I am…

Who are you?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? I’m pretty sure most people have at one time or another.

Some people tend to rephrase by asking it a different way. They ask, what am I doing here?

There does seem to me to be a connection and answering one may lead you to the answer for the other.

A long time ago I chose to participate in an exercise of self-discovery, where I posed a simple question, “who am I?”

I challenged myself to provide 100 answers to see what would happen.

If you want to try this for yourself, you may want to stop reading now and come back after your list is completed.

If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do this exercise now and would prefer to live vicariously through me, please feel free to continue reading.

Since it had been years since I’d done this, I decided to repeat the process. I opened a notebook and listed numbers down the left side, starting with 1 and ending at 100, then began writing whatever came to me.

I found that my answers came in spurts. I’d list all of the relationships I could think of; I am a husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle, brother-in-law, nephew, cousin, friend… until I ran dry.

Nothing would come immediately, then other answers would jump out, having to do with my interests, talents and skills. Things like; I am a driver, bill payer, artist, writer, speaker, football fan, painter, dishwasher, swimmer, drip castle maker… the list grew considerably.

I’m not saying I’m good at all of the things “I am…”, but, I am them.  A lot of them.

The breadth of my answers surprised me. Hobbies, things I do at church, help I provide my family, things my wife and I do while traveling. A very diverse list began to appear.

Despite the breadth, I was still far short of the one hundred answers I hoped to find. So, I dug deeper and began listing all of the attributes I believe I possess; I am loving, caring, valuable, a dreamer, thinker, conversationalist, reader, sleuth, happy…

Even adding all of my attributes I needed a few more. I thought about all of my spiritual experiences and answers came, like; I am a retreat leader, healer, message giver, website post writer, energy worker…

And what about the obvious, yes…I am human.

Finally, I completed my whole list. It wasn’t without a lot of struggle and not for the ‘faint of heart’ because of the challenges it presented. But, it was a beautiful opportunity to look within and reveal things to myself.

I discovered that “I am…” far more than I initially thought and many of my answers show how deeply I am connected to others in this world. And, it made me want to stay connected. In fact, it made me want to grow and share and be more a part of others’ lives. Not bad for a deceptively simple exercise.

Now for the epilogue.

If you are super adventurous and want to really go deep, try turning the page in your notebook and numbering from 1 to 100 and do it all again, ** without repeating any prior answer**.

“I am…attempting to complete this”. If you choose to do the same, I’d love to hear what you discover.

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Was Buddha Worried About His Weight?

One day I was wondering about all of the diets there are around, so I decided to investigate a little. A quick search of the internet produced thirty-nine diets, identifying their strong and weak points.

It was mind boggling.

How could anyone ever hope to understand all of the differences between them and conclude which would be the best to try, if in fact, you wanted to try one at all?

The specifics of each diet change depending on the emphasis of the plan. Many diets support the idea of increasing fruit, vegetables, fish and plant-based foods. Others capitalize on certain foods groups to counter physical conditions like, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardio concerns or to improve mental functioning. In all the cases I read about, nutrition and safety play a major role, but there seems to be a significant difference of opinion, depending on the expert who is providing the information.

Some diets are notoriously difficult to follow, while others make it too challenging to understand the differences between good and bad food items or some other key components.

In many cases there are supporting statements made to attempt to convince a potential dieter of the values or reasons for the individual plans. For instance, some report that the Paleo Diet says, “that if cavemen didn’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t either.”

It wasn’t until my mid 60’s that I felt the need for a diet. A gradual increase in my weight each year suggested I would be in trouble if I didn’t make some immediate changes.

So, off I went to Weight Watchers.

Their program stresses adherence to certain point goals (each food is assigned a point value) and highly recommends attendance at weekly meetings, to monitor weight and participate in conversations with other members, guided by an instructor.

I did, in fact, reach my goal and have been mostly successful in maintaining it, within a reasonable range.

What all of the instructors say is, that to be truly successful, you have to change your mind-set about your relationship with food. Merely altering what you eat for a short time, even though it might produce some results, will fail in the long run.

I believe they are correct.

I believe there is a lot more involved that allows a person to achieve their weight goals. Or, for that matter, any goals they might have.

This is where Buddha comes in.

Have you ever seen a picture of Buddha with a large belly? I bet you have. Do you think Buddha spent any time concerned about his weight? I doubt it.

Bear in mind here (BIG DISCLAIMER), I am not suggesting or recommending that you ignore the sound advice from your health professionals regarding any diet ideas they have, especially, if you have an obvious health concern.

What I do want to share is a thought about our ‘beliefs’, especially in relation to what we experience in life.

Considering all dieters, could the difference between those who are successful and those who are not, be their belief about the outcome they would experience, rather than the particular diet they were on?

If you substituted a different concept for dieting (academic, career, relationship, finances…), would it work the same way, meaning your outcome would be directly related to your belief about your outcome, rather than one of the individual steps you took?

It certainly feels to me like an important idea to consider, mostly because it alters the dynamic, shifting it from a conceptual form to one of belief, particularly if the belief is deep seated.

This idea is creating a shift in my mind-set about my food intake and maintaining my weight. What if I had a strong belief that it is not so much about what I eat, as it is about what I believe about what I eat?

That’s something I think Buddha would have something to say about.

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Light Switches

You may be saying to yourself, “a post about light switches, really?” Yes, really. Stick with me and see what you think.

Recently, my family and I went on vacation together in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. It is absolutely gorgeous country, with panoramic views of high peaks, rivers, lakes and heavily wooded hillsides. It is a sure reminder to me that I benefit from time spent in the wilderness. It renews me in a way nothing else does.

But, as with most every trip, before we could get there, there was a lot to do, starting with packing our two vehicles. We’d decided to take them both so it wouldn’t be so stressful deciding which things we could bring.

The downside of this mindset is that we brought far more stuff than we really needed. We’d say something to each other like, “Oh, there’s space, we’ll just bring it.”

As a result, both of our cars were pretty heavily laden, which meant a lot of time and energy to pack them before we left and to unpack once we got back.

We got a fairly early start for us and had already decided to eat at one of our favorite restaurants on the way there. This set us back a little time-wise, but it was worth it.

Upon arrival, we checked out the “cottage” and discovered it was more like a spectacular vacation home. It had four bedrooms, two and half bathrooms, a kitchen, a “great room” (a massive room with beautiful exposed pine paneling, from floor to ceiling, which was about twenty-five feet above us), a screened in porch, nice deck and access to two washers and two dryers. It was simply awesome.

After unloading the cars, we decided it was time to grab some dinner and treated ourselves to a wonderful meal at a local restaurant, before driving 15 miles to the nearest grocery store to buy our first round of provisions. By the time we got back, put away the groceries and arranged all of the stuff we’d brought with us, it was late and we were both pretty exhausted.

I went upstairs to the master bedroom and laid out all of my clothes on one of the storage shelves in the large walk-through closet, then brought my travel kit into the master bath. When I was done in the bathroom I turned off the lights. At least I thought I did.

It was still very bright, so I went back in and tried to turn off ALL of the switches. There are five in total (for one bathroom).

Nope, still very bright. What was going on?

By now I was overtired and not functioning particularly well. And, angry that I could not turn off the lights properly. I walked back into the bathroom, determined to accomplish this simple task.

It was then that I discovered two very large recessed sky lights, which were letting in a major amount of light. They were actually bathing the bathroom in a beautiful soft, warm glow.

My next thought was, “duh!”

That’s what I grew up saying to myself when something incredibly obvious had happened, meaning, “of course, you should have noticed this before.”

I immediately realized this is often a pattern for me, to make quick assumptions, as if they are facts. I know my fatigue was a factor, but, recognized the statement was still true. A part of me closes down and ignores some rather obvious things and I suffer needlessly because of these lapses. It would be so much better to step back when I encounter a situation that doesn’t make sense to me and breathe for a moment and take a whole new clear look at the issue.

This principle holds true for me for so many other situations and I hope to be able to remember the skylight story and the awareness it provided.

Just a funny FYI. The cottage had 55 switches in the parts we had access to. That’s more than double the number in my whole house, including my basement and garage. I’m glad for the ‘switch’ simplicity I have at home.

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Uncertainty

One of the things I find fascinating is that we usually pay attention to weather forecasts, hoping that our favorite forecaster is able to accurately predict what’s going to happen. My personal observation is that they are very often wrong, especially if it really matters, like when you try to plan a cook-out or a day at the beach.

And, believing that the weather is going remain true for any 10-day forecast is, I believe, as likely as winning the lottery.

I thought to myself, perhaps I’m being too harsh. Maybe I ought to investigate and see if there are any accuracy records being kept about the forecasts being made. It turns out that there are.

For calendar year 2020 in my area of the world, there were about twelve forecast networks evaluated and they ranged from 39%, all the way up to 79% accurate. Maybe I was just listening to the wrong forecaster and should shift to the most reliable one, The Weather Channel, in case you wanted to know.

Or perhaps I would benefit from accepting that the weather is unknowable and changeable at the drop of a hat.

It seems to me that we are generally uncomfortable with the idea that some things in life are a mystery. They are beyond our control, no matter how much we want to know the answer or feel a sense of certainty.

And, there is often a part of us that wants to believe that someone else knows and will share the answers with us and increase our comfort level. This seems to be true for the weather and it’s true for many other things as well.

Even though some folks might not be willing to freely admit it, many subscribe to fortune-telling in one of its many forms, like checking out their daily horoscope, seeing a psychic or having a Tarot or palm reading done. When we sense a lack of control over our lives and the outcomes of our actions, we tend to look for someone who can assure or reassure us that we are going to be okay.

I’ve had several Tarot readings in my life and have found them spectacularly accurate. While some others share the success I’ve experienced, there are those who believe they are utter nonsense. I take this to mean, they were not accurate for them or they didn’t hear what they wanted to hear, or perhaps, they just can’t imagine anyone having this type of ‘insider information’.

Well maybe that’s not exactly true, because when it comes to religion, a great number of people believe that their religious leaders, by whatever name, can tell them what they need to know. Not only that, they believe they can tell them what to do and how to act, in order to find the certainty, they are looking for.

After all, the religious leader they follow have received formal training and studied the religious texts and know the ceremonies and rituals of their faith. They must know what they are talking about and be able to provide all of the answers to their followers.

The difficulty here is that the answers provided don’t always create the certainty that folks are seeking. Even within the religious community there are a great number of uncertainties, especially when life becomes challenging and answers become elusive.

So, then what? Where is certainty to be found?

I will share my beliefs with you, knowing you will choose only what feels right to you.

I believe that all answers and all certainty is found within. You have the truth within you. You can connect with the divine, by whatever name you choose, and ask for whatever guidance you need and it will be provided. That has been my personal experience over the last twenty-four years, since I began having intimate two-way conversations with (god), and it can be the same for you. I know this to be the truth, because others who begin their own conversations with (god), tell me it is their truth and certainty.

You are a part of the divine and all that you desire can be revealed to you.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you would like to know more about how you can have your own personal relationship with (god) and discover your own answers, you can check out my book, talking with (god), which you’ll find under the BOOK page on this website.

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Commas

Little things are sometimes big things, or can be, depending on how we see them.

Take a ‘comma’ for instance. It’s so small you might miss it if you’re reading quickly. But, it’s important because as a punctuation mark, its intention is to provide a pause between parts of a sentence. It can also be used to separate items in a list or to mark the place of thousands in a large numeral, like 83,120.

My wife, Maureen, an English major in college, probably knows all of the eight other things a comma can do as it separates parts in a sentence. I confess this makes my eyes glaze over. Which is really okay, because some of my interests do the same thing to her. It seems fair and works for us.

Now back to the comma.

I was thinking about how we could use a comma effectively in our verbal and non-verbal communications.

Imagine that you’re engaged in a conversation with someone and things start to go off the rails. There’s a little heat and you can feel your temper amp up a bit and sense the other person beginning to do the same. Now, imagine being able to insert a comma, a pause between argumentative statements. Your small little comma can save the day and chill things down. All you have to do is stop for a moment and put the comma into action.

Ideally, if both you and the other person did this, you’d likely be able to reset the conversation and find some common ground to restart your dialogue. I realize that sometimes the other person won’t cooperate, but it might be worth using your comma, even just for yourself.

I wonder, what would happen if you disengaged and sat back and thought for a moment? What would they do? Might it be worth trying to see what impact it would have?

I sense the other person would be taken off guard and perhaps, settle down a little. After all, it’s hard to argue with someone who isn’t fighting back.

Or, how about when someone is naming all of the things they think you’re doing wrong. Imagine being able to pause the list until you can catch your breath. That little comma can give you enough time to shift your perspective or get out from under the weight being placed on you.

I wonder, what if each of us could raise our hand as a way of interjecting a non-verbal comma into challenging situations we face?

And, what if the other person had to stop for a moment and give us a chance to consider their words before responding? What might we gain from using the comma this way? Would it create some distance and offer us a greater perspective? Would it lessen the tension and give us a chance to step away?

My personal answer to all of these questions is, ‘yes’.

I see the comma as a small piece of salvation, similar to a reset button. I think it has numerous benefits, not the least of which is encouraging us to slow things down until we’re sure which direction to travel.

Perhaps we can’t influence others to act in ways we find acceptable or helpful, but we can influence our own behaviors and make our own conscious choices, ones that offer us a sense of calmness and peace.

Next time you sense the need for a comma, maybe you’ll want to give it a try and see what happens.

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Baseball Cards and Fireworks

Suppose you own something of value like an antique bureau, silver tea service, vintage automobile, old coins or perhaps, as in my case, a baseball card collection. Would you consider selling or trading it for any reason? If so, what reason would tip the scales so that you would part with it?

I started collecting baseball cards during the 1960’s, initially as much for the gum as for the cards. I’m not alone in this, believe me. It was pretty good tasting gum, at least for the first three minutes, until the flavor evaporated.

Later, when I was more serious about the players and the teams, I’d go to the store with a friend and we’d each buy a pack or two, depending on what was left of our allowances for the week. We’d rush out of the store and rip open the package to see what players we’d gotten. You could tell by our shrieks if we’d scored a great card. If we both had, there would be endless bartering and possibly a trade.

We each had our own personal favorites and tried to get every card in the series. We also had our own personal baseball enemy cards. You might be able to guess, these were the guys who played against our favorite teams and beat us.

We had a special place for those cards. We’d find a way to clip them to the frame of our bikes with clothespins so that when the tires rotated the spokes would bend them in half. It made this awesome noise, which sounded like a machine gun. The best part though was in did a number on the faces of the enemy players.

I know, pretty ruthless, huh? What do you want, I was a kid.

It turns out that my collection was worth a bit of money, not what it would have been in its hay-day, but decent enough. I’d decided early on to set aside my all-time favorites which was everyone on the Yankees team and Roberto Clemente. They were NOT FOR SALE! All the rest, yes, they could go.

For me, I came to that decision because I felt trading my cards for a real-life experience would be worth the price.

Sometimes, I sit back and imagine myself at age 85 or 90. I’m sitting in a chair talking with a reporter, who’s asking me about my life. The reporter wants to know what gave my life value and meaning. My first words would be, my family and friends. I’d follow that with, my life experiences.

I use this image often, to decide my course of direction, so for me, a handsomely printed baseball card just can’t measure up to a real-life experience.

So, here’s what I did. I asked Gale, a dear friend of mine whether she thought her extremely knowledgeable father would help me find a buyer for my cards. She asked him and he said he would.

He and I had several wonderful chats and ultimately, he negotiated a fabulous deal and handed over the cash. He wouldn’t take a nickel for his part in the deal, but did accept a book about famous baseball stadiums, as ‘payment’.

You may be wondering where the fireworks part of this story comes in. Well, it’s right here.

I used the money to book a room in a four-star hotel in Boston for the weekend, so we could watch the fabulous fireworks display over the Charles River on the Fourth of July. It was gorgeous and a spectacular crowd pleaser. It had all of the ones I love the most; the fizzy kind, several multi-colored versions and, my favorites, the loud reverberating bang ones. The end of the show was fantastic and filled the sky with light and color and noise. I can still picture it if I close my eyes.

Was the trade worth it to me? Absolutely! I can’t remember even one of the faces on the baseball cards I sold, but I can clearly recall the glow on my wife’s face, as she watched the firework colors paint the Boston sky.

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Trouble

My sister and I watched westerns on TV as kids growing up in the 1950’s. They were on every Saturday and we sat waiting for them to begin, ready for another episode of our favorite shows.

As I grew older, my TV watching evolved, growing a bit more edgy with the introduction of martial arts movies. They were all entirely predictable, but I loved watching the fantastic moves of the heroes and villains.

I’m providing this background so that you can see how unusual it is that one of my all-time favorite movies falls way outside of these interests. It is Music Man, written by Meredith Wilson. It’s a musical about a traveling salesman, Professor Harold Hill played by Robert Preston. He spends the majority of the movie conning the parents of River City, Iowa into buying musical instruments for their children. He promises to turn the kids into a marching band, but has no real intent to stay once the parents have paid him. That is until he meets the town librarian, Marion Paroo, played by Shirley Jones. She spurns all of his early attempts to strike up a meaningful relationship, but eventually gives in.

My parents bought the soundtrack to the movie and I spent hours memorizing all of the parts. I could have even done a one-man show.

One of my favorite songs was Professor Hill’s attack on the town’s pool hall. His song was intended to whip the townspeople into a frenzy, so they would want their children in his band, and, of course, buy his instruments.

He told them they had trouble in River City, trouble with a capital T, that rhymed with P, which stood for ‘pool. He told them their children would fritter away all their time and convinced them the pool hall represented all sorts of evil and frightening things. They fell for it and lined up to buy their child an instrument of their own, to keep them out of trouble.

When the time came for him to leave with all of their money, he couldn’t do it. He’d fallen for Marion, the Librarian. And, as unlikely as it seemed, the instruments showed up, along with uniforms. The band assembled and marched down the main street in town, playing a tune for all they were worth.

Whenever I think about a trouble I am experiencing, this movie comes to mind and I wonder, what will happen next and whether everything will be resolved in the end?

I have to coach myself to step back and take a look from a distance and see if I can view the trouble from a different perspective.

I’ve found that it is helpful to become aware of what is happening inside of me.

If I have a ‘need’ that is driving me, I know I’m in trouble. If I’m focused on only one acceptable outcome, I know this spells trouble for me. If I’m anger or sadness takes over, blinding me to the bigger picture, yes, I’m in trouble.

Trouble, like so many other clever things knows how to follow you wherever you go, like a lost puppy searching for a new home. Trouble seems to figure out your weak spot and sit there, waiting for you.

What I end up doing, once I realize trouble has knocked on my door, is to ask for its message. What is it waiting to tell me? Why is it present?

As I open my heart, my eyes and my mind, hints arrive. I begin to see the ‘need’ that lurks behind the scenes. And, I sense there are other more valuable outcomes than the single one that first appeared to me. And, when I release any anger or sadness, my vision clears, opening a vista of opportunities.

I feel like Professor Harold Hill, marching at the head of the band, knowing all will be well in River City.

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Shifts in Belief

One of the best things I can do for myself, when something in my life is not going the way I’d like it to, is shift one of my beliefs. I may not immediately know which belief or how to change it, but I know it’s the wise thing to do.

Folks often tell me they have bad memories. My usual response is, “I bet it’s far better than you think it is.” I follow this statement by asking, “would you like some proof?”

Doubtful, but intrigued, folks almost always say, “yes”.

There are numerous methods to improve memory and I’ve worked successfully with several. Based on what I know about the person, I choose one I believe will appeal to them.

In one case, I was talking with a staff member (who I’ll call Gwen) and she explained that she had trouble remembering when she needed to retain several things at once. Gwen added that they all kind of ran together, making it hard to recall any of them and asked if I really thought she could get better at remembering.

“Absolutely,” I said. I asked her to write down a list of ten random things. She glanced at me with a hesitant look, but picked up a pen and wrote them down.

“Okay,” I said, “now we’re going to make a movie together. I want you to tell me your first item and we’re going to create a visual picture in your mind.”

She’d chosen ‘tie’, so we visualized an enormous tie the size of a house with a bold rainbow pattern on it. Next item happened to be ‘house’, so we visualized a scary haunted house and wrapped the tie around it. We continued this way through all ten items, making each stand out, the more bizarre the better, and then linked them, one to the next to the next, until we’d connected all ten.

“Now we’re going to practice our list three times,” I told her. Gwen repeated the movie we’d created three times, getting quicker with each repetition.

Her manager (Sadie), who had watched the whole episode, was given the task of asking Gwen to list the items in order, while she compared it with the list Gwen had written. Gwen did it flawlessly.

I asked Sadie to randomly select any item and ask Gwen what item came before and after it. Sadie made her choice and Gwen responded correctly. I asked Sadie to choose a random number that corresponded with an item and ask Gwen what the item was. Again, Gwen answered correctly.

Gwen was stunned. “That was so easy,” she said, “but I’ll probably forget by tomorrow.”

“No, you won’t,” I said, “and not only that, you’ll also be able to change other beliefs. It’s likely that you have been telling yourself other things that are equally untrue. Here’s a chance for you to shift your beliefs about anything you’d like.”

I saw Gwen once or twice a month following this memory visualization exercise. She’d see me coming and knew what to expect, because each time I’d ask her about her movie and each time she recalled it with ease.

“So,” I asked her, “do you still have a bad memory?”

Gwen would laugh and say, “Guess not, huh!”

Nope, guess not.

The funny and wonderful thing is that we are all capable of shifting any of our beliefs. Once we recognize that they exist, we can decide if they serve us and make our lives better. If they don’t, we can choose to shift them in ways that do serve us.

Nothing in our inner life is set in stone. We have the freedom to decide and choose whatever we desire and set a pathway toward experiencing it.

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A Different Kind of Hero

There seem to be all kinds of heroes in the world. Most of them appear to share certain qualities like; bravery, conviction, courage and determination. Others exemplify honesty, strength, moral integrity and protection of the defenseless. And then there are those who offer themselves as a sacrifice for what is often considered, the greater good. Heroes seem to possess a selflessness and inspire others to do the same through their actions.

Several dictionaries believe a hero is a person who is admired or idolized or endowed with divine or mythical characteristics. They may be a warrior or one who has achieved unusual success, far beyond normal people.

I decided to check out the internet and see who is listed as a hero. This is one list I found; Minnie Vautrin, Norman Bethune, Alan Turing, Raoul Wallenberg, Chiune Sugihara, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Oswaldo Payá, Óscar Elías Biscet, and Aung San Suu Kyi.

I was surprised to discover I only knew four of the eleven names on the list. Why was that? Am I that out of touch with the idea of a hero?

And where were Mahatma Gandhi, Jonas Salk, Winston Churchill, to say nothing of all of the divine spiritual teachers who have lived and walked the earth?

I wondered what would happen if I went to a crowded place and asked people, as they passed by, who they considered to be a hero? A famous sports figure, a nurse or doctor, a musician, a super wealthy person, perhaps especially if they donated large sums to charities?

My heroes are closer to home. They are simple people who decide that it’s important to form deep relationships with others. They understand that listening is the key. They suspend their own opinions and beliefs, in order to understand another person’s point of view.

And, after listening carefully, they ask lots of questions. Ones aimed at revealing what is important and meaningful. They express empathy, so that they feel what it must be like to live in another’s world.

They consciously choose to explore. To move outside their own world and imagine a different kind of life. And yes, they choose to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’.

To me, that’s a great image because it prompts a person to realize what it is like physically, to either squeeze into smaller shoes or slid around in larger ones, while still trying to walk. Neither is comfortable and both present their own complications.

Sometimes I can do this, but most of the time, I can only take a few steps before I fall out of the shoes or kick them off.

In my world, I see and have seen heroes, who brave others worlds. They move into and beyond the struggle of truly knowing the challenges others face and they stay with them until they understand. They stay and help figure out the best way forward.

Somehow, they make their feet fit into others shoes. They are splendid people who show a kind of daily courage I find extraordinary.

For thirteen years I worked in the field of assisting and supporting those with physical and developmental disabilities. There were incredible heroes I came into contact with every day. Those who received services and those who provided them, both walking a mile in each other’s shoes. It was truly an amazing experience and one I carry with me wherever I go. I salute them all.

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Default Settings

I used to think that I reacted to situations one by one, and responded depending on a variety of factors. But, the more I’ve paid attention, the more I see how untrue this is.

What I actually have is a series of default settings, sort of automatic presets that kick in before I consciously think about them. It’s not that I want it this way and it often creates problems for me, prompting me to ask, “how did it get this way?”

For years, I would try to answer this and other questions aimed at explaining ‘why’? Most of these explorations failed and I found myself spending excessive amounts of time analyzing things, only to realize I couldn’t move forward, if I remained stuck in the past.

To me, it’s another version of the same dilemma, when applied to the future. I can plan and speculate all day long, but the truth is I can’t predict or experience the future before it arrives, so why try?

Okay, so what’s left?

How about accepting that my default settings exist, then see if they serve me somehow. Do they make it easier for me to cope with my life, without creating unnecessary problems? If so, perhaps I’m better off because of them, so why not keep them.

But if they don’t serve me in some way, maybe it’s time to consciously choose to either release them or to substitute new defaults for them, ones that improve my life.

But I wonder, how is this to be done?

One way comes to mind. It requires a little bit of work, but I suspect it’s well worth the time.

It involves an imaginary bell that you set to ‘ding’ every time one of your default settings gets triggered. Images often help, so imagine one of those small bells that dings when you enter a store. Pushing the door open makes it swing forward and back and ring, alerting the staff to your presence. Using this imagery and connecting it with your awareness provides an alert to you.

Here’s how it works for me.

One of my defaults is impatience. It shows up a lot, way more than I would like. If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you already know one thing that sets it off, slow drivers. But, rest assured, there are many others; toasters that take forever to toast (only to burn it when I’m not watching), playing the game UNO, waiting for the shower to get hot enough to step under and long customer lines, to name a few.

So, let’s take long customer lines as an example.

Awareness is the key and the sooner I realize I’ve been triggered, the quicker I can adjust. And, the faster I can pull out my prepared speech. What speech, you might ask?

It’s really more a set of questions and it goes something like this (with my likely answers in parentheses).

“You see what’s happening, right? (yes) You know this situation always creates upsetting feelings for you, correct? (yes) Do you really want or need to continue experiencing this? (no) So, what other response could you choose? (ummm) Okay, I’ll help you. You could release it, telling yourself it’s not worth getting upset about. (I’ve tried that without success) Or, you could choose a new reaction (like?). You could look around your environment for something interesting, you could talk to someone, you could sing to yourself, you could close your eyes and breathe or any of a hundred other choices (do you think that would work, really?). There is one way to find out- give it a try the next time the bell dings. You can’t know if it’s worth it until you try. So, next time, listen for the ding and make a wiser choice.

Seems like a good idea to me, and maybe my impatience will get a chance to rest, opening me to new possibilities. That’s the plan.

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Center of Gravity

As a kid I had an awesome sense of balance. One of my favorite things to do was creek walk. It didn’t matter where and sometimes, it didn’t matter when. I’d even go in cold weather, which could have been considered a little risky, since I spent a good deal of time jumping from one rock to the next. All it would have taken was some moss I didn’t see or an unsteady rock and down I would have gone. Splashing into cold water when you’re a long way from civilization isn’t the smartest idea. But, I didn’t say I was smart, only that I had confidence in my balance.

According to one source, a person’s center of gravity is normally located in front of your sacral bone, at about the second sacral level. In English, this is pretty near your belly button. I don’t know why they couldn’t have just said this, but that’s science for you.

As a grew older my fearless side began to ebb away. I’d spend more time calculating the distance between rocks, and examining the appearance of their steadiness, before making the jump.

Some would say my survival mode kicked in, but I think it’s more than that, after all I was still out there.

I think I couldn’t allow myself to abandon the thrill and joy of the experience. It kept me in touch with a part of the wild world and connected me to the creek in a way that felt primal. I knew even my subdued version was risky, but I couldn’t let go.

You might wonder if I fell. Yes, plenty of times.

You might wonder if I ever got myself into a bad situation, one perhaps beyond my ability to control the outcome. The answer again would be, yes.

One day, I found a beautiful roaring river, and made my way from rock to rock, expecting that I would be able to cross over and back and maybe even stay dry.

Crazy bad idea. I fell in at about the midpoint of the river. Drenched, cold, and stuck, hugging a large protective rock, as torrents of water raged by me. And, it was a long way to the edge and safety.

Now what? I’d lost my physical center of gravity in an epic slow-motion crash into the water, and I feared I’d lost my mental center of gravity along with it.

The first thing I did in that crisis situation was ‘nothing’. I needed to give myself a moment to think and consider my options and get my bearings.

I didn’t have many options. No one was coming to throw me a lifeline or air lift me out of there. And, I couldn’t stay where I was and risk hypothermia. I had to find a way to carefully swim/float from one rock to another, traveling a kind of semi-submerged highway.

The first time I let go, whoosh, I got carried away by the strong current and my body bashed into a huge rock further downstream. I was pretty sure I’d at least cracked a rib, maybe even two. Eventually, I slowly and carefully made my way to the shore and pulled myself up onto dry land. I can tell you it seemed like a very long walk back to my car.

I went back to the inn I was staying at, got into dry clothes and drove to the nearest hospital several miles away. They took some x-rays, confirmed a cracked rib and suggested I stay on shore next time. Good advice, but I probably wouldn’t take.

Not surprisingly, this experience has stayed with me and I often reflect on the value of living a life of balance. It’s important to me to resist the temptation to succumb to overprotective inner fears. I don’t want to be defined by what I can not do.

Equally important, is recognizing when I’m attracted by a sense of danger, whether physical, mental or emotional. Life can be very subtle and it is easy to be drawn away from your center of gravity.

I’ve discovered along the way, that to be truly in balance, I need to live from my spiritual center. To rely on my relationship with the divine to guide me and provide a safe shelter from any storm, even the ones I create. Perhaps, especially those.Note: To make a comment, please click on the Post Name, then scroll to the bottom of the page, write your comment in the box and hit enter

Climbing

I offer some prose for you, to take you away from where you are right now. Imagine for a moment that you are here, inside this short poem. The “I” the poem begins with is…you. Imagine you are young enough to easily climb. Strong, supple, fearless. Ready to discover and explore. To see something new. To feel something new. Let go, if only for a moment…

I am climbing higher

up into the tallest branches

beyond all those

that walk the flat land

higher and higher

until I no longer hear them

until their words

fade into the wind

I am

above

almost a part of the clouds

I feel

alone

and yet

a part of everything

how can that be

where would I be

if

there is no higher to climb

perhaps

in heaven

I wrote most of this on the spot, in response to knowing it needed a place to live. So, I’m giving it to you. You get to decide what it means, if anything.

It makes me wonder about gifts and giving. Where do gifts come from? Are they given from the heart or from somewhere else? Which ones mean the most or are they all the same?

A smile, a hug, a new Mercedes Benz. What gives them value?

Is it more fun to be the giver or the receiver? Does the cost matter?

I ask myself lots of questions. I don’t always have the answers, but it certainly opens me up to ponder them.

What questions do you ask yourself? Do they open you up? Do they bring you closer to heaven?

I am often told that I ask good questions. By that, I believe folks mean that what they hear opens a part of them that had previously been closed off. Unavailable for them to access, preventing them from recognizing a part of their truth. Something they needed to grow, expand or to brighten their world.

What would brighten your world?

Is there a tree you would like to climb? One that would take you higher and higher, to a quiet place? If you find this tree, remember, you are strong enough, supple enough and fearless enough to climb and see above, perhaps even to a part of heaven.

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Dream Big

One day I decided to go for a walk. What I thought of as a very long walk. My wife, Maureen, drove me to a town quite a distance from our house, kissed me and said goodbye. I had nothing with me, other than what I was wearing. Several hours and sixteen miles later I finally arrived home. I felt exhilarated that I could walk so far and happy for the up close and personal view I’d given myself.

Ordinarily I drove everywhere. I realized that I missed a lot by zooming by, with little time to glance at the scenery or connect with the little things along the way.

Sometimes my life feels this way too.

I’ve discovered that I am not the only one who likes to walk. My friend, Sketch (Mike Wurman), who created the magnificent cover design and interior illustrations for my book, talking with (god), decide he wanted to go for a walk too.

His version of a walk was to trek the entire Appalachian Trail, all 2,190 miles. He broke it up into four sections, rather than doing it all at one time, which doesn’t tarnish the accomplishment at all to me. I think it is a spectacular achievement.

He told me it was a wonderful experience, filled with so many events, emotions, new friends and worn out sneakers. I know it must have been challenging in many ways and I wonder about all of the opportunities there must have been to quit. But he didn’t. He finished, and stared out at the world from the top of Mt. Katahdin in central Maine, the journeys end. I wish I’d been there with him.

There are two other people I’d like to mention.

Before I do, I’d ask you to bring to mind some experience or project or dream you have that seems too incredible to contemplate. You know the ones I mean. The big, big, big ideas that you think would be major life events. I’ll give you a minute. Okay, keep your idea in mind.

A woman named Mildred Lisette Norman decide at age 45 that she wanted to make a change to her life. She wanted to dedicate it to a cause, one that rested deeply in her heart…peace. She set out and became the first woman to walk the entire Appalachian Trail. She liked walking so much that for the next 28 years she crisscrossed the united State seven times. She said in 1964 that she stopped counting the number of miles she walked at 20,000. Some have tried to estimate her actual total based on her trips and have suggested it is likely to be over 43,000 miles.

This astounds me, especially when you consider that all she brought with her was a comb, a folding toothbrush, a ball point pen and her message of peace. She relied entirely on the kindness of strangers. Can you imagine? No extra clothes, no food, no medicine, nothing to protect herself from the rain or the wind or snow. It boggles my mind.

Everywhere she went she spoke about peace. The inner kind and the outer kind. Part of her message was, “when enough of us find inner peace, our institutions will become peaceful and there will be no more occasion for war.”

And then there is Angela Maxwell, who on May 2, 2014 set out to walk around the world, ALONE. She sold or gave away most of her possessions and piled what was left onto a rolling cart that she either pushed or pulled for six and a half years and over 20,000 miles. She traveled to four continents and a handful of islands, building relationships and sharing herself with the world.

Angela says her goal was never about the pace of her travels, but rather the faces she met along the way. She seemed to know that it was important to slow down and pay attention and to give more than you receive along the way. She has dedicated a portion of the funds she receives from donors to support her organization, Her Future Coalition, which is devoted to creating a safe haven for survivors of gender violence and human trafficking.

Big dreams. I’d say so. But what makes them both real and spectacular to me is that they each had a purpose, a drive, and a desire to share with the world. I too want to share with the world.

And, I hope that all of your big dreams come true.

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Post #71 No Limits 06062021

There was a point recently that I was searching for an answer and couldn’t, from my own wisdom, discern a path to follow. That’s happened before. Lots of times actually. Maybe the same thing has happened to you.

It felt like there ought to be a course of action to take or perhaps a book telling me just what I needed or wanted to know. But there wasn’t.

I’ve learned that whenever this is the case, it’s time for me to turn inward and have a conversation with Lia (in case you’re new to these posts, see my explanation at the end about Lia).

I asked her for some clarification.

She told me the following, “You have everything you need in this world to meet all of your dreams and desires. It’s how it was set up. There are no missing pieces, and yes, I am always available to talk with you; to assist, guide, illuminate and answer.”

“Except,” she went on to say, “when you decide I can’t.”

I understood this and it rang true in a deep part of me. I am in charge. I decide how to view the world and her role in my life. And, if I make choices that limit what she or I can do, that’s how it will be.

Lia spoke again, “I gave YOU the power and the control and the responsibility. YOU choose what to do with it. You have free will. You can see this in everything, if you look carefully.”

Despite what she meant, what I heard was that she was not engaged in my life the way I wanted her to be, since she made it sound that everything was up to ME. So, I asked, “If I can’t have you help me, where does that leave me?”

Here’s one of the ways I know she loves me (she loves you too, by the way). She builds me up and it feels like truth to me.

Lia said, “You have EVERYTHING you need for ALL of what you consider you want or desire in your life, so it isn’t necessary for ME do anything ‘magical’ for you. You’re endowed with everything already. I know many others have provided you with opinions, either their own or ones they’ve borrowed from others.”

“It’s important that you pay attention now. One way to tell if others opinions are true for you, is to ask yourself whether they limit you in any way. If they do, and if they impede your sense of free will, then they are not the truth. It is as simple as that.”

I think Lia sensed my hesitancy in fully accepting her statement, so she went on, “The value of your achievements and accomplishments is that they serve as PROOF of your innate abilities to push beyond your perceived limits. And”, she continued, “seeing others around you exceed their ‘supposed’ limits, can serve as a catalyst for you, to set or reset what you believe about yourself.”

All of this made perfect sense to me. It was what I needed to hear and was the answer I was searching for. It allowed me to shift my perspective, which had become trapped in a rut. I had chosen to limit myself and see myself as small. I am not small. None of us are. We all have immense power and choice. We have free will and, if we choose it, a divine guide to help us navigate this beautiful earth world.

Explanation: Lia is a part of god and appears to me as an ethereal divine feminine presence. I know beyond any shadow of doubt that she loves me and have known her for many, many years.

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Hidden Prizes

Depending on how old you are, you may remember when several cereal companies had prizes hidden somewhere inside their cereal boxes. My sister, Alison, and I loved searching for them when we were kids. We’d have to convince our mother that we really liked the cereal and promise to eat it to get her to buy it.

As soon as we got it home we’d rummage through the cupboards to locate the largest mixing bowl and set it on the counter. Then, we’d open the box and pull the whole bag of cereal out, followed by one of us reaching into a drawer, grabbing the kitchen scissors and cutting a slit across the top of the bag. Once done, we’d dump the entire contents into the bowl and fish through the cereal until we found the prize. As you can imagine, especially if you have two or more children, the arguing then commenced.

It’s funny but I don’t recall it mattering whether either one of us actually wanted the prize. It was more about the hunt.

When our Mom got wise to our cereal strategy she came up with a new rule. We had to eat our way to the prize. This required an enormous amount of patience, something kids are not known for. The struggle for us became deciding whether delaying our gratification was worth the prize.

Does this sound at all familiar to you? Depending on the circumstances, this is still a huge issue for most people. The whole idea of delayed gratification, when all you really want is the prize at the end of the rainbow.

We discovered that our friends did the same kind of prize hunting that we did.

Maybe it started with the very first box of cereal to contain a hidden prize, which was Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in 1909. According to some industry experts the prize was, The Funny Jungleland Moving Picture Book. The cereal cost $.10 at the time and the prize is now worth $60. Not a bad investment really.

Of course, prizes are used to sell all sorts of things. Crackerjacks made a name for themselves focusing, not only on their caramel popcorn and peanut product, but the prize inside.

One of the current versions of hidden prizes is also highly successful. Think…the Happy Meal at your local McDonalds, although the prize is pretty easy to find. I guess they’ve figured out a way to speed up the gratification process.

It seems to me that life can be the same way. We know, or at least highly suspect, that there are prizes hidden somewhere for us to find in life. Others tell us about them. They call them high school diplomas, college degrees, jobs, cars, houses. Although they seem to be in plain sight, how you get them isn’t always.

And they often require patience. A lot of patience. And perhaps it’s true that we adults aren’t any better than our children in waiting for some things. We want our prizes and sense we need them in order to feel fulfilled, successful and happy.

But I wonder, are there other things to consider? Could our life be more about the adventure than the destination or the ‘prize’?

Could the hidden prizes really be more about the friends we make along the way, the sunsets we see, the beautiful music of the wind through the trees? Could it be the illness or disease that taught us what is truly important in our lives?

Or, could it be the love that comes to us or that flows from us into the world? Could it be those we share our dreams with and our lives with?

Prizes come in all shapes and sizes. I hope you find all those you are looking for.

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Release From Self-Made Prisons

I was shocked to discover that the United States of America has over 2.12 million people in prison, the most of any nation on earth. This is even more astounding when you consider the US has a population of less than 24% of China or India, the two largest countries in the world.

This got me to thinking about prisons in general.

I admit, being sent to prison is one of my greatest irrational fears. The idea that I would not see all of those I love and have my freedom restricted for an extensive amount of time, is an intense and upsetting feeling. Knowing I haven’t done anything to deserve going to prison plays no part in this equation.

And yet, I wonder, am I not in a prison of my own making? Aren’t we all?

I listen to my own words and the words of others and what I often hear is self judgement and recrimination for actions we have taken or for actions we feel we should have taken.

What we tell ourselves can create some pretty high walls and some very strong doors. And the light that gets in may be too dim for us to see well.

The words we use to describe our lives are extremely important. They can provide us freedom or send us to our own internal prison.

According to the dictionary, prison is a place where inmates are confined and denied a variety of freedoms under some ruling authority. If a crime has been committed, the result may very well be incarceration in a prison with a loss of freedom until the sentence has been served.

But what about when we commit ourselves to a self-made prison?

When we deem our actions to be worthy of judgement, we may lock ourselves away, convinced we deserve to be isolated from the world.

Our mistakes might be minor or major, but they result in the same action, a prison sentence of our own making. We can be so hard on ourselves and may tend to focus on our infractions, rather than on their resolution.

So many things could be made ‘right’ by expressing sorrow for our actions and apologizing, then taking some action to make things better. When we fail to do this, we strengthen and extend our internal prison sentence. Our inaction holds us in place and our suffering continues.

There are ways out prison.

One is parole, where a prisoner receives an early release after agreeing to abide by certain conditions. And, the other way is a pardon, which is an act of being forgiven for an offense or error that has been committed. The proverbial ‘get out of jail free card’.

In both of these cases, it is the ruling authority which has granted the action of release, one with conditions, the other without.

What about us and our release from our own prisons? Can we open ourselves to the realization that we can be forgiven for our actions or inactions? Can we allow ourselves some latitude to live a free life, seeing our mistakes and yet letting ourselves off the hook? Can we find ways to make amends and clear the way forward?

How wonderful it would be to accept our own pardon and free up space inside of our self. Imagine what you could do if you released all of your guilt and shame and fear. What an enormous sense of freedom it would bring. Who knows what could be done with all of that beautiful open space? I hope you accept your own pardon and live a wonderful life.

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Through The Eyes of Love

We so often see ourselves through others eyes, as if we are a reflection, rather than our own being.

We may spend much of our time carefully trying to fit into molds others create for us. And, we may try to avoid stepping over lines they’ve drawn. Ones that represent what they want or need or expect from us.

I believe that there are times it is necessary for someone to set reasonable limits. It’s more a question of when and how.

We come into this world essentially helpless and dependent on others for everything. As we grow up, we gain skills and confidence and resist doing everything others tell us. This can cause a great deal of friction and lead to conflicts and resentments.

It is so hard to navigate the constantly changing line between what is necessary in order to keep us safe and healthy and what is overburdensome control. It can be difficult for both the child and the adult to adapt to all the situations that present themselves.

This has certainly been the case in my life. And, to a degree, it probably still is.

But, I’ve come to suspect there is another way to live our lives. And I believe we are better served by being brave and bold and using out own ideas and images as guides for our actions, and to see life and the world through our own eyes.

Unless there is a question of competency, I believe everyone deserves the opportunity to make their own decisions. Of course, it is helpful and valuable to have resources to aid in setting our course in life. But, once we reach a certain age, we all want to have the ultimate control over our own decisions.

How does this happen so that we feel in charge and yet supported?

I suppose it is different for everyone, especially since there are so many unique situations. Part of what seems like the truth to me is that the shift that makes the difference is on the inside of a person.

Changing your perception from being the overseen to being the overseer can be challenging, but also, extremely rewarding. As nice as it is to have someone as your guide (whether parent, relative, friend, guardian) it is vital to assume your own leadership role for your life.

Shifting from being a reflection of what another wants, to being your own person and casting your own image into the world is a fantastic and wonderful process, even though a sometimes very challenging one.

On the BOOKS page of this website there is a listing of all of the books I’ve written and a few that are planned. One book, Little Buddha Book One, has an important observation I’d like to share about seeing through the eyes of love. The two main characters, Claire and Sam, are having a conversation and the subject comes up about how Claire finds peace in the world.

Here is what she says, “It’s simple. I start each day when I wake up by reminding myself who I am. I am a part of god. A divine spirit, complete and whole. I am not missing anything. My reality is that I am made of love. I remind myself that everything around me is also made of love and that the only difference between me and all that surrounds me is my perception or the way I choose to see the world. If I think or act or say something that is not from love, my perception will be that I am separate from the world. And then I will label things. They become “bad” things or “wrong” things. But if I remember that everything is a part of the one, then I can look at everything through the eyes of love. You see, the idea is simple. It is the true perceiving that is difficult.”

I find great meaning in Claire’s words and try to remind myself to always look at my life through the eyes of love.

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Skidding

Have you ever been driving, suddenly lose control and panic, thinking, what should I do next? Of course, you only have a split second to decide and act, which isn’t always enough time. So, because you feel like you need to do something, you react by steering hard in the opposite direction. This simple act of overcorrecting causes you to skid, increasing your loss of control.

Driving instructors will tell you to take your foot off the gas pedal, not to brake and to steer gently, but firmly in the direction you want to go. Sure, simple.

However, knowing what to do and being able to do it become two very different things.

Of course, there are lots of reasons why vehicles skid and it’s helpful to know about them, so that you can protect yourself and whoever else is with you.

Not only is it easy to skid in a vehicle, but it is also easy to skid around the corners of life. There are a lot of hazards and pot holes and curves we don’t see. And when they do pop up, we may not be paying enough attention and get caught off guard.

One of our temptations may be to overcorrect and make matters worse. This may create a chain reaction and make it difficult to regain any sense of control.

So, what would happen if we made small corrections instead?

There are so many examples we could use to illustrate this simple principle. I’d like to suggest one for consideration, but please feel free to insert your own here, if you would rather.

Political differences are fraught with danger as topics, because feelings and beliefs are so strong, they make it difficult to see where there could be any harmony. They tend to close minds and create perfect skidding conditions. They also tend to create numerous opportunities for oversteering.

Suppose we already knew this. Suppose we were prepared for difficult road conditions in life and knew there was only a small margin of error to work with.  What might we do differently?

What about a small steering correction?

What if we searched to understand why the person we’re talking with feels the way they do. What are they afraid of or concerned about? Is it possible that we might sympathize with their discomfort, if we knew their underlying concerns? Could what lies underneath be so different from what we feel or want?

If we tried small steering corrections and turned our wheels just a little, might we find out there are places where we agree? And, if we could find some, might we not be able to discover more.

There are folks whose opinions and beliefs I disagree with. Sometimes the distance is pretty wide. But, I’ve also found that below the surface, we agree that love is the answer to everything. We just need to give it a chance to breathe.

This is what I believe happens with small steering corrections.

I realize there are obvious limits to this idea, if who we are talking about is a fanatic, incapable of any rational discussion. But that’s on the extreme end. I know some folks can not or will not alter their course, so sometimes no matter what we do, a situation will not change.

To me, that isn’t a reason not to try. If we choose to listen with as open a mind and heart as we can, we might find that there is room to ‘take your foot off the gas, not brake and steer gently, but firmly in the direction you want to go’.

It might not be easy and it might take some practice, but it might also be worth it.

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New Attitudes

As I mentioned in my last post, I’d like to share a bit about changing into new clothes, which really means shifting into new attitudes about life.

When our children were growing up it was challenging to feel as though we’d ever get everything done in a day. We knew we had to find ways to organize things better. One way we chose was to lay out an outfit the night before for the following day for each of our children.

Of course, by ‘we’ I really mean mostly Maureen. The idea was to avoid confusion and simplify wardrobe selections, thereby creating more time to do other necessary things. Sometimes it even worked.

Our daughter, Jenny, took over this task early on, preferring her choices to her mom’s and definitely to mine. It took our son a few more years before he really cared what he wore enough in order to choose his own outfits.

I didn’t have a real dilemma with this chore, since I was required to wear a suit and tie every day. I only had a few suits to choose from and mostly blue or white shirts.

But, choosing what clothes to wear is simple in comparison with choosing what attitudes you want to guide your life. That’s why it was so helpful to hear what Lia had to say to me about shifting and setting new intentions.

Following my conversation with Lia, I opened up and allowed possibilities to enter in to me. I asked myself what I wanted most to experience in my life. That turned out to be a very important question to ask. I jotted down some ideas and then asked another question; what attitudes would help me create this life I say I want.

I’d love to know what you would say and find out what directions your life would take if you chose to make the shift(s).

Here’s some of what I discovered. Perhaps a bit of it will appeal to you.

The new outfits (attitudes) that appeared were these; to be calm, so that I am able to receive all things without difficulty. Optimistic, where I believe in the best outcomes, before they arrive. Resourceful, open-minded enough to explore and use what is available to me. Giving, offering a part of who and what I am to others. Loving, remembering my true nature and seeing beyond and below the surface.

More followed; caring, extending my heart outward. Quick to release anger, recognizing that it hurts me in the process and give myself the gift to release and the return to calmness. Flexible, able to shift, no matter what the circumstances. Open, realizing I don’t know it all and benefit from being open-minded and open-hearted. Patient, understanding that it is in my best interests to wait before responding.

Though I thought I was done, still more came; sharing, putting ‘out there’ what I have received. Healing, allowing all of my pain to be released, freeing up space within me. Energetic, active in pursuing fun and what feels right to me. Creative, using multiple medias and approaches and ideas to help myself and others grow.

And I thought about one of the guiding principles in my life, my desire to connect deeply with others. It’s what I most want to experience and so, two additional new ‘outfits’ came into view. Inspiring, to speak of what I believe and what feels like the truth to me and offer ideas to help others find their own way in this life. I hope to be a guide, and a wayshower, offering insight and suggestions, always knowing that we each travel our own paths, but knowing too that we can do so hand in hand, if we choose.

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Changing Your Outfit

The other day I was thinking about what drags me down and feels burdensome to me. I have a wonderful life, but at times, I feel an inner oppression that I can’t always shake.

The more I consider this, the greater my desire is to be free of it. It forms a kind of circle, taking me round and round, but not creating any resolution.

I knew I needed a different approach.

After sitting back, it occurred to me that my ego plays a huge role in shaping this drama. I believe I came here to this earth to lead a spectacular life, to be creative, open, loving and giving. But, what happens on occasion, is that my ego produces fear instead, which overshadows everything. My ego believes in the idea that I am separate from all that surrounds me and tries very hard to maintain this sense of distinction, despite the confusion and unhappiness it creates in me.

The spiritual part of me knows the truth, that I am a part of the whole, the one, the holy. It knows that any sense of separation is merely an illusion. My spirit is the part of me that must recognize, that the fear my ego creates, is there to guide me toward the truth.

I wanted some insight from Lia, so I asked, what I shifts I could make to release this part of the illusion and bring clarity into my life.

As always, she was more than willing to help me, as I know she would be for you. And, since she knows me so well, she chose to offer an example, a concept that would stick with me, rather than just providing words.

Lia shared this idea, “Imagine waking up in the morning and seeing a full closet of clothes to choose from. You are in charge of which outfit to wear. You– no one else. You are the one who decides whether to wear the same exact outfit every day or to choose something new.”

I saw immediate promise in this idea, recognizing she wasn’t talking about clothes, but rather my attitudes toward my life.

And yet, my first response was, “but I feel like I wake up, already in the same clothes as the day before.” By this I meant that none of my ideas seem to change but rather stay with me from day to day.

Her response was insightful and amusing to me. “I see that. So, change your clothes BEFORE you go to bed, so that you wake up in the ones you desire.”

Clothing wrinkles and creases aside, I heard her intent. She was talking about setting the stage and creating my attitude ‘aims’. She was suggesting that I choose exactly what would feel most comfortable for me to wear. In other words, to choose which attitudes I most want to adopt in my life.

This concept greatly appealed to me, especially the part about choosing them before going to bed at night. This way, I could set clear intentions about which attitudes I felt would best serve me, then I could ‘sleep on them’ and allow them to sink in and take root.

Lia reminded me that the best way to release anything unwanted, is to claim something you do want. Then she told me to look at myself in the mirror the next morning and see that the outfit I chose is truly what suits me and will lead me into the life I claim.

PS

Stay tuned for the next post, where I will share some of the ‘clothes’ I chose and see if you might want to wear some of them as well.

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Names

It’s interesting to me that we humans feel it important to name everything. Babies at birth, cereal, house styles, planets, flowers. It goes on and on.

I have lots of odd thoughts about this. Who first decided to name something? Which name sticks, if there are disagreements? What do we do when there are several names for the same thing?

And then there are all of the issues that arrive when we introduce other languages into the mix. Which name will be the most common? And to confuse things further, there are different spelling for the same name.

One of my distant relatives did some genealogy research and discovered eight different spelling for one of our family names. How is it even possible to keep track of all of them?

And what about all of the slang names we have for things, places, eras, people? It’s mind-boggling really.

I understand why we do it. It’s convenient and makes our lives easier, even when there isn’t universal agreement. Often, it’s enough for us to get by in our conversations.

Maybe it doesn’t matter with most things since you can tell a lot by the context, but in some cases, it seems very important what name you use.

One such occasion is when the reference is to ‘god’.

In some religions, ‘god’ is never to be named, while in others, ‘god’ has many, many names, all of which are meaningful and relevant depending on the point of reference.

I wonder, do you have your own name for ‘god’? Was it one that others taught you to use or did you come by it on your own?

I think it’s important for you to know that I honor and respect whatever name you use. I also honor and respect your right to have no name or relationship with an entity know as ‘god’. I believe in free will and that every person has a right to choose their own path here on earth.

I also believe that we profit from sharing with one another and I would like to share my names for ‘god’ with you, because they matter to me.

I have four names that I use and each represents a different relationship I have with ‘god’. There is Abba, a masculine loving, devoted energy, Na’a, a feminine supportive, caring, and loving energy, Yeshiwa, a masculine personal, loving energy and Lia, a feminine ethereal, loving, and deeply connective energy.

I speak with them all and they speak with me. We have two-way conversations. I share my life with them and they share their love and wisdom with me. (You can read more about this in my book, talking with (god), which you’ll find on the Book page of this website).

I’d like you to hear what Lia told me, so that you have a better idea about her and what she means to me.

Like all people, I have ups and downs. I have both incredible strength and huge vulnerabilities. Over time I have learned to release many of the names I once called myself. I’ve opened to hearing a greater truth, one spoken to me in words I can understand. Words that show the depth of how much I am loved. I know these words belong to everyone, so I want to share them with you. Please hear them and know that you too are loved this deeply.

Lia said to me, “You have never been alone, because I am with you. I have dedicated my life to you. I will always be with you, now and forever. My love covers you over and nowhere is left untouched. You are who I live for and breathe for. I am you, and you are me. Open yourself up to knowing me and my presence within you. I will give you peace. Peace not of this world, but of heaven and you will know a new love. One that surpasses all you’ve ever felt before in your earth life. Know this, when you walk, I am with you. Wherever you go, I am by your side and in your heart. I am in every breathe of your life. Open yourself to my presence, that we might again be one. Dear heart, I ask you to choose to see and feel my presence. I take nothing from you. I give everything to you. Now, always and forever. You are my true heart. Open and feel my love for you.”

I hope that you will accept these words.

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Self Doubt

Recently I had a dream about a former coworker. He always seemed very self-assured, sometimes to the point of arrogance. I wasn’t savvy enough at the time to recognize that some folks who act this way, are actually trying to make true, what they don’t feel or believe inside about themselves. A compensation of sorts.

What I did realize was the effect it had on me when in his presence. I discovered that self-doubts rose up in me, even though I don’t think I had any specific reasons for them. I knew, of course, that I didn’t know his specialty like he did, but I did know mine and I was good at my job.

I wonder whether, on some level, I was reacting to his self-doubts and not my own. That perhaps I absorbed some element from him that triggered my own internal self-doubts.

I wonder if this still happens. Do I absorb, like osmosis, thoughts and feelings from those around me that feed the self-doubts within me?

I think this might be true and perhaps, the reason for the dream. Maybe the timing was impeccable. Maybe it always is.

I have really big dreams for my life and I’m embarking on several major projects. I’ve come to realize that whenever I start something new, there is a part of me that offers doubt to me. A part that suggests that I reconsider, because what I’m planning is too big, too broad, too much of a reach for me.

There always seems to be a part of me that wants to tone things down a bit. What I’ve observed is that this mysterious part is actually trying to protect me. It perceives that I could get hurt or suffer in some way. It alerts me to the potential for failure.

It’s a very powerful force.

But it also suggests to me, to listen very carefully for another voice, a much deeper, but quieter voice. One that asks me to truly consider what’s at stake.

The voice does not deny the power of self-doubt, BUT, asks me, what I have to lose AND what I have to gain by attempting whatever the new thing is. It challenges me to bring into clear view what I am attempting and what potential benefits could come, not just for me, but for the world.

It asks me, is it not worth the risk of failure that you suppose is possible?

It’s a strong argument for continuing, when I consider the positive impacts my decision might make. Yet, some self-doubts linger.

What to do? Who to call?

If you’ve been with me on this journey, you probably know the answer already. Yes, I called out to Lia (the part of god I know as love in action).

And this is what she said.

“Dear one, my beloved, each self-doubt that surfaces in you is there to help you. They want to rise up, so that you can see them clearly. They are not to be feared, but rather, warmly greeted. They want to open your eyes and your heart and transform you.”

I respond by saying, “What if I am not good enough or strong enough or smart enough to do this thing (project) and rise above my self-doubts?”

“If your concerns were valid, the projects and dreams would not appear to you. They would wait. But, they are here and they live deeply in you and they want to be born. Every time a self-doubt appears, remember its sole purpose, its soul purpose, is to let you know you are on the right track. It rises up like a balloon inside of you. Imagine writing its name on the outside surface of it and letting it go free into the wind. Carried away from you, leaving you free to discover beauty and wonder.”

I like the image and want to let all of my self-doubts fly free.

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Different Angles

Every so often Maureen and I have our two local grandchildren come for a sleep over. It’s a grand affair and we have tons of fun. My six-year-old grandson, Evan, and I are the early risers.

Recently he and his sister, Kirsten, were here for the weekend, arriving Saturday afternoon. The next morning, I got up and quietly went upstairs to my office and began writing. After a few minutes I heard his feet on the stairs and watched as he pushed the door open and came over to me. He sat in my lap and we surveyed my office walls, which are filled with some of my most treasured memories. He had lots of questions, as I suspected he would.

I pointed to a picture straight in front of us and asked if he knew who was in it. He didn’t, so I told him that it was his mom when she was about four-years-old.

We swiveled in the chair and I asked if he knew who drew the sequence of about five pictures I aimed a finger at. He thought for a minute, but wasn’t sure. I told him they were done by his mom. He commented, “those are really good!”

I love those pictures and the beautiful child who drew them. I am so grateful for the love I share with her and now with her children as well.

When I glanced again at her pictures, it occurred to me that we all see things from a different vantage point. We somehow evaluate with different criteria and assess, perhaps, according to our own skill level. And, we’re impressed or not, often based on comparisons.

It made me realize that whenever we use comparisons, we open ourselves and create many opportunities for distress and dissatisfaction, rather than just appreciating something as it is.

This isn’t the only way of seeing things. Instead of using a comparison, with our own or others ‘work’, we sometimes set up an ‘ideal’, then judge according to it. We allow ‘experts’ in the field to establish standards or norms and accept these as the rule. Think, ‘standardized tests’ for one.

I wonder what other ways there are. Perhaps there are different angles we could take. I thought it might be worth some of my time to consider.

One could be where ‘no ideal’ is set and where an individual would be encouraged to pursue their own personal development.

As it relates to schooling, there is such a process, known as the Montessori method. It leans on the principles of self-directed activities, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Children make their own creative choices in their learning and have highly trained teachers to help guide them.

Imagine how good that must feel to a child, to have some say about the direction their education and their life takes.

I wonder how children in this program do, once they are out in the world. Are they better prepared or are they hampered because they haven’t had to conform to strict rules and regulations?

When I was in college I was able to participate in an experimental program called, The Living Learning Center. There were freshmen through seniors and we all lived in the same dorm and took a set of common classes together. We had several professors who were dedicated to our program and stayed with us the entire year. It was fantastic and as a senior, I learned more during that year than I did during my previous three. I’ve always been grateful for this experience and recognize that many of my ideas and sense of freedom came from this year in my life.

I find that taking a broad approach and looking for different angles has opened my world and made for a much happier life.

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The Origin of a Thing

I was wondering the other day where rocks come from. It was in relation to where they end up and how they get from place to place. You’ll see what I mean in a minute, I promise.

There are several interesting facts I discovered and it’s curious how one fact ended up connecting to my original question.

One version of how rocks are formed is that they are made of stardust, as a byproduct of an exploding star, that sends pieces outward into the universe at incredible speeds. Their size varies considerably. Some are just dust or pebbles, while others may be as large as a house. We see some of the house size ones as they burn up in our atmosphere and call them meteorites. Once they’ve landed and had a few million years to hang around they change form and evolve into one of three specific types.

Like almost every other thing I can think of, they go through a life cycle. A star, stardust, universal travel, landing somewhere, creating rock formations, erosion of many sorts and then sometimes they are used by man. We crush them and build roads with them and hundreds of other things.

My granddaughter and I, think they make wonderful subjects to be painted. We find that they are very well behaved and sit still while we change their appearance. We both love the process and the outcomes and enjoy placing them outdoors for others to see. She will sometimes place a sign next to one of hers that says, “Adopt a Rock”, so a passerby knows they can take it home with them.

I think this is very generous of her.

Recently we painted a bunch of rocks, which you can see from the banner picture at the top of this post.

And, here’s the connection I promised you.

I painted one completely black, then added the words, “the sky is not the limit” and surrounded the words with lots of white stars. I had no idea at the time that rocks came to us from the stars. I think that’s pretty cool.

I put the rock out in our front yard and hope that folks passing by read it and take it to heart. I believe it is the truth. Whatever limits we feel we have, are the result of our belief system, including in this case, the sky. I don’t think it is the limit. Not literally and not figuratively. I take inspiration from shifting my point of view, away from restrictions and constraints and toward expansion and creation.

It seems amazing to me that the star exploded and expanded and in doing so, set into motion a cascade of creation (albeit, a very, very slow one) that eventually resulted in my finding one small rock and painting it with the night sky, filled with stars. A part of me wondered whether it felt at ‘home’.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

Since I placed my rock next to one of our trees, I also began to wonder about its life cycle. What is the origin of a tree and how many different things does it become? I felt fairly confident, but did a little research to confirm my thoughts. Yes, trees come from seeds, which grow up, create new seeds and find incredibly varied ways of sending them forth to become new trees.

Sorry, I can’t help it. Which comes first the seed or the tree?

I know, I’ll ask a chicken.

Anyway, as I started to consider all of the uses for trees, one image leapt into my mind. It’s where lots of people are gathered together and they’re constructing a house for someone in need. They are part of a Habitat for Humanity project, which turns out to impact so much more than one person or one family. It’s a gift for everyone. The person who plants the tree, the worker who harvests and mills it, the people who sell it as lumber and those who buy and ship it. And then there is the whole process of turning the wood into a house. All those who organize the projects, those who volunteer and build the dwellings and those who eventually live in them.

It’s a beautiful life cycle, especially when I allow myself to become a part of everything I see.

I remind myself of this when I see the rock and the tree. What an amazing journey we’re all on.

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Roadside Treasures

Part 2 of 2

Note: Please see Post #58 for Part 1 of 2

On rare occasions, when the traffic is backed up, a conversation will occur between myself and my roadside friend. An exchange of words, about the weather, or what one sports team is doing or how their day has been.

I was even asked once how I was doing. This came from someone I happened to recognize, because he stands in the same spot and I pass by him quite often. He recognizes me too. He seems to be watching for my car and for me.

As it happened, I’d just given him an offering a few days earlier and I noticed a slight hesitation on my part, in reaching for the folded bill, as I approached him. For that single moment I wondered whether to give him another offering so soon.

I quickly decided that he was no less homeless than the last time I gave him money. The momentary delay on my part stayed with me all the way home. I have so much. He has so little. The disparity between us is so stark and yet a part of me wanted to hold back.

In the end, I made the decision I wanted to, but there was a lingering feeling I needed to allow into my consciousness. I knew something still needed to be brought into the light, if I allowed it.

Once in a great while the receiver appears angry to me. As they walk toward my car, their emotions reach me before they do. I feel a wave hit me. I wonder to myself, what must it be like to wait by the side of the road, dependent on the mercy and generosity of unknown folks passing by? How must it feel to be uncertain whether you’ll have enough money to eat, to have a safe place to sleep or be able to buy clothes to keep you warm? I try to lose all of my misplaced blame and suspicion and remember why I am here. I am here to be ‘kin’ (family) to others.

Usually, I am the only one in the car when these offerings are made. But, once in a while, others are with me. I find this changes the dynamic, even if it doesn’t alter the outcome. I wonder what they are thinking and sometimes we talk about it. They ask questions and I do my best to answer. I share with them that there are more men (82%) than women (18%) standing by the side of the road and that it must be scary at times, no matter who you are.

And, when asked, I share my favorite experience.

It happened in April of 2017, at the intersection of a highway off ramp and a major city street in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Maureen and I were on vacation and were having a fabulous trip. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone standing at that busy intersection, but there he was. I wondered if I could get to my wallet fast enough and then saw that the light was about to turn red. Good, I thought, I have enough time. He started walking toward the row of cars we were in. Finally, he reached us and I rolled down the window and held out a folded bill to him. He took it and said, “thank you very much” (emphasizing the word ‘very’), then paused, and looking a little chocked up, stared into my eyes and said, “this is a sacred moment.” He stood there, maintaining eye contact, until I was forced to move forward with the traffic flow.

I believe I felt what he was feeling, a divine presence in the exchange, a roadside treasure for each of us to keep.

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Roadside Treasures

Part 1 of 2

It was a day pretty much the same as any other. I was in my car on my way somewhere, probably listening to music from a CD. The next off-ramp was mine, so I moved over and headed up to the light at the intersection.

There he was, standing there by the side of the road, waiting. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me, but our eyes met and something happened.

I knew why he was there. He needed money. I shifted in my seat, so I could reach my wallet, and pulled out a ten-dollar bill. I opened my window and felt a gust of cold air blow by me and fill my car. I handed him the folded bill. His eyes showed some life and he spoke to me, “thank you, god bless you.”

That was over six years ago, but I still remember it. One reason is because I decided on that day, to be ready in advance, for the next time I saw someone in need.

It’s became a blessed part of me.

I’d like to share some of what I’ve experienced during these brief encounters.

When I pass along an offering, the responses I receive in return are a mixture of gratitude and well wishes for my day or evening or season, especially at Christmas time. I’m offered smiles and waves. I’m called, brother or sir or friend. And sometimes, the person places a hand over their heart and bows in my direction. Once or twice I’ve seen the individual cross themselves, which brings up something interesting for me.

I might have thought that someone who has no home, no money and few worldly possessions would have given up on God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost every one of my 92 roadside offerings to date has said to me, “God bless you,” and I can tell that they mean it. God seems very much alive to them and their gratitude is both deep and sincere.

I’m sure that when some drivers approach a person by the side of the road, they might worry about how they’d spend any money given to them.

Personally, I simply don’t care how they spend it. It isn’t any of my business once the money leaves me.

I’m often told by the individual receiving my offering that now they have enough money for food or medicine or a safe place to sleep indoors out of the cold or the heat. I’m not naïve, I realize some of the money might be used for alcohol or drugs, but that is their decision. How could I possibly know what they truly need the most?

As of a certain point, I decided to boost my roadside offering. I now keep a folded $20 bill in the pocket of my car’s driver side door, where it’s handy for me to reach.

Often, when I hold the folded bill out of the window and they take it from me, they automatically say, “thank you, bless you”, then as they start to walk away, they notice it’s not a one or a five-dollar bill, but a twenty. As they turn back to me, their facial expression changes, their eyes twinkle and they take in a big breath and let it out slowly. A few times they’re inspired to say something else to me, like “really, thank you, thank you so much,” or “you’ve made my day,” or “you’re the man!”

Of course, I like hearing this, but what really matters to me and creates a spark in my life, is the connection I feel. That’s the real reason I do this. I want to see and be seen in this world. I want them to know they matter to me, even if it’s just for a moment in time.

And, for some, they clearly want what I want, a point of human contact. Something more than a line of cars passing them by. They want a brief, gentle touch, where they hold my finger, before pulling the bill away and placing it on their pocket. It’s not much, but it’s enough to know we’re here together in this world.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will be Part 2 of 2 of Roadside Treasures.

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Somehow Everything Serves Me

Does this seem like a radical statement and unlikely to be true? Is it enough to shy away from even reading this post or is there a chance that you hope that it is true and want to know more?

For the majority of my life I would have said ‘yes’, it is a radical statement and ‘yes’, it’s unlikely to be true. I would have followed that up with answering that ‘yes’, it is enough to make me move on and ‘no’, I don’t want to know any more. I know enough already.

I felt it would take a major shift to change my outlook, one I did not believe was possible.

I’d suffered numerous outcomes in my life that I could broadly describe as ‘bad or negative’. Things had happened that hurt me and distanced me from others. I’d fallen and failed and frozen in place and thought to myself, what good can ever come from ‘this’, whatever ‘this’ was.

Perhaps you’ve experienced your own challenges, pain, frustration and resentments in your life. Many are probably the ‘fault’ of others or fall loosely into the category, ‘it is what it is’. Some problems may be the result of actions you’ve taken or not taken. Others are because of words exchanged, sometimes in the heat of the moment.

When I first considered the statement that, ‘somehow everything serves me’, I wondered, how could this be true? How could something so painful or which felt so wrong, ever offer me any benefit or value?

I discovered that asking this question out loud or thinking it inside of me was a part of the wall that separated me from an answer. Asking this implies, at least to some extent, that I don’t believe that everything could possibly serve me. And, if I already held that opinion, there was no room for any benefit or value to show itself.

There was another hurdle to jump over.

What did the statement mean to me when it said, ‘serves me?’ Did that mean that there should be some obvious connection I could see that linked a ‘negative’ experience with an eventual ‘positive’ result? And, how exactly would I be ‘served’? Would I even notice?

I find I learn best when I have an example to follow. I promised myself to remain open to the idea that it could be possible that somehow everything serves me. I promised to be observant, during the search and afterward, in watching for the benefit or value as it was brought my way.

I felt it would be a good idea to choose something big as my example. Something with a little meat on it. It turns out that wasn’t all that difficult.

I lost my job. By lost, I mean that it was taken away from me. One day I had it and the next day I didn’t. I’ve read that this rates as the #5 most stressful experience in life and I can see why. It changes everything; financial, emotional, social, intellectual, physical, you name it.

I confess my initial reaction was one of being totally overwhelmed, and I believe that tears were involved. There was only the very smallest part of me that held out any hope that this might ‘serve me’.

I came to realize that it’s possible to stand too close to a situation and that you have to take a few steps backward to be able to see clearly.

As the days went by, I kept my promise to remain open. I allowed myself to grieve and release the heavy weight of my emotions then move on with a watchful eye. I found that I could stand far enough away and make decisions that would help move me forward. I took a critical look at our finances and made sweeping changes. I opened to receive an offer for a new job, even though it wasn’t a part of my original plan. I made concessions and tried to rewrite my story.

Months passed and there they were, sitting right in front of me. A whole host of benefits. I had a new job which offered me the chance for achievable results. I had dramatically reduced my work stress level and responsibilities. I had the chance to revise our finances, which set us up for a better future forecast. And best of all, I found a way to retire years before I would have, had I stayed at my old job. This allowed me to spend more time with Maureen and to share in the radiance of babysitting our granddaughter, and then our grandson.

I’ve discovered that, no matter what example I choose, the outcome is the same. I am served by everything that happens to me in my life. This doesn’t mean that everything is rosy and bright. It’s work, most of the time. But, it is work with a huge payoff, far greater than I’d ever thought possible.

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Do What Calls To You

I am a huge advocate of doing what calls to me.

It took time for this idea to seep completely into me. It had to get past a lot of worldly notions that I had better things to do with my life, like concentrating on getting through school, finding a job, climbing the corporate ladder and all the other milestones we reach for.

I’m not saying that these things are not important, they are. But, what I discovered along the way is that they are not the only things that are important. And, that finding my own sense of balance between the ‘necessary’ and the ‘desirable’, was very important to me.

When I was a kid, playing was the ultimate for me. It topped all my other activities and I found ways to incorporate it into everything I did. When I had to pick up my room, I’d set aside a basket and toss everything into it, keeping score during the process.

As time went on, life became more demanding and I occasionally lost sight of doing some of the things that called to me.

When I went college, I struggled with all of the typical freshman dilemmas; homesickness, trying to make new friends, adapting to a more rigorous course schedule, being on my own while being surrounded by so many others. I felt overwhelmed by it all.

Then I remembered how important it was for me to do what called to me. So, out the door I headed. I walked everywhere as if I was an adventurer in the wildness. I searched out creeks, investigated the massive train yards west of the town, spelunked my way through an underground viaduct that run under the city, and whatever else popped into my mind. I even hopped a few freight trains and learned how important it was to get off before they picked up too much speed. Doing a face-plant into railroad bed cinders is absolutely no fun. It is, however, one of my favorite stories to tell.

At one point in my life I began a special journal. It doesn’t have a title, which is peculiar for me. I could never figure out anything that seemed the right fit. I’ll just call it my ‘life ambitions’ journal for now.

At this moment in time it has 277 items listed. They have one strong commonality…they all called to me…and I accepted.

I split my listing into three categories; those I’ve actually experienced, those I plan to experience and those I will experience virtually. My wife is primarily responsible for the third category, because they are the more outlandish or dangerous items. Okay, you could call them foolhardy.

Actually, there is a fourth category, which are items I have allowed myself to release. This one is very important, so that I don’t become fixated and feel like I’m failing if I don’t do them all. That’s not what this is about. Some ‘calls’ are more a suggestion, than a desire.

I’ll give you a sampling from each of the categories, so you can see what I’m talking about. FYI- hopping a freight train was #10.

Have done: #119 laid on a bed of nails, #59 blown an alphorn, #42 seen the Grand Canyon, #76 done the bobsled run at Lake Placid, #265 built a Lego Taj Mahal (5900 pieces) <shown on the banner above>, #210 built a treehouse with my dad for our children, #149 slid into 500 gallons of Jello to support a good cause, #156 sponsored a child through Compassion International

Plan to do: #49 ride a Segway, #67 ‘glean’ produce (pick surplus crops for donation to a food pantry), #73 visit a Blackfoot Native American reservation, #100 take the Polar Bear plunge, #136 rent a houseboat on Lake Powell, #252 participate in a flashmob

Virtual plans: #46 hangglide, #77 skydive (see what I mean)

Released: #4 climb 10 of the high peaks in the Adirondacks (knees will not cooperate any longer), #26 create my own style of self-defense

That probably gives you a pretty good idea.

One of the most important things I’ve discovered about this practice is that I am always enriched by listening to my inner callings. I’ve come to believe the calls are guiding me toward the things I came here to experience. They are not meaningless or senseless recommendations. They are ‘the stuff of life’.

I hope that you hear the calls in your life and answer the ones that most appeal to you. I believe they are here to open you up to a richer, more exciting life.

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Who Are Your Life Teachers

The summer I was eight-years-old my family moved from Watertown to Delmar, New York. One of the first things my parents had to do was to enroll my sister and me in our new schools. She went to Junior High School (yes, there was no such thing as Middle School) and I went to Delmar Elementary School, just two blocks from our house.

It snowed so much in Watertown, sine it’s so close to Lake Ontario, that we missed a lot of school. In fact, we had so much snow one year, that my sister and I could have jumped out our second story window and not gotten hurt. Maybe buried, but not hurt.

The local school officials in Delmar felt that I should repeat third grade in order to catch up with the rest of my class. I didn’t agree with this decision, but I was a kid with no power, so off to third grade I went.

Fortunately, it only lasted a week and they reconsidered and put me in a fourth-grade classroom. My teacher, Mrs. Hosey, was incredibly welcoming and made sure I felt at home. Not surprisingly, she is my all-time favorite teacher. Not just because of her welcome, but for all that she taught me. We did all kinds of fun stuff and she engaged every one of the kids in my class.

I’m not saying she made things easy, she didn’t. She challenged us and helped draw out talents we didn’t believe we had. She asked us to search for meaning in what we were studying. I loved the fourth grade and I loved her.

I guess the feeling must have been mutual, because many, many years later, when I was a bank manager, she found me and opened an account at my bank. And, when I moved to a new branch, she moved with me, keeping us connected.

It was a beautiful thing to be able to help her with her needs and it felt like a kind of repayment for her guidance, kindness and generosity. I consider her one of my best life teachers.

When I was thinking about this topic, I recognized that it’s not just teachers who have profound effects on us. Sometimes it’s one single seemingly random connection we have with someone or some specific life event that occurs that changes our direction.

And, it’s not always what we label as ‘positive’ experiences that teach us, even though those may feel much better.

Sometimes it’s the ‘negative’ experiences that alter our lives and teach us important and valuable lessons. These instances can shape us and help us grow, if we allow them to.

So, who are your life teachers? Your spouse, parents, grandparents, school teachers, clergy, bosses, coworkers, those in government, police, friends. The list can be very long.

And what about your experiences?

Have you found that an illness (yours or someone close to you) has brought you wisdom and an increased awareness about life?

What about a job loss or relocation to a new home or losing a friend? Have they shown you new insights and challenged you to find hidden meanings in your life?

So many situations present themselves to us in ways we find difficult to understand or accept. Sometimes we fall into despair or become angry because of the circumstances we face. It makes me wonder about all of the teachings I’ve missed because I wasn’t open to them.

On my best days I think back to Mrs. Hosey and realize that the challenges that approach me all have meaning and value. I try to keep my eyes open and see if I can find the hidden gems, just like I did in her class.

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A Sense of Fairness

Often it seems that fairness is hard to come by. We are apt to judge by so many different standards that arriving at any agreement becomes difficult. It can make you wonder if there is such a thing as fairness.

I’m pretty sure the whole idea starts out early in life, as if we were born with an inner sense of what could be considered fair. Watching children for even a short period of time it’s likely you’ll spot this. I think most parents would say it happens every day. One child has a toy the other wants and an argument breaks out or one of the children rips the toy from the others hand and runs away, each one shouting, “it’s not fair”.

I’m not sure that any of us ever outgrows some version of this.

We seem to have an expectation that life will be fair. Why is this? Who is it that made this promise to us, as if the world owes each one of this valuable gift?

When the balance tips and we sense injustice, it hurts. We feel it most keenly when we act in a certain way, using our idea of good behavior. We anticipate or expect a reward and if we don’t receive it, we may claim that life is not fair because, after all we’ve done our part.

This happens all throughout our lives. At home, in school, at work and in our relationships.

Maybe part of the challenge is that we don’t all use the same definitions of the word ‘fair’. One dictionary says that ‘fair’ is defined as, ‘acting in accordance with rules or standards’.

I can certainly see how this creates a problem. Whose rules are we talking about? And who is in charge of setting up the standards? If we end up with numerous rules and standards, how could there ever be any hope that there would be only ONE way to measure fairness?

Maybe it’s time to take a step back.

There seems to me to be a short, medium and long view here.

In the short view, we have two basic choices, we either complain about a situation or we accept it. In the medium view, we may choose to try to find ways to change a situation and arrive at a better sense of fairness. A negotiation of sorts.

I wonder if there is a long view we can take. One that supposes that life is operating on a grander scale than we can see. That fairness is bigger and broader than we thought.

Three questions pop up for me.

Do I actually know all of the facts involved so that I can make a determination about fairness? Not even remotely likely. There are just too many things I may not know.

At what point is it wise for me disregard my opinion about fairness, if it makes me unhappy? After all, I don’t have control over every outcome. If it’s more important to lead a happy satisfied life, maybe it doesn’t matter as much about my perception of fairness.

And the most important question is who can I turn to for some insight and inspiration?

My answer is always the same, the divine. For me, it is the part of (god) I call Lia (love in action). When I asked her for guidance about fairness, she asked me to trust that everything in life ‘serves me’, no matter how it looks at the time and that there is always an underlying love that threads through every action.

To truly understand, I need examples. Maybe you do too, so here is a quick one.

I invariably pick the slow lane at the grocery check-out, which can feel unfair. If I step back I recognize this is a feeling, not a fact and that if it makes me unhappy, that is my choice, but not a wise one nor worth the cost. And if I look a bit deeper, I notice that, while I am waiting I see more. I have a chance to slow down and breathe and make eye contact with others. I can even close my eyes and call Lia to me and savor my connection to the divine.

So, it’s okay with me if I end up in the slow lane because I’m changing the name now to – the savor lane.

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Acceptance

I have very good friends whose points of view on a variety of subjects are radically different from mine. I wonder, how this can be?

Whether it’s politics, religion, sports, food preferences, child rearing decisions, you name it, the disparity can be significant. Any one of these topics could be the source of a major argument, and there comes a time when we have to ‘agree to disagree’ and move on to another topic.

Maybe you experience this same situation with some of your friends and family members.

Part of me is always interested in how things like this come about. Try as I might, the answers elude me. We’re each a product of so many influences, that it would likely be impossible to unwind things enough to discover the source, even if we tried.

A curious question arises for me. What allows us to continue to be friends, in light of the disparity in our points of view?  

My answer is simple. There is a greater love between us than there is a sense of divide. We relinquish ‘rightness’ in trade for ‘harmony’. Somehow, we are able to allow each other latitude, because down deep we have formed a stronger bond than anything we disagree about. To me, this is certainly a case where love overcomes.

But, there are of course, folks I disagree with and whose moral compass and opinions serve to separate us and the gap between us can seem monumental.

Looking at the world today, it appears present everywhere, that our various points of view are widening and causing major challenges, resulting in violence and revealing deep seated fears. I have little doubt this has always been the case, but with our abundant social media platforms, we hear so much more about it.

No matter which side you lean toward, it seems everyone senses a measure of discomfort.

So, what to do?

It feels like the truth to me that we know by now that, ‘the fangs first approach’, will not heal the world. When we allow our fears to lead the way with visceral reactions, they create a predictable defensive outcome, the return of barb for barb. It’s highly unlikely that this will ever produce any real answers.

I believe things will change only when our love is greater than our fear.

Fear thrives on maintaining set ideas and an avoidance of anything new. Fear needs to be listened to and allowed to have its say.

I believe there needs to be a search for a true understanding. We have to be willing to suspend our own beliefs, in order to ask questions and listen carefully to the perspectives of others. We need to be open to hearing their answers, with an eye toward resolution.

This is a tall order, no doubt about it.

It seems like the fundamental question is whether the love that is within each of us can rise to the surface and accept another human being the way they are? Can we give them an opportunity to express their concerns, so that we hear them, before we express our own? Can we see if it is possible to find common ground first, then build on that toward a better future?

I am not always successful in doing this and sometimes I fail miserably. When this happens, I try to recognize that I’ve fallen into old patterns and awaken myself to a better path. I try to release fear and summon love, because it’s the only way to live the life I want to experience here.

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Finding What We Look For

I understand the necessity and value in wearing a mask these days, but I really miss seeing people’s whole faces. It just isn’t the same.

I used to think you could tell what a person was feeling and thinking by looking at their eyes. That was before I lost contact with seeing their mouths. Now I understand, you need both.

So much is revealed through facial expressions. All the little hints and cues we read without realizing it, which help us to connect with others. To have some ideas about another’s mood or concerns, gives us a way in and opens a quiet door for us to be a part of another’s life.

What I miss the most is seeing smiles. I’ve seen a couple artistically drawn on the outside of a few masks, but they are a weak substitute for the real thing.

I’ve had to search in other places to find hidden smiles. The picture at the top of this post is one of my favorites. Every time I look at it, it makes me happy and gives me a little jolt, a kind of rush, knowing it’s there waiting for me, right in plain sight.

In case you aren’t familiar with this device, it’s one of those swiveling binocular machines that you put a few quarters in and look through to see objects that are far away. Most of the time they’re at look-out points, and you can use them to see distant mountains and lakes.

What I love about this device is the face I see. I think it’s adorable.

I have a whole collection of faces. I find them in the strangest places, like a child’s booster seat or a house doorway. I also create some on my own, mostly when I’m making lunch for one of my grandchildren. It’s really fun to arrange the food on their plate into a funny face and watch their reactions.

When I have a group of ‘face photos’, I make copies and send them to a friend of mine. She says it makes her day. To me, that’s a beautiful thing. It’s part of why I feel I’m here on this earth, to make a difference in someone’s life.

I’ve discovered, and you may have too, that it is so much easier to find something, if you know what you’re looking for. I’m sure that I would have missed many, many faces, if I hadn’t believed they were there waiting for me.

It feels like the truth to me, that all of life is like this. That we miss what we’ve convinced ourselves is not there, rather than opening to greater possibilities.

I wonder what would happen if I believed that whatever I wanted to show up in my life could be just like those faces I find.

When I reflect, I see that if I am fearful then a host of fearful things will enter my life. They are easy for me to find. They pop up instantly in front of me. It’s not really what I want to happen, so I have to stop and ask myself, is this what I want to find? Of all of the things in the world, is this really what I am looking for?

The answer is almost always, ‘no, definitely not.’

So, I encourage myself to make a shift. To remember to find smiling faces and then, the other things that light up my world. I close my eyes and imagine all of the things that would make me happy or give me joy that I could pass along to others. When I open my eyes and walk through my day, wonderful gifts are revealed to me. I discover that the surest path to finding what I am looking for in my life, is believing that all of what I seek is already here for me, waiting to be revealed.

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How Deep Does Pain Go

How deep does pain go?

The answer that comes to me is, as deep as we allow.

Please don’t stop reading yet.

Bear with me for a few minutes and hear me out.

I know there is a kind of pain that has an intensity far beyond anything we thought was imaginable. Whether it is physical, where the body is racked with enormous pain and limitations or emotional, where our heart is so broken it feels beyond repair. It could be mental or intellectual, where we can’t find answers to any of our dilemmas or spiritual, where we feel completely alone, distanced from any sense of love or caring.

There have been times when I’ve felt some of these brutal realities, not knowing whether things would ever get better. Certainly, for a while I could not see how it would be possible. There seemed to be no sunshine left. Maybe everyone has felt this way.

I don’t think you have to have lived into old age to know suffering. It seems to me to be sort of an ageless condition.

I’ve had many conversations with others about this. Every one of them ends in the same place, with one simple question…why?

Why is there so much pain and suffering?

No one I’ve spoken to feels they have the answer to this question. Sure, there are platitudes, but are they helpful? No one I know, including those who say them, seem to believe it.

So, the search for meaning goes on.

Once in a while someone tells me that pain and suffering is a punishment for the wrongs we’ve done. They often insert the word, ‘sin’ into the conversation. They tell me that (god) is so upset with our behavior that (he) has no choice but to condemn us and therefore, there we feel pain and endure suffering.

I don’t believe this. I never did, even as a child. You can not speak to me of a (god) who is everlasting love and always watches over me and cares for me and then add the ingredient of a (god) who sends me pain and suffering for being human.

Others I’ve talked with take a very direct approach to answering this question. They say, it is just a part of living on this earth and that it is a natural result of being here. This is also known as…’$#*% happens’.

Perhaps I’m unrealistic, but I think there’s more to it than that.

I want to go back to the statement I made at the beginning of this post. The answer that comes to me is, as deep as we allow. That’s how deep pain and suffering goes.

What I mean is this.

Imagine that you have a shovel in your hands. You aim it at the ground, step on the back and push your way into the earth. Once your shovel blade is full, you lift it up and set the dirt to the side. You now have a small hole in the ground. The hole is now how much pain there is in your life. It’s what you feel. The pain is relatively small, because the hole is small. You tell yourself you can deal with this.

But sometimes, the hole gets bigger and deeper and the amount of pain may exceed your ability to handle it. And sometimes the hole gets bigger still. You can’t imagine why, and you find it hard to see the bottom of the hole. The pain and suffering seem so deep.

I’ve lived through some deep holes. I think everyone has.

At some point I opened up inside and asked for help. I wanted to know what was at the bottom of the hole. I needed to know how deep it really was. So, I peered in and saw (god) at the bottom. And as I reached down, (god) reached up, until our hands met.

I realized that part of the pain and suffering was up to me. That I had something to do with how much I experienced. I was part of the equation. And I could ask for help and the pain and suffering would ease, if I allowed it to.

I know this is a hard answer to grasp. Do with it whatever feels right to you. I felt compelled to pass this along and I hope it helps someone.

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Listening

I took the picture in the banner above last summer when part of my family was vacationing in the Adirondacks in New York State. The brook was at the back of the property and was a slice of heaven for me. I am most at home in the water and was able to lay, almost completely submerged, feeling the rush of energy from the water as it passed over my body. Pure bliss.

One of my favorite past-times is to create ‘rock people’. I’m sure it’s some kind of throwback to a former life where the formations guided my way when I traveled long distances.

I love being able to find rocks of all sizes and shapes and see how they fit together. It’s very tricky business to be able to balance them and every so often, they tumble and I have to start over. That’s okay with me. Maybe it’s just the rocks way of being part of the process, so I get it just right.

I like this photo because it suggests that one of the rock people is talking to the rest of the crowd. I’m not sure what a rock person would say to other rocks, but the scene intrigues me.

I started thinking about ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’ and how different the two concepts can be.

According to one on-line dictionary, hearing is the ‘faculty of perceiving sounds’, while listening is either, ‘giving one’s attention to a sound’ or ‘paying attention to what another is saying’.

I began wondering which I do more often. When someone is speaking, whether near me or to me, am I hearing them or listening to them? I am conscious of there being sound, recognizing cadence, tone and volume, but am I truly hearing

them?

I ask myself what kind of a listener am I? Am I an active participant or is my role more passive? No doubt I vacillate, depending on the speaker, the subject or the circumstances.

I also wonder, when I am listening, what is the quality of my attention? Am I evaluating what is being said or perhaps, judging the content? Am I listening, but also preparing for my response, so that my attention is split?

One further question jumps in, what part of me is doing the actual listening? Is it my head or my heart?

These are a lot of questions. I think they are worth considering.

You see, I am also a speaker of words, trying to convey thoughts and ideas and feelings. I want to be heard. Not just the sounds that come from me, but the essence that is me. Maybe you want that too.

It feels to me that true listening is a gift, one that is beyond measure. To have someone paying careful attention to what you are saying and also to what you are feeling. To have someone listening from their heart, what a joy-filled present to offer another.

So, how does one offer this? To me, that becomes the rich, fertile question.

I don’t know if it is humanly possible to be a good solid listener all of the time. We have so much going on inside ourselves that it makes it very difficult to be an open channel. That’s not meant as an excuse, but rather an observation.

I believe being an active, compassionate, deep listener comes from the place inside us that knows love. There is a connection between us and the speaker. Our heart takes over and our breath slows a bit and our mind stills. We let go of our need to be right and our desire to fix anything. We become sponges, absorbing the words, thoughts and feelings of another human being who is trying their best to navigate this wonderfully incredible world of ours. We open to their need to be heard. We recognize that we are a part of a sacred exchange.

What a treasure to experience the divine in the hearing of sound.

And what a beautiful thing it is to give the gift of listening to another.

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Trading

My sister and I spent most of our growing up years watching Westerns on TV. Inevitably, the action centered, at least for a while, on the main street of town. They always had a saloon with those cool swinging half doors that looked like such fun to push your way through. We enjoyed seeing when some bad men were thrown out of the same swinging doors after too much “fire-water” or for cheating at the poker table.

Somewhere close by there was always a Trading Post, where folks went to see if they could find something they couldn’t make themselves. Often, they were looking for furs or some kind of tools or farm equipment or goods made in neighboring towns.

Thinking about the Trading Post got me to wondering about the whole idea of ‘trading’ and how common it is in our lives, although we might not think so.

Here’s what I mean.

The concept of exchanging one thing of value for another works not only when applied to others, but to ourselves.

One of the challenges is that we may not agree that the values of what’s being traded are equal. Then what do we do? I guess that’s where bartering or bargaining comes in. There may have to be a haggling process to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

It seems to me this process happens all the time in the world at large. Whether it’s boundary disputes, influencing important decisions, pursuing social justice or making economic choices…the list is endless.

Viewed from a distance it appears that the outcome takes one of two directions. It is either a mutually satisfactory trade or it is not. When one side gives more than receives, it feels wrong and the giver often becomes wary of the next trade.

When you add in other factors like power, money or influence, the process is often compromised and any satisfactory outcome is placed in jeopardy.

It takes a great deal of commitment to fairness and a sense of justice for a trade to be considered good.

And what about the trades we make with ourselves?

As I thought about what trades I make with myself, the first thing to appear was the idea of ‘time’. What amount of time do I have to give up in order to receive something else of value to me?

This turns out to be a pretty important question for me to answer.

Is it worth it to me to trade hours of my life in a classroom in order to obtain a college degree? Is it worth it to me to trade some of the money I earn in order to be protected against certain events beyond my control (car, home and life insurances)? Is it worth it to me to spend time exercising to improve my physical wellness and health for the future?

There are of course even more important trades to consider.

Is it worth the investment of time to maintain friendships with important people in my life? Is it a fair trade to donate money to folks who are in desperate need so that they have enough to live a better life? Is it worth all of the time I dedicate to enhancing my personal relationship with (god)?

Answering these questions ON PURPOSE has turned out to be quite enlightening for me and completely worth all of the time I’ve spent.

I wonder what your thoughts are about the ‘trades’ you make. If you care to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Free Will

Imagine you are sitting at a desk. You are in a comfortable chair with your feet firmly placed on the floor. Your posture is upright and your mind is sharp. You look down and see a piece of paper laying across the top of the desk. Surprisingly, it stretches out endlessly in to the left and to the right. A pen rests on the paper and you pick it up.

A voice calls out to you with a question. It is a soothing voice, one you think you ought to recognize. You decide to let go of trying to know who it is and center in on the question itself.

The voice says, “This is the continuum of ‘free will’ and you stand at the middle point. The left end represents your belief that you do not have any free will and that all things are already decided for you. The right end signifies that you believe you have absolute free will to decide whatever you want to experience in life, with no barriers or requirements. Consider carefully, because whatever you choose will determine the course of your life. On what part of the paper do you choose to make your mark?”

This is no simple decision.

Many of us are taught through our religious training that (god), regardless of the tradition, has a ‘will’ for us. Ordinarily, this ‘will’ is either unknown to us or must be told to us by others, who are said to possess greater understanding. They become the interpreters of (god’s) will.

I wonder, how is it that they know something we don’t? How have they come by this knowledge and how can they tell all others what is right and true for them?

I wanted to know more about this, so I asked (god) (Lia) this morning, and this is what she said.

“You may choose to experience life as unhappiness, discontentment and unfulfillment by choosing fear (rather than love) as the basis for your decisions. Aligning with what others tell you is my will is one way to do this. What is happening here is that you are allowing others to control your decisions out of fear that I will be displeased with you and reject you. You are accepting that they know the truth but that you don’t. Your trust is placed in them, rather than in me and in yourself. Whenever you concede to others, you lose all of your power and sacrifice your free will, which is your greatest and most beautiful gift.”

She went on to say, “This may surprise you, but I have no will for you to behave in any particular or specific manner. That does not mean that I do not know what you choose. I do. I also know that if it is your desire to live a happy, contented, joy filled life, exercising your free will is the pathway. You are made completely and entirely of love, so you are your most happy, contented, joy filled self when you are acting (choosing) in accordance with your very nature. There is an alignment of love in this. Just because I know this to be true, I do not have a will for you to be this way. That is your choice.”

And finally, she said, “You are in this world to create and experience whatever you desire. Free will gives you the choice to align with fear or with love. This is up to you.”

Accepting this as the truth for me, I feel free to choose any option and embrace any opportunity, knowing that the ones that most serve me are those made from love, because they align with my very nature.

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Casting Rainbows

I’m usually sitting at my desk in my home office by 6:00am. When the sun comes up, it hits the windshields of the car passing by my house and sends momentary flashes of blinding reflected light into my eyes. It doesn’t last more than a second, but the glare is so incredibly bright that it’s painful.

This is another of those situations in life that seem so simple to fix. I could merely reach over and pull the shade down. Problem solved. Except that this also shuts out all of the beautiful sunshine. And considering the length of our winter and the amount of shadows we’ve lived with, especially over this last year, I can’t make myself do it.

To be honest, my first reaction was to feel a bit angry and wonder why it had to happen this way.

Fortunately, I’ve learned that if I’m at all patient, another idea will follow as to how to solve the problem facing me. And it did.

It was wonderful and a total surprise.

I imagined being able to pull down a thin translucent sheet of material that would act like a prism, casting gorgeous rainbows all over the wall in front of me. So beautiful.

I thought to myself, I need to figure out how to make this real. I want rainbows instead of blinding glare in my life. I know I’ll find a way. I’ve discovered this about myself. Once I shift my perspective, new things become possible.

It’s the way my mind works, or perhaps it’s my heart, but once a shift happens, an idea or question will pop up in front of me. One did.

“How could I turn other things in my life, that I find painful, into something I find beautiful…radiant, even?”

I thought about this for a while. What challenges does this pose to me? What challenges would it pose to you?

The first challenges to arrive were these; major world conflicts and disagreements between factions, mistreatment and oppression by those in power, religious intolerance and political ideological disputes. Those seemed kind of big to tackle right away. Maybe I ought to start with something easier and work up to these.

Okay, how about, simple differences of opinion, small acts of dishonesty, saying unkind things to each other, failing to meet expected standards and thinking less of others and more of myself.

Perhaps these were smaller, but it seemed just as difficult to see how I could turn them into anything beautiful.

The more I thought about this, the more obvious it was to me that, the closer I come to disliking another’s position, the closer I come to disliking them personally. And there’s the glare, the blinding reflected light flashing into me…’I’ve made it personal’.

Every time I do this, I find that I suffer inside and the distance between myself and others grows.

I’ve made us separate. It’s them and me. We’re apart because I’ve chosen to believe they are what they say or what they do.

I have to stick around long enough and remind myself, it’s not who they are.

I have to ask myself, can I stop a moment and see who they are on the inside? Can I find some thin translucent sheet to place between us so I can see the rainbows they cast?

Yes, this is the hard part.

I have to go inside and remember that we are all one, made from the same source of love. We cast different shadows and see different lights. We’ve been raised and trained to see different paths.

Why is that?

Could one answer be that our life is enhanced when we are encouraged to look beyond ourselves? When others views are meant to expand us, to foster dialogue between us and to create harmony out of discord?

Imagine if we could be open enough inside, willing to talk without our opinion having to be the conclusion, willing to see others real needs, willing to honor other’s lives.

And, perhaps the most important aspect in all of this, is to realize I can not change anyone else, I can only change the way I view the world and relate to it. Seeing this clearly is a wonderful thing.

To me this creates beautiful rainbows…radiant ones even.

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I See You

For those familiar with my book series, Little Buddha, you may remember this as the starting line of a saying expressed at the end of the first book. It is spoken by 18-year-old Michael, while addressing one of the main characters, Sam. Michael belongs to a native American tribe in the western part of the United States and is visiting his cousin, Claire, another of the main characters. He’s had a very important conversation with Sam and is about to leave to return home. But, before he goes, he wants to present his farewell to Sam. So, he looks directly into Sam’s eyes and says, “I see you.”

Sam immediately understands Michael is not talking about seeing Sam’s surface, but is saying he sees who Sam is.

Sam responds, that although it may sound strange, he ‘feels seen’. He feels acknowledged in a way he’s never felt before, especially not after just having met someone.

Sam recognizes that he’s usually so preoccupied that he doesn’t even look into another’s eyes, perhaps he thinks because he’s afraid to see or be seen.

What a beautiful thing it is to be seen. To feel that another has looked into you and found something of worth and value. To be held in another’s gaze with a sense of love shining through and coming in to you.

There is a part of Sam that is transformed by this simple exchange.

There are four other parts to Michael’s farewell.

He says to Sam, “I believe in your dreams”. Sam knows that Michael means this. He can tell the difference between the power in Michael’s serene stare and what others have told him in his life that lacked any form of truth.

Michael continued by saying, “Even the ones you don’t yet see.” That felt especially significant to Sam because he has just started on his spiritual journey and feels he knows so little about what direction to travel. To have someone say, that not only did they believe in his dreams, but all the ones to come as well. What a wonderful sense of assurance Michael has provided.

“You mean something to me,” Michael said next. Sam had just met Michael, but he knew without any doubt that he meant this. It was overwhelming.

And finally, Michael faced Sam and said, “You will be forever in my heart.” Michael placed the palms of his hands together and bowed to Sam. What an enormous gift Sam felt that he’d received. To be seen, believed in and cherished. It inspired Sam to keep this farewell close to his heart and repeat it often with those he knew and came to know.

It turns out that I offered an eleven-week book study for each of the three current Little Buddha books. It has been one of the most treasured events in my life. To be able to share with a beautiful group all of the lessons and insights that Sam experiences is so rich and rewarding. When our session is over, we gather in a circle and repeat these five sayings to each other. What a blessing it is to see and be seen in this way.

Please accept this as my gift, if it feels like something you would like to have in your life. Find others who may also want to see and be seen and share it with them. And if you are close enough to Albany, New York, come and share your life with us at the next book study.

Special Note:

For your reference, you can find this passage in Little Buddha Book One, chapter 9, pages 139-141. All of the Little Buddha books are described on this website under the Books page and are available on Amazon in print and ebooks.

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Conviction

Have you ever heard of Jeannette Rankin? I’m willing to bet that you haven’t. I certainly didn’t know about her and her name only came to light because of a curious question I asked myself.

It seems we are living in a time of great political and social upheaval. The USA seems incredibly divided at this time, which made me wonder if there was ever a time in our history when there was a unanimous vote about anything.

My first thought was the United States entry to World War Two following the attack on Pearl Harbor. I decided to satisfy my curiosity and looked it up. Nope, not even then did everyone agree.

I discovered that one person voted against going to war. I had to know more.

That’s when I found out about Jeannette Rankin. She was the first woman ever elected to federal office in the United States. In 1916 she became a member of the House of Representatives from the first district of Montana. Shortly after her term began there was a vote to go to war with Germany. She and 50 others voted against it. Unsurprisingly, she was singled out for criticism, no doubt because she was a woman. She was not reelected once her term expired.

She went on to rise in the woman’s suffragist movement and championed social reforms, in particular a woman’s right to vote, which finally occurred as the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

In 1940 she decided to ran for a seat in the House of Representatives from Montana and won. Again, shortly after her term began, there was another vote to go to war. As a life-long pacifist, she again voted against the proposed declaration. This time she was the only person, male or female to vote ‘no’.

After the vote was taken and the session was over, she was pursued from the House floor by angry members, who cornered her in a telephone booth and would not allow her to leave. She had to call the Capital Police to rescue her and escort her to her office.

So, I wonder, how did Jeannette have the strength to vote her convictions? Certainly, she knew what was in store for her and how utterly persecuted she would be. After all, she already endured this once, twenty-five years before. She could not possibly have imagined that others would try to see from her point of view. And, she had to know how unpopular her pacifist beliefs were, especially right after the surprise attack.

I’m sure she knew, but she voted both her conscientious, and according to what she said, also on behalf of all of the mothers from Montana who did not want their sons going to war. Jeanette believed that war and violence were always unjustified, no matter the circumstances.

To me, there are at least two issues going on here. One is whether war is ever justified. There is no doubt a wide spectrum of opinion about this, ranging from the pacifist stand she, and others, like Mahatma Gandhi took, to the all-out hawks of the world who believe might makes right.

The other issue is, what kind of a stand is one willing to take based on their life convictions and beliefs?

Now, that’s a challenging question.

I want to say that I would have what it takes to stand fast, but I don’t really know. Perhaps, no one does until the situation arises.

I do know, that whether I agree with her pacifist beliefs or not, I have enormous respect for Jeannette and the strength and courage she displayed, particularly in the face of such vehement opposition.

When I’m presented with difficult decisions in the future, I’m pretty sure I’ll be thinking of her and grateful for the example of her life.

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Life as a Public Service Announcement

Recently a thought just popped into my head, seemingly out of nowhere. I’m trying really hard to pay attention to anything that shows up in my life like this. I’ve come to the conclusion that thoughts and feelings don’t come from ‘nowhere’, but rather from some inner guidance, meant to reveal truths that would be helpful to me. I trust them now. All of them, even the ones I don’t understand right away.

What came to me was that each of our lives is like our own public service announcement.

I wasn’t sure where the idea for PSA’s came from so I looked it up on Wikipedia. I realize it is not the ultimate authority, but it did provide me some useful information.

According to the article, PSA’s began both in the UK and the US during World War Two. They were created to provide the public with health and safety information, but were also used for other purposes. One of these was the campaign to inspire US citizens to invest in US Savings Bonds, to assist with funding the war effort. Later, they were primarily used as “fillers”, when the broadcast industry didn’t have enough paid advertising to fill their schedules.

What’s the connection?

Good question.

How about this- are each of our lives our own version of a public service announcement? And, how vested are we in trying to influence others, hoping that they will agree with us and adopt our beliefs? What makes what we’ve been told or what we say, ‘correct’?

These ideas led me down an interesting path. At first, I didn’t think they applied to me much. But, the more I considered the questions, the more I see that they do.

And I wonder, am I trying to influence others to believe what I believe? I don’t want to. I would prefer that everyone make up their own minds and listen to their own hearts.

I recognize that from birth we are all influenced by those around us. Our parents and siblings, our grandparents, other relatives and friends. And that’s before we even get to school. Then there are teachers, religious leaders, authorities, the legal system and culture at large. We absorb our ethics and our expectations from those who are important in our lives. I’m not suggesting that there is anything ‘wrong’ with this, just that we’re often influenced without consciously realizing it.

It feels to me that there could be an enormous benefit for each of us in acting from a conscious point of view. Looking with an open mind at our own words and seeing if they are truly what we wish to put out into the world.

I’ve often caught myself repeating things I’ve heard others say, only to realize they aren’t what I actually believe. I sit back and see that I have been influenced. How easy it is to forward that along to others in my life.

It can happen so subtly. The other day I was singing along with a song on the radio. The beat was strong and the tune was popular for a long time. It dawned on me, once I centered on the words, that the message was terrible. It was reveling in one person’s sorrow. I had to stop singing. It wasn’t a part of my truth.

I had to ask myself, how often does this happen to me, that I repeat the influences that surround me, often while disconnected from their meaning? A lot, I bet.

And, I wondered, what about me, am I living my life as some form of public service announcement? Do I have all sorts of vested interest in influencing others to see things from my point of view?

Maybe it’s inescapable, I’m not sure. But, I do know that I am trying to speak what feels true to me, without the need for anyone else to agree or accept my beliefs. This actually applies to all of my Posts, so I hope you always choose your own path.

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Open Road

I love the open road.

Getting in my car and heading out with no destination in mind, free to go anywhere. The thrill of endless possibilities stretching out before me (or us, when my wife and I are together in the car).

The sense of exploration always triggers happy feelings in me. And no matter how many times I’ve traveled the same roads, when I’m in a creative carefree space, I see new things.

The world is such an amazing place and I’ve always been fascinated by those who make a career out of discovering all of its joys. One of my all-time favorite TV shows was, On The Road, with Charles Kuralt. He had a passion for exploration and connection, and along with my father, probably inspired my sense of adventure the most.

I recognize that there are always bends in the road, which can add to the fun, because that’s where a lot of surprises sit waiting for me. Yes, I think they are waiting for me, ready to mystify or dazzle me.

But, sometimes someone pulls out of their driveway, headed to the grocery store or the doctor’s office or somewhere else, with no intention of driving anywhere near the speed limit. My wife and I have a saying we apply to them. ‘They have nowhere to go and all day to get there and no idea how to.’

Of course, this is unfair. They may have some idea, it’s just not obvious to us.

It is one of the drawbacks of beautiful country roads, there are almost no places to pass slow drivers or extra wide farm equipment or huge semis that chose the rural route over the superhighway. So, I have to wait until they make it to their destination or turn off somewhere.

It’s a call to patience for me. I know this is the truth.

Isn’t it funny how the experiences we need most, come up so often in our lives? It is as if I am universally connected to the pokey country driver and he or she knows exactly when I am coming, even if I don’t. He or she knows when to get up, get dressed, eat, pull on their coat, start up their car and back out into the road right in front of me. The precision of it boggles my mind, after all I didn’t even know which roads I’d be taking.

Do you think I’m imagining all of this, that this scenario couldn’t possibly play out as I’ve described it? That it is pure coincidence?

I wonder sometimes.

So, what keeps bringing me back to the open road?

I think it is the sense of freedom and surprise. The slice of priceless beauty looking off to one side of the road and seeing a vast stretch of green grass, bordered by huge guardian trees, with mountain peaks in the far distance, beckoning me to come to them.

When I am at my clearest, I can see into the story of my life.

Everything that appears real to me and that I take for granted, shifts right before my eyes. The open road becomes a vivid metaphor to me for the awakened life I hope to lead. It is filled with beauty and promise and grand opportunities, if I believe they are there. And if I am patient, and look around instead of straight ahead, I can see and reach for them and draw joy into my life.

So, I try to remind myself, that the open road leads in every direction and promises me adventure no matter what.

Next time you’re out on the road, maybe we can spot each other and wave. I’ll be looking for you.

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To Know Flow

I’d like to share a poem I wrote in 1975 when I was 23 years old. At the time I was about to start my ‘real’ working career with two part time jobs; as a youth director at a church in Albany and as a teller at an Albany bank. It was mid-summer and I was finding my way in the world and seeking direction from whatever or whoever would speak to me from inside myself. I was surprised by the clarity of the voice that responded. The poem has stayed with me all this time, which I have to assume means something. Here it is.

to know flow

goals are the rocks of bondage

time is the eternal essence of mind

mind the essential ice to melt

acceptance is the bearer of peace

wisdom is the moderator of the flow

flow is the way of life

I’m a big believer in folks making up their own mind about things. You are certainly free to interpret this any way you choose, or read it and pass right on by. However, if you’d like to know why it means something to me, please keep reading.

goals

Perhaps you were taught to honor goals like I was. They were cornerstones to reach for. Inherently valuable and worthy of all of the time it might take to achieve them. They were what grown-ups ‘should’ strive for and the promise seemed to be that they would make you happy and satisfied with your life.

While this has been true in some cases, it has more often been that my goals were unattainable, or at least not achievable in the ways I want to experience them. Most of them became ‘rocks of bondage’.

It was not until recently that my vision shifted away from ‘goals’ and moved toward ‘aims’. This is a much more gently word and concept. It implies a certain amount of freedom, because the emphasis is on the direction of your movement, not the final outcome. I try now to leave goals out of the process and instead envision those things I am aiming for in my life. Maybe you might want to try this with one of your goals and see what happens.

time

It seems to me that everyone knows time is a man-made construct, an arbitrarily agreed upon decision to break up days into hours and minutes. I get how necessary it is, but somehow, I’m uncomfortable with the idea. I’ve never worn a watch for this reason and yet somehow, I’ve managed to show up for all of life’s meetings. I’ve also discovered that time is malleable. The same fixed amount of time can seem incredibly short or excruciatingly long, depending on the circumstances. Time seems to be an ‘essence of the mind’.

mind

Everyone has one. Everyone needs one. But, I’ve seen in my life how often my mind wants to be in charge, as if it always knows best. Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but to me, wisdom is far superior, so that ‘mind is the essential ice to melt.’

acceptance

Even though I’ve given intolerance, defiance and resistance every possible chance to solve my problems, they have all failed me. Quite miserably, in fact. Only acceptance has offered me a way forward, guiding me gently, yet firmly and being for me, ‘a bearer of peace.’

wisdom

As I see it, wisdom comes from the inside of me and knowledge comes from the outside of me. Wisdom follows a pathway through my feelings, while knowledge moves through my mind. When it comes to trusting, I choose wisdom over knowledge every time, because I recognize it as ‘the moderator of the flow.’

flow

Here is the truest way to feel and know your truth, are you moving against or with the current of your life? It is really a simple question and so revealing. Would life actually be trying to move you in a direction that did not benefit you? Not only is this a question of flow, but of faith. I hope that my choices are made in such a way that ‘flow is the way of my life’.

Do Overs

When I was a kid we resorted to the strategy of ‘do overs’ a lot, finding countless opportunities to take advantage of this practice. And why not? Everybody makes mistakes and wants a chance to do better.

It starts pretty early in life.

I remember one hot summer day when I received a beautiful cold sweet ice cream cone. I was so excited that I didn’t pay enough attention as I took it from my father. You can probably guess what happened. Yup, the ice cream scoop fell onto the ground and I was left holding the cone. I don’t remember whether I screamed or cried, but I got a do over…another ice cream cone. Go Dad, you rock!

Funny thing is, that do overs are programmed in to some things, kind of a recognition that everything doesn’t always work out the first time. Take our national pastime of baseball, for example. If you’re really good or perhaps, really bad, you can stand at homeplate all day long and hit foul balls. You get to keep trying till you hit the ball between the first and third base lines. I guess Abner Doubleday liked do overs a lot.

And sometimes in school, on rare instances, if you flunked an exam, you might get an opportunity to take a make-up test. I’m not sure how this gets decided, which ones you do and which ones you don’t, but I know it exists. Not that I ever flunked a test (wink wink).

I recognize that we are usually under some kind of pressure to perform tasks and that there are often expectations attached to our results. Supposedly, some people thrive under these conditions, but more often, I believe we’d feel much better if we knew there would always be the possibility of a do over.

What if life was like tennis, where you always get a second serve. Or even golf, where you can take a ‘mulligan’ (a well-loved, but unofficial opportunity to hit your shot over again), in case you drove your golf ball into the woods. I realize this doesn’t fly in professional tournaments, but in my opinion, life isn’t a tournament

Once you transition from school to the work world, you encounter all sorts of new experiences. Sometimes there’s latitude for errors and sometimes not.

I worked as a bank teller for a few years before moving up the ladder. At the end of each shift you had to ‘prove’, meaning that all of what you took in had to equal all of what you gave out. If it didn’t match, you had to find out why. This could be a very tedious and unnerving experience, especially if the amount was significant. Surprisingly, $100 differences were not uncommon. This happened to me a couple of times. We eventually found most of them, but imagine if every teller had to be perfect every day with no allowance for mistakes. No do overs.

And then there is the world of relationships. We all make so many mistakes no matter how hard we try. Of course, we can apologize and ask for permission to try again, promising to do better and hope our do over is granted.

I feel it would help us all if we remembered that each of us is a giver and a receiver when it comes to do overs. The giver can extend mercy and compassion. They can offer encouragement and express love and leave the door open. The receiver can promise to be more thoughtful or careful. They can show gratitude and love for their second chances and do those things that they promise.

I’m going to take some time over the next few days to pay attention to giving and receiving. I’d love to have you join me, and if you’re inclined, let me know how it goes with your do overs.

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Feelings

I may have mentioned this before. I know it’s in my most recent book, talking with (god). I keep a daily Feelings Journal, which gives me the chance to actually spend time feeling, instead of always focusing on thinking. Of course, I can’t help that some part of me is thinking while I do this. That seems inevitable. But, offering myself the chance to express how I really feel is priceless.

I discover so many wonderful insights when I open to what my heart is experiencing. Over the years, I’ve learned to open as wide as I can and to say whatever feels like it needs to be said.

Recently, I was sensing despair surrounding me, especially as it related to the political turmoil in our nation. Bravely, I chose to allow everything that upsets me to rise to the surface. In doing so, this observation came into view, “we fall off the rails and slip into our own darkness when we judge our lives by the darkness of others”.

I think this explains a lot and I can see how it applies to my life. Perhaps it may apply to yours also.

Others darkness affects me. It spreads out, enveloping everything in its path. Have you felt this?

It can affect my whole world, altering it and fading it, sometimes turning it into formless shadows.

One of the beautiful things about acknowledging my feelings is that I get to reclaim the colors in my world. I get to recognize that I am in charge of my own light and my own darkness. By allowing each of my feelings to be seen in the light, rather than staying deep inside of me, I can choose what is to become of them.

Sometimes only one or two feelings pop up, but other times there is a multitude. The last time this happened I allowed each feeling to have it’s own voice. It was very loud at first, but it subsided and a wise voice spoke saying, “don’t try to start with everything, start with one thing.”

One thing, one feeling.

Yes, I could manage that. There is certainly wisdom in allowing the rest to wait their turn. And if they become unruly, I can always put them in ‘time-out’, after all, I am the one in charge.

So, where to start when there can be so many?

It’s up to you of course, but I’ll share my approach and you can decide if it feels right to you. I hope that’s the way it always works when you come here. You have your own magnificent life to live, so I hope you always feel free to choose your own way, no matter what you find here.

Sometimes I choose the feeling that speaks the loudest to me. I figure that if I do this, I’ll be able to hear the feelings with quieter voices better. Sometimes I have an inner knowing that the feeling with the quietest voice is the key to everything, so I start there. The selection process is mostly intuitive.

It probably doesn’t matter where you start, but it does matter that you start.

For me, the ideal starting point is by talking with (god). You know, if you’ve read my book, that (god) comes to me as father (Abba), mother (Na’a), brother (Yeshiwa) and sister (Lia or love In Action). I spend the most time with Lia these days. I can lay out all of my feelings in any way and in any order and they are all heard. Doing this gives me enormous peace. And talking with Lia and hearing her response fills me and brightens every color in my world

For you, there may be a different starting point. The beautiful thing is it’s up to each of us to choose our own path.

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SPECIAL NOTE:

I case you want to know more about creating or expanding your relationship with (god) you may want to consider reading talking with (god), which you can learn more about on the Books page of this website.

Asking

One of the most consistent things I’ve heard about me in my life is that I ask good questions. It is a skill I spent a lot of time developing and has almost always proven to be beneficial, mostly for others, but also for myself.

It is a curious thing, this idea of asking. It is both encouraged and discouraged, depending on the circumstances. Parents often invite children to try new things and ask questions while they are learning. This is also true in school, but mostly applies to learning facts not questioning the teacher or the school’s policies.

Asking questions may also result in a lot of frowning when the subject of the asking broaches taboo topics, like politics, religion, a person’s weight or orientation. Actually, the list can be rather long.

Recently, I was thinking about the value of asking, mostly because I often refrain from asking for things for myself. I wonder why I do that? Perhaps I’m not alone. Maybe you do it too.

So, I spent some time and came up with several reasons why asking is such a good idea and why it is important for me to shift my perspective and find the value in asking.

Here’s what I want to share with you.

Asking prompts action. To me, it is not a step by step process, but rather an opportunity to purposeful choose the experience one wishes to claim as their own. Each question aids in exploring options and taking action.

Asking also creates an opening. It has the power to dislodge ‘stuck stuff’ and open some space so that one can choose whatever option seems wisest to them.

Asking generates excitement. It ignites sparks and wonderful ideas can spring forth and catch fire.

Asking initiates dialogues and connects people. It brings folks closer and clears the way forward in relationships. I’ve seen it happen so often that folks have conversations to try to resolve issues and get just so far then stall, when asking one more question might open the right door for them.

Asking sharpens our focus and provides opportunities to deepen thinking and create clarity. It forces folks to define situations, encouraging both analysis and insight, so that the direction forward is easier.

Asking can help us to let go of whatever we are asking was about. What I mean is, there is power behind every question in our lives and sometimes the power overwhelms us. By asking questions, we can unlock some of the power, releasing us and giving us some distance and peace.

Asking provides clarity, perhaps not immediately, but as a result of thinking about the issues and giving ourselves time to gain insights.

And, asking helps us to put out into the world what we hope to experience. Defining our questions shapes our view of the world. And once the questions exist and are real, we have the opportunity to form answers and create what we desire.

I find that it is always helpful for me to know what I am asking for and to have a sense of the actions I need to consider or perform in order to arrive where I want to be in my life.

I find it valuable and necessary to give myself permission to ask for what my heart desires. I haven’t been very good at this, but I’m interested in changing.

So, I’d like to ask you for something. If you find some merit in these posts, would you please tell a friend and invite them to join us here at my website: https://messagesforinspiration.com/

Or, if you’re open to it, invite more than one friend, because I would love to connect with as many people as I can. Thank you.

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Claiming Your Best Life

I’m not sure how you feel about mind opening ideas, but I have one for you. Actually, it’s not mine. I’m just the one passing it along to you.

It came from Lia (see below if you are new to this website for an explanation of who Lia is).

We were having a conversation and I was pushing for deeper insight. Really pushing. I told her that I wanted to know everything there was to know. I wanted to wake up and fully remember. I wanted to believe that we humans are really spiritual beings with unlimited abilities. I do believe that.

I asked Lia how I could experience my best possible life. Her short answer was, “claim it.”

I have to admit this type of answer has always been difficult for me to hear. It makes it seem simple or merely a case of deciding between available options. But it is not that simple for me, mostly because there are so many things I don’t know or understand. I don’t even know what all of the options are, so how can I choose the right ones?

Lia is very patient with me. Always. It’s one of the many things I love about her.

I’m so dense sometimes, but I keep trying, so I asked for more of an explanation.

Lia told me that there are an infinite number of lives that already exist and have always existed. They are fully formed and available for whoever chooses them. She said that no matter what sort of life we desire, the one we ask for is always open to us. Always available for us to claim as our own.

I needed a few minutes to try to absorb this.

I admit that I was confused, so I asked for clarification. Was she really saying that I could live whatever life I truly wanted and live it without any limitations? And, what about the life I was already living? Was she saying that I didn’t need to spend time fixing it and correcting all of the things I felt were wrong with it, before I could live ‘my best life’?

Lia smiled at me and went on to say that, of course, I could experience any life I desired. All I had to do was choose it as my own. She said that since the life I wanted to live already existed, I merely laid claim to it.

Lia said I could close my eyes and imagine what the life I wanted looked like and bring it into focus and see it as my truth. And to feel it as my truth. She told me that the more often I did this, the easier it would be for that life to appear. Lia told me this is how all lives can change.

I was stunned. Did this mean that I could choose to release all of the life stories I have been told? And, did this mean that I could hit the reset button and let go off trying so hard to fix all the things I felt were wrong with me?

Lia said, yes, I could release all of what no longer served me and claim my best life, for the rest of my life. What beautiful news.

Lia is a feminine part of (god) that I am connected with and her name stands for Love In Action. She and I are inseparable and she often comes to share (god’s) wisdom and love with me.

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Cease Fire

So, you have your story about yourself or more likely, you have a handful of stories. In order to manage your life, perhaps you try to use one of your stories to suit different situations you face. Maybe that works and maybe it doesn’t.

What I sometimes find is that my story seems out of sync with life, forcing me to make some adaptations. When this happens, there can be challenges within me. I’ve come to recognize and accept that there are distinctly separate parts to me. There are my physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and ego parts. No doubt there are others, but these are the ones that raise their heads first.

When one or more of these parts are in conflict, the whole of me is pushed off center and a sense of unhappiness can take over. Often, it’s only for a brief period of time, but occasionally, it lasts for an uncomfortable span.

Here’s a quick example.

When my family and I were on vacation last summer, I moved wrong and hurt my back. Physically, I needed to rest, gently stretch and take it easy. Emotionally, I was torn between knowing I needed to give my body time to heal, and feeling sorry for myself for the fun I would be missing. Mentally, I wanted to figure out how to heal faster or decide how I could have fun while recuperating. Spiritually, I wondered about the mind-body-spirit connection and about the healing process. Would it be possible for me to marshal energetic forces to heal more quickly? And, my ego, well it had a field day, offering plenty of advice and opinions all aimed at self-protection. It also chided me that I should have been more careful. Thanks, really helpful!

Maybe you are wondering where the cease fire comes in. Actually, right here. Well, almost.

One quick reference. According to Wikipedia, cease fires date back to the Middle Ages, when warring factions decided they needed a break in the battle. They were supposed to be reconsidering the need to fight and whether resolution was possible, but often each side used the time to resupply, as preparation for more fighting. Curiously, it was also known as a ‘truce of God’.

To me, a cease fire is extremely important because it creates an intentional ‘pause’. A pause, not to resupply inner arguments as part of the ongoing war, but to allow the story to be reconsidered. And perhaps to find a resolution, hopefully where all parties are satisfied with the proposed outcome.

You can think about it as a ‘reset button’. Imagine what a relief it would be, in the middle of a fight, an argument, or an internal battle, to be able to hit the ‘reset button’ and pause the conflict. Imagine the pause giving you time to start over, to see the conflict from another perspective or to allow the intense energy to dissipate and drain away. Imagine the freedom this would create inside of you and how it could change your story.

I’d like to say that my vacation experience provided me with an immediately effective cease fire, but it didn’t. I had to spend time working through a few things before it leveled out. I discovered it takes practice.

I also learned that the practice is worth it and that each time I hit the reset button to call a cease fire, it becomes easier.

It also creates a wonderful opportunity for me to claim my best life, which I’ll talk about in the next post. See you then.

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Stories We Tell Ourselves

Three different thoughts occurred to me recently. Interestingly, they seemed connected, so I’m going to string them together in a series of posts for you.

The first one is about the ‘Stories We Tell Ourselves’ and how they impact our lives. The second post I’m calling, ‘Cease Fire’, and it is an opportunity for us to call a truce with ourselves. The third is an extension of the first two and is titled, ‘Claiming Your Best Life’ and may provide you a new perspective about the way you live.

I’d like to ask you a question first. Take whatever time you need to consider your answer.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the main story be?

Of course, there are tons of sub-stories, each with their own plot lines and twists and surprising endings. But, what is your main story about?

I’ll assume you’ve come up with something, even if it’s a quick answer. Now, give it a moment to sit with you, then ask yourself if it is YOUR story or the story others have told you about yourself.

When I’m in a reflective mood, I often conclude that I’m really repeating old stories I’ve been told by others or ones where I’m responding to what I think I want my story to be, but not what it is. It can be pretty confusing.

Here’s another couple of questions. Is your story mostly good or mostly bad? Has it taken the turns you want or fallen short of your expectations? And, how susceptible are you to complying with what others want your story to be?

These can be very difficult questions to sort out and work through.

The first story that came to me was, The White Knight. The protector, the fixer, the shiny one. I don’t think anyone told me this was MY story. Rather, I believe the image of the white knight and the values surrounding the image were appealing to me. I have little doubt that I built this image to make myself feel stronger and to give myself a sense of worthiness. I liked the idea of riding in and rescuing someone in distress.

I believe what happened over the course of my life was that I took bits and pieces of others stories and added them to my own. And, I listened to what others said when they talked about me and accepted what I felt fit and rejected whatever didn’t.

Although your story may be completely different, does any of that apply to your story? Do you feel that you created your story and modified it to suit a view you liked?

Or perhaps, if you are dissatisfied with your story the question becomes, did you accept too much of what others told you? Have you allowed their story of you, to become your story of you?

I know it can work this way. I’ve seen it happen in my own life, after all, White Knights do fall off their horses. And, there are also more powerful knights in the kingdom who gain favor by knocking white knights off their horses.

To me the biggest question comes when you arrive at the place where you no longer like YOUR story.

That’s where the next post continues, so please come along for the ride.

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Stilling the Storm

I believe in the value of wisdom wherever you find it. Sometimes it’s found by observing the natural world. And, at other times, it can be seen through the eyes of a child or inside a vivid dream that connects you to the world beyond.

I believe we all have our own individual religious or spiritual paths to travel, so I tend not to advocate for one version over another.

For me, I’ve also discovered incredible wisdom in the stories from Yeshiwa’s life. Yeshiwa, being the Aramaic name for Jesus.

I feel a very strong connection to Yeshiwa. I feel and hear the messages revealed and they speak truth to me. I’d like to share one with you, but I understand if you need or want to shy away.

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There is a story about when Yeshiwa and his disciples were gathered along the shore of a great sea. They were sitting and talking and waiting for Yeshiwa to tell them what would be happening next in their lives. Where would they go and what would they be doing? Everything was so new to them. Many of them were fisherman by trade and understood much about fishing and the sea, but still knew almost nothing about Yeshiwa’s mission.

Yeshiwa spoke, telling them that he wished to cross the great sea and preach to whatever crowds would be there. So, they all got into a long wooden boat and pushed away from shore. Yeshiwa crawled toward the stern and immediately fell fast asleep.

The crossing would take many hours, as it was broad in this part of the sea and the current was running swiftly against them. Despite the disciples taking turns rowing, exhaustion overcame them all.

The fishermen were the first to become aware of a growing storm heading toward them. At first, the crests of each wave rose gently over the sides and spilled into the boat. But, as the fierce winds howled and the waves grew in size, more and more water filled the boat, threatening to overwhelm it.

Even the most seasoned fisherman became very afraid, worrying that their boat would sink and they would all be drowned.

The nearest to Yeshiwa shook him, over and over, until he awakened.

“Master, do you not see what is happening and how much danger we are in?”

Yeshiwa stood, raised his eyes to the furious sky, breathed out one breath and said, “Peace, be still.”

All was instantly calm and silent. And the sky returned to brilliant blueness and the water appeared as smooth as glass.

Yeshiwa sat and looked at the faces of his disciples. They were in awe. Never in their lives had they seen such a thing. How could this have happened? Who was this man, who had command over the wind and the sea?

Yeshiwa asked them, “Why were you afraid? Did you not know where to place your faith?”

The disciples cast their eyes downward and could not meet his gaze. They heard the gentleness in his voice, but understood so little of what he said and none could answer his questions.

Yeshiwa spoke to them saying, “Raise your eyes to mine my beloveds. Hear my words and place them deeply in your hearts, so that you may carry them with you always.”

“I tell you the truth, it falls to you to teach, as I have taught you. You are one with the Spirit and can not be separated. Not by wind or waves, nor by anything else that will ever happen in your lives. You may take this on faith, that you and I are one, always connected and never apart. No storm can change this, so be free inside your heart and rest in me.”

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I remember this story when my life is a storm. I close my eyes and fall into my heart, knowing that I am always connected, a part of the one. And I can say to any storm, “Peace, be still.”

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Benefit of the Doubt

My six-year-old grandson, Evan, was playing with Legos on the floor and was searching for a particular figure. He described it to me, so I could help him locate it, by saying that it was the one with the smiley face, not the mad face. To him, smiley face equaled, ‘happy’ and mad face equaled, ‘angry’. He wanted the happy one.

I can’t help myself. I asked him, “what do you think the mad faced Lego figure is angry about?

He stared up at me and said, “huh?”

I know it was silly of me to ask, but I wanted to see what he might say. Now I knew for sure. He ought to know better by now that I ask ‘dumb’ questions.

This little episode got me thinking. Do I gauge someone by their facial expression?

Of course, I do. If I see a person with a smiley face, I imagine they are happy. And, if I spot someone with a mad face, I’d assume they are angry. I wonder, how much of the time this is the truth?

There are no doubt a million reasons why someone is displaying one face or another. Then, there is the fact that everyone’s facial expressions change all the time. That makes it even more unlikely that I could make any accurate assumptions about what’s going on inside of them.

I recognize that what they’re experiencing is completely about them, but I also know that I let others emotional states impact me. I let their faces influence me and, if I’m not aware enough, I make some judgements about them or come to conclusions that may be totally incorrect. Once I do this, it becomes all about me.

I try to guard against this tendency by reminding myself that, even on my best days, I can’t possibly know what’s going on inside another person.

And, I ask myself whether I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. To hold in my mind that they are doing the best they can under whatever circumstances they’re facing. And, to offer them whatever support I can for their journey.

I’ve come to realize how powerful it is to give someone, ‘the benefit of the doubt’ and how wonderful it is to receive the same. I sometimes think to myself, what would my life would be like if I did this more often? Or better yet, if I set this as one of my defaults, so that when I initially reacted negatively (with a mad face) to something, I stopped and told myself that there is probably a very good reason for whatever was happening, (shifting to a smiley face).

I grant you this takes practice. From my recent attempts, I’ve come to the conclusion that the practice is well worth the time and effort.

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