How Do I Love Me

Who taught you about love? It might be hard to remember. It may go back so many years that you’re not even sure.

I believe all babies come to earth filled with love, ready to be held, so that they can share their overwhelming sense of wonder with anyone who picks them up.

I certainly felt this when I held my children and grandchildren. I looked into each of their eyes to see if they could remind me what heaven was like. I gazed at them and felt a beautiful sense of oneness and closeness. And I fell into their bright, shiny faces, absorbed in their afterglow.

I felt as much coming into me as I was sending into them. Each of them taught me about love.

Sometimes I wish I could remember what it felt like to arrive here on earth. To be the one held. I imagine what a difficult trip it must have been, having my first breath squeezed out of me and needing desperately to have my lungs filled with air. Then trying to adjust to all the open space around me and the chill and bright lights and commotion. It’s no wonder that many babies scream. I want to, just thinking about it.

As a baby’s days pass and their experiences deepen, I wonder, how are they to learn about life? Who will listen to them for the clues that they are ready to learn? Who will be their teachers?

Will it be an interaction, an exchange of the meanings of life or will the baby have to do all the receiving and not be allowed to do any of the teaching?

As the baby becomes a child, the lessons begin. All sorts of things must be learned. What ‘hot’ means. That food belongs in your mouth, not on your head or the floor. That scissors are pointed, and that most animals have soft fur, but very sharp teeth.

After a while the lessons shift from being primarily about safety and become about understanding the world. There is a process of discovery. What a color is and what letters are and how numbers work together.

All of this is important. Necessary even.

But what about love? Who teaches us about this? Is it someone who knows what it means and how it is shared? Or do we sometimes learn from someone, who themselves, was never taught and can therefore not teach?

Are we shown examples to follow? And if so, what do they tell us about love? Is there harmony between what we are told and what we see happen in the world?

Often there are wide discrepancies, and we are expected to behave according to other’s words and ignore their conflicting actions.

But we know the truth somehow. We can feel it.

And whether we like it or not, it becomes up to each of us to decide about love, especially, the love we feel for ourselves. We may be fortunate enough to have had wonderful role-models to follow, but if not, we owe it to ourselves to be our own source of love.

I believe that deep inside each of us there is an inexhaustible wellspring of love. It’s inside already, waiting to be tapped. We don’t have to look outside to find it. And we don’t have to wait for anyone else to give it to us. We can give it to ourselves.

I believe this is the truth because we all came here with it. Each of us was wrapped up in love.

We show our self love by giving ourselves permission to release all the lessons we’ve been taught by others that do not feel true to us, and recognize that they may have meant no harm while teaching us. They just didn’t know better.

We show our self love when we forgive those who failed to help us understand, that the most important love, is that which we show ourselves. Then we can move on.

We show our self love when we accept that we are all beautiful, radiant beings, able to embrace the truth that we are all lovable. And in this way, we take charge of answering the question, how do I love me.

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Lessons or Experiences

From the folks I’ve talked to, there seems to be a consensus that school is focused on learning specific lessons. The expectation appears to be that the student does not know anything, so must be taught by the teacher. Further, it is assumed that the teacher knows what would be valuable for the student to learn.

The closer you are to educational systems, the more you realize that it’s all about the curriculum chosen. There is no way that any one teacher or any one student could know all things, so choices must be made and priorities decided about what to focus on in the classroom.

Inevitably, certain events and facts get lost in the shuffle. And then, there is the tendency to slant important details to suit whoever is in charge.

A glaring case in point was demonstrated to me during one of Maureen’s and my vacations. We visited Vancouver, Canada (absolutely gorgeous, by the way) and were fascinated to discover an enormous mural depicting a series of skirmishes that resulted in Canada winning a major battle against the United States. We looked at each other and asked ourselves, “Didn’t our textbooks say that we won that? We could have sworn they were quite specific on that point.”

Hmmm?

Well, no matter. I mean, it happened so long ago. What difference does it really make?

Perhaps, if it were an isolated instance, it wouldn’t matter. But it has ramifications far beyond which side actually won, because it’s unclear if there is a definitive correct answer, so what level of trust can you put in any of your lessons?

Along with many others I know, I come across events in my life and one of my first reactions is to wonder if there is a ‘lesson’ in it for me.

In school we are taught to learn our lessons. If we fail to do that, we’re told, we’ll need to repeat the class, UNTIL we’ve learned our lesson. This is potent stuff, unless you like summer school.

One trip there was enough to cure me. Who would want, after a very long school year, to spend the hot summer in a stuffy classroom trying to relearn a subject you didn’t like in the first place? No one, that’s who.

Here’s the real rub for me.

This whole idea of having to learn our lessons gets carried over into the rest of our lives. When faced with dilemmas and problems that don’t feel resolvable to us, I often hear people say to one another, “well, I guess you’ve haven’t learned your lesson yet.”

Beyond this not being the least bit helpful, it perpetuated the idea that there is one correct answer, and clearly, we’ve missed it.

I’d like to offer an alternative thought for your consideration.

Suppose there are NO specific lessons for you to have to learn. And, of course, this means there are no lessons you have to repeat until you get them right.

What if life is just a series of experiences? Simple experiences, without right and wrong answers. Without implications or attached judgements? Would that change things for you?

When I shift away from ‘lessons’ and focus on ‘experiences’, it makes a powerful difference to me. I can let go of worrying about getting life ‘right’ and open to the treasure inside of each of the experiences I encounter.

I admit that sometimes I have to dig deeply to uncover the treasure, but I’ve found it is always there waiting for me.

Perhaps if you give this shift a chance, you’ll find all of the treasure you are searching for. I certainly hope so.

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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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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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New Year Love

I wonder what you want from this life. If you were given a notebook or a journal or a clean slate, what would you write on it?

Here’s a choice…you can stop reading this post for a few minutes and write down the first things that come to you or you can keep reading and perhaps, if you’re interested, do this later (although I may spoil it a little with the rest of this post).

This isn’t the typical New Year’s resolutions, nor a list of challenging items to attempt to accomplish. Rather, it’s a wish list of the experiences you most want to have this time around.

Now, what would happen if I asked you to narrow your list down to only one thing. Would that be difficult for you?

I think it is often the case that we have so many options it becomes challenging to sort through them and choose only the ones that we think will make us happy.

Years ago, Maureen and I were in San Diego and went to brunch at the Hotel Del Coronado. It was incredible. I think they boasted that they had over 130 selections to choose from. It was overwhelming and almost everything looked delicious. I seriously doubt whether anyone left there without a massive stomach ache. They should have handed out Tums as folks walked out the door.

That’s how it can be when we’re given too many choices. Often, we want more things than we can manage. That’s my reason for asking you to narrow your list to only one item. To gain some clarity and focus.

I want to share with you what I chose.

I want to feel loved and that it makes a difference that I’m here on this earth.

I am profoundly grateful that there are those in my life who tell me that they love me and that I make a difference in their lives.

But sometimes, I only hear long after the fact that what I did or said, reached someone. I long to be a part of others’ lives, connecting deeply them. I want them to know that I love them.

From time to time, there is an aloneness that comes to join me. When this happens, it is hard to feel others love for me.

In one of those moments I asked Lia (a feminine part of god I know as Love In Action) about this and was surprised by her answer.

She said, “YOU are always free to do this…to offer love to yourself and to others. And you can always talk with me and I will tell you the truth…you are made from pure love.  You needn’t be troubled by your own misperception that you are anything else but love. The truth remains the truth, that you and I are ONE. One pure love.”

I don’t know about you, but for some reason it’s hard for me to tell myself that I love me. It’s only on my wisest days, that I can hold still, take a calming breathe and tell myself that I love me and that I know it matters that I’m here. That I have a purpose and a mission.

Lia offers this reminder, “It is the same for every one of you. You all want to know and feel love. I ask that you believe me, that you are love.”

My hope for you, heading into this new year, is that you know love and feel loved. It’s truly the reason why I write these posts.

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Try Outs

As I grew up there seemed to be quite a few different opportunities to ‘tryout’ for things. Whether it was for a sports team, a musical group, a play or something else I might have been interested in.

One theme seemed pretty common to them all. They each created some uncertainty inside of me. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know if I’d be any good at what I was trying out for. I wasn’t sure I’d get picked and what it would mean to me if I didn’t.

I might be terrible and embarrass myself. I couldn’t know for sure if I’d be welcomed and, I didn’t know in advance, if I’d stay with it or perhaps find, it wasn’t for me. Would I be allowed to quit, if I didn’t like it?

You may have experienced some of these same thoughts.

The fact is we’re always trying new things, sometimes because we want to and other times because we have to. If we’re sick, we have to try new medications. If our car dies, we have to find a new one. If we lose our job or give it up, we have to search for another. The list of new things we have to try or tryout for is considerable.

Interestingly, I rarely assumed that all would go well, that I would like what I tried out for or that I would be good, perhaps even great at it, or that it would bring me joy.

I wonder about that now. How much time did I spend thinking about the potential downsides? I believe the answer is, quite a bit.

And, I think I brought that attitude with me for much of my life. It sat on my shoulder during the college admission process and job interviews and some major life decisions.

I place no blame here. I realize we all absorb ideas and attitudes from our cultures. It’s pretty much a given.

Then one day something changed. I began to ask myself what was really true. Instead of allowing my standard responses to continue to guide me, I challenged everything. I became something of a rebel.

I shifted.

I opened to new possibilities. I started asking myself, what if I absolutely love this new thing? What if I change my idea of ‘success’, making it more about enjoyment than accomplishment? What if I learned to treasure the adventure and release my attitude that it has to lead to something tangible?

I began to embrace the idea that this life is mine. I get to decide what it means and what direction it takes. I get to choose which attitude to accept.

I found that I could let go of my tendency to believe I had to prove myself to others and recognize it is more important what I think and believe about myself. I am the one leading this life. I am the one with hopes and dreams.

I am not trying out for this life. I am this life.

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