Monthly Archives: October 2016

Growing The Heart

“Let us not look at ourselves but onwards, onwards to the ideal life of man, and take strength from the leaf and the signs of the field. Let us labor to make the heart grow larger as we become older, as the spreading oak gives more shelter.” ~ Richard Jeffries, Nature Thoughts … 

I thoroughly enjoy the comparison Richard makes here–when I think of a small oak tree, and imagine all the birds, squirrels, and animals that create a home in it, and then visualize it growing and expanding over the years–it is exactly how I wish to grow older myself. I want to be able to have a large heart. I want to have something to give to others–to be able to contribute positively to the world around me. I want others to see how much I have grown and developed from all I have been through in life–to recognize my potential as someone who provides for those around him–and then benefit from all that I provide.

Physically, the human heart is the core of life. Beating nearly 2 billion times throughout our lifetime, the heart pumps more than 1 million barrels of life-sustaining blood to our organs and tissues. Without it, we as humans cannot stay alive. And metaphysically, it is the core of our beings, our souls. All of our words and actions are manifestations of what is in our hearts. If we think or feel good thoughts, we are then able to turn them into positive actions and attitudes. But if we think or feel evil thoughts, we are apt to act accordingly.

If we wish to work towards making this world a better place… we should do so by making our “heart grow larger as we become older.” In doing so we will find we become more loving and compassionate, helping others just as a giant oak provides shade from the sun, shelter from the rain and storms, and comfort for rest during flight. We will increase our ability to provide positively to the world around us.

Take a moment today to provide for the needs of another.

Questions to consider:

What kind of labor can we pursue to make our hearts grow?

What are some benefits of providing shelter for others?

Imagine yourself as an oak–which people would you most want to shelter? Why?

For further thought:

From this day forward,
You shall not walk alone.
My heart will be your shelter,
And my arms will be your home.

unattributed

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Trust Yourself!

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” ~ Benjamin Spock, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care … 

Benjamin is right, we do know more than we think we do; however, too often in life, we do not trust ourselves or give ourselves enough credit. Yet once we are able to recognize the truth in his statement, trusting ourselves becomes countless times easier for us to accept and employ in our lives, and eventually we can begin to convince others of this same truth.

For years, my wife had issues with anxiety. She would often times convince herself that she was suffering specific conditions, and would create or add unnecessary stress in her life. This stress led her to experience many of the ailments she further experienced, culminating in a predictable spiral. One thing that bothered me was that she never trusted herself–she always wanted to get a doctor’s opinion on everything, and then when a doctor told that she was healthy and fine, she was not satisfied. I tried to convince her that she did not always need a doctor’s opinion–that she understands her body better than anyone else does and she should trust it to function as it was created–this includes eating healthy foods, maintaining a good level of activity, and finding time to relax and remove the anxiety and stress she was placing on herself. In doing so, she would not experience so many false-positives and would know when something truly is wrong and would be able to then seek a doctor for advice. Eventually she overcame her anxiety, which honestly was not due to any single thing I said, but through persistent support and reminding her that she was able to control and master her anxiety.

Dr. Spock’s advice can be applied to so many aspects of our daily lives. How many parents are not able to be advocates or positive role models to their children? How many cannot discipline their child or teach them responsibility because they are unsure of their effectiveness or afraid to lose their friendship? How many doctors have prescribed the wrong medication or treatment because they did not trust themselves? How many of us have not trusted ourselves and remained silent when something wrong was happening and our gut told us to act?

There are times in my life I should have trusted myself and what life had already taught me, yet I did not. Trust yourself. You have lived for a while now, and you have learned things that others have not. Having weathered storms and experienced your own journey, you are truly unique, intelligent, and insightful. Use the wisdom and knowledge you have to empower yourself to make decisions and take control of your life.

Make a positive decision today and be confident in your ability to do so.

Questions to consider:

Why do so few people truly trust themselves?

In what ways do you allow others to make decisions for you on important matters? Why might you do that?

What kinds of knowledge and experience are unique to you? How did you learn these things? How might you use them?

For further thought:

“One who doesn’t trust oneself can never truly trust anyone.” ~ Cardinal de Retz, Memoires

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Do Not Focus On Limitations … Focus On The Possibilities!

“Always listen to the experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.” ~ Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love … 

This one could easily throw us for a loop. After all, we are taught to listen to and heed the experts. Yet here it seems that Robert is telling us to interpret what the experts claim is impossible. This in and of itself may seem contrary to what we feel is good advice. Yet then he takes it even further, he encouraging us not to focus on limitations–to go do those things that the experts have deemed impossible. He wants us to think outside the box, to challenge ourselves by stating that nothing is impossible, and then use that conviction as inspiration to go against the sound advice of experts… and succeed.

We generally tend to listen to others far too often and accept their conclusions without challenging them ourselves. One thing that comes to mind is something I was told by others when I mentioned that I thought I could write a program that would predict fuel prices: “You are crazy!, ” they said, “No one can do that.” A few years later I successfully created it and have been improving on it ever since. And not only did I do what others told me I could not do, I also learned two new programming languages in the process. We all have these examples in our lives–times in which someone has said that we cannot do something. Perhaps it is playing ice hockey or losing 30 pounds in a year. Or maybe it is finishing a marathon, writing a novel, or starting a company of your own. Whatever it is for you, do not focus on limitations… focus on the possibilities.

One thing I find that helps here is to realize that succeeding is not necessarily the same as success. I may not always be successful, but I still try by giving it my best shot. Therefore, it is in attempting, that we succeed.

Once we realize this fact, and accept that we need not be successful in everything we do, we can challenge ourselves to succeed by overlooking the limitations others have put on things. There will always be individuals out there who will make a claim on the impossibilities in life based on their theories and not upon experience or first-hand knowledge. And if we want to accomplish something special, it is worth our while to doubt these people. Of course, we should also remember that success may not come right away, or even at all, yet we will most certainly succeed in daring to try.

Do something today that others have told you may be too difficult for you.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often take the word of experts as the gospel truth, and allow what they say to guide our actions?

What kinds of things have you done that other people thought you couldn’t do? How did it feel to accomplish those things?

How many experts make claims based on theory rather than on experience? What does that fact mean to us?

For further thought:

“Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, Complete Works of Katherine Mansfield

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Nature Is Here For Us

“Nature tops the list of potent tranquilizers and stress reducers. The mere sound of moving water has been shown to lower blood pressure.” ~ Patch Adams, M.D., Gesundheit! … 

I recall experiencing an unusually difficult winter several years back. The prior year I had took up running every day that I possibly could, and had religiously done so for most of the year, up until the approaching winter managed to find a way to keep me indoors, and with the limited space for running, I had to find other means of exercise. It was during this period of my life that I began to notice that my mind and spirit does not function properly when I become inactive–my stress levels began to escalate and things that were not really that important tended to seem like they were. And as my concentration levels started to diminish, a feeling of fatigue often times would settle in.

It was while in reflection during this period of my life that I realized that a simple remedy for my stress was spending time outside. Just a little time on a walk or a bike ride, or at a park or out in nature, helps me to clear away some of the fog that clouds my thoughts and allow the clarity of fresh air and nature to bring to me all the abundant joy and beauty that abounds and surrounds me. Even in the winter, there is much to do and find that can help me to relax and to feel more balanced and calmer–scooping or playing in the snow, a brisk walk around the block, observing the snowfall on the ground and on the trees.

What really bothers me is the rut I fall into when I take a break from nature. It seems that if I let things get in the way, I tend to not make time for it, and instead turn to other remedies such as Advil and Tylenol.

Nature is here for us. It holds the potential to help reduce our stress and free our spirits, but only if we use it and allow it the chance to benefit our health and add positively to our lives. Feel the breeze through the leaves brush across your skin. See and hear the lightning and thunder as the storms pass overhead and then smell the rain in the air afterwards. Listen to the gentle water trickling in a stream or experience the crashing waves at the beach. Hear the sounds of the birds and animals, and feel the warmth of the sunlight upon your skin. Come to discover the gifts and the peace of mind, body, and spirit that nature can bring into your life.

Go outside and spend five minutes just sitting with your eyes closed listening to nature.

Questions to consider:

Why does spending time in nature so often end up low on our list of priorities?

How do you feel when you’ve found a wonderful spot in nature? How would you feel if you were to spend more time in such places?

What are some of the obstacles that keep us from being out in nature? What are some strategies for dealing with those obstacles?

For further thought:

“A soul who is not close to nature is far away from what is called spirituality. In order to be spiritual one must communicate, and especially one must communicate with nature; one must feel nature.” ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Art of Personality

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When One Is Out Of Touch With Oneself

“It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from the people you love. It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger. When one is a stranger to oneself then one is a estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea … 

What Anne means when she says “one is a stranger to oneself,” or “one is out of touch with oneself,” is that when we allow others to influence the decisions we make–when we allow others to manipulate our character, we are no longer our unique, authentic self, but are a hodgepodge of selves, including those of others. I know individuals in harmful relationships in which they allow the other person to control them, and throughout it all, remain in denial. When we say that we are out of touch with our self, we are generally stating that we do not have the ability to communicate effectively with our inner self–our wants and needs, our beliefs and convictions.

One of the worst side effects of being out of touch with oneself is the loss of integrity. To be a person of integrity we must be aware of what is important to us and we must act according to our high moral and ethical standards. But if we do not know what those are, then we obviously will not be able to do so.

So how is one to go about “getting in touch” with oneself? The first step for me would be taking some time in reflection of my wants and needs, my beliefs and convictions. I should consider what is important to me, and what I expect from life–from others, and from myself. After forming a base understanding who I am, I can then choose to be that person in all my dealings in life so that I might touch the lives of those around me in deep and meaningful ways.

The only way I can affect the lives of those around me in a positive way, is if I am comfortable with myself. I must take the time and make the effort to slow down and get in touch with my own needs, and then ensure they are met. Then, and only then, will I be able to help others effectively.

Reflect for a minute on who you are and on what are your needs.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many people neglect themselves while trying to help others?

What are some ways that you could get in touch with yourself?

When was the last time that you took time for reflecting upon your own needs and how to fulfill them?

For further thought:

“You are a child of the universe, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” In the history of creation, there has never been anyone like you. Accept this reality about yourself–that you are a special, unique human being who has a place on this earth that no one else can fill. Acknowledge yourself as a glorious expression of your loving Creator. This healthy self-love will form the foundation of a joyful and satisfying life. Then, as you love and accept yourself, your inner light will shine outward to bless and heal your fellow human beings.” ~ Douglas Bloch

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Do Not Let Tomorrow Rob You Of Today

“Some people are making such thorough preparation for rainy days that they aren’t enjoying today’s sunshine.” ~ William Feather … 

The first thing that came to mind when I read William’s words was a teacher of mine from grade school. I remember walking to church service in the morning as a class, and she would always have her umbrella with her, just in case it would get rainy during service and she would have to walk back in the rain. This was not necessarily the case with her, though, for she enjoyed the weather regardless, yet the analogy still fits. Often times we are so worried about the possibility of adversity and hardship in our future that we truly fail to live our lives today–in the right here and right now.

Many others do fit this bill: a couple in a relationship, one who is so worried about the two breaking up, that they fail to enjoy the other’s company. This just might create the tension that will lead to a breakup. Or a coworker who is so worried that they will be laid off in the near future that they are unable to give the necessary focus and effort to their job. This might lead to a decrease in their productivity and work, as well as their attitude and interactions with their coworkers. This seems a bit ironic to me–and perhaps a bit sad at the same time.

I think it is also important to note that others tend to enjoy the company of people who are active and enjoying the present moment. Being active in the present allows us to elevate that moment to a much higher level, which in turn allows others to enjoy it much more easily as well. Being engaged in the present also frees you from the worries and stress inherent in the unknowns of the future.

There are times in our lives where preparation is necessary and beneficial so that we can enjoy ourselves–saving up money for retirement, workouts, and practices with the team prior to a hockey game, or planning a vacation to visit family this coming yuletide. But when we spend too much time focused on things that may happen and ways to prevent mere possibilities from becoming reality, we squander those quality moments that we could be having right here, and right now. Do you waste sunshine?

Go out and do something that requires you to live in the present moment today.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many people fear disasters in their futures when they have actually experienced no real disasters at all?

What effect does focusing on preparing for the future have on our present moments?

How can we recognize when we’re preparing for rainy days instead of enjoying this sunny day?

For further thought:

“Worry not about the possible troubles of the future; for if they come, you are but anticipating and adding to their weight; and if they do not come, your worry is useless; and in either case it is weak and in vain, and a distrust of God’s providence.” ~ Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres

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Be Of Good Cheer

“Let us be of good cheer, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never happen.” ~ James Russell Lowell … 

I used to waste many hours of my days stressing out, worrying, and trying to avoid things that never actually came to be. As a boy, I would worry what my friends would think of me. And in high school I would worry about not living up to others expectations in sports, or even possibly breaking a bone or suffering a catastrophic injury. I spent countless hours agonizing things that never happened or were just plain silly.

Life will have its calamities and misfortunes for us, most of which we can surmise will never come to pass. Still it is in our nature to desire to look ahead in life–to try to be aware of what may be in our future. Doing this, though, can be very unhealthy and dangerous for us, for it adds unnecessary stress and misery into our lives. Often times, this additional stress causes more issues with our health that in turn bring about more stress. At times I still find myself reminding my wife of this fact when she gets stuck in the cycle of stressing out over something she has little control over–or is simply a terrible possibility that is not likely to occur–and causing herself heartburn and other issues. Sometimes our symptoms and misfortunes are merely in our heads.

If I keep a good spirit about myself–a sense of cheer and humor–I can learn quite a lot from my misfortunes. They are something I am going to experience, and I have dealt with them before so I know I can handle them. I have lost friends and family, I have had a flat tire on the road, I have spilled food on my shirt during a date (and still do)… and I have dealt with these things. But it is the misfortunes that never happen that needlessly harm me–these are the ones that I do not need to dwell upon, for they will never provide anything of value for me.

If there is something on your mind that you cannot control or may not happen, tell yourself you will not let it worry you and remove it from your thoughts for today.

Questions to consider:

How does it happen that so many people suffer from misfortunes that never really happen?

What are some ways of recognizing when we are stressing about something that probably is not going to come to pass?

What are some of the ways to deal with it when we are focused on non-existent misfortunes?

For further thought:

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.” ~ Mark Twain, Mark Twain on Common Sense

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