Friday, October 31, 2014

Education And Wisdom

Education gives you knowledge but life gives you wisdom.  Many of the people I have interviewed for jobs and some of the people who work with me now are better educated than I am.   Their formal education, however, is just a starting point.  It is the foundation on which their life experience will build.  I am a strong advocate of education.  I think it separates people more than anything, including race or gender.  I wish now that I had given my education more attention when I was younger.  Hopefully the experience of life makes us wiser but that is not guaranteed.  Not all older people are wise and not all younger people naive.  In the Rule of St Benedict, a 1500 year old guidebook for monasteries, the old are told to listen to the young for God often speaks through them.  Likewise, the young are told to treat their elders with respect.  Those of us who are a little older can learn from the young.  It happens to me almost every day at work.  Those who are younger should also realize that their parents and other older people are not clueless.  We've been down many roads in our lives and we have experienced many things that might prove helpful for those who have yet to have these experiences.  The bottom line is that you should never should stop learning or acquiring wisdom.  To be a truly educated person, you must be open to everything that books and life teaches you.  In addition, you must remember that education is also more than just having a skill.  An educated person is a thinking person who can see the connectedness of life and who can apply the knowledge they have to situations they encounter as life unfolds.  In a team situation within the workplace the combination of different people’s wisdom, knowledge, and skills can make all of us successful as we tackle our daily challenges.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Challenge Of Office Work

Why do so many working people in our society find so little satisfaction in their daily work?  Sometimes when I look at the faces of people leaving my building at the end of the day or strangers driving home during the evening commute, they look absolutely exhausted and dazed.  Other times when I am riding up and down the elevators in my office building I listen to people complaining about their jobs.  Many people in our society work in the same type of corporate, information driven environment that I work in.  Almost everyone I know does "something with a computer".  Some days it is easy to feel like the focus of your job is to read and write emails.  We live in an information driven, electronic age.  Most of us spend a great deal of time gathering and sharing data.  I think that is part of the problem.  Perhaps satisfaction goes down as sensory overload goes up.  The work we do is mostly intangible.  Unlike past generations, most of us cannot drive down the road, look at a bridge or building, and say, "I helped build that!”  When you work with information, you have no lasting monuments to what you have accomplished.   Instead of bridges, buildings, or works of art, we create spreadsheets and databases.  It’s impossible to take a picture of these things and hang them on the wall.  Our accomplishments and successes are fleeting.  The flow of data and information never stops.  Today's success of managing data is a moment in time.  That success and moment are short lived.  I really don't know the answer to the problem of finding satisfaction in doing this type of modern work.  I try to remind myself that the information and numbers represent real people but that doesn't always work.  The most satisfaction I find in the workplace comes from the people around me.   I try to build relationships.  If I can have a positive influence on another person, it is satisfying.  Relationships involve something that is much more tangible than data and numbers.  Looking at numbers and other data reminds me of a famous Zen saying.  "The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon".    The data and numbers are not what we serve.  They are a finger pointing at the moon.  In most cases the "moon" is people and they are what it's all about.   

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Take A Deep Breath

Breathing in, I calm my body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment.
The only moment.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
After many years I have finally realized the importance of breathing.  For most of us breathing is something we take for granted.  Deep breathing is part of my daily meditation and prayer.  When I am stressed or anxious I have learned to focus on my breathing and it will calm and center me.  I am generally a calm person.  Because of this I think there are people who believe I never have an emotional response to anything and that I have no sense of urgency or assertiveness.  This is not true.  The truth is that I am a deeply emotional person with a whirling dervish of feelings going on all the time.  Sometimes my feelings and emotions are very strong and not necessarily good.  They can get the best of me at times.  When I feel this happening I try to breathe in order to calm my body and my mind.  As I breathe out I try to smile, if only in my mind’s eye.  By focusing on my breath I can be in the present moment and most of the time I can deal with whatever is happening in that moment.  If you feel upset or anxious today, try to breathe deeply by inhaling through your nose and exhaling from your mouth.  You can also include a mantra or a prayer with your breathing.  You could use the quote above or maybe you are more comfortable praying something like “Lord, help me”!  With or without words, calm your mind and body by breathing deeply and dwelling in the present moment.  The moment is your reality.    

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Simply Enjoying A Day

When my friend Dennis was still alive I used to take off one Friday approximately every month to drive out to the country and spend the day with him.  Since his death I haven’t taken many days off just to enjoy the day.   This past Friday was different.  In order to take advantage of the beautiful autumn weather, and to visit our son, my wife and I took a day off from work this past Friday.  It was everything you hope a day away from the office would be.  We slept in a little bit, had some breakfast, and then headed down I-65 south.  The day was a little overcast on the way to Elizabethtown but eventually turned into a picture perfect day.  Traditionally priests live in houses called rectories but in today’s world housing for priests can vary from priest to priest.  Nick lives alone in a patio home a few miles from his main parish and close to St. James School.  After a brief stop there Nick decided he wanted to show us a small and beautiful church that is part of his responsibilities.  It was quiet and peaceful place with a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.  After a tour we left there and drove a few miles to the Whistle Stop Café in Glendale.  The food was awesome.  It’s what I call good old country cooking.  I went a little crazy and totally enjoyed a meal of country ham, mashed potatoes with white gravy, broccoli casserole, and biscuits.  Did I mention the dessert of ice cream, bananas, hot fudge, and whipped cream?  It took all three of us to finish one serving.  Needless to say I did not eat for the rest of the day.  As expected the traffic on I-65 north backed up on the way home so I got off on the Bardstown exit for the longer, more scenic, but as least I was moving, drive home.  All in all it was a wonderful day.  It lifted my spirit.  I need to do this more often.     

Monday, October 27, 2014

Standing In It And Still Smiling

Once I attended a Zen mindfulness day with some friends.  It was an early spring day and we were on a farm.  The day consisted of meditation, writing, and Zen walks.  When it was time to walk, the Zen Master would ring a bell and we would follow him in single file through the fields.  From time to time, he would ring the bell and we would stop walking.  During one of these pauses, I became aware of what a beautiful day it was.  The sky was deep blue, the sun was shining bright, and there was a chill in the air.  I was totally in the moment.  In the midst of this moment, I looked down and realized I was standing in a pile of cow poop.  The bell rang again and we started walking back to the farm house where we meditated and wrote in our journals.  The Zen Master asked if we had any thoughts about our walk.  I described my experience of being in the moment and then realizing I was standing in cow dung.  He asked me what realization I had in that moment.  My response was that “life could be wonderful and beautiful even when you are standing in a pile of cow poop”!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Autumn Road Trip

Autumn and early winter are my favorite times of the year.  I love the cooler weather, the fall colors, Halloween, pumpkins, Thanksgiving, and the spirit in the air during the Christmas season.  I have a personal goal to enjoy every day of my life but tomorrow I am going to kick it up a notch and take the day off.  My wife and I are driving to Elizabethtown to visit our youngest son.  He is a Catholic priest and is currently the associate pastor of three parishes.  Part of the experience will be to have lunch at the Whistle Stop Café in Glendale, Kentucky.  It’s a small place right next to some railroad tracks but the food is to die for.  I am looking forward to the drive there and back because we are at the peak of the autumn season and the leaf colors are beautiful.  I can only hope the construction on I-65 isn’t as bad as it was the last time I headed south.  It is a good thing to occasionally take a day off from work to enjoy the simple things of life.  My wife and I are fortunate.  We have two sons and both of them turned out well.  They seem to enjoy being with us and we enjoy being with them.  I am sure we occasionally make them crazy because that’s part of our job description as parents.  On the flip side they occasionally make us crazy because they are still our children even if they are grown men.  Bright and early on Saturday morning I expect to see my granddaughter.  She will spend the weekend with my wife and I and we’ll go see the new “Book Of Life” movie.  Every year when they announce the Academy Award nominations the only category where I’ve seen all the movies is the children’s animated films.  My granddaughter is the icing on the cake of a blessed life.     

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Unfiltered Life

It is said that every time two people meet there are six people in the room.  For each person there is the person they think they are, the person the other person thinks they are, and the person they really are.  I was thinking about this after reading some thoughts on how to see life and reality unfiltered.  Let’s be honest.  Few of us see life as it really is.  Most of us see life and reality through a variety of filters.  These filters, much like the many layers of our personalities, have been formed throughout our lives by all the experiences we’ve had, the way we were raised, and, in many cases, by our education or lack of it.  It’s probably safe to say that few of us truly see things the same way.  In the work environment, for example, there are people who are very happy and content.  There are some people, however, who think they are in a concentration camp.  Some people are happy with everything while others are happy with nothing.  Our happiness is generally in direct proportion to our gratitude.  Some people are grateful just to wake up in the morning and realize they have been given another day of life.  Others people are never grateful for anything.  Why are some people happy and grateful while others are unhappy and feeling like nothing good ever happens to them?  Certainly attitude is a big factor.  Another factor, however, is how unfiltered your life is and how much you are able to see life realistically.    

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Being Criticized

All of us are sometimes criticized.  It is often referred to as constructive feedback to give it a more positive spin but it still usually feels like good old criticism.  I have been criticized many times in my life and I admit that I didn't always take it very well.  It's not because I think I am perfect.  It's more because I really strive to do things well and to always do the right thing.  When someone tells me I am not meeting an expectation, it hurts.  I don't know if there is a painless way to receive and accept constructive feedback.  I do believe, however, there are painless and positive ways to give constructive feedback.  First of all you must always respect the dignity and feelings of the person on the receiving end.  Constructive feedback can be presented in a gentle, even loving, way.  Constructive feedback doesn't have to be presented with negative terminology.  The reality of a situation can be presented in a non-threatening way balanced with positive examples of how the situation could have been handled or how it might be handled in the future.  I don't believe any decent human being comes to work or does anything with the intention of making mistakes or doing poorly.  In today's complex and highly technical work environments the use of computers often makes the possibility of errors more likely than not.  Some management gurus, like W. Edwards Deming, believe that mistakes in the workplace are usually the blame of a system or a process rather than people.  When was the last time a "system" or a "process" was put on a work improvement program?  People seem like the only option for criticism so they are usually given the blame.  None of us are perfect, we do sometimes make mistakes, and sometimes our mistakes may be carelessness.  Sometimes we may need encouragement or some deserved criticism.  If we deserve it, we need to be humble and accept that we have made a mistake or need to get our heads on straight.  If we are the leader, the parent, or the friend, do it in a caring, non- threatening way so the person walks away with some dignity and resolve to try harder.  Encourage them.  Don't break their spirit. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Time Is A Loop That Grows Smaller

Each workday morning my alarm goes off at 5:45 AM.  This alarm is a warning shot that I have 15 more minutes to hug the sheets before I actually have to get out of my bed.  I usually thank God for the extra 15 minutes as though I had hours to go.  6:00 AM seems far away while at the same time my 15 minutes goes by in the blink of an eye.  Later in the day, when I am at work, the clocks seem to be frozen.  The last two hours of my day seem like eight hours.  Our perception of time can vary wildly.  I have my own theory of relativity.  I am no Albert Einstein but here’s what I think.  Time is like a loop.  I know some people say time is like a river but I think it is like a loop.  When you are a child or young person, the end of your life seems very far away.  The loop stretches a long distance and you have the perception that you have all the time in the world.  Remember when you were a child on summer vacation and the days seemed eternal?  As you get older and closer to the end of your life the time loop get smaller and your new perception is that the speed of your life has increased dramatically.  The smaller the loop, the faster life seems to pass by.  We all know that in reality life moves at the same pace all the time.  There are sixty seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and twenty four hours in a day.  However, the perception of minutes, hours, and days is vastly different for a child like my granddaughter and a sixty three year old man like me.  If life seems to be moving too fast for you, the best way to slow it down is to be more mindful and more conscious of the moments that make up your day.  Enjoy life as it unfolds and don’t “wish your life away” as my mother used to say to me.  Time is valuable.  Spend it wisely.          

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Live Your Own Life

Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition.
-Steve Jobs
One of the joys of growing old is that I really don’t care anymore what other people think of me.  Don’t misinterpret that statement.  I’m happy if people like me and I don’t intentionally try to annoy anyone.  Well, maybe sometimes.  However, I have spent much of my life trying to please other people, many of whom did not really care about me.  I sometimes joke that I live to serve.  The reality is that I have served the needs of many people and I don’t regret any of it.  My reality as a 63 year old man is that time is huge for me now.  There is no time to waste on BS.  I know I have more years behind me than I do in front of me.  I recently read a statement that said, “Don’t do anything that doesn’t make you happy”.  This doesn’t mean eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you may be dead.  I think it means live with meaning and purpose and joy.  For better or worse I no longer have blind faith in anything or in most people.  There are so many things in life that are dysfunctional and broken, i.e., most of our institutions.  I like the teaching of the Buddha which says “Believe what you experience”.  Many things in life have disappointed me, including some people, but many other people and things have helped me and been my teacher.  Even disappointment has been a teacher.  Many people and things in life give me joy.  I care about other people and I respect their opinions.  I may even be influenced by their thoughts enough to incorporate them into my own thinking.  What truly guides me, however, is my own inner voice and the values I have acquired from my experience of life.  Whether you are young or old, I urge you to follow your own inner voice, follow your bliss, be a peacemaker, do things that make you happy, and always choose love over hate.  You will never regret it.  You own your own life.  Don’t waste it.     

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Life Is Our Teacher

Regardless of what spiritual belief or philosophy guides your life we all have one common teacher and the teacher is life.  No matter what we believe each of us has to deal with the life we have and the demands and challenges of our life.  Life is the teacher and life is the test.  When I was in the monastery there was a discipline of prayer.  It was no easier to get out of bed for prayer than it is to get out of bed for a day at the office.  In the monastery we had night prayer called Vigils at 3:15 AM every day.  In my young life as a parent I had night vigils at approximately 3:15 AM for feedings and diaper changes.  When I was a young man I complained about having to work.  My father in law said, “Wait until you’ve been doing it for forty years”!  Well, I have been doing it for forty years and I now understand what he was saying.  Work has been a discipline and a teacher for me too.  In addition, forty years of marriage, thirty six years of parenthood, and ten years of grandparenthood have also been my teachers.  As I once said, “Education gives you knowledge but life gives you wisdom”.  Life is a great teacher and the experiences of life can fill us with wisdom.  Our individual lives also challenge us in many ways to be faithful to our beliefs and personal philosophies.  If you believe in love, kindness, and compassion, life will test you in many ways to determine how much you believe in them.  Your life is not designed to annoy you.  It is designed to shape you, mold you, teach you, make you stronger, and to fill you with wisdom as you grow older.    

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Are You Content With Your Life?

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
How many of you reading these thoughts are content with your life?  I am not always happy and sometimes I am restless.  In spite of this I am basically content.  What is contentment?  I think contentment is the feeling you have when you realize your basic needs are being met, you have acquired a good deal of what you want, and there are people in your life who care about you.  I have not always been content.  Much of my life I struggled on a number of different levels.  As I have gotten older I have gotten smarter and wiser.  I don’t make as many mistakes as I did in my youth and my needs and wants have gotten simpler and more basic.  I have a greater appreciation for the moments that make up my days and it doesn’t take much to make me happy.  Just yesterday I returned to my desk at work and found a piping hot latte waiting for me thanks to a thoughtful co-worker.  It was a simple gesture but one I deeply appreciated.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I am sure part of my contentment is due to being older and being in a time of my life where demands made on me are slowing down.  Most days, when my daily work is done, I am able to simply go home and relax.  Today is not one of those days.  I have to pick up my granddaughter at school this afternoon but that is a labor of love.  Life has not always been this easy.  I know that many of you are young and life can seem like an uphill battle.  There are children to be raised, homework to be done, houses and apartments that need to be cleaned, and probably things that break down on a regular basis.  Speaking as a grandparent I think there is a reason we have our children when we are young.  It is exhausting to be a parent.  After a weekend with my granddaughter I need a nap.  Wherever you are in life, whether you are meeting yourself coming and going, or living a more leisurely life like me, take some time to stop and smell the roses.  In the quieter moments of life one can learn to appreciate what is good and valuable.  When life is lived in gratitude one is less likely to be focused on what seems to be missing.    

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Controlling The Ego

I’ve done a lot of reading from Eckert Tolle’s “A New Earth…Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose”.  Most of what I have read recently has to do with the ego.  I have never thought of myself as someone with a massive ego but the reality is that I do have an ego and so do all of you.  The more I read the more I am understanding the meaning of ego.  It is not necessarily related to arrogance although I have known people whose ego was so large they could barely get through a doorway.  Let me quote from Eckert Tolle’s book, “You construct a conceptual identity for an individual or a group, and you say, “this is who he is, this is who they are”.  When you confuse the ego that you perceive in others with their identity, it is the work of your own ego that uses this misperception to strengthen itself through being right and therefore superior, and through reacting with condemnation, indignation, and often anger against the perceived enemy”  All of this is enormously satisfying to the ego.  I have never realized before now how much it is my own ego kicking in when I don’t like someone or when I find someone difficult to deal with.  Another thing I read that disturbs me is the idea that what bothers me about another person is also present within me.  Of course, this is usually undetectable to us.  We typically only see what we project as other’s behavior.  Tolle says, “Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you”.  It’s like facing your own dark side.  The trick to dealing with all of this is to remain nonreactive to it and to remind ourselves that the ego is an individual and collective dysfunction, what Eckert calls “The insanity of the human mind”.  I am been trying to deal with my own ego by trying not to react to people or their behavior.  I’m trying to tell myself that everything is not personal.  The behavior of others, and my own reactions to their behavior, are both manifestations of the collective ego of humanity.  The next time someone ruffles your feathers, ask yourself why?  What is it about this person or their behavior, that makes you crazy?  How is this behavior present within yourself?  When someone annoys you, don’t react.  Don’t let your ego, in disguise as your emotions, kick in.  Simply acknowledge that whatever happened, happened, and it “is what it is”.       

Monday, October 13, 2014

Just Wash The Dishes

When you are washing the dishes, just wash the dishes.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Our minds are very fragmented.  We are usually multi-tasking and going in ten different directions at the same time.  At the same time we worry about real and imaginary fears.  We speculate about everything that can go wrong in our life.  Our fears play games with us.  Wouldn’t it be nice if when we are washing the dishes all we are doing is washing the dishes?  Being where we are and doing what we are doing is Zen.  It is also mindfulness.  Being present to the moment can calm our fears and bring us peace.  In the great demands of life sometimes we just need to breathe.  Fragmentation and dissipation weakens us and depletes our strength.  A focused mind in the moment is a strong mind.  When you feel yourself spinning out of control, and you feel like you are losing it, stop.  Take a deep breath.  Be in the moment and chill out.  I know life is not simple.  The demands of modern culture, and the workplace, are great.  It takes effort, training, and persistence to live in the moment.  However, we can all do it if we try.  A person who learns to breathe and who learns to be in the moment is a centered person.  A centered person has found balance in their life.  A balanced person is not easily knocked over by the storms of life.      

Friday, October 10, 2014

Loving Kindness

I once read some thoughts about something called loving kindness.  Loving kindness is something that we need to apply not only to ourselves but to everyone around us.  Let’s be honest.  We are all human beings and we all want the same basic things.  We want to be loved and to feel loved.  We want to be happy with our circumstances.  We want to feel safe and secure.  We want lives relatively free of worry and stress.  We want to avoid suffering.  If there is anyone among you who doesn’t want these things, I would love to hear from you with an explanation of why not.  In order to have these things in our lives, we need to practice loving kindness to ourselves and those around us.  Beginning at home, we need to love ourselves.  I do not mean in a narcissistic way.  Even if you are imperfect and flawed, and we all are, then you can love the person you are trying to be.  Beyond this, if you are honest with yourself about your own shortcomings and struggles, you can practice loving kindness to others by being tolerant and patient with their shortcomings and struggles.  We are as much one in our struggles as we are in our potential.  Life will always be challenging and some days are more difficult than other days.  None of us can really feel loved, happy, safe, secure, and stress free unless those around us feel the same.  No man or woman is an island.  We are all in this life together and we all want and need some loving kindness.  If you are not practicing this already, today is a good day to start.    

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Almost Nothing Is Any Of My Business

“I’ve come to the realization that almost nothing is any of my business”
-Br. Cassian, Monk of Gethsemani
Br. Cassian was a senior monk in the monastery where I lived as a young man.  Much of his time there was spent as the Porter.  The Porter is basically the guy that greets visitors when they arrive at the monastery.  I can’t remember the exact words from the Rule of St. Benedict but he writes that the Porter should be a senior monk who is discreet and not prone to gossip.  Living in the monastery and working in a large office is not all that different.  Both are full of people of varying personality types and needs.  Monasteries and offices are full of gossip, half-truths, and pure speculation and very little of it is good news.  As human beings we are all prone to be seduced by gossip.  I have always tried to have the attitude that I shouldn’t believe anything I hear and only half of what I see.  I think Br. Cassian hit the nail on the head.  What if we all had his attitude that almost nothing is any of our business?  What if we all minded our own business?  What if we all refrained from meddling in the lives of others, whether they be our co-workers or family members?  There are some antidotes to gossip.  They are called truth and transparency.  If you want people to stop gossiping put the truth out there and let everything be as open and transparent as possible.  If there is going to be gossip, and there always will be as long as there are people, then let the gossip be based on the truth.  Icing on the cake would be gossip based on good news.  Imagine someone coming to you and saying, “O my God!  Did you hear about the great thing that’s going to happen?”

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


Life is a matter of perspective.  There was a young Zen monk walking along a riverbank looking for a place to cross over to the other side.  He finally saw an old monk on the other of the river so he yelled “How do I get to the other side of the river”?  The old monk thought for a moment and then yelled back, “You are on the other side of the river”!  Having a sense of perspective can help us to understand life a little better.  We are all searching for happiness but happiness is often like the glasses that are sitting upon our nose.  Happiness is not “out there”.  Happiness is right in front of us.  Pay attention and you will find it.
Life is hard.  I am reminded of this every time my alarm clock goes off in the morning, every day I have to work, all the times I have to do stuff I don't want to do, every time I don't feel good, every time I am disappointed, and on many other occasions in my life.  It's a challenge to go through life and not be discouraged.  Life often feels like a lot of work.  This why it is so important to do whatever it takes to have some perspective on it all.  You cannot allow yourself to be overwhelmed with the demands of life.  You must find ways to deal with the demands of life by filling in all the empty spaces with people, things, and activities that give you some peace, joy, happiness, and contentment.  Basically you have to take care of your own needs.  Most of us spend a great deal of our lives taking care of the needs of others.  However, it is not selfish to also take care of yourself.    

Friday, October 03, 2014

Francis Of Assisi

Tomorrow, 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 and I have several friends who are Franciscan priests or brothers.  My first serious exploration as a young Catholic boy into the spiritual 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.  This was common in those days.  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 and happy 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.  All of these experience were very positive and they had a huge impact on the kind of person I have become.  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.  Sadly, Dennis passed away a little over a year ago.  I miss him very much.  He was a big brother to me as well as a spiritual mentor.  In a strange twist of fate, it is my son, rather than me, who has become a priest.  St Francis is still a big influence on me.  His peace prayer is universally known and he is also the patron saint of animals and ecology.  In churches all over the world tomorrow people will bring their pets to church to be blessed.  The joyful spirit I experienced with the Franciscans and the simplicity of the Trappists are still an influence on me as I try to live my own version of a simple and joyful life.       

Thursday, October 02, 2014

We Are All Addicts One Way Or Another

Here's a thought from the Tao that I really like...
The mind that turns ever outward will have no end to craving.  Only the mind turned inward will find a still point of peace.
Most, if not all, that drives us, whether is ambition, greed, food, sex, materialism or whatever, is nothing more than an inner desire and need to fill some type of emptiness within ourselves.  We all suffer from this to some extent.  Most of us are not alcoholics or drug addicts but we still have addictions.  I think I have an addiction to buying CD's and downloading music.  I have approximately 2,500 CD's and a large iTunes account.  You would think that would last me for the rest of my life.  However, there is not a week that goes by without me purchasing music.  Books is another addiction.  Enjoying music and reading books are legitimate pleasures but I know I am also obsessed with both and they are little more than thinly veiled attempts to fill some type of emptiness in my life.  I have also have learned that our different personalities were created by us subconsciously in our childhoods to respond to a deep need that aches to be fulfilled.  It may be the need to be perfect, the need to be successful, or the need to be seen as "special".  The Tao is telling us that everything we need is within us.  Minds that are always turned outward, away from our center, will be on a ceaseless journey that will not satisfy our cravings or  needs and we will never find the inner peace that most of us desire.  The famous psychologist, Carl Jung, said "He who looks outside, dreams.  He who looks inside, awakens".  Until you look inside and awaken to the greatness of who you are, you will never find an end to the cravings and desire for things outside yourself. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

White Castle 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 Castle hamburgers.  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.  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 disconcerting to me that most of the activities of my youth seemed like adventures while most activities of my current life 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 Paw Paw 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?