Category Archives: Food For Thought

Potential To Turn A Life Around

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia, Living, Loving & Learning … 

I am not sure why we often underestimate, and sometimes forget, the power of these things. Perhaps we have simply become too familiar with those around us and have forgotten the powerful effect our words and actions can have on their lives. Or maybe we just feel that some people do not really need–or want–our input and interactions in their lives. Whatever the case may be, the truth remains that almost everything we say and do to others has some effect–either positive, negative, or both–in their lives, our lives, and the lives that we both touch.

And although we most likely will not solve anyone else’s problems or turn their life around by sharing a smile, offering kind words, or being there for them to talk to, we should always keep in mind that our smiles, compliments, listening ears, and compassionate acts, are just part of the puzzle–they go on to become part of a greater whole, a whole that gives hope and peace to someone and would remain incomplete without our contribution.

When I was in grade school, my teacher had the class put our name on a blank sheet of paper and then pass it around the room to all the other children. And as each sheet of paper came to our desk, we were asked to write a compliment about the person whose name appeared on the top. I still have my piece of paper today as a reminder, and proof, that the positive words and actions of others really do have the power and potential to turn another’s life around.

Leo Buscaglia reminds us that we do have the power and ability to help others in big and small ways–to make them feel good about life and living. Why not use it as often as we possibly can?

Do something kind, compassionate, caring, and loving for someone else today.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things might you contribute today that might help to turn around the life of someone else?

Why is it so easy to feel that our words don’t mean much to others?

How many opportunities do we have each day to make this sort of contribution to others? How many of those opportunities do we actually take advantage of?

For further thought:

“Our workaday lives are filled with opportunities to bless others. The power of a single glance or an encouraging smile must never be underestimated.” ~ G. Richard Rieger

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Extending In The Present

“We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present.” ~ Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love … 

Our past does not define us. Marianne speaks to us here about actively sharing our love today, regardless of who we are, where we came from, and what we experienced. Perhaps you know someone who was mistreated, neglected, or unloved as a child, and who now blames the things that go wrong in their life on this. When we step back and look at the way in which many of these individuals are living their lives, we often discover people who are self-absorbed and are seemingly unable–or unwilling–to make changes in their lives that will help them to lead happier and more fulfilling lives.

We are human. And part of that humanity includes being able to extend love with those around us–for when we fill others’ cups, we not only create an excess of love that fills our own cup, but we also add to the total sum of love that spreads throughout the world. However, being self-absorbed keeps us from doing so. Fortunately, being overly concerned with ourselves and our own needs is often the result of another ailment, one that can be dealt with and overcome. Perhaps it is fear telling us that we cannot give or we will get hurt, or pride saying that we do not need the love of a certain individual because they might have done something that we still hold against them. But such conditions are truly a sickness to our body, mind, and spirit, for they cruelly blind us to the truth that not giving and sharing love with others is hurting us more deeply than any other person could possibly hurt us if we did take the risk and extend our love to them on a regular basis.

The love we share with others is truly an extension of our heart and soul, of the good within us. And extending that love can be a result of an act as simple as offering water to someone who might be thirsty on a hot day, or being there for someone to listen to them and offer your company to them during times of grief or loss. It is found in acts such as encouragement, moral support, compliments, or even silence; and in acts of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. The key ingredient is that we are focused on someone outside of ourselves, and on their problems and tribulations instead of our own; for when we are aware of the needs of others, we are showing compassion and we are giving from our hearts.

By not extending our love, it might be easy to feel that we are protecting ourselves from suffering and pain, but that is not the truth–doing so holds us back from living life to the fullest–of sharing our unique talents, abilities, and potentials, and becoming who we are capable of becoming; of growing and changing, giving and receiving, and feeling and sharing. And instead of being caterpillars who are leaving our cocoons to become something beautiful and graceful–butterflies–we shut ourselves in without leaving any possibility of becoming more than we are right now.

Wrap those around you in a warm blanket of love.

Questions to consider:

How can we be holding ourselves back if we are not extending love to others on a regular basis?

What are some ways in which we can extend our love out into the world where it belongs?

Why do so many people find it difficult to extend their own love to others?

For further thought:

“You will daily give and give, and the great stores of your love will not lessen thereby: for this is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess of that precious nourishing love from which flowers and children have their strength and which could help all human beings if they would take it without doubting.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

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To Expect Nothing In Return

“Perhaps the hardest lesson to learn is not to be attached to the results of your actions.” ~ Joan Borysenko, The Ways of the Mystic … 

Many of us have become fixated on results in our lives–results of our work, results of our studies, results of our investments, results of our interactions with others and the world around us, results of our generosity, results of our advice, and so many other things that we put our time, energy, and resources into. And perhaps rightly so… after all, society tends to judge us by what comes out of our work, and not necessarily the work itself. However, when we become overly concerned with results, we can begin to slide into the realm of wanting things to always turn out the way that we intended them to, with very little room for ambiguity or contradiction, and this can set us up for much misery and disappointment later on in our lives.

Perhaps you felt disappointed when something you had given to someone was not used how you had intended for it to be used or in line with how you believed is should be used, such as mishandling of money you had gifted. Or maybe you felt upset when someone did not express enough appreciation or gratitude for a kindness they bestowed. I have personally been guilty of both looking for and expecting results in many actions throughout my life. For instance, valuable time spent writing an application can quickly become frustrating when the work that I am putting into it is not turning out how I envisioned it would.

However, one of the most helpful things I have discovered in life is the importance of letting go of results. And while it is not always easy or first nature, and often times leads to the unfamiliar, I have come to realize that everything I do does matter in some way. And by walking away and not looking for specific results, or expecting things to fit my agenda, I can move on to the next task without building up stress or becoming frustrated.

We should tolerate the opinions, behaviors, and actions of others because we would wish for them to do the same for us. Perhaps the next time you give someone money, do not tell them how to spend it. Or when you offer up your advice, pay no heed to how they receive it. Because if you do, and they spend it in a different way or take a different course of action, you most likely will end up stressed out because they did not meet your expectations. Instead, live and let live. Do something nice for others and do it in a way that they will never know who did it. Offer your time and energy without expecting to receive any thanks. In time, you will begin to see the true joy of giving–a joy that is not dependent upon results.

Do something for another today without expecting or receiving anything in return. You will never feel disappointment when you expect nothing.

Questions to consider:

Why do we feel that results are so important? Are they really?

How might you practice the art of letting go of your need to see results?

Which results are most important for you to have come out just as you want them to come out? How often do they come out that way? What would happen if they came out in other ways?

For further thought:

“One has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when one plants shade trees under which one knows full well one will never sit.” ~ David Elton Trueblood, The Life We Prize

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A Doer, Not A Dreamer

“What we think, or what we know, or what we believe, is in the end, of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do.” ~ John Ruskin, The Works of John Ruskin … 

I can sit and ponder the meaning of existence for hours, days, or even years, however, if I do not do anything positive with my life, then what can the meaning of my life possibly be? Our actions really are the bottom line of our lives. And while it is easy to get caught up in thoughts and ideas, they only help us to make the decisions to act, they really do not make any contributions of their own. … 

We may have many great thoughts and ideas. However, if we do not take action on them, they remain just thoughts and ideas. Perhaps we may feel that the new import tax, vehicle tax, medicine tax, entertainment tax or fuel price hike in the country are unfair, but if we do not act to change it, or speak out against it, then those thoughts really mean nothing in the end. Maybe we believe that it is important to help those suffering the trauma of violence, inhumanity, famine, or the effects of war, but until we take the steps to actually do so, those beliefs cannot help anyone at all.

There is an importance in taking the time to be a great philosopher–to ponder and to question the meaning of life and of living. And there is an importance in letting our minds ruminate on thoughts and ideas that really do need to be thought on. But when all is said and done, there comes a point when all our mental work needs to become action–a time at which we need to take things from the theoretical to the practical. For our thoughts are the foundation of who we are, but they are only a step in our becoming. As Gandhi once said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, and then your values become your destiny.” These moments of transition are the times in our lives that will begin to define us–to give focus to our journey and direct us in our purpose.

Be a man of action and bring a personal thought or idea to fruitation.

Questions to consider:

When are the most important times for thinking in your life?

How might you turn some of your most important thoughts and ideas into actions that will benefit many more people than your thoughts can?

Why do so many people get trapped in cycles that keep them from putting their thoughts and ideas into action? What keeps us from doing so?

For further thought:

“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” ~ Nolan Bushnell

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Be A Beacon Of Hope

“The central purpose of each life should be to dilute the misery in the world.” ~ Karl Menninger … 

When I read or watch the news, it is easily apparent that there is a lot of misery in the world. We can witness it occur on huge scales after a massive earthquake or hurricane, or in places where there is drought or famine. Sometimes it happens on a much smaller scale, in a neighborhood with drug and gang violence, or in families where abuse takes place. Unfortunately, we can never rid this world of misery; such a task would never be possible. We can, however, lessen its intensity. We can be there for others and help them through the pain. We can help them to see and feel hope, and to understand that good can come from their pain. We can share with them the meaning of compassion and help them to realize that there are better times ahead.

The one constant with misery is that it tends to keep us from feeling hope–it traps us into thinking that the way things are now is the only way that they can be. Thus, bringing hope into the lives of those in need is perhaps the most important thing we can do as individuals to lessen the intensity of the misery in the world.

Of course, we can also contribute to diluting the misery of this world by giving of ourselves–our time and our talents. Help is needed at the local food banks, counseling centers, and other places that serve the sick or destitute. Providing help to IDPs can give hope to the seeming hopelessness of these victims. Other groups such as Habitat for Humanity are a great way to give hope to others. Even something as simple as visiting neighbors, friends, or strangers in the nursing home to show them that others care. And if we do not have the time to volunteer for such things, we can still offer up our best in everything that we do. Above all, it is important that we give up our need to see the results of our actions, for such need more than likely will lead to frustration and possibly keep us from giving fully or giving more.

Diluting the misery in this world is an act of selfless compassion… it is love in action at its finest. And it is as simple as finding things that can help others around us–even something as simple as being there for a loved one in need or a grieving friend. When we make our contributions, no matter how small or insignificant they may feel, we are beautifying the world around us and adding positively to the larger purpose in life.

Find purpose today in helping others find hope and compassion.

Questions to consider:

In which ways might you help to dilute the misery in the world, in your own special ways?

What benefits will there be for you if you do things to help other people through hard times?

What would happen to the people of this world if we stopped helping each other?

For further thought:

“To desire and strive to be of some service to the world, to aim at doing something which shall really increase the happiness and welfare and virtue of humankind,–this is a choice which is possible for all of us; and surely it is a good haven to sail for.” ~ Henry Van Dyke, Ships and Havens

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Keep Life Simple

“Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury–to me these have always been contemptible. I assume that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.” ~ Albert Einstein … 

Albert Einstein was a very brilliant and remarkable man. He could have had all the fame and fortune that he ever desired, but instead, he had chosen to live a much simpler life. The things that Albert placed his values and ideals upon are not the things that society often tells us are the most important. But he had his own narrative in life… and so should we. After all, fame, fortune, and power often breed additional obstacles and unnecessary difficulties in our lives–such as stress, envy, and more expectations. We can, therefore, lessen these stresses and obstacles by keeping our desires for outcomes simple: a nice place to live, food to eat when we are hungry, decent clothes to wear, strong friendships, positive ways to serve others, and so on. Sticking to the simple results in less current that we must fight against in the rivers of life, which can add up to a much more enjoyable and positive life.

The world we live in today, however, is not the most conducive towards leading a simple life. After all, living in “a simple and unassuming manner” often means not doing many of the things that others might expect us to; and rejecting the expectations of our friends, peers, and our culture is far from easy. Doing so tends to lead to the stress of feeling that we are disappointing others, or leaves us isolated and feeling alone as we find it harder to “fit in” to the manner of life others are leading.

But what should the focus of our lives be? Wealth, power, or fame… or happiness, contentment, fulfillment, and joy? And if it is the latter, should we not then be seeking to be successful by becoming happy rather than by becoming wealthy or powerful? And gauge our success in life by the count of those we have helped, or by the amount of things that we have shared with others, rather than by what we have gained and received?

Albert uses very strong language by using the word “contemptible.” Could he really have had feelings of disgust for such things that cloud the simplicity in life? Perhaps he was simply trying to elicit strong feelings from us towards the importance of a living simple life. After all, there is nothing inherently wrong with success or material gain. Yet when they begin to rob us of our ability to be satisfied with simplicity, and keep us at an uncomfortable distance from our happiness and contentment, they then have become harmful to our health and well-being.

Keep life simple today–nothing fancy, expensive, or over the top.

Questions to consider:

What do you consider to be a “simple and unassuming manner of life?”

In what ways might you reinforce your own ability to find satisfaction in the simple things of life?

Why do you think Albert Einstein might have found such things as possessions and luxury to be contemptible?

For further thought:

“Most people see success as being rich and famous or powerful and influential. Others see it as being at the top of their profession and standing out from the rest. The wise see success in a more personal way; they see it as achieving the goals they have set for themselves, and then feeling pride and satisfaction in their accomplishments. True success is felt in the heart, not measured by money and power.

So be true to yourself and achieve those goals you set. For success is reaching those goals and feeling proud of what you have accomplished.” ~ Tim Tweedie

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Silence Is Golden

“Silence is the great teacher, and to learn its lessons you must pay attention to it. There is no substitute for the creative inspiration, knowledge, and stability that come from knowing how to contact your core of inner silence. The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote, “Only let the moving waters calm down, and the sun and moon will be relfected on the surface of your being.” ~ Deepak Chopra … 

It has oft been said that “silence is golden,” and I have only found this to become truer with time. Silence is the friend of philosophers and thinkers, and the balm of the weary and exhausted. It cultivates our souls and provides rest for our hearts. It is a necessary ingredient of life… and as such, its value is far greater than gold and more important than any material thing we can devise.

I have personally found the moments of true silence in my life to be powerful agents of relaxation and peace. Even when those times are subject to the stresses and busyness of life, they still remain wonderful reminders of just what life can be if I allow it to be so. Still, there are those of us who have a fear of silence, who must have the TV on while they are sitting in a room, or the music playing while they are driving down the road. And when they are in the company of others, they fill every silent moment with conversation and speech. But if we never allow silence to work its magic in our life, we will miss out on all it has to offer us, and we will continue to see it as a negative thing.

Silence helps us to connect with our inner selves and with the world around us. It allows us to take a deep breath and slow down our thinking, to quiet our minds. It reminds us of the deeper parts of ourselves that we tend to push aside in our constant pursuit of accomplishment and achievement. Silence is, perhaps, the simplest and easiest place for us to connect with our spirits. Yet it is only when we allow ourselves to be truly immersed in it, that we can turn our gaze wholly inward; only then can we pay attention to the deeper, more spiritual, more emotional, more intellectual, and more creative parts of ourselves.

Allow silence to be a part of your life–even if it is only for a few minutes during the day. Spend that time in reflection–learning about yourself, seeking to better understand life, healing, and growing. Discover your core of inner silence, and find a place of peace, acceptance, and awareness that you can go to whenever you are in need of it.

Spend some time in silence.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of benefits can you see in accessing the silence inside of yourself?

Why is silence not one of the more dominant aspects of most of our lives?

How, specifically, might you create conditions that will allow you to experience your own core of inner silence?

For further thought:

“Take time to be quiet. This is something that we don’t do enough in this busy world of ours. We rush, rush, rush, and we are constantly listening to noise all around us. The human heart was meant for times of quiet, to peer deep within. It is when we do this that our hearts are set free to soar and take flight on the wings of our own dreams! Schedule some quiet “dream time” this week. No other people. No cell phone. No computer. Just you, a pad, a pen, and your thoughts.” ~ Jim Rohn, Establishing Dreams and Goals

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