Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Self Knowledge

I have always loved the study of psychology and personality types.  In my early 30’s I took my first Myers-Briggs test and I learned about the Enneagram in my 40’s.  A few years ago I took the Strength Finders test.  In addition to the tests I have read many books on all the various personality types.  As a result of all of this I know myself very well.  These tests did a very good job of revealing to me who I am, what I am, how I think, and how I act.  One of the biggest benefits of such self-knowledge is the ability to recognize my own dysfunctional behavior.  More often than not I act in a mature way, appropriate for my age and temperament.  Occasionally, however, I can see my dysfunctional self looming on the horizon.  Knowing myself very well, I can usually head myself off at the pass and prevent or minimize my dysfunctional self from making an appearance.  All personality types have a healthy side to them as well as an unhealthy side.  All behavior is a manifestation of who a person is.  When a person is at their best, they are a manifestation of their redeemed or healthy self.  When a person is at their worst and their behavior is bad or foolish, it is almost always an indicator of deeper issues.  Our general behavior and how we deal with the demands of life is an strong indicator of one’s psychological health.  We are who we are and many forces and influences have shaped us into the people we are.  Most people learn from their experiences, grow from them, and over time develop into mature people and the best version of who they are.  Some people, however, never move forward.  They become trapped in their own dysfunctional behavior.  They may not even realize what they act the way they do.  Such people need to take a closer look at their behavior.  Some people need outside help to get a more objective view of themselves.  All of us have to take responsibility for our own emotional intelligence and behavior.  Occasionally that means facing a part of ourselves that we may not like.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Celebrate Another Day Of Living

As I pulled into my parking garage this morning the song “I Just Want To Celebrate Another Day Of Living” by the rock band Rare Earth was blasting on my radio. As soon as I got out of my car my mindfulness bell on my telephone went off reminding me to be in the moment. Within a minute I had two reminders to get out of my current funk. Yesterday one of my former teachers wrote me an email saying, “What’s this obsession with aging? I’m older than you are and I feel young”. All of this reminded me of something called “Acedia”. Acedia is a monastic term that describes a kind of boredom with one’s routines. It is an east rut for monks and everyone else to fall into. My life is very routine. I wake up at the same time every morning. I leave home at the same time every day and I arrive at work at the same time every day. While at work I do the same things every day and more often than not I do them in the same order. I take my breaks and go on my walks at the same time most days. When I leave work I have the same routines for going home and for things I do at home. Most days I am on auto-pilot and I don’t even realize it. One can quickly and regularly become bored with such regularity and not even realize it until it manifests itself as a funk. Now I am not expecting any significant changes in my life anytime soon. Most of my routines revolve around my responsibilities so I can’t discard most of them even though I can be on the lookout for signs of obsessive-compulsiveness. If I can’t change most of my routines, perhaps I can strive to change my ways of things so that I am in a better mindset to “celebrate another day of living”. Who wants to be in the moment if you’re bored with the moment? I will look for ways big and small to celebrate living. I encourage you to do the same.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

This morning my thoughts are with the millions of people in the path of Hurricane Sandy. Some of them are my friends and family. My sister evacuated her New York City apartment yesterday. I don’t know exactly where she is at the moment but I am assuming she went to her daughter’s house in Connecticut. I know the idea of global warming is controversial with many people. I believe in science so I believe we are experiencing global warming and that Hurricane Sandy is a result. This is not to say that it has never happened before. I believe what our modern day scientists are saying is that it is happening now at an accelerated pace. One thing I do know and believe is that our weather is changing in dramatic ways. The droughts, the wildfires, the excessive heat, the killer winters, and the so called super storms were somewhat rare in my youth. I believe all of these things are the result of the increasing warmth of our planet and the breakdown of the ozone layer around the earth. These are just my beliefs. I know some of you believe the opposite and this whole discussion has become a political issue. However, as the Buddha says, “Believe what you experience”. Whether such storms as Hurricane Sandy are normal weather or the result of global warming is irrelevant at this point. It is here and it will significantly affect the lives of millions of people today. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers and be grateful you are where you are today.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Life

There is a creeping malaise in my life that looks like boredom. The weekend is here. On the way to work this morning I asked my wife what we were doing this weekend. She replied, “I want to go to Denny’s for dinner because I’m in the mood for a club sandwich. Tomorrow I want to drive to the J.C. Penney’s Outlet to look at blankets”. I thought to myself, “Really??? This is my weekend? Has my life come to this"?  This makes going to the Mall seem like a drunken orgy. My entire life seems to be slowing down. My life as a rock and roll road warrior has been in decline for years. Most of my rocking is now down in my Lazy Boy chair. I have books everywhere I sit but it takes me forever to read them. I can fall asleep listening to AC/DC. Outside of the work day the most exciting things I do are go to the Kroger pharmacy for my monthly meds, load the dishwasher, and do the laundry. Occasionally when I am feeling wild and crazy I will go outside and feed the squirrels. There was a time I was involved in more activities outside of work and home. I let all of those go. I just ran out of energy and desire. Every Thursday morning one of my co-workers asks, “Did you make it to your Buddhist meditation last night”? Sadly, most of the time I must reply, “No, I didn’t make it”. I was probably doing some horizontal meditation on my couch. I must find an antidote for this malaise. If this is all part of the aging process I don’t want to give in to it. My life has to be more than a club sandwich at Denny’s or a trip to the J.C. Penney’s Outlet to look at blankets. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What's The Deal With Sleep?

I was very happy when my alarm went off this morning and it was finally time to get out of bed. The reason being that I had been awake since 4:00 AM. During this time my brain decided to go into overdrive and I composed about ten daily thoughts in my mind. Unfortunately I cannot remember any of them at this time. Some of them were probably very good. Hopefully, they will come back to me at some point. What’s the deal with sleep? Everyone I know complains about sleep. They either get too little, the quality of what they get is poor, they wake up at all hours of the night, or they toss and turn for hours. Why can’t we sleep? We are all exhausted? Are we so over stimulated, agitated, and stressed out that our biological time clocks are completely out of whack? Why can I sleep like a baby on Saturday afternoons but can never sleep well in my bed? I used to think it was because I am getting older but I hear young people making the same complains. I am often envious of Rip Van Winkle. I am no longer sure what it really feels like to be totally rested and refreshed. I live in a daze but no one notices because everyone else is in a daze too. At this very moment my eyes want to snap shut. In my mind I am singing the song by Chicago called “Wake Up, Sunshine”. I guess the good news is that I can go home in eight hours and take a nap.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Road Trip

Back through the mists of time in the late 60’s, when I was in high school, my friends Tom, Gene, John, and I drove all the way to Cincinnati in the middle of the night just to get some White Castles. It didn’t matter that we could get White Castles in Louisville. We were just four guys enjoying a road trip that would make all of our parents very unhappy. If there had been one more guy in our group we could have started our own hamburger chain. In our carefree youth, drunk with our own freedom, it didn’t matter to us that we driving 200 miles just for hamburgers. Even though we didn’t realize it at the time we were experiencing the journey as the destination. I can’t remember if I-71 was even built yet. We may have gone on U.S. 42. It doesn’t matter. We were young and all of life was a grand adventure. I’m sure we laughed a lot along the way and that the radio was blasting the songs of the day. No matter how hard I try I cannot recapture the mood of those days. I am too weighed down with the concerns of my current existence. Life hasn’t seemed carefree in many years. I am not trying to recapture my lost youth. However, I do miss the zest for living that I once had and that I struggle to have now. Those days were certainly simpler times though not without their own challenges. We tend to wear rose colored glasses whenever we look backwards. It is sad, however, that activities of our youth seemed like adventures while most activities of our older selves seem like chores. As we age and our energy levels dissipate, how can we live with enthusiasm? How do we re-capture the sense of wonder and awe that we had in youth when in our old age it seems a struggle just to get out of bed? Certainly my granddaughter shakes me out of my doldrums whenever she’s around but she can’t babysit me all the time. The best I can do on my own is try to be awake and present to the moment, hoping I can see the wonder of it all with my tired eyes. Why were all of us in such a hurry to grow up?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Being Grounded

Over the weekend I received an email from a friend asking me to write something about what it means to be “grounded”. Here’s what I got when I Googled the question “What does it mean to be grounded”?

Being grounded means being fully conscious and fully present in the NOW moment.....being very, very aware of what is happening to us in the present. When we are conscious and aware of our SELF and grounded in the NOW we are able to ground the love and light from our higher self. This means that no matter what is going on, we stay balanced, centered and aligned with our soul and higher self and we are able to control our reactive, knee jerk, defensive behavioral patterns of our ego and shadow consciousness. Being grounded is a very, very difficult task because we have an ego centered mind that likes to take us into the future of “What If’s” and into the past of should of, could of, would of....... regrets, blame and victim consciousness. When our consciousness is fully in the present moment we are very, very aware of everything happening within and around our being NOW, even the core sensations in the body.

This is a very good explanation but let me add a few of my own thoughts to it. In addition to what is written above, I feel grounded when my mind, body, and spirit are in balance and harmony with one another. My mind is my biggest challenge because I often suffer what the Buddhists call “monkey mind”. Monkey mind is when you have a thousand conversations going on in your head and the chatter is similar to the noise generated by a tree full of monkeys. My aging body is also a challenge because it has a lot of mileage on it and it is not always cooperative. Finally, my spirit is restless at this time of my life. One of the challenges of aging is that ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and childhood faith may not work for you like they once did. Of course, every age has its own challenges. When I can calm my mind, when my body is cooperative, and when my restlessness finds some comfort in the eternal NOW, I feel grounded. I think being grounded also means knowing who you are, what you value in terms of beliefs and morality, and feeling strong in your convictions. In some ways being grounded means having integrity and a moral compass. People of integrity are always grounded people. Ungrounded people go whatever way the wind blows and they have few convictions.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Visiting My Son

Although it was an overcast day, with occasional light rain, I had a wonderful day on Saturday driving through Indiana and visiting with my son at the seminary. The fall colors were at their peak. Most of the drive was through rural areas so I was continuously in awe of the trees and all the multi-colored leaves. I like road trips in general but I especially like them at this time of year. When I arrived at St. Meinrad all was quiet and my son was waiting for my wife and I in the retreat house. He gave us a tour of some of the buildings where renovation had recently been completed and then we visited his new room. As a Deacon and a 4th year student he is at the top of the pile. As a result he has one of the most coveted rooms. It was very nice, very comfortable, and had a panoramic view of the surrounded countryside. If I get such a room when he puts me in a nursing home I will be very content. When lunch time arrived we drove to a restaurant in Tell City where we had a very nice lunch. Sometimes it is difficult for a father to tell a son how he feels. I am proud of my son and I made it a point to tell him this very directly on Saturday. It’s a wonderful thing to see your children grow up to become decent human beings. When one of my pregnant nieces sent the family an email saying she was looking forward to the journey of becoming a parent, I wrote her back and said “it’s a long journey”. Parenthood is a journey that really never ends as long as you are alive. Even if my son becomes an Archbishop I will still be the higher authority because I am Dad. We won’t even get into the authority of his mother.  Even Jesus did what his mother said.

Friday, October 19, 2012


The older my wife and I get the longer it takes us to get ready for work. We have been waking up together for 38 years. When the alarm clock goes off it’s like a Zombie wake up call. We each get out of bed and head towards our respective bathrooms. I hear a lot of commotion from her bathroom. If you filmed me going from my bed to my bathroom it would look like the evolution of man. I start out on all fours and by the time I get to my bathroom I am standing upright. By the time I get to the office I am usually OK but it’s a journey of a thousand miles from my bed to my cubicle.

Yesterday I was sharing with a co-worker about a time my wife and I went to see our youngest son’s rock band at a local music venue. When we arrived it was obvious to the guy at the door that we weren’t part of the usual crowd so he let us in for free. When we got inside everyone else looked like Marilyn Manson. My son was on stage playing bass guitar. I never saw him that animated before. Now that tattooed rocker is the man in black. He is an ordained Deacon. In May he will graduate from St. Meinrad School of Theology with a Master’s Degree and a few weeks later he will be ordained a Catholic priest. All of this has also been a journey of a thousand miles. Tomorrow my wife and I, assuming we can get ourselves together, will go on a journey of about 75 miles to visit him at the seminary and go out for lunch. It is forecasted to be a beautiful day so I look forward to it all.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gentle Breezes

I was thinking about the prophet Elijah during my morning meditation. He is one of my favorite Old Testament characters. You may be familiar with him from the Book of Kings. I’m not a scripture scholar but I think I got that right. Why was I thinking about him this morning? According to my wife there was quite a lot of thunder and lightning in the middle of the night as storms passed through our area. They woke her up and kept her awake. Apparently I slept through them like a baby as I wandered through the land of dreams. A couple of hours later, however, I felt the call of nature so I got out of bed to go to the bathroom. All was quiet and still. My bathroom window was open and I could hear the gentle sound of my wonderful wind chimes. They have a deep tone that sounds like temple bells. A light breeze caused them to make gentle sounds. What’s the point of this? In the story of Elijah, after he was run out of town by the false prophets of Baal, he was hiding on a mountain. There were storms with lightning and thunder and there were earthquakes. In all of that God was not present. Finally, there was a gentle breeze, much like the ones that blew through my wind chimes last night, and Elijah hid his face for God was present in the breeze. Much of our lives can seem like storms and earthquakes. We live in a noisy world. Our minds are over stimulated. It’s difficult for God to get through to us in all of these distractions. The experience of God is most likely to happen in the gentle breezes of life. If we are lost in the noise, we probably won’t notice the breeze. Wind chimes can remind us of God’s presence in our lives. Don’t get lost in the storms of life. Seek out the quiet moments and listen with the ear of your heart.

Being In Touch With Nature

When I left work yesterday I had one goal. The goal was to go to Best Buys and buy my granddaughter a copy of “Madagascar III”. There are priorities in life. Chloe loves it and I’ve seen all three of them myself. Earlier in the day I went outside for a walk. I try to walk whenever I can take a break. Depending on the weather I may walk outside. At this moment in time autumn is in all its glory. The colors are magnificent, the mornings are cool, and the days are pleasant. I love it and I find it invigorating. Unlike summer, which sucks the life right out of me, this time of year makes me feel more alive. I look forward to Saturday when I will drive through the Indiana National Forest on my way to see my son at the seminary. His school is connected to a monastery located in a rural area. It’s a beautiful place. For now I must content myself with the beauty of the trees in the green space near my office, the trees along my commute, and the trees in my neighborhood. In a world where too many of us work in offices that are located in buildings where windows cannot be opened, we need to get outdoors whenever we can to feel the wind and the sun upon our faces. When the weather is beautiful like it is now I envy those members of my team that work at home and have some control over their connection to nature. As I sit here typing these thoughts I wish I felt a breeze generated by the wind and not from the small oscillating fan sitting on my desk. It’s hot in the office today and the fan seems to do nothing but circulate warm air. I’m having a hot flash so I hope I finish these thoughts before I go face down on my keyboard. If you are reading these thoughts I guess I made it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Follow Your Bliss

Last night I had dinner with a friend who is going to help me get my first book published. I have run out of excuses for not doing this and lately I have been receiving a great deal of encouragement. The time has arrived. In many ways the book is already written. I have well over 1000 “daily thoughts” in my archives. Making the decision to publish is the first step in a long journey. The challenge now is to decide how the book will look, what will be in the book, and how will it all be organized. I have a title in mind and there is no doubt the book will be dedicated to my granddaughter. She was my original inspiration. Much of my adult life I have kept private, handwritten journals. It wasn’t until Chloe was born in 2004, when I was 53 years old, that I sent out for public consumption the first of what became my daily thoughts. That first email contains my thoughts on the experience my wife and I had when we kept a three week old Chloe overnight for the first time. The rest, as they say, is history. The friend who is helping me is a co-worker that I met quite serendipitously. I was part of a company focus group and he was one of the facilitators. I was pontificating about something and I could see him nodding in agreement from the corner of my eye. We introduced ourselves after the meeting and immediately hit it off. I believe people come into your life for a reason. I began sharing my daily thoughts with this new friend and he quickly became one of my biggest fans and supporters. I look forward to working with him on my book. I also believe that all of us find ourselves and our gift soon or later. For me , it was later. I am a late bloomer and a slow starter. The best of me is just now starting to emerge. We are all on different schedules. Your day will come also. Follow your bliss!

Monday, October 15, 2012

From Catching Watermelons To Picking Pumpkins

Over the weekend I transitioned from thoughts of catching watermelons to picking out pumpkins with Chloe. This past Saturday was our annual family trip to Huber’s where we rode the farm wagon out to the pumpkin fields and we also contributed lots of money to the Huber Children’s College Fund. It was a good day. My family all met up for breakfast and then we made the trek to Indiana. At first I was disappointed because the weather report forecasted a summer like day instead of a fall day. Fortunately, due to overcast skies, the morning was not hot and wandering around the fields was pleasant. Yesterday my wife and Chloe attended my niece’s baby shower so I had an afternoon of unsupervised freedom. I dropped them off at my niece’s new home and I went to Barnes & Nobles for a pumpkin spice latte and some blissful time looking at CD’s and book’s. When I finally got home I had one of those wonderful Sunday afternoon naps where I slept on my couch as a nice breeze flowed in from an open window. Now I am back in the office to earn my daily bread so I can prepare for next weekend when my wife and I will drive to St. Meinrad’s where my son attends the seminary. Over the weekend we received the news that he will be ordained a priest on May 25th. I definitely need to earn my daily bread before that day arrives.

Friday, October 12, 2012


“I’m bored”! How many times have you heard someone say this or how many times have you felt this way? I read an article recently about boredom. It basically said there was no excuse for being bored. It also said that if you feel bored, it’s not the situation, it’s your attitude towards whatever is perceived as boring. When I feel bored I sometimes ask myself why I feel bored. My experience is that I often feel bored when I must do something that is uninteresting or unchallenging to me. I also feel bored when I feel trapped in a situation or a place I don’t want to be. I think part of the problem with boredom is the fact that all of us live in a complex world that often over stimulates our minds. We are so bombarded with words, information, and images that when we have moments of non-stimulation we feel bored. When I lived in a monastery the biggest challenge for me was dealing with boredom. In the monastery there were not many distractions. Outside the monastery is a stone carving that says “God Alone”. We had our monastic schedule that carried us through the day but there was very little in terms of entertainment or diversion away from the purpose of being in a monastery. There was no television or radio, no recreation room, and no going to town for beer and pizza. The challenge of monastic life, and the challenge for all of us when feeling bored, is the challenge of facing yourself. It is often in these moments of boredom that we have to deal with our own nothingness. Let’s be honest. Many of us feel an emptiness within us that we try to fill with activity and all manner of escapism. We don’t want to face our own emptiness or brokenness. We hate to feel bored because we hate to face our own reality. However, we can’t avoid it forever. Sooner or later we must face our boredom and look within. We must deal with our emptiness and restlessness. We must realize that it is an emptiness and restlessness that activities and things can never fill. Monks and others of a spiritual nature find some comfort in the words of St. Augustine, a 5th century bishop and theologian who said “We will have no rest, O Lord, until we rest in you”. Others may find comfort in different spiritual teachings or ways of thinking. Basically, when we deal with our own emptiness and brokenness, we can eventually experience an inner fulfillment that has no room for boredom. We see the fullness of life all around us.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Art Of Catching Watermelons

Once when I was in high school, after a night of drinking with my friends, I went to my job at a small mom and pop grocery store. As soon as I got to work, slightly hung over, the boss tells me I need to go to the front of the store because a local farmer was delivering a truck load of watermelons. My job was to catch the watermelons when the farmer threw them to me and stack them up in front of the store.  I’m not sure what a typical watermelon weighs but let me tell you this. This job about did me in before the truck was unloaded. Sometimes it can feel like life is throwing you watermelons and they are coming at you very quickly. My first piece of advice is avoid having to catch watermelons when you are hung over. Assuming you are not a physical wreck like I currently am, it’s a lot easier to catch watermelons when you are sober and alert. This story is all a lead in to today’s topic which is balance. The secret to catching watermelons, sober or hung over, is balance. If your feet aren’t balanced and a twenty pound watermelon comes flying your way, you are going to get knocked over and the watermelon won’t end up too well either. When one is balanced you can take on the characteristics of a deeply rooted oak tree. The winds of life can blow and no matter what they bring, you remain standing. Another word often associated with balance is centeredness. Centeredness is basically knowing who you are, knowing what you believe, and practicing your values and beliefs. Centeredness and balance, working in harmony, will get you through just about anything in life, even catching flying watermelons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

People Skills

I have a lot of conversations with co-workers and others about leadership and people skills. Recently I read an article that said the most successful people are those with the best people skills. The article said that people skills ultimately trump every other skill in the long room. Certainly other skills are needed to be successful but I agree with this article. I have survived in my work environment for nearly 27 years because of my people skills. People skills are difficult to develop if you don’t naturally have them. I have always been a people person despite the fact that people tend to wear me out. I am an “NF” temperament on the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator. In the world of work and people “NF” types are described as the oil that keeps all the machinery running smoothly. I like that analogy. While having those skills I also realize that my introverted nature is why I also find people so exhausting. Sometimes there is irony in our individual personality traits. Beyond the psychological aspects, what are people skills and what does it mean to be a people person. I think the foundation of people skills is caring about people. I’m no Mother Teresa but I do care about people. I also have certain values in my life, regardless of where I am, that I try to practice. My values are love, kindness, compassion, tolerance, patience, fairness, and acceptance. I strive to apply these to every human being that I encounter in my life. It may be a tired waitress in a restaurant, an overwhelmed clerk at the grocery store, a stranger on the street, or a co-worker in my office. I like to believe that the person I am at work is the person I am everywhere else in my life. It’s important that the values I listed above be authentic. You can’t fake caring or people skills.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

One Time In France

I had frost on my car this morning. Brrr! Driving to work I was reminded of another cold morning. In 2005 I had the opportunity to go to France. I visited a small town called Clairvaux. This city is famous because of a famous 12th century monk and theologian named Bernard of Clairvaux. I was there for a religious conference of monks, nuns, and lay people. Although it was early June the mornings were very cool. As I have mentioned before, monks get up in the middle of the night to prayer what are called Vigils. It was no different on this trip. I was staying in a small village a few miles away that was surrounded by vineyards. Every day that I was in France I drank the fruit of the vine.  However, I digress.  My companions and I got up, drove to Clairvaux, and joined others for Vigils. The chapel was very old and had no heat. I sat there shivering while a monk sang the prayers in French. I love the sound of the French language. After the prayers were over we went to a small room under the chapel. Inside the room was a stone fireplace with a blazing fire. Breakfast was waiting for us. Sitting next to the fire the hot coffee and bread seemed like a great feast. I was totally in the moment. Everything about the experience came together to create a perfect moment. I was warmed by the fire, the coffee and bread satisfied my thirst and hunger, and my mind and heart were blown away because I was doing all of this in France. As I sit here typing these notes I am back in that moment. Let me leave you with a Zen koan. Is all bread in France considered French bread?

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Autumn Of Life

This past weekend was a picture perfect autumn weekend. This is my favorite time of the year and a time that matches where I am in my life.  At my age I believe I am in the autumn of my life. This does not bother me because I believe one needs to be realistic about their mortality. Autumn is a paradox in many ways. It is a time of dying but it is also a time of great beauty. At age 61 I know I have more years behind me than I do in front of me. At the same time there is much that is beautiful about this time of my life. Although my body may be ahead of the curve in terms of decline, my mind, heart, and spirit are peaking. I have no desire to be young again and to relive the struggles of growing up, raising children, and worrying all the time about making ends meet. I may be getting older but I am very comfortable in many ways. One of the obvious joys of being my age and being who I am is spending time with my granddaughter. Much of the weekend I was her playmate. Here’s some of what we did this weekend.

We had breakfast at Hardee’s on Saturday morning. A table full of old men hit on my wife. They heard her say she was cold so they offered to keep her warm. When she sat at my table she looked at me and said “I’ve still got it, Michael”.

We checked into the Hotel Transylvania at a local movie theater.

We drove around some of the neighborhoods near the park to look at Halloween decorations.

We had dinner at a local seafood restaurant on the river.  This was preceded by swinging in the playground while watching the boats go by.

We watched “A Madea Christmas”. Yes, I know it’s way too early for a Christmas movie but Tyler Perry dressed like a woman is very funny.

Sunday morning we scrambled eggs and made a fort in my room.

Sunday afternoon was spent taking Chloe home, dismantling the fort in my room, and doing a week’s worth of laundry.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Remembering Saint Francis

Today, October 4th, is the day that the Catholic Church honors the memory of St. Francis of Assisi. He is my favorite Christian holy man. He lived in the 12th century and was the founder of a religious community that became known as the Franciscans. They still exist in today’s world. My first exploration as a young Catholic boy into the religious life was with the Franciscans. I left my parent’s home in 1965 as a 14 year old boy and I went to Cincinnati to attend a seminary. I had a tough time for a lot of reasons and I left after a year. I finished high school in Louisville. It was the sixties and I soon morphed from a seminarian into a hippie. Around 1970, at the height of my original hippie experience, I felt like God was chasing me. Unable to get away I re-joined the Franciscans and headed to a Franciscan community outside of Detroit, Michigan. I was surprised to discover that some of the Franciscans were basically hippies in brown robes. This time around I stayed with the Franciscans for two years before following another voice that led me to the more austere Trappist monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani. I stayed there for about a year before I began the life I have now. It was during my second sojourn with the Franciscans that I first met my good friend, Fr. Dennis. At one time we lived in the same Franciscan community. That was over 40 years ago. Now we are much older men. He is like a big brother while also being a spiritual mentor for me. I have also recently re-connected with a nun who was my 8th grade teacher. She is one of the people who wrote me a letter of recommendation when I first attended the seminary. When I told her about my son, who will be ordained a priest in the spring of 2013, she remarked that many times when a man like me leaves the seminary or religious life, the vocation manifests itself in a child. I thought that was an interesting thought about my experience then and my son’s experience now. Tomorrow I am taking the day off to spend some time with my friend, Fr. Dennis. I’m sure we will spend some time reminiscing about our shared past as well as our current lives. Life has been quite an adventure for me.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Nothing Is Better Than A Warm Fire

“In old age nothing is better than a warm fire”
-Native American saying

Today is the day when the local Buddhist community has its weekly meditation session. Once I discovered these sessions I attended for several weeks. Then it got dark and I haven’t been since. I will admit that I am a homebody. When I leave the office I can’t get home fast enough. Once I am there it is very difficult for me to go back out, especially when it is dark or it’s a cold winter night. I understand the Native American quote at the beginning of these thoughts. The warm fire of home is very enticing. Along with my homebody tendencies I am also a hermit type. I am fortunate to have my own “man cave” where my severely introverted personality can retreat and re-charge. I believe my introversion is the result of growing up in a large family and a small house. As a child and teenager the only way I could be alone was to be within myself. Admittedly, I would like to continue attending the Buddhist meditations. They support my desire for Buddhahood, enlightenment, and contemplative union with a deeper reality than everyday life appears to be on the surface. Tonight, after I get home, I will attempt to not sit down in my favorite chair. I will try to keep moving and, hopefully, some of that movement will be out my front door, into my car, and down the road to the Buddhist temple. As they say, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. The Buddhist temple is really only a few miles from my home but it seems a thousand miles from my couch,

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Work Enviroment

An increased sense of personal well-being at work, in real and practical ways, contributes to a positive and enjoyable work environment. A pleasant environment filled with happy associates, coupled with feelings of team accomplishment and personal fulfillment, can contribute as much as anything to increased productivity, greater efficiency, and decreased absenteeism. All of these things working together will affect the bottom line by contributing in positive ways to overall cost savings. It is not enough to only look at process improvements and best practices. The impact of environment cannot be underestimated. I believe creating such an environment begins with the leaders. How do you do it? It begins with honesty, truth, caring, and transparency. This is stuff you can’t fake. If you try to do so your associates will see right through it. We’ve got to do it and be real about it. In order to be real we must be authentic. Lance Secretan in his book One…The Art and Practice of Conscious Leadership actually suggests that leaders should love their people. It probably would be helpful if they also loved one another. In addition, it’s not enough for the leaders to care about their people. The “people” need to care about their leaders. We can’t treat one another like we are enemies. The people who do the work and the people who manage the work are in a partnership. It should not be an adversarial relationship. This is where I would add trust to the mix. I know that some of you probably think any talk about love and feelings is inappropriate in the workplace. Some think we are here to get a job done, not love one another. I’m not suggesting a phony and shallow pretending to care about one another. I am suggesting the real deal. Work is part of life and the caring that many of you show for family, friends, and causes dear to your heart should be expanded to include the work place. What would the workplace be like if most people actually liked, or even loved, coming to work? What would the workplace look like if we tried to outdo one another in kindness? What would the workplace look like if there was more cooperation and less competition? What would it be like to ride the elevators and hear more laughter and less complaining? What I am suggesting, and what Lance Secretan writes about, is a oneness and unity that will heal the separateness that too often exists.

“You may say that I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one”.
-John Lennon in the song Imagine.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Encounters With God

I woke up about 3:00 AM this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. I think I finally dozed off about 15 minutes before the alarm clock went off at 6:00 AM. Back in my monastery days we used to get up at 3:00 AM intentionally and then I also did it on a regular basis when my children were babies. However, it is not something I choose to do now. When it happens I usually lay in bed and think. Often I think about all the people in my life and especially about those who are going through any difficulty. More often than not I will say a prayer for them. Sometimes I think God wakes me up in the middle of the night just to get my attention. In the busyness of daytime that doesn’t always happen despite my efforts to be awake and aware of the spiritual vibes going on around me. In the monastery these pre-dawn hours are the best time of day. When I go on a retreat at the monastery I revert to my novice monk days and I live the monastic schedule. Maybe when I am a really old man, and my working days are behind me, I will once again get up in the night when God wakes me up. Now I too often just look at the clock and mentally calculate how much sleep I am missing. Today I will most likely be in a daze as soon as my morning caffeine begins to wear off. This evening when my work day is over I will certainly need a nap. Hopefully the nap will not only catch me up with the sleep I lost last night, it will prepare me for another possible encounter with God in the middle of tonight.