Sunday, December 4, 2016

Spreading the love

I was reading a book about advertising. They said it was more important to have slow, steady growth, than huge bursts followed by dropoffs. And you got that slow, steady growth by spacing your ads out, not by having one humongous ad.

The book got me thinking about the actual meaning of "spreading the love." And I thought, what a cool idea, especially at this time of year. Just spreading love all over. Not just giving love to one person or one thing or one idea. And really the business analogy applies: when you pour everything into one thing/person/idea/business/etc and it leaves you, you're facing the huge dropoff, as well. Whereas, if you spread that love all around, you're going to be supported. You'll have slow, steady growth.

I've always been a non-spreader. I remember a movie a while back where two lovers talked about being a 'nation of two.' That sort of insularity always appealed to me. Maybe because people had disappointed me so many times I was unwilling to trust more than a select few. But I'm changing. Spreading the love is the way to go. It's safer. It's more fun. It's better.

The golfer Billy Casper recently passed away. Here's a photo of him.

He's beaten Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and won a slew of golf major championships. I recently read his last interview, and the interviewer asked him which golf victory he most wanted to be remembered for. Billy Casper answered that he didn't want to be remembered for his golfing achievements, he wanted to be remembered for his love of humanity.

Ultimately, there's nothing more important than the love we show each other. Spread the love.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pseudo spirituality anyone?

There is such a craze today about spirituality. Yoga, meditation. Then in the arts: zombies, werewolves, shape shifters, Harry Potter. Everything but the real thing. Hmm. Wonder why.

I have a theory. People sense that there is spiritual power out there. There is. But they want power they can control. Not Power that can control them. Hence, they will go to any lengths to get that spirituality but stop just short of the line that has them surrendering control.

Like the term 'Lord.' People want to be Lords, not have a Lord.

So round and round people play with pseudo spirituality. Harmless enough, right? Like kids playing make-believe.

I'm not so sure. Because see, there is a real spirituality. With big time stakes. And I think the distraction pseudo spirituality provides keeps a lot of people away from the real thing.

I like pseudo spirituality stuff. It can be fun to think about humans having super powers or zombies or whatever. I'm just not losing track of the real thing, because that's where the real power is.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

If Donald Trump talked to Gandhi

"Whoa, I love the robe! You've got some style, Mahatma. You should consider branding it."

"Thank you, The Donald."

"Yeah, me, I've got the best brand in the world, Mahatma. Everybody loves me."

"Even here in India?"

"Especially in India. I'm telling you, Indians can't get enough of me."

"But you seem very aggresive. My philosophy is based on non-violence."

"Trust me, Mahatma, non-violence is old school. In today's world you got do the deed when you need to."

"Do people love you for this?"

"People especially love me for it. People love me for everything I do. Mahatma, I could stand naked in the Ganges and sing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and people would love me. I could kill a cow and they'd love me. I could kill all the cows!"

"You are worrisome to many people."

"Ah, only to the wimps."

"And the Muslims."


"And Mexicans."

"They'll come around. There's a few good ones. I know them and they love me. Soon all the Mexicans will. Well, the ones I let stay here anyway."

"And women."

"Oh my God, Mahatma. Are you kidding me? Have you seen my wife? Women everywhere love me. Yeah, some are fat and, well, not too easy to look at, but they love me anyway. Everybody does."

"But you are making enemies."

"Everybody will come around in the end. They always do."

"Hillary Clinton too?"

"Oh, don't get me started on her."

"The Donald, I must go."

"Well, hey, it was good talking to you. I'm going to make sure to build some golf courses in India. And don't forget to encourage your Indian buddies to vote for me. They'll love me! I'm telling you! Everybody does!"

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Do you ring true?

We think we're so clever. That we can put on a show, a front, an act, a veneer that will deceive. Like make-up for the soul. But can we?

I was thinking about the term "ring true." It comes from the idea of testing a metal, like silver, or glass, and the response the metal or glass makes establishes its authenticity. I believe the same process applies to us. That we give off a ring. And that most people can discern it. They can know who we are deep down. They can see through the bark, no matter how thick it may be.

And what makes for ringing true? It seems to me, in a word: sincerity.

The sincere person doesn't even have to talk. You can just sense that they're sincere. When they do talk, their speech is straightforward and clear. There's no attempt to impress or dazzle. Accordingly there's no need to ask for clarification.

Little kids and pets are masters at discerning who rings true. They aren't drawn or fooled by looks or eloquence or wealth or fancy clothes. They see right through all that to a person's insides. 

A lot of adults aren't fooled either.

I have spent most of my life living from an image. I was my athletic trophies. I was my girlfriend. I was my car. I was my job. I was my partying reputation. I was anything but who I really was deep down.

Hopefully I've gotten to ring more true as I've gotten older.

How about you? Do you ring true?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Does God hate your creativity?

Think about it. What's another name for God? Creator. So if you're creating, are you infringing on God's territory? Is creativity best left in His hands? Does He become jealous when you create? The Bible says:

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

In Rollo May's book The Courage to Create he writes:

...creativity provokes the jealousy of the gods. This is why authentic creativity takes so much courage: an active battle with the gods is occurring.
Do you believe it?

I don't. Although I certainly think that it is a major challenge to be creative, I don't think in our struggle to create that God is against us. Quite the opposite, in fact, I think God helps us create. He leads us to people, books, opportunities that we would never be able to find on our own. And the timing of finding such things is usually perfect.

Not to be irreligious, but when you create, you are being God-like. Because again, God is the Creator, so when we create we're being like Him. And I think He enjoys watching our attempts and encourages us along the way.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Could you be a genius?

Genius. It's a term admired, wondered about and endlessly debated as to its meaning. But could it apply to everybody?

Most people think of genius in terms of being some rare gift that only the exceptionally lucky are born with. No use trying to get it because you either have it or you don't.

That's the easy way out. A cop-out. That way you don't have to try. Why, if only the Mozarts and Einsteins and Michaelangelos of the world have it, should you try?

The fact of the matter is that Mozart and Einstein and Michaelangelo—although certainly not dim-witted or bereft of talent—all worked their butts off to achieve the things they did.

When Einstein died his brain was preserved and it turned out to be smaller than average. He famously once said: "It's not that I'm so smart; I just stay with problems longer."

Mozart, who everyone loves to think of as having been born with genius, truly of course was talented, but his early childhood compositions were rudimentary. And he was a tireless worker and a lifelong learner. When he came across the work of fellow composer J.S. Bach he said:  "At last, someone from whom one can learn!"

And, Michaelangelo, painter of the Sistine Chapel, sculptor of "Pieta" and designer of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, said: "If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all."

You can see that what led to that statement was people endlessly telling him how wonderful it must be to be born and blessed with the talent and genius he possessed. Michaelangelo set them straight that was definitely not the case.

So could you be a genius?

Undoubtedly, it takes a certain level of intelligence and talent to begin with, but beyond that, if you're willing to go after it with everything you've got, you may end up being the next Mozart.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Has entertainment become our God?

Hey, I like entertainment. But I've been amazed at how obsessed our culture has become with it.

The average American household spends nearly $3,000 a year on it. Look at the tabloids, the Oscars. Actors become major celebrities, even sometimes authorities. Reality TV show stars become presidential candidates. A Justin Bieber YouTube video was watched over a billion times. Netflix, streaming movies and TV shows on smart phones. People can't seem to get enough.

But are we missing anything in all the frenzy? Have we maybe replaced more important things with entertainment?

I remember reading an article about parents taking their young family to Yellowstone National Park for a vacation. The kids complained. They didn't want to go.

"But we'll get to camp out in the wilderness, see buffaloes and sunsets," the father said.

"Sunsets are boring," his daughter replied.

I grew up near a park. During the summer we played baseball there and wore out a major patch of the lawn for the home plate area and pitcher's mound, and smaller areas for the bases. In the fall we wore out the whole center of the park grass playing football. Everybody played. It didn't matter how good you were. It was the thing to do.

Today, years later, that lawn is in perfect shape. And it's been ages since I've even seen a single person in the park. 

Because today everything is online. It's video games. Movies. Twitter. Whatever. I'm not knocking it. I'm a part of it all. I enjoy technology.  But aren't there more important things than entertainment? Aren't we somehow missing out by being glued to glowing screens?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How me and God made a difficult decision

I have a hard time making decisions. It once took me four hours to buy a pair of shoes at Kohls. I kept walking around the department store, getting very familiar with the various departments and even starting to recognize some of the employees by sight. A nice salesgirl had been helping me for a while and she must've gotten called to another department for a couple of hours, and when she returned to the shoe department and ran across me she said: "ARE YOU STILL HERE?"

I was like, Well, yeah.

So last night I was walking outside. (Seems I do a lot of walking.) Just my usual jaunt around the neighborhood. It was around 9:30 and a pretty decent night, maybe fifty still, not windy. And as I was walking down this long block I saw a car in a driveway. The car had a weak light glowing on the inside. Sure enough, as I got closer I could see that the car's roof light had been left on.

It was late. The house was dark. There was no outside light on. I could see faint light inside, shifting as if a TV were on, behind the curtains. I hoped that the car's roof light would turn off automatically, but I felt it probably wouldn't. In fact, it already seemed to be waning.

Ugh. I dreaded the idea of knocking on the door. What if it was an old person and they had a heart attack? I mean, I don't know about your neighborhood but nobody knocks on doors after say maybe seven p.m. here. My walking route called for going around this park and so I figured I'd keep walking and come back to the car to see if the light was still on.

Off I went. And of course I was thinking about the light and what I would do if it was still on. I weighed the pros and cons. Pros: the person doesn't have a dead battery when he gets up to go to work in the morning. Cons: the person has a heart attack when some stranger (me) knocks on their door in the middle of the night.

Okay, I told myself, maybe they won't have a heart attack. And I asked myself, what would I want done if the car were mine? I decided I'd want to be a little startled and have my car start in the morning.

But still I didn't feel like knocking on their door. That clearly made me a bad guy. An interrupter at best. A terrifier at worst. Yes, I was wavering in my thinking that I was going to knock.

I was getting close to returning to the car now and yep, the roof light was still on. Darn it, I thought. Why did I have to make this decision? I was just out for a relaxing walk and now my stomach was tied up in knots.

But I was coming up on the car. In a half a block I'd be there. I didn't want to stop walking (I still had a long way to get back home).

Well, I'd done all I could. I was willing to knock or not knock. The selfish part of me wanted to keep going by, rationalizing that maybe the car would start in the morning anyway, or maybe somebody else who lived there would yet be returning and would see the light, or that I was sparing somebody from having a heart attack, yada yada yada. The other part of me knew knocking was the right thing to do.

So, willing to go either way, and with the car right there, I gave it God. You know what, I was still a little keyed up, but I had a peace and a conviction come right over me. I walked up the sidewalk and rang the doorbell. But no one came to the door. I rang again. Still nothing. Great, I thought. So I gritted my teeth, pulled open the storm door and knocked.

There was a translucent little window in the door and I could see that somebody came up behind it. But they didn't open the door. I called, "The roof light is on in your car." After a few seconds, I could hear the deadbolt turning. The door opened.

It was a young guy (I'm pretty sure he didn't have a heart attack) and I told him I was sorry to be knocking so late but that his car's roof light was on.

"Oh," he said, looking over my shoulder and out at the car. "Thank you so much!"

As I walked away I could hear the car's door open and shut and the car start up.

Monday, March 28, 2016

How do you react when squeezed?

It's easy to think we know who we are. We roll along through life and I mean, come on, who doesn't think they're a good person. And yeah, life pretty much affirms that that's the case...until someone cuts you off in traffic, or the IRS triples your real estate taxes or you find out your spouse cheated on you.

It's then—when life squeezes you—that you really find out what's inside you.

It's like they say, when you squeeze an orange you get orange juice and pulp and seeds. You don't get guacamole. But not so with us. When you squeeze "good" us, you often get anger and fear and disillusionment.

It's only when the pressure's on that we know our truest self. That's why sometimes the real heroes in life are the people you'd least expect it from—because what's deep inside a person is often impossible to see on the surface.

The old adage is you won't know what you would do if a baby fell into a well until a baby falls into a well.

So next time things go wrong and you get squeezed, then you'll see who you really are.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The secret benefit of kindness

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. —Mark Twain

Okay, it's great to be kind to others, but that's not what this post is about. This post is about the secret way in which kindness benefits you.

It's simple. When you're a kind person, it not only benefits others but it benefits you. Because if you're a kind person, yes, you'll be kind to others but you'll also be kind to yourself.

Think about it. How many times do you beat yourself up for a multitude of reasons? We can be so hard on ourselves. But again, if you're a kind person you're going to be kind to yourself.

Don't you like spending time with kind people? Well, you spend 24/7 with yourself. Wouldn't it be nice to have such a kind companion?

So cultivate kindness. Show it to everyone. Unfailingly. Aggressively. Before you know it you'll be showing that same kindness to yourself.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Is life a mirror?

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are. —Anais Nin

Any idea, person or object can be a Medicine Wheel, a mirror for man. —Hyemeyohsts Storm

Can life be that simple? What we see, how we perceive the world is within us, not outside? The evidence points that way. Take what's called "The Rashomon effect." Several people see the exact same incident but perceive the event in contradictory ways. While that may bring memory into the equation, it still suggests a more subjective, as opposed to objective, way of seeing the world.

There's the classic example of a group of people spending a night on a mountaintop. One person experiences the peace of nature. Another is bored. A third is afraid a bear is going to rip the tent—and his entrails—open.

But there's even more evidence within ourselves. It's what's inside us that makes the difference. I heard someone use the example of a homeless person living in a cardboard box under a bridge. Take, say, the next four days the person will be facing. It doesn't look good. No, how could it. But what if that selfsame homeless person had a winning lottery ticket for a million dollars and just had to wait the four days to collect the money?

It would make those four days much more tolerable, no? Perhaps it would even make them pleasurable as the person anticipates the relief and pleasure that is on the way.

So next time you're walking down the street and the world seems wonderful or ugly or generous or cruel or however it seems, don't be thinking it's the world outside you that's causing your perception. Take a look inside.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Are you following the herd?

A friend and I were talking not long ago. She said she was going to read the novel Fifty Shades of Grey. I asked her if she knew what type of book it was. She said, "Yeah. Mommy porn." I wondered about that for a minute, and knowing that my friend really wasn't a 'mommy porn' sort of person asked, "Well, why are you reading it, then?" She said, "To see what all the buzz is about."

Hey, people do what they do. Life is tough. I'm not judging her or anybody else. But what I am wondering about is doing something just because everybody else is doing it.

That never caught on with me. Maybe I'm missing out, but I've never read The DaVinci Code, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, or whatever. Pick a blockbuster and chances are I haven't read it or seen the movie. And I'm sure a lot of those things are good. They just never appealed to me. And I have things that appeal to me. I'm not some sort of Mr. Spock, emotionless, unreachable.

But I never do something just because somebody else (or billions of people, for that matter) are doing it. Maybe it was because of how my mother raised me. I can remember saying to her (countless times): 'Can I do this (fill in the blank)?' Mom: "No." Me: "But my friend Timmy's mom is letting him do it!" And my mother would say: "I don't care if every single person in the whole world is doing it; you're not."

Even as a kid (even though I didn't like it!) that made sense to me.

So nowadays I pick and choose what I do because I want to do it. Not because of what everybody else is doing. Let the crowd and herd mentality go its merry way. I just won't be joining it.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Are you getting what you want (even the bad things) out of life?


I was glancing through this book's description (I can't recall the book) and came across something like: 'No matter what you may think, you are getting what you want in life.'

I thought, 'Oh, absolutely no way is that true!' But then I thought about it. (I find that things that upset me terribly are often true.) Well, maybe it could be true just a little bit, I relented.

I certainly think it's true for other people. LOL So often I see people struggling with problems or issues that could be seemingly relatively easily overcome but the people just don't. And after enough years of seeing that sort of thing, I start wondering, Well, maybe that's the way they want to be. 

I have a friend that has worked fourteen-hour days for years and years and years. And for years and years and years she's complained about how terrible and unfair it is that life treats her thusly. Well, this is a professional person who could do just about anything she wants work-wise, including cutting back her hours. But no, the years keep rolling by and she keeps working the long hours and keeps complaining.

This sort of thing is, of course, harder to see when it applies to oneself. But think about it. What things have you struggled with for years that you should've been able to overcome in a relatively timely fashion? Yes, your conscious mind screams that you don't want to live that way. But when you really get gut-level honest with yourself, isn't there something that you're getting out of living that way?

I know it's true for me. (Honesty is a painful thing sometimes. But a necessary thing if we're going to change.)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

What to do when you don't know what to do

Inertia. It can hit us all. And when it does, we often don't know what to do. Oh, we're willing, often desperately longing, to do something, but we just don't know what. It can get to the point where it's terribly upsetting—your life is stuck and you're wanting to get out of the quicksand, but you just can't seem to move.
"Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might..." —Ecclesiastes 9:10
There you have it. When you're stuck, do what's right in front of your nose. Which isn't to say that's what you want to do or are capable of doing. No, not at all. It's just saying that for now you need to do what's right in front of you and do it as well as you can and that will lead to the next thing.

Some years back I was seeing a psychiatrist and I told him I was lost in my life, especially regarding what do for work. He said, "If you can't make a decision as to what kind of work to do, make a decision to work." In other words, work at something. That I could do.

A friend in a self-help group once gave me his secret for overcoming inertia. He said, "Do the irreducible minimum—and you may find you want to continue." I tried it. It works. I don't know how many times I've used his advice. Say I don't feel like writing. I'll tell myself, 'I'll sit at the computer for ten minutes.' Well, it's usually a couple of hours later and I'm still working away. Or how about doing your taxes? I'd tell myself I'd sit down and look at all the tax forms for no more than fifteen minutes. Again, hours later I'd find myself sealing the envelope to the IRS with my completed return and check in it.

Doing something takes the pressure off. It gives you a sense that although maybe you're not going exactly where you want to, you're at least going somewhere positive. (I remember a bumper sticker I once saw. It was of Cap'n Crunch standing on the bow of a ship, sword extended, and the caption below it read: "I may be lost, but I'm movin'!") So, can't find the spouse of your dreams right now? Okay, maybe not but you can go to the gym and work out to lose those five extra pounds that will make it easier to attract that spouse. Can't land your dream job at the moment? Work on your resume. But it doesn't even have to be situation specific. Mow the lawn. Clean the kitchen. Anything at all. Just do something.

There's a saying: "No honest effort is ever wasted." You'll find if you just do what's right in front of you, you'll feel better about yourself and it will lead you do something else. You'll be on your way.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The art of enjoying little victories

Life is tough. Sometimes it's just one thing after another after another. I never used to be comfortable because I was always looking down the road at more tough stuff coming up. When I got through the latest challenge, then I would be comfortable, then I would be happy.  Only thing is there was always another challenge coming up, so, I would be comfortable, what, when I was dead?

The rock group Rare Earth has a song, I Just Want to Celebrate. The lyrics go:
I just want to celebrate another day of life. Had my hand on the dollar bill. And the dollar bill flew away. But the sun is shining down on me. And it's here to stay.
The idea being, yeah, you lost your money but you're still alive, and the sun is still shining down on you, so celebrate!

I live in Chicago and a few years back during the whole anthrax scare, people were finding what they thought was anthrax anywhere and everywhere, and they were flooding 911 with emergency calls. Mayor Daley held a press conference, reporters peppering him with paranoia-filled questions. One reporter asked about the city's plan if there was a water shortage. Daley pointed to the east and said, 'We've still got the lake (Lake Michigan).' The reporters cracked up.

But the mayor's point was life goes on and let's enjoy what we've got, even in the midst of scary stuff like anthrax and terrorism and the possibility of Donald Trump becoming president.

The Robert Redford movie The Milagro Beanfield War is about a real estate developer who wants to build an upscale resort that will divert the water supply a group of poor bean farmers need to grow their crops. A water-rights battle ensues between the deep-pocketed developer and the poor farmers. It's David vs. Goliath, but in this case David simply can't win.

But the farmers' side wins a temporary restraining order, momentarily stopping the developer's momentum. In a marvelous scene, the farmers' two lawyers watch the farmers celebrate their victory. Then after a while one of the lawyers turns to the other and says: 'You realize, though, that in the long run they're going to lose, don't you?' The other lawyer nods, looks out at the celebration, and says: 'I know. But still, this is something special.'

So that's what I'm saying. The tough times are always going to be coming. Yes, like in the movie, ultimately we're going to lose, but also, like in the movie, we can celebrate and relish those little victories in a major way.

Is your glass half-full? (It should be empty.)

You always hear the proverbial question, 'Is your glass half full or half empty?' I don't think either answer is optimal. At least if you want to receive. If you want to receive, your glass should be empty.

To stay with the glass analogy, if you have a glass and it's full, absolutely to the top, can you pour any more into it? Of course not. Same goes for life. If you've got it all figured out (ie. if your glass is full), if you know just who you are and where you're going and exactly how to live, well, you are not going to be able to receive anything at all. What you might have received is spilling out of the glass. 

Think of a closet. If it's stuffed with clothes, where can you put new ones? And if you'll let me get a little 'law of attraction-ish' on you I can relate a personal example. I once had a really full closet. Well, I decided to give a bunch of the clothes in it away. Two weeks later I, from out of the blue, got a package from my brother in Florida. It was a bunch of clothes (really nice stuff) he wasn't wearing anymore.

In Buddhism the masters practice what is called 'new mind.' It's having a mind that is not clogged with beliefs, ideas, preconceptions and convictions. It's a mind that's new, empty, ready to receive.

And so if you want to get a lot from the universe, stay empty, stay new, keep that glass of yours empty and you'll be amazed at how things will come your way to fill it up.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

When joining the "one percent" can be a good thing

We're all familiar with the term "the one percent," the people earning extraordinarily large incomes. And for sure when you read that some CEO makes 500,000 times what the average worker does, or the head of some pharmaceutical company is charging $10,000 for one pill it can be disheartening. So, okay, maybe joining the top one percent of income earners isn't such a lofty goal.

But what about other categories? What about being in the top one percent of givers? Of carers? Of kind people? Of listeners? Of honest people? Trustworthy, friendly or loyal people?

Now those are some categories worthy of aiming at and that a person would be proud to belong to.

When it's all said and done, who is really going to care if somebody made a lot of money. Actually, there's an answer to that—the greedy people who want to do the same thing. And hey, if that's what floats their boat, that's fine with me. But it doesn't float mine.

Onassis, Carnegie, Rockefeller. Who cares. Gandhi. Mother Teresa. Even somebody like Princess Di, who was privileged no doubt but spent so much of her time going to hospitals and encouraging sick kids. When she died, people wept.

So striving to be amongst the top one percent can actually be an awesome thing—just pick your category wisely.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

How big is your fire?

"You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will blow it higher." —Peter Gabriel

Ironic, isn't it? The same substance (fire) and the same substance acting upon it (breath) and yet not only dissimilar but opposite results.

Of course there's an analogy for our lives. If our life is only a candle flame, it can be extinguished by the merest breath, or conversely, if our life is a powerful flame, that selfsame breath will fan the flame.

The Roman philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius put it this way in his Meditations:
That which rules within, when it is according to nature, is so affected with respect to the events which happen, that it always easily adapts itself to that definite material, but it moves towards its purpose, under certain conditions however; and it makes a material for itself out of that which opposes it, as fire lays hold of what falls into it, by which a small light would have been extinguished: but when the fire is strong, it soon appropriates to itself the matter which is heaped on it, and consumes it, and rises higher by means of the very material.
When the fire is makes a material for itself out of that which opposes it.

What's opposing you? Poverty? Self doubt? Low self-esteem? Sickness? Loneliness? Abuse? Bills? Sadness? Frustration? Unemployment? Slander? Failure?

How big is your fire? When things come against you, is it blown out with a breath? Or is it fanned? And if even bigger things yet come against you, a strong wind, is your fire going out or being fanned into a wildfire?

This is no Tony Robbins 'what doesn't kill me makes me stronger!' blogpost. I know by experience what it's like to have my fire blown out by the weakest breath.

But I kept re-lighting my fire.

And I found that, as time went by, those little whiffs of breath weren't blowing my fire out anymore. No, indeed, they were making it bigger. Maybe just a little at first, but the progression continued—the bigger the thing coming against me, the bigger my fire got.

Oh, your fire may get blown out for a while yet too. But take to heart the proverb:
Fall seven times; stand up eight.
And when you stand up that eighth time and trouble comes against you, your fire is going to grow. And every time thereafter.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Become a peace "enforcer"

I had a dream last night. I went down to the kitchen in my childhood home. On the table there was a Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, and on the cover a big photo of a Chicago Blackhawks hockey player breaking up a fight. The headline read:


I grew up playing hockey. I even played on a intramural team in college. So from experience I can tell you that hockey is a really fun game.

But at the pro level, the NHL, the National Hockey League, teams have a player, or two or three, designated as an "enforcer." Enforcers are on the team only for one reason—to fight. I've been at NHL games where the crowd chants for the team's enforcer to fight one of the opposing players. And they do! With no instigation either!

Fights break out all over, not just in hockey games. Physical fights, yes, but also mental fights and emotional fights. And there are "enforcers" out there in the world off the ice rink too. Maybe a sarcastic boss, or a troll on the Internet.

The default response is to just watch the fight and think isn't that terrible? But what if we were all 'peace enforcers' and sucked it up and broke up the fights? And that's the thing—peace enforcers aren't pacifists. They're getting right in there, fighting if need be, to break things up. It takes guts to be a peace enforcer.

People like to fight, though, and they like to watch fights, so to be a peace enforcer would not be a popular role to play. But you know what? It would be one hell of a popular role to the person getting beat up.

And in my dream the peace enforcer was a hero, a superstar. And if you're a peace enforcer in real life, you're a real life hero and a real life superstar.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Change your mind, change your life? No, get rid of your mind!

Of course, we can't literally get rid of our minds. But we can figuratively, and that can make all the difference.

The old way of dealing with the mind was to control it.

Milton famously wrote:
The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
So get control of your mind, right? That's the way to go. Well, we all know the mind is a powerful thing, but is control really the answer? I would argue the exact opposite. I would say that by letting go of control we can improve our lives—immensely.

The thoughts of our minds are fickle things. They're entirely subjective. One person loves cold weather, another can't stand it. The cold weather itself is neither good nor bad. Only the thoughts of our minds make it so.

The problem comes in when we take our thoughts literally. And the mind naturally tends toward this. You "can't stand" cold weather. Well, of course, you can, but when your mind tells you can't, the discomfort of cold weather takes on an out-sized significance in your mind.

In his excellent workbook Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life Steven C. Hayes PH.D. refers to the 'big ugly monster' of the mind. He writes:
The situation you are in now may feel like being in a tug-of-war with a big, ugly monster (whether you are dealing with depression, anxiety, physical pain, sorrowful memories, or some other negative situation). It seems as though you can't win. The harder you pull, the harder the monster pulls back. Sometimes it even may feel as if there's a bottomless pit between you and the monster and, if you lose, you'll be pulled into the pit and be completely destroyed. So, you pull and pull. You try harder and harder. You look for different ways to pull, better ways to pull, stronger ways to pull. You try digging in your heels for more leverage or you try strengthening your muscles. You keep hoping that something will work. Suppose, however, that you have a completely different job to do. Perhaps it's not your job to win this tug-of-war. Perhaps it's your job to find a way to drop the rope.
Wherever you are at in your life right now, most likely you have gotten there by relying on your mind. If you're satisfied with how your mind's done the job, hey, that's great. (But honestly if you're satisfied with that, you're probably not reading this article.) But if you're not, drop the rope.

Something (call it God, the Universe, a Higher Power, Universal Mind or whatever you want) will take over. And if you're not satisfied with where your life is at, what have you got to lose by dropping the rope? You know where your mind has gotten you, and if you keep tugging on the rope, it will only be more of the same.

So try a different way. Give it a day. See what happens.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Change someone's life—with a smile!

I had to go to the doctor's for a test the other day. I needed to get up at four in the morning to prepare and then drive in the freezing Chicago winter weather to get there. Anxious and tired, I checked in with the doctor's receptionist, offering her a weak smile, which was the best I could do considering the heaviness I was feeling in my heart.

She smiled back. It was just a little thing, but that smile really lifted my spirits. Suddenly the upcoming test seemed manageable. And all because someone cared enough to smile at me. Hers was a smile that seemed to say: Hey, yeah, life's tough sometimes. Believe me, I too know what it's like. But you know how it is—you'll get through it.

And I did. With her help. A complete stranger. And all she did was smile.

Many symbols, actions and words substantially transcend nations, races and cultures. For instance, when people celebrate they throw their hands up in the air. Many languages have adopted "okay." But there is one thing that is universally understood by all people in all times.

A smile.

I watched a documentary about suicide. About people who were going to kill themselves by jumping off a high bridge. Amazingly, a few people actually survived jumping (with great bodily injury), and the story of one of the guys who jumped and survived moved me to the core.

He said that as he was walking to the bridge he decided that if one person smiled at him, just one, before he got there he wouldn't jump. But no one did.

Can you imagine that? One smile can save a life. And what does it cost us? Just getting out of ourselves enough to give another person the attention that says: Hey, I know you're there and we're in the same boat in this crazy human experience and I care.

That's it. Just that little bit can do it.

So the next time you catch eyes with someone, share a little smile with them. You don't know the burden they might be carrying—and the lift your smile might give them.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Are you lost in your life? Relax!

I'm at a crossroads in my life. My personal life, my work life, my health life, my social life. And being at a crossroads is just a nice face-saving way of saying I'm lost. Normally, I'm pretty wrecked by being lost. I feel like a failure. I feel like everybody else is finding their way, why aren't I? And I feel like I should be doing more, so much more. But then I came to realize that being lost is no sin. No, absolutely not. And not only was it foolish to hide from myself the fact that I was lost. It could be the absolute best thing to acknowledge, accept and admit that I was.

Ever hear the saying: 'You can't leave a place you've never been'? Well, if you're lost in your life and yet refuse to accept it, you can't move on from there.

Listen to this quote from Vernon Howard's The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power:
When you do not know what to do, you have no responsibility to do anything, except to be aware that you are lost. Do not do anything but that. Do not permit nervous anxiety to drive you to futile exterior activities. You are not shirking rightful responsibility when you refrain like this; you are wisely avoiding the consequences of muddled action. Clarity, clarity, clarity; our first duty is to think clearly. Make it your rule to understand things, which you can surely do. Then, your action will be right.
If that's not music to your ears I don't know what would be. (It was to mine.)

No matter what is in your life right now it is part of the plan. And that includes being lost.

So you're lost. Yeah, it's not fun, but it's not bad either. It's just where you're at right now. You'll soon be un-lost. So accept being lost. Maybe even enjoy it. Explore it. It's just one more life situation you've encountered, and it may be a time in your life where you're being prepared for better things to come. And being lost may be necessary for you to get to those better things.

So relax! Being lost ain't so bad when you see it in the proper perspective. In fact, it may even be a good thing.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Magic of Jumping

A friend got me thinking the other day. He told me what it was like for him when he jumped out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. When he got done, I asked him what the scariest part of it was. He said, "Well, jumping."

The plummeting through the air at breakneck speed toward earth wasn't as scary as jumping out the door.

Think of all the ways you can move. Walk, run, crawl, stroll, sprint, etc. But how does nature move?

Nature moves in jumps. "Quantum leaps" to be specific. When the time is right the movement is not by drifting, blending, plodding or easing into; it's by jumping.

Even the kids' game of Leap Frog. That's where the term leapfrogging comes from. Here's the dictionary definition from
an advance from one place, position, or situation to another without progressing through all or any of the places or stages in between
Think about it. You can move yourself from place to place in a host of ways, but sometimes (imagine going from one rooftop to another) you just have to jump.

But the thing is you can jump even when you don't have to. I heard a preacher once talking about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he agonized before the crucifixion. Jesus talked about drinking the cup of what awaited him (the crucifixion). The preacher generalized from there telling us, 'When you have something difficult to do, when you have a bitter cup to drink, don't sip it. Drink it straight down.'

Another way of saying: jump.

Dag Hammarskjold, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, wrote in his book Markings:
You told yourself you would accept the decision of fate. But you lost your nerve when you discovered what this would require of you: then you realized how attached you still were to the world which has made you what you were, but which you would now have to leave behind. It felt like an amputation, a "little death," and you even listened to those voices which insinuated that you were deceiving yourself out of ambition. You will have to give up everything. Why, then, weep at this little death? Take it to you—quickly—with a smile die this death, and become free to go further.
Isn't that what it's like (a "little death") when you're facing something terrible. I mean, you really don't want to go through it at all. But you have to, so like he said, 'take it to you—quickly.' In other words, jump.

Jumping is where the magic is. It's nature's way. It's our way. Jumping minimizes suffering. It moves you down the road faster.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to the aim.
Make it easy on yourself. Get ahead faster. Yes, jumping is hard, but once you do, the rest is easy and the benefits are great.