  Appreciate.  See.  Touch.  Feel.  Looking closely is nothing more than using our powers of observation, a gift that we were given that we let lie unused far too often.  Miller's right--if we do this, the world becomes an awesome, incredible place.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What kinds of things are in your life that
you think you could look at more closely?

2.  Remember back to a time when you looked at something closely
that you normally took for granted.  What did you learn?

3.  What does Miller mean by "a mysterious, awesome,
indescribably magnificent world in itself"?

1 year ago
  

February 2

  

Today's Quotation:

Nature is another important aspect of nourishing the soul.
After a hike in the mountains where we live, for instance,
I feel a remarkable sense of gratitude and awe.  My mind
quiets down and allows me to see more clearly the
beauty of creation.  And through that gratitude, the
beauty of the universe is reflected back to the creator.

Joan Borysenko

Today's Meditation:

There's nothing like a walk in the forest to clear my mind and get my spirit to calm down and slow down.  Any time I get away from the mass of people and find a quiet, solitary spot in nature, be it in the middle of the desert, in the forest, on a beach, or even along a lonely country road, I feel myself being refreshed, revived, renewed.  It's a wonderful feeling that I don't search out nearly often enough.

In cities we keep flowers and plants to remind us of this connection, but we far too rarely seem to search out the closeness of the connection--we don't often actually go out and feel what nature has to offer.  I know that over the last few years, with all the work that I've had hanging over my head, my connection with nature has been tenuous at best, non-existent at worst.  I go for walks, but I do so in town.  We have a great bike path that I walk along very often.  It goes through forest and next to a river for a couple of miles, but that's been the extent of my connection with nature for a while.  I miss it.

Sometimes I don't go out into the woods because I have too much to do for the next two hours.  Then I spend the next two hours doing something that I hadn't planned on doing, and I realize that I could have gone out after all.  Usually, I needed to go out, yet I didn't look after myself closely enough, and I didn't take care of myself by giving myself the time I needed to renew myself.  It's kind of sad, but it's true.

When I'm out in nature, just as Joan I feel a stronger sense of gratitude and awe, and I see more clearly just how beautiful this world is.  I need that feeling every once in a while if I'm to keep a clear perspective in my daily life on just what is truly important and just what isn't.  We nourish our souls when we get in touch with nature, and our souls are the part of ourselves that we so often neglect.

Questions to ponder:

1.  What do you do regularly to nourish your soul or spirit?
What kinds of things does your soul like as nourishment?

2.  How does nature help us to get in touch with deeper parts of ourselves?

3.  What happens when we neglect to nourish our spirits?

For further thought:

I find nature so nourishing.  I love to hike, especially in the mountains.
When I'm walking in nature, I feel in awe of the wonder of creation.
Nature is full of surprises, always changing, and we must change with it.
In nature, the soul is renewed and called to open and grow.
In the wilderness, you're up against whatever nature brings you--
the dangers as well as the beauty.

Linda Leonard

1 year ago
  

February 1

  

Today's Quotation:

I think luck is the sense to recognize an opportunity and
the ability to take advantage of it. Everyone has bad breaks,
but everyone also has opportunities. People who can smile
at their breaks and grab their chances get on.

Samuel Goldwyn

Today's Meditation:

I don't believe in luck.  Those people who have succeeded in life usually have done so as the result of hard work, of being able to see opportunities when they've come up, or a combination of the two.  Those people who win tons of money in lotteries or inherit vast fortunes aren't necessarily lucky--many people who have come into money that way have become quite miserable, very unhappy with their "new" lives.

My biggest problems in life have come when I haven't recognized opportunities.  Because I haven't seen them until too late so often, I haven't been able to take advantage of them.  I suppose many people would say that I've had bad luck, but I don't see it that way at all.  I see it as having missed opportunities, and I don't get down on myself for having missed them.  After all, there was no one around when I was growing up to teach me to recognize and take advantage of opportunities.

Most of us are in that same boat--we haven't been taught how to recognize the opportunities that come our way as opportunities, so we squander chance after chance to make more of ourselves or improve our lives or lifestyles.  That's okay, because that's how life is--what's not okay is to recognize the problem and not do anything about it.

Now that I know how many opportunities I've let go by, it's up to me to teach myself how to recognize them and take advantage of them.  And the burden isn't completely on me--there are plenty of books and tape programs out there that can help us to learn to do these things.  This is material that should be taught in schools, but it isn't, so we have to find other teachers outside of the classroom who have focused on this sort of thing as their own area of expertise.

Bad luck?  Sorry, but there's no such thing.  The universe functions too well for that to be true.  Sometimes it's true that things are completely out of our control, but even if something negative happens to us, there will be something important for us to learn in it.  If we can smile at our bad breaks and move on with our lives, learning in the process, life becomes much brighter.  Bad luck tends to be an excuse for not wanting to look deeper.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Where in our education system can we learn things like recognizing opportunities and taking advantage of them?
Why is it so rare that this is taught?

2.  Who have been your role models?  Are they people who take advantage of opportunities?  What have you learned from them?

3.  What does it take to smile at our bad breaks?  Can you do so?

For further thought:

People do with opportunities as children do at the seashore;
they fill their little hands with sand, and then let the grains
fall through, one by one, till all are gone.

T. Jones

1 year ago
  

January 31

  

Today's quotation:

It was inevitable, I suppose, that in the garden I should begin, at long last, to ask myself what lay behind all this beauty.  When guests were gone and I had the flowers all to myself, I was so happy that I wondered why at the same time I was haunted by a sense of emptiness.  It was as though I wanted to thank somebody, but had nobody to thank; which is another way of saying that I felt the need for worship.  That is, perhaps, the kindliest way in which a person may come to his or her God.  There is an interminable literature on the origins of the religious impulse, but to me it is simpler than that. It is summed up in the image of a person at sundown, watching the crimson flowering of the sky and saying--to somebody--"Thank you."

Beverly Nichols

Today's Meditation:

This may sound weird, but that's okay:  one of the times that I consistently feel the most gratitude in life is when I get into a hot bubble bath and feel the hot water warm my entire body.  "Thank you" are always the words that leap into my mind at that point, and I'm not sure why.  It's inevitable--I get into the hot water and the words come out.  When I think about it, of course, I can come up with some logical reasons for being grateful to have a nice tub full of hot water to get into, but the words are automatic.  I don't think about them at all until after I say them.

The simple things in life are those for which we can be the most grateful, if we open our eyes and hearts to appreciate them.  The simple things are the most consistent--they're the things that make us feel good over and over, that make us see the beauty and joy and goodness of the world in small doses.  Personally, I would rather see one beautiful flower every day than to spend one day in a beautiful garden or a florist's shop.  The garden has its place and its own beauty and the memories it provides can be priceless, but the flower every day is a constant reminder of the beauty of life and living.  And if I feel an impulse in my heart to say "thank you" to the flower, it's all the better, for then my gratitude joins with the beauty and creates something even more.

Most religion is based on gratitude, as Nichols points out.  Our feelings of thankfulness for all that we have and the opportunity to live on this beautiful planet are a driving force in our lives, and our lives become something less when we start to take things for granted and not feel thankful any longer.  We lose the ability to see and recognize beauty when we're not thankful for it, and we lose the ability to enjoy music when we don't feel gratitude for the fact that it exists.

Gratitude shouldn't be saved for Thanksgiving Day.  Gratitude should be a way of life just as any given religion should be a way of life rather than a set of beliefs and a weekly walk-though of a ceremony or two.  If you feel religion in your heart, make it a way of life and walk the walk.  If you feel gratitude in your heart, extend it to virtually every aspect of your life and see the shine that your life takes on.

Questions to consider:

What do you have to be grateful for?  (This should be a long, long list if you're realistic about it.)

What happens when we start to take things for granted?  How does our perspective on these things change the way we live our lives?

Think of something that you've never really associated with gratitude.  Does that something change when you see it through grateful eyes?

For further thought:

Blessings we enjoy dail

1 year ago
   

January 30

  

Today's quotation:

And when we come to think of it, goodness is uneventful.
It does not flash, it glows.  It is deep, quiet, and very
simple.  It passes not with oratory, it is commonly foreign
to riches, nor does it often sit in the places of the
mighty:  but may be felt in the touch of a friendly
hand or the look of a kindly eye.

David Grayson

Today's Meditation:

For goodness' sake!  What is goodness?  Is it something that we have inside of us from the day that we're born, or something that we have to develop ourselves?  Can we always recognize it when we see it?  Can we copy it when we see it in someone else?

Goodness has so much to do with intentions.  I know someone who constantly tries to prove what a "good" person he is.  Unfortunately, everyone realizes that his "good" actions happen in order to try to show off to others and earn their respect and praise.  His "goodness," therefore, is little more than selfishness, which is quite sad when all is said and done.  For example, he showers his kids with attention and gifts (he's divorced and doesn't have custody), yet it's quite obvious that all that he does is for his own benefit, to make himself feel better about all of the years that he neglected them.  The kids themselves feel very uncomfortable about the way he treats them, and one of them doesn't even go to see him any more.

Goodness has to come from the heart, that's one thing I know for sure.  I also know for sure that not everything that comes from my heart is goodness, and that's something I'm working on.  Goodness has to be pure in intention, and I know that my good acts aren't always intended solely for the good of the recipients.  I'm working on that, too.  When I truly do good, there's a very good chance that no one ever will notice it, and I'll never be recognized as someone who has done something good.  When I can live with that and be at peace with it, I know that I'll have reached a very high level of living.

Questions to consider:

Think about the kind of "good" people that you admire most.  What would you have to do to be more like them?

Why are so many of our good actions marred with less-than-positive intentions?

Why does society so often mock and look down upon "do-gooders"?  What is it about someone doing good that other people find so threatening?

For further thought:

We ought to do good to others as simply and
as naturally as a horse runs, or a bee makes
honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season
without thinking of the grapes it has borne.

Marcus Aurelius

1 year ago
  

January 29

  

Today's quotation:

All ages have said and repeated that one should strive to know
one's self.  This is a strange demand which no one up to now
has measured up to and, strictly considered, no one should.
With all their study and effort, people are directed to what
is outside, to the world about them, and they are kept busy
coming to know this and to master it to the extent that their
purposes require. . . . How can you come to know yourself?
Never by thinking, always by doing.  Try to do your duty,
and you'll know right away what you amount to.  And what
is your duty?  Whatever the day calls for.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Today's Meditation:

"Whatever the day calls for."  I love that line.  Sometimes I get so caught up in what I think I should be doing that I lose sight of what needs to be done right here, right now.  Yes, the paper needs to be written, but my step-daughter needs a ride to something right now.  Yes, I would love to be working on another novel, but the bathroom wall needs to be fixed.  These aren't obstacles to living--they're life, and they're what today is calling for.

Goethe makes a claim that seems to be contrary to contemporary belief--that we can't know ourselves.  I'm not sure that I agree with him on that, but I do agree that our highest calling is to the world around us, to the people with whom we share this world of ours.  We learn about life through our interactions with others, even if that interaction is reading words written by others.  While life in a monastery or convent, shut off from the rest of the world, may be right for some people, we never get to know our potential and limitations if we don't deal with other human beings, if we don't do our "duty," which is the task before us.

Sometimes, that task is rest so that we can gather our energy for the next task.  Sometimes, that task is to help someone else.  Other times, that task is to do something for ourselves.  A great task is to sit and enjoy a movie--entertainment helps us to clear our minds of many of the stress-causing elements of our lives.

My duty today is to be me, and to do the things that I know are necessary.  I don't have any other duties, and I shouldn't take on any others that don't contribute to making me the person I am.  I can't take on anyone else's responsibilities, and I can't try to be everything for everyone.  By recognizing my duties, I free myself from all that isn't my duty.

Questions to consider:

What are your duties today?

What aren't your duties today?

What are some of the ways that you can come to know yourself?

For further thought:

You must create your own world.
I am responsible for my world.

Louise Nelson

1 year ago
   

January 28

  

Today's quotation:

You can count the seeds in the apple,
but not the apples in the seed.

Ken Kersey

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes the most remarkable thoughts are expressed in very few words, and sometimes they're so insightful and simple at the same time that it's almost scary.  What Kersey's quotation about apples and seeds says to us about perspective is absolutely beautiful in its simple truth:  there's no way of knowing the extent of the potential in anything, really, and something like an apple seed can give us years and years of bountiful harvests, with uncounted apples.

People are the same way, of course.  There's no telling what's inside each person that we meet, no telling the potential that each person has for growth and for doing exceptional things.  Just like the apple seed, though, our potential is realized by creating just the right conditions for our growth and development.  Just as the apple cannot thrive in dry, barren climes, so is it difficult for us to thrive in situations that are not fitting.

There are two big differences between us and apples, though.  First of all, apple seeds all need similar conditions in which to grow--similar amounts of rain and sunlight and acid in the soil.  We don't, and many of our problems come from people trying to create the same growing conditions for all people--it just doesn't work that way.  What works for you probably wouldn't work for me, and what works for me wouldn't work for many other people.  We all hear of the success stories of people who grew up in "poor" conditions yet thrived--perhaps those awful conditions were exactly what that person needed to succeed, just as a cactus can grow to great heights in the desert.

Second, if our situation isn't helpful or healthy for us, we can always leave.  We can change jobs or move to a warmer clime or even leave destructive relationships.  The apple can't do so--if it's in a poor growing situation, it will do poorly forever, without the opportunity to move itself to a more fitting environment.

Questions to consider:

How much potential do you have?  Have you put yourself in situations in which you're able to develop your abilities
and use that potential?

What can you do today to take one more step towards
reaching your potential?

Do you help other people reach their potential by providing encouragement?  How can we contribute to a healthy growing environment for other people?

For further thought:

Merely looking at the world around us
is immensely different from seeing it.

Frederick Frank

  
1 year ago

   

January 27

  

Today's quotation:

We find by losing.  We hold fast by letting go.  We become
something new by ceasing to be something old.  This seems
to be close to the heart of that mystery.  I know no more now
than I ever did about the far side of death as the last
letting-go of all, but now I know that I do not need to know,
and that I do not need to be afraid of not knowing.
God knows.  That is all that matters.

Frederick Buechner

Today's Meditation:

One of the things that I most admire about the Zen perspective on life is its focus on letting go.  Letting go of control, letting go of results, letting go of "needing" to know things that truly are unknowable.  There are so many things that we don't need to know, but we live in a culture in which knowledge is "power," and information is king of all.  This idea keeps us thinking that there's some kind of problem if we don't know a certain something or if we're lacking a certain bit of information.

"We hold fast by letting go"--letting go of our attempts to control things, our attempts to maintain control over every aspect of our life.  We've all heard the saying about if we love something, we should let it go, and then we'll know whether it "belongs" to us when we see whether it comes back to us.  So much of our discontent and our dissatisfaction comes from our unwillingness to let go of trying to control things and trying to cause just the results that we think should occur.

I know someone who tries to control things.  I don't know why he does so, but he tries to control his children's every action.  He seems to think that his kids have to act a certain way in order to be doing things "right."  He thinks his wife has to do things a certain way, and once when he came over to help out with a project, he took over completely and did the project himself, because it had to be done his way.  I guess this would be okay, but he certainly isn't a happy person--his need to control things makes him miserable because he's constantly preoccupied about the possibility that someone's doing something "wrong."  He wants to "know" that things will work out his way.

If he could learn about letting go, he would experience much less stress in his life, and he would no longer be afraid that things will work out in a way that's not "right."  There are so many things that he cannot control and that he will never know, yet he's still not willing to admit this.  Once he does admit it and relax a bit, he'll find life to be much more enjoyable, because the burden of controlling the world will have fallen from his shoulders.

Questions to consider:

What do you try to control?  Are they all things that
can be controlled?

How would it be no longer to feel a need to control things?
What would it be like to lose that tension?

What kinds of things can you let go of?  What kinds of things that you want to know do you not necessarily need to know?

For further thought:

Ask not that events should happen as you will, but let your will be that events should happen as they do, and you shall have peace.

Epictetus

1 year ago
  

January 26

  

Today's quotation:



The surface of life is also in a state of constant flux, with good days and bad, victory and defeat. To maintain, as the ocean does, a deep inner calm, while the storms of misfortune, reverses, fears and worries lash at the surface of life, is to discover the secret of serenity.
   Years ago, when Thomas Edison's factory burned down, he wasted no time bemoaning his fate.  Immediately after the disaster the reporters found a calm, quiet man already at work on plans for a new building.
   When Emerson's home was destroyed by fire and his precious books were being reduced to ashes, Louisa May Alcott came to console him. The great philosopher said, "Yes, yes, Louisa, they are all gone, but let us enjoy the blaze now.  Isn't it beautiful!"
   Some people are ocean personalities.  In their inner depths they are not defeated by what happens to them.
   The towering waves of circumstances cannot reach us when we go deep within to seek the peace that passes all understanding.  While the surface of life is in turmoil we can find an inner calmness to see us through.

Wilferd A. Peterson

Today's Meditation:

Peace.  May peace be with you.  What a wonderful part of life peace is, and how little of it we tend to see in the hustle and bustle of daily life.  It's there, though--it's just not in the headlines, not on the newscasts, not on the game shows or reality programming.  It's not in the advertising, because ads depend upon us losing our inner sense of calm in favor of a strong desire for a product or service.  Thich Nhat Hanh says that "Peace is every step," and every major religion urges us to develop our peace, for only when we're at peace can we get everything there is to get out of life.

Why is this?  I suppose it's clear when we think about the lack of peace--it's a sense of dissonance, a sense that something's wrong, even if we can't identify the problem.  When we have that dissonance, though, it's difficult to go forward in other areas without taking care of that dissonance first.  "I'll be happy or content as soon as. . . " or "I won't be happy until. . . " are the two most common ideas that dissonance creates in us, and even though when we're feeling good we can see the flaw in that logic, we're not always feeling good, are we?

Peace can come only when we see truly what really matters and what really is not significant in our lives.  Losing a job is quite a blow, but it really does nothing to the person we are in our depths--unless we let it.  If we lose a material possession, that's all we've done, and spending hours agonizing over the loss will only hurt us and make us waste our valuable present moments on agony.

Peace comes from inside of us, as Wilferd Peterson says.  It's there in each of us, yet we often keep it locked away, rarely to be let loose into the light of day.  Instead, we allow anxiety, worry, stress, jealousy, and all of the other parts of ourselves--everything from Pandora's box, if you will--out into our selves, and they determine how we feel.  They rob us of our peace by blocking it off, keeping it down, and overwhelming us with their own needs.  Anxiety needs us to worry if it's going to stay alive, so it keeps our minds filled with worrisome thoughts.  Peace needs us to let go if it's to thrive, to let go of results and expectations, while all of the negative things want us to try to maintain control, an effort that is doomed to failure.

Emerson and Edison knew there was nothing they could do about their buildings.  So they made use of the present moment as best as they could, and they didn't lose their peace.  Let your peace to the surface, and try to create conditions in your mind in which peace can thrive.  It can only benefit you, in both the short and

1 year ago
  

January 24

  

Today's quotation:

To me, the essence of keeping the soul nourished is obedience
to one's conscience.  I don't think that the soul can be
nourished unless people have a strong sense of conscience
that they have educated and developed and soaked in the
universal and timeless principles of integrity and service.  This
way, the individual's soul becomes part of the universal soul
of service, contribution, and making a difference.

Stephen R. Covey

Today's Meditation:

What is my conscience?  Some call it the "still, small voice within."  Others say that it's the voice of God inside of us, that's supposed to keep us on track.  Some say that we all have a conscience, while others say that some of us may not have them, which might explain deviant criminal behavior.  I know that I have one, though I couldn't explain to you exactly what it is.

What I like about Covey's passage is the focus on the idea that people can educate and develop their consciences.  That's something that I'd truly like to do, for I know that my conscience lets me down sometimes--or rather, that I don't listen to my conscience at times.  I don't know why I ignore it--perhaps I don't trust it completely?  Perhaps I'm afraid that if I follow my conscience, I'm going to miss out on something important and/or enjoyable.

Maybe the question that I have to explore is how to educate and train my conscious mind to trust the conscience, no matter what.  Maybe the best thing that I can do for myself is learn to keep in mind the fact that my conscience truly is an important part of who I am, and that I should do my best always to listen to it and trust it, rather than rationalizing and coming up with reasons not to heed what it's telling me.  After all, it is a part of who I am, and not paying heed to my conscience is, in theory, not paying attention to a higher part of myself, even if I don't understand exactly what it is.

I do need to train my conscience, and I need to make sure that it doesn't hold on to thoughts and ideas that are based on ways that I used to think, and things that I used to believe.  But I also need to be sure that my conscience isn't just a lonely voice in the wilderness of my mind, but a wise friend who is an important part of who I am.

Questions to consider:

Are you more likely to listen to your conscience or
to your "rational," logical mind?

What has happened when you've ignored the messages of your conscience?  How many people have been affected?  How?

How can we "train" our conscience?

For further thought:

It is not because people's desires are strong that they
act ill; it is because their consciences are weak.
There is no natural connection between strong impulses and a
weak conscience.  The natural connection is the other way.



John Stuart Mill
  
1 year ago
  

January 23

  

Today's quotation:

A successful life for a man or for a woman seems to me
to lie in the knowledge that one has developed to the
limit the capacities with which one was endowed; that
one has contributed something constructive to family
and friends and to a home community; that one has
brought happiness wherever it was possible; that one
has earned one's way in the world, has kept some friends,
and need not be ashamed to face oneself honestly.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Today's Meditation:

I want to be a success, have no doubt about it.  On the day that I die, I want to look back on my life and know that I was successful, that I accomplished many things that were useful and helpful to other people in the world.  What I find fascinating is that my definition of "success" continues to change as I grow older.  I'm no longer as interested in being successful in the eyes of other people (though I certainly haven't completely outgrown that ideal), and I no longer see success as the outcome of different sorts and levels of competition.

We live in a world in which we're constantly exposed to "success" as financial gain, the acquisition of power, or the defeat of others in direct competition.  Our "successful" role models are athletes, movie stars, musicians, politicians, and business people who have made millions of dollars or who have constant media exposure.  We hardly ever see success as the housewife and mother who has brought up her children to be loving, caring, well adjusted human beings (unless she gets her memoirs published and sells a million copies and goes on book-signing tours, of course!).  We hardly ever see the successful business person as the one who kept a business going through thick and thin, providing jobs and insurance for many people even if he or she never did become wealthy or powerful.  The artist who never found commercial success but who stuck to his or her artwork, the writer who never was published but who continued to write, the poet who never found recognition but who continued to write verse--these are all successful people who just haven't found the public recognition of their success.

I thank Eleanor for her definition of success.  It's a definition that I can live by, and it's one that frees me from the need to be recognized publicly for my contributions to the world.  But it frees me only if I choose to believe in what she says, and that I do. 

Questions to consider:

In what ways are you a success (and the answer "none" is not acceptable--we're all successes in many ways!)?

How would you benefit if you were to redefine
your concept of success?

How would others benefit if you were to redefine your concept of success?  Family?  Co-workers?  People whom you influence?

For further thought:

There are no secrets of success.  Success is doing the
things you know you should do.  Success is not doing the things you know you shouldn’t do.  Success is not limited to any one area of your life.  It encompasses all the facets of your relationships:  as parent, as wife or husband, as citizen, neighbor, worker and all of the others.  Success is not confined to any one part of your personality but is related to the development of all the parts: body, mind, heart and spirit.  It is making the most of your total self.

1 year ago
  

January 22

  

Today's quotation:

I wish there were a book I could read each day to tell me
exactly what to do to live consciously from my heart and
soul.  But part of the mystery and magic, part of the reason
I'm here, is to try to stumble through and hear what the soul
has to say about what it needs at each moment--whether it
is to work through an emotional block, discover what the
next lesson is, meet the next soul mate (my children
are soul mates; my best friends are soul mates), or
finish my business with the one I'm with now. Ultimately,
for most of us, the journey comes down to the same issue:
learning to love freely.  First ourselves, then other people.

Melody Beattie

Today's Meditation:

What can it mean to "live consciously from my heart and soul"?  I wonder that often as I try my best to do so.  But there are no classes to take on this topic, and there are no guidebooks that work for everyone.  I often find myself stumbling through life as well, making mistakes that in retrospect seem that they should have been impossible to make.  They happen, interestingly enough, during those times when I'm not living consciously from my heart, when my mind is clouded by tasks and dilemmas and needs and wants.

When I am living consciously, I find that life is pretty good at letting me see things with a great deal of clarity.  I'm able to access what my heart and soul see and feel is important, and I don't face the moral and ethical dilemmas that I do otherwise.  I find that decisions are easy to make, and I don't slip into the judgmental mode that's so easy to be in when I'm "ignoring" my heart.  And Melody's right:  the times when I feel most lucid, when things seem most clear to me, are those times when I'm able to love freely, when I'm able to look at a complete stranger in a store and think to myself, "I love that person."

If I can tap into that love, and if I can make it one of the strongest guiding forces of my life, then I know that I'll be sure to be able to "stumble my way through" in a manner that's much clearer, much more productive and healthy, than the other ways in which I often make my way through days.  I'm getting better at loving myself, but I don't believe that I'm completely there yet; I'm much closer than I've ever been, but I'm not sure that the love is completely unconditional yet.  Once it is, then I'll be able to spread unconditional love freely, and I know that that will be a beautiful time in my life.

Questions to consider:

How often do you find yourself "stumbling through" your lessons?

Do you love yourself unconditionally?  If not,
are you able to love others freely?

How can we use the lessons we go through
to help us to learn to love?

For further thought:

To love means being 100 percent responsible for your
experience of living, to not be a victim or a martyr,
and to be 100 percent accountable for the quality
of your life, which includes the amount of love, joy,
and growth you create in your relationships each day.

To love is the ability to remain strong, stable, and
committed through difficult times, changes, and
challenges.  It means being gentle, kind, and
supportive of your potential, goals, and aspirations.

1 year ago
  

January 21

  

Today's quotation:

Children have a remarkable talent for not taking the adult
world with the kind of respect that we are so confident it ought
to be given.  To the irritation of authority figures of all sorts,
children expend considerable energy in “clowning around.”
They refuse to appreciate the gravity of our monumental
concerns, while we forget that if we were to become more
like children our concerns might not be so monumental.

Conrad Hyers

Today's Meditation:

Is it possible that we give our world too much respect?  Is it possible that the things that we deem as serious and important aren't nearly as serious and important as we've come to consider them?  Our "monumental concerns" may not be so monumental at all, depending upon the perspective we choose to look from when we consider them.

Yes, we are "confident" that our worlds ought to be given a great deal of respect, but what does that mean?  How does it help us or anyone associated with us if we're constantly absorbed by these monumental concerns and not present in the current moment?  What are we accomplishing if we're so worried about an aspect of work while we're at home that we neglect our relationships there?  What are we doing to those we love and, just as importantly, to ourselves?

If we were to become more like children, our lives would change significantly.  We would tend not to feel the need to control situations as much as we often do, and we would let go of things more easily.  Of course, these assumptions presume an idealized kind of child, but we're old enough and experienced enough to be able to step into the idealized mold if we so choose.  We wouldn't need to take on a child's self-centeredness and we wouldn't need to throw temper tantrums and the like to be children.  We would need to adopt the child's perspective and sense of wonder, and the child's ability to let things go and let others take care of stuff that they just don't want to take care of.

Our concerns are monumental because we make them so.  Their importance is a product of our thoughts and our own need to categorize, control, and perform.  On the day we die, though, those aren't the criteria upon which most of us would like to judge ourselves as we look back upon our lives.

Questions to consider:

How important are the most important concerns right now?  If you were to delegate them to someone else or lower their importance in your mind, would they still get done?

Why do we consider tasks and jobs to be of higher priority than family and friends?  Is it the fear of losing our jobs if we don't perform?  What do we sacrifice to keep our jobs?

What are some alternatives that we can search out if we want to lessen the gravity of our most important concerns?
Where can we find them?

For further thought:

I think that the ideals of youth are fine, clear
and unencumbered; and that the real art of living
consists in keeping alive the conscience and
sense of values we had when we were young.

Rockwell Kent

1 year ago
  

January 20

  

Today's quotation:

As to the kindness you mention, I wish I could have been of
more service to you than I have been, but if I had, the only
thanks that I should desire are that you would always be
ready to serve any other person that may need your assistance,
and so let good offices go around, for humankind are all
of a family. As for my own part, when I am employed
in serving others I do not look upon myself as conferring
favors but paying debts.

Benjamin Franklin

Today's Meditation:

Wow--what kind of a world would this be if everyone were to adopt this perspective?  What would it be like if everyone were to recognize that we all have debts to pay for all that we have in life, and that we can spend our lives paying those debts by helping out other people who are in our lives?

I don't believe that Franklin ever found himself staggering under the burden of those debts, as happens so often when people have to deal with financial debts.  I believe that he saw them as a normal part of life that he could deal with quite easily, on a day-to-day basis.  After all, the major difference with this kind of debt is that there is no debtor waiting there, ready to take away everything if we don't pay back what we owe.  And if we go a week, a month, or a year without paying back anything at all, we won't face any consequences of significance.

But the debt is very real.  So many people have contributed to our lives that we never will have even a glimpse of the extent to which others have served us, over and over again.  When we get into our cars, we can be thankful not just to the people who built it, but to the people who developed internal combustion engines, safe all-weather tires, windshield wipers, heaters, and much more.  Plus, we can remember that those things were possible only because someone developed a way to process oil into gasoline.  And all of those people were inspired by previous inventions and products, developed by other people, who in turn. . . .

"The only thanks that I should desire. . . ."  Can we be that way?  Can we truly let go of our desire to be thanked and appreciated?  Can we allow ourselves to be content with the knowledge that we've done something to pay off our debt?  It is possible--many people live life this way, and it seems that they live quite happily.  What would it take for me to be able to do it?  Why, a simple decision to do so, and a dedication to doing so once I decide.

Questions to consider:

Is it easy to pay back debts that we don't have to pay back if we don't want to?

How can we get an idea of just what kind of debts we owe?

Would this kind of attitude towards life benefit us?  Would it benefit others?  If the answer is "yes," then why aren't we living this way?

For further thought:

A hundred times every day I remind myself that
my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other people,
living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give
in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.

Albert Einstein

1 year ago
  

January 19

  

Today's quotation:

Living life in terms of your vision and working toward your goals
must be done in the context of today's activities.  Do not focus
too heavily on the results of your efforts.  Do not live for the future
attainment of your goal.  Live your life through the lens of your
vision and what can be done in the present moment.  Living your
vision is not about reaching your goals.  It is about living and
working toward them.  It is not about producing results but about
living your life in a more meaningful and personally rewarding way.

Ari Kiev

Today's Meditation:

Willa Cather said much the same thing when she said that the end is nothing, and the road is all.  It's far too easy to keep focused on the idea that reaching our goals will determine if we're successful or not, and the reality is that the important thing is how we live as we're striving to reach those goals.  Are we walking all over others in our attempt to be "successful"?  Are we keeping our eyes open for opportunities to help others?  Are we allowing others to be who they are and do as they choose rather than trying to control their actions in order to make them correspond to our wants and needs?

Ari Kiev's focus rightly lies in the present moment.  What can you do right this moment to contribute to your own life?  What opportunities do you have now to make your life more fulfilling?  We've all read the stories about the men and women who are so caught up in trying to get promoted or reaching sales goals or making their business work that they forget to spend time with their families.  They sacrifice the positive time that they could contribute to the lives of their loved ones--and the positive elements that they could get back--in order to try to achieve some distant goal that they may or may not reach.

Far too often, when they reach that goal they find that the price they paid to get there wasn't worth the "success."

Of course, it's important to remember that some jobs have to be done, and that sometimes we must sacrifice time with loved ones in order to accomplish necessary tasks.  However, if we don't find a balance and make sure that we're trying our best to live in the present moment, we face a huge loss, one that cannot be returned to us--the days of our lives, and the potential within each day for fulfilling, meaningful contact with the people we love and who love us.

Questions to consider:

Do you tend to focus on results of your efforts,
or on the work itself?

How can you make sure that you're balancing the need to reach goals with the need to live each day as you have it?  Can you think of some strategies for keeping track and checking on yourself?

On the day we die, which will be most important--the goals that we've reached or the people we've helped?

For further thought:

People who are “being” are fully present.  They are totally engaged in the moment.  This engagement includes an easy appreciation and sense of connection with whomever or whatever they are relating to at the time.  These people are aware of a job well done or a difficulty surmounted and will respect and often acknowledge the person who has accomplished it.  “Being” is a state of heart and mind that is receptive and able to listen carefully.
1 year ago
  

January 18

  

Today's quotation:

Education is more than schooling.  It is a cast of mind, a
willingness to see the world with an endless sense of
curiosity and wonder.  If you would be truly educated, you
must adopt this cast of mind.  You must open yourself to
the richness of your everyday experience--to your own emotions,
to the movements of the heavens and the languages of birds,
to the privations and successes of people in other lands and
other times, to the artistry in the hands of the mechanic
and the typist and the child.  There is no limit to the learning
that appears before us.  It is enough to fill us
each day a thousand times over.

Kent Nerburn

Today's Meditation:

"The richness of your everyday experience."  How easy it is to forget this richness, or to miss it as we walk by it constantly.  The fact is that our worlds are filled with such incredible beauty, with such wonderful people, with such amazing opportunities that we never would be able to take advantage of all of them in our lifetimes simply due to a lack of time.  Do we see them, though, or do we miss them?  Most of us miss them regularly, for we get so caught up in the "things" that we have to get done that we simply don't look around ourselves and make an effort to recognize the wonder and beauty of the world.

A true education is simply learning about the world we're in and how we fit into it.  Most formal education deals strictly with information and processes developed by human beings.  But true education more than anything else results in awareness, and while many educational programs seem to be about awareness, they're mostly trying to get us to be aware of information, analysis of that information, and application of processes based on that information.  This isn't to downplay the importance of formal education-- I'm thankful for doctors and engineers and architects and mathematicians and all those other wonderful people who work to make our lives better.

But as Kent Nerburn says, there's artistry in the hands of the mechanic, though few of us see that.  The cars that we drive are amazing works of wonder that are almost incredible in their scope--a person from 1000 years ago would marvel at the machines, and marvel even more when he or she found out that they were powered by fuel pumped from the ground and processed to make gasoline.  We flip a switch and lights go on, powered by an electrical plant sometimes hundreds of miles away.

This world is an awesome, wonderful place.  Too often, though, we see it as a dreary, unpleasant place full of obstacles and problems, a place where we simply muddle our way through our lives.  It's our choice, though--if we choose to see and appreciate the wonder of the world, we can learn more than we ever thought possible, and we can make our lives truly bright, indeed.

Questions to consider:

How do you choose to see the various aspects of your life?  Lights, television, radio, DVD players--are they sources of wonder, or just everyday things?

If you were to change anything about your perspective, what would it be?  How would you change it?

Why are we so prone to take things for granted and stop noticing wonderful things?  What can we do to battle this tendency?

For further thought:

Real educa

1 year ago
  

January 17

  

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:

I think that Susan Taylor must have known me years ago.  Her line about setbacks leading to "self- indictments" hits very close to home, for I spent many years doing just that.  Almost anything negative that happened to me led me to get down on myself, and this tendency often led to full-fledged depression.  If someone did something unpleasant to me, it had to be because there was something wrong with me, because I was worthless, because nobody cared about me or what happened to me.

The sad thing was that these feelings on my part often served only to perpetuate the cycle, as my negative feelings led people to avoid me at times, for even though I tried not to let my negativity affect others, it was there and others could feel it.

To make a long story short, I finally found the source of those negative feelings, and I've spent years trying to work my way past them, but they did affect me for a very long time.

Since I don't do that to myself any more, I'm able to see the profound truth in Susan's words.  How we see what happens to us definitely affects our perceptions of our selves and of how the world treats us.  If a coach sits me on the bench during a game, it's not an indictment of me as a person, but a statement on how I'm playing.  If a teacher puts red marks all over a paper of mine, it's not because that teacher sees me as a bad person, but because that teacher is paid to respond to my writing and make corrections.  If I take these things as statements about me as a person, I am doing damage to myself.

Somehow--and I find this to be particularly true in the United States--our culture teaches us to take things personally.  If someone says they don't like my shirt, then that someone is rude or arrogant or uncaring, and it can lead me to be angry at or uncomfortable with myself.  But perhaps that person considers himself to be my friend, and feels comfortable enough around me to be able to express him or herself honestly.  And more importantly, if I like the shirt, why should it matter to me a bit if someone else doesn't?

We can take lessons from everything that happens to us, even those things we see as negative.  If we spend our time berating ourselves, though, we can blind ourselves to the good that's imbedded in the situation, and we can lose a wonderful learning experience.  What other people do to us is a reflection of them, not of us, and what the world does to us is a reflection of the world's complete neutrality, not of our self-worth.  Only we can build our self-worth.

Questions to consider:

Do you ever get angry at yourself over someone else's comments or actions?  What

1 year ago
  

January 16

  

Today's quotation:

Our attitude tells the world what we expect in return.  If it's a cheerful, expectant attitude, it says to everyone with whom we come in contact that we expect the best in our dealings with the world.  You see, we tend to live up to our expectations.  And others give to us, as far as their attitudes are concerned, what we expect.  Our attitude is something we can control.  We can establish our attitude each morning when we start our day--in fact, we do just that, whether or not we realize it. And the people in our family--all the people in our world--will reflect back to us the attitude we present to them.  It is, then, our attitude toward life that determines life's attitude toward us.  Cause and effect.  Everything we say or do will cause a corresponding effect.  If we're cheerful, glad to be experiencing this miracle of life, others will reflect that good cheer back to us.  We are the kind of people others enjoy being around.

Earl Nightingale

Today's Meditation:

I believe that Bernie Siegel wrote one of my favorite passages about the effects of attitude.  He tells the story of a woman who didn't like her job at all because of the way her co-workers treated her.  She decided to quit, and on the day that was to be her last day she woke up happy, looking forward to leaving the job.  She went to work feeling happy and acting happy.

Amazingly enough, her co-workers responded to her new attitude by reflecting back to her a similar attitude, one that was very pleasant to her.  She had been miserable at work all that time because she had gone to work with a negative attitude, and her co-workers responded by treating her in the same way she was acting.  With this new perspective, though, she enjoyed her day at work, and she ended up staying there and working there for a very long time.

I was brought up indirectly to be reactionary, to think that all of the conditions of my life were subject to the winds of chance.  If I was miserable, I was miserable because of the way someone else treated me.  If I was happy, I was so because something good had happened to me.  I had to learn later in life that I determine my own attitude.  If someone treats me badly, then I have the choice of letting their treatment affect my attitude or letting myself determine my own attitude.  If I let it get to me, then I truly am letting it get to me--I'm allowing the problem to happen.

I have a simple way of looking at other people's treatment now--a person did something unpleasant to me either because they wanted to hurt me or because they weren't aware that their action was hurtful.  In the first case, I don't want to allow someone who is low enough to want to hurt someone else affect my peace of mind.  In the second case, if it was unintentional then there's no need to feel bad about it.  In both cases, I can hold on to my own peace of mind simply because of my attitude concerning their actions.

We can control our attitudes, and if we do so well, we can be people that other people love to be around.  And if they love to be around us, we can teach them many important things about how wonderful they are as unique creations in this vast universe.  If we can teach them well, they can find the positive attitudes within themselves.  Our positive attitudes can grow beyond ourselves and affect the rest of the world in very positive ways.  And as we affect the world positively, that positive glow will reflect right back at us, and life will hold that shine that we know inside it should hold.

Questions to consider:

How much of your attitude is determined by other people's actions, and your reactions to what they do?

1 year ago

  

January 15

  

Today's quotation:

We ought to do good to others as simply and as naturally
as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes
season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.

Marcus Aurelius

Today's Meditation:

It came as a bit of a shock to me when I was old enough to realize that doing good is a conscious choice.  I hadn't been doing bad things all my life, of course, but I had never really thought about it before--why do people do good things?  Why did I do good things sometimes, and not-so-good things other times?  Usually it came down to a couple of criteria--which choice would give me the most benefit, or which choice would help me to avoid pain or unpleasantness.


My motivation was purely self-centered, though I didn't really see it that way.  I saw it as emotional and physical survival, and I didn't think about things like trusting life to take care of us or trying to spread good in the world.  As an adult child of an alcoholic, one of my primary motivations always was to avoid loss and to make sure that I was set for the future--I couldn't give away something that I might need next week or next month.

But when we start doing good acts--spreading goodness, if you will--we tune into something very important in life, something that's very universal.  We tune in to the positive energy that so many people contribute to, the energy of compassion and charity.  Our good acts energize us and they energize the recipients of the acts, and selfishness is not just put aside, but defeated entirely.

Marcus here is talking about a way of life, a manner of being that is focused on others, and on giving to others, even if the giving is in the form of intangibles such as encouragement or a simple smile.  And even though the recipients of our good acts benefit from them, we benefit even more, for we're practicing a lifestyle that leads to great levels of fulfillment-- personally, emotionally, psychologically, and even physically, and our health improves dramatically as our mental state improves.

Doing good should be simple and natural.  One of my personal goals is to make goodness a way of life, and I don't mean that in a sentimental, insincere way.  I mean that I want my acts to contribute to the good of the world--to the peace, fulfillment, appreciation, gratitude, and all the other positive energies that are in our world.

Questions to consider:

Do you do good acts naturally, or do you have
to think about them before you do them?

What are your favorite types of good acts
that you perform?  How often do you perform them?

What are the visible effects on others when
you perform good acts?  On yourself?

For further thought:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.

John Wesley

1 year ago
  

January 14

  

Today's quotation:

We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of
horizontal thinking.  We move along the surface of things
going from one quick base to another, often with a frenzy
that wears us out. We collect data, things, people, ideas,
"profound experiences," never penetrating any of them. . . .
But there are other times.  There are times when we stop.
We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory.  We
listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.

James Carroll

Today's Meditation:

"We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves"--what a marvelous image this is.  For most of the time in our adult years, we think that losing ourselves in a pile of leaves is a waste of time and effort, that focusing on something so "unimportant" takes time that we should spend collecting data and things.  But the time spent focused on the smaller things in life are the times of peace, the times of renewal, the times of bringing ourselves to an entirely new level.  These are the times when we let our cares sink back into a place where they aren't able to create the tension and the stress that they normally cause.

Peace is a wonderful word, a wonderful thought, a wonderful feeling.  The idea of peace is integral to all major religions, and it's almost universally recognized as one of the most important goals that we could set for ourselves.  If we can find peace, we can act with grace and dignity, our decisions become clearer and less influenced by tension, and we can allow things to happen to us and around us without losing our composure--and not because we're in control, but because we're completely sure that there's no need to be in control.

Collecting ideas and data is an attempt to be in control, to know what we "need" to know and do what we "need" to do.  So many of our actions are motivated by the idea that we're supposed to be "in control" of ourselves and our lives, yet the only true control lies in the recognition that we don't need to be in control.  We can lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or take delight in a long walk or climb a small mountain, or we can stick to our work or our personal lives, trying to "make sure" that everything turns out right--in other words, how we want things to turn out.

"We stop. . . . we listen."  Four amazingly simple words that are so difficult to put into practice sometimes.  But learning how to do these two things can provide us with an inner peace that simply cannot be attained any other way.  We all have the choice, and it's difficult to imagine anyone choosing stress and work over peace and equanimity.  It's always up to us, and we can do ourselves a world of good by stopping, listening, and recognizing the peace of this world.

Questions to consider:

Do you often feel at peace?
What are the factors that are in place when you do?

Is it easy for you to get caught up in collecting data and things?  How do you feel when you do?  In the short term?
In the long term?

Where is peace in your life?  Is it there with you, an important part of you?  Or is it something you see as outside of yourself, something that you have to go searching for?

For further thought:

It can be tempting to blame others for our loss of direction.
We get lots of information about life but little education
in life from parents, teachers, and other authority figures,
who should know better from their experience.  Information
is about facts.  Education is about wisdom and the k
1 year ago

  

January 13

  

Today's quotation:

The universe is full of magical things patiently
waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

Eden Phillpotts
(also attributed to William Butler Yeats)

Today's Meditation:

Yes, the universe is full of magical things.  And when we think of "universe," we don't have to think of the stars and the vast darkness of the galaxies that surround ours in space.  The universe is right here, right now--that's simply all that matters to us.  Unfortunately, though, we seem to be bound and determined to miss all of the beauty and magic that surrounds us all the time.  Our wits have become dull through our years of passively receiving, of looking in the places that others tell us we should look rather than in the places that our hearts tell us we need to look.

I read a passage once about a boy who found a quarter on the sidewalk.  He had almost walked right past it, but it caught the sun just right and its gleam caught his attention.  All of a sudden he realized that there might be treasures on the ground that he never would see if he didn't look, so he determined right then and there that he never would miss another potential treasure, and he kept his eyes on the ground from that moment on.

Over the next few decades, he found literally hundreds of dollars that other people walked right by.  One day, though, he looked up, and saw the most beautiful sight he ever had seen--a rainbow that filled the eastern sky.  It held him spellbound until it disappeared, and he wondered why he never had seen such a thing before.  The answer, of course, was painful to him--he had sacrificed the experience of such beauty for the possibility of finding a few more cents here and there.  For years he had missed sunsets, smiles, rainbows, clouds, trees, and so much more because he had been focused on the ground.

His senses had dulled because he put so much importance on just one thing:  money.  Other people do the same thing with their work, their hobbies, their obsessions (with sports teams, for example), their possessions, or any of many other possible distractions.  But if we can keep ourselves aware, and if we can keep our focus outward on the things that this world is offering us on a consistent basis, we can allow our wits to grow sharper, and we can learn to see and to recognize all of the things that can make life so meaningful.

The possibility of a few coins on the ground cannot match the glory of a sunset or the special moment of a shared smile.

Questions to consider:

If you could, how would you make your wits grow sharper?

How do you feel when you see other people miss the beauty in life because they're so focused on one particular thing or project?  Are they being responsible with their lives?

Make a short list of some of the magical things
that you see and experience every day.

For further thought:

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

Clyde S. Kilby

1 year ago
  

January 12

  

Today's quotation:

I had finally reached a point where keeping up such a hectic
pace no longer seemed worth it.  It occurred to me that we had, through long hours and a lot of hard work, achieved a modicum
of success.  We had many of the trappings of the modern
lifestyle, but we didn't have the time, and sometimes not
even the energy to enjoy them.  And even worse, we had little
time for each other, and practically no time for ourselves.

Elaine St. James

Today's Meditation:

Hurry, hurry, hurry--it seems to be the curse of our lives these days.  I have friends with whom I basically have to make an appointment if I ever want to get together with them.  They pull out their date books or appointment books to find out when they're "free."  Aren't we supposed to be always free?  Yes, it's important to work and to commit ourselves to causes, but when those causes overwhelm us and become the focal points of our worlds, it's time to re-evaluate.

Lists help.  Sitting down and writing down the most important aspects of our lives can help us to see where we should be putting our time.  Most people would write down things like friends, family, self-improvement, reflection, volunteering for a worthy cause, work, etc.

But when that other list gets written--the list that tells us where we actually do spend our time--we often see the disparity between what we know to be good for us and our actual actions.  We may spend 90 minutes commuting and 15 minutes reading a good book.  We may spend two hours on the extra work we brought home and catch only the last half hour of our daughter's soccer game.  The things that we know to be good for us tend to get short shrift when we make our decisions on how to spend our time, and in the long run we end up sabotaging our opportunities for growth and development.

Sometimes I like sitting around doing nothing, or reading a book while I listen to relaxing music.  There's nothing wrong with that at all.  I balance it out by making sure that those things that absolutely have to be done (paying the bills, raking the yard) are done, and by not overextending myself by volunteering for every organization that asks me to spend my time working for them.  We have to pick and choose, and it's important that we choose those things that will help us to be better people, not just busy people.  For if we grow as human beings we can be much more helpful to the other people in our lives than we can if we just stay busy and never learn the lessons that life has to teach us through experience rather than busy-ness.

Questions to consider:

When do you feel overwhelmed?  What causes the feeling?

How do you prioritize your decisions concerning how you're going to spend your time?  How much of your current lifestyle is the result of your decisions?

What kinds of things would you do if you had time to do them?  Why don't you have the time to do them?  (Be honest!)

For further thought:

We are in such haste to be doing, to be writing, to be gathering gear, to make our voice audible a moment in the derisive silence of eternity, that we forget one thing, of which these are but the parts—namely, to live.  We fall in love, we drink hard, we run to and fro upon the earth like frightened sheep.  And now you are to ask yourself if, when all is done, you would not have been better to sit by

1 year ago
  

January 9

  

Today's quotation:

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.
It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another
human being.  We should all be thankful for those people
who rekindle the inner spirit.


Albert Schweitzer

Today's Meditation:

I wanted to back away from this quotation, turn the page and write about something else.  Once I realized that I felt so strongly about it, I knew that it was important that I write about it because I tend to shy away from many things that make me uncomfortable, no matter how good they are for me.  And this quotation addresses one of the things that intimidates me most:  people who challenge me to be more than I am.

Usually these are people with whom I feel some sort of connection or bond as soon as I meet them, and for some reason I find that I avoid them after I meet them.  I believe that it's because I can see the possibility of getting too close, and closeness isn't as safe as distance.  If I get too close to someone, the possibility of getting hurt is far too great, especially if I feel that person may challenge me to grow as a person.  The possibility is there that I'll disappoint this person, thus sabotaging the relationship.

By stepping back from these people, though, I do myself a huge disservice, for I lose any opportunity that I might have had to learn from them.  My fear has stopped me from growing many times in my life, and I often wonder where I would be if my fear hadn't been so firmly in control for so long.  The people who "rekindle the inner spirit" are the people we should embrace, about whom we should rejoice; instead, how often do we treat them in ways that are unhealthy to us and harmful even to them?

There are people who can rekindle that spirit, who can light the fire inside.  The question I have to ask myself, though, is whether I'm open enough to allow them to ignite that spark, or am I keeping them at arm's length to "protect" myself, thus never allowing the flame to be lit?

Questions to consider:

Have you ever regretted not actively pursuing a friendship or relationship?  Why didn't you pursue it?  Why do you regret not doing so?

If you were to meet someone who seemed to be a potentially "helpful" person, one who might rekindle your spirit, which ways of acting might be appropriate and effective?  What might you say and do to foster the relationship rather than hinder it?

Can you be the flame that rekindles other people's spirits?  How?

For further thought:

It is the individual who is not interested in his or her
fellow people who has the greatest difficulties in life and
provides the greatest injury to others.  It is from among
such individuals that all human failures spring.

Alfred Adler

1 year ago

  

January 8

  

Today's quotation:

The world is too big for us, too much is going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement.  Try as you will, you get behind in the race in spite of yourself.  It's a constant strain to keep pace. . . and still, you lose ground.  Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment.  The political world is news seen rapidly, you're out of breath trying to keep pace with who's in and who's out.  Everything is high pressure.  Human nature can't endure much more.

Atlantic Journal

June 16, 1883

Today's Meditation:

I love the passage above.  Rarely have I seen such pessimism, such clearly illogical thinking, such a focus on the negative aspects of everyday elements of life.  If you read the passage closely, you'll see a person who has allowed him or herself to become overwhelmed by everything that's going on, and who then has generalized his or her own feelings to everyone else.

How often have you seen things in your life or at work or in the family as going very well, only to have a discussion with someone who sees things as going poorly?  We leave these conversations feeling somehow that things are going wrong, no matter what we felt to start with.  And so what if scientists keep announcing their discoveries?  I'm certainly not going to "stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment."  I'd much rather read or hear about them and say, "Wow, that's interesting," and then get back to focusing on my life.

Life always offers us much more to focus on than we need to focus on or than we're able to focus on.  It's important that we choose carefully just what we allow into our minds on a deep level, and what we keep on the periphery.  If we allow our neighbor's family problems to preoccupy us, then we're adding a new set of worries to our lives.  We must let others do what they do and be what they are, and we must be ready to step in and help a situation when necessary, but we also must keep a clear idea of just what belongs in our minds.  Usually, if it's something we can't control or something that's out of our realm of influence, we're much better off not letting it be something that will get us out of breath or that will overwhelm us.

The last 120 years since this article was published have proved not only that human nature can endure more, but also that the world hasn't changed as much as we think it has.  How we live our lives is up to us and the way we react to input, and which input we consider important enough to worry about or to focus on strongly.

Questions to consider:

Do you find yourself worrying about things when someone else says
that they're worthy of your worrying?

How often do things seem to be so overwhelming that it's impossible to bear them?  How have so many people been able to bear seemingly impossible situations?

Do you consciously choose the things you focus on, or do you allow things to work their way into your mind on their own, without ever sitting down and deciding whether they're important enough to worry about?For further thought:

Life only demands from you the strength that you possess.  Only one feat is possible--not to have run away.

Dag Hammarskjold
   

The art of life lies in a constant readju

1 year ago
  

January 7

  

Today's quotation:

If people walk in the woods for the love of them half
of each day, they are in danger of being regarded as
loafers; but if they spend their whole day as speculators,
shearing off those woods and making earth bald before
her time, they are esteemed industrious and enterprising
citizens.  As if a town had no interest in forests
but to cut them down!

Henry David Thoreau

Today's Meditation:

Are you regarded as a loafer?  Most of the people I know who regularly walk for half a day in the woods (and there aren't very many of them) love what they do, and they wouldn't care a bit if people called them loafers.  They know that what they're doing is a beautiful way to practice renewal, to recharge their spirits after experiencing the stress of their work and their families.  They know that no one's judgment about how they spend their time is important except their own, for they know in their hearts what they most need.

It's so easy to allow ourselves to be judged by others, even though their views often are very flawed.  Why do we worry about what a person thinks of us and what we do, when we can see quite clearly that that person isn't happy with him or herself?  Why do we put stock in the opinions of those people who don't even know themselves, much less us?  Don't we know what's best for us?  Then why don't we trust that more than we trust the views of others?

We don't have to be producing for the sake of the approval of others if we want to be happy as human beings.  We don't need to be walking the walk that others define for us--Thoreau also talked about "marching to the beat of a different drummer," and while we often quote that idea, few of us have made a conscious decision to live fully to the beat of our individual drummer.  It's not easy to do so--it takes courage and commitment to devote yourself to the life that you feel inside is best for you.  But the rewards are definitely there, even if we have no true idea of what those rewards look like, because we've never dared to go down the road at the end of which they lie.

Questions to consider:

What does your conscience tell you is the best way for you to live?  Are you following that way?

Do you feel comfortable loafing and taking things easy when others think that you should be doing what they think you should be doing?

How do you feel if others criticize you for not following their expectations?  Is it fair to yourself to feel this way?  What effects do these feelings have on you?

For further thought:

Work is not always required of a person.
There is such a thing as sacred idleness,
the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.

George MacDonald

1 year ago
  

January 6

  

Today's quotation:

You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip
by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.

James M. Barrie

Today's Meditation:

We who inhabit the world today have become a part of the culture of doing.  We have somehow bought into the notion that we always must be accomplishing something, we always must be on the go.  We have over-committed ourselves and we find it very hard to say no to anyone who asks anything from us.  We have relegated rest and relaxation to the status of "luxury" rather than keeping it at the status of "necessity," which is where it should be.

For most of the people I know, I would love to see them make a simple New Year's resolution:  to relax more and to commit themselves less.  If they were able to do so, they would find their quality of life significantly improved, and they would find their stress levels significantly lower.

Every once in a while, I find myself so caught up in doing things that I start to imagine that that's what life is all about, that that's what I somehow need to be doing.  I don't have time for walks in the woods or for sitting quietly reading a good book--heaven forbid that I waste two perfectly good hours just sitting there, reading!  I get a restless feeling, an urge to get up and DO something.

I find it to be a very nice feeling when I can say to myself, "Forget it.  You don't need to be doing anything right now, and sitting here quietly, reading a book, is time very well spent."  Some moments must be allowed to slip by, quietly and peacefully, not filled with activity.

Questions to consider:

What do you do when your mind is asking you to slow down and find some peace and quiet?  Do you tell yourself to ignore your mind, or do you find the quiet time?

How often do you allow yourself to do something "useless," such as playing solitaire or putting together a jigsaw puzzle?

Do you judge yourself on how much you accomplish, or on how much you're growing and learning as a human being?

How do you treat others when you're stressed?
When you're relaxed?

For further thought:

The present moment is never intolerable.  It is always what is coming in five minutes or five days that makes people despair. The Law of Life is to live in the present, and this applies to both time and place.  Keep your attention to the present moment, and in the place where your body is now.  Do a fair day's work, and then stop.  Overwork is not productive in the long run.

Emmet Fox

1 year ago

  

January 5

  

Today's quotation:

What we are talking about is learning to live in the present moment,
in the now.  When you aren't distracted by your own negative
thinking, when you don't allow yourself to get lost in moments that
are gone or yet to come, you are left with this moment.  This
moment--now--truly is the only moment you have.  It is beautiful
and special.  Life is simply a series of such moments to be experienced one right after another.  If you attend to the moment
you are in and stay connected to your soul and remain happy,
you will find that your heart is filled with positive feelings.

Sydney Banks

Today's Meditation:

Right now.  It's the only moment in the history of the world over which we have any sort of control over our thoughts, actions, or feelings.  We can't control what happened even thirty seconds ago, and we can't control what's going to happen in ten minutes, but right now we can make decisions that will help to determine what our future's like, and that may make amends for past mistakes or build on past successes and achievements.

A few seconds ago, you decided to read this passage.  You read the quotation above, probably, and then started on this passage.  Now you're deciding whether to continue or not.  Each moment of our life is like this:  we decide to initiate or continue actions--or inaction--based on what we think is best for ourselves and others.  We may get so caught up in what we're doing that we don't even notice the wonder of this moment--the sounds, the sights, the feelings--and that's a shame.  This moment doesn't consist just of what we're doing; it also consist of what we're being, and how we're being it.

"If you attend to the moment you're in. . . ."  These are powerful words, and that attention is something that takes practice.  This moment is now, and it never shall come again.  Feel it, live it, breathe it, and let it be a great contributor to who you are.  Sometimes you may lose the moment due to certain tasks that occupy us for extended periods of time, but even then we can be attentive to the tasks, to their contributions to our lives and who we are, and to the fact that we're involved in something that probably will serve other people in necessary ways.

Some of my greatest moments have been those when I've stopped doing whatever I was doing just to be.  I stand in silence and listen.  I look at everything around me, no matter where I am, and consider how it's a part of who I am.  I feel whatever's closest to me.  I listen to my breathing.  And all this helps to remind me that there's much more to life than what I'm doing at the moment, and much more to me than just the person who's involved in the task.

Questions to consider:

How easy is it for you to notice all that's around you?  Can you do it all of the time?  Most of the time?

How much do you lose when you don't pay attention to the present moment?  Will you ever get it back again?

For further thought:



We have only this moment, sparkling like a star
in our hand. . . and melting like a snowflake.
Let us use it before it is too late.

Marie Beynon Ray
1 year ago
  

January 4

  

Today's quotation:

As a doctor, I studied survivors--people who got sick but exceeded expectations.  Many of those exceptional patients had been given little time to live, yet they were some of the happiest people I'd ever met.  They knew, or they discovered through their illness, which became their teacher, that if you want to be happy, you must answer some key questions.  What are you here for?  And how do you want to spend your limited time?  If your answer is that you are here to love, to serve others and not to be served, then you already have everything you need to be happy.  If you wake up in the morning, that's enough; you are grateful for life and the opportunity to contribute in your way.

Bernie Siegel

Today's Meditation:

Making our contributions--how many people are frustrated with life because they're unable to contribute on their terms in the ways that they feel they should be contributing to life and other people?  How many are frustrated because people don't accept their service in exactly the way they feel they should accept it?  Love and service both should be unconditional if we want them to be true.  I cannot put expectations of how others will react to my love or my service if I want my love or service to be true.

If people who are sick and even dying from illnesses over which they have no control can find happiness and meaning in love and service, how much more can we as healthy people make our lives brighter and more fulfilling by using the wonderful powers that we've been given to help others?

Have you asked yourselves the key questions that Bernie mentions?  What are you here for?  And how can you love and serve?  Everyone has different ways to do so--personally, I'm not so good at serving face-to-face, so I've developed a website that I hope will be helpful to people who might need some encouragement or motivation.  Others serve by playing music or by making artwork or by rooting cuttings of plants and giving them away.  Others have learned the power of the compliment and a kind word or three.  Others coach sports in a way that builds up their players' confidence and self-image rather than in a way that focuses on winning at all costs.

How do you want to spend your limited time here on this planet?  Personally, I've found that I've been much happier when I've tried to focus on helping others, and I believe that since I'm going through life consciously trying to strengthen that focus, I will continue to grow as a human being and to make a difference (however small) in the lives of others.  And I hope--but don't require--that they pass that helpfulness on as they make their ways through life.

Questions to consider:

What are you here for?
How can you give your life a broader sense of meaning?

Why is it that people with terminal illnesses so often have a much healthier perspective on life, even though they're faced with the imminent threat of losing their lives?

Do you want to wait until you're about to die or until you narrowly escape death before you ask yourself some of the important questions about life?

When you do something for someone else, what kind of expectations do you have of how that other person should react to your help?

For further thought:

1 year ago
  

January 3

  

Today's quotation:

Amazing, isn't it, how some people see the basket half
empty and others see it half full?  Some see life hopeless,
others hopeful.  Even when things are less than perfect, if
you can think of the good, the beautiful, the hopeful,
you'll be more than sustained--you'll conquer.

unknown

Today's Meditation:

I remember many, many times when I've seen the basket half-empty.  For much of my life when I was unmarried (I married at 37), I saw life as somehow empty, somehow lacking, because I was missing that which I most wanted.  A wife and a family seemed to be an impossible dream that I was being denied even though so many others were blessed with both--and many had little to no appreciation of that.  My view was tarnished by what was lacking in my life, and it did hurt me significantly.

Fortunately, I worked my way through this before I ever met the woman I was to marry.  I finally came to the point at which I was comfortable being alone, and I was happy with what I had in life--I had many blessings instead of a family, and I began to appreciate them for what they were.  The basket truly was half full, and even that "missing" half represented wonderful things that I already had experienced.

I've found that life gives back to us almost exactly what we give to it.  If we give it an attitude of appreciation and gratitude, life gives us more things to be thankful for.  If we look at each thing for exactly what it IS rather than what it's MISSING, we'll see that our lives are filled with an abundance that we hardly can imagine.  If we accept people for what they do rather than judge them for what they don't do, we'll find our relationships strengthening and growing and becoming something more than they ever were.

We see things as half empty when we allow our fear to control us--our fear that something soon will be completely empty and we'll have to do without, or we won't be able to provide for our loved ones.  We have to let go of that fear and focus on the fact that we have enough for now, and we can trust that tomorrow will bring us more--in its own way--if we're to live our lives in a happy, healthy way.

Questions to consider:

Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?  Are you afraid that a half-empty glass will soon be gone, or are you glad that you have half a glass of something to enjoy?

How do the "half-empty" people affect you when you're around them?  Are their views generally positive?

Is it realistic to expect that all of our glasses should
be full all the time?

For further thought:

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.

1 year ago

  

January 2

  

Today's quotation:

People are here for the sake of other people--for those upon
whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and
also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we
are connected by a bond of sympathy.

Albert Einstein

Today's Meditation:

It goes against what we learn as we grow up, doesn't it--we're here to serve other people, not ourselves.  Culturally, we tend to grow up with the "looking out for number one" attitude that keeps us focused on what's best for us, what will make and keep us happy.  Interestingly enough, pursuing that particular path does not end up making us happy.

So many of the readings that I do show me that the truly happy people in this life are serving others, and usually not in any big way.  Making small gifts for a person who's going through troubles, taking the time to sit and talk with a three-year-old who would really love to talk with someone, holding doors for people, giving heart-felt words of encouragement when they seem to be necessary and appropriate--all of these are ways of giving, giving of ourselves rather than of things that we can buy.

When you go to work, do you think about how your job is serving others rather than just what you have to do?  When you do the shopping or wash the dishes, do you think of how those actions are serving others?  When you go out for dinner or a cup of coffee, you're helping to support a business that's paying people to work there, and you're directly helping them to make a living.

Life is about helping others, and almost all that we do is designed to do just that.  The question is, are we aware of this fact and doing all that we can to serve others well, or are we trying to get by doing as little as we can to accomplish such an important end?

Questions to consider:

How often do you commit small, seemingly insignificant acts to help others?  What are the effects of those acts?

If "courtesy is contagious," can it be also that helping acts are contagious?  If we serve others, do you think that those others will be more likely to serve in their turn?

Do you think that we can serve others by allowing them to serve us?  How often do we reject the help of others who would be more than glad to help us?

For further thought:

What is brotherhood?  Brotherhood is giving to others the
rights you want to keep for yourself. . . giving to the
individual in another group the same dignity, the same
full appreciation that you want to have yourself.

Everett R. Clinchy

1 year ago
  

January 1

  

Today's quotation:

Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.
It is a  great truth because once we truly see this truth, we
transcend it.  Once we truly know that life is difficult--once we
truly know and accept it--then life is no longer difficult.  Because
once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

M. Scott Peck

Today's Meditation:

How many difficulties do you find in your life?  We have problems with relationships, finances, jobs, cars, hobbies, addictions, decision-making--in short, just about everything.  But how many of those difficulties do we make even larger and more intense because of our perspective, because of the way we see them?  I know that in my life, many of my most difficult moments have been caused by my own view of situations, not by the situations themselves.  I've missed meetings at work and have agonized all day over what the repercussions would be, only to find out that there were none--everyone understood why I missed.

I'm growing closer to accepting that life is difficult, and I now see most difficulties simply as a part of life and as opportunities for me to learn and to grow as I work my way through them, rather than as obstacles in my way that are going to cause me many problems.  Now that I accept that fact, the difficulties seem to be fewer, and the challenges are more manageable.

This is going to be a good year.  And yes, there will be many difficulties in it, for you and for me.  Accept that fact, and the hardships will be fewer and less intense.  Acceptance of difficulties allows us to relate to them in a much different way, just as acceptance of a person allows us to relate to that person in a much more positive manner.

Questions to consider:

How do you see difficulties in your life?  Do you accept them as learning or teaching situations or wish they would go away?

What would your life be like if you had no more difficulties?  Would it be a positive change, or a negative one?

Have you grown more as a person when dealing with difficulties or when life has been flowing smoothly?

For further thought:

Sometimes things which at the moment may be perceived as
obstacles--and actually be obstacles, difficulties, or drawbacks--can
in the long run result in some good end which would not have
occurred if it had not been for the obstacle.

Steve Allen

1 year ago

  

December 31

When you stop learning, stop
listening, stop looking and
asking questions, always new
questions, then it is time to die.

Lillian Smith

  

Today's Meditation:

May I never, ever stop learning.  May I never stop discovering new things, new ways of looking at old things, new perspectives on beliefs that have become entrenched in my mind and heart.  I want to constantly renew myself until the day I die, for only if I do so will I be able to help others with problems and issues that they're going through.  If I stop learning, then I'll have to stop teaching, as otherwise all that I teach will be old and irrelevant to the people who need to learn what I have to teach.

If I do stop learning, I'm telling the world "Enough!  I don't want any more of what you have to give me.  I don't want any more of your gifts, and I don't want to grow any more."  And while Lillian's last six words may seem to be harsh, aren't we committing a form of suicide when we stop learning?  Aren't we just passing time and using up oxygen if we stop learning from these wonderful lives of ours?

I have a choice about learning over the next year:  I can keep my eyes and my mind and my heart open and get as much as I can from the other people with whom I'm sharing this planet, or I can shut down, watch TV all the time for entertainment and to pass time, and just kind of exist.

This year is over, except for today's learning.  And today can serve as a good time to reflect on just what we have learned over the last year, just how we've changed as people.  Have we learned more compassion and love, and how to show that love and compassion, or have we learned more anger and hatred, and how to express those things?  If we know what we've learned so far and how we feel about that, we can find a direction or three to focus our inquiry over the next twelve months.

This coming year can be your best ever.  You can learn more in the next twelve months than you ever have before.  You just have to choose to do so. 

Questions to consider:

Why do so many people choose passive entertainment over active learning?

How might you go about expanding your learning in the next year?  Reading?  Courses?  Discussions?  Experiments?

Do you know anyone who has stopped learning?  How does that work for them?

For further thought:

Most people are just trying to get through the day.
Be committed to learn to get from the day.  Don’t
just get through it; get from it.  Learn from it.  Let
the day teach you.  Join the university of life.  What
a difference that will make in your future.
Commit yourself to learning.  Commit yourself to
absorbing.  Be like a sponge.  Get it.  Don’t miss it.

1 year ago

   

December 30
    
I've always tried to go a
step past wherever people
expected me to end up.

Beverly Sills

  

Today's Meditation:

I think that the end of the year is a good time to think of things like this--after all, aren't we pondering how we're going to approach the next year in our lives?  We have a blank slate ahead of us, and we can fill that slate any way we choose--and it simply doesn't matter what we've done in the past, how we've approached things.  We have many things ahead of us, many decisions to make and tasks to undertake, and if we simply try to meet others' expectations, then how will we ever excel?

Personally, I've been unpleasantly surprised very often at the low expectations that some people have of others.  I've seen college papers of mediocre quality being given "A's."  I've seen people in the Army being give commendations for simply doing their job, but not going any further than the minimum.  I've seen people promoted simply because no major problems occurred in their current job, even though they've never really done anything to set themselves apart from anyone else.

I have the power to decide that I don't want to make my decisions on what I want to do or how I want to do it based on the expectations of others.  I always try to go beyond expectations, and thus I give myself a fighting chance to do something truly worthwhile.  I may not accomplish something excellent--I may fail--but at least I'll have a chance to succeed.

"A step beyond."  It's a wonderful phrase.  I may make it my motto, and write it on a piece of paper and post it in a place where I'll see it regularly.  These words can be very, very important to me if I allow them to be.

Questions to consider:

When do you generally go a step or two beyond the expectations that other people have of you or your work?

Why do so few people seem to want to do as Beverly has done?

What's the difference to you between mediocre and excellent?  When have you most often reached the latter?

For further thought:

Do a little bit more than average and from that
point on our progress multiplies itself out of
all proportion to the effort put in.

Paul J. Meyer

1 year ago

  

December 29
  

  
If you want to stand out,
don't be different,
be outstanding.

Meredith West

  

Today's Meditation:

Oh, how I wish I could get my students to see the wisdom behind this statement!  Unfortunately, though, most of their role models in life have yet to see the wisdom here, and their role models are steeped in mediocrity, and they preach to the younger people the joys of laziness, the silliness of going all out when they can get by on the bare minimum, the desirability of not pushing themselves at all.  It's sad to watch, but it is what many, many young people are learning.

The very meaning of the word "outstanding" is completely obvious.  Yet I have many, many students who think that they should get an "A" on a paper just because they turned it in.  They think that turning in every assignment for a class should get them an "A," too.  And unfortunately, since so many of their peers don't turn in assignments and still get "C's," young people very often are rewarded with the highest grade for a minimal amount of work.  And thus begins a set of unrealistic expectations that they often carry into adulthood with them.

It's not always easy to be outstanding, especially when something doesn't come naturally to us.  Sometimes it's very frustrating to work hard to be outstanding at something when it obviously comes easily to others.  But it's not important how easily something comes to someone else, or how our peers are doing so little work or such a poor job--all that matters is the quality of the job that we do, on whatever we do.  And if we want to be outstanding in our field, then we have to do work that stands out.

Of course, not everything is worth the extra work.  We don't want or need to be outstanding at everything.  Hence Meredith's first three words:  "If you want."  And if you do wish to be outstanding, there really is only one way to become so:  by making sure that you stand out.

Questions to consider:

What do you consider to be outstanding?  In what things have you reached outstanding levels?  How does it feel to do so?

Why are so many people satisfied with doing the bare minimum to get by?  How does that help them?

In what things might you become outstanding if you were to increase the amount of effort that you give to them?

For further thought:

You can be very, very good at anything you do,
but excelling does take work.  In societies in which
we expect life to just  fall into our laps somehow,
we've lost the respect for the value of developing
ourselves, but if we're going to excel, not just
succeed, we must develop ourselves past the
ordinary.  Reading a book a week on a topic of our
choice will make us one of the best-read people
in the field within a year.  Then you can solve
problems and devise ideas and plans much more

1 year ago

   

December 28
  
  Oh, I wish that God had not
given me what I prayed for!
It was not so good as I thought.

Johanna Spyri

  

Today's Meditation:

I've always had some very strong misconceptions about prayer.  One of my strongest misconceptions was the idea that if a prayer wasn't answered, that was a bad thing.  After all, I know what I want, and if I ask for it then I really do want it, right?  Unfortunately, though, we aren't always the best at figuring out what's best for us, even if we do like to think that what we want at the moment is, indeed, what's best for us.

The reality of our lives, though, is that our wants tend to be fleeting, while our needs are much more consistent.  When we're young, we want that guy or girl with a passion, and we'll pray all night and all day for a date or for a relationship just because that's what we want.  But is that person someone who will complement our own personalities?  Is he or she someone who will be able to share a healthy relationship with us?  Look around at the number of people who are in unhealthy relationships, and it becomes clear that the fact that we get what we want in a relationship doesn't mean that we're getting what we need.

Prayer can be rather simple.  If we pray that we get what is best for us, with the full knowledge that we're not sure what that is, then we can look at our prayer life with much more balance, with far fewer expectations.  If we let go of the expectations that we have once we pray for what we want, then praying for what we need can help to free us to give our best to whatever we're doing as we patiently wait for the prayer to be answered, rather than wasting time trying to force that prayer to be answered. 

Prayer can be a valuable part of our lives if we don't turn it into simply a wish list.  Because sometimes what we wish for can turn into something that harms us greatly if we aren't careful.

Questions to consider:

Have you ever prayed hard for something, only to get it and find out that you didn't really want it?

How often do our wants and our needs correspond directly? 

What does trying to decide by ourselves what's best for us say about our faith?

For further thought:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because He doesn't answer
doesn't mean that He don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

Garth Brooks, Pat Alger and Larry B. Bastian

1 year ago

   

December 27

What its children
become, that will the
community become.

Suzanne Lafollette

  

Today's Meditation:

So just what kind of world are we preparing for our children?  What kind of children are we preparing for our world?  We'll be gone relatively soon, but what kind of legacy are we leaving behind?  In all honesty, as optimistic as I want to be, I think that we're not preparing our children very well at all. 

Our younger generation is one that has all sorts of new addictions created by marketers and vendors.  They're addicted to electronics, name brands, junk food, and things like high-caffeine and high-sugar drinks that are packages with the lie "energy drink" printed on them.  Most of our youth feel entitled to things, because that's what advertisers want them to feel, so they've been feeding the kids the message that they are entitled since the kids are old enough to watch TV.

There are, of course, exceptions, and the reality is that the exceptions are going to become the leaders, for they'll be the only adults who are able to think for themselves, think critically, and think outside of any boxes that otherwise might contain them.  What we need to do if we want to give our children a world that will be positive for them is to teach them now to be those exceptions--to leave the cell phones at home, to reject the messages of want and need that advertisers continue to force upon them, to avoid the many new addictions such as texting and video games that are available to them. 

What will our children's world be like if the world is run by people who are addicted to things that keep them from thinking for themselves?  That's a question I ask myself every day that I work with high school students, and then I work extra hard to try to teach them how to avoid the addictions and focus on their abilities and dreams, and how to learn ways to make the most of those abilities and to reach those dreams.

Questions to consider:

What do you see our world looking like when our children are in charge?

Why do so many people feed so many messages to kids just to get those kids to buy more of their products?

Are we doing a good job in helping our kids reach their potential?

For further thought:

Giving kids clothes and food is one thing, but it's much more important to teach them that other people besides themselves are important and that the best thing they can do with their lives is to use them in the service of other people.

Dolores Huerta

1 year ago

  

December 26
  

If we could see that everything,
even tragedy, is a gift in disguise,
we would then find the best way
to nourish the soul.

Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross

  

Today's Meditation:

Some things come disguised as gifts, while others come as something that doesn't look in the least to be a gift, but that bring us things that will turn out to be very important to us.  Sometimes, things that look to be awful turn out to be the best things that could possible happen to us--but it's up to us to accept them and learn from them if they're going to bring us any benefit at all.

The world is full of stories of people who have lost their homes, only to find that their new-found freedom from the bonds of the home has been a great gift, or of people who have lost a spouse and have thrived in their new situations.  Yes, some things are painful and some things are tragic, but if we do learn from them we will find that they bring to us lessons and growth that could come only through such means.  And Elisabeth's assertion that everything is a gift is a very strong set of words indeed, and if they're true, they should open up our eyes to many, many things that we need to learn.

I'm reminded of the story of a woman who lost her sight when she used a bottle of eyedrops that someone had filled with drain cleaner.  For the first year after her tragic loss, she didn't grow at all.  Then she decided that she still had to live, though, and she started learning some of the lessons that her blindness had to teach her, and she started living her life fully even without sight.  In no way would I say that losing her sight was best for her, but since lose it she did, at least she was able to learn and grow from the experience and look for the gifts in her new situation.

Of course, it's much more pleasant to learn in ways that don't involve tragedy and grieving.  And learning from the tragedies of life often takes much longer, especially if we have to pass through our grieving process first.  But it is up to us whether we recognize the gifts in such situations--if we keep our eyes and our hearts and our souls open to possibilities instead of closing them off, then we can help our spirits to grow and expand into a state of stronger love and awareness and compassion.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend not to see the gifts that are inherent in the disasters of our lives?

What do you learn the most from--the obstacles or the easy times?

How might we help others who have gone through hard times to see the gifts that those hard times might have brought them?

For further thought:

1 year ago

  

December 25

What is Christmas?  It is tenderness for the
past, courage for the present, hope for the
future. It is a fervent wish that every cup
may overflow with blessings rich and eternal,
and that every path may lead to peace.

Agnes M. Pahro

  

Today's Meditation:

"A fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings."  I couldn't think of a better way to express what I see as the spirit behind Christmas.  To me, it always has been and always shall be about wishing good for others, about doing what we can to make their lives a bit more joyful, if only for a day or two or three.  And while we do tend to focus on the material aspects of giving, even the material gifts come with the message:  "I've thought of you, and I wanted to do something for you."

It's easy to get turned off by our commercial focus.  It's easy for us to get caught up in the religious aspects of the holiday and neglect those who don't share the belief that Jesus was more than just a man.  It's easy to get so focused on what we want as gifts that we neglect to give much thought to what we give.  But as we spend this day here on this planet today, it's a good time to concentrate on the wishes of prosperity and happiness and peace that we have for others.

I do wish you peace.  And I wish you a rich, full life with many, many blessings.  And I wish you the ability and the willingness to see those blessings, recognize them, and appreciate them, for only when we're aware of them are blessings truly blessings.

This Christmas, let us be aware of the thoughts and hopes that we have for others of wonderful, plentiful blessings.  And while we can't provide all those blessings ourselves--no matter how much we may want to--the positive thoughts that we have for others are blessings in themselves.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the positive wishes that you have for the others in your life?  Have you shared those wishes?

What happens if we get so caught up in the presents and the preparing and the chores that we neglect to consider the meaning behind the day?

When will you take time to yourself today--even if only five or ten minutes--to consider the blessings that are in your life, and the blessings that you wish for others?

For further thought:

Christmas is not as much about opening
our presents as opening our hearts.

Janice Maeditere

1 year ago
  

December 24
   

  
Christmas is a necessity.  There has
to be at least one day of the year
to remind us that we're here for
something else besides ourselves.

Eric Sevareid

  

Today's Meditation:

Most of us go through our lives working as hard as we can to make our lives and the lives of our loved ones better and easier.  We strive to make ends not just meet, but overlap so that we can have something in reserve for possible hard times.  And because of all of the obstacles that come up in family and at work, we tend to get focused on ourselves, on our own lives.  It's only natural, and it's not such a bad thing--we can be pretty annoying if we feel the need to meddle in other people's lives.

But Christmas acts as a reminder that there is more than us on this planet.  The holiday of giving and sharing helps us to refocus on a bigger picture, one that includes our fellow human beings, about whom we tend not to think of too much normally, unless issues in their lives start to affect our lives.  Christmas reminds us that we are a part of many communities, and that our lives are inextricably intertwined with the lives of many, many other people.

We are here for something more besides ourselves.  In Christmas we're reminded of the person of Jesus, who devoted his life to teaching others about their own power and their own glory, and about their relationships with God and with other people.  He said that the two most important commandments were to love God and to love others--and both of those commandments obviously direct us to direct our love outside of ourselves, to direct it to others to whom we normally would not direct it.

Christmas in its true form reminds us to do just that.  It reminds us to consider other people's wants and needs, and it reminds us that giving is one of the most important things that we can do while we're alive.  On this day before Christmas, it might be nice to simply think about the other people in our lives--and why our lives are richer for their presence.  And when we consider that, we can remember that Christmas is a perfect time for us to do so, and that others are thinking about us in the same way.

Questions to consider:

Why might we need to be reminded now and then that we are a part of larger communities, and that life isn't all about ourselves? 

Think of five different communities or groups to which you belong.  How do those groups enrich your life?   How do you enrich those groups? 

What would our lives be like without a Christmas in them?

For further thought:


Francis C. Farley

Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is
perhaps the only time in the year when pe
1 year ago

  

December 23

Blessed is the season which
engages the whole world in
a conspiracy of love.

Hamilton Wright Mabie

  

Today's Meditation:

I love the words "conspiracy of love."  And while the season in which we find ourselves isn't necessarily one that speaks in terms of spirit and religion to everyone, it definitely is a season that gets people to think outside of themselves for a while.  And while there seems to be a conspiracy among retailers and others who have something to sell us to turn the season into a frenzy of buying and spending, it's our choice whether we buy into that approach or not--or whether we we keep our season simple and straightforward, focusing on our contribution to the conspiracy of love.

Personally, I love the season, and much of what I love has to do with the traditions that we've attached to it.  It's a time of family and friends, egg nog and cookies and turkey, music and wholesome television programs and movies.  To me, all of these things speak to the love and the hope of the season, and it truly is a blessed season that keeps us immersed in a positive and uplifting atmosphere.

Of course, there will always be the Grinches and the Scrooges.  But we can be like Scrooge's nephew and the Whos in Whoville, and not let them bring us down to their level, not allow them to pull us away from the love of the world.

Blessed must be any season, any day, any situation that pushes people into a conspiracy of love.  Blessed are we when we find ourselves immersed in that conspiracy.  And we can pass on that blessing by contributing to the conspiracy and adding to the love.  We just need to go with the flow, and allow the season to pull us with it.

Questions to consider:

Just how does Christmas get us involved in a "conspiracy of love"?

How might we share the love of the season with the people who are in our worlds with us?

Why do so many people deny or fight against the love of the season?

For further thought:
My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or
modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think
of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?

Bob Hope


1 year ago

  

December 22

Think of giving not as a duty
but as a privilege.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

  

Today's Meditation:

'Tis the season for giving right now, at least in the countries that celebrate Christmas.  It's a time of the year when we all focus on giving to others (while still making sure that others know what we want for Christmas!), and that focus is one of the most beautiful examples of what it means to be a human being that most of us will witness.  Keeping our minds on what other people want versus always thinking about what we want--it's a wonderful way to approach life and living.

When we look at why we give, though, sometimes the answer may not be as pleasing to us as it would seem.  Sometimes we give because we have to, because we're expected to, because that's what a situation calls for.  Sometimes our giving is hesitant or even downright resentful, and that can never be healthy.  When we give, though, that means that we have the resources available to be able to give, and we also have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to the life of another human being--and that is a tremendous privilege if we approach it right.

With every gift that we give, we have a great chance to tell a person that he or she matters, that he or she is special to someone else, that he or she has value to us.  Every gift is a chance to underscore the things that can make people feel good about themselves, and that's a great chance to have.

And again, having the privilege of giving a gift means that we have the ability to do so.  We have the means available to us to learn what someone else wants and to be able to get that something for them.  There are many, many people in this world who are almost never able to get gifts for others, no matter how much they may want to, and being able to get gifts is truly a gift in itself.  And looking at gift-giving as a privilege can definitely be a shift in perspective that provides us with a wonderful gift for ourselves.

Questions to consider:

Why is it so easy to look at gift-giving as a chore or a duty?

How often do we truly give a great deal of thought to our gift-giving opportunities?

What does it mean to you to think of gift-giving as a privilege?

For further thought:

We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill

1 year ago

  

December 21

Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's
likely to go better.

Robert Frost

  

Today's Meditation:

This line is from one of Robert's poems, called "Birches."  In it, he talks of swinging birches, climbing them until the weight of the climber causes the tree to bend, so far that the climber, if he or she climbs high enough, is set back down upon the ground.  He says that it's important to him to "get away from earth awhile" (climbing the tree), but "then come back to it and begin over" (being set back down on the ground).  He says that while earth is often a difficult place to be with tremendous challenges and pain, it still is the place that offers us love, and is still the place he prefers to be.

There is much love here on this planet.  There are also many bad things, but there is, above all, much love.  We do love each other well when we do love, and it's important that we stay focused both on giving love and on letting others love us.  Some people find life difficult to deal with partly because they're not able to recognize love when they see it and feel it--the love is definitely there, but because it doesn't come in the ways that we expect it, we often don't even see it. 

One of the things that we can do to rectify this situation is to spend more time looking for it--not searching it out like a quest for a holy grail, but just actually looking around ourselves to recognize it when it's there and where it is.  The man who drops some money into another's hat, the woman who does a kind deed for a co-worker, the child who draws a cool picture for a parent, the teen who offers to babysit for free because he or she knows that the parents can't afford to pay--in these and in so many other small, unnoticed acts lie the seeds of love.  And these seeds so often go unnoticed by all of us. 

Earth is a good place for love, for earth is occupied by humans, who have a wonderful potential for love.  We'll recognize this fact more easily when we open our eyes and hearts to see the love, and when we conquer the fear that we feel to share our love.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many people focus on what they perceive to be a lack of love, rather than on the presence of love and loving acts?

Why is love so important to us.  If it's so important, then why do we not make it a major focus of our lives?

How might we go about making love a more central part of our lives?

For further thought:

It is especially appropriate to say that the greatest
command, the most condensed philosophy, the wisest
success-achieving advice ever given was given by
a man who was crucified.  He summed it all up when
he said, "Love one another."  One does not really need
to

1 year ago

  

December 20

We've got to work to save our
children and do it with full respect
for the fact that if we do not,
no one else is going to do it.

Dorothy Height

  

Today's Meditation:

"Save our children"?  It's a frightening thought that they may need saving, but as a teacher, I see every day that she's right.  Save them from what?, you may ask.  The list is rather lengthy:  Save them from the addictive behaviors they learn from us, from the low self-esteem that constant criticism has brought them, from the lack of caring that they've learned from us, from the self-destructive behaviors that they've learned, from the desire to deceive and hide that they've also learned from us.

Most of the behaviors that we've grown up with, positive, negative and neutral, we learned from our parents or other adults.  For those who had nurturing, loving parents, sometimes it's difficult to understand how people can grow up with so much anger and fear in their hearts.  But that's just what many of us grew up with due to the behaviors of our parents, which included alcohol and drug abuse, violence, lack of caring, lack of respect, lack of nurturing, lack of money for the basic needs, and many other problems that taught us that the world is a place to be feared, that lack is a way of life, that anyone against us must be put in their place.

If we're ever going to turn this world around, we must be patient and start with the children.  We must nurture them and teach them about love and respect, and we must treat them with dignity and respect.  The world won't change in a day, but if we don't start trying to help our kids out, the world shall never change. 

There are many, many people who have devoted their lives to trying to help children to grow up into healthy, happy adults.  These people do great work in a job that is extremely trying and that leads to very early burn-out.  They need our help.  They need us to help the kids in our lives to grow up with encouragement, love, and strong role models who are willing to share their lives and their thoughts with some kids.  It really is the only way that the human world ever will transform into a kinder, more gentle place.

Questions to consider:

Why is it so easy to keep out of our minds just what's happening to the children in our world?

Why do so few parents seem to understand what it takes to be effective parents?

How was your life when you were growing up?  If it was good, are you sharing that same kind of life with some kids?  If it was bad, are you trying to help some kids avoid that kind of life?

For further thought:

If we are to reach real peace in the world,
we shall have to begin with children.

Mohandas Gandhi

1 year ago

  

December 19

What we say and what we do
ultimately come back to us, so let
us own our responsibility, place it
in our hands, and carry it
with dignity and strength.

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua

  

Today's Meditation:

The world seems to have changed in the last couple of decades-- or has it been just me?  Sometimes I feel that I see people much less aware of this fact of life, that things do come back to us, and much more willing to act as if it weren't true.  It may not be true, but personally, I don't want to risk the possibility that it is true by acting as if it weren't.  I accept the responsibility of making sure that all that I say and do is something that I would actually want coming back to me, and therefore I look to do all the good that I can.

It really is just a matter of saying a kind word when I'm tempting to say something biting or insulting; not committing the act that my conscience tells me I shouldn't commit; not giving up when I'm tempted to not try to go any further.  I'm not completely sure of what Karma actually means--to me or to others--but I do believe that it's a principle based on truth.  The beauty of being aware of our own actions, though, is not in avoiding bad Karma--the beauty is that the more we own our responsibility, the easier and more natural it is to live up to it.

There's nothing that can substitute for us taking full responsibility for our own actions and words and deeds.  And as we do so more and we begin to see how they come back to us, it becomes much easier to make the right decisions when we are faced with decisions.  It isn't just a good idea to live up to our responsibilities and to carry them with dignity and strength--it's a good way of life, one that will help us to make our lives very positive indeed.

Questions to consider:

Why is it easy sometimes to say and do things without realizing that they will come back to us someday, somehow?

What does it mean to you to "own" your responsibility?

When was the last time that something that you said or did came back to you, in either a positive or negative way?  How did that feel?

For further thought:

The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life
is the source from which self-respect springs.

Joan Didion

1 year ago

  

December 18
  

Where I was born and where and how
I have lived is unimportant.  It is what
I have done with where I have been
that should be of interest.

Georgia O'Keefe

  

Today's Meditation:

It's very easy to get caught up in our histories.  It's very easy to talk about where we've been and what we've done and all those things that are over now.  It's a bit more difficult, though, to focus on what we're doing now, what we're adding to our life experiences on any given day.  It isn't as common to hear people talking about where they are in life, what's going on with them and how things are going.  All of these things are the results of what we've done in the past, yet for some reason we don't talk about the results, just the causes.

I've always been a bit perplexed when I walk around European towns and cities.  It seems that most of them are doing all they can to maintain things like thousand-year-old churches and cathedrals, yet there isn't a lot of focus on getting new things done today.  I never got a strong feeling of who the Spanish people are today as a result of the cultures of the past--instead, the people are content to continue to market their pasts without adding much in the way of new. 

This focus on the past is understandable--they make a lot of money off of the historical monuments--but puzzling.  These monuments don't say much about the lives that the people are living today, but they remain sources of pride, in much the same way that Americans talk about football or baseball teams from decades ago. 

But what do we do with these things, other than function as passive bystanders?  What have I done with the time I've lived in different places, if I haven't learned and grown from them?  How have I bettered myself through my experiences?  It's one thing to talk about what we've gone through, but quite another to make sure that we do something with the places we go, and recognize and appreciate what we learn from those places.  Who we become in life depends on how we use our experiences--and hopefully, we use them for growth and learning.

Questions to consider:

Why do we seem not to focus on what we've become through our past experiences, and what we might become from our future experiences?

What have been some of the most influential experiences in your life?  How have they affected your life?

How can the places you've lived have positive effects on your life? 

For further thought:
 
It doesn't matter where you've been.
What matters is who you've become.
Who you are.  Here.  Now.

unattributed

1 year ago

  

December 17
  

  I don't want to live--
I want to love first,
and live incidentally.

Zelda Fitzgerald

  

Today's Meditation:

The underlying message here is very clear:  if we spend our time loving others, then we will live well without really needing to put effort into it.  If we focus on giving what we can to others, helping them as much as we can, being there for them, loving them without condition, then we're bound to have a full and happy life.

Sometimes I find that my best days are those during which I've spent my time focused on a goal or a task that is very important to me, something that keeps me so occupied that I don't give any attention at all to what I should "do" with my day.  But because I've given my all to something important, that day turned out beautifully, better than I ever could have made it turn out as the result of effort.

Love can be like that.  When we realize that love is an action, that it does take effort, we then find ourselves facing the question of just how much effort we should put into it.  Usually, it's about making decisions based on the question, "What would love do now?"  What would a loving, caring person do in this situation?  How would that person act, and what would the desired result be?  How can I give in a loving way so that the people in my life know that I do love them, even if the word "love" is never used?

"I want to love first."  This is an amazing call, an idea that makes so much sense that it's almost frightening that we don't hear it more often.  If our focus is on loving others--and do we remember "love thy neighbor as thyself"?--then we can expect to find our lives falling softly and clearly into place as we put our attention and effort into the love that we share with the world.

Questions to consider:

How can we start to "love first, and live incidentally"?

Why do most of us focus on achieving and doing rather than on loving?

What are some of the potential problems that can arise from neglecting to love the other people with whom we share the world, and the world itself?

For further thought:


Susan L. Taylor

When you commit yourself to living love, you feel at peace
with yourself because you are at harmony with the flow
of life.  Viewing life from the highest perspective, you feel
confident and secure.  You realize that no matter how
things may appear, you are loved and protected.  You
know you are one with God, and you bring your
peace with you wherever you go.  You’re not
looking for love, but for opportunities to love.
1 year ago

  

December 16
  

  
A life of reaction is a life of
slavery, intellectually and
spiritually.  One must fight
for a life of action,
not reaction.

Rita Mae Brown

  

Today's Meditation:

We have so few role models who act instead of reacting.  In my life I could count the people I've known who are consistent actors as opposed to reactors on relatively few fingers--I think I'd need more than ten, but not too many more.  There just aren't enough people out there who are able to teach us about the importance of learning to overcome our propensity for letting others determine our courses in life, letting others determine our moods and our feelings, letting others keep us down by keeping us thinking negative thoughts that are the result of other people's actions and words.

If you insult me and I feel down, that's my fault, for I'm simply reacting to the words you've used, not acting to maintain my dignity and character.  If I feel crushed because I've lost a job, then the feeling of being crushed is my doing, as I react to a situation rather than deciding on paths to follow now that there are more roads open to me.

When we think seriously about what it means to react instead of acting, we realize that there's something fundamentally wrong with that approach.  In reacting, we're giving others the upper hand in our lives, giving them the power to push us in directions in which we don't even want to go--and they probably don't even realize that they have that power over us.  When we're reacting, our spirits can't soar, for we never know what others are going to give us to react to.  In my life, I really want to be one who acts, who decides on a course of action and then follows it.  Only when I do so will I be living what could be called an authentic life.

The people I know who react are buffeted by the winds of chance, are tossed here and there by the circumstances of life.  I hope that my life won't fall into that pattern, and that I'll always be able to take the steps necessary to determine my own course, my own directions, and my own actions.

Questions to consider:

How do we fall into the pattern of reacting instead of acting?

How can a life of reacting be a life of slavery? 

What kinds of actions can you take today that will be positive influences on the life you lead?

For further thought:

You don't reward reaction;
you reward results.

Edwin Louis Cole

1 year ago

  

   
  

December 15

I don't want to get to the end
of my life and find that I lived
just the length of it.  I want to
have lived the width of it as well.

Diane Ackerman

  

Today's Meditation:

It's easy to get caught up in seeing just the road on our journeys through life.  We can look at our lives as one long road from birth to death, and unfortunately, that's how many people live it--as a long, straight road that gets from here to there in the most direct way possible, without much room for exploration or deviation.  We get caught up in getting to the next point--finishing the degree, getting the new job, having the kid, waiting for the kid to finish high school--that we forget to stop, look around, and see all that's around us at any given point along the road.

The truth is that there's a lot around us all the time that's just begging to be explored, that's just waiting to offer us itself for our pleasure and enjoyment.  Beautiful scenery, fun events, interesting highlights, scary adventures, new things to see and learn and feel and explore.  That's what the width of life is--the side roads that help us to define ourselves as something more than just another set of feet on the road most traveled.

We are creating the lives now that we'll look back on when we reach the end of our lives.  The decisions that we make today will contribute to our overall experience here on this planet, and when we reach the end of life, the reasons for those decisions won't be nearly as important as what we decided.  Did we decide to play things safe and not take any risks, not visit any places that aren't on the straight and narrow?  Or did we decide to live the width of our lives, too, even if others warn us that it may not be such a great idea?

I have a hunch that when I reach the end of my life, I'm going to look back on the chances that I've taken as the highlights of my life--that I'll see that living the width will have provided me with the kinds of memories that will allow me to smile in satisfaction rather than sigh in regret.

Questions to consider:

Do you live the width of your life?  How might you do so?

How do you see the width of your life?  What is it composed of?

Why do so many people stay so glued to the direct route on the straight and narrow road, seeming to look neither to the right nor the left?

For further thought:

The things that are most worthwhile in life
are really those within the reach
of almost every normal human being
who cares to seek them out.

Charles B. Forbes

1 year ago

  
  

December 14

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

Arlene Blum

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

Mountains are not Stadiums where I satisfy
my ambition to achieve, they are the
cathedrals where I practice my religion.

Anatoli Boukreev

1 year ago

  

December 13

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

Fanny Brice

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

1 year ago

  
  

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

Marcia Wieder

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

Within you right now is the power to do
things you never dreamed possible.
This power becomes available to you just
as soon as you can change your beliefs.

Maxwell Maltz

1 year ago

  
  

December 11
  

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

Jane Seymour

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

Why do most of us not see ourselves as beautiful?

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

For further thought:

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

Upham

1 year ago

  
 

December 10
     

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

Margaret Chase Smith

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

From where do you get your strongest sense of security?

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

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

For further thought:

There's only one form of security we can attain during our
lives.  It's inner security--the kind that comes from courage,
experience, and the ability and the willingness to learn,
to grow, to attempt the unknown.  Security isn't what the
wise person looks for; it's opportunity.  And once
we begin looking for that, we find it on every side.
You can measure opportunity with the same yardstick that
measures the risk involved.  They go togethe

1 year ago

  

December 9
  

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

George Sand

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

How much of faith is related to letting go?

How might we expand our faith by strengthening our trust, be it in ourselves, others in our lives, or our God?

For further thought:

1 year ago

  

December 8

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

Pamela Glenconner

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

unattributed, The Daily Word

1 year ago

  

December 7

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

Edith Johnson

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

Why do we sometimes hold on to mistakes and allow them to affect us for long periods of time?

1 year ago

  

December 6

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

Jane Pauley

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

What you need to do is think of work as "vocation."  This word
may seem stilted in its tone, but it has a wisdom within it.  It
comes from the Latin word for calling, which comes from the
word for voice.  In those meanings it touches on what work really
should be.  It should be something that calls to you as something
you want to do, and it should be something that gives voice to
who you are and what you want to say to the wo

1 year ago

  

December 5
  

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

May Sarton

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Carl Jung
1 year ago

  

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

Barbara Sher

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

Conditions are never just right.  People who delay
action until all factors are favorable do nothing.

William Feather

1 year ago

  

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

Madeleine L'Engle

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Abraham Sutzkever

1 year ago

  

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

Ursula K. LeGuin

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

What are some of the possible benefits of trying to improve the quality of your journey?

For further thought:

The end is nothing; the road is all.

1 year ago

  

December 1

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

Arnold Mindell

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

How might we learn to pay attention to our pain? 

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

For further thought:

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

Bernie Siegel

  
1 year ago

   

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

Thomas Carlyle

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one's
self.  We must be purposely kind and generous, or we
miss the best part of existence.  The heart that
goes out of itself gets large and full of joy.
This is the great secret of the inner life.  We do
ourselves the most good doing something for others.

Horace Mann

1 year ago

  

November 29
  

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

Walter Starcke

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

How do you define "spiritual"?

What kinds of things might you do to try to develop the spiritual side of yourself?

For further thought:

Spirituality is a flower with a thousand petals:
every act, every thought, every talk, every
movement of our heart is a part of it.

Robert Muller

1 year ago

   

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

Henry David Thoreau

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Robert Frost

1 year ago

   

November 27

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

Pau Casals

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Harold Kushner

1 year ago

  

November 26
  

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

Unattributed

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Unattributed

1 year ago

  

November 25

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

Oprah Winfrey

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

William J. Bennett

1 year ago

  

November 24
   

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

Alan Cohen

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

How do you see the relationship between gratitude and success? 

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

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

For further thought:

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

Plato

1 year ago

  

November 23

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

Hermann Hesse

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:
All our words are but crumbs that
fall down from the feast of the mind.

Khalil Gibran
Sand and Foam


1 year ago

  

November 22

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

Shantidasa

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

This withdrawal from the day's turmoil into creative silence is
not a luxury, a fad, or a futility. It is a necessity, because it tries
to provide the conditions wherein we are able to yield ourselves
to intuitive leadings, promptings, warnings, teachings, and
counsels and also to the inspiring peace of the soul.
It dissolves mental tensions and heals negative emotions.

Paul Brunton
The Notebooks of Paul Brunton

1 year ago

  

November 21

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

Rudolph Flesch

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

Creativity requires the courage
to let go of certainties.

1 year ago

  

November 20

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

e.e. cummings

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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


Barbara De Angelis

1 year ago

  

November 19

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

Jules Renard

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Don Miguel Ruiz

1 year ago

  

November 18
   

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

Cotton Fitzsimmons

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

Why is it so easy to react instead of act?

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

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

For further thought:

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

Fulton J. Sheen

1 year ago

  

November 17
  

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

Elwyn Brooks White

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

What kinds of things can you enjoy today?

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

For further thought:



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

Henry David Thoreau
2 years ago

  

November 16
  

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

Elizabeth Harrison

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

What kind of encouragement can you share with others today?

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

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

For further thought:

Tell your child, your spouse, or your employee that he or she is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, has no gift for it, and is doing it all wrong, and you have destroyed almost all incentive to try to improve.  But use the opposite technique--be liberal with your encouragement, make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his or her ability to do it, that the person has an undeveloped flair for it--and that person will practice until the dawn comes in the window in order to excel.

2 years ago

  

November 15

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

Judy Blume

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

How often do you purposely take the time to listen?

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

For further thought:

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

Clyde S. Kilby

2 years ago

  

November 14


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

Myrtle Auvil

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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


Henry Van Dyke

2 years ago

  

November 13

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

Jawaharial Nehru

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Susan Falter-Barns

2 years ago

  

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

Janette Ramwater

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Gwyneth Paltrow

2 years ago

  

November 11
  

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

Alan Cohen

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

How do dreams help to define us as unique individuals?

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

For further thought:

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

Erma Bombeck

2 years ago

  

November 10
  

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

Corinne U. Wells

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

unattributed

2 years ago

  

November 8

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

Ignazio Silone

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

The spiritual life is, at root, a matter of seeing.  It is all of life
seen from a certain perspective.  It is waking, sleeping, dreaming,
eating, drinking, working, loving, relaxing, recreating, walking,
sitting, standing, and breathing. . . . spirit suffuses everything; and so
the spiritual life is simply life, wherever and whatever,
seen from the vantage point of spirit.

John Shea

2 years ago

  

November 7

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

Peace Pilgrim

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

What kinds of important things have you learned from painful situations?

For further thought:

2 years ago

  

November 6

There is no loneliness
if one is satisfied
with oneself.

Hans-Ulrich Rieker

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:
When we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do
not properly value the only companion we will
have from birth to death--ourselves.

Eda LeShan


2 years ago

  

November 5
  

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

Dan Robinson

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Samuel Johnson

2 years ago

  

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

Rebecca Beard

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to
look back.  Regret is an appalling waste of energy;
you can't build on it; it's only good for wallowing in.

Katherine Mansfield 

   
2 years ago

  

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

Yoga Vasistha

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

What does it mean to be enlightened?

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

For further thought:

If I could define enlightenment briefly I would say
it is "the quiet acceptance of what is."

2 years ago

  

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

Gerald May

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

What are three areas of growth that you'd like to see in yourself?  Are the conditions optimal for such growth to occur?

For further thought:

The great thing about life is that as long as we
live we have the privilege of growing.

Joshua L. Liebman

2 years ago

  

  

November 1

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

Baruch Spinoza

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Peace Pilgrim
2 years ago
  

October 31

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

Bette Midler

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Friedrich Nietzsche

2 years ago
  

October 29
  

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

Charles Dickens

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Leo Buscaglia

2 years ago
   

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

Harper Lee

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

William G. Jordan

2 years ago
   

October 27

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

John Foster Dulles

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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

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

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

For further thought:

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson

2 years ago
  

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

Humphrey Davy

  

Today's Meditation:

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider:

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