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11 April 2012 · 4:32 am

Look For The Good In All Situation

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays and Lectures … 

In his essay “Self-Reliance”, Emerson wrote, “travelling is a fool’s paradise.” He said that we could dream of travelling to Naples, or Rome, and think to ourselves that we will be intoxicated with beauty, but after packing our bags and going there, come to realize that we are there with our same selves—that “our giant goes with us wherever we go. ” And if that self always looks for beauty elsewhere, then we will fail to find it wherever we go, for beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Thus, to find the beautiful, we must first be aware of the beauty around us, so that we can then see it, experience it, and carry it in our hearts. Carrying beauty within us is having the ability to see, to appreciate, and to love beauty both when it is in front of us as well as when it is not.

Every moment of the day there is an infinite amount of beauty that surrounds us, but we must choose to see it. And as we begin to grow more aware of this beauty–the beauty in the ordinary–things that we previously found unpleasant or ugly, slowly cease to exist; out of the drab nothingness… beauty will take root. And when we hear others talking about how awful something or somewhere is, we will find ourselves looking past their illusions and misperceptions, imagining such things with much more beauty in mind, as if in all their glory, and we will feel sorry for their inability to notice the beauty–both realized and potential.

Our world is amazing. And if we wish to see and appreciate all the wondrous beauty, we have to train ourselves to recognize the beauty in things that surround us as we travel the world over. And if we find things in our world becoming ordinary, drab, unpleasant, or ugly, then perhaps we should take some time to reflect on where that ugliness is coming from: it is not in the things, but in the ways in which we see those things; it comes from inside of us, not from the thing itself. The good news is that is something that we can learn to change.

There are, of course, some ugly things in this world–such as violence, abuse, hatred, injustice, selfishness, and pride–and we should see such things as they are. Nevertheless, if we really want to get in touch with the beauty in the world, then we need to recognize that it depends upon us to see it. Thus, we should not spend so much time looking in other places for something that we already have inside us.

Look for beauty in some of the ordinary, everyday things that surround you.

Questions to consider:

How do people lose the idea that they bring beauty with them–or leave it behind when they see beautiful things?

What is the inherent limitation in believing that beauty is in the objects that we see, as opposed to being in the ways that we see those things?

Have you ever thought something was beautiful, only to have someone else say it was ugly? What was the difference in perspective? Likewise, have you ever seen something as ugly that someone else thought was beautiful?

For further thought:

“The fact that we can’t see the beauty in something doesn’t suggest that it’s not there. Rather, it suggests that we are not looking carefully enough or with a broad enough perspective to see it.” ~ Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff

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“Needs” Vs “Wants” Of Life

“The person is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, The Writings of Henry David Thoreau … 

Perhaps you have heard the phrase “the more you make, the more you spend” at some point during the course of your life. When we do not have our priorities straight, we often get caught up in the “buy new things” craze. And although this may offer us a momentary happiness, this does not increase our happiness, enjoyment, and pleasure, nor can it ever bring about true and lasting joy in our lives. On the contrary, the less you need to enjoy yourself and seek true pleasure in life, the closer enjoyment and pleasure become, for we do not have to be millionaires to experience the riches of life; even the poorest among us can find great pleasure in the little things that are free or cost hardly anything and thus are vast and easy to attain and enjoy.

Yet not all of us are fortunate enough to stumble upon this truth in our journeys through life, or when we do, we wish we were able to have done so much sooner. Still, we all have the ability to be rich right now–by simply decreasing our wants and increasing our awareness and appreciation of all the riches that lie before us. The beauty of it is that when we let go of our wants and our supposed needs, and start to see just how satisfying the things that are already available to us are, we begin to see that we already possess great wealth, we begin to realize that we do not need to go on a four-thousand dollar luxury vacation to an exotic resort every year to experience the pleasures of life, for there are truly amazing and enjoyable places close to home that we have not seen or experienced yet–lakes to swim in, rivers to canoe or fish in, woods to walk or jog in, meadows to ride bikes or horses through. And expensive restaurants may have great food and a special atmosphere, but so does a home filled with love and laughter.

The older I grow, the easier it is to find riches in the simplistic areas of my life. Experience is teaching me that the things that others wish for me to desire–marketers, advertisers, companies, and others who wish to profit off me–will not make me happier or allow me to enjoy life any more. In fact, the more I chase things that I want the less happy I become. And now that I realize just how much beauty and wonder surround me each day, just opening my eyes, and ears, and nose to all the wonder and beauty each day gives me a great deal of enjoyment. Now, a nice walk or jog in the park can lift my spirits more than a busy evening downtown; and a good pot of beef stew with my loved ones is more satisfying than a five-course gourmet meal.

Some of us make decisions in life that guarantee us to a life without billions of money. But that does not mean that we will not have a life full of riches. Money will not always be there for us. And knowing this allows us to see the importance of how wealthy we already are with that which we already have.

Do not buy anything that you do not need as you go about the day.

Questions to consider:

From where do we get the tendency to equate wealth with money? Is this an accurate perception?

What kinds of wonderful pleasures are there around you right now that do not cost anything at all, from talking to a good friend to seeing a beautiful sunrise or sunset?

How many people with lots of money really are not very rich at all? Why?

For further thought:

“Who is wise? Those who learn from every person. Who is mighty? Those who can master their own passions. Who is rich? Those who rejoice in their portion.” ~ The Talmud

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Spend Quality Time With A Child

“To help your children turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Life’s Little Instruction Book … 

Our society tends to push the narrative that children are more interested in toys than affection, that they desire things more than they desire the company of those who love them, and unfortunately a lot of parents buy into this myth. But children do not want more things… they want more time; they want to be loved, to be noticed and feel relevant, to be shown consideration and concern. They want to be shown all the love and affection that their parents can give to them, even during those times when they put up walls or wear masks to hide their feelings.

Perhaps this has something to do with the growing number of adolescents and teens who are suffering from depression. Children who do not receive affection from their parents will often times develop coping strategies to deal with not getting it such as acting like they do not want or need it. This is confusing to the parents as it sends the wrong signals, and then parents who are not spending enough time with their children feel that the child does not want them to anyway, which can lead down a dangerous path: if we become too uninvolved in our child’s life, they may go looking elsewhere for that missing affection, be that in bad relationships, gangs, drugs, sex, violence, or some other negative and unhealthy place.

As parents, we are the adults… we are the ones who need to be cognizent of the needs of our children. And because we have the benefit of living through childhood, and of growing wiser with our years of education and experience, we should know better than to neglect our youth–whether they are our children or simply a part of our lives somehow. And although buying something for a child will bring about momentary satisfaction, and allow us to experience that momentary excitment and joy from getting something new, that happiness is transitory; spending time with that child, however, will last forever in the hearts of both them and us.

The majority of people will tell you that the adults that made the greatest positive impact on them as children, were the ones who made time for them. In truth, our children will remember us for how well we loved them–how often we held them, read to them, listened to them, encouraged them, and supported them–not for the things we bought them.

Spend quality time with a child.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of adults had the strongest effect on you when you were young? How did you feel when someone spent time with you?

How do we get the idea that most kids want us to buy them things instead of spending time with them? Is that accurate? Even if it is accurate, do the kids necessarily know what’s best for them, or just what they want in terms of immediate gratification?

Why do so many adults spend so little time with young people?

For further thought:

“If we had paid no more attention to our plants than we have to our children, we would now be living in a jungle of weeds.” ~ Luther Burbank

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Are You Unknowingly On Your Way To The Scrap-Heap?

“If your capacity to acquire has outstripped your capacity to enjoy, you are on your way to the scrap-heap.” ~ Glen Buck … 

There is a reason that “joy” is part of the word “enjoy,” for without it, we cannot truly appreciate and take pleasure in our experience here on this Earth. In today’s culture of busyness and accumulation, it is easy to become focused on earning more money, acquiring more things, gathering more information, getting more done, having contact with more people, or any of those other things that diminish our ability to encounter and recognize joy in our lives. We often times defer our enjoyment until after we have acquired enough–until we feel we there is nothing more to achieve. But this time may never come… and one of our principal duties here on Earth is to enjoy the gifts that have been given to us right now.

I certainly do not feel like I am on my way to the scrap-heap; I still feel I have a lot of potential within me. However, if I wish to ensure that my final destination is not a dump somewhere, I have to recognize and appreciate all that I have in my life. The endless search to acquire things distracts me from the beauty and wonder that surrounds me, and when I am distracted, I neglect enjoying these things, which leaves me feeling miserable, bored, depressed, and dispirited. And if I find myself in this state, it is a good assumption that I most likely will find myself collapsing from weariness instead of rising up in joy.

If I awake each morning exhausted and already dreading what lies ahead of me, I am most likely on my way to the scrap-heap–becoming worn out and useless. But if I can focus on the limitless possibilities and new opportunities that lie before me, with enthusiasm and gratitude, I will find that the day provides more than enough joy for my mind, body, and spirit. I will find myself revitalized and energized as I go forth into the day knowing that my attitudes, my perceptions, and my experiences in life, are mine to determine. In truth, we all have the chance to enjoy the great things of our lives–the company of nice people, the beauty of our surroundings, the contributions of others, the healthy and delicious foods we eat, the ability to run, jump, write, sing, talk, listen, and read to children. But no one else can help us to enjoy these things; it has to come from within.

Do not acquire anything new today; instead, concentrate your efforts on enjoying the blessings that already fill your life.

Questions to consider:

What have you truly enjoyed today?

Do you enjoy simple things now more or less than you did as a child? What do you think the difference is?

How might you go about finding more enjoyment in the everyday things of life? What strategies might you use to remind yourself of the importance of doing so?

For further thought:

“Live and work but do not forget to play, to have fun in life and really enjoy it.” ~ Eileen Caddy

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Schedule Regular Maintenance

“A person too busy to take care of his or her health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his or her tools.” ~ Spanish saying … 

Shortly after our fourth child was born, I remember thinking to myself, “Boy, I sure am busy these days!” Finally being outnumbered by children, and trying to catch-up on work and sleep, added a new level of uncertainty to my life–one in which I found myself wondering at times if I would be able to manage. I did manage, however, and I found ways to cope with and meet the new requirements in my life. Sometimes in our lives, the demands of the world just seem to crowd in on us, forcing us into situations that we really do not want to be in, forcing us to have to spend excess amounts of time doing more work than we had planned on doing. And if the people who are depending upon us are people who really need our help, then what option do we necessarily have other than to be super busy for a while?

Still, regardless of how busy we find ourselves, it is vital that we keep attentive to our health and well-being. After all, once we lose this, our quality of life diminishes, and our ability to keep up with the demands of life suffers. Not to mention that we really cannot help others very effectively if our health is compromised. That is why even when we become extremely busy, we still have to find time for exercise, sleep, and healthy eating, and always strive to make decisions that will assist us to maintain a decent level of help and support.

The truth is that we will be in a bad place if we neglect our health. I know plenty of unhealthy individuals–people who have made decision after decision regardless of the negative effects it has had on their health–and I do not want to be in their shoes, dealing with the issues they are currently facing. And if we can focus on this idea of where we might end up if we neglect our health, we can avoid damaging our health and allowing our bodies to fall into a state of disrepair, of rust, decay, and possibly even uselessness.

Respect and appreciate both your body and soul–for these are the vessels upon which you shall journey through this life and the next. Put forth the time and effort to take care of your needs, even when you are busy and time is short–or especially during such times. Our body is such an amazing gift that we have been given, and it will do wonderful things for us if we keep it in good working condition. If we eat well, get the proper amount of sleep at night, and exercise our mind, body, and spirit, we will achieve our best chances of enjoying a healthy body that will accomplish all that we need it to.

Schedule regular maintenance and tune-ups for your body, mind, and soul.

Questions to consider:

What happens to tools when we neglect them? How is our body similar to those tools if we neglect it?

What decisions can you make today that will help you to maintain your body in good shape?

How can we take care of our bodies even when we are busy? Where can we find the time, and how can we make the decisions?

For further thought:

“The body is the soul’s house. Shouldn’t we therefore take care of our house so that it doesn’t fall into ruin?” ~ Philo

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Make Time For Yourself

“If you’re too busy to enjoy life, you’re too busy; If you’re too busy to stay calm, you’re too busy; If you’re too busy to stay in shape, you’re too busy; If you’re too busy to see your friends, you’re too busy.” ~ Jeffrey P. Davidson, Breathing Space … 

I am sure you can recall a time in which you recently overbooked yourself–some of us do it all the time. For many of us, filling our schedules for the day can be a positive and rewarding thing–it can leave us with feelings of accomplishment, generosity, and purpose. It can keep us focused and help us to experience successes more frequently. It can even help those around us. But when doing so, we must be careful not to forget about our own needs and wants. This means also scheduling things that are important and necessary for ourselves, which cannot happen when we overbook ourselves each day.

Of course, some people prefer being busy. For these individuals, a busy life is a full and fulfilling life. But for others who have a hard time scheduling time for themselves, a busy life leaves them with little to no time for reflection, growth, and recovery. It all comes down to understanding our needs and our ability to meet those needs. If can say that we are enjoying our lives as they currently are, then we are probably fine; but if the answer is that we are not enjoying life, then we need to start taking steps to discover why, and that begins with making time for ourselves.

And if you find it hard to cut down on your busyness, an easy place to begin cutting down on your busyness is reducing your commitments. The word “no” is very effective when we are asked to head another group, serve another function, or extend ourselves beyond our capabilities. Another great option is to lessen your commitments to something more reasonable, or to offer yourself contingent upon your availability at that time. And of course you can also simply let others know that you are taking time for yourself–perhaps a power nap after work, or a relaxing walk through park to get some fresh and clear your mind; there is nothing wrong with taking some much needed downtime.

It is important that we are able to find enjoyment in our lives–for that is where purpose and meaning dwell. And if we are not aware of whether we are enjoying ourselves or not, then we must find ways to increase our awareness. Perhaps that is where our most impressive ability of all lies–in recognizing our own enjoyment. Such awareness is a powerful gift, a gift given freely to each of us by our loving Creator. However, we have to make an effort to become aware, and our mindfulness of our enjoyment will be a wonderful reward for said effort.

Clear some time on your schedule to simply enjoy the day.

Questions to consider:

How busy are you? Do you ever wish that you were not as busy as you are? If so, what steps could you take to become less busy?

How often are you aware that you are enjoying something while you are enjoying it?

Why is it important to manage our own busyness and take control of it if it goes too far?

For further thought:

“Somewhere in the late 20th century we got the idea that busyness is a virtue. We decided that the more activities we can squeeze into our lives, the happier we’ll be. What ultimately results, though, is physical and spiritual exhaustion. We jump from one appointment to another, our body and mind racing. We schedule events back to back and overlapping, with no time to rest or reflect. And when we’re in one activity, we’re either distracted with the thing we’ve just done or the thing that’s coming up. It’s not a good way to live.” ~ Jack Zavada

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Overcome The Negativity Of Life Detours

“The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.” ~ unattributed … 

Typically when I hear the word detour, I immediately associate that with loss of time, change of plans, and much more work for me to process–in simpler terms, more stress. But do they have to be so? For when I look at them as life’s way of showing me something that I would not have seen otherwise, they seem quite the opposite. What if they are me being guided in a direction–or on a road–that I would have chosen to avoid had I been able to do so. In truth, some of my greatest adventures, filled with the most amazing things that I have ever seen, have been on detours.

There are times in our lives in which we might find ourselves being pushed off our expected paths–perhaps we find ourselves travelling down unplanned roads because a job ended or we have been offered a new career opportunity. Or maybe we find ourselves suffering an injury or a difficult health issue. Perhaps we experience something suddenly or unexpectedly, something that throws our plans of the future into disarray, such as an unexpected pregnancy. Sometimes when we think we have our route all figured out, life throws us a curve ball and we end up doing something completely different, going somewhere completely unforeseen, or doing something completely unimaginable. And when that happens, life will still offer us beautiful and breathtaking scenery–even if it is not the scenery we had planned on seeing; but we have to be open to whatever life brings into our paths.

Of course, there may be times in which we find the detours of life to be frustrating, annoying, stressful, maddening, or even hopeless. Yet when we allow ourselves to enter into such a state of mind, our eyes are not necessarily open to the beauty of our new route–focused instead on where we wish we were. Perhaps we are worrying about the detour taking twenty minutes more than we had planned on, or not finding our way back to our original route. Or perhaps we are just not open to new and different things, preferring instead the safety and comfort of what we know and had planned. Or maybe we fear not being in control, of not being able to determine our experiences in life.

Our awareness and perception of the beauty that surrounds us is a powerful gift. With it, we can elevate our lives no matter where we are. And often times, a detour… is a gift, if we choose to see it. It is a chance to see something new, something different, something unplanned… something that we were meant to experience. And if we keep our minds and hearts open, we may find in each detour that we take something that will help us to come closer to being the people we were meant to be.

Overcome whatever negative perceptions you have of the detours in your life.

Questions to consider:

What makes us think that the path we have chosen–be it a road when we are traveling, a career, or course of study–is necessarily the best one for us?

Why do we think of detours with negative connotations? Are detours necessarily negative?

What does it take for us to enjoy the scenery on any road we travel? How much of our enjoyment is due to our attitude?

For further thought:

“We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.” ~ Charles Swindoll

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