Friday, June 29, 2012

Michael's Wild Night

The first thing I heard when I walked in my building this morning was a woman talking very loudly on her cell phone. She was totally trashing some poor soul. Fortunately I had turned on my anti-negativity force field before I entered the building. Since the expected high today is 105 degrees, I hope my force field also keeps me cool when I leave today.

Last night I was walking through the Mall with my wife. I said to her, “When I get home I am shutting the door and I am not leaving the house until Monday morning”! She said, “Are you taking tomorrow off? You do know it’s only Thursday, right”? Thursday??? Once again all my hopes and dreams were squashed like a mosquito! Today, however, it really is Friday. My wife is going out with her sister tonight so I will be home alone and totally unsupervised. I will probably get pretty crazy. I will go home today, take a shower to wash away the dust from a hard day in the office, I will most likely have a bowl of cereal for dinner. If I’m feeling wild, I may have a banana too. Since there won’t be any adults around I think I will watch a concert DVD and turn my surround sound up as loud as I want. I may take the television remote off my wife’s end table and put it on my end table. Maybe I will burn some of my favorite incense since my wife won’t be around to complain that I’m setting off her sinuses. There’s beer in the refrigerator so I’ll probably drink a few. When she comes in the door at 9:00 PM I will most likely be asleep in my Lazy Boy with the music blaring in the background. It’s going to be a wild night!  I love living on the edge!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Today's Assignment

Here’s something I read this morning from a book called Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh.

We try to be in touch with life and look deeply as we drink our tea, walk, sit down, or arrange flowers. The secret of the success is that you are really yourself, and when you are really yourself, you can encounter life in the present moment.

Today I want all of you to really be who you are. Along with being who you are I want you to be where you are and I want you to do what you are doing. This might all sound simple but it is not. Most people are not who they really are. Most of us are trying to be who we think we need to be to impress or appease others. Most of us are not where we are. Our minds and bodies are rarely in the same place. Whatever most of us are doing, we are probably thinking about what we need to do next. Many of our lives demand multi-tasking and that really complicates things. In today’s world it is very challenging to only so one thing at a time. Wherever you are today, and whatever you are doing each moment, be there and do it. If you’re drinking your coffee, tea, or soda, really drink it. Know that you are drinking it. When you have a snack or eat your lunch, know that you are doing it. Taste your food, enjoy it’s flavor, and mindfully chew it. If you are outside, and there is a breeze, feel the wind. Today is going to be very hot so it will be a simple task to feel the sun. Simply put, live your life today and enjoy every minute of the day. Be alive and awake.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


There’s nothing I enjoy more than walking into my granddaughter’s school and seeing her light up when she sees me. She runs toward me and gives me a hug that almost knocks me down. No one loves me like my granddaughter loves me. She will be eight years old in a few days. Currently she’s totally obsessed with Michael Jackson. When she gets in my car she immediately says, “Play Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson”! Since I’m a cool Grandpa, I loaded some Michael Jackson on my iPod and we listen to him when we are driving around together.  Chloe even has a Michael Jackson doll that my son found on eBay. When she’s not playing with it, he sits on the shelf next to her Pee Wee Herman doll. Recently Chloe asked me what a hippie was. I explained it as best I could since I do have some personal experience. A couple of days ago she told me that you have to be at least sixty years old to be a hippie. When I told her I was in my sixties, she just smiled at me.  Although I try to have a zest for living, there are certainly days when life just feels like a struggle. Sometimes on such days I am blessed to spend time with Chloe. She is so full of energy, wonder, and questions. Her energy overwhelms me at times. Once when I asked her if she was happy, she looked at me like she didn’t understand the question. I received one of those, “Why wouldn’t I be happy?” looks. The timing in life when a person becomes a grandparent is probably perfect. By the time you reach your 50’s or 60’s, you very likely feel weary. You’re often tired of everybody and everything. Then, if you are lucky, the universe gives you a grandchild and if you are open to it, a grandchild is a true gift and a reminder of what’s important in life. It’s also a reward for all the toil of being a parent.  I love my granddaughter!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Experience Of God

One question that has often come up in the many spiritual conversations I’ve been part of over the years is “What is the experience of God”? It’s a question that no one, even my friends in the monastery, can quite agree on. My basic answer is that I don’t either. However, I do have a few thoughts about it. More and more many people wonder if there even is a God. I don’t know that either with any certitude and I am always amazed at how offended some people get when I say that. I’m not saying there’s no God. I’m just saying that I don’t really know. Isn’t not knowing why people have faith? I think there are some experiences and feelings that we all have as human beings. Do you ever have a sense of longing but you are not sure what you are longing for? Do you ever feel empty or incomplete? Are you hungry for something beyond food but you are not sure what you hunger for? I believe these feelings, at their root, are spiritual. We are all desiring some kind of unity or oneness with someone or something. I do spend a fair amount of time meditating and practicing mindfulness. Sometimes when I am being silent and still, I do experience feelings of peace. There are also times when I experience what some people would call “warm, fuzzy feelings”. Occasionally I feel one with the universe. Are these feelings the experience of God? Again, I don’t know. They might just be pleasant feelings or my imagination. I guess all I can really say is that I have all the feelings I mentioned above. I don’t always know why I have them. Something or someone seems to be always calling me forward. Is the inner voice I hear God speaking to me or just me talking to myself? Again, I don’t know. I suppose someday I will find out or maybe I won’t. There was once an Abbot at the monastery who had a standard response every time one of the monks died. He would say, “Now our brother knows more theology than any of us”.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Books And The Blues

I am not a big fan of hot weather. Summer is my least favorite time of year. This week we have a very good chance of reaching temperatures of 100 degrees. During the summer months I have no grandparent duties on the weekends. I did go visit my mother on Saturday afternoon but most of the weekend I stayed at home. I spent most of my time reading, listening to music, and taking naps. I love books. I received a couple for Father’s Day and I’ve already finished one of them. Have you ever enjoyed a book so much that you actually feel a little sad when you have finished it? In the last week I have read the autobiography of Gregg Allman called “My Cross To Bear”. It was like re-living the last 40+ years of my musical adventures. I have seen Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band more than any other rock and roll band including the Grateful Dead. I am not so much interested in the personal lives of rock stars as I am in what was going on behind the music. I not only enjoy listening to music, I enjoy studying the history of music. I have already started reading another book which is the autobiography of Buddy Guy. He is the greatest living bluesman. I have seen him many times and at one of his concerts, as I stood in front of the stage, he leaned down and gave me his guitar pick. Both of these books are in some ways a history of the blues. Gregg Allman is considered by many as the greatest white blues singer. Buddy got his start in the south before moving to Chicago and sitting at the feet of such great bluesmen as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Howlin’ Wolf. I can’t wait to get home so I can put some blues on my stereo and continue my reading.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wavy Gravy

Yesterday I had lunch with two of my friends from the monastery. They usually contact me whenever they are going to be in town on business. We had some serious conversation and a lot of laughs. I am always flattered when anyone thinks being with me is a good use of their time.

Last night I watched a documentary about a man named Wavy Gravy. It was called “Saint Misbehaving”. Wavy is probably the world’s best known hippie. I am second. He is also a great social activist and humanitarian. He became famous to the masses because he had a prominent role in the original Woodstock. He was in the documentary film about Woodstock. Many people remember seeing on the stage in front of hundreds of thousands of hippie saying, “What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000”. I was not one of the 400,000 even though many people think I was. In the early 90’s, however, I did spend an evening with Wavy Gravy. I found him to be a genuine and authentic person. I had bought his book and asked him to autograph it. After doing so, he looked at me and said, “Now I want you to autograph my book”. So, somewhere in his home is a book with my name in it. Further proof that Wavy is a great person is that Ben & Jerry’s has an ice cream favor named after him. When last night’s movie was over, I looked at my wife and said, “He may be Wavy Gravy but I’m the Tie Dyed Mystic”!

Here’s your weekend mantra.

“Don’t just do something, sit there”!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Finding Quiet Space

Yesterday I met a friend for lunch in the lobby of a building a few blocks from where I work. I arrived a few minutes early so I found a chair in which to wait. The lobby was reasonably quiet and the chair was very comfortable. I spent the time practicing my breathing while I reflected on a Buddhist teaching. When the meditation bell on my cell phone chimed I continued to sit there in silence. I could not help but think that in the building where I work, there is literally nowhere one can find a quiet place, with soft chairs, where one can enjoy the silence and be alone with their thoughts. Why can’t we have some quiet rooms with soft chairs where one can find some momentary peace? There could be a sign at the entrance like the ones at the monastery which say “Silence is spoken here”. Our office is an introvert’s nightmare. There’s nowhere to hide or simply be. When I look downstairs from the 12th floor atrium, and I see the hundreds of cubicles, I am reminded of the drone pods in a Borg mother ship. I have been in other downtown offices where there are quiet spaces that allow employees some solace from the demands of their jobs. I am grateful for the green space near where I work. However, the outdoors is not always hospitable. Today, for example, as I write these thoughts, it is 89 degrees outside with high humidity. In my work world, we are constantly stressing productivity. However, we do little to provide an environment that supports it. Beyond productivity, quiet places are as important to well-being as free pedometers. Well-being is not just about our bodies. It is also about our minds and spirits.

The Borg are an alien species from Star Trek. They were part machine, part organic, and greatly feared by other species. The Borg’s goal was to assimilate other species into their “collective”. The Borg had a group mind and consciousness. There was no individuality.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Writing Awards

A few weeks ago I received two awards from my employer for my writing.  These awards were based on nominations and voting by other co-workers throughout the company.  The writing is basically the same writing I publish on this blog.  I also publish it on a company blog which has a potential readership of 20,000 employees.

What Is A Contemplative?

I sometimes refer to myself as a contemplative. Some of you may be wondering, “What is a contemplative”? Contemplation and the idea of being a contemplative is usually thought of in the context of spirituality and religion. It is my belief that you don’t necessarily have to be religious or someone that attends church to be a contemplative. In Buddhism, the word “Buddha” means “Awakened One”. In my mind a contemplative is an awakened one, regardless of your personal spiritual beliefs, or at least someone who is in the process of waking up. The waking up I refer to is a spiritual awakening, not a physical awakening. So what does it mean to be “awake”? A person who is spiritually awake is a person who notices things. A contemplative person prefers life in the slow lane. A contemplative person not only notices the roses along the path of their life, they take the time to stop and smell them. Most people rush through their lives. They have tunnel vision and their concentration is focused on getting from one place to another and going from one task to another. They rarely pay attention or notice anything in between. The contemplative person is awake and aware. Little escapes them. They see what most fail to notice. A contemplative person will find joy in a sunrise when many don’t even realize the sun has come up. A contemplative person seeks moments of silence within the noise of the world. A contemplative person understands that the journey is the destination. The practice of mindfulness helps one to have a contemplative attitude. Being where you are and doing what you are doing encourages wakefulness and awareness. As you go through your day today, slow down, be in the moment, and see what you notice that may never have caught your attention before.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Existential Angst

I’ve done too many things in life simply because I believed it was expected. In general, I have played by the rules and done the “right things”. Most of my life I have been reasonably content even when my circumstances didn’t seem supportive of any contentment. I think I was able to find some contentment in most circumstances because it generally doesn’t take much too please me and most of the time I am grateful for anything good that comes my way. In the midst of my contentment I have experienced some truly joyful moments. What I have not experienced in abundance is overall happiness. Perhaps my expectations of life and people are too great. There have been too many situations and circumstances that simply were little more than tolerable to me. Part of the problem is my own worldview. I am a dreamer and a romantic and much of life is not dreamy or romantic. Although I do not consider myself a poet, I tend to look at life with poetic eyes. I know I am too sensitive. Sometimes I wonder if I am even capable of sustained happiness. Many people would love the life I have. I must admit, however, that the life I have was never the life I dreamed of having. Getting married, having children, and living in a house with a white picket fence, was never a life I wanted to have. It all seemed way too ordinary for a dreamer and a romantic like me. What happiness I have experienced is due to me finding meaning and joy in unexpected moments and places. For this ability I am grateful for my sensitive nature and discerning eye. I call this “finding the extraordinary within the ordinary”. I also think this is due to being a contemplative person. In moments of spiritual wakefulness I am able to see past life’s disappointments and I can find meaning in my life. However, there are those that think that if you have to look for meaning in your life, there probably isn’t any. Some believe the meaning in your life should be obvious. Of course, I know all of this is nothing but existential angst, a malady suffered by most people from time to time. How do you feel? Is your life meaningful to you or are you constantly trying to find the meaning within it?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Chapters Of Our Lives

The chapters of our life stories can often be taken from the decades in which we have lived. I was a child of the 50’s, a time many considered idyllic. I came of age in the 60’s, a time that was turbulent and a time in which there were many substantial changes in our culture. In the 70’s I got a job, married a wife, bought a house, and became a parent. Most of the 80’s and 90’s were devoted to turning a job into a career and raising two boys into men. In the early 2000’s life changed for all of us because of 9/11. I also became a grandfather and I discovered I had a gift for writing and sharing feelings that many people have but cannot always articulate. Now it is 2012 and I am in a new chapter of my life. I am now in my 60’s and my aging seems accelerated even though I am trying to slow my life down by downshifting as much as I can. I feel like I am on the other side of the mountain but I am OK with that. While climbing up the mountain I feel I accumulated some wisdom and a little enlightenment. Life has been a tall mountain so I am not sure how long it will take me to get to the bottom of it. I am in no hurry because I am enjoying the ride now. It’s much easier because it is all downhill. Life is a journey and every step is important. How would you measure your life so far? What are the chapters of your life? Is the peak of your mountain in front of you or must you look over your shoulder to see it?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Being Yourself

There have been times in my life when I was accused of being weird. I do think I am a little weird sometimes. However, I don’t think I’m weird in a scary way. It’s more a “he’s different” kind of weird. I must admit that I am not always comfortable being around other people. As a very serious introvert I live much of life in my own inner world. I do things that help me cope with life or things that make me happy and, as my father-in-law used to say, “I approve of everything I do”. Recently I’ve done a couple of things that I’m sure some people would consider weird. I have my cell phone programmed to chime three times a day and flash a message that says “Be Mindful”. The intent is to bring me back to my center throughout my work day when I am often distracted and all over the place mentally. Another weird thing I have done is create a playlist on my iPod called “Autobiographical Songs”. This is a collection of songs whose lyrics, melody, or mood say something about who I am, how I am, or how I want to be. A perceptive person could listen to these songs and get a fairly good idea of the kind of person I am. I would prefer these songs to be played at my funeral rather than “On Eagle’s Wings”, a song I think I’ve heard at every funeral I ever attended and a song that makes me crazy.  The worlds we create for ourselves, whether it be an autobiographical song list or the way we decorate a favorite room, tell a lot about who we are. If any of you saw my personal room at home, I don’t think you would be surprised at the d├ęcor. My music, my room, and my writing is who I am and if I am a little weird, so be it. My granddaughter loves it. She thinks I’m silly and as she once told me when she was a young child, “Paw Paw, your house is like magic. That’s why I never get sleepy when I am here”.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hugs, Smiles, & Making Peace

My granddaughter is growing up quickly. She will be eight years old in a few weeks. Talking with her is like talking to an adult. Recently I thought that she was not as loving and affectionate as she used to be. It was like she’s got so much going on that hugging was no longer a priority. I was wrong. This past Monday I picked her up at her martial arts school. She didn’t see me walk in. All the kids were dressed the same and it took me a few minutes to find her in the crowd. The children were all sitting like little Buddha’s listening to “Master Thomas”. As soon as Chloe saw me, she ran towards me, wrapped her arms around me, and held on like her life depended on it. I almost fell down. Later in a restaurant, she hugged me again without warning. Sometimes I look at her and wonder, “Does this child have any idea how much I love her and how much she has changed my life for the better”?

Yesterday I made peace with someone with whom I had an estranged relationship. I was hesitant to reach out but I thought it had to be done. When I did so I was relieved and somewhat joyful that my reaching out seemed to relieve them of a burden as well. In fact, I got a hug. I feel much better for having taken the chance and for breaking down a wall that needed to come down.

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
-Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ve always been a little self-conscious about my smile. It’s probably because I’ve always felt like I needed to go to the orthodontist. However, I still try to smile as much as possible, even to strangers. Over the years I have worked with some people who had wonderful smiles and every time they smiled it brightened my day. Today I challenge you to smile as often as you can. You have no idea what it’s effect may be on others.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mindful Eating

When was the last time you practiced mindfulness while eating? Recent news articles lamented the loss of the “lunch hour” for many of today’s worker’s. Everyone thinks they are too busy to eat. I think among some management people the need for a break or lunch is seen as a sign of weakness and lack of dedication. Baloney! I don’t care who you are or what you do, your life would be better served by taking occasional breaks along with a mindful lunch where you actually taste you food and enjoy the experience. I am not talking about a rushed drive through the McDonald’s Drive Thru and a quick consumption of your Chicken McNuggets as you drive back to the office. I am talking about taking the time to be totally present to yourself and your food. I am talking about a relaxed and mindful time where you can be one with your meal. You can smell it’s aroma, feel it’s texture, and taste it’s flavors in an unhurried and relaxing manner. Today I challenge you to pay attention to whatever you eat. Think about what you are eating. Where did it come from? If you are eating a piece of fruit think about the farmer who grew it. Say a blessing for the person who picked it. Remember the truck driver who delivered it to your local market. Remember that many people worked so that you can have this food. Most of all, be thankful and grateful that you have something to eat. Many people in this world will not eat today.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Wall

I blew my mind last night.  No, I did not consume any psychedelic drugs.  I will admit to a few sips of beer.  What I did was attend a concert by Roger Waters, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd and their primary creative force.  He performed the Pink Floyd magnum opus "The Wall" in it's entirety.  It was musically and visually stunning and a feast for the senses.  Admittedly, "The Wall" is probably not the piece of music that you want to listen if you're having a bad day and you need something to pick you up.  The lyrics and basic storyline are very serious and a bit heavy.  Last night's performance had a very strong human rights and anti-war message.  I've seen Pink Floyd five times over the years and last night was my second Roger Waters concert.  The last time I saw him he performed "The Dark Side of the Moon" in its entirety as well as other Pink Floyd classics and solo material.  Pink Floyd has always been one of my favorite bands and among the many legendary musical acts that I have seen in my rock and roll lifetime, they are among the top artists in terms of overall performance and stage production.  Pink Floyd as a band are now part of the past.  However, if you ever have a chance to see Roger Waters, or the other major Pink Floyd member, David Gilmour, by all means go see them.  You will be in for a treat.    

Friday, June 08, 2012


Monasteries have something called an enclosure. In some cases this is an actual wall that separates the monastery from everything outside the monastery. At least in the past, when a man or a woman entered a monastery, the attitude was that they were leaving the world behind. In a sense, the wall, or enclosure, was a metaphorical and physical way to be separated from the world. In today’s highly technical world this has become much more challenging because there are now computers in the monastery. We can all have some version of an enclosure in our lives. We can decide, most of the time, who and what we want to allow to enter our personal enclosures. For example, I struggle on a regular basis whether or not I should watch the news, especially the local news. It seems to be totally filled with negative stories about murders, robberies, serial killers, scams, or many other real and imaginary dangers to our lives. I find it all quite depressing. I want to be informed but I don’t want to allow all that negative energy into my life. Imagine that your five senses, especially your sight and your hearing, are like open windows to your home. Do you want everything to have access to your home? Do you want everything to be able to just fly in your windows whenever it wants? Probably not. That’s why most people have screens on their windows. You want the fresh air but you want to screen out the insects and other things that the wind might carry in. Make sure your screens are in good condition and build yourself a personal enclosure wall to keep out those people and things that bring you down.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Take A Break From Thinking

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment!

These words are from a book I am reading called Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book is about practicing mindfulness in everyday life. The passage I read this morning was about how we all think too much. Most of us have a never ending tape loop in our minds that plays over and over. Much of what we think about is not worth thinking about. By focusing on our breath, we can reduce the amount of time wasted on unnecessary and potentially negative thinking. Realistically, we cannot stop all thinking. Many of life’s daily tasks require some level of intellectual activity. However, I give you this challenge. Today, when you are not involved in a task that requires you to think, don’t think. Between your tasks that require thinking, focus on your breath and enjoy the stillness that it will bring. If you choose to have a cup of coffee or tea during these moments, smell the aroma of the coffee or tea, really pay attention to the taste of your coffee or tea, and finally, enjoy it in a very mindful way. For those few moments let your attention be on your breathing and the experience of your beverage.  Be where you are and do what you are doing.  Such intentional focus is what mindfulness is all about.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The People's Choice Awards

I have been writing “Daily Thoughts” for approximately eight years. They began soon after the birth of my granddaughter. She was my original inspiration and I imagine she always will be. Every day I publish these daily thoughts on my employer's internal website called “Buzz”. Yesterday I was pleased to learned that I have won two awards for doing it. The awards were for “Most Creative” and “Buzzer of the Year”. I consider these awards as “People’s Choice Awards” since my nomination and winning were the result of fellow co-workers. I must admit that it made me very happy to win these awards. It is a joyful thing to be recognized for something that you love to do. It also made me realize how much we all need validation and affirmation in our lives. When one does something like writing you do not always get immediate feedback. More often than not you don’t get any at all. There are days you wonder why you even do it. I have received some very nice compliments and touching emails over the years but one never knows when they will be received. However, I do get them on a regular basis and these awards are icing on the cake. I feel validated and affirmed. I feel a sense of purpose. Admittedly, winning these awards also puts a little heat on me. Now I feel some pressure to live up to these awards. However, I will do what I have always done. I will continue to write honestly about my life experiences and what I believe in. Hopefully, whatever I write will continue to resonate with my readers.

Monday, June 04, 2012

In The End Everything Will Be Perfect

In the end everything will be perfect. If it’s not perfect now it’s because the end is not yet here.

This is a line from a wonderful movie I saw over the weekend called “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. It’s the story of a random group of senior citizens who decide to retire in India. Admittedly I may have identified with the characters because I am older. However, I think the movie has a message for everyone regardless of their age. The message I took from the movie is this. You are never too old to find yourself. In the movie the different characters come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. None of them have any idea what to expect from moving to India. The “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in many ways a dump that has been highly over rated on its website. Everyone seemed apprehensive when they first arrived. There was the obvious culture shock. Eventually all but one settled into their new home and culture. By jumping into the flow of life in India, and not resisting it or fighting it, they came to a new self-awareness. The movie reminded me that all of life is a journey and the journey is the destination. It also reminded me that most of us have no idea where the journey will take us. The important thing is to enjoy the journey, be open to all of life’s possibilities, and when the journey is over, everything will be perfect. If your life is not perfect yet, your journey is not over.