Friday, April 22, 2011

Ramblings In My Mind Volume III

Do you have a really good, true friend? I know lots of people and Facebook says I have lots of friends but how many are true friends? One of my best friends is a retired priest that I have known for 40 years. I actually forget he's a priest sometimes. He's really more of an older brother to me. I never had an older brother or sister because I am the oldest child in my family. I took last Friday off and spent part of the day with my friend. I have listened to many peoples troubles and woes over the years. People seem to love telling me their problems. Have you ever wondered who I pour my troubles out to? It is often to this friend. Periodically I need to take a "Mental Health Day" and spend a day with him. I did this last Friday. I drove through the beautiful spring countryside in the early morning. When I arrived at his house I was warmly greeted. We went out to breakfast at a small country restaurant, visited a bookstore, and then went to his house for some conversation. Part of the day was a wake up call for me. My friend is older than me so he is in the process of updating his will. He wanted me to walk through his house and tell him what I wanted after his death. It was a strange experience to do that. I told him that he must stay alive at least until we are both retired old men. I am in no hurry for him to leave the planet because his friendship is more important to me than any of his possessions. However, I still came home with several bags of books from his personal library. Here's to long lives and even longer friendships!

I've been reading an interesting book by the Dalai Lama. Today's chapter was about a basic Buddhist philosophy called impermanence. Impermanence is a reality whether you're a Buddhist or not. A basic teaching of the Buddha is that all things are impermanent. This means that all things pass and all things are constantly changing. This can be seen as a positive or negative occurrence depending on your point of view. Some things such as flowers are obviously impermanent. A seed is planted, a flower blooms, but it's life is short. Other things, like a mountain, seem more permanent but even mountains are changing all the time at a molecular level. We think we have one body that is born, grows old, and dies. In reality we may have dozens of bodies in our lifetime as the cells that make up our bodies constantly renew and replace themselves. I also look at this idea of impermanence as comforting. It reminds me that bad times and suffering will pass. However, it also reminds me that good things, like health or good times, will also pass so I should always be grateful and in the moment to appreciate when I feel good, my body is working properly, and life is good. Many of us don't like this idea. We want stability and permanence. We often don't like change. When life is good, or we feel happy with a situation, we fear any change that will affect this. We must remind ourselves that life is like flowing down a river on an inner tube. Sometimes you can lay back and just enjoy the ride. Other times you must hold on for dear life. Never quite knowing where the rapids are adds to the excitement of life. Whether your preference is the gentle current or the intensity of the white water rapids, I can assure you that you will get it all at some point in your life.

A recent presentation at work regarding "personal brands" reminded me how important perceptions are and how they can work in our favor or against us. Perceptions are not always reality but they are assumed to be reality by the perceiver. We are all responsible for the perceptions that we give others. All of us should be self aware enough to understand how we might be perceived by others. The way we walk, the way we talk, the way we dress, and the way we handle ourselves in social situations, sends many messages to those around us. I am not saying that we should spend all of our energy trying to impress other people. Many people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to impress other people with their greatness. We all know individuals who love the spotlight. What I am saying is that we should be concerned with our reputations and our "personal brand". This is little in life that we can control but how we carry ourselves and how we walk through life is very much within our personal control. If you are "real" and genuine, it will show. If you're phoney and insincere, it will show as well. My personal goal is to be true to who I am but not to necessarily seek the approval of others. Admittedly it's nice if others do approve of me but I don't depend on it. If you are doing what is right and good and genuine, and doing it from your heart, you will never lose sleep over other people's perceptions of you. However, If you are constantly complaining, goofing off, being insincere, or immature in other ways, you will be perceived as negative, lazy, and phoney, and possibly a waste of space. How do you think you are perceived? How do you want to be perceived? Are you selling a great brand or should it be recalled?

I also believe there is a flow of energy whenever people interact with one another. This flow of energy can be positive or negative. There are people in my life who always make me feel better even if I already feel pretty good. When I interact with these people there is a flow of positive vibrations and energy that lifts me up. I walk away feeling renewed even though they are not always aware of the impact they have on me or what a ray of sunshine they are. There have also been people in my life who seem to suck the life right out of me. When I have been around these types of people I feel like Superman in a room full of kryptonite. I can almost feel the life force leaving my body. In my mind I am thinking, "I've got to get away before I lose consciousness". With these experiences in mind I try to always be aware of how I am affecting people. I am usually positive, optimistic, and light-hearted. However, sometimes I'm having a bad day and when I am aware of this I try not to ruin other people's days with my moroseness. What kind of person are you? Do you have a sunshine personality that attracts others or are you someone that makes other people want to run and hide? If you are aware of your personal brand, you are probably also aware of the kind of energy you put out around you. One of the keys to understanding your personal brand and energy is to have some sense of self-awareness and that requires a good hard look in the mirror along with some real honesty about yourself. Fortunately, the vast majority of my relationships and encounters with others has been positive. I also never burn bridges. I'm still friends with two former girlfriends!

Yesterday was a quiet day for me. It was a beautiful but cool day. I decided to go for a walk along the river after having a solitary lunch break. There is a lot of flooding due to all the recent rainfall and much of the "Great Lawn" is under water. There were piles of driftwood laying along the banks. Sadly, there was also a lot of plastic bottles and other garbage. Earlier in the week we had some significant storms that caused me some lack of sleep due to the tornado sirens going off and on until 1:00 AM. Fortunately in my neighborhood it was much ado about nothing. Many people were not so lucky. Thinking it would be worse, I went into my backyard and gathered up all my gnomes, my Buddha fountain, my bird feeder, my St. Francis statue, and my lawn furniture and put them under my patio roof, hoping they wouldn't blow away. The next day everything was fine except for the squirrels having a feast with my bird feeder. Today is Good Friday and Sunday is Easter. It will be another busy weekend and I know one little girl who will expect to find an Easter basket full of goodies at my home. She will not be disappointed. However, if Paw Paw sees it first it may be missing a few chocolate eggs.

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