Category Archives: Food For Thought

Be receptive to the potential and opportunity available to you in each of the moments of your day.

“It’s not that “today is the first day of the rest of my life,” but that now is all there is of my life.” ~ Hugh Prather …

It can be easy to get caught up in the perpetual game of telling ourselves over and over that “today is the day I am going to change my life and become a better person.” In those rare cases in which we do just that, it is wonderful, but more often than not, we fallback into our old habits. Hugh, however, is offering us something that is much more pressing and powerful than the hope for change–he is reminding us that right now is the only time we have in our lives that is guaranteed… and that is real motivation.

Personally, I do not have any problem with the concept, but I can see Hugh’s point quite clearly–the more we stay focused on what we are going to do with the rest of our lives, the less we allow ourselves to commit to living the present moment for all that it is worth. In truth, Hugh is right, “Now is all there is of my life.” My next moment, ten minutes from now, even two weeks from now–none of these are guaranteed. And what happens a month from today is virtually out of my control. What is going to happen will happen, and I may be able to influence it, but I certainly cannot control it.

Life is simply a series of “nows.” And the present moment, lived fully with enthusiasm, love, attention, and awareness, truly is all there is of our lives. Once it is done, it will be replaced by another, and on and on. And how we live them depends on us. Of course, it is important that we plan and prepare for the future–finances, health, retirement, and so forth–yet even that is accomplished through present moments.

Stay focused on the present moment. Right now, you have the entire world full of possibilities at your disposal. If you decide that you want to travel around the world, you have the potential to do so, if you spend your nows preparing for it and raising the money for it. If you want a stronger relationship, then you can spend your nows improving that relationship. If you want a better job, you can spend your nows learning more about your work and improving your performance. But please, do not waste the present moment by putting your focus on some future moment that may or may not get here.

Be receptive to the potential and opportunity available to you in each of the moments of your day.

Questions to consider:

What resources are available to you right here, right now?

How might you improve your experience of the now? How might you get more out of each present moment as it arrives?

Why do so few people keep their minds, their hearts, and their attention on right now?

For further thought:

“Many people live as if life were a dress rehearsal for some later date. It isn’t. In fact, no one has a guarantee that he or she will be here tomorrow. Now is the only time we have, and the only time that we have any control over. When our attention is in the present moment, we push fear from our minds… Practice keeping your attention on the here and now. Your efforts will pay great dividends.” ~ Richard Carlson

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Become completely absorbed in the moment at least once.

“If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh …

The riches of life are ours to have–to experience in our own ways and on our own terms. Perhaps you can think of a time in which you were so caught up with what you were doing at the moment that you failed to notice time passing by? Maybe you thought an hour had gone by, but then looked at the clock and realized that hours had passed since you started. That is being absorbed, and at times it is a wonderful experience–knowing that you have been so focused on doing something well and doing it right that everything else simply dropped out of your mind.

I believe this is what Anne is impressing upon us here when she says “surrender to the moment.” She is encouraging us to focus completely on what this present moment in time is bringing to us, to live completely in whatever is happening around us as they pass us by. Perhaps this moment has brought us a conversation with someone–what would it be like to be completely involved in it, forgetting for the time being about what emails, texts, or likes we might have waiting for us on our cell phone? I am confident we would get more out of the conversation, and there is a good chance that the other individual will find our company much more important and of value.

As life gets more complex, it becomes all that much more difficult for us to become completely involved in the moment. And as the time we have available shrinks in direct correlation with the amount of stuff we have to deal with, we may find ourselves starting to multitask in day to day situations. For me, the result has led me to live partially in the moment throughout the day. I have had to make conscience decisions to turn off or mute my phone, turn off the television or radio, and set down the book or tablet, so that I can direct my attention to one thing, and become truly involved in the moment.

Do I listen when my wife needs to speak with me? Do I show concern when my children come to me with questions or worries? Do I truly recognize the moments in my life each day? If our goal is to live our lives more fully and richly, then we must start with the moments, for life is made up of moments.

Become completely absorbed in the moment at least once.

Questions to consider:

What do you think it means to “surrender completely to the moments as they pass”? Are you able to do so?

What are some ways that one can practice being fully involved in any given moment in his or her life?

Why do we choose to have so many distractions in our lives? Do they help us to live more fully what is in front of us here and now?

For further thought:

“Are you present in this moment, right here, right now? Or are you remembering what you didn’t do yesterday, thinking about what you have to do tomorrow, regretting what you did last week. If you are in any of these places, you are not here, right now in the fullness of this moment. The richness of the present is here. The fullness of now is present. If you are not here now, it means you could be missing the love, joy, peace and brand-new ideas that are here right now. Why not take a moment to gather yourself, to pull yourself together, to collect all of your thoughts and feelings in this time and place?” ~ Iyanla Vanzant

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Be present in each moment of the day–ready to take action and “sieze common occasions” to make them great.

“Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.” ~ Orison Swett Marden, Ambition and Success …

As a child, I would imagine all the extraordinary opportunities that lie in store for me much like selecting candy at a confectionery store. But most of these were grand in scale–becoming a quarterback in the NFL, making it as a famous musician or actor, or being an owner of a business. But what I have come to discover over the years is that there exist extraordinary opportunities all around me–every day, every moment–I just have to look for them and see them in the common and the ordinary and then make the decision to grasp them up.

Over the course of the continuous common occasions in my life, I have experienced some quite extraordinary things. I have had the blessed opportunity to be a father–to be there for my children and teach them about life, love, and most importantly God. I have encouraged others and have had the fortune of watching much of that encouragement leave a strong and positive on their lives. There have been moments when I was given the chance to spend time in life-changing discussions with people close to me, and chances to stand up for what I believe in. I have been able to go for profound walks around lakes on amazingly colorful autumn days; to sit down for a meal and conversation with family and friends near and dear to me.

This does not mean that we should not have grand dreams and aspirations. Sometimes the opportunities for such things simply do not exist at this point in our journey, but the conditions can surely present themselves to us at a later time. However, in the present time, we have the chance to do many sincere and genuine things that can turn the common into extraordinary–things that transform situations into fruitful endeavors and become unexpected gifts in our lives and the lives of those we interact with.

Imagine what might be possible if we were to resolve to offer each task the best we have today. The opportunities lie there in store us–there is always something going on that we can ordain special simply by realizing the effort to make it so.

Be present in each moment of the day–ready to take action and “sieze common occasions” to make them great.

Questions to consider:

What are some opportunities in your life right now for making common occasions very special?

Why do so many people wait for great opportunities? What effects does this have on them?

What does it mean to you to make a common occasion great?

For further thought:

“Jumping at several small opportunities may get us there more quickly than waiting for one big one to come along.” ~ Hugh Allen

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Let yourself sing today.

“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.” ~ Emory Austin …

Being grateful and joyful is something we must choose to do each day of our lives. Sure we might be struggling with sadness or depression, chronic pain in our body, loneliness, guilt, grief, mourning, or any number of negative emotions that are souring our day… depleting the music from our hearts. But our experiences in life–good or bad–are directly related to the attitudes that we embrace each day, and despite the difficulties we are faced with, life will continue on.

It is also important that we allow ourselves to put forth our best effort for the benefit of all those around us–especially all those we love and hold dear. They are counting on us. And even if we do not feel like singing, our songs are powerful and necessary in helping others to find their own voices and live their lives to the fullest.

Life is experienced through the journey, not the destination–it is composed of what we put into it, not what we take out of it. And there are countless ways in which we can improve that journey–fashion and shape the course of our days to be more purposeful and positive. They do not have to be grand in scale, and they surely should not be fabricated or forced; we should simply sing our authentic songs. If we are sad, sing a song that shares those feelings but does not dwell on the negative. If we are fearful, sing a song of fear, hope, and courage. If we are joyous, sing a song of gratitude for the blessings and beauty of life. By putting a voice to our feelings, we allow ourselves–and those around us–to hear them in ways that are helpful and fruitful.

As the sun comes up each new day, choose to robe yourself in song. Find that song for today. Embrace it. Love it. And share it with your whole heart and soul. Life is so much more enjoyable when there are songs to be sung and heard.

Let yourself sing today.

Questions to consider:

Why do we usually save singing for the times when we feel upbeat and positive? Would the blues ever have come about if everyone did so?

Can you list five songs that you really love, that you know the words to, and that can be helpful to you at different times.

Why do we tend to let our first feelings of the morning stick with us all day long?

For further thought:

“Those who wish to sing always find a song.” ~ Swedish proverb

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Radiate joy through your service to others.

“To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind.” ~ Pearl S. Buck …

There are many ways in which we serve others–as parents and guardians, through the course of our work, as a favor or a gesture of love, and sometimes even to step outside of our comfort zones. But how often is such service joyless or half-hearted? When we give of our time, talents, and energy, it takes a great deal of effort simply to do so, let alone to do so with love. But perhaps the correct way to look at our serving others is the giving of a valuable, limited resource of ours, and therefore in our giving, we should seek to experience the most from it by doing so wholeheartedly and letting the intrinsic joy of giving of ourselves fill our hearts and our lives.

One of the most valuable ways to focus on the beauty of service is to ask ourselves the question, “Why do I serve?” This immediately begins to filter out the motivations we have to serve others into selfless or selfish reasons. If I serve because I am looking for something in return, whether that is appreciation, praise, return favors, or anything of the such, then it is going to be very difficult for me to do so wholeheartedly and with authentic joy. Yet when I am able to open myself up to serve in ways that are more selfless–because it is necessary and good, or allows me to put my talents and gifts to good use, or because we want to share love and compassion and kindness with those whom we care about and know are deserving of our service. When we allow ourselves to serve selflessly, we begin to do so with passion and purpose–not because we feel obligated to, but because we truly want to.

Mother Teresa once said, “Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service. Try to give unconditionally whatever a person needs in the moment. The point is to do something, however small and show you care through your actions by giving your time. . . . We are all God’s children so it is important to share His gifts. Do not worry about why problems exist in the world–just respond to people’s needs. . . . We feel what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but that ocean would be less without that drop.”

We should take joy with us when we serve–sharing enthusiasm from the heart; such service will be beautiful in nature, and the recipients of our efforts will drink with us from our cup of joy–experiencing an overflowing heart of love. Such experiences surpass our normal day-to-day lives and become memories that we can forever cherish.

Radiate joy through your service to others.

Questions to consider:

Is service an obligation or an opportunity–or both?

Would you rather be served by someone who is joyful and upbeat, or someone who is giving their service a half-baked effort?

Where do your opportunities for service lie?

For further thought:

“The value of all service lies in the spirit in which you serve and not in the importance or magnitude of the service. Even the lowliest task or deed is made holy, joyous, and prosperous when it is filled with love.” ~ Charles Fillmore

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Gift the world in ways that only you have the ability to.

“This, I believe, is the great Western truth: that each of us is a completely unique creature and that, if we are ever to give any gift to the world, it will have to come out of our own experience and fulfillment of our own potentialities, not someone else’s.” ~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth …

Our uniqueness is a gift to be celebrated. After all, an awesome Creator designed us perfectly and purposefully, with attention to every detail. Furthermore, each of our unique gifts and talents are completely ours and ours alone, no one else can live the life that is only possible for us to live. And in realizing this truth, it is apparent that the single most important gift we can give to the world, must come from our hearts–out of “our own experience and fulfillment of our own potentialities.”

We are blessed, in this day and age, with many more ways in which we can give to the world and to the people and creatures in it. Had I been born even a century ago, my opportunities on how I might contribute would have been much more limited by my ability to travel, to communicate, and to build upon the current foundations we have available to us today. Right now, I have access to motor vehicles and airplanes that allow me to travel further, faster, cheaper, and more frequently. I have access to much better education and training, and an endless wealth of knowledge online. And I have the added bonus of building upon the wisdom of the past century.

Knowing these truths should have a profound impact on our lives… lives that were masterfully and intentionally created for us to fulfill. Accept your unique authenticity and always remain aware of your divine beauty. No other creature is like you, and no other creature holds the amazing potential that you alone do.

Gift the world in ways that only you have the ability to.

Questions to consider:

Do we all recognize and appreciate our own uniqueness? What might cause us not to do so?

What are some of your strongest gifts? How do you use them?

What kind of contribution can you make to the world today? How can you go about doing so?

For further thought:

“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment; we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straightaway. . . . And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness!” ~ Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

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Spend some time in the company of silence.

“We listen too much to the telephone and we listen too little to nature. The wind is one of my sounds. A lonely sound, perhaps, but soothing. Everybody should have his personal sounds to listen for–sounds that will make him exhilarated and alive, or quiet and calm… As a matter of fact, one of the greatest sounds of them all–and to me it is a sound–is utter, complete silence.” ~ Andre Kostelanetz, Orchestra Conductor and Arranger, from Journal-American, 1955 …

Our ability to feel the sounds we hear in a deep sense that is not simply physical, but spiritual, emotional, and intellectual, is a powerful and amazing thing. I imagine you have heard many such sounds in your life–perhaps the sound of a newborn crying, or a song that reminds you exactly of the way someone made you feel, or even something as simple as the rain hitting the ground and puddles around you. There is another remarkable sound that is oft overlooked–the sound of silence.

The sound of complete silence is perhaps the most powerful tool we have to become completely present in any given moment. It frees our senses from having to process sounds and instead allows us to focus that energy on thought, sight, and touch. And if we were to close our eyes in such a moment–as we often do–we would find ourselves even more immersed in the thoughts, sounds, and feelings in your hearts and minds. That is where we discover our inner voice… and that is where God dwells within us.

All too often our cultures teach the narrative that silence is a bad thing–silence between people is somehow awkward, or that it is lonely and diminishing as it is more common when we are without others. Or we are told that silence is the absence of productivity or activity, or that it lacks creativity, and should, therefore, be avoided. But silence is one of the only places we can truly discover life–who we are on the deepest of levels, what life is asking of us during the current season we are in and what will add purpose and meaning to this period of our lives–which will help us to find our time here much more fulfilling.

Complete silence is rare in most of our lives these days. It must be sought after, experienced, and cherished. This ability to grow and maintain a familiar relationship with it is both life changing… and life-sustaining. But it is up to us to decide what we want it to be, and then let it give us what it will.

Spend some time in the company of silence.

Questions to consider:

Why is silence not valued very strongly in contemporary cultures?

What are some of the benefits of silence in your life? How can you bring those benefits about?

With whom are you able to share silences? Is this important to be able to do in a deep relationship?

For further thought:

“Nothing has changed the nature of people so much as the loss of silence. The invention of printing, technics, compulsory education–nothing has so altered us as this lack of relationship to silence, this fact that silence is no longer taken for granted, as something as natural as the sky above or the air we breathe. We who have lost silence have not merely lost one human quality but our whole structure has been changed thereby.” ~ Max Picard, The World of Silence

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