Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Heart That Goes Out Of Itself

“Beautiful it is to see and understand that no worth, known or unknown, can die even in this earth. The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.” ~ Thomas Carlyle, The Works of Thomas Carlyle … 

It can be discouraging and frustrating when others fail to notice the good that we do for them in their lives, especially when so much of it is never seen or recognized and remains concealed beneath the surface like “water flowing hidden underground.” Or perhaps we are tired or disheartened, hurting or afraid, lost or alone, and things are not going that well in our lives. Tapping into our reserves to provide for others seems like an incredibly difficult thing, especially when the supply appears limited. But the good we pour forth into the lives of others makes this world a much more beautiful place, overflowing back onto us and helping to fill our cup as well, and no joy or kindness, no single act or word that giving and dually received, is insignificant or meaningless; the world needs us all to contribute positively to it–to make the ground green for others living here.

As Thomas points out, the work we do that is unknown to others nourishes everyone and everything around us… and it does so secretly. The beauty of such work is that it remains authentic in purpose and form, for once we seek recognition for a good act we commit, the act changes. No longer is it motivated by the desire to do good–of pure giving–but is now also motivated by the desire for accolades–of also receiving in return. And once that is the case, the substance of the act changes, and we are now faced with the prospect of not receiving the reaction that we desire and seek, which sets up for feeling awful, or even worse, attempting to make others feel awful because they did not react how we had hoped they would.

The world needs us to do good work for others because they need us and are counting on us. Such good works must continue on regardless of whether we receive compliments or acknowledgment of our contributions, or whether we are frustrated or afraid, for the green ground can only remain so with the nourishment of us. And the lack of such acknowledgment or praise does not diminish our work in any way.

Perform a good work that contributes positively to the life of someone else, and do so secretly.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often want to be recognized for the good things that we have done when we have done them?

What kinds of good things have you done recently, for which you have received no acknowledgment?

Whom do you know who does good things for people without asking for recognition? How do those people approach life?

For further thought:

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one’s self. We must be purposely kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence. The heart that goes out of itself gets large, and full of joy. This is the great secret of the inner life. We do ourselves the most good doing something for others.” ~ Horace Mann


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Self Awareness

“We will never be spiritual until we give up trying, and become aware that we are already spiritual.” ~ Walter Starcke, Homesick For Heaven: You Don’t Have to Wait … 

Here we are confronted with another seeming paradox of life: the harder we search for spirituality outside of ourselves, the further we come to find ourselves from it. Yet this often times seems to be the way of growth in life–we feel we are missing or lacking something, and so we develop the desire to pursue it, find it, and gain it. But as with so many of the deeper lessons in life, that which we seek is already within us, and we are simply ignorant to notice it or too preoccupied with other things to even bother looking for it.

I always like to remind myself that I am a spiritual being trying to be human, not a human trying to be spiritual–the time I spend in this human body is but a short experience, an infinitesimal step in my progression through eternity. And it is because we are these eternal creatures that our desire to seek out our spirituality exists–it is natural and essential to our happiness and our sense of purpose in life. Many of us have already felt or sensed this connection within us–the feeling that there is much more to who we are and what our lives are about that simply existing. The source of such feelings comes from being aware of our own spirituality–of knowing that there is more to us than our physical bodies–the vanity and the ailments–and more to us than the emotional and intellectual aspects of ourselves–the responsibilities, the worries, the desires, the knowledge, the beliefs.

A more logical way for me to view this would be for me to look at my intrinsic characteristics. I have no need to search out my nationality or my gender, for I already know this information, it is a part of me, just as my spirituality is. Perhaps I can strengthen it and develop it, but there really is no need to “become” spiritual, only to become aware that I am a spirit, and a need to accept that part of who I am. At that point, I no longer need to discover how to become spiritual, but instead, can find new and powerful ways in which I can use my spirituality–fostering and developing it, sharing it with others, and allowing it to be at the core of my words, thoughts, and actions.

Our spirituality does not have to remain a mystery–we can seek to deepen our understanding of those spiritual connections every day of our lives. But it requires us to seek with an open heart and mind, seeing the eternal truths that are already a part of who we are, that have always been there with us even before we were born into this life.

Spend some time in solitude listening to your spiritual self.

Questions to consider:

Why do we often find it hard to acknowledge our spirituality?

How do you define “spiritual?”

What kinds of things might you do to try to develop the spiritual side of yourself?

For further thought:

“Spirituality is a flower with a thousand petals: every act, every thought, every talk, every movement of our heart is a part of it.” ~ Robert Muller

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Take Bold New Steps

“What is the use of going right over the old track again? There is an adder in the path which your own feet have worn. You must make tracks into the Unknown.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, The Writings of Henry David Thoreau … 

Although many of us prefer the safety of “going over the old tracks,” life is meant to be a daring adventure. After all, we cannot expect to truly learn and grow if we avoid challenging ourselves on new journeys of discovery; if we follow the paths we have already taken, there will be little more to discover. And yet, if we were honest with ourselves, how often have we stopped to look at the paths we were taking in life, and then made a decision to try something new and different–seldom do we turn our sights down new and exciting paths in which our feet have not yet worn before.

For much of my younger years, I seemed to prefer safety to fulfillment, at least in the broader sense. I held a number of jobs that had well-defined expectations and rarely required me to expand my abilities, to challenge myself, or to step outside of my comfort zone. Even many of my past relationships had similar underpinnings–I looked for women who accepted me as I was, who never made me feel uncomfortable or challenged my beliefs and ideas. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but I was partially doing so because I enjoyed the comfort and safety of the known, and these certainly did not help to foster or cultivate a drive to spread my wings and fly in new directions.

Of course, life can be scary, especially when we do not know the future, and by following the paths that our own feet–or the feet of others–have worn helps to take away some of the fear and uncertainty associated with journeying into the unknown. When we do so, however, we must also be aware of everything we are giving up on or losing out on–the chance for new and exciting discovery, to learn and to grow in dynamic and powerful ways, the opportunity to follow our hearts and to perhaps realize our dreams. And we must also understand the lessons that we are teaching our children and younger generations about avoiding the “Unknown,” and that it is not worth taking calculated risks in life.

Go in forth on new and exciting paths with all certainty and determination that Henry speaks of here.

Questions to consider:

What is the most frightening aspect of taking off in unexplored directions?

Why do we tend to stay on the trails that already have been blazed?

What kinds of opportunities do you have to blaze new trails in your life today. They are there–but where?

For further thought:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~ Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

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Our Capacity To Care

“I believe that every person must act according to the dictates of his conscience. I feel the capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance and meaning.” ~ Pau Casals … 

As pieces of the whole collective of humanity, our “capacity to care” is vital–we are all interdependent upon each other for so much in life. But as Pau points out, our ability to care for others also produces a deep and profound significance to life. By caring about others, we give ourselves the opportunity to add positively to the life of others, and in the process, add much more meaning and purpose to our own.

Some may view caring for others as a risk–if they care about someone or something, then that person or thing has the potential to hurt them. But this hurt that we typically associate as coming from others, actually comes from us, from our care, concern, and reactions to the things that they do and say. Many times it is our reactions that are the very things that hurt us and harm us the most.

Our ability to help others requires very little which we do not already have, most of it is choice and effort. For not only are we each capable of caring, we are also able to share that caring–to tell others how much we genuinely care for them, to show our love and concern, and to be there for them with an empathetic heart, a listening ear, and a supportive embrace.

Our care and concern for each other is what enriches our lives–our being kind to others not only impacts their lives in positive and fruitful ways, but also brings goodness and joy into our own. And the capacity to do so already exists in you and me. Perhaps it may require some learning, growing, developing, and understanding to put it into practice, and that is ok; for in doing so, we allow ourselves to give the wonderful gift of caring to those who may need it desperately–which just might be one of the greatest gifts that we can give to ourselves as well.

Allow yourself to feel deep care and concern for those in your life.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the reasons that we tend to hold back our caring?

What are the things and who are the people you care most about? Do you let that feeling of caring be known?

Why isn’t caring a more prominent subject of conversation and discussion in our culture?

For further thought:

“Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness.” ~ Rabbi Harold Kushner, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough

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Be Grateful

“If you can’t be thankful for what you receive, be thankful for what you escape.” ~ unattributed, found in Little Gems of Wisdom by J.D. Kroft … 

It is easy for us to notice the things we have received–especially those things that are tangible and of value. It is also easy for us to give attention to the things we have not received but perhaps hoped for—our goals, dreams, and ambitions. However, it is much harder for us to keep in mind all those things from which we have escaped–harmful things, hurtful things, difficult things that would burden have burdened our hearts and minds–and to feel a deep sense of gratitude that we have been spared such suffering, that those things have not been a part of our lives.

And although our problems may outweigh the thankfulness within our minds at times and we may have great difficulty feeling a sense of gratitude for what we have–especially when it seems like it is not quite enough–if we are able to keep in mind the difficulties and obstacles that we have escaped, and feel a sense of appreciation for having avoided their presence, we can increase the positive and reduce the influence that those problems can have on our hearts and minds and in our lives.

Anything and everything can be seen through the eyes of thankfulness; this is such a wonderful blessing as we can never have too much gratitude in our lives. And once we begin to see things around us through this lens, even the pains and suffering, the difficulties and hardships, begin to have a deeper meaning and hold powerful potential for growth in our lives. Several years ago I experienced a major ankle injury that made it very difficult for me to run. As a result, I gained a valuable perspective on being thankful for the health and abilities that I possess, and the things I am blessed with in my life. The experience has also helped me to be more thankful for the things I have escaped. The fact that I do still have my legs and arms that give me the mobility to get around easily, and my eyes and ears that provide me with a priceless view of the beauty and sound here on this Earth, are all things to be immensely thankful for, and I try to remember to be grateful for these things as I awake each morning.

Having gratitude for the blessings in our lives is always a wonderful thing; and feeling grateful for the things we have avoided is equally powerful and uplifting–the fire, tornado, hurricane, or earthquake that did not destroy our house, the illnesses that we have not had, the difficulties and losses that we have been spared. There is an abundant amount of gratitude wrapped up in these things, much like a gift, if we will simply allow them to enter into our hearts and minds each day.

Take a moment to reflect with gratitude on some of the hardship, adversity, and suffering you have escaped in your life recently.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things have not happened to you for which you can be grateful?

Why do we so rarely think about things that have not happened to us as things for which we should be thankful?

How might we remind ourselves of the things we have avoided?

For further thought:

“Even though we can’t have all we want, we ought to be thankful we don’t get what we deserve.” ~ unattributed, found in Celebrating Life – Moving Forward With Purpose by Tonya Merriweather Gipson

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Thankfulness Is A Virtue

“Keep a grateful journal. Every night, list five things that happened this day that you are grateful for. What it will begin to do is change your perspective of your day and your life. If you can learn to focus on what you have, you will always see that the universe is abundant; you will have more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.” ~ Oprah Winfrey … 

When we appreciate something in our lives it generally becomes easy for us to take that thing for granted simply because we tend to forget just how valuable it is to us and how much we appreciate it. Being the forgetful person that I am, I generally need constant reminders to keep focused on gratitude, for as the day passes by, and new challenges, tasks, and experiences present themselves, I tend to lose sight of many of the nice things from earlier. Yet when I take the time to remind myself that there are things in my life for which I am truly grateful–a daily routine, meditation, prayer, note, journal, or something that brings my focus on the blessings I have available to me right now–I recognize how rich my life is, even in the midst of all the noise, busyness, and confusion.

Another important aspect of the day is maintaining my focus and constantly being aware of when it begins to stray. By seeking to change my negative perspectives into more positive outlooks and attitudes, I keep a higher level of clarity in my life which paints a much more accurate picture of what is going right and helps me to better see the blessings even in the midst of the hurdles and difficulties. So often, we tend to get so focused on the bad things that a refreshing perspective–taking a moment to create a simple list of the goodness and beauty that is real and tangible in our lives–can be all that is necessary to spark positive change.

All that Oprah is suggesting here is an active engagement in our lives instead of the passive approach we so often fall back to. When we are content to simply let life pass us by, we live unaware of what is actually happening all around us–a form of merely existing and not living. But life rewards action, and our perspectives can only grow more abundant if we actively use them and expand them.

Life is made up of a series of todays. And the positive outlooks and attitudes we embrace can have just as much of an effect on the moments of our life as what actually happens in those moments. When we are able to change our perspective on the current day we are living, our perspective on life begins to shift as well, and we open ourselves up to new and exciting opportunities for growth and change, knowledge and understanding, and purpose and fulfillment.

Make a list of ten things that you are grateful for.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things do you have in your life today for which you can be grateful if you choose to be?

How many positive things slip by us without our acknowledgment that they are, indeed, things for which to be grateful?

Why do so few of us take an active approach to our lives?

For further thought:

“Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that thankfulness is indeed virtue. Gratitude is something we very much need to show.” ~ William J. Bennett, Moral Compass

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Gratitude Breeds Success

“The people who are successful are those who are grateful for everything they have. . . . Giving thanks for what we have always opens the door for more to come, and ungratefulness always closes the door.” ~ Alan Cohen … 

In nearly every aspect of life, the more we put into things, the more we get out of them; the more we give, the more we get. This is in part a result of the law of attractions which states that we attract what we put out into the world–love begets more love, and forgiveness brings forth mercy, healing, and compassion. And when we bring joy into the lives of others, we find happiness ourselves. The same can be said, however, for the negative things we put out into the world, they bleed out into our own lives causing hurt, pain, and scars.

By showing gratitude, we “open the door for more to come,” for its power is multiplicative and far-reaching. And when we allow ourselves to feel thankful for the people, things, and situations in our lives, we acknowledge that we are indeed a blessing to us and that they are an important and meaningful part of our lives.

There will, of course, be times in our lives when things will not go how we had hoped or planned, and that is ok. For even during those difficult periods, there always are–and always will be–many positive aspects to our lives–our family, friends, career, possessions, health, living situations, activities, and so much more. We just have to allow ourselves to look beyond the negative and remain thankful and positive for all the blessings that are present. This gratitude keeps the door open for more positive things to enter in–our gratitude and appreciation set us up to receive those positive things, so that when they finally do come, we are ready to receive them.

Success is a by-product of gratefulness. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful realities of our lives, for once we begin to make active gratitude an important part of our day, we discover that we have opened the door to additional success, joy, love, happiness, and so much more for which we can be grateful.

Take the time to find authentic gratitude for the things in your life.

Questions to consider:

How do you see the relationship between gratitude and success?

Why do so many of us allow gratitude to take a back seat in our lives?

What do you have in your life right now for which you can be grateful, but for which you have not realized or shown that gratitude?

For further thought:

“A grateful mind is a great mind, which eventually attracts to itself great things.” ~ Plato

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