Category Archives: Food For Thought

Create Your List Of What You Want In Life

“Warm, eager, living life–to be rooted in life–to learn, to desire, to know, to feel, to think, to act. This is what I want. And nothing else. That is what I must try for.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, Stories … 

How many of us have actually sat down and came up with a list of what we want in life? Such a thing would really make things simple. If we know that “this is what we want… and nothing more,” we could make all our decisions based off of what we have already considered and decided–no more indecisions, no more second guesses, no more regrets. And the ways in which we live our lives could be more aligned with helping to bring our desires to fruition here during our lifetimes.

And most likely your list would not be the same as mine or anybody else’s, and that is ok. For it is personal and unique–authentic to who we are at our very core and therefore should consist of those things that define us and our happiness; it is not the words that are important, but the fact that we take the time to form a basis in which to live our lives. If this list were mine, the first thing I would do is add “to love” in it somewhere, and then perhaps “to grow, to inspire, to give, and to add and produce things of great beauty for this world.” Of course, Katherine might have had this in mind when she used words such as “to act, to feel, and to learn.”

It is also safe to say, that we change, so will our lists. If my list included “to help my children through school,” then once they have completed school, I would need to make some revisions. Or if my list included “to save up $1,000 in an emergency fund,” once I had the necessary money I would need to revise it to something else, perhaps to keep the fund above a certain level throughout the year.

One key thing to note here is that Katherine chose to say, “That is what I must try for.” We should not expect that we will accomplish everything we want or desire to in life, nor should we base our happiness or worth upon our ability to do so… we should simply seek to try–to give it our best shot. After all, it is in the trying that we become the person we are meant to be–succeed or fail–and it is important that we never lose those opportunities.

Create your list of what you want in life.

Questions to consider:

What are the things that you most want? Have you ever written them down?

What would such a list look like for you?

Why do we not tend to look at life from the bigger picture perspective, instead focusing on the minute details of our day-to-day goals?

For further thought:

“The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable.” ~ Denis Waitley, The Winner’s Edge: The Critical Attitude of Success

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Find Something Positive To Yearn For

“The best antidote I have found is to yearn for something. As long as you yearn, you can’t congeal; there is a forward motion about yearning.” ~ Gail Godwin … 

Somewhere along the path of graduating into adulthood, many of us have picked up the idea that happiness lies in our ability to accept our lives as they are, even if that means giving up our wants and desires. But our happiness is not tied to our desires–we do not feel discontent and unhappy because we want something, as desire is part of our humanity. We are creatures who desire, often with intense passion; and when we can use that desire as a catalyst for growth and positive change, then that yearning for something realistic and positive is an amazing and beautiful thing.

But therein lies the rub. All too often, we are narrowly focused on yearning for materialistic things that are not necessarily positive or helpful for our personal growth. And so we have to recognize that the yearning that Gail is talking about here is not for things harmful, unhealthy, unrealistic, or distracting things, such as yearning for that expensive new car or an intimate relationship with a married friend of ours–for such desires are harmful to us and those we love. Instead, she is talking about a fire within us to live with great purpose. Such a healthy yearning can be a catalyst to propel us into new and exciting things, greater challenges and opportunities, and more positive states of being. A desire to spend time on the beaches of St. Lucia might cause us to economize and simplify our lives so that we might be able to afford the trip. And wanting a career change might help us to find the motivation to go back to school to get a degree or further degrees.

To have passion is a wonderful thing. It drives us forth on the journeys of life and carries us through even the darkest of days–the ones when we feel like giving up and do not know if we can continue any further. And if we feel like our lives are becoming stagnant, yearning can push us in a “forward motion,” as opposed to congealing or staying where we are. All that is necessary is finding positive and healthy things to yearn for–things like a caring and nourishing relationship or a home filled with love. Or perhaps something that adds depth such as a job that is rewarding and adds purpose to our lives, or an education for our children or for ourselves. Or maybe something that makes our lives less stressful like a vehicle that is safe, practical, and reliable, or an active way of living that allows us to reach a healthy physical state. There are countless things that we can desire that might benefit our lives and the lives of those around us if we would only do so with an open heart and mind.

Find something positive to yearn for in your life.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things do you tend to yearn for? Do these things tend to be positive for you, or do they add to stress and tension in your life?

What kinds of things might you change in your life to make the things that you yearn for actually become reality?

Why do so many people yearn after things that are ultimately bad for them?

For further thought:

“And yes, there definitely are many good desires. For example, without the desire for food we would not stay alive. It is when our desire becomes an unquenchable craving or obsession, or causes us to do harm to ourselves or others, that it creates suffering and unhappiness. If you have ever been hurt because you tied your happiness or well-being to a person, place, opinion, self-identity, behavior, or goal, then you have firsthand experience of desire.” ~ Donald Altman

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Appreciate The Gift Of Life

“I would like to thank… the birds outside my window who constantly reassured me that nothing is desperately important and the joy of life is just looking at it.” ~ Alec Guinness … 

I love how Alec is able to let something as simple as the birds outside his window remind him of how incredibly important our perspective is in life. We all seem to think a lot. And no matter how big things tend to get in our minds, it is healthy for us to recall that life is much larger than we are–and much bigger than our simple bubble of existence is–and many of the things we think are pressing and crucial are things that are minimal and will work themselves out in time. Birds understand this. They go about their lives without stressing out on the little things, taking things in stride and keep on keeping on. Yet we humans often fill our minds with unnecessary worries, insignificant things, inconsequential deadlines, and unfortunate situations, causing us to lose sight of what is truly worthwhile in life–the joy in it.

Still, it is quite easy for us to lose our focus–to become stressed out with how our lives are going or to feel that what we are experiencing is the most important thing in the world. I have had many such times in my life, moments when I felt that the things that were happening to me were “desperately important.” Yet it always turned out that after several days, weeks, or months had passed, I ended up looking back at those periods in my life and realizing that they were not that big of a deal after all.

If we always wish to be cognizant of the beauty and joy of life–and there are infinite amounts of both–we need to discover ways to remind ourselves, and remain aware, that everything we experience in life is relative. And although something terrible or awful may occur, life in all its glory and splendor is still happening around us, and our perception of that will either find us filled with love, joy, and appreciation, or leave us miserable and unhappy. Listening to the reassurance of the birds is a great start. Then there are sunrises and sunsets, and the sound of the thunder crashing and the rain splashing down upon the Earth. There is the pleasure of the sun and the cool breezes to upon our skin, and the smiles and laughter of children at play. There are things that lift our hearts and spirits such as music and song, and acts of kindness and compassion. There simply are so many things that can remind us that looking at the life all around can be one of the greatest joys of all, and it is effortless and free.

Allow yourself the gift of experiencing the abundant life that surrounds you. See. Feel. Hear. Taste. Laugh. Love. Sigh. Cry. Appreciate. Say thank you. Focus on those things that we often miss when our thoughts only revolve around us or on our own little worlds.

Take some time today to appreciate all the world has to offer you.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend to think that so many things are desperately important?

How can we teach ourselves to be more aware of the many things that are around us all the time that we could and should appreciate?

When was the last time that you noticed and appreciated the birds who have songs for us all the time?

For further thought:

“A heightened state of awareness comes when we look, and then look again, and then relax into whatever situation we are in. When we have a capacity for fascination with simple things, we are able to sit peacefully for hours on a park bench, or in an airport, engrossed by the different gaits and gestures of people as they walk, talk, and stand. We develop the ability to be patient as we stand in line at the grocery store because we have the ability to look with fascination and wonder at all that surrounds us.” ~ Charlotte Sophia Kasl, Finding Joy: 101 Ways to Free Your Spirit and Dance with Life

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Find Rest For Your Mind

“I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. . . . The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever.” ~ May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude … 

A lot of us tend to let our minds race about, multitasking and overloading them with data, input, and information. But if we always keeping our mind busy with thoughts and never allowing it time to simply rest and relax, we can end up feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, burnt out, unhappy, lethargic, irritable, and so many other negative emotions that hold us back from living our lives fully and being completely present in the moments. Yet as our minds calm, our hearts lift up a step at a time, and our entire beings become filled with a deep sense of peace and serenity.

And it does not take much, just a simple walk or a bike ride out through nature, or a soothing bubble bath and some relaxing music. Or perhaps a quiet drive around the countryside or some quiet time in meditation on the porch during a rain storm. I have often found that the most valuable things I do for myself are often the simplest of things, things that many would consider not really doing anything at all–sitting on the couch with my eyes closed listening to the children play, spending time in meditation and prayer, sitting in the backyard listening to the wind rustling through the leaves, the birds in the trees, and the bugs in the grass.

In such moments, I feel unity with all of life and discover a deep awareness of my existence, for they allow me to get in touch with being instead of doing. Here, I can explore the depths of who I am, visiting the eternal part of me instead of that physical me that others see on the surface; here I can find a glimpse of eternity and recognize my place in His plan.

We all spend a lot of time wearing down our psyches–our logical and intellectual minds, and our emotional souls–sometimes even to their breaking points. We let our bodies unwind after are a long day of work, or sleep when they are drowsy and tired, but we seldom consider rest for our minds and spirits. But our psyches also need to be strengthened, nourished, and renewed to their full potential. Take a break now and then. It may not seem like a lot can come from a day in which we seek nothing, do nothing, want nothing, and produce nothing, but such days recharge us, fulfill us, and strengthen our sinews so that we can be at our best–so we can be whole. Suffice it to say, that sometimes nothing is exactly the something that we need to keep us going.

Find time to let you mind rest.

Questions to consider:

Why are so many people so reticent even to consider doing nothing in a quiet and solitary place?

What are some of the possible benefits of allowing our psyches to rest?

How can nothing be a positive something?

For further thought:

“Sometimes the most urgent and vital thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.” ~ Ashleigh Brilliant, Everyday Greatness

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Be Productive Daily… And You Will Be Very Happy

“The happiest people seem to be those who are producing something; the bored people are those who are consuming much and producing nothing.” ~ William Ralph Inge … 

Happiness, as William puts it here, is perhaps a measure of how much we produce as opposed to how much we consume; of how much we give as to how much we take. And if this is the case, then one would expect to find the happiest people to be those who keep themselves busy, those who set goals and commit to achieving them, those who fulfill their duties and act out of necessity, and those who learn new skills and abilities and strive to live purposeful lives–which in my experience has seemed to always hold true.

Yet far too many individuals let boredom and inactivity become a dominant element of their lives. Perhaps they fear taking challenges and trying new things or prefer the safety, comfort, and consistency of the regular paths they are used to. Maybe they are afraid they might not finish things they start or be criticized by others for how they work and the results of their labors. Or perhaps they live a very indolent or passive life, preferring to sit around and consume what others are producing instead of being active themselves. But in all of these cases, they are letting either fear or sloth determine how they are going to live their lives and sabotaging so much of the happiness that is available to them through producing positive things that are real and tangible.

In truth, being productive is a wonderfully easy way to exercise our body and mind and to keep our heart and soul feeling alive and fulfilled. And it does not even matter what we are producing–as long as it is not harmful, immoral, or illegal–as the mere act provides us with a deep feeling of accomplishment and an abundant source of happiness. If I enjoy producing music and song, I do not have to be famous–I can sing with my children or play a musical instrument for those in a hospital or retirement home. And if I love sewing or crocheting, I do not have to sell thousands of my creations–I can make beautiful blankets, garments, and apparel for friends and family, for decoration, or simply to give away.

Each individual on this planet has the ability and opportunity to produce something of value and worth. And doing so gives to us feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction, important components to a healthy and happy life. In addition, when we successfully produce something, we are inspired to produce more, giving us hopes, dreams, and aspirations of what our lives can be. In the end, happiness is most often the result of being active in making the most of our lives each and every day, whereas boredom is the result of sitting around and watching as life passes us by.

Make today a productive day for yourself.

Questions to consider:

What do you think William means when he says, “those who are producing something?”

What kinds of things are you good at? How often do you actively pursue your chances to produce things?

Why do so many people get caught up in merely consuming without producing?

For further thought:

“If you observe really happy people you will find them building a boat, writing a symphony, educating their children, growing double dahlias in their gardens, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. They will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator. They will not be striving for it as a goal in itself. They will have become aware that they are “happy” in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of the day.” ~ W. Beran Wolfe

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Spending Your Time

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” ~ Carl Sandberg … 

Picturing our time as a coin we have in our possession is such a wonderful reminder of how precious and valuable it is. After all, most of us understand monies–we have experienced firsthand the results of being responsible and saving them up, as well as the consequences of being careless with them. And so how we spend our time is a great indication of what we are becoming both as humans and as eternal beings. If we waste our time on stuff that does not help us to grow into something better, or on stuff that simply does not matter, we are making our lives poor and wasting of the precious wealth we have been gifted. But if we spend it on things that help us to become something better than we were yesterday, and something that helps the world around us to grow and to flourish as well, then our lives will become rich.

Perhaps you have had the experience of missing something important because of work or a prior engagement, or from an unexpected occurrence such as a flat tire, a traffic jam, or missing the bus. We often like to be in control of our time and to be able to manage our schedules, and so these occurrences tend to be a big source of frustration in our lives. And yet in the broad scheme of things, these instances are small and few, and the vast majority of our time is in our control. However, few of us actually use our time wisely, instead allowing others to dictate it for us or to control it. Perhaps we are afraid of letting someone down or hurting their feelings, or of losing our jobs or ruining our friendships. But if we imagine our time spent in terms of costs, then spending it in ways that add value into our lives and the lives of our fellow man is of much more significance and worth than spending it watching hours of TV shows we have already seen, or in other mindless activities that simply bring us further from our spiritual selves.

Time is a valuable commodity. Society has created entire markets and venues for that are geared at making money off convincing us that we need to spend our time using their products, listening to their music, watching their shows, attending their games. But we have people who need and depend on us–families who would like to spend time with us, friends who need help, loved ones who could use someone to talk to, and selves who are in desperate need of solitude and spiritual nourishment. And time in which we learn or gain valuable insight, help another human being, or build up the positive in this world, is time well spent.

Do you love life? Then do not waste or squander the precious time made available to you. It is your time… and just as we need to be aware of how we spend our money, we need to be even more conscious and careful of the ways in which we spend our time. For we can always earn more money, but our time… that is a limited and precious resource.

Be more aware of the ways in which you are spending your time.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend not to consider carefully how we spend our time? Why do we just “let” things happen?

In which ways could you make sure that you are spending most of your time wisely, in ways that are helpful to yourself and others?

How many people try to convince us that our time is best spent serving them and their purposes? Why do they do this?

For further thought:

“How you spend your time is more important than how you spend your money. Money mistakes can be corrected, but time is gone forever.” ~ David Norris

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Everyone You Meet Is Your Mirror

“A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror.” ~ Ken Keyes, Jr., Handbook to Higher Consciousness … 

We compose the world that we live in–it is conceived, designed, and constructed by our thoughts and our actions. This is such a vital concept to our becoming, for when we create the reality that we live in, we are discovering our purpose and meaning. This places our fulfillment in life directly in our hands and plays a pivotal role in our surroundings and experiences in life. And yet, we meet so many people in our daily lives, that this really does not pertain to everyone we come across, or to all occasions in life; it makes no sense to say that “everyone you meet is your mirror.” We will meet individuals who are bitter and resentful at the world, who are angry with themselves, who are judgmental and discriminatory, who are socially inept, who are rude and obnoxious, whether we are any of those things or not.

Therefore, it is important that we view life pragmatically, for though we strive to build a loving world around us, the rest of the world will intrude on what we try to build; and though we strive to choose our friends carefully, we must still interact and associate with people whom we do not wish to have as friends. However, the key to Ken’s message here is that our attitudes play a crucial role in creating the reality in which we live and go a long way towards making our experiences much more pleasant and bearable, or much more unpleasant and unbearable.

Much of who we are is reflected in the people we associate with on a daily basis. If I choose to use or sell drugs, I am bound to be around others who use and sell them as well, and crime and statistics tell me that I am therefore much more likely to experience violence, heartache, and suffering in my life in some way, shape, or form. Likewise, if I spend some time volunteering my time, or visiting those who are sick, I will be around others who are appreciative and thankful, and I will find myself surrounded by love and compassion. I will also have a cup that is overflowing with love that I can share with others I meet or with those important to me such as my wife and children.

We have the ability to create our own worlds in the best ways we know how. If you want to live in a loving world… be loving; for a caring world… be caring. And when an unkind and inconsiderate world invades the beauty of yours, remember that others are creating their own worlds too, and we will have to deal with their worlds colliding into ours every now and again.

Give love to others and be aware of how much more is returned.

Questions to consider:

Is it really possible for “everyone” in the world to be a mirror of who we are and how we approach the world?

What are some of the problems that could arise if we do believe that everyone is a mirror of ourselves?

How might you go about preparing for the intrusion of someone else’s world on your own? Should such a thing make you change the ways that you do things or see the world now?

For further thought:

“The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it in turn will look sourly on you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind of companion.” ~ William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity fair

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