Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nyquil Hangover

A combination of Nyquil, falling rain, and a cool breeze coming in my bedroom window made for a good night’s sleep. I was feeling a little rough by the time I got home yesterday. When I finally got to my couch, I crashed for two solid hours. When it was time for bed I had no trouble falling asleep again. No one has ever accused me of being a workaholic or of doing too much. At this stage of my life it’s all I can do to get through the work day and stay awake in the evening until bedtime. I believe minor illnesses, such as the cold I currently have, are God’s way of forcing you to get some rest. We are all sleep deprived. Night of the Living Dead is not only a movie, it is a description of our society. When I got up this morning I struggled with whether or not I should come to work or stay home and sleep all day. I decided to come in so that our stock price remained high. If work got out that I stayed home, the stock market would go into a frenzy. Let’s be honest, some of us really think this way. I’ve got plenty of PTO. I probably should have stayed home. However, even though I am no workaholic, I do have a strong work ethic and so I dragged myself in here. If you see me and I appear to be in a daze, it’s a Nyquil hangover.

The Blues

Yesterday was not a bad day but by the end of the day I had a headache and was feeling out of sorts. I couldn’t get home fast enough. When I did finally get there I took a long nap. I now realize that I am getting my annual spring cold. I often go an entire winter season without illness and then I get colds in the spring. When I woke up from my nap I remembered that there was a show on television that I wanted to watch called “Blues at the White House”. As soon as I began watching it I forgot all about my cold. It featured B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, and others. Most of the performers I have seen multiple times and a couple I have met in my musical escapades. In addition to the great music, how cool is it to have a President who can sing “Sweet Home Chicago” without embarrassing himself? Once again music soothed the savage beast, or at least one who is getting a cold. If you are ever feeling out of sorts for any reason, I highly recommend the blues.

Monday Morning In Louisville

A weekend without my granddaughter is a weekend of boredom and emptiness. Yes, I got more rest, although you wouldn’t know it the way I feel at this moment, but when she’s not around you quickly realize how much life she brings to the party. In spite of her absence, we did celebrate my youngest son’s 30th birthday. One of the best, though difficult, times of my life was a time when I was un-employed and I stayed home with him. At the time he was two years old. I was a very good house husband. Part of my fatigue this morning is that I stayed up too late last night watching the Oscars. After music, movies are one of my favorite things in life. Movies make me laugh, think, cry, and feel. I haven’t seen all of this year’s Oscar nominees but I have seen “The Help” and “Midnight in Paris”. Both are excellent and highly recommended. I especially liked “Midnight in Paris” as I felt a strong affinity with the main character. However, it’s not midnight in Paris, it’s morning in Louisville and a new work week is upon us. A new week always seems so overwhelming. I know that in a few hours it will seem less so. A new work week is like starting a car on a cold morning. Sometimes the engine doesn’t want to start. Eventually it turns over and soon enough you are on your way. That’s kind of how the work week goes for me.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's All Life

A couple of really good quotes came my way yesterday. I would like to share them with you.

“Somebody’s boring me. I think it’s me”.
-Dylan Thomas

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem”.
-Unknown but sent to me by a fellow thinker.

I’m not going to pretend that I don’t think I have some good qualities. If you could separate the world into good guys and bad guys, I know I am one of the good guys. I think I am at an age and a time in my life when I am starting to experience some self-actualization. In other words, I have a sense of self, what I am worth, and why I am here. Having said this, sometimes I drive myself crazy. I tend to be a thinker who spends a lot of time in philosophical discourse with myself while trying to develop a personal theology and understanding of the meaning of life…well, at least my life. Sometimes I wear myself out doing this and, as Dylan Thomas suggests, I bore myself with myself. Sometimes I wish I could just relax, chill out, and not feel the need to understand the universe.

As far as the second quote goes, why are we always surprised when life is problematic? Who told us that all of life is a walk in the park on a beautiful spring morning? OK, sometimes life is a walk in the park on a beautiful spring morning. However, it is also at times a walk under overcast skies in the pouring rain. This is where most of us fall into the dualistic thinking where we assume a sunny day is better than a rainy day. Both are simply weather. Some people think problems are stumbling blocks while others see problems as challenges. Try not to see anything as a problem. It’s an over-used phrase but life, and what happens in life, “is what it is”. There are changes in the weather and there are seasons in life. However, it’s all life.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anxiety And Worrying

I am not a big fan of prayers that involve a lot of words. I prefer the quieter, contemplative approach that most people think of when they hear the word meditation. One verbal prayer that I do like is a simple prayer from the Catholic mass that goes “Free us, Lord, from all anxiety”. Who among us does not have anxiety? We live in a culture of fear and many things that we used to believe in and expect to be there for us are now on shaky ground. The news media, especially on a local level, preys on our fears and makes most of us afraid to take out the trash for fear of being murdered in our front yard by a serial killer. Our churches are often full of scandal, our government is impotent, our investments are shaky, the world economy is collapsing, new diseases are invented everyday so we think we need to take more pills, everything we enjoy eating seems to be bad for us, and most people worry that they’ll never be able to retire. With all of this, who wouldn’t feel anxious? The reality is that most of us will never experience all these bad things in a devastating way. No one gets through life alive and we will all have some level of pain. Life is also not always fair but for most of us, it’s not too bad. Still, without some balance and centeredness in our lives, we will always be on the verge of anxiety. Worry has never accomplished anything. It is a waste of energy. The Dalai Lama suggests that the energy we spend on worrying should be re-channeled into finding solutions to our problems. If you feel overwhelmed and anxious with everything in your life, it might work best if you quit thinking about everything and focus on one thing at a time. I am reminded of a quote I once heard when I worked as a project manager. It went, “How do you eat an elephant”? The answer? “One bite at a time”.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday And Lent

Yesterday’s Fat Tuesday is behind us and today is Ash Wednesday, the traditional beginning of Lent. Lent lasts for 40 days and is a time when many Christians remember the 40 days the Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public ministry. Most religions have times similar to Lent when people put a little more focus on prayer, fasting, and other spiritual practices. Growing up as a good little Catholic boy, Lent was a time of giving up candy and eating fish on Fridays. In today’s world there is less emphasis on giving up sweets and other things and more emphasis on doing something more positive. For some it may be a renewed effort to have a spiritual practice. For others it may mean doing some volunteer work or simply trying to be a better person. Whatever your personal beliefs, I think it is good to have times in our lives where we stop, pause, and reflect on our lives. How are we living? Are we doing good things and making a positive difference in our world. Are we doing out inner work to become the best version of who we are? Are we in touch with something bigger than ourselves? Do we see more in life than simply what’s in front of us? Do we have something or someone that we believe in that drives us to inner transformation, goodness, and love? Lent can be a time where we give ourselves an honest performance evaluation and make positive changes to mature and reach a higher consciousness.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Over the weekend I was down on the floor playing with my granddaughter. My wife walked into the room to show us her new peacock blue fingernails and toenails. Chloe and I both assured her they looked great. When my wife left the room Chloe looked at me and said, “Paw Paw, I think she should have done that when she was younger”.

Yesterday I came to work to find an email from a friend who is a yoga instructor. The email was about the importance of occasionally acting silly. I would like to share part of this email with you.

Humor is infectious. Being silly always leads to lots of laughter. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. In addition to the domino effect of joy and amusement, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. That's because laughter helps the pituitary gland release its own pain-suppressing opiates. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.

Sometimes people ask me how I have stayed married for 37 years. I would have to say that one very important reason is humor. Although my wife and I have certainly had our moments of silence, we have also laughed a lot. Although we are very different, one thing we share is a healthy irreverence towards most things in life. We both believe that sacred cows make wonderful hamburgers. Life’s foibles, and our own aging, are the source of much laughter. If you get me on a roll, I could give Robin Williams a run for his money. So, whoever you are, and whatever you are doing, don’t take yourself too seriously. If you do, get over it and laugh a little. It will make you and everyone around you feel a whole lot better.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Moments Of Stillness

I’ve written a couple of times lately about the idea of quieting our minds and finding some stillness within ourselves. I have a quote on my cubicle wall by a man named Meister Eckhart that goes “Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness”. When was the last time, if ever, that you experienced a true moment of stillness? When was the last time that you mind and your life was relatively still? In my life such moments seem to happen most in the early hours of the day. As I’ve said before, I get up early enough on workdays so that I have time to just sit for about twenty minutes before I leave home for my commute to the office. During that time I read a little and then I do some meditation that quiets my mind, centers me, and helps me to start my day on a positive note. Most days things happen throughout the day that can pull me out of this centeredness. When I realize it, I need to re-focus and regain my composure. Over the weekend I had another kind of still moment. After I had gotten out of bed, while waiting for my coffee to brew, I stepped outside to fill my bird feeder. The day was new and fresh. Most people were still in bed. The morning was quiet and all I heard were the gentle sounds of my wind chimes. Except for the breeze, it was a perfectly still moment. By the way, can we all just agree the bird feeders are really for the squirrels? At one point I counted seven squirrels around my bird feeder. I think they were all laughing at me.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day Of Recollection

Yesterday's mental health day turned into a pilgrimage through what some people refer to as "Kentucky's Holy Land". This is the general area around the Abbey of Gethsemani. Back in the 1800's many Catholics and religious communities came to this area and deep roots were planted. The founders of the Abbey of Gethsemani came to the area in 1848 after fleeing the French revolution. My morning commute was very stressful. After dropping my wife off at her office I headed south on I-65 to the home of my friend, Father Dennis. As soon as I got out of the city I encountered deep fog. My vision was very limited. Whenever this happens to me I can't help but think of the 14th century spiritual treatise entitled the Cloud of Unknowing. I could barely tell where I was, where I was going, and I was a little nervous that another driver would come flying out of the fog and run into me. By the time I got to Dennis's house I was a little stressed. This commute is normally very enjoyable. Soon after I arrived at Dennis's we went out for breakfast at a place called the Stephen Foster Resturant. For those that don't know, Bardstown is where My Old Kentucky Home is located. In was in this home that Stephen Foster found the inspiration for the famous song of the same title. Most people would recognize this song as the opening to the Kentucky Derby. After breakfast we briefly returned to Dennis's home where he said, "I think we should visit some of the local churches and religious communities and make today a day of recollection". A day of recollection is a kind of mini-retreat. Such opportunites are rare for me so I quickly agreed.

We began with a stop at the Abbey of Gethsemani. I spent a year of my life living as part of the monastic comunnity so it has always held a special place in my heart. It is also a place of temptation since the monks have a gift shop which has lots of books that I would like to read. I succumbed to buying a book called A Sunlit Absence by Martin Laird. It is a companion book to one I am currently reading called Into the Silent Land. In addition to the books, there are also the temptations of the fruitcakes, cheeses, jellies, cookies, and coffee that are made by monks and nuns from around the world, not to mention all the beautiful Icons.

The next stop was the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Loretto. This place has some personal meaning for me because my mother grew up in this area and my maternal grandfather once worked for the Sisters. They have a wonderfully simple and somewhat stark church that reminds me of the Abbey's. Dennis and I went into a smaller chapel where we sat in silence for a period of time. Silent contemplative prayer is the type of prayer I find most attractive. When we got back outside we couldn't help but remark on the beauty of the day. It was one of those late winter, early spring like days that come as a blessing after a string of typically overcast, dreary winter days in Kentucky.

Our next stop was the Domincan church of St. Rose of Lima. It is a very old church that is a tasteful mixture of pre-Vatican II ambiance and current theological expression. It sits high on a hill with a wonderful panoramic view of the countryside. Once again, Dennis and I spent time sitting in silence. Occasionally my mind flashed into thinking about how I would normally be spending my time on a Friday workday. When I realized what I was thinking I focused on my breathing and prayer words to regain my centeredness. Since we were in a landscape that had spiritual as well as ancestral roots for me, Dennis and I also discussed some of our geneology roots. I suppose most of us at some time or another think about our roots and family histories.

After we left St. Rose of Lima church we headed to the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters called St. Catherine's. When we first arrived we were locked out due to it being the time when the Sisters have lunch. As we walked away one of the Sisters came out and asked if she could help us. When we informed her that we just wanted to sit in their chapel and pray, she said, "Come on, I'll let you in". Modern day Sisters don't dress in religious habits anymore. As we walked through the Sisters dining room, all I saw was a bunch of elderly woman and the whole scene reminded me of my mother in law's retirement community. However, most of these elderly Sisters were adorned with multiple strands of brightly colored Mardi Gras beads. Apparently it was party central at the Dominican Motherhouse as the Sisters celebrated Mardi Gras in anticipation of Ash Wednesday which is next week. The Sister's chapel was on the second floor so Dennis and rode up the elevator with five or six of the Sisters and we were all laughing the entire way. Once again Dennis and I sat in silence. The chairs were very comfortable and the entire chapel was bathed in a beautiful multi-colored light from all the stained glass windows. I could have sat there all afternoon.

Our final stop of the day was St. Thomas Church, one of the oldest churches in Kentucky. Next door to the small church is a log cabin that originally was a home to Bishop Flaget, the first bishop of Kentucky and land well beyond the borders of Kentucky.

Soon after we returned to Dennis's home I realized I needed to be heading home to pick up my wife at her office. With some regret I gave Dennis a hug, got in my car, and headed home. Since I needed to go to downtown Louisville I got on I-65 North. In my blissful state I completely forgot the bridge closure that has been a nightmare for months. As soon as I was within the city linits of Louisville the traffic began backing up and soon came to a complete halt. The slower I progressed, the more stressed I got. Eventually I got to an exit so I made my escape and went a different route to my wife's office. In what seemed like forever, I finally got there, picked her up, and we headed in the opposite direction of the Ohio River and anything that looked like a bridge. Along the way we stopped for dinner at a favorite fish restaurant. After I finally got home, and changed into my evening attire, I soon fell sound asleep on my couch. It's a good thing I got some rest because I had an unexpected visit from my well rested and very energetic seven year old granddaughter. All in all, despite the stressful commutes, I had a wonderful day of peace and contemplation in the country.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mental Health Day

Earlier in the week when I was writing about “Acedia”, I mentioned the need for some people to have a “me” day. Some people also refer to such days as mental health days. I am going to have such a day tomorrow. It will be nothing unusual. I will still get up at 6:00 AM like I always do on workdays. I will still drive my wife to her office as I always do. However, instead of driving to my office, I will go up the I-65 ramp on 1st Street and head south. I-65 is always very intense in the downtown area. The traffic and intensity doesn’t seem to lesson until you get to the Brooks Road exit. Once I get past that I can relax, drink my coffee, enjoy my music, be one with the drive. I will get off at the Bardstown exit and turn left on Highway 245. It’s a very scenic drive, at least for now. There is talk of expanding the highway to four lanes all the way into Bardstown for the development of a “Bourbon Trail”. This is due to all of the distilleries in the neighborhood and Kentucky’s desire to make this area similar to California’s Napa Valley. Once I get through Bardstown and turn left at St, Joseph’s Cathedral I will head down Highway 31E to the home of my good friend, Father Dennis. We are going to spend the day together. After a good breakfast at a nearby restaurant, we’ll decide how we will spend the day. Whatever we do, or wherever we go, the day will be peppered with stimulating conversation. Dennis lives very close to the monastery so I expect to make a visit there, too. It’s good to have mental health days, it’s good to have great friends, and it’s good to step away from one’s normal routine whenever possible. Although I may be tired by the time I return home, I will be mentally and spiritually refreshed. I will need to be since the weekend is near and most weekends I am in the most important role of my life which is being Paw Paw to a little girl named Chloe.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Encouraging The Young

Yesterday I discovered some pictures on my telephone that I didn’t take. One of them is a picture of me sleeping in my Lazy Boy chair. The artist behind these photos appears to be a seven year old little girl named Chloe. I am happy she did this. First of all, I’m impressed she is smart enough to use my telephone to take pictures. In addition to the picture of me in dreamland, there are a number of photos of different things in my room from a variety of perspectives. I love it that my granddaughter is showing some artistic tendencies. Art is her favorite subject in school. Whenever she visits me on the weekends, she is always drawing and coloring and cutting things out to create something. She does a very good job of drawing whatever she is looking at or something that she is imaging. If you have young children, pay attention to what they do and what seems to give them joy. Gifts and talents take root in our youth. They can be encouraged and developed or ignored and discouraged. I always try to encourage whatever artistic endeavor that Chloe attempts. I probably didn’t do this very well with my own children and no one did it very well with me. We will all become who we are sooner or later and whatever is in us will find a way out. This reminds me of a song lyric from a classic blues song by John Lee Hooker, one of my favorite blues artists. In the song a father is talking to a mother about their child. The father says, “Let that boy boogie woogie. It’s in him and its got to come out”. Whatever our talent or gift, it’s got to come out or we will be forever frustrated. Sometimes it takes years to find our gift. I didn’t start seriously writing until I was 50 years old. So, whatever age you are, follow your bliss, be who you are, and do what you do, whether it’s painting, taking pictures, writing, or doing the boogie woogie.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


“Acedia” is a monastic term that describes a kind of boredom with your life. We all have things we dread, things we procrastinate doing, or things we simply do not want to do. Acedia is more than that. It is the sense that everything is a chore, everything is exhausting, everything is meaningless. Whenever I feel like this, and it seems to happen more and more frequently, I have the feeling that “I’m over everything”. As my wife often says, “I’m tired and I’m tired of it”. I know I am feeling this way when I have a sense of fatigue that goes far beyond a lack of sleep. It is a mental, psychological, and spiritual weariness. I think everyone, except for the most extremely positive and optimistic people, sometimes feel like this. So what does one do about it? The first step is to simply recognize it. The second step is to remind yourself that your feelings are like the weather, always changing, and that your feelings are often a poor representation of reality. I also find it helpful to change my routines as much as I can. I know I am a creature of habit and routine. Sometimes I take comfort in that. However, I also know that my routines can sometimes create a rut that brings on these feelings of acedia. Sometimes we all need a break from our lives and responsibilities. Sometimes we need a “me” day. Sometimes we need a good nap or perhaps a night out with friends. From time to time I need to go out to the monastery for a weekend and make a retreat. We all need someone or something to periodically give us a boost or sense of renewal. We all sometimes need to re-charge our batteries so that life does not overwhelm us or totally drain us of all zest for living.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Grammy Awards

I stayed up too late last night watching the Grammy Awards. I thought it was a better than average show. Most of the time I don’t watch these awards because I am usually unfamiliar with most of the artists who are being recognized. Last night there seemed to be something for everyone. Although I am an old rock and roller, I enjoyed much of the music that was performed by artists of the younger generation. I especially liked the performance of Bruno Mars who did a great job mimicking many of the classic moves of James Brown, one of my favorite artists. Of course, the show was made more poignant because of the sudden and unexpected death of Whitney Huston. Admittedly, I was never a big fan of hers but I thought she had a lot of God given talent. Last night’s show meant a lot to me for other reasons. There was a tribute to the Beach Boys. God knows they looked like they are one step from the nursing home. However, the Beach Boys were the very first rock and roll band I ever saw in a live concert. It was in the early 60’s. I was barely a teen-ager and they were probably in their early 20’s. Another of my favorite bands, the Allman Brothers Band, received a lifetime achievement award. I have seen the Allman Brothers Band more often than any other band over the last 40+ years. Finally, the Grammy Awards show closed with a performance by Paul McCartney, one of the Beatles. Although I like many bands, the Beatles are my all-time favorite band. I never saw them when they were together but I did finally see Paul McCartney in the early 2000’s and his performance brought tears to my eyes. Music is one of life’s most pleasurable and meaningful creations. It brings great joy to many and I believe it may be the most unifying forces in all of life. As David Crosby once sang, "Music is Love".

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Passing Of Time

While I was walking into the office this morning I was happy and a little surprised that it’s already Friday. I have always heard, and it’s been my experience, that the older you get the faster time seems to go. Weekends, holidays, and vacations always seem to fly by regardless of your age. When I was younger the work week seemed like it would never end. Now even the workdays go by very fast for me. Yes, I drag into the office on Monday mornings like everyone else but the next thing I know it’s already Friday. We all know that time goes by at the same pace every day. There’s sixty minutes in an hour, twenty four hours in a day, and seven days in a week. Regardless of our moods and feelings, this never changes. However, the perception of time can be quite different. Albert Einstein has a theory of relativity that talks about time and our perception of it. As an example he compares a lover’s kiss to the experience of sitting on a hot stove. If you did both for one minute, which one would seem the longest? When I was a boy, a summer day seemed to last forever. School vacations seemed endless. Now it sometimes seems that if I blink ten years has gone by. I felt young for a very long time in my life and now I suddenly find myself on the brink of being a senior citizen. I still remember my first day of work at my current employer and now twenty six years have passed. The cure for slowing life down is mindfulness. If you can train yourself to be aware of each moment as it unfolds, you will gain a new sense of the passing of time. When you are mindful, and in the moment, you will find that the moment will be eternal and time will not pass by you un-noticed.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I am trying to be more aware of my breath. Most of us rarely thinking about our breathing unless we are having a problem with it. I know a number of adults and children who suffer from Asthma. I am certain breathing is always on their minds. Breath is life. Some spiritual teachings refer to God as our breath. When we are breathing we are alive. My wife and I have lost three of our parents. I was with all of them when they died. None of them seemed to be suffering as they passed away. What happened was they all slowly let go of their breath. Deep breathing will calm us when we feel some minor anxiety. Controlled breathing, using our diaphragm, in conjunction with a mantra or prayer word, can quiet our restless minds and bring a sense of relaxation to our stressed out bodies. Regular meditation, preferably twice a day, is like exercise for the soul. Of course, breathing and meditation are not solely intended just to bring a sense of calm into our lives. The deeper purpose of meditation is to make us more aware. I recently read that there is no absence of God in our lives, regardless of how it often feels. What is absent is our awareness of God all around us. Meditation is also a kind of prayer. When most people think of prayer they think of it as talking to God. Meditation is more about listening than talking. The use of a mantra or prayer word is only a means to keep our restless and wandering minds under reasonable control. When we are meditating we are in a listening and receptive stance. We are like an empty cup that is waiting to be filled.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


I’ve been reading a book called Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird. I'm trying to get myself back in the routine of spending time each day just being quiet and still. Way back in the 70’s I studied Transcendental Meditation. It was introduced into the United States by a Hindu monk named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Later in the 80’s I learned a Christian version of meditation called “Centering Prayer” through the writings of Father Basil Pennington, a Trappist monk. Both of these types of meditation are very similar in their technique. They basically involve the use of a mantra or prayer word in coordination with your breath. They don’t require total silence or isolation but it is important not to be disturbed while you are doing it. Typically these types of meditation would be done for about 20 minutes twice a day. The biggest obstacle to meditation is your own mind. Most of us have over active minds. We have what the Buddhists call “monkey minds”. Imagine a tree full of monkeys. They’re making all kinds of noise and chatter while jumping from limb to limb. Our minds are often like a tree full of monkey’s. No one can turn off their mind. However, certain types of meditation, especially one’s that use a mantra or prayer word, can help us control our thoughts somewhat or at least learn to let them go. These types of meditation also help us to feel a sense of calm in our bodies. The mantra or prayer word acts like an anchor. Our minds could be compared to a busy river where there is lots of activity on the surface. When we let our thoughts run rampant, it’s like we are on the river. When we sit still and use a mantra or prayer word, it acts like an anchor that brings us down to the bottom of the river where everything is calm. When we realize that we are thinking and floating back to the top of the river, our mantra or prayer word can anchor us and bring us back to our inner stillness at the bottom of the river. When you can live your life with this inner stillness, you are what some would call “a centered person”.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Mind And Body

Today I am going to explain the difference between being young and being my age. When you are young your body is in charge. It wants to do all kinds of wild and crazy things that someone my age can no longer do. When you are young your mind is just along for the ride. Your body wants to do things that are probably not good for you and which may have long term effects. Your mind is going “Are you sure you want to do these things”? More often than not, the body wins the tug of war, if it's even a contest, and you do something stupid. When you are my age your body doesn’t want to do anything. By the time you are my age all those stupid things you did in your youth are catching up with you. My mind never says “Are you sure you want to do this”? My mind is now saying “YOU REALLY NEED TO DO THIS”! When the alarm goes off my body wants to stay in bed but my mind is saying “You need to get up now. It’s a work day”. When my body wants coffee and a donut on my break, my mind says, “Don’t even think about it. You need to go down downstairs and walk as many laps as you can around the perimeter of the first floor”. In my youth I wanted to stay out late, howl at the moon, and be crazy. Who needs sleep? Now that I am in my 60’s I can barely stay awake until it’s bedtime. I no longer go out on Friday nights partying with my friends. After a week of work, my body says, “There’s no way, Dude”! I enjoyed my youth and I am glad I survived it. Getting older, however, is not all bad. I like my age. I like my slower pace. Yes, I do miss the energy of youth but I also enjoy the contentment I have found as an older person. My body is putting up quite a fight with my mind but more often than not, the mind wins now.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Down And Out

Like most people I was in a great mood this past Friday when the work day ended. I picked up my wife at her office and we headed for a restaurant that we had never been to before. As I was getting out of the car to enjoy what I hoped would be a good meal it happened again. One very small move on my part caused my back to go out again. I knew I was in trouble the moment I realized what I had done. By Saturday morning I was hobbling around like I was 90 years old. I was not happy. Later in the day on Saturday my granddaughter came over for her weekly visit. I knew she would want me to “play the game”. This involves me getting on the floor and playing make believe with all her dolls and toys and stuffed animals. I told her that I hurt my back and I didn’t think I could get on the floor. She immediately gathered up all the pillows in my room and stacked them up. She looked at me and said, “Paw Paw, now you can lean your back on these pillows”. Since I didn’t want to disappoint her I got down on the floor. Getting down was not a problem. However, I wouldn’t want a YouTube video of me getting up from the floor to be posted on the internet. As one gets older there is an increase of aches and pains. Sometimes it does not take much to bring you to a screeching halt. The last time I threw my back out it took six weeks to get back to normal. The older I get the more I appreciate feeling good. When old people complain about their health and how they feel, and when they tell young people “if you don’t have your health, you’ve got nothing”, they’re telling you the truth. Hopefully this incident won’t take six weeks to overcome. At the moment, however, I am moving a little slow.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Connecting The Dots

“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something…your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life”.
-Steve Jobs

This is another great quote that passed before my gaze this week. Steve Jobs changed the world. He would be my hero if all he did was invent the iPod. I have always been reflective and introspective. It’s part of my nature. However, I don’t dwell in the past and I am not in mourning over its passing. Yes, I do sometimes re-live great memories in my mind or perhaps with family or friends who shared the moment. Much of the time my life does not make sense to me while I am living it. It is when I look back at previous events or people who crossed my path when I needed them to, that I can begin to make sense of the present moment. I can see now where even things that felt like failures were really successes and they made me who I am today. I agree with Steve Jobs that it is only in retrospect that we can connect the dots of our life. Life never goes in a straight line. My personal blog is called “Stumbling along the Spiritual Path”. The use of the word “stumbling” was very intentional. The path of my life has gone in many directions. My path has sometimes seemed overgrown with weeds. It has gone up and down and all around. Sometimes I could not tell if I was going North, South, East, or West. A few times when I wasn’t paying attention I got wacked in the eye with a tree branch. Many times I have stumbled and occasionally I have fallen down. This convoluted path, however, has been my path. It has taken me through some pretty interesting and unique experiences. It has brought me to where I am today and has also made me who I am today. These thoughts make me think of a favorite poem by Robert Frost.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Joy Happens

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
-Henry David Thoreau

Recently I have been in a few conversations that were about people, how they act, their attitudes about life, and how so many of us see the same things so differently. I am quickly exhausted by negative and pessimistic people who always see the worst of everything. These people are chronically unhappy and nothing ever seems to give them joy. I am an optimist. I see the glass as not only half full but often overflowing. A pessimist once told me that an optimist is a person out of touch with reality. As I type these words it is February 1st and the current temperature is 64 degrees. The sun is shining brightly. I cannot wait to get out of this office to feel the warmth of the sun on my face while it works in harmony with the cool breezes to create the perfect blend of comfort. Even if I walked out of this building into a wintry day with air that stings and snow on the ground, I would still enjoy it. The weather is what it is and I will breathe it’s air. I know that a lot of life is just trying to survive but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed. The quote above by Thoreau is a very good definition of Zen. Living in the season means being one with it. Whatever the season, it is full of life. Breathe in life. Drink life. Taste it’s fruits. Let the goodness of life permeate your bones. Life does change but that is not necessarily good or bad. Life just is. Our opinions of life are based on personal judgments which can be terribly skewed. Thinking that life is always either good or bad is dualistic thinking. Life is both good and bad. The Zen way, the contemplative way, is to not judge it but to simply be present to it. Often, joy happens.

If you’ve never read Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Snow Lover

Even though I am a snow lover, I am enjoying the mild winter that we have experienced so far. I always think about the homeless and those who struggle to pay their heat bill when the weather is brutal and the temperatures are frigid. Our mild weather is giving everyone a break except for those who sell snow shovels and warm clothes. Still, I hope we have at least one decent snow before the winter is over. I would prefer this snow to begin on a Friday night when my pantry is full and I have no where I need to be over the weekend. I want to wake up on a Saturday morning, brew a pot of coffee, turn on the fake fire in my fake wood burning stove, look out my window at the blanket of snow covering the landscape, and watch all the birds gathering around my bird feeder. I may venture out to also feed the squirrels since more often than not they think all the bird feed is for them. I hope on such a day the snow continues throughout the day. An occasional howling wind and the sight of blowing snow would also add to the enjoyment. On such days I truly enjoy my solitude and my home. Snow is God’s way of telling us all to slow down and chill out. Although I know some people hate snow, and for many it’s an inconvenience, I love it when it completely brings life to a halt. I especially like when it does this on a weekend when most people can enjoy it and not be stressed out about it. Most days the world can spin on schedule without all of us making it happen.