Friday, June 28, 2013


As someone who has been a leader for 20+ years, and a human being for 62 years, I have often been challenged to treat everyone fairly.  The desire to be fair is hard wired into my personal DNA.  This is sometimes complicated because fairness is in the eye of the beholder.  One thing I have determined for myself, however, is that fairness is not always equal.  I strive to give every person what they need.  The reality is that some need more and others need less.  A few people are simply “needy” while some people are just “low maintenance”.  Some people, regardless of need, often want more.  Other people need little and seldom ask for anything.  Juggling these different needs I strive to balance my sense of fairness with a dose of kindness and compassion.  My kindness, however, should not be seen as weakness and my compassion can have a self-imposed limit if I begin to experience “compassion fatigue”.  Sooner or later all of us must realize that we can’t always have everything we want, all our needs won’t be met, sometimes we have to accept no for an answer, and occasionally we just have to get over it and move on with our life.  These thoughts are simply a reminder that whoever we are, we need to accept and remember that the entire universe does not revolve around any of us as individuals or around our personal needs and wants.  If I can get my way most of the time I am happy.  I have always heard that life is 80/20.  80% of the time life is good and things go my way.  20% of the time life might suck and things don’t go my way.  I can live with this and all of us will be forced to life with it sooner or later.      

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Appreciating Nature

I love a good summer thunderstorm except when they get scary violent.  As I drove home last night the sky darkened and it looked like Judgment Day.  My hope was to get home before the rain began.  I barely made it.  Just as I got into my home the rain began.  It was quite a deluge and soon the water flowing down my street was a fast moving torrent several inches deep.  I opened all the blinds in my house and both the front and back doors so I could watch the downpour.  I stood on my front porch for a while but the wind was blowing the rain on me and I retreated back into the house.  In my backyard my St. Francis and Buddha statues received a good bath.  I am not the kind of guy who would take six months off work to hike the Appalachian Trail but I love nature.  Some of my most peaceful moments have involved rain and the outdoors.  Some people refer to nature, especially the wilderness, as God’s Cathedral.  I must admit that I find a walk in the woods far superior to sitting in a church if I want to experience a sense of oneness with God and the universe.  Those of us who live in cities, especially large ones, can become isolated from the natural world.  We spend too much time in offices, stores, Malls, and high rise buildings.  As the band Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young sang on Joni Mitchell's anthem to the famous Woodstock music festival, “we’ve got to get back to the garden”.  Try to find some time today to be once with nature.  Find some green space among the concrete and bricks.  If you have the opportunity, listen to the rain.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Follow Me On Twitter

You can now follow my blog on Twitter.

Michael Brown @tiedyedmystic

Do What You Are Doing

Do what you are doing when you are doing it.
Prayer is attention, attention is prayer.
Do what you are doing when you are doing it.
When you sit, just sit.
When you eat, just eat.
When you drive, just drive.
When you shower, just shower.
When you talk to a friend, talk to your friend.
Do what you are doing when you are doing it.
God didn’t create light and check his email.
Do what you are doing when you are doing it
And you can pray all day in all ways.
Do what you are doing when you are doing it
And you’re practicing the presence of God.
-Joe Zarantenello
This excellent poem was written by a friend of mine who runs a retreat center.  It requires little commentary from me.  This poem perfectly describes mindfulness and Zen.  Be where you are and do what you are doing.  It’s that simple and it’s that difficult. Amen.
The website for Joe's retreat center is

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pod People

Monday evening is my favorite time of the work week because I get to pick up my granddaughter from her karate school and take her out to dinner.  Last night we went to McDonald’s where she spend more time playing than eating.  I like to see her every week so I can keep up with what is going on in her life and I can listen to her view of life as an eight year old girl.
My office is full of Pod People.  I am not talking about human beings whose bodies have been taken over by aliens although in a few cases I think that may be true.  I am talking about people who walk around and work all day with their ear buds and headphones on while they are lost in the inner world of their iPod playlists.  I must admit that I am one of these people.  Music is one of my very favorite things in life and I consider the iPod one of life’s great inventions.  As an introvert I already spend most of my time within myself.  As a Pod Person I can now provide a musical soundtrack to my inner world.  Let me tell you that no matter how laid back and peaceful I may appear on the outside, I am rocking on the inside.  If I am listening to a live concert I am there in my mind with front row seats.  I suppose that being a Pod Person can cause us to be disengaged and aloof.  However, in addition to the tremendous joy that I receive from listening to my favorite music, my iPod also keeps me focused on what I am doing, whether it’s working at my desk or walking laps around the office.  It minimizes my distractions and it relieves my boredom.     

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Visit To The Monastery

I spent most of yesterday at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  A friend who I have not seen for several years was there on retreat.  She contacted me on Friday so we agreed to meet yesterday.  When I arrived at the monastery I was pleasantly surprised to see several other friends there as well.  I love leaving home in the early morning and driving to the monastery.  It’s about an hour away from my home along mostly rural roads and is a peaceful and beautiful drive.  Compared to the world I live in the monastery is a very quiet place.  The monks live there of course but the only contact most people have with them is when they are chanting their prayers in the large Abbey church.  The retreat house is always filled with men and women of every faith from all over the country who are seeking some solitude and silence.  I am happy to have such a place so close to home where I can go and just be.  It was good to re-connect with my friends and to visit with some of the monks.  I have been going to the monastery for over forty years.  When I was a young man I thought I should be a monk and I lived there until I decided it wasn't the life I should live forever.  It was a good experience, however, and one that has greatly influenced who I am today.  Now I am back in my world and the silence I find will be mostly within myself.     

Friday, June 21, 2013

Diversity Of Thought

Me and a book is a party.  Me and a book and a cup of coffee is an orgy.
-Robert Fripp
This is one of my favorite quotes and Robert Fripp is surely an introvert although his career has been spent in the extroverted world of rock music.  I thought of this quote yesterday after giving a Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator overview to some co-workers.  There is often disagreement among us and occasional conflict.  I hoped my presentation gave everyone a better idea of why we all think and act like we do.  My greater hope was that people saw how our differences can complement one another rather than be a source of conflict.  I am also reminded of a time I went to France and spent a week with people from twelve different countries and several different continents.  It was interesting to me how all the people came from different cultures but at the deep human level we were all the same.  The vast majority of people in this world all want the same things.  They want to live in peace and harmony.  They want to do honest work.  They want to take care of their families and get along with their neighbors.  They want to avoid suffering and they just want to be happy.  We are all human beings and we come in a variety of shapes and colors.  Some of us are introverts, while others are extroverts.  Some prefer to make decisions based on facts and data while some prefer to go with their intuition.  Many keep our societies flowing by following our rules and laws.  Some support this by making their judgments based on personal values.  A whole lot of people keep us on track by ensuring things have a beginning and an end.  Others go with the flow and adapt as needed.  Our world cannot survive by thinking one way or doing things one way.  Variety is the spice of life and diversity in thought makes it all work.       

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Ripple Effect

I am not trying to make a big splash with the things I write about. My basic goal is to enlighten people and to expand their consciousness. Rather than make a big splash, I hope that each day I am tossing pebbles into a pond and the ripples caused by my writing encourage other people to think for themselves. I am often amazed at how little most people think. It seems to me that most people are focused on the needs of the day and not on the quality of the day. I don’t know why I am driven to seek enlightenment or to feel a need to enlighten others. Lots of people who are smarter than me are not necessarily deep thinkers and people who are deep thinkers are not necessarily practical people. In fact, many deep thinkers have their head in the clouds. Only the best of them also have their feet on the ground. I am a strong advocate of contemplation. I encourage people to find some time in their life when they can ponder their own lives as well as the bigger picture beyond their own personal concerns. Contemplation is part of spirituality. Spirituality in simple terms is how you put the spirit into your reality. Contemplation and spirituality can lift us above the sometimes petty concerns of our daily lives. They can also expand the best parts of who we are. Contemplative and spiritual people can show us how to be more loving, giving, and compassionate people as well as more connected with the deeper realities of life.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Yesterday’s daily thought for my personality type said “your type has patience which is supported by a quiet strength and tremendous endurance. You are able to hang in there through hardships and difficult experiences”.

I have found the idea of patience to be somewhat ironic in my life. Some people think I am the most patience man they ever knew. It is true that my feathers are seldom ruffled. Occasionally I have a meltdown but it very rare. I seem to be more patient and tolerant the older I get. I am not sure if it is healthy or dysfunctional but my lifelong coping strategy has always been to wait out whatever is annoying me. I guess this is how I “hang in there” through hardships and difficult experiences. My wife calls this being stubborn and hard headed. On the other end of the spectrum I have very little patience with ignorant people and any kind of BS. Who has the time to argue with fools or listen to a bunch of baloney? My patience is limited so I prefer to use it with people who need it. My time is also valuable so why waste it on BS? I seek the truth and I strive to always speak the truth. As I once read, “always tell the truth and you won’t have to remember all your lies”. In addition to truthfulness, we should strive to be patient, especially with other people, because sooner or later we will need to be on the receiving end of such patience.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Midday Prayer Experience

It is not every workday that I find myself sitting in a large, Cathedral like church listening to hymns played on a magnificent pipe organ. Yesterday, however, was such a day. I went to St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church which is not too far from my office. It is a very traditional church that walks the middle path between the “old days” and the present. In addition to the organ recital, I experienced a group rosary, the Angelus, and my attempts to identify all the statues in the church. They have a noon mass every day and yesterday my son was the presider. As I watched him I was humbled and amazed because he is my son. On the day of his ordination a few weeks ago my 83 year old mother told another priest that “she never expected her grandson to be a priest. She thought it would his Dad”. Nick performed his duties like he had done them a thousand times. He even gave a short homily on turning the other cheek and practicing compassion. After Mass I had to wait for him a little while because someone wanted him to hear their confession. Such is the life of a priest. When he finally became available we went out for lunch where we had a great conversation about the Church, priesthood, and what lay people want and expect from the Church and their priests. I gave him my best fatherly advice on how to be a good priest. It had been a while since Nick and I had some quality one on one time so I was very happy I had this opportunity before he moves to Elizabethtown to begin his new assignment.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Day In My Life

Today I took a long lunch to attend the noon mass at St. Martin of Tours Church. It was my son’s last Mass there before beginning his new assignment in Elizabethtown later this week. Yesterday I wished both of my sons a Happy Father’s Day. One son is the father of my granddaughter and my other son is now a spiritual father for others.

My wife was under the weather this morning so I got up and came to work alone. I thought I was capable of doing this but now I’m not sure. I made my morning coffee and enjoyed a cup while I was still at home. Then, per my usual routine, I made a cup to go for my travel mug. I didn’t realize until I was in the parking garage that I didn’t drink any of it on my commute. Normally my wife and I ride to work together and she hands me the travel mug. Today she wasn’t there to do that. I guess I am no longer able to think for myself.

Tonight I having a solo dinner with my granddaughter after I pick her up at her karate school. I wonder how long it will take her to try to take me into something? I wonder how long I can resist her smiling face and sweet voice? Maybe we will just talk about life as we eat a Happy Meal. We will see....

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Eightfold Path To Enlightenment

1. Right View
2. Right Intention
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration

These are part of a Buddhist teaching called the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. In my mind they are applicable to any faith tradition. They teach us to see things as they really are as well as encourage us to always have pure intentions without hidden agendas. We should practice right speech by always telling the truth. Our actions should be for the building up of others and not to break them down. Right livelihood means to do work that is honorable. Our actions and livelihood should be given proper effort. This means to do what is necessary and needed without over doing it. Right mindfulness is being where we are and doing what we are doing and right concentration is giving our activity the thoughtfulness it deserves. If we do all these things consistently we will be enlightened.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

God Is Awake

Have courage for the great sorrows in life, and patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously accomplished your daily tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
-Victor Hugo

This one of my favorite quotes. Victor Hugo lived in France in the 1800’s and is the author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We should all post this quote on our wall as a reminder to ourselves that no matter what we may have to deal with during the daytime, God is always awake, and we should allow ourselves to go to sleep each night in peace. We all will have great sorrows in our lives sooner or later and it will be a rare day that does not require some level of patience. Many of us fret and obsess and work ourselves into a frenzy worrying about our problems. In my experience life takes care of itself and it generally unfolds as it should. It is not a bad thing to live your life as though everything you need is dependent on your personal efforts to meet those needs. I believe such effort is rewarded. At the same time it has also been my experience that everything I need seems to come my way eventually. Some people do not think this is true because they confuse their needs with their wants. I have a little Zen garden on my desk. Two small Buddha’s sit in the garden with a small sign that reads “What, at this moment, is lacking”? A former teacher and friend of mine, who was here a few weeks ago for the Dalai Lama’s appearance in Louisville, once said, “The moment is as perfect as it can be”. If we live in the moment and appreciate its fullness, we will often realize that nothing is lacking and the moment is as perfect as it can be. As I write these thoughts I am sitting at my desk. Outside the temperature is approaching a heat index of 100 degrees. I am sitting here in air conditioning listening to Miles Davis. I could be outside tarring a roof or doing hard manual labor that would be very difficult for an old guy like me. This moment seems very good to me. Admittedly, sometimes at night when God is awake, he gets lonely and wakes me up to talk. I’m not always in the mood but I am grateful for all the nights I sleep deeply and God watches over me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hanging On And Letting Go

I once wrote that balance is found in the tension of opposites. Balance in life can be found at the crossroads of hanging on and letting go. Unlike the famous bluesman, Robert Johnson, who made a deal with the devil “down at the crossroads”, our deal is with life, not the devil. Life is a continuous balancing act. We are formed into the people we are from all of the experiences we’ve had and how we have handled those experiences. Along the way we have acquired values and beliefs that guide us as we go forward. It is these values and beliefs that we hang on to as we are tested in life. What we need to let go of are our insecurities, our fears, our obsessions, our compulsions, and our immature impulses. Finding balance in life is not easy, even for the most psychologically healthy. In addition to hanging on and letting go, we also need to look at the activities of our life and how we spend our time. Many of us have been told by our mothers at one time or another that “we’re burning the candle at both ends”. All work and no play not only makes Johnny a dull boy, it can make him a stressed out and unbalanced one as well. Work is not the only culprit. A life where we are always “on the run” should be balanced with leisure and rest. Interaction with other people should be balanced with solitude and “me” time. When one is balanced, one is living a centered life. When you are centered within yourself, and your life is balanced, you will have peace of mind and the storms of life will not unravel you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dinner With A Princess

Last night I had dinner with a princess.  Her name is Chloe and she’s my granddaughter.  It began when I picked her up at karate school.  As soon as she saw me walk into the school I could see her excitement.  She yelled “Paw Paw”, then ran and jumped in my arms.  It truly warmed an old man’s heart.  I must be honest.  No one else gets this excited when I walk into a room.  I suspect some get excited when I leave a room.  We then headed to Dairy Queen where we feasted on Cheeseburgers and Blizzards.  Surprisingly  my blood sugar was not in the danger zone this morning.  It is difficult to put into words what it’s like to be a grandparent and to feel the love I have for my granddaughter as well as the love she has for me.  I can no longer imagine life before Chloe.  Parenthood is a long and mostly thankless job.  I have been a parent for 35 years.  I think I am done but it’s a job that is really never complete.  If you are lucky, being a grandparent is the reward for your years of toil raising your children.  My granddaughter has brought me nothing but joy.  Yes, I do worry about her and I am concerned about the world she must inhabit.  As long as I am alive I hope to be a positive influence on her.  I think she already is the only child in her class who know who Jerry Garcia, Buddha, and the Dalai Lama are.  She is a happy and joyful child with lots of enthusiasm for life if not for going to school and church.  When I am tired and weary, she is a boost of energy for me.  This is not to say that I don’t need a nap after she leaves my home.

Monday, June 10, 2013


I wish I had as much enthusiasm on a Monday as I do on a Friday.  The week begins with a sigh and ends with a sigh.  I often feel overwhelmed on a Monday as the coming work week looms large in my mind.  It’s even worse when I know I have to work on Saturday like I do this week.  When the work week finally ends I feel a great sense of relief.  I have been going through this same pattern for approximately 40+ years.  In recent years I thought it was due to my age.  However, I work with a lot of young people and they seem to go through the same pattern.  I have also noticed that it doesn’t seem to matter what type of work a person does or how much money they make.  I guess at the end of the day work is work.  I don’t really like feeling this way.  I wish I had enthusiasm for all of my life.  Someone once said that nothing of value was ever accomplished without enthusiasm.  I can believe this.  It makes me wonder what I am accomplishing, if anything, with so little enthusiasm.  It also makes me wonder what in life I am enthusiastic about.  Sometimes when I am part of a conversation where people are complaining about their jobs I ask them “If you could do anything you want to make a living, what would it be”?  Most of the time I receive blank stares.  Many people do not know what they want to do.  They only know they don’t want to do whatever it is they are currently doing.  Today I encourage you to think about two things.  What makes you enthusiastic?  What would you like to be when you grow up?  My guess is that what you want to be is what you are enthusiastic about.  Finally, what can you do about it?

Thursday, June 06, 2013


When was the last time you sat in a solitary place, quieted your mind, and simply contemplated the universe?  Yesterday I wrote some thoughts about putting work into proper perspective.  Work and other activities can take up too much of our life and leave us frazzled and stressed.  Times of busyness and activity need to be balanced with quiet and solitary reflection.  You don’t have to be an intellectual to be reflective and introspective.  The Greek philosopher Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.  Many people find and take time in their lives for retreat.  When many people think of a retreat they think of a battle in a war where you are losing.  In order to live to fight another day, you retreat.  Hopefully most of our daily lives do not feel like we are in a war zone.  The best of lives, however, are filled with challenges and demands that can leave us exhausted and depleted.  It is a rare person who could not occasionally use a time of retreat to recharge, renew, and refresh.  If you are lucky, maybe you can run off to a monastery retreat house for a weekend.  If that is difficult, take an afternoon off and go to the park.  At the very least, take some time and sit in silence in your own backyard.  Sometimes the best I can do is retreat inside my own mind.  However, sometimes that is a noisy place with all the inner chatter that strives to run my life.  One way or another, look for opportunities to simply be.  I am confident you will not regret this time or consider it wasteful. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Some Thoughts On Work

When I walk around the office, or ride up and down the elevators, what I see much of the time are people just trying to get through the day. Perhaps my vision is flawed but I think not. This does not mean that people don’t care about what they do or that they are not trying to do the best they can. I think it means that most people cannot come to work every day and act like they are playing in the Super Bowl. Work cannot demand 90% of our daily energy. If you go home every day brain dead and exhausted, something is out of whack. You should be tired after a day of work but not in need of life support. I come to work every day wanting to do a good job and trying to make a difference. This doesn’t mean I am always driven and highly motivated. Some days I don’t feel good, other days I lack motivation, and occasionally, to quote my wife, “I’m tired and I’m tired of it”. Certainly there are some individuals who strive to inject positivity, motivation, and engagement into the workday and these people should be commended. Work is an important and necessary part of life. Sometimes, however, I think we try to make work more important than it is. Many people, including me, work to live rather than live to work. Work is only one slice of the pie of life. In my life, and I believe in the lives of many, leisure, rest, and activities that promote our intellectual and emotional growth are equally important. At its best work is part of the creative process of life. At its worst it is a daily grind full of drudgery, meaningless routine, mind games, and office politics. I believe most of the people I see every day struggling to get through the day are actually hardworking, loving, and caring people who are doing the best they can. They should be commended.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Influences And Experiences

In some cultures, especially in Asia, it is not unusual for a young man to spend time in a monastery like some men spend time in the Army or the Navy. This is what I did. Although it was a short time a long time ago it was one of the formative experiences of my life and it played a big part in me becoming who I am today. Anyone who knows me well believes I am still very much like a monk. Sometimes in my daydreams I like to look back and remember all the people, places, and experiences that made me who I am. We all have them even if we aren’t conscious of it. Maybe it was a teacher, a coach, or a spiritual leader. Maybe it was your college years or a time when you were an athlete. Maybe you’ve had experiences being in exotic places or different cultures. If you are like me you have also read thousands of books, some of which have changed your life. I have been blessed to have many great teachers and mentors and to have experiences that many people have not had in their lives.  In addition to all of the above, I have an introspective and curious nature that drives me to contemplate life and its meaning. I encourage all of you to reflect on your own lives.  Who or what has formed you? What experiences have shaped you into who you are? What kind of person are you? What drives your life? When you stand on the shore, what do you hope is on the other side of the ocean? Who are you and what do you want to be? I am not talking about what kind of job you want. What kind of person do you want to be? Whoever you are, good or bad, you will be that person in whatever job or role that you have. Sometimes I try to imagine what kind of eulogy someone will give about me at my funeral. All of life is a journey of self-discovery and development. You can follow your own inner voice or you can allow life to form you as it tosses you about like an object in a stormy sea.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Putting Problems Into Perspective

I try not to be one of those old people who always talks about their medical issues. The truth is, however, that I have two chronic health issues. I have been dealing with one or both of them for about 30 years. At time I find it emotionally and physically exhausting to deal with them. Every day of my life I have to think about them and make choices that affect them. Today I have a routine doctor appointment so I was thinking about my health on the way to work, maybe feeling a little sorry for myself, as well as preparing myself mentally for a lecture from my doctor about how I need to manage my health better. Lost in these thoughts I was walking from the parking garage to my office when I saw two homeless men in the park adjacent to my office building. As soon as I saw them I stopped thinking about myself and I began thinking of how tough it must be to be homeless. My personal problems seem rather petty compared to their daily struggles to simply survive life on the streets. Let’s be honest. We all have problems and challenges in our lives. Some are big but most are simply inconveniences. My health issues are real but they are manageable. There is even some good in my issues because they have forced me to be more health conscious. In spite of them I still have a very good life. I drive a nice car and I live in a beautiful home. I am not on the streets wondering when my next meal will come or where I will sleep tonight.  Sometimes we need to put our problems into persepctive to realize how lucky we are.