Saturday, December 17, 2016

Life Is Movement. Movement Is Life.

Life is movement.  The more life there is, the more flexibility there is.  The more fluid you are, the more you are alive.”
-Arnaud Desjardins
If you don’t move in life, life will move you.  This has been my experience although I don’t always like this reality.  One thing I have learned about myself is that I don’t like to be disturbed.  Most days I wish the world would just leave me alone.  Rather than move in life, I prefer to hide from it or just observe it from a solitary hideaway.  I don’t always want to be moving.  If you don’t think that life moves you, how do you explain where you are now?  I am not talking about the fact that you might be in the office today.  How did you come to even work here?  Did you consciously plan to work here or did you end up here without any purposeful intent to be here?  I have lived in my hometown most of my life.  It has changed dramatically in my lifetime.  Sometimes I cannot remember how it used to look or when it changed into what is it today.  In recent years the downtown landscape has changed dramatically.  I have lost track of how many restaurants I used to frequent that no longer exist.  The changes in landscape and buildings are very subtle and happened over time but often in ways most of us don’t notice on a day to day basis.  Our lives do the same.  For example, I am now 65 years old.  How did that happen?  I thought getting old would take much longer.  Frequently as we age we constrict.   The more constricted we become, the less fluid we are, and the less fluid we are, the less we are alive.  I have been reading books about retirement and there is a common theme in all of them.  The theme is that if you want to be happy in retirement you must keep moving.  Stopping what you are doing now only to sit in your easy chair full time is an express ticket to death.  If life is movement, movement is also life.  Keep moving and keep living, regardless of your age.  There are too many days where I feel like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz and I am searching for my oil can.     

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Relax! Nothing Is Under Control!

As we encounter new experiences with a mindful and wise attention, we discover that one of three things will happen to our new experience:  it will go away, it will stay the same, or it will get more intense.  Whatever happens does not really matter”.
-Jack Kornfield

I once saw a picture of the serene Buddha sitting calmly with the caption “Relax.  Nothing is under control”.  We human beings like to control everything when the reality is that we control nothing.  The best we can do is flow with life and try to guide it’s energy.  My wife is a firm believer in Murphy’s Law.  Murphy’s Law, for those unfamiliar with it, is that if anything can go wrong, it will.  We can plan.  We can prepare.  We can hope.  None of these things will guarantee anything.  The best thing we can do is be open to the unexpected and be flexible with the reality of the moment.  It’s a worn out phrase but I still like “It is what it is”.  I can leave work at the end of the day and everything is looking good and I am current.  The next morning can be a disaster.  The same is true with all of life.  Each day is what it is.  I disagree with the part of the above quote that says, “Whatever happens does not really matter”.  What happens to us does matter.  However, we cannot control life so that it always unfolds as we would like it to do so.  If that were true, I would already be retired with $5,000,000 in the bank and a home in Hawaii.  Life requires us to bend with the wind and not always stand firm against it.  Standing firm, or being inflexible can cause us to snap.  Bending with the wind allows us to bounce back when the wind has ceased blowing. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What Is Your Reality?

I have been feeling a little brain dead this week and I have pretty much come to the end of my re-cycled thoughts from the past so I went looking for some quotes that might jar my mind into coming up with something new.  Here are two quotes that caught my eye….
The secret of happiness is freedom.  The secret of freedom is courage.”
Our intention creates our reality.”
-Wayne Dyer
What is freedom?  Is feeling free the same as being free?  Some people my age think that retirement is the ultimate freedom.  They dream of no more alarm clocks and no more responsibilities.  Others find inner freedom by actually being busy doing good things.  Sometimes this can be experienced in a workplace that other people want to escape.  Many people go through life feeling as though they are in a cage.  The cage can be marriage, family responsibilities, work obligations, or a myriad of other people, things and activities to which we may feel chained.  The reality is that these cages are seldom locked.  However, we may only discover this when we rattle the door of the cage.  Even when we discover that our cage has been unlocked all along, we may not leave our cage because we lack the courage to do so.  It takes courage to leave a familiar cage for unknown freedom.  This is often the real life experience of people who are given freedom after many years of incarceration.   They don’t know how to be free.
Assuming that most of us have some level of freedom in our lives what is our reality?   The reality we have as individuals is a result of the personal decisions that we have made.  We may have turned left when we should have gone right.  We may have dropped out of school when we should have continued our education.  The relationships we have with other people may be unhealthy or dysfunctional.  Was our life intentional or accidental?  If intentional, what was our intention?  If it was to be a person of peace and to do good things for ourselves and others, we are likely to have a happy and satisfying life.  If our choices were immature, self-centered, or just plain stupid, it is likely we will pay the price with a difficult and challenging life.
As you go forward in your life, think about what freedom means to you.  What courageous choices do you need to make?  What are the intentions of your choices?  What is your reality?     

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Kind Words Are Like Honey

Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
-Proverbs 16:24
I have often been accused of being too nice and too trusting.  I have spent my entire working life managing people and generally just dealing with them.  Let’s be honest.  People are messy and they can wear you out.  In spite of this I see leadership as ministry and service.  I strive to practice the “Golden Rule” of treating people the way I want to be treated.  For every time I say no, I say yes 99 times.  I try to counsel, forgive, direct, support, nurture, and encourage.  Sometimes I must steer bad behavior towards a more positive path.  Occasionally I lose my patience.  I believe most of my words are kind and I hope they are like honey to the people that hear them.  Sometimes my kindness has been perceived as weakness and it’s possible I have been burned a few times in the area of trust.  Whatever the case I still believe in kindness, compassion, trust, and forgiveness.  I will also continue to practice and, hopefully, perfect these beliefs.  I believe the return on my investment has been a thousand fold many times over with loyalty, mutual trust, higher productivity, and general work place happiness.  I don’t do these things so people like me.  I do them because I believe they are the right thing to do.  I really do believe the world, and the workplace, would be a better place if everyone was a little kinder and if the words we speak were a little gentler.  Life is tough for even the most blessed among us.  If we are going to have a work place “push day”, let’s push kindness.  Let’s speak more gently.  Let’s be more tolerant and accepting.  Let the strong help the weak and let the weak pull their weight as best they can without being discouraged or lazy.  We are all on a journey and the road is often rocky.  I would like to see our productivity increase in the amount of stones we remove from the paths of those around us.  There will always be pain and loss and disappointment in life.  However, all of us can do a lot to make the rest of life a more enjoyable experience, not only for ourselves, but for those around us.  If I could paraphrase the words of the Dalai Lama, “If you can’t be nice to everyone, at least don’t hurt them.”  In other words, do no harm.        

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Is There Magic In Your Life?

My granddaughter is now twelve years old.  When she was three or four years old she picked up one of the Magi from my Christmas crib.  She looked at me and said, “Paw Paw, is this the Burger King”?  I think most of you probably remember the old Burger King commercials.  They have since been discontinued because the Burger King was a little creepy.  When you have children in your family Christmas still has magic.  It’s always a little sad when children, and even adults, stop believing in magic.  This reminds me of a great line from a mini-series that I watched many years ago about the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  At the end of the show the magician Merlin sadly says “There’s no more magic in the world because the people no longer believe”.  When the magic and the pixie dust disappear from our lives, the world gets a little darker.  I can only take so much reality and I get tired of being an adult.  I think that’s why I appreciate my granddaughter so much.  Even if she can’t slow down or reverse the aging of my body, she keeps my spirit and heart young.  I think that’s why children and grandparents get along so well.  Chloe is now a “tween” growing into an adult.  Grandparents are older people turning back into children.  When grandchildren and grandparents are the same emotional age, all is bliss.  I hope there is still magic and a little pixie dust in your lives.  If not, go to the magic store and buy some.  This time of year it’s always on sale.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Seeing Life And Reality Without Filters

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.    

The Three Gates

The old Sufi taught that right speech had to pass through three gates.  The first gate asked, “Is it true”?  The second gate asked, “Is it necessary”?  The third gate asked, “Is it kind”?  The old sheik taught him that it would be better to be silent than to utter words that had not passed through the three gates.
For those that do not know, Sufism is the mystical side of Islam.  This teaching is very similar to the kind of teachings also uttered by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the early Christian era.  I tend to think that many basic teachings such as this one can be found in all the major religions.  This is a great teaching regardless of what religion or philosophy you follow.  Who among us couldn’t do a better job of guarding one’s speech.  I try to avoid complaining, gossip, and any kind of hurtful speech.  I am human, however, so there are times I do all of these things.  I strive to minimize complaining by focusing on gratitude.  Workplace gossip is an easy trap to fall into.  I think the best way to minimize workplace gossip is for leadership to be as transparent as possible and for everyone to always tell the truth.  I am doing better with minimizing hurtful speech because age and the awareness of my own weaknesses has taught me to be more patient and tolerant of others.  Even though I don’t always remain silent, I also believe it is better to be silent than to speak a lot.  I can't remember who said it but I did read once that “one should not speak unless your words improve the silence”.     

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Don't Forget To Breathe

As Christmas approaches and the mornings are dark and cold, I start my work days at home, sitting in silence, coffee mug in hand, looking at the twinkling lights on my Christmas tree, and focusing on my breathing.  Whether it’s a work day or a holiday, I love the early morning.  I schedule my time, especially on work days, so that I have approximately twenty minutes each morning that can be devoted to meditation.  It gets my day off to a positive start and it helps me stay centered throughout my day.  I am not one to get up at the last possible minute so that I have to rush getting ready, then drive like a maniac in order to get to work on time.  Over my working career I’ve witnessed many people virtually running into the office, stressed out and frazzled, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of bed a little earlier.  I like to see the day coming and not be thrown into a day that started without me.  I not only love mornings, I love evenings as well.  I love the quietness of early morning and I like the feeling of crossing the threshold of my home after a good day at work.  Occasionally I struggle with the whole middle part of the day but I always try to enjoy every minute of my life.  There is no doubt that when one gets to the age I am you start to have a whole new appreciation for time.  I am not in a panic about time but I am realistic enough to understand that I have more time behind me than I do in front of me.  I urge you to make the effort to add quality to your time.  Savor the moments and avoid the mad rush of always being late for something.  Spend some time being with yourself and doing nothing.  When you get ready in the mornings, don’t gulp your coffee.  Feel the warmth of the mug in your hands.  Notice the aroma.  Enjoy the taste.  Life is made up of moments.  If you don’t pay attention, you will miss them and when you get to the end of your life, you’ll realize you missed your life too.      

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Flying In Formation

I once read an article about geese flying south for the winter.  When geese fly in a group they fly in what appears to be a V formation.  I’m hope at some point in your life you have looked up at the sky and have witnessed this.  The article said the flying formation is more complicated than a simple V formation.  Within the V formation, and around it, some geese are in different positions that could be considered organized chaos.  All the geese, however, seem to know exactly what they are doing and the seeming chaos is not random.  Scientists believe there is a high level of communication going on between the geese and there is an overall harmony and order that is happening.  If you’ve ever seen this formation of geese flying overhead on an late fall or early winter morning, it is a thing of beauty.  When there is order in the universe, and everything is working in harmony, there is always beauty.  This is why so many people find solace in nature.  This is why people flock to national parks and retreat houses in rural areas.  People love beauty, harmony, and the order that creates them.  It is soothing for the soul and it helps us to be centered and grounded.  When life is wild and crazy and dis-ordered, it frays our nerves and destroys our harmony and inner peace.  Let’s all trying to fly in formation today even if we may appear to be in organized chaos.     

Thursday, December 01, 2016


I strongly dislike conflict.  I know it is part of life and sometimes serves a purpose but I still dislike it.  I find it exhausting and it rarely brings out the best in me or others.  I prefer cooperation, compromise, and peacemaking.  Compromise is the end result of skillful negotiation.  It represents a win-win for everyone involved.  As President Obama once said to the Republicans, “Compromise isn’t you getting everything you want and me getting nothing I want”.  Compromise is a meeting in the middle.  In today’s world the art of negotiation and compromise seems to be lost arts, especially in the world of politics.  Conflict sucks the life right out of me.  On the other hand, cooperation energizes me and motivates be to work harder.  It improves my attitude and increases my desire to be a team player.  When conflict is the result of one idea versus another, we should seek ways to combine the best of both ideas.  Conflict often happens when people think dualistically.  Conflict occurs when people think a solution must be either one way or another.  Cooperation happens when people think in terms of both/and rather than either/or.  I am not naïve to the fact that conflict is difficult to avoid and that compromise is not always easy.  However, I would prefer to use my energy compromising and working together than fighting.  Blessed are the peacemakers and those who strive to bring people together.  We are always better as individuals and as groups when we work together and support one another.   

The Season To Be Merry? Maybe Not....

All of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed, the Christmas trees are up, most of the presents are bought if not wrapped, the front of my house is decorated, and in the lobby of my building the Corporate Christmas tree stands tall.  Tis the season to be jolly, right?  Well, maybe, maybe not.  The truth is that many people find the holidays a difficult and challenging time.  While many people are “making merry”, others are sad, depressed, or stressed from financial challenges.  For many people the holidays stir up a lot of emotions and memories and not all of them are good.  Although I have never had a bad Christmas and I have a thousand reasons why I should be happy, I often feel depressed at this time of year.  It may be the chaos, it may be the busyness, or it may be the high expectations to feel happy.  Before the next month is finished I will be looking forward to the nothingness of January.  Despite the mixed emotions, I still like the holiday season.  There is something in the air that doesn’t seem to be around the rest of the year.  Small children sometimes smile at me because they think I am Santa Claus.  Other children are confused wondering why Santa shops at Target.  On Christmas morning I usually get everything I want  and a few things I didn’t even know I wanted.  I am very blessed in many ways.  In spite of my blessings, I often feel down in the dumps.  I know I am not alone.  Whatever your mindset, keep in mind that the Christmas season is a different experience for different people.  Be sensitive to how others may feel.  The world is full of Bob Cratchit’s and Ebenezer Scrooges.  I am a little bit of both but overall I am a big fan of joy and I hope we all feel lots of joy over the coming weeks.  If you don’t, however, you are not alone.  Hang in there.  This, too, will pass. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


One of the things I did while on vacation was attend an all-day Enneagram workshop.  I have mentioned the Enneagram many times in past writings.  It is a personality typing system similar to the Myers-Briggs but in my opinion is a much deeper way of understanding your behavior and way of being.  The workshop consisted of lectures and films of groups of people who represented various personality types.  During the workshop I started having a bit of an existential crisis as I slowly realized I am not really who I think I am.  Self-awareness is a tricky game.  Most of us think we are one thing, we are perceived as another thing by others, and in reality we are something else.  It is very challenging to see yourself as you really are.  When I first started studying psychological types I was instantly attracted to types that I wanted to be, hoped to be, or who had traits I admired.  Many of us live much of our lives in the illusion of an imaginary self.  This is due in part because all personality types have attractive qualities.  However, no personality type is better than another personality type.  All have gifts and all have dysfunctions.  One thing I have slowly learned is that you usually find your true type by admitting to and owning the less attractive traits of a particular personality type.  As I listened to the lecturer and watched the various panels speak about their types, I tried to be honest with myself and own up to some less than attractive behaviors.  I am not a different person now because I attended this workshop.  However, I think I am a more self-aware person and hopefully a more honest person about my own strengths and weaknesses.     

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

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 life, we need to practice loving kindness to ourselves and those around us.  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.   

Almost Nothing Is Any Of Our 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 and people making a retreat 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.  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 are 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. 

Life Is Hard So Take Care Of Yourself

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.  Start today.  Everyone else can wait their turn.


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.


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, desire for food or other comforts, materialism, or whatever, is nothing more than a 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 music.  I have approximately 2,500 CD's and you would think that would last me for the rest of my life.  However, over the weekend I received a large box set of music from one of my favorite bands.  For the curious, the band is Pink Floyd.  Enjoying music is a legitimate pleasure but I know I am also obsessed with collecting CD's and it is a veiled attempt to fill some type of emptiness in my life.  I have also read that our different personalities are also created by 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 want.  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 craving and you will never have inner peace.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Life Goes On....

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die.  So let us all be thankful.
-The Buddha
These words of the Buddha do a good job of summing up much of our lives.  As this year nears its conclusion, we can look back and remember reasons to be happy and reasons to be sad.  Every year we experience new births, rebirths, conversions, transformations, and new ways of seeing things.  Most of us also experience some type of loss.  Of course, one person’s loss is another person’s gain.  As I write these thoughts half of the country is depressed and the other half is jubilant because of the recent presidential election.  In time everyone’s feelings will likely be reversed.  In addition, relationships can change and sometimes fall apart.  People we care about leave our lives or sometimes die.  Some of us are better off materially and financially and some of us are worse off.  Some of us are in the spring or summer of our lives and others are in the autumn or winter of their lives.  Some of us are gathering in the harvest of our lives while others are letting go and simplifying their life.  Doors close and windows open.  The unfolding of life, year by year, is the great mystery in which we all live.  The poet Robert Frost summarized his experience of a long life with the three little words, “It goes on”.  Soon we will be on the threshold of a new year with new possibilities and, if last year wasn't so great for you, maybe the new year can be a year of new hope.  Even in a time of fear, which is currently very real for many people, we cannot lose hope and we must walk in the light. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Morning After

Sometimes after living through something as stressful as our recent election, you have to get back to basics.  I came upon this thought that I wrote a long time ago and it seemed appropriate to share again.
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 dung.  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 and if we had an enlightenment that we would like to share.  I described my experience of being in the moment, enjoying the beauty of the day, 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 dung”!  However, this morning I feel like I woke up in a pile of fresh cow dung.


This past weekend I attended the wedding of my niece.  It was outdoors in a beautiful setting.  Everything was very nice and the weather was cooperative.  Admittedly it did get a little cool once the sun set.  Although I could be seen as anti-social by some because of my reluctance to dress up and be with a lot of people, I do enjoy being with my extended family.  I have a great family and I was fortunate to marry into one.  My 86 year old mother is one of nine children, five of whom are still alive.  She is the oldest of the surviving siblings.  I am the oldest of her six children.  I have brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, not to mention all of their spouses, children, and significant others.  Family can sometimes make you crazy but overall it is a good thing to be part of one.  It is amazing to think about our grandparents and parents and how two people who randomly meet can be the beginning of a large and sometimes wild family tree.  I loved reading Alex Haley’s saga of Kunta Kinte in Roots and I also love to watch all the ancestry programs on PBS television.  Who isn’t curious about their roots?  We all like to know where we came from and what traits and DNA we have inherited.  My youngest brother is a genealogy buff and has traced my mother’s family to Ireland and my father’s to Germany.  I never knew much about my roots before he did this research.  Speaking of family tree’s, attached is a picture of my mother and two of her sisters.  They are my favorite aunts and both of them changed my diaper one or more times when I was a baby.  When I was a cute little boy I was the ring bearer in my Aunt Shirley’s wedding.  She is the lady on the left.  The lady on the right is my Aunt Sara.  My mother is sitting down.  This picture was taken at my niece’s weeding this weekend.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Living With Yourself

Sometimes I look at my life and think, “Well, this hasn’t turned out like I planned”.
-A Facebook Meme
Do you ever feel like you have a split personality?  I am not talking about a good version of yourself  versus an evil twin.  I am talking about having totally different aspects of who you are that can occasionally seem in conflict.  Some of this I can understand about myself on a psychological level.  I am a student of something called the Enneagram which gives one a deep understanding of personalities, characteristics, and behavioral patterns.  In a couple of weeks I am attending an all-day seminar on the Enneagram.  According to the Enneagram I am a Type 9 which is also known as the “Peacemaker”.  In the Enneagram, your personality also has what are called “wings”.  There is more to it than I can explain in this short reflection so I am included some links below for those who are interested in learning more.  With my personality I often feel caught in the middle between a man who wants to save the world and another man who wants to rebel against everything.  It is a psychological tug of war.  To make life even more challenging I am an aging tie dyed Zen hippie who loves rock and roll part of the day and a Buddhist monk the rest of the day.  I would live in a cave in the Himalaya mountains if I could but then I wouldn’t have electricity to charge my iPod.  I also sometimes fantasize about being a solitary writer, with internet access, who lives in a log cabin deep in the woods with no one to talk to except the animals.  If the animals talk back I have probably been out there too long.  Holding these aspects of my life together is a somewhat normal life as a married man with children and a granddaughter who works for an insurance company.  Who we all appear to be and who most of us are in our personal daydreams is not always the same person.  On a daily basis in my office I literally see hundreds of people.  Sometimes as I walk around I look at them and wonder who they really are and who they really want to be.  Other times I look in the mirror and wonder the same about myself.  Too many of us end up the way we are and where we are as an accident of life.  Is your life going as planned?    

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Disconnect, Quiet Your Mind, Be Silent

Through concentration and meditation you become the boss of your mind and gain the ability to tell it when to be active and when to stay silent.
-Remez Sasson
This is harder than it sounds.  Sometimes I think I have a bit of ADD and I think many other people do as well.  I am easily distracted, wait, there goes a squirrel!  My ability to be distracted has increased significantly with the acquisition of a smart phone.  My smart phone is basically a pocket computer.  The thing I do the least with my phone is talk to other people.  I update my Facebook status, Google information, or check my steps on my Fitbit app.  Occasionally, when I am in the right place in the right time I use one of my meditation apps.  With the exception of the meditation apps, all of these distractions make concentration more challenging.  Meditation is more of an antidote for my ADD than a spiritual practice.  With  or without smart phones most of us have over-active minds that are way over-stimulated.  My mind has a mind of its own.  A few weeks ago when I went to Red River Gorge I sometimes had no internet or telephone service.  In our connected lifestyles this can give us a moment of panic.  It can also be kind of a blessing.  If you want to quiet your mind, spend some time in nature.  It is good to dis-connect, quiet your mind, and be silent.       

Election Day And Voting

For my friends in the United States....

Election day is one week from today.  All elections are important, especially in a presidential year.  This year’s election process has been exhausting and exceedingly controversial.  Whatever you think of the two presidential candidates, one of them will be the next president.  In the best of years no candidate can meet everyone’s expectations and desires.  I have followed this election closely and I have strong views about it.  I am certain we do not all share the same views for all kinds of reasons.  My own family is divided in their opinions.  What I want to do with this note is to encourage all of you to vote next Tuesday.  Your vote matters.  If you don’t believe this ask Al Gore about the Florida vote when the Supreme Court had to decide who won the election of 2000.  He lost the presidential election by approximately 400 votes.  If he had won the state of Florida, he would have been president instead of George Bush.  Not voting is still a vote.  In the last election only 30% of eligible voters in Kentucky voted and now we have a governor who was elected by 50% of the 30% of the eligible voters who actually voted.  He calls that a "mandate from the people".  I am not making a commentary on any candidates.  I am just making a point about the importance of voting.
I have done my civic duty by reminding all of you to vote.  I will cast my vote on my way to work next Tuesday.  You should do the same.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

It's All Life

Here are some nice quotes that I would like to share with you.
Somebody’s boring me.  I think it’s me”.
-Dylan Thomas
The problem is not that there are problems.  The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem”.
-Unknown but sent to me by a fellow thinker.
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t think I have some good qualities.  If you could separate the world into good guys and bad guys, I know I am one of the good guys.  I think I am at an age and a time in my life when I am starting to experience some self-actualization.  In other words, I have a sense of self, what I am worth, and why I am here.  Having said this, sometimes I drive myself crazy.  I tend to be a thinker who spends a lot of time in philosophical discourse with myself while trying to develop a personal theology and understanding of the meaning of life…well, at least my life.  Sometimes I wear myself out doing this and, as Dylan Thomas suggests, I bore myself with myself.  Sometimes I wish I could just relax, chill out, and not feel the need to understand the universe. 
As far as the second quote goes, why are we always surprised when life is problematic?  Who told us that all of life is a walk in the park on a beautiful spring morning?  OK, sometimes life is a walk in the park on a beautiful spring morning.  However, it is also at times a walk under overcast skies in the pouring rain.  This is where most of us fall into the dualistic thinking where we assume a sunny day is better than a rainy day.  Both are simply weather.  Some people think problems are stumbling blocks while others see problems as challenges.  Try not to see anything as a problem.  It’s an over-used phrase but life, and what happens in life, “is what it is”.  There are changes in the weather and there are seasons in life.  However, it’s all life.      

Finding Yourself

In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his or her life and for ‘finding themselves’.  If they persist in shifting their responsibility to someone else, they fail to find out the meaning of their own existence.
-Thomas Merton
Living your own life is not as easy as it sounds and finding yourself can be like looking for buried treasure.  It involves walking down quite a few false trails, digging a lot of holes, and moving tons of dirt.  I have been walking, digging, and moving quite a bit of dirt for a very long time now and I’m a little weary.  However, this is a task that only I can do for myself.  I cannot outsource it.  No one else can walk my path, dig my holes, or move my dirt.  For as long as there’s been people, individuals have wondered “what is life and what does it mean”?  Last year I  watched a television show Cosmos.  It is the story of the universe from a scientific point of view.  I can’t decide if I am  blown away by the magnificence of the galaxies, the star systems, the complexity of outer space and beyond, or if I now feel totally insignificant in the great scheme of life.  When the world as we know it has taken billions of years to form, does it really matter if I came to work today?  In cosmic time am I just a miniscule, sub-atomic particle in the continued evolution of all that life is?  Do I really matter?  On a similar vein, a few months ago a friend shared his thoughts that within a few generations most of us will be completely forgotten, even by our descendants.  We are all star dust and to dust we shall return.  What do we do in our current configuration?  How do we find ourselves and the meaning of our current existence?  Let me quickly admit that I don’t really know or I would have already done it.  I don’t know if my life matters or not.  What I do know is that I am a consciousness aware of itself.  As a living being with a consciousness, I am motivated to move and grow and expand myself.  My senses take in data and react appropriately or at least as programmed.  Like a machine that evolves into artificial intelligence, I evolve into whatever I become.  Along the way I rub shoulders with other beings, I form relationships, I experience happiness, and, if lucky, I feel loved and worthwhile to everyone and everything around me.  I become one with my world.  No one else can do any of this for me although they may walk a similar path and be going in the same direction.  Ultimately we are all on our own although life may give us companions on the journey.       

A Zest For Living

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Day At Red River Gorge

I spent Monday in an all-day seminar of intensive retirement training.  Two of my brothers and a nephew accompanied me to Red River Gorge.  It is a beautiful area located in the Daniel Boone National Forest near Lexington, Kentucky.  The fall colors were more intense than where I live and most of the morning was cool and breezy.  Being a Monday there were few other people around and at one point the only sound I was hearing was the wind blowing through the trees.  We eventually found our way to the Natural Bridge State Park Lodge where we enjoyed a delicious all you could eat buffet.  I especially liked the fried catfish and blackberry cobbler.  After lunch I rode on one of the most intense and scary ski lifts I’ve ever been on.  At times I was hundreds of feet off the ground.  The lift would stop and there I was just swinging in the sky.  I must admit that I said a few prayers and closed my eyes more than once.  Did I mention a fear of heights?  Near the end of the ride up the mountain you basically scale a shear wall of rock.  I felt like I was on the television show called “Running Wild with Bear Grylls”.  If you have never watched the show it involves a serious outdoorsman taking celebrities out to remote parts of nature and basically scaring the hell out of them.  Once you are on the natural bridge, there is no easy way back down except the ski lift.  When it was time to leave I took a deep breath, said another prayer, got in the chair and closed my eyes until I could open them without experiencing a full blown panic attack.  I am happy to report that I made it down the mountain alive.  The next time I think I will just walk in the woods and hope a bear doesn’t attack me. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Becoming A Centered Person

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

Staying Young

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.
-Comedian Lucille Ball
Lots of words have been written about staying young.  Some people say age is all about attitude.  This idea has been humorously captured by the famous baseball player, Satchel Paige, in his quote “Age is mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it don’t matter”.  Some people also talk about being “young at heart”.  I don’t think we should obsess about being young.  As Bob Dylan once sang, “Those not busy being born are busy dying”.  Sometimes our attempts to be young are little more than immature behavior.  There’s nothing more pathetic than a man or woman my age trying to act like they are twenty.  As we grow older we should trade our immaturity for wisdom.  If there is a quality we should strive for, it is not youthfulness, it is being childlike by living our life with a sense of wonder.  One of the pitfalls of aging is that we often become cynical and we can no longer be awed by anything.  If I end up physically old, wise, and with a childlike sense of wonder and awe, I will be happy with myself.  Never lose your openness to awe and wonder.  Fight your cynicism.  When nothing impresses you or causes you to be lost in the moment, you are already dead.  Life is tough and it can sometimes feel boring.  Every day there are the chores of life and the demands of making a living.  Don’t let making a living, however, replace having a life.  Be open to the extraordinary within the ordinary.  Pay attention and be present when moments of wonder and awe reveal themselves to you

Live In Each Season

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each”.
-Henry David Thoreau
Recently I have been in a few conversations about people, how they act, their attitudes about life, and how so many of us see the same things so differently.  I quickly get worn out by negative and pessimistic people who always see the worst of everything.  Drama Kings and Queens often have the same effect on me.  These people are chronically unhappy and nothing ever seems to give them joy.  I am an optimist.  I see the glass as not only half full but often overflowing.  A pessimist once told me that an optimist is a person out of touch with reality.  If your reality is always negative, pessimistic, and full of drama, then I hope to always be out of touch with it.  I know that a lot of life is just trying to survive but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed.  The above quote by Thoreau is a very good definition of Zen.  Living in the season means being one with it.  Whatever the season, it is full of life.  Breathe in life.  Drink life.  Taste it’s fruits.  Let the goodness of life permeate your bones.  Life does change but that is not necessarily good or bad.  Life just is.  Our opinions of life are based on personal judgments which can be terribly skewed.  Thinking that life is always either good or bad is dualistic thinking.  Life is both good and bad.  The Zen way, the contemplative way, is to not judge it but to simply be present to it.  Often, joy happens when we least expect it. 
If you’ve never read Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau, I highly recommend it.

Karma And The Law Of Attraction

I believe in karma and something called the “Law of Attraction”.  What do these things mean?  You often hear people say “what goes around, comes around”.  This is the belief that you get what you deserve.  If you put positivity and goodness into the world, that’s what will come back to you.  If you’re a bad person who does bad things and you enjoy making others unhappy or you enjoy wreaking havoc in their lives, you’ll get yours in the end.  This is karma.  I saw a cartoon once  for a place called the “Karma Café”.  It said there are no menu’s because you get what you deserve.  The “Law of Attraction” is the belief that what you think about is what happens to you.  If you are always negative and pessimistic, don’t be surprised if nothing ever seems to go your way and that bad things always seem to happen to you.  Negative and pessimistic people also seem to worry about everything all the time.  On the other hand, if you are positive and optimistic, you will find that things usually go your way.  Most of the time I am a positive and optimistic person.  Yes, I am an imperfect human being and sometimes I am tired and grumpy but in general most things in life go my way.  Although I am not a perfect person, and my life is not perfect, I am very blessed and I have been the recipient of much kindness and many good things in my life.  I try to be grateful for all of it, whether it be my granddaughter’s laughter and smile, my Zen moments where I am one with something bigger than myself, or maybe for something as simple as a really good sandwich.  Let me share a couple of really good quotes that re-enforce what I am saying.  Wayne Dyer, who wrote a book about the Tao, a book based on Chinese philosophy, says, “Change your thinking and change your life”.  Another of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain who said, “I’ve lived through some really terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened”.  Put nothing but goodness and love into the world, think positively, and be optimistic and hopeful.  I truly believe that if you do these things, your life will change for the better.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Some People Walk In The Rain. Other People Just Get Wet.

In the beginning you will fall into the gaps in between thoughts.  After practicing for years, you become the gap.”
-J. Kleykamp 

Some people walk in the rain.  Other people just get wet.”
-Attributed to Bob Marley 

This is becoming easier for me as I age because the gaps between my coherent thoughts are growing by the day.  Someone once asked me how I walk in the rain without getting wet.  I told them I walk between the drops.  Life is full of thoughts and activities.  It can all be exhausting.  Two of my personal goals in life have been to have a quiet mind and to be invisible.  I have become relatively successful with both of these goals.  Meditation helps me quiet my mind.  For me meditation is basically being still, being silent, and breathing.  It doesn’t prevent thoughts but helps me let them go.  They keep coming but most of them I just wave at as they keep on moving.  Walking between raindrops takes some skill and one must be very nimble of foot.  Becoming the gap between thoughts and learning to walk between raindrops is all part of flowing with life instead of fighting it.  None of this come naturally to me.  I have a personality that tends to fight life.  I go back and forth between wanting to change and improve the world and wanting to rebel against it.  Some people also talk about the idea of fighting life or fleeing from it.  This is called “fight or flight”.  Becoming the gap and walking between the raindrops is different.  It is the middle path.  It is not fighting or fleeing.  It is being present to life.  When you are really good at this presence, you live in the gap and you never get wet. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

You've Got To Do Your Own Growing

You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.”
-Irish proverb
We are all on our own journeys.  My parents, grandparents, and other ancestors had their own journeys, struggles, and successes.  All of their DNA is part of me but my particular assortment of DNA is unique to me.  I hope the best of all of them is part of who I am but I also know the less than great tendencies of my ancestors also manifests itself in my looks and behavior.  I know from my younger brother’s ancestry research that there are a few skeletons in the closet.  Whatever is the best and the worst of my heritage, the future is on me.  I am now the grandfather to a 12 year old girl that I love dearly.  Every weekend I hear about her existential angst as she makes her way through middle school and heads full blast into her teenage years.  I hope I have many years ahead where I can share my life experience and wisdom with her so that her path is a little smoother than mine has been.  However, I know that I can’t fix everything for her or shield her from all pain.  She is on her own journey and she must walk her own path.  I will accompany her as long as the universe allows me but eventually I will only be in her memories.  Hopefully the best of me will live on in her and the journey will continue.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

I Do What I Like

I don’t care, frankly, what people think.  I do what I like.
-Chef Julia Child
I don’t believe this quote means that we should have no concern whatsoever about other people and that we should just do whatever we want regardless of the impact on those around us.  Unless you’re a hermit, and you have little contact with the rest of the human race, we do have to live our lives with some degree of cooperation and tolerance of others.  I think what this quote tells us is that you can’t live your whole life trying to please other people, trying to impress them, or comparing yourself to them.  Each of us has been given one life and we have to live it the best way we can.  We will go through different stages of growth, immaturity, pain, and awareness until we have achieved some level of self-actualization.  What is self-actualization?  I believe it is that point in our lives, usually when we are past our middle age, when we become who we really are and we begin to realize our true potential and personal power.  Self-actualization is at the top of Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”.  You will never be who you are meant to be if you spend your entire live trying to please others or meet their expectations.  I think Julia Child is saying that pleasing yourself is not inappropriate, or selfish, and that each of us must walk down the path that calls us.  In her case, it was the call to learn French cooking so  that anyone could cook like a chef with a little effort.  Each of us is more than someone’s son or daughter, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s mother or father, or someone’s husband or wife.  We may be one or more of all these things but self-actualization is when we discover our true essence and our true self.  Do not confuse identity with roles.  Doing what you like may be selfish but it can also be the path to your self-awareness.       

The Joy Of Aging

At eighty I believe I am a far more cheerful person than I was at twenty or thirty.  I most definitely would not want to be a teenager again.  Youth may be glorious but it is also painful to endure.  Moreover, what is called youth is not youth; it is rather something like premature old age.
-Writer Henry Miller
I am not yet eighty but I am a long way from twenty or thirty.  I don’t know if I am happier in my sixties than I was in my twenties or thirties.  I have always found happiness elusive.  Usually the best I can do is to feel reasonably content.  I can say one thing with a fair amount of certainty.  I would rather be sixty than twenty.  Looking back there were too many parts of my life I found difficult and I would not like to relive them.  In my current age I feel a sense of relief that many of life’s challenges are behind me.  Daily life is still challenging and I don’t know what lies ahead but in general I am more relaxed and more comfortable in my own skin.  When one gets older you think more and more about less and less.  You have a greater appreciation for life’s simple joys and it doesn’t take much to make you happy.  You are past the stage where you want to build an empire and many older people would rather have less.  A simple life has great appeal.  Perhaps it is in this simplicity, when you spend more time letting go than gathering, that people find the greatest happiness.  Occasionally I do wish I had my sixty five year old life experience and wisdom in a twenty year old body.  However, that might be a dangerous combination.  You cannot experience old age without doing time as a young person.  In all fairness, every stage of life has it’s joys and sorrows, it’s challenges and rewards, and it’s pros and cons.  If you are lucky you will experience them all.  Some of us have old souls when we are young while others are young at heart in bodies that are falling apart.  Happiness and age are in the mind and in our attitudes.  As I once said in a previous daily thought, “When we are young our bodies drag our minds around and when we are old our minds drag our bodies around”.  Think about it.  If you are young I advise you to live well now while you still have the energy and the stamina.

Salt Of The Earth

The older I get the more tolerant I think I have become.  This is due in large part to an increased awareness of my own imperfections.  If one is honest about one’s personal weaknesses it is difficult to be judgmental and intolerant of others.  I believe that most people are like me in the sense that they’re doing the best they can.  Work is only one thing in most people’s lives.  People also have family concerns, personal issues, emotional struggles, worries about their health, and perhaps they also struggle on a spiritual and faith level.  On top of all this, there are the chores of everyday life that one must do to simply live.  At age sixty five I simply don’t have the energy that I used to have.  It is difficult to come to work every day like I am playing in the Super Bowl.  To be totally honest, I was never a driven or ambitious dynamo.  In a world of pressure cookers, I have always been more of a crock pot.  We all like to think we’re superstars but the reality is that most of us aren’t.  Most of us are ordinary.  Most of us are “salt of the earth” types who keep the world running even if we aren’t always recognized for our efforts.  Most of us labor in relative obscurity and do so most of our lives.  This does not mean that we are poor performers who have little value.  We’re not just bricks in the wall or part of a mindless herd.  Personally, I don’t need, or even want, to be in the spotlight.  I certainly don’t need to be number one.  I’m happy to be part of a team of people cooperating with one another to achieve a goal, whether it’s within my family at home or my family at work.  When I do this, I sleep well at night and I am at peace.    

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Rattling Cages

I found two quotes I like and I couldn’t decide on which one to use so I am using both of them…
People only get really interesting when they start to rattle the bars of their cages
-Alain de Botton
Half of your power lies in your sameness with others.  The other half lies in your uniqueness
-Alan Cohen
I am not a person who likes conflict.  I prefer to be a peacemaker.  Rarely do I start a fight.  However, I rarely back down from one either.  I don’t like to rebel just for the sake of rebelling.  However, when I think something is unfair or unjust, it is virtually impossible for me to stay silent.  I cannot fight all the world’s battles but I try to fight the ones I can.  More people should rattle more cages.  However, there are right ways to do this and wrong ways to do this.  Regardless of our gender, age, race, ethnicity, or sexual preference, we are more alike than different.  Diversity celebrates our sameness as well as our individual unique qualities.  I am older than I act and I am proud of this contradiction.  I refuse to act like an old person unless it gets me a senior citizen discount at a restaurant.  I am proud to be an aging hippie who still likes to rock and roll even if I can no longer jump around all over the place.  When I attend a concert these days I need a seat that provides proper lumbar support.  I love it that my wife yells at me for playing Led Zeppelin too loud.  I love it that my granddaughter thinks I’m a little weird and might possibly be a wizard.  I also like that I have a quiet, introspective side that is more like a Buddhist monk than a rock and roll star.  I like being an enigma to some people and I hope to die rattling my cage or someone else’s.  I am not Mr. Excitement but I don’t think anyone thinks I am boring.  Whoever you are, be unique and rattle a few cages along the way.  It’s good exercise.      

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What? Me Worry?

“Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want”.
I seldom worry.  My life experience has been that most things work out as they should so why waste energy worrying?  My lack of worrying doesn’t mean I don’t have concerns.  I just see most concerns and obstacles as inconveniences and not as crisis’s.  I have also learned that most worries are in our head and not based on reality.   As Mark Twain once said, “I have been through many terrible things in my life.  Some of which actually happened”.  My experience of people is that many of them worry ceaselessly.  I wondered why some seem to worry more than others.  My observation is that women tend to worry more than men.  Maybe I don’t worry because my spouse worries twenty four hours a day.  According to one personality type theory that I have found to be very true, all the basic personality types fall into one of three subtypes, i.e., gut types, heart types, and head types.  I am a gut type.  I tend to react to life quickly and from my gut.  Typically I over-react.  Of course, I prefer to think of this as being passionate.  Later, I think myself into being reasonable.  Heart types are always wondering how they look to others and what others think.  They often base their actions on how others will react.  The third group is head types.  This type of person lives “in their head”.  Head type personalities are fear based personalities.  When you think about this you realize that fear is in the head.  Most of what we fear in our heads never actually happens in reality.  The largest percentage of the general population falls into this category.  This is why it seems that so many people are “worry warts”.  

Be Here Now

To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past or responsibly plan for the future.  The idea is simply not to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future.  If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration.  You can attain many insights by looking into the past, but you are still grounded in the present.
-Buddhist saying
Be Here Now.
-Ram Dass
Zen is being where you are and doing what you’re doing.
-Michael Brown
Being here now, being where you are, and doing what you’re doing sounds incredibly simple until you actually try to do it.  I feel reasonably grounded within myself but my mind and my body are rarely in the same place.  As I write these notes I am already home in my mind, happy that another work day is over.  It takes some effort to be mindful.  The truth is that I don’t always like where I am or what I am doing.  To be one with reality and to be one with a desired reality is not the same thing.  Most of us struggle on a daily basis to accept reality and to flow with it.  I realize after many years of introspection that I have a personality that often fights reality.  Sometimes I feel that when I am trying to be mindful of reality by being her now and doing what I am doing, I am sleeping with the enemy.  The reality I want and the reality I have are sometimes in conflict.  Still, I try to practice my Zen and my mindfulness, hoping for an insight that will give me a new way of seeing things.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Non-Striving & Acceptance

The fifth element, or habit, of mindfulness is Non-Striving.  Non-Striving is described as “the state of not doing anything, just simply accepting the things that are happening in the moment just as they are supposed to”.  This is a very tough challenge for many people in our American culture.  We pride ourselves on being busy, productive, driven, and goal oriented people.  In addition to this many of us are also control freaks who want to alter the outcomes of as much as possible to suit our own agendas and needs.  The idea of non-striving and allowing life to unfold as it sees fit is almost abhorrent to us.  We spend a great deal of energy holding on when the best move might be to simply let go.  Many of us are wound a little tight because of the tension within ourselves that is caused by our driven, competitive, and controlling natures.  Keep in mind, however, that Non-Striving is not the same as being lazy or not caring.  I think Non-Striving is like white water rafting.  You don’t necessarily allow yourself to be tossed to and fro by the rapids of life.  You learn to be one with the running water.  Some of the time you just flow with it.  Other times you use your paddle to make the occasional course change to avoid crashing into a rock.  If you fight the river or attempt to change the course of the river you will eventually crash and sink your boat.  Those with skill learn to flow with the river and tap into its energy.        
The final element, or habit, of mindfulness is acceptance.  In this scenario, acceptance is defined as  “completely accepting the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and beliefs that you have and understanding that they are simply those things only”. 
Today we finish my thoughts on mindfulness.  When it’s all said and done, a lot of mindfulness is accepting reality as it is without judging, with patience, with a child-like “Beginner’s Mind”, with trust in our personal abilities to deal with the moment, allowing life to unfold as it will by non-striving, and finally, what is often the most difficult part, acceptance.  Whatever our individual moments add up to be, for most of us they are not the moments we probably dreamed of in our youth.  I’ve always felt like most of my life was an accident.  The life I have is not really the life I wanted.  It is, however, the life I have.  Just because the life I have is not the realization of my early dreams does not mean it’s all bad.  I strive to not see anything as good or bad .  My life is what it is and many twists and turns brought me to this point.  I can bemoan the fact that it’s not everything I hoped for or I can accept it and strive to better understand why I am where I am and what I am supposed to do with what I have been given.  Such acceptance does not come easy and I am not totally there.  However, even my feelings must be accepted as “they are what they are”.     

Thursday, September 22, 2016


The 4th element, or habit, of mindfulness is trust.  In this scenario trust is defined as “having trust in yourself, your intuition, and your abilities.  So far we have talked about non-judging, being patience, and having a beginner’s mind.  When we are in the moment and present to our reality, not only do we have to be non-judging, patient, and childlike in our curiosity and openness, we also have to trust that the moment is as perfect as it can be.  Keep in mind that trusting that the moment is as perfect as it can be does not mean that the moment is perfect.  Rarely in our life is the moment perfect.  Many of our moments are imperfect and during those times we often must rely on ourselves, our intuition, and our abilities to deal with life’s challenges.  By having trust we believe in ourselves and our capacity to meet life’s challenges.  This is also a reminder that mindfulness is not living in oblivion and mindless bliss.  Mindfulness is being present to reality.  Certainly there are those blissful moments when all is well and life is beautiful.  However, there are also those moments where life is painful and challenging.  While we all want to experience the joy filled moments, we must be present to our more painful realities as well.  As someone told me the other day, if you want to experience life’s rainbows, you must also be willing to experience a few storms. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Beginner's Mind

The third element, or habit, of the mindfulness attitude is “Beginner’s Mind”.  What is beginner’s mind?  It is “having the willingness to observe the world as if it were your first time doing so.  This creates an openness that is essential to being mindful”.
Most adults have a difficult time having a “Beginner’s Mind”.  As we get older our minds become so filled, mostly with junk, that being open enough to have the curiosity of a child is very challenging.  When it comes to “Beginner’s Mind”, my greatest teacher is my granddaughter.  I spend time with her most weekends and during this time she teachers me to see life like a child.  However, as she gets older she is losing some of her childhood innocence.  Now she is more questioning of life as she should be and as I would expect.  People with “Beginner’s Mind” tend to see life, not only with curiosity, but with simplicity.  When one sees life directly, and with the simplicity of a curious child, one is usually very present to the reality of the moment.  Life is not usually seen as complicated to a child.  It just is.  I remember once asking my granddaughter if she was happy.  At first she seemed confused by the question.  She looked at me as though she was wondering why I would ask such a silly question.  Her eyes said, “Paw Paw, isn’t being happy the normal way of being”?  Only someone with a “Beginner’s Mind” would think being happy is the normal way to be.  My granddaughter’s mind was open and fresh and her vision was pure.  She was full of curiosity and could be present to the moment in a way I can only hope to be.  Sadly, growing up and seeing the world a little more realistically has affected the purity of her vision.  Unfortunately she will likely grow up to be like the rest of us and she will lose her former effortless ability to be present.  At some point she will need to consciously work to regain it just like her Paw Paw is trying to do now.