Monday, July 22, 2013

Something To Look Forward To

A long time ago, when I was an eager college student on the threshold of adult life, I took a class in basic psychology from (the now late) Dr. Kennedy at FSU. One of the lectures he gave that stuck with me the most was about Dr. Milton Erickson and the African Violet Lady. What I took from it was that everyone needs a purpose in life - something to make them feel a part of the big world. So many times I've thought about that lecture over the past 30 years. But, I think I have realized something new about it.

There is tremendous power in having something to look forward to.

It's not always good. When "something to look forward to" is bad for you, it can be called an addiction - cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, junk food; there are all manner of things in the world to look forward to that aren't particularly life enhancing.

I really don't know why it took so long for it to all make sense. It's something I've known deep down all along.

I have an elderly mother whom I look out for and help so she can be at least semi-independent for as long as possible. She used to travel cross country and camp in a tent. She used to climb mountains. She used to walk three miles fast every morning. Then she had a few health setbacks. I never expected her to give up and sit down in a chair in front of a television set. But, she did. It seemed to me, from what she said, that if she couldn't do all the things she had long ago decided were the only things to look forward to in (her) life, then there was very little left for her at all. She developed a tendency toward depression.

I started trying to get Mum out as much as possible. She won't travel out of town because she is afraid to be too far from her doctors. I am not bossy and overbearing enough to tell her we are just going and pack her things and make her go. And, she is also stubborn enough that it would be miserable to try. So I came up with things to do around town. I bought a wheelchair so we could go to parks and gardens. But that just wasn't enough. What she needed was something regular, something scheduled, something reliable that she could look forward to short term whether it rained or she had a head-cold or her digestive system was wacky-nu-nu. That's when I came up with Movie Night. Every Saturday I fix dinner and we watch a movie or an episode of something interesting and entertaining to her. I knew exactly why I originally started doing it - I mean the theoretical or even clinical type reason - other than because I love her. It was to give her something to look forward to. It works so effectively that she has trouble changing plans, even for something more interesting.

Consider where we come from as humans. Ancient people were looking forward all the time, and much of their focus was sequential and somewhat dependable - seasons, times for different foods to be available, length of days, warmth... Maybe they lived mostly in the present, but they counted on certain things and looked forward to them for their survival.

It seems that humans have been working from pre-history to create things to look forward to, like holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. It's the reason we have hobbies and sports. It's the force behind every kind of ambition. It's even why my daughter serves coffee to mostly the same customers every day.

I also think this is why addictions are never really cured. A smoker looks forward to their next cigarette. A gambler looks forward to their next bet. An alcoholic looks forward to their next drink. When they give up the addiction, they give up something they looked forward to. And it's one more reason why chemical dependency is so insidious - it's the need for something to look forward to coupled with the physical inability to resist that particular thing.

But what about hoarding? That's an addiction, right? What is there to look forward to about a house filled with junk? Or, too many pets? It all makes sense if you've ever known a hoarder and listened to them talk about it. They always have a plan for the future. "I'm going to deal with this before I die." That's the hoarder's mantra. Something to look forward to, postponed.

So, now that I have convinced myself that needing something to look forward to is the reason for almost everything human, and maybe even convinced you to partially agree, what is to be done with this all-encompassing seed pearl of wisdom?

1. Use it to understand yourself and others.
2. Use it for building compassion.
3. Use it to help people.
4. Use it to help yourself.

My prayers and intentions now are for you to have wonderful, delightful, healthy, fulfilling things to look forward to. I wish for you that you can look at your life and see all the things that you look forward to for what they are, both good and bad. And when something you look forward to doesn't happen just right, I pray that you will quickly let it go and replace it with something else.

Of course, the best thing is always and forever to fully experience the present, if you can. Because looking forward to something might be what makes us feel that we have a reason, but experiencing what we have looked forward to in the present moment is what makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lessons of 9-11


Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.  - Mohandas Gandhi

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One of the lessons reinforced for me by the disasters of September 11th, 2001, is that anything can happen. You never can tell. 

No brilliance of imagination, no aptitude of logical reasoning, no foundation of history can guarantee that things will go well or go awry. I think we all really know this, even though many people act everyday as though bad things happen only to other people.

This is not to say that we need to cloister ourselves away from the world. We were reminded of that fact several years ago when a woman in Florida was killed by a plane that crashed into her house while she knelt praying at her private altar. Anything can happen.

The victims of 9-11 gave their lives while living life to the fullest. There are surely an infinite number of lessons, societal and personal, that have arisen and will continue to arise from their loss. Those lessons keep their deaths from being in vain. 

For me, however - who thankfully did not lose a loved one or friend on the same day that America collectively lost the illusion of impervious national security - following the shock and sadness, the lesson remained to forever expect the unexpected.

In that light, we must always remember that in the field of all possibility, unexpected good can happen as well. Just as so many believe that bad things happen to other people, many also believe that good things happen to other people. It's so important to understand that if something good can happen for one person, it can happen for any person.

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There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. - Albert Einstein
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When we remember the historical events of this date, we would do well to reinforce our commitment to live in the present and boldly experience each moment. Meld with the environment, whatever it is. Allow the sensation of all that is to fill you with feeling. And above all, act with compassion in all situations. That is what is singularly important when everything else is stripped away.

We owe it, to those whose lives were taken, to live valiantly and give love openly. For all those moments that they have lost, we can experience ours enthusiastically. For all the kindness they were denied the opportunity to bestow, we can give extra. For all the dreams that disappeared with their loss, we can dream larger and believe for them.

We owe it to them to do our best to make the world a better place.

⁀♥⁀ ⁀♥⁀ ⁀♥⁀

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.  - Martin Luther King, Jr.


Sunday, September 4, 2011


If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. - Abraham Maslow

I tend to vocalize little everyday problems. Usually they don't mean much to me - a mosquito bite, a spot on my shirt, an appointment I don't want to keep. Most of those problems are tiny. Even my big problems are small, really, in the scope of the whole universe. I just keep forgetting to keep my little issues to myself.

There are three basic ways that people respond to the mention of a problem; they change the subject, they sympathize, or they suggest solutions. The first two responses are really the best and most sensible, in my humble opinion. If I am so foolish as to assume that I have a problem important enough to take up any "space" in someone else's thought waves, it is really best for all if that someone maintains sensibility and ignores me or just expresses some form of compassion and moves on.  

For the most part, I can handle the majority of my own problems, small or large. Unless I directly ask for assistance, in which case I acknowledge that I have no idea how to help myself, I don't generally need to be told what to do. Yet, so many times, in casually noting a small personal issue, I regret to find I have conjured a reluctant and agitated hero.
What are the signs?
An aggressive showering of overly pugnacious advice that starts to sound more like "Do as I say and shut up. Case closed."

I wish so much that I could remember only to say pleasant things or nothing at all. Why in the course of the day I would feel the need to tell anyone anything that doesn't concern them, I do not know. Perhaps it's only conversation. It might be just a case of carelessly thinking out loud. Why does anyone need to know that my head hurts, I have a hole in my sock, or my tea went cold?

Once, a long time ago, I expressed to a wise friend my desire to tell a certain person what I thought they should do to solve a problem, and my friend asked me something I have never forgotten.
"Who are you to try and take away somebody else's lesson?"

Many problems don't have much of a lesson, though. Remember to look at your socks in the light to see if they are black or blue. Laugh at yourself if you forget.

My father, whom I've been missing for four years now, once asked me to make him a business card. In the middle it had his name, beneath which was the title, "Professional Listener." In the corners it said, No Advice, No Opinion, No Judgement, No Response. It was a joke, of course, but it was inspired by how so many people, many of them strangers, would often choose him to receive their life stories. Being a good listener is a talent and it will get you a lot of business - even when you aren't charging!

We all need each other. There is no doubt about that. We help each other, we support each other, we validate each other. Sometimes we may even need a leg up. But, the most important thing we can do for each other is to just be there. I don't really need to be told to take an aspirin, change my socks, or put my tea in the microwave. I was only being human and imperfect, (and maybe annoying,) in mentioning such little insignificant problems. It's something to work on indeed.
In the mean time, I hope everyone will join me in the effort to replace all negativity with a response of compassion. No opinion, just sympathy. No judgement, just understanding. No advice, just friendship.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Holding On and Letting Go

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. - Henry Ellis

One thing I spend quite a bit of time contemplating is knowing when to hold on and when to let go. How funny it is that I just devoted an hour and a half to a post on this subject, with which I was very pleased and in the stage of conclusion, and then somehow deleted most of it.

No matter. My whole point was that the only way to deal with holding on and letting go is to give up fear of regret. There is a reason why my blog disappeared, just like everything else that happens in this world. To mourn the disappearance of all my carefully chosen words would just be to hold on to the past, to nothing.

There is a place for regret, however, if it is because one has retrogressed or might retrogress spiritually. Then it becomes the catalyst for a positive change. It may lead one to forgiveness or retribution or better yet, foresight. That, I think, is the real purpose of regret. To teach us.

So, how does one know when to hold on and when to let go in normal every day life? Listen to other people? Listen to your inner voice? Cling tightly without question or leap into the void without looking? All of the above, I think. It's mostly important just to live, to love, to make all decisions from a foundation of true compassion, and to move on in life without wasting time wondering what might have been. Imagination is magical when applied to the present, torture when applied to the past.

So, I guess I'll just hold on here as is for awhile and sooner or later I'll figure out when to let go. In the mean time, please pardon me if I sometimes, maybe, think about little things a little too much.

I think I'm meant to be working in the garden right now.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Strength and Love

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. - Lao Tzu

I think the story of Tiger Woods is very important and needs to be studied from more than the perspective of a person who achieved greatness and threw it away by thinking himself infalable. It needs to be examined as more than just a sports hero who rose and fell. More than a marketing disaster. More than a tragedy of failed family values. Tiger seems to have a lesson for everyone.

The most important lesson, in my opinion, has to do with the effects of love. Tiger was once so loved that people watched golf just to see him play. People admired him. They loved the story that they thought was real. I can only imagine the energy that used to be on the course while he played. The love that people extended to him, I believe, was what made him a super star. It must have started as a little boy and he learned how to absorb that love and use it to give him focus and courage.

Now that he has lost that love, he can't perform the same way. He is no longer a beloved hero. He is ridiculed by comedians. The energy on the course while he plays must be very different now. People whispering, watching, gawking, judging, sniggering. The massive waves of love that moved him are gone.

Such is the power of love and the withholding of love.

I once read a unique perspective on Satan in a book about angels. It was kind of scary for me, being raised in a southern Baptist background. I say it is unique because it is different from what I was told as a child, yet I have also read that this is a Judaic view of Satan. This perspective was one that spoke of a strange gratitude to Satan. It painted the picture of an angel who agreed to do a job for God, to be the keeper of the dark side, to be the initiator of temptation. He knew that he would be reviled and feared, but his love for God was greater than his desire to be loved. God wanted us to have a contradiction to love so people would choose the path of love rather than just complacently accept it. The author's point was that everything is a creation of God, and that we have choices because God wants us to have choices. In this story, Satan performs his duty of dangling the dangerous temptations of the material world and we decide whether we want to please our ego or please our God.

It's an odd thing to think about. Anyone with any smidgen of fundamentalist religion in their background must get a little chill at thinking kindly on Satan. I am not convinced that there is a being in the form of a dark angel who tempts us, beyond being a metaphor, but it is an interesting concept to ponder.

People who achieve greatness and then lose it in scandal probably don't see themselves as performing a service for mankind, but they really do if we pay attention. If we look away from the judgments and the ridicule of such people and just learn from what happened, we can transend many of the trials of living in the material existence. We can mentally put ourselves in their shoes and feel the pain, feel the loss, know the effects, and make a choice to never fall victim to similar temptation. I think it is like the lesson of Jesus in the desert - that we don't have to really experience a mistake to know what it will do to our lives.

Perhaps we can find a new way to love Tiger Woods. Maybe not the way he wishes he could be loved. But we can appreciate the sacrifice he has made during his time here on earth, having to live the rest of his life under the shadow of so many lessons we can all learn from.

I'm sure most people have heard a version of this:
For to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom men have committed much, from him they will ask the more. Luke 12:48
And, then there is this simple quote, which sums up it all up for me.

If you want to be loved, be lovable. - Ovid

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has, the more one wants.
- Benjamin Franklin

Of all the opportunities for learning that our world has to offer us while we are here, I think the issue of “money” offers the most diverse and controversial aspects of all. It seems like people put an awful lot of time into thinking about it, for as many reasons as there are people on this planet. Each of us finds call to think about money in several different ways, unless one is fortunate enough to have someone trusted to think about it for them.
It’s all so strange.
Sometimes when I think about the complexity of the money issue, I feel like I am contemplating something ridiculous.
Really, it is just a pretend stage production we all play. There was a time on this planet when it wasn’t a factor. We have allowed this macabre tune to suck us in and we dance to it as though we have no choice. The world we have built around us makes it too difficult to exist without playing a role, so most everyone gives in.
~ ~ ~
I worked late last night and when I got home I turned the on TV to a favorite show, sat down with my laptop and was reading email when I just keeled over on the sofa and fell asleep. I woke up after midnight. There was a popular televangelist giving an intimate seminar on 7 Laws of Success and he actually sounded interesting, so I listened for awhile. I like to hear different viewpoints because it opens my mind. What he was saying sounded kind of New Age, kind of Law of Attaction-ish, which was fascinating considering how fundamentalists have feared and reviled those areas of thought.
Some of what he was saying sounded incredibly wise for a televangelist. I continued to listen, took some notes even, because I was getting excited that all these people in his audience, all his fans, were getting this great information from a source with a history of narrow minded fundamentalism. These are the very people with whom I could never feel comfortable discussing this way of thinking coming from my sources and foundations. The people who listen to this guy would plug their ears against Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, or Eckhart Tolle. These folks think Oprah and Marianne Williamson are bad people.
He continued in his charismatic and charming way and after awhile he was talking more and more about money. The focus was no longer about finding your vocation in service to God and the world. It was about money. How to amass more money. How he acquired money. He was basically, in a sideways kind of way, telling people that if they pledged to send him a certain amount of money they would become magically debt and mortgage free because he had a special message from God. I was so disheartened. All these people, worried so much about their fragile souls that they’ll only listen to someone who systematically invokes their particular chosen dogma, getting a small amount of sensible Law of Attraction philosophy only to have it used to lure them into a trap. There is the possibility, however, that it might just open the awareness of a few people who would normally be closed off to a different speaker providing much of the same information (excluding the send money part.) Maybe some of them will discover the power of intention and learn to just flow. Teachers come in all forms.
~ ~ ~
The money issue, though. Why do some people feel like they must have so much? Why have we created a world where money rules so much of what we do? Our biology dictates that we have to participate in a system that has been building to this point for thousands of years, at least in some capacity, because we have to eat and have shelter. Those basic needs are capitalized upon by others who think it is okay to amass large fortunes of money and hoard it. The important thing about money: if it isn’t flowing, it isn’t doing what it was created to do. A multi-millionaire with most of his money socked away in Switzerland is just another man with a mortal body housing a soul that doesn’t benefit at all from millions of dollars. It’s all an illusion.
Is there a point to all this ranting about money? It’s so complicated. I only know that I wish it wasn’t the way it is. I’ve managed to get by with a decent life just by trusting the universe and because I was lucky enough to be born in the United States. I have to keep a watch on my thoughts so I don’t get drawn in to the money dance. But I dream of a gentle life where everyone has what they need and feels equally important. It could be that way. The world is a beautiful and abundant place with way more than enough for everyone to live out their time here in peace and comfort and amazement. I’m doing my part by living with a plan for increasing simplicity. If we all work together, humans can build a world where money is no longer something to fear or revere; a world of love and safety.

Imagining that world is the first step.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Making Time

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once. – Albert Einstein

Modern American life eats up a lot of our time. I’m sure that with the invention of electric washing machines and telephones and automobiles and microwaves and computers and… stuff, there were people thinking, “Wow, this is going to give folks more time.”

So what happened? How did we use up the extra free time? What happened after Grandma didn’t have to scrub on a wash board and ring out the water with rollers before hanging up the clothes? What happened after a chicken dinner no longer meant catching the chicken and going through a disgusting process of preparation before it made it to the table? What happened when going somewhere no longer meant working with a horse? Or walking where we had to go? It really hasn’t been that long ago.

I think about such things because my life is really busy during the week. I try to preserve the weekends, but sometimes that gets bitten into as well. I’m always plotting and scheming how I will manage to get exercise and meditate and make things and write. Every now and then I have committed the mistake of openly voicing frustration over finding the time for those favored things. A polite and gracious person will say something like, “I completely understand. I pray you can work that out.” But there is another reply that used to affect me like the sound of fingernails scraping across a chalkboard. Maybe the whole purpose of this experience was just simply to teach me to stop grumbling. That reply is, “You have to make time.”

That one phrase used to unleash a gnashing little dragon inside of me and I had to use my most powerful techniques of self control to subdue the creature. I do try to steer away from people who use that kind of response technique, but when you work in a public service job you can’t always pick and choose the people with whom you spend the day.

The fact is, making time, in the conventional sense, really just means taking time from something you already do and devoting it elsewhere. If your responsibilities are such that making time for something extra will eat into something you aren’t willing or able to give up, or even trim, then you have a problem. A problem you might be inclined to grumble about, upon which someone who is overwhelmed with their own problems might overhear you and say, “Well, you just have to make time.”

So, what’s to be done? About the time issue, that is? People who teach the Law of Attraction would say that you have to stop focusing on what is dragging you down and concentrate on how you want things to be. That takes a lot of mental fortitude, I must say, but I’m thinking maybe they are right. After a few unexpected and impromptu encounters with some “make-timers,” I decided that the universe was speaking to me through them. Sometimes a slap in the face snaps you out of trance better than a gentle nudge.

With recent budget cuts in the school system and the longstanding practice of assigning extra jobs to the librarian, my work has become increasingly more difficult to get finished within the allotted contracted time frame. (In other words, I do a lot of overtime.) Complaining and feeling sorry for one’s self definitely has no positive effect on a situation like that, except maybe to make one ill and get them some time off that way.

I decided to try the Law of Attraction philosophy here, thinking that maybe all it might do would be to settle me into just accepting ‘what is.’ And, that would have been okay with me. It’s not that LOA is something new to my system of thinking. It's just that I never thought about using it in this particular way.

I started repeating the affirmation, “I have more than enough time for all of my responsibilities and for myself.” Most recently I began incorporating subtle action* into my routine. I’ve teeter-tottered back and forth so much between despondency and my positive affirmations for the past couple of years that I’m sure the universe has been confused. But, in the past couple of weeks there appeared a small glimmer of hope, so unbelievably unexpected that I could not have imagined it. Three of my greatest difficulties at work have been affected. One is gone completely, the other is now changing, and the third is approaching change. I can now see the universe making time for me.

I’m quite sure that the people who ventured to tell me I just need to “make time” were not in any way referring to using the Law of Attraction, but they were unwittingly speaking to me from a higher place. I just had to figure it out.

I have indeed discovered the secret to making time.


*subtle action is a term created by Dr. Deepak Chopra to describe his method of using LOA