Category Archives: Opinion

Slow Down

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast–you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” ~ Eddie Cantor … 

Life can be busy. And in the midst of the hustle and bustle of it all, I am often surprised when I happen to notice even one single marvelous wonder out of the plethora of wonderful things around me at that very moment. At times I tend to get in a hurry, missing much of “the scenery” of life. Being so busy and preoccupied tends to leave me lost on paths I forgot why I was going down–or had not even intended on going down–in the first place.

Who do I wish to become? What do I wish to accomplish with my life? Do I ever take the time to stop and think about these questions critically? This is the busyness that Eddie is talking about; the kind where the life I find myself living is not contributing a whole lot towards the vision I have of my life and who I am.

“Slow down and enjoy life.” Quite possibly the wisest words I will hear during my time here. And when the scenery seems to be passing me by in a blur, and I feel I cannot slow down because of all the demands of life, this is a perfect time for me to question those demands: Just how pressing are they? Are they really worth the costs?

We often feel that because we are busying ourselves with activities and tasks, we are working towards our goals and our purpose in life. But living our lives to the fullest requires more involvement–more awareness and direction on our part–than simple keeping ourselves busy.

Take some time to slow down and truly experience the life you are living.

Questions to consider:

Have you ever felt that you “missed the sense of where you were going and why?”

What do you tell people when you see them missing or not appreciating wonderful things? Do you give yourself this same advice?

What things are your enjoying in life that help reinforce your sense of where you are going and why?

For further thought:

“Always remember to slow down in life; live, breathe, and learn; take a look around you whenever you have time and never forget everything and every person that has the least place within your heart.” ~ unattributed

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With Intelligent Awareness

“I had a dream I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.” ~ Stan Laurel … 

I tend to enjoy such quotes–ones in which the message, though garnished with a bit of absurdity, tends to speak loud and clear to me. I can hear Stan telling me to “Wake up!” Life is happening around me each second of every day, and if I wish to experience my life as an active participant, and not “find myself asleep,” then I have to be aware of all of the miracles of life that constantly surround me.

The world is filled with wonder and mystery that can bring us great joy and happiness, teach us important lessons, and inspire us to live our lives to the fullest, if we only take the time to open our eyes, clear our minds, pay attention, and listen. The cool gentle breeze in the spring can bring us the scents of plants, trees, and flower bursting back into life; the crying infant can speak to us of the blessings of comforting words and physical contact, of nourishment and love, of innocence and growth.

Slow down… listen… feel… become aware of the world around you. If you can begin to notice intelligently the mystery of life around you, perhaps you may also discover a new appreciation for the more common things in life.

Look at the world around you with an intelligent awareness today.

Questions to consider:

How often do you find yourself “awake” in life?

How many miraculous things have you noticed so far today? How many surround you right now?

What keeps you from taking notice of such things?

For further thought:

“The application of this knife, the division of the world into parts and the building of this structure, is something everybody does. All the time we are aware of millions of things around us–these changing shapes, these burning hills, the sound of the engine, the feel of the throttle, each rock and weed and fence post and piece of debris beside the road–aware of these things but not really conscious of them unless there is something unusual or unless they reflect something we are predisposed to see. We could not possibly be conscious of these things and remember all of them because our mind would be so full of useless details we would be unable to think. From all this awareness we must select, and what we select and calls consciousness is never the same as the awareness because the process of selection mutates it. We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.” ~ Robert M. Pirsig

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If You Catch Yourself Being Negative, Stop Yourself

“Join the great company of those who make the barren places of life fruitful with kindness. Carry a vision of heaven in your hearts, and you shall make your name, your college, the world, correspond to that vision. Your success and happiness lie within you. External conditions are the accidents of life, its outer wrappings. The great, enduring realities are love and service. Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulty.” ~ Helen Keller

Here we are presented with yet another message that our happiness in life is in our power, it is within our grasp–namely, “our success and happiness lie within us.” Helen’s message is similar to so many other messages that tell us to seek happiness within ourselves through service, love, and compassion to others. Of course, this puts the ball in our court–the way we approach the world determines whether or not we are happy or not, whether or not we are successful.

One of the unique messages I am given here is that my happiness is not a result of the “accidents of life,” but rather, of the “vision of heaven” that I carry within my heart. I love this thought, for it empowers me with the ability to carry my own perfect heaven with me wherever I go and to allow that vision to flourish right here in the world around me. How wonderful would it be if I could realize a bit of heaven right now?

Life mirrors back to us what we put into it. If I harbor negative feelings or have a negative attitude in life, I will find the world around me to be very negative. If I fill my life with joy, however, and serve others with love and compassion, I will surely be surrounded with love, compassion, and joy.

Add to the fruit of the Earth with kindness and love. Think of each day as tending to your garden–if you do not plant, water, and nurture it, it will become barren and colorless. If, however, you do tend to it as a caring gardener would, it will be full of life, color, and radiant activity.

Add to the positive in the world today–if you catch yourself being negative, stop yourself.

Questions to consider:

What do you give to the world? What does the world give back to you?

How can you incorporate Helen’s advice into your life?

What effect could this have on your life?

For further thought:

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love – for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment is it perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you from misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. ~ Max Ehrmann

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If You Find Yourself Complaining, Stop Yourself

“If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out. Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.” ~ Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture … 

Randy may seem a bit harsh on those of us who spend our time whining and complaining in life. But when you consider the seriousness of wasting our precious time and energy complaining, as well as the negative side effects that come from it, it is probably the most effective way to pull us out of a passive life, filled with complaining, and help us to actively participate in the life we have before us.

After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Randy knew this better than anyone did. He spent some of the last months of his life enjoying the things that mattered most to him. Additionally, on September 18, 2007, he delivered a well-known speech at CMU known as his “Last Lecture.” This was a hypothetical “final talk” that was meant to impart words of wisdom he would like the world to know if it was his last chance to tell us. If you have not seen, heard, or read the speech, I really encourage you to do so–it is wonderful.

Why not focus my time and energy on solving whatever problem is confronting you? Doing so is the fastest way to resolving it, which in turns leaves you with more time to seek happiness, joy, and fulfillment. Our time here on this Earth is finite, and there is so much here that we can do, so many ways we can contribute. Get out and live your life in a way such that when it is through, you can smile and say, “I did everything that I possibly could, I gave all that I possibly could give, I lived as best as I could possibly live.”

If you catch yourself complaining, stop, and instead spend that time and energy towards solving whatever is bothering you.

Questions to consider:

Why is it so easy to sit around and complain?

How is the tendency to complain related to the concept of responsibility?

In your experience, which are your better times: the active ones or the passive ones?

For further thought:

“See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

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A happy And Joy-Filled State Of Mind

“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing?” ~ Swami Satchidananda

What is joy? It is not something we have to seek after, for it is already inside us. It is a state of mind. It is understanding and acceptance of life and of who we are at this very moment. It is peace and contentment. In the midst of all the chaos around us, it is the calm serenity that we feel inside. And it is contagious, as Swami notes–others will involuntarily become overcome with it just by being in its presence. So if our time on this world could end at any minute, “why not die happily, laughing?”

Over the years, I have come to realize that I determine my own level of joy. And with a simple choice each day, it becomes easy to experience it and to share it with others in my life. When I wake up in the morning, I can remind myself that today is a joy-filled day. And when things do not seem to work out as I had hoped, or difficulties come my way, I can keep a healthy level of peace and serenity about me.

Peace and joy in our lives is free. So why not smile at others? Why not experience it and share it among those you encounter? Why not live your life in a way that on the day you die, you do so in happiness and joy?

Choose to have a happy and joy-filled state of mind today.

Questions to consider:

Are you joyful? Is it easy to be so?

Which situations bring you the most joy? How often do you experience them? How often do you seek them out?

Is joy the norm or the exception in those people that you know?

For further thought:

“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.” ~ Shauna Niequist

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Sermon By Example

“A good example is the best sermon.” ~ Benjamin Franklin … 

As a parent, these words strike an important note in my heart. The things I do, and the examples I set, resonate through the lives of those who observe and learn from me–primarily my children. If I tell them not to use bad words, and then use them myself, the message they get is that it is ok to speak them. If I tell them to respect others, but then turn around and show disrespect towards someone, guess what they learn.

One of the most powerful examples I set for my children is the way I treat my wife, for it is through the examples of how we treat our spouse, that our children will come to understand and form the basis of how they will treat their spouse when they grow older. Furthermore, such examples are cyclical, often passed down from generation to generation. This is one of the main causes of broken homes and abusive relationships–bad examples passed on over the years from parents to children.

Am I a good role model? Do I do the things I encourage others to do, and not do the things I tell others not to do? Do I carry myself in a way that promotes adding positively to my life and the lives of those around me? Am I an example of love, kindness, compassion, and helpfulness? Am I a man of integrity and character–having strong morals and ethics as well as putting them to use for others to see?

Make a conscious decision to be a good role model to others in life. Know that if you can show even one person the positive effects of leading a good life, they will have the opportunity to learn from it and emulate it in their own life. And each life you touch, is another ripple in the stillness of the water, each ripple has the potential to stir up the entirety of the pond. You affect lives whether you know it or not. Choose to make that effect a positive one.

Make sure you teach other positive things through your examples today.

Questions to consider:

Who are you a role model for? In what ways?

What is the message that you send to others through your examples?

Are you an encouraging force in the world, or a discouraging one?

For further thought:

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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Contribute To Peace

“It is not a question of whether you “have what it takes,” but of whether you take the gifts you have–they are plenteous–and share them with all the world.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch … 

People are in need of the gifts, talents, and abilities each of us possess. And although at times I may doubt myself and my abilities, Neale is right, I “have what it takes.” We each have a plethora of unique gifts and abilities that, if shared with others, will definitely make a positive impact in the world.

Imagine if everyone in the world were asked to contribute a dime to fight world hunger. Of course some may not be able to afford this, but many could easily contribute such an insignificant amount, if not a little more. Well if each of the 7 billion people in the world were able to do such a thing, the amount collected would exceed $700,000,000. This could definitely go a long way towards fighting world hunger, or many good causes for that matter.

And what if we could physically see our contributions towards the world in the form of a fluffy white cloud. The more we contribute positively, the larger it grows, expanding outward to encompass more and more people. However, each time we act selfishly, or hurt others, the cloud diminishes. With such visual confirmation of our actions, it would be much easier to give our best to the world.

Yet we already do sense this positive cloud created by the sharing of each of our gifts. Our spirits feel the good reflected in the world, as well as the bad. And to our spirits, this feeling is a very tangible thing–a feeling that can build us up, or tear us down. So what is stopping you from sharing your gifts with the world around you today?

Contribute to the peace, compassion, love, and kindness of the world today.

Questions to consider:

How can you help your spirit to grow and to thrive?

What kinds of actions diminish your spirit?

What would your spirit look like if it were visible to others?

For further thought:

“Simply give others a bit of yourself; a thoughtful act, a helpful idea, a word of appreciation, a lift over a rough spot, a sense of understanding, a timely suggestion. You take something out of your mind, garnished in kindness out of your heart, and put it into the other person’s mind and heart.” ~ Charles H. Burr

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