Monthly Archives: January 2017

Do Things At The Right Time

“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.” ~ Walter Bagehot, Physics and Politics … 

Life is filled with endless things to do–things that should be done, things that need to be done, and things that have to be done. Of course, it is easy for me to find excuses for not doing many of these things, or even just procrastinating and finding excuses for doing them at some other time. And yet some things may require our immediate attention–the grieving family member or friend that needs someone to talk to, housework and yardwork that has been accumulating and needs completing, friendships and relationships that need tending to, and any other necessary thing that is not getting done without our involvement.

Continual learning is essential to our health; it helps us to grow, mature, and come to a deeper understanding of life. And as we deepen in our understanding of life, we begin to come to a greater realization that some things just have to be done whether we want to do them or not, and there is no use in sitting back and expecting someone else to do them. Perhaps someone will eventually make it around to doing them, but most likely they will never be done. And the ramifications of not doing those things that require our immediate attention can be huge and reach far beyond ourselves–not leaving abusive or destructive relationships, not dealing with a harmful addiction, extreme disregard or neglect at work, or any number of similar scenarios.

I am sure we all can think of a time in which we were involved in a group project and a few individuals in the group did almost no work at all. Of course, that meant that the rest of the group had to step up and take on the additional work. When we fail to contribute, participate, or do what is required of us, we are often faced with failure–not just for ourselves, but for everyone involved.

Our experiences in life are determined by the choices we make. And when we choose to do the things that are necessary and required of us, we actively participate in living our lives to the fullest. And then, when we are faced with difficulties, hardships, grief, and potential failures, we can work on being able to see where things are not going well and allow ourselves the opportunity to plan and compensate for such things, which can lead to future successes and much greater happiness. It can also help us to recognize situations that are very hard to face, but that we know we must face, understand the consequences involved, and then make the prudent decision to act.

Do what needs to be done today, no excuses, no delays.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of situations do you tend to avoid facing? Why?

When was the last time you did something that absolutely had to be done, even though you didn’t want to do it? How did doing it make you feel?

How does education relate to doing things that must be done in your life?

For further thought:

“Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know; it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave. And the true “compulsory education” which the people now ask of you is not catechism, but drill. It is not teaching the youth of England the shapes of letters and the tricks of numbers; and then leaving them to turn their arithmetic to roguery, and their literature to lust. It is, on the contrary, training them into the perfect exercise and kingly continence of their bodies and souls. It is a painful, continual, and difficult work; to be done by kindness, by watching, by warning, by precept, and by praise,–but above all–by example.” ~ John Ruskin, The Complete Works of John Ruskin

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We Have Power To

“If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?” ~ Stephen Levine … 

At this very moment, we all have someone who we need to express our love and affection to, share our forgiveness and compassion with, or perhaps just let know how much we care. For many of us, this one phone call would be to someone whom we love, someone close to us such as a spouse, soul mate, or significant other. For others, it might be someone we have not talked to in years or fell out of contact with, perhaps a close family member that we fought with years ago and are not on speaking terms anymore, yet wish to find closure with. And yet regardless of who we might wish to call, Stephen’s words bring up one of the most important questions that we can ever ask ourselves: what words remain unsaid between us and those individuals in our lives that we love most dearly? And for what possible reason does it remain unsaid? Is it anger, pride, or jealousy? Or possibly fear, uncertainty, or principle? Perhaps it is something as simple as assuming that the other person already knows what we would say, or that we are waiting for them to say it first.

The first time I heard of this saying, it moved me in a powerful way. I was a new father, and a lot of changes were going on in my life–changes that made it easy to get caught up in my own personal issues and feelings. I found that thinking about what I was not saying to those I love, that I needed to say, was a wonderful reminder of the importance of family and loved ones in my life, and helped me to regain my perspective. Even today, it still has the ability to move me in very powerful ways–to remind me to share my feelings and emotions, to be there for those who are most important to me and to allow them to be there for me, and to immerse myself in the bonds of humanity we all share.

When we are confronted with our own mortality and the thought of impending death, and we are challenged to think of one person we wish to speak with before that time, we are offered a beautiful sense of clarity. Such questions force us to think of examine our lives and our relationships in much simpler ways than we otherwise tend to do, and add a sense of urgency that squashes any excuse we may have embraced towards keeping things left unsaid–anger, fear, pride, jealousy, or even the possibility of being ridiculed or misunderstood.

We have the power to change lives with words of kindness, compassion, love, forgiveness, mercy, and friendship, but we have to be willing to speak such words. In addition, not a single one of us knows if we will have the opportunity to say the things that need saying tomorrow. And so, a single phone call, could perhaps be the most important one we will ever make–not just for us, but also for the recipient of our call. And what if we could do the same thing each month, or as often as necessary? How might our lives change?

Reach out to someone with whom you have something positive that needs to be said.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many people leave things unsaid forever, until it’s far too late to say them? Do you want to be one of those people?

Whom could you call right now with a message to brighten up that person’s life in a small way?

Why do we so often think that sharing important ideas is risky? What are we afraid of?

For further thought:

“You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.” ~ Joan Baez, Daybreak

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Being Part Of The Universe

“We are all collectively bonded to each other while on Earth, united in this one supreme purpose: to learn to love one another.” ~ Betty Jean Eadie, Embraced by the Light … 

It is a beautiful thought: to be collectively bonded to each other in the supreme purpose to love one another in this life. However, as with much of life, such a concept is not as easy as it sounds. What about those whom we consider unlovable–perhaps dishonest individuals, cheats, thieves, or those who disagree with us or talk bad about us? What about our enemies? Would I be able to feel such a bond with individuals who have killed innocent people? And how easy is it for me to not only love others but to also allow them to love me? Could I allow my inner self to be exposed to the masses, or is such a bond too frightening? For many, these questions may not have easy answers, for they may have deep wounds that still need healing. But the truth is that our lives are intricately woven together in so many ways, and the only way in which humanity will ever reach its amazing potential is through embracing and growing the love that we have and give to each other–physically in our actions, emotionally in our hearts, intellectually in our words, and spiritually in our prayers.

In our search for purpose and meaning in our lives, perhaps it is as simple as Betty tells us here–being aware of the common bonds of humanity we each share. After all, we all go through life in the same fashion–as children who grow older year after year; and we all have similar experiences–difficulties and accomplishments, sorrows and joys, feelings and emotions. Thus, we all have a lot to learn and to share with each other. And if this is truly our purpose in life–our purpose for being here on this planet–then we certainly are not doing that good a job of it. Of course, we are not entirely at fault, for most of us were never taught that the main purpose in life is to love others, or how to go about fulfilling such a purpose. In addition, in the pursuit of power, wealth, and fame, societies and cultures often tend to push us towards more selfish goals in life as they pursue our attention, our time, and our money. Yet this is the very thing that lifts us up to our highest potential, this is what fulfills us both as human and spiritual beings.

That is why being a contributing part of the tapestry of humanity is such an important aspect of our lives–our separateness is merely an illusion that robs us of all the beauty and richness that others might add into our lives, and we into theirs, and it prevents us from discovering the necessary pieces to our puzzle–that we can only receive from others–so that we might become complete and whole. And though it might be easy for us to love our siblings and our close family, for we generally grew up together, how can we come to show that same love to those who do not normally fit our bill of love–perhaps our neighbors, our coworkers, those in nursing homes and hospitals, or those in prison and other confined places? We may not feel the same connection with the food carrier riding a bicycle around in New Delhi as we do with our spouses, our children, our siblings, and our parents, and yet, that food carrier in New Delhi, or that person sleeping in a cardboard box, or that person living in a nursing home, or that person living right across the street from us, has been living on this very same planet all their lives, and they have been affected by many of the same things as we have–perhaps even affected by us. And we do not need to know the source of that connection to love those individuals, because chances are, they are in our lives for a reason.

We were created to be big… not small. And the best way in which we can do so is to make giving and receiving love the highest priority in our lives. It does not take much. But it is a choice that must be made each day of our lives. And it does not have to be all of the time; in fact, it will not be all the time. However, it should be as often as we are able; for each time we seek to love and be loved, we add to the total sum of love in the world.

Spend some time getting to know someone whom you do not know all that well.

Questions to consider:

Why do most of us shy from the idea of showing love to “strangers?”

What are some of the bonds that keep us connected to our fellow human beings who are here on this planet? What about our bonds with the plants and animals?

How might we safely show love to others without putting ourselves at unnecessary or undue risk?

For further thought:

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest–a kind of optical illusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and foundation for inner security.” ~  Albert Einstein, quoted from a letter of condolence to Norman Salit, 1950

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True Love Is Unconditional. Anything Else Is Just Approval

“Love is never earned. It is a grace we give one another. Anything we need to earn is only approval. Few perfectionists can tell the difference between love and approval. Perfectionism is so widespread in this culture that we actually have had to invent another word for love. “Unconditional love,” we say. Yet, all love is unconditional. Anything else is just approval.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom 10th Anniversary … 

What is meant when we say “unconditional love?” Can it possibly exist? And if so, how can one actually expect to qualify it or to do so accurately? Perhaps you are thinking, “Well, if there are conditions placed on the love we extend others… then it is not unconditional love.” However, I think Rachel hits the nail on the head here–all love that is true… is unconditional, for love is “a grace we give one another.” Anything else is not love and needs to have another name. And the idea of giving it any other name seems more like an effort for us to justify not loving some individuals or groups while loving others.

The difference between love and conditional love is perhaps best contrasted in the love between a child and parent. When a parent places conditions on their love, or only tends to show it when certain conditions are met, the child correlate love with perfectionism–a disorder that makes people so tied to outcomes that they have to try to control all of the processes that lead to those outcomes. After all, here the child is simply trying to gain approval by imitating the perfectionism being displayed by the parent, who is essentially trying to get the child to talk, act, and do things in certain ways. The problem, of course, is that the message of love being received is, “I will love you as long as long as I approve of all that you do.”

The relationships we build and maintain have the ability to add to the beautiful tapestry of humanity. But that involves us extending compassion and love to all those we meet and treating them as we wish to be treated ourselves. It means allowing others to be their own unique selves and not expecting them to say, do, or act in certain ways, and getting to know them as the truly are as opposed to how we want them to be. And it requires us to share real love with others, not just our approval.

Let go of all the expectations you hold of those you love.

Questions to consider:

What to you is the difference between “love” and “unconditional love?”

Why might we have stopped sharing unconditional love with the other human beings who are part of our lives?

What are some of the main characteristics of perfectionists? Do any of those characteristics fit you?

For further thought:

“He finds Himself more perfectly in us than we find ourselves. He alone holds the secret of a charity by which we can love others not only as we love ourselves, but as He loves them. The beginning of this love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” ~ Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

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Practice Patience

“Patience is never wasted; patience is a process through which a soul passes and becomes precious. Souls who have risen above the world’s limitations and sorrows, the world’s falseness and deception, they are the souls who have passed through patience.” ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan … 

I have heard it said before that patience is a virtue. In fact, in the poem Psychomachia, written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius in 410 A.D., patience is one of the seven heavenly virtues that oppose the seven deadly sins. And the fact that it has been held to such great importance throughout much of our documented history is perhaps a good indication of how necessary and powerful it is towards the health of our body and soul.

For most of my life, I always considered patience an issue of personality–one is either a patient person, or has a higher degree of patience than most, or they are impatient. However, age and children have helped me to see things closer to how Hazrat sees them here–that patience is more of a spiritual matter… and if I wish to develop it, experience it, and share it with others, then I have to recognize and accept that patience is within my reach.

Another aspect of patience that I was misled about is that it is a choice of the mind–that it is chosen or obtained through intellect and logic. I often thought that I could convince myself to be patient in situations, even when challenged by other’s words or actions. However, the mind alone cannot obtain or keep such peace–it can only exist in the still waters of our hearts. Thus, as Hazrat tells us here, patience is in the realm of our spirits. And when I think about it in such a way, it only makes sense, as nearly all of the people I know who are truly patient are very spiritual as well.

And for us to experience a deeper measure of patience in our lives, all we really need to do is become more conscious of our feelings and our actions and to let our spirits guide us and assume a greater level of control over us. That way, during those times in which we find ourselves failing others–employing impatience when the opportunity for peace, mercy, and sufferance is available to us–perhaps we could simply ask ourselves, “What would I do if my eternal soul were fully in charge instead of my intellect?”

As physical beings, we will always have the tendency to trust our logic and our intellect when it comes to making decisions, and that is ok–our minds are wonderful and important gifts that provide for us a wealth of understanding. Yet there is another part of our beings available to us to help in making decisions–that “still, strong voice within” that can help us to be in touch with the eternal spiritual element of our being that is actually the very core of who we are.

Practice patience today, peace, mercy, and sufferance–that which is the opposite of wrath.

Questions to consider:

Why do most of us trust our logic and reason over our spirits?

How might we start to allow our spirits to play a greater role in all that we do in our lives?

How might you recognize when your spirit is leading you to a certain action versus your reason leading you there?

For further thought:

“Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather, it is “timing;” it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.” ~ Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ

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Connect With The World Around You

“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.” ~ Eleonora Duse … 

As a child, I spent the majority of my days outdoors–swimming, riding my bicycle, roaming the pastures, playing down by the field and tracks. Yet ever since I moved to the city, I find that I do not make it outside as often, perhaps only to exercise or do gardenwork; for as you may already know, being surrounded by the buildings, the noise, the people, and busyness of the city, it is easy to forget all about nature and the world all around us until we happen through a park or take a vacation. And since I spend most of my time indoors somewhere, my connection with nature has become a precarious one at best. However, I am working on that, and when I do have a moment to immerse myself in nature, I try to make the most of it and concentrate on forging a connection with the world around me.

And for many of us, this is not even an issue. Most are fine with how things are or already feel that our connection with the world around us is well enough. Often times this is because we have never truly experienced or felt the benefits of such a deep connection. The problem with this mindset, however, is that looking at things in such a way can lead to complacency and stagnation in our lives and in our souls. Eleonora hints towards the presence of this connection as an indication of the state of our spirits: the further we drift from the natural elements of this world, the shallower our lives become.

Our connection with all things is directly related to our experiences in life–the more we are able to connect with the world around us, the fuller our lives become. And when we are able to spend growing and nourishing that connection–recognizing it, feeling it, and appreciating it every day of our lives–it becomes an endless stream that can feed our souls even in the worst droughts. The cool rain or crisp autumn air can remind us that even when the heat becomes miserable… we are alive; and the world around us is alive as well and teeming with God’s presence and glory. Do not miss out on this. Find it, forge it, strengthen it, and share it with those around you.

Take some time to connect with the world around you.

Questions to consider:

How do many of us lose the ability to be awed and amazed at the natural world?

What do you most appreciate about the “simple things of nature?”

What does it mean to you to have a soul that is alive?

For further thought:

“He who understands nature walks close with God.” ~ Edgar Cayce, The Edgar Cayce Companion

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Leave The Door To The Unknown Ajar

“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.” ~ R.I. Fitzhenry … 

If I wish to live my life more fully–to be more productive and give back positively–then I certainly could use more sparks of creativity and less boredom. And these sparks of creativity are most often created by uncertainty and the unknown, through discernment, exploration, and discovery. That is why the mysteries of life are such powerful energies for us. As a matter of fact, some of the most dynamic people I have met have been individuals who embrace uncertainty–who are willing to pursue the unknown, to swim against the waves of doubt and uncertainty, and put themselves into situations in which they have no idea of the outcomes.

Most of us fear uncertainty–we want to have some measure of security, control, and comfort in our lives. But if we always do the same old thing simply for the sake of knowing the outcomes, our lives will eventually give way to boredom and we will come to find ourselves feeling unfulfilled, discontent, and wanting. And because we are not living life in its entirety–only doing things in which we already know the outcomes–we will never truly experience things such as creativity, spontaneity, and risk. In addition, it is not even certain that we can be in control of any given outcome anyway–we may take the same routes to and from work each day, bet we can not guarantee that they will be safe, or be efficient and timely.

So much of our lives are filled with uncertainty–jobs, vocations, relationships, places we live, investments, even the results of actions such as the sharing of our thoughts and emotions. Yet this is the substance of life, it is what life is all about–growth and change. Just like trees during the seasons of the year, sometimes life gives us signs that it wants us to move on to something new, to let our leaves fall away to the ground as we prepare for the next chapter of life.

Learning and growth come from taking the unknown paths. So what if we do not know what lies down them, we owe it to ourselves to challenge ourselves to become the best version of ourselves possible. That means listening to the spark of creativity found in mystery and uncertainty. After all, the mysteries of life give us a vitality that doing the same things repeatedly cannot give to us; they are necessary catalysts and inspirational elements of life that drive our lives towards purpose and meaning. And if things do ever become difficult, we can always come up with new ways to deal with the problems and the issues. And if we are to make the most of these lives that we have been given, then it is up to us to search them out and take them on.

Allow for some spontaneity today, perhaps a change of plans.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the elements of mystery and uncertainty that cause us to be intimidated by them?

What kinds of signs show us clearly that it might be time for us to take on uncertainty head-on?

What are some of the attractive thoughts that keep us from heading into uncertain situations?

For further thought:

“I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain. . . . In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.” ~ Richard P. Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

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