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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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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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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Chaos Transformed by Love

I look at the world today and see so much chaos. Fear seems to have taken deep root and manifested intense feelings that surface in disturbing ways. The air around us seems filled with worry, heart break and anger.

What can be done to help heal all of this?

For me, I realize I can not be at peace if I harbor animosity in my heart for another person. If I fail to see that we are one human family and that we are all made from the same love, then I am lost.

When I see the cruel and violent actions of others, I have to be able to distinguish between who they ‘appear’ to me to be and who they truly ‘are’. They are more than the show of their outward actions and beliefs.

Before I cast a stone in their direction, I have to force myself to realize they are no more who they ‘appear’ to be than I am. Beneath our surfaces, we are all a part of the one. All made from the same source of love.

What I am saying goes far beyond ‘acceptance’. If I am to help in the worlds healing in any way, I have to be able to live from a center of love. I have to embrace all of my own weaknesses and my wholeness.

None of this is about condoning the behaviors or beliefs of others that arose from their fear and hatred. Rather, it is looking beyond and seeing that all of their actions come from their separation from the truth. The truth of who they really are, beloved of (god).

If I want to experience more feelings of separation and dissonance in my life, the surest way is to believe myself separate from them or superior to them. I benefit from realizing that I have no idea what their lives have been like and what stories they’ve been told and come to believe about themselves and the world.

If I want to help heal the world, I know that I have to start with myself. And so, I ask for a shift in my focus and that I seek a sense of clarity. I ask to have my heart opened fully, so that I can understand the difficult paths others have chosen. I have to suspend my judgment and I have to listen carefully. And, as best as I can, I have to see the world through their eyes.

My task is to see and feel with a loving undivided heart, knowing I am part of the wholeness and the holiness, and see all others as the same. If I live with this kind of heart, I can be in the world, but not of the world.

For there to be any peace inside of me, the depth of my love has to be deeper than the depth of another’s fear. I need to see beyond their misperceptions and find something within them I can hold inside of me. I have to breathe into stillness, letting go of my fear, until I find my loving heart and some part of the truth that can serve as a guide toward understanding and peace.

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