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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Take A Chance

How does inspiration actually work? I think it’s a good question.

When you name a website ‘messagesforinspiration’ like I did, you really probably ought to know. When it comes down to it, everyone has to decide for themselves, but I thought I’d give you my answer.

I believe that all inspirations start with an idea. It can be any idea, but the ones I favor are meant to open a door or a window for you. Maybe it opens only a crack, but still it represents something new or perhaps something that you haven’t tried in a while.

I think that the ideas can come from anywhere. They can be very simple or seemingly complex, but they have to capture some part of your imagination and offer some hope for a positive change in your life.

My aim is to provide thoughts and ideas which may intrigue you or prompt you to accept a challenge or embrace an opportunity.

So, for today, here’s one for you.

Take a chance.

I don’t mean being cavalier about your choices in life or doing anything dangerous. But, I do believe that we can become so set in our routines that we rarely look outside the box. And, there is a lot outside the box!

I’m suggesting that you take a chance about one thing and see what happens.

What fascinates me most when I take a chance, is the revelation of how everything is connected. On the face of it, things seem separate, but if I look carefully, I realize they link together. And, if I really, really look carefully, they link both forward and backward.

It’s always helped me to have examples, so I’d like to share one with you from my life to illustrate what I’m saying.

Many years ago, Maureen and I were visiting Asheville, North Carolina and were shopping in its quaint downtown area. We ended up in a local bookstore and I was attracted to the display of local writers. One of the books had a beautifully hand drawn picture on the cover. I picked it up and began reading. As I turned the pages, the author (and illustrator) recounted the first leg of his journey on the Appalachian Trail. I fell in love with the idea of vicariously walking the trail with him, especially since the idea had always appealed to me. I bought the book and told myself to read the daily entries and not rush ahead. It was a fabulous experience.

I wanted to let the author know how much his book meant to me, so I researched him and found his home address in Asheville and decided to ‘take a chance’ and write to him to express my appreciation. Along with my note I decided to offer him a gift copy of my first Little Buddha book, as an additional thank you. I mentioned to him that I didn’t expect any reply, but would certainly be happy to receive one.

Several weeks later his reply arrived. He was thrilled that I’d bought and read his book, honored that I would share mine with him and wanted to stay in touch, which we did.

A few years later, he began his fourth and final section of the trail which put him within 50 miles of my home. He called and relayed that he’d miscalculated his food supplies and wondered if I’d be able to help him out. I met him just off the trail where it crossed Route 20 in Massachusetts. I bought him a hot breakfast from McDonalds plus gave him a lunch and dinner I’d made, so he could make it to his next food restocking location.

Fast forward a few more years.

If you’ve checked out the BOOKS page on this website you’ll notice the first book mentioned. It’s titled, talking with (god). I encourage you to look carefully at the cover. It’s magnificent  and so beautifully draw. Guess who drew it, as well as the rest of the incredible illustrations inside? You got it, my friend, the Appalachian Trail hiker, Mike ‘Sketch’ Wurman.

I am so profoundly glad that I took a chance and wrote to him. Thank you, my friend for being in my life.

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Habits

Every day we experience opportunities for growth in our lives. Some of the opportunities we may long for, while others we’d just as soon not encounter.

When we’re provided these choices, we have to decide whether to resist or accept them. A great deal of our harmony and peace of mind depends on which choice we make.

The more I think about this, the more obvious it becomes that every single thing that happens to me offers me something of value. At first, the item or event may not appear to be important. But, if I open and allow myself a moment of consideration, often rewarding things happen.

Here’s one seemingly insignificant example.

I brush my teeth twice a day. Once in the morning and once before I go to bed at night. You may do the same thing.

So, there I am in front of the medicine cabinet. I open it and reach for my toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, which has a flip top. Being a creature of habit, I hold the tube with the label facing me, then find I can’t flip the top open.

This bugs me. I don’t know why, it just does.

So, at least twice a day there is something in my life that is guaranteed to irritate and annoy me.

I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking.

When I was a kid, I’d say, “Duh” and follow that with something obvious like, “so reach for the toothpaste and hold it with the label facing away from you (numbskull).”

Problem solved, right?

I have to wonder, what prevents me from executing this very simple solution? I’m pretty sure I know.

Habit.

Reinforcement of the same thing, day after day, until what I choose, becomes second nature to me.

But, is this helpful? Certainly, for me, not always.

My next question is, how many other things in my life are on this kind of auto-pilot?

My answer would have to be, a lot.

It’s fascinating to me that habits hide our power and become a substitute for conscious thought and decision making. Is the world too complicated for us to navigate, so we allow habits to take care of many things for us?

It makes me wonder.

Here’s another example.

Do I really listen to someone’s answer when I ask them, “How are you today” or is this just a habit? Not surprisingly, the answers we’re inclined to give to this question are often as habitual as the question itself.

What if I gave myself a chance to be present when they spoke? What sort of difference would that make in my world…and theirs?

I tested this out recently and discovered it makes a great deal of difference.

When I asked someone how they were, I looked directly at the person and stood still and waited for their answer. Most of the time, it took a minute for the person to realize I was actually waiting for them to respond. Often, they stopped, returned my gaze and appeared to consider their answer for a moment. When they got over their shock, they relaxed and said something about the way they felt, then stopped speaking and looked expectantly in my direction. I took in what they’d said and responded, saying something that I hoped made it obvious I’d heard them and that what they said mattered to me.

Amazingly, when I remembered to do this, I found we formed a real connection. I felt a spark and that felt good to me. And, it made me want to continue exploring other habits of mine and seeing what benefits I might be able to find.

If you do some exploring of your own, please let me know what you discover.

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Kindness

Here’s an opportunity to try something new. To open a door in your world and see where it leads. What beautiful shift might occur in your outlook if you allowed yourself some freedom. Freedom to explore some new spiritual practices. Ones that appeal to you and offer hope and excitement and a sense of connection, perhaps to an inner part of you or perhaps to what you think of when you hear the word, ‘divine’.

Ready? I’m going to assume that you said ‘yes’, and I’ll keep going.

Although there are literally hundreds of directions we could go, let’s take just one step and see what happens.

Spiritual practices offer us every possible direction, so we can go inside or stay outside. For this exercise, let’s do both at the same time.

It will be fun. I promise.

So here it is…spend a little time and create an “intentional act of kindness plan” for the next seven days. I say, “intentional”, rather than the more common term of “random”, because I believe the creation of a plan IS “intentional”. You’re doing it “on purpose”, not with a specific idea of how it will turn out, but because you want to be present and somewhat purposeful.

I’m going to suggest that you start out with creating ideas. What acts of kindness come to your mind. Just let them pop into your head and write down a bunch of ideas that appeal to you. Once you have them captured, say each one out loud and see which ones your heart is drawn to.  Make a list of 3-5 ideas (or more) that you want to put into practice during this week.

Once you have your list, imagine what you need in order to perform these acts of “intentional kindness”. Remember that they can cost you nothing or something. That part is entirely up to you.

How are you going to create some magic for someone else? Who will it be? When will you do these things? Plan it out a bit, but not too much. This isn’t intended to be a chore for you. It’s not another “to do” item, but rather an overflowing from the joy that lives inside of you, now and what is to come.

Okay, so now you have your plan.

One more thing. I’m going to suggest that you perform some acts of kindness anonymously and some where the person you’re doing this for knows that it is you. I’m very curious to know if that changes anything about the experience for you, so I’m going to ask you, if you are willing, to record your feelings about each one of the “intentional acts” you perform. That’s really a big part of this exercise.

That ought to be enough to get you started.

I would like to share with you that for my sixty-third birthday I performed 63 intentional acts of kindness. It was an amazing adventure. I learned so much about myself throughout the process, which actually took me all month to complete.

I was constantly surprised, amused and overjoyed by my experience. I found deep connections are always within reach, as long as I was willing to take one simple step.

I wish you well on this journey and would love to hear whatever you care to share.

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Worthiness

Do you seem to have an endless list of things to do and not enough time to do them? Even the most important ones?

There’s probably some club you could join where everyone feels this way. Of course, it’s likely you wouldn’t have time to go to any of the meetings.

I could be in this club.

I have a TO DO list almost a mile long and as soon as I start to feel I’m getting ahead, I add new things to it. Most of the time I add more than I complete.

I asked myself recently how I felt about this. The answer was, burdened.

My thinking mind said, ‘but there’s so much to do and we need to get it done. We have to organize and prioritize. We can do this, we just need to make some adjustments. Let’s identify ways to handle this.’

My thinking mind set about brainstorming ideas; I could get up earlier, avoid distractions and break up my TO DO list into smaller more manageable pieces.

Perhaps these were reasonable fixes, but the feeling part of me knew each of these ideas would only add more items to my already bulging list.

An idea dawned on me.

Maybe the answer wasn’t to identify and fix the reasons why I couldn’t get everything done.

Maybe the answer or answers would appear if I explored the belief(s) that drove my need to check off all of the items.

This felt promising.

I began to wonder what would happen if I didn’t complete each of my self-assigned tasks. As I looked at each item, I discovered a common theme. I would not feel good about myself.

But why?

That now seemed like the critical question to ask. What did completing items from my list really do for me? Well, it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Beneath this, where my beliefs live, I realized there was more. It also gave me a sense of worthiness, which came through the praise of others and my own self-congratulations.

So, why is this necessary?

That answer eluded me at first, until I went inside and looked into my heart and spirit, and then I knew. I saw clearly how my ego was driven by fear and how it believed this fear was necessary in order to protect the self-image it had created. An image that firmly rested on praise from the outside and the inside. My ego believed it was vital to create opportunities (like the TO DO list) that would serve as nourishment to keep me healthy.

In the past I would have begun an internal argument with my ego. I would have attempted to convince my ego that it was wrong and that this approach would always lead to unhappiness.

But, I’ve learned that my ego plays a necessary part in my life and I no longer argue with it. Instead, I offer it love, which is the only thing that allows it to relax and calm down. I thank it for doing its job and keeping me safe. I offer it my gratitude and then share from my heart and spirit a more powerful truth. That I am inherently worthy and valuable. That I am radiant and beautiful and beloved. That I am a child of god and never need to prove myself, to be found worthy.

Looking beneath the surface, beyond my worldly concerns and thinking mind, I find a place of love. My true home.

In this light, I can let go of the significance of all of my TO DO items and they can each patiently wait their turn now.

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