Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Quarter


This morning as I was leaving the gym a woman asked me if I could spare a quarter. Most of the time we're irritated at the inconvenience of these type of people bothering us for change. 

I will assume for argument's sake that her need was legitimate, as the need of some asking for money truly is. This woman's morning, and maybe even her enire day, hinged on one quarter. Twenty-five cents. I started to think about this as I drove away. We get so wrapped up in our own stuff sometimes that we forget about the misfortune of others. There are people in this world for whom a mere twenty-five cents means everything. When I think about my problems (and there are few) I realize they are problems of luxury. My day doesn't depend on the hope of someone giving me a quarter or not. Did this woman really need that quarter? Maybe. Maybe not. But if I'd had a quarter I would have given it to her simply because as one fortunate person to one not as fortunate it's the right thing to do.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Oliver Syndrome



In the novel "Oliver Twist" and the 1968 movie musical version there is a scene at the evening meal. Oliver, with bowl and spoon in hand, approaches the master of the workhouse and timidly asks for more. That scene has been gnawing at the back of my mind for a while now, and I've finally figured out why. It's what I've taken to calling The Oliver Syndrome.

When we're so entangled in people pleasing and worrying what others think of us, we're like Oliver. Ashamed of asking for what we want, frightened of upsetting others. We're timid and afraid to live fully for fear of what others will think or how they will silently judge us.

Had Oliver not asked for more, he would've gone hungry. If we don't give ourselves permission to be, and stop the constant fret over what we think others will think, we starve ourselves of a full life.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Spiral Arm Of The Milky Way And Our Place In The Cosmos


I've actually experienced this. A few years ago I was vacationing in Puerto Rico and spent a few days on the island of Vieques. I was alone on a beach one night away from any artificial light. The nearest arm of the galaxy stretched from one horizon to the other. I stood there watching in awe for about two hours. It was just me, the waves washing up on shore, and the Milky Way. I felt as if the galaxy and I shared some kind of private intimacy and kinship. It was my seductive and mysterious partner, sharing with me and only me its immense and sacred secrets. To say I was overwhelmed and humbled with my tiny yet significant and necessary place in the cosmos sounds contradictory, but it's the best description of the power and weight of the moment. 

A stunning video of this can be seen at the link below.

https://vimeo.com/211656397

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ego


Recently I had an incident that I recoiled from. Someone had offered to help me with a situation. I had to stop and think about it for a bit. Why did I get defensive at the offer of assistance. This morning at the gym it became clear to me. What I found was that my ego was getting in the way. It wouldn't let me admit that this was something that I could use advice and assistance with. It was too proud, which led to deeper stubbornness. 
Realizing this was another giant leap in my path of mindfulness and nonattachment. I became aware of, and fascinated, by the process of recognizing ego and its clever ways of keeping me stagnant in old thinking and behavior. Once I stripped away the hard outer shell ego had constructed I was able to see the truth of things. The situation then became immediately understood.
Some lessons come with time, patience, and hard work/attention. And more times than not, they come in eye-opening flashes of revelation and understanding. It made me grasp more fully the workings of the ego and its defensiveness and insecurity.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Your Top 5



We spend so much time criticizing ourselves, tearing ourselves down, and filling our head with that awful negative voice. When you read this, I want you to stop what you're doing and write down somewhere the top 5 things you love about yourself. Keep that list with you for at least 24 hours. And every time you start that negative talk in your head, pull out the list and read it.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Shallow Living

I'm becoming more aware of the dynamic, or concept "shallow living". People who go through life skimming the surface, and not experiencing its substance. This isn't a judgement of those people. It's merely an observation of a type of personality. This is the person the races through a museum, then happily checks it off their list. For them life is a checklist not an experience. Nothing is savored.
Now that I've become aware of this concept and/or dynamic, I'm noticing more and more of these people.
One of my questions lately has been wondering why I don't seem to connect with certain types of people. That's when I realized I've been dealing with people who live by checklist. It's good to have a list of goals. There's nothing wrong about that. To these people though, it's the checklist that matters, not the thing ON the list. I want to visit Japan someday. To experience it, not just so I can say I've crossed it off my list!
I've been learning a good deal lately about myself and living with substance and experience. That has made my awareness more finely-tuned to those who live by checklist.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Zen of Snow

I was just out shoveling snow. It was quiet and serene. Just me, the quietly falling snow, and the trees. I couldn't help but feel they were reaching their branches up to welcome the flakes. It was one of those instances where one feels the fully-connected moment. I felt like I was a part of some timeless importance. Something we miss. Something we're so hectic and filled with chaos and stress that we miss feeling the harmony of connection to.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Formula For Enjoying Life's Journey



On the diagram Point A is where you're currently at. 
The goal you've set for yourself is Point B. 

In between those two points is C. 
That's the space you fill in with actions to get from A to B.
It can be filled with fear, anxiety, despair and a sense of dread at the tasks it will take to get there, all of which will probably sabotage your end goal.
Or it can be filled with a sense of adventure, the thrill of taking on challenges, excitement of daring to step into something new, and a genuine sense of accomplishment when you get there.
Now which do you think makes the journey more rewarding and memorable?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Voices of Dissent


As I move closer to my goal of a new career I've noticed something. The more I succeed the louder and more intense are the voices of the naysayers. You know, those people who would never have the guts to try and do what I'm doing. Those people who are so afraid to look at their own lives, but have no problem looking at mine and criticizing it.
It's taken me a long time, a good deal of soul-searching, and courage to stop listening to those people. And I'm so much better for it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Life Is Like A Movie


Life is like a movie. There are no retakes of the scenes we don't like. However, we do get to pick the script, the cast, and the locations. Whether the movie is a success or a flop is completely up to us.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Breaking Down Goals




My dad is full of "Dadisms", those nuggets of wisdom disguised as metaphors or stories in the way that only a dad can tell. My dad has a great one though, "Keep chopping and the chips will start flying." As much as I roll my eyes at the silliness of the delivery of his advice, he's so right. It's one I make sure I remember when I feel overwhelmed. I have to break each goal down into its smaller tasks. Doing so makes the goal seem not so daunting. And conquering the smaller tasks keeps me motivated to keep moving forward. I think so many of us get derailed on our goals because we don't break a task down like that. It's something we could all learn to do more, I think.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Power of Dreams


I'm a believer in the message and power of dreams. Metaphor is a potent form of non-verbal communication and I think that's what dreams are. It's our unconscious mind's way of communicating with the conscious self.

I share a good many of my dreams with my friend Dan. He too is a believer in the power of dreams as I am. I discussed with him a dream I had last night, and our conversation helped me understand the full meaning of it.

I dreamed last night that I was trying to sew patches of fabric onto a glass window pane. The needle kept breaking and I was unable to get the patches sewn onto the glass. Dan's take was that the window represents light, sight, and clarity. My interpretation was to stop trying to do things that don't work for me. Dan replied that perhaps it meant to stop doing things that aren't working while reaching for the light. Combining the two notions I came to the conclusion that the dream meant to stop doing things (trying to sew fabric onto glass) that were blocking me from the realization of my goals (letting the light in).

If we have the curiosity and patience to investigate the meaning behind the message of our dreams, we can unlock a great many things.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In This Time of Uncertainty



In this chaotic and unsure moment of presidential power versus constitutionality and the guarantee that the United States is a nation of laws and not men I've thought a good deal about mindfulness and nonattachment. How do they fit in? Where is their place? How do we use them to make sense of, and employ them as a protest of the current situation? In my thinking I realized I've been operating under the notion that mindfulness and nonattachment equate passivity. They are not a surrender to events or a retreat into the self as protection against the elements. Much to the contrary. Mindfulness is not appeasement. Nonattachment is not indifference. They are weapons against fear that cannot be crippled by executive order. They cannot be barred at airport entry gates. They cannot be taken in the night be jack-booted thugs. They cannot be legislated away by a woefully ignorant, chickenhearted political party. Mindfulness and nonattachment are larger and more powerful than the pettiness of ego and narcissism. For these reasons they must be employed to their fullest potential now more than ever.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Detractor


When you set a goal for yourself stop and notice those around you. There will be those that give you unwavering support and encouragement. Then there are the skeptics. The naysayers. The ones who are telling you what you can't do. Telling you what you're trying to accomplish is too big, too complicated. Telling you to play it safe, telling you what you shouldn't do. Look closer. What are they doing? Are they working hard at something like you are? No? Imagine that...

Our Inner Voice


Sometimes our inner voice speaks to us with such cruelty and debilitating criticism. We are our own worst critic. We are pointed out to ourselves all the flaws, real and imagined, that no one else would ever notice. We are relentless in our critical and painful self talk. We speak to ourselves in ways we would never allow others to speak to us. When we become more aware of this, however, we have an opportunity. An opportunity to change the inner dialog. To be our own biggest fan instead of our own harshest judge. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Procrastination

I realized a powerful truth this morning. Procrastination is an extension of, or another form of fear. When we procrastinate we're letting our fear of that thing take us over. Procrastination is very shenpa-based. Much of what I put off has its roots in fear. When we stop fearing we stop procrastinating.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Russian Nesting Dolls of Worrying What Others Think



Over the past year and a half I've been undergoing major changes and awakenings, embracing my better, truer, and happier self. This is a process that began about ten years ago. A process that I have come to understand as not one with a destination, but one that is an ongoing journey. In the various reading I do on and offline I always come across one point that makes every "How To Be Happier" list. That is: stop worrying about what others think of you. 

Easy to say. Easy to understand. Not so easy to do. I've always been aware of the people pleaser inside me. Someone so concerned with what everyone else wanted and needed. Someone so worried about what everyone else would think that I put my own desires and happinesses aside so they wouldn't be inconvenienced. Guess who was the one that always wound up unhappy and feeling unfulfilled? Through some deep introspection and rigorous honesty from the above mentioned journey, I know and understand where that desire comes from, and why I'm so concerned with what others think of me. That's a story for perhaps another posting, however.

What is important, and curious to me, is how deeply-rooted that worry about what others think of me was/is. It was easy to recognize the glaring, immediate ones. What if they don't like the dinner I prepared? What will people think of the sweater I'm wearing? What if he doesn't like the movie I suggested we see? Behind all of those questions was a fear of being rejected, not being liked, people being angry with me. 


As I progressed in my journey of self-discovery and understanding, I came across deeper, more subtle, and dare I say sneaky places where the fear of what others thought of me resided. Recently I decided to make a career change. I was burnt out and unhappy in my current field and wanted to move to something more fulfilling. Something more worthwhile. When I decided on what it would be I began taking college courses to fulfill my goal. All along, however, I felt a sheepishness, a sense of humiliation, an embarrassment about it. What would people think about me changing careers? He couldn't hack it in his current profession so he's running away. I worried what people would think if I took to long at the gym. Worried what my partner would think if I brought home the wrong kind of coffee creamer. Scared what people would think if I moved the date of a get together. It was constant and deep. I came to realize most everything I did had behind it the guilt and terror of what would people think. It was what I like to call the Russian Nesting Doll Syndrome. Open one and there's another. Open that one and there's another. Open that one and there's another still. And on and on it goes, never ending.

Each day I uncover some new area where I find my thinking has been subtly twisted by this fear of what others may think of me. It perplexes me and intrigues me. Its tentacles have reached almost every aspect of my life. The difference today is that I have stopped allowing myself to be hostage to that way of thinking. Recognition, understanding, and the ability to look into these places with honesty and openness, unafraid of what I will find strips these places of their hold on me. 


Quotes by two people come to mind. My friend Dan who says, "I can honestly say what other people think of me hasn't been a consideration of mine for years. Who cares? Many of them don't even know what to do with their own lives, let alone mine." And Eleanor Roosevelt so wisely advises, "You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do." 

I must agree with those philosophies. With conscious effort, mindfulness, nonattachment, and an honest desire to find out more about myself, my journey will be an adventurous one for sure. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Footwork


I think some people confuse letting go, going with the flow, and being open to the opportunities that come our way with doing nothing. I know I was at one time. Lying on the sofa all day wondering why things haven't happened for us is not enough. There is always preparatory footwork to be done. That is an important part of the being open and being ready process.