The Marble and the Sculptor

George Bernard Shaw’s quote pictured just above is good food for thought.  Once upon a time I remember firmly believing I could find myself out there somewhere.  My approach was that of an adventurer.  Simply thinking if “I” am to be found at some location other that where I am, let the journey begin!  And so it did.

I tried changing locales often while searching for “me”.  Within the searching I lived in eight states from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans and even tried close to a year as an expatriate in a foreign country. There were a few hints and sign posts forward, but there was no”me” there to be found.

I went looking for “myself”  with high focus on interests such as piloting airplanes, professional photography, high-powered rocketry, collecting antiques, travel to exotic places and more.  There was no “me” to be found up in the sky.  No image ever captured did more than vaguely hint at who I might be.  Even when the everyday person I am was mostly stripped away by places where little was familiar only a few vague notions of “me” arrived.

I thought maybe some of the un-located “me” might be in another person and a long list of short and long relationships came and went.  Within those loves and heart breaks there was a moving closer to the destination of “myself” that came through revelations of what I was not.  The trying to fit in and the molding of myself to others painfully taught a lot of what was not “me”, but not much of what “I was”.

As many worthy discoveries come from failure of another intention, the many failings of my choices in time brought me unwillingly onto the path of “creating myself”.   The makings of the “me” searched for through many years had been inside all along!  I had been running away from it hoping to replace what was there unsuccessfully with something else.  When there was not other choice, I became the creating artist of my own life.  Some of the best chisels in my sculpting kit are:

Often being around others working on similar self improvement.
Getting up earlier and giving my most rested hours to myself.
Appreciating what I have instead of wanting something else.
Living first and foremost for myself instead of others.
Looking inward and writing here what I see and feel.
Forgiving others for what they have done to me.
Expectations of good instead of the opposite.
Making amends with those I hurt in the past.
Expanding the good, diminishing the bad.
Working to live instead of living to work.
Forgiveness for things I have done.
Learning to be comfortably alone.
Faithfulness to myself and others.
Belief in a power greater than me.
Being a better friend.
Growing gratefulness.
Staying in one place.
and more.

A great deal of time was spent previously expecting to “arrive” and to instantly have the complete life I thought was my destiny to have.  Now it is clear life is not a destination and is instead something created daily or more accurately, moment by moment.  My discovery has been when I live more fully in the ‘now’ I better ‘carve’ out the “me” I once searched for.  In a relatively short time my future has begun to unfold more as I want and my past has begun to be something I am pleased about.  Being proud of one’s self gives a person amazing strength!

This all sounds simple and it is, but hard to do.  The difficulty is removing the sediment that life puts over us given time.  It’s easy to begin to believe the residue of the years is who and what we are.  I had to dig the mudslide of many years that covered and obscured the “me” with. 

Like a miner I had to remove the layers of mud before the veins of raw gold of “me” could be located.  And only then could the gold began to be processed  and shaped.  Mining of any sort takes strength, determination and consistent digging.  Now instead of a feeling of being lost, I am the daily sculptor and creator of “me”.  The hard work of the task is not a deterrence and I am deeply grateful for the measure of peace and satisfaction the labor now brings each day.

Man cannot remake himself without suffering,
for he is both the marble and the sculptor.
Dr. Alexis Carrel

Between the Idiocy of Infancy & the Folly of Youth

“I Resign”
Author Unknown

I am hereby officially tendering
my resignation as an adult.

I have decided I would like to accept the
responsibilities of an 8-year-old again.

I want to go to McDonald’s and think
that it’s a four star restaurant.

I want to sail sticks across a fresh mud
puddle and make ripples with rocks.

I want to think M&Ms are better than
money because you can eat them.

I want to lie under a big oak tree and run a
lemonade stand with my friends on a hot summer day.

I want to return to a time when life was simple.

When all you knew were colors,
multiplication tables, and nursery rhymes,
but that didn’t bother you, because you
didn’t know what you didn’t know and you didn’t care.

All you knew was to be happy because you
were blissfully unaware of all the things
that should make you worried or upset.

I want to think the world is fair.

That everyone is honest and good.

I want to believe that anything is possible.

I want to be oblivious to the complexities of life
and be overly excited by the little things again.

I want to live simple again.

I don’t want my day to consist of computer crashes,
mountains of paperwork, depressing news,
how to survive more days in the month than there
is money in the bank, doctor bills, gossip,
illness, and loss of loved ones.

I want to believe in the power of smiles, hugs,
a kind word, truth, justice, peace, dreams,
the imagination, mankind, and making angels in the snow.

So… here’s my checkbook and my car keys,
my credit cards and all my responsibility.

I am officially resigning from adulthood.

And if you want to discuss this further,
you’ll have to catch me first,

Tag! You’re it.”

Being a child again in body is not possible, but reconnecting more with the child in my soul is. A little boy remains inside, unseen. He is mostly unconscious and sleeping buried there under layers of “adult stuff” and the weight of years.

When I allow just a small crack to break through those heavy grown-up layers a youngster’s lighter way of being surfaces like a helium balloon rises when freed. I am grateful to know the goodness that comes from waking the child within. By freeing that little boy a little now and then, small perspective adjustments come that make life grander, more interesting and one heck of a lot more fun.

At this very moment thoughts of finger painting pop into my head… hmmm… how long has it been? 50 years????

Childhood: the period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth – two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age. 
Ambrose Bierce

It’s Harder to Ignore It

Dear Dad,

The last time we spoke I was very angry at you and my feelings were not misplaced.  You needed to hear what I had to say.  At the time there is no way to have known we would never speak again.

Here in late middle age I am making peace with the emotional injuries of childhood including you leaving on my seventh birthday.  I don’t hold that against now.  How complicated adult life actually is has been taught to me the hard way.  Having made some weighty mistakes that are now deeply regretted, I comprehend better why you shed tears and spoke “I’m so sorry’s” during my visits as a grown man.  You never did anything intentionally to hurt me.  I know that.  Rather you were lost in your dysfunctions, delusions and “junk” from childhood.  I’m don’t think you ever even thought there were anything wrong with you nor ever saw those primary causes of the chaos and unhappiness of your life.

In childhood you were hurt and damaged. That is a good bit of what led you to behave as you did as an adult. Your mother abandoned you at seven when you and a younger brother were left with a middle-aged and bitter father who knew nothing about raising children.  From stories told it is easy to see he too was emotionally injured from his own formative years.  My suspicion is his father was an emotional mess too as was his father before him and so on.  There is no way of knowing how far back the dysfunctions have been passed from generation to generation are rooted.

I will never think of you as a bad man, but will always know you were a weak one.  You spent all your life running away from yourself, but like your shadow in daylight that was always present, you were unable to outrun your childhood baggage.  You tried the cure of money and found it fixed little to nothing.  Actually it probably helped you become more deeply enmeshed in your dysfunctional behavior.  All the marriages and the parade of women in your life at best only temporarily relieved your pain.  The pursuit of fame and burning desire to have “famous friends” did nothing but fuel what was already wrong.

Then came alcohol abuse followed by drugs I believe you took up to look cool to the younger women you pursued.  Somehow dating women young enough not just to be your daughter, but in some cases you granddaughter gave you a temporary false sense of being younger.  The twenty-something women were just another of another substance of choice to numb what hurt inside you.

I wish there was more pride in me for the person you were.  Instead there is memory of a man I loved in spite of his mistakes, flaws, dysfunctions and injurious behavior to himself and others.  Never was there ever any real happiness in your life.  How constantly you kicked away chances at contentment was never something you realized.  It makes me sad when I think of how tormented your life was.  You never knew your place which makes me all the more grateful I am down the road a good way in knowing mine.

Although there was no contact between us during the last year and a half of your life, I am glad you ended up in rehab.  While that was not your choice and the legal system put you there, sobriety did find you.  Staying straight and living humbly the last eighteen months of your life is something I am proud you accomplished.  You faced the most difficult person to face:  yourself, and made at least a temporary peace.

This May twenty years ago you died of a heart attack at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at the end of taking a turn sharing about your journey.  To know you made a difference in other lives, if even small ones, gives me something to be proud of you for.  I doubt long-term you could have stayed sober, but that is irrelevant now.  What does matter is your last days were spent trying to face your demons and walking a path of sobriety.  I will always be grateful for that.

Love always,

Your son

All the times that I cried,
Keeping all the things I knew inside,
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.
From Cat Steven’s song “Father and Son”

The Great Weight of Small Joyful Moments

It is natural for a person to notice and vividly remember moments of great joy and tremendous happiness.  Such beautiful experiences are for most people thought to be the sum total of the best of their life.  Yet, when I focus for a few minutes and mentally accumulate the big joyful moments experienced the initial list I come up with is shorter than I would have first imagined.  As remembrances of first love, the birth of my son, a miracle that saved my family’s life and other momentous occurrences come to mind, the moments of joy listed get smaller in size.    

In a sort of upside down mental pyramid, the biggest joyful moments of my life are at the top of my list with a great number of smaller joys listed below.  While the width and height of each lesser joy is not nearly as weighty as each entry in the big stuff above, it is in the totaled together small elated moments where I find the majority of my life’s joyousness.

A fresh one from yesterday was sitting in private with a part-time employee and her supervisor discussing how she had risen to the task of filling in, since last September, an open full-time position.  We were telling her that six months before we would not have seriously considered her for the position we were about to promote her to.   She had worked hard and shown what she could do resulting in her getting the position she wanted so badly.  In telling her how proud we were of her, my eyes welled up, her supervisors eyes got watery and so did hers.  It was a small moment of pure joy. 

Last week at the end of a business trip I stopped off in Alabama to see my Brother who I have not seen in over two years (shame on me!).  Once at the airport curbside with my bags I called to let him know.  In less than a minute he pulled up in the lane in front of me.  While just seeing him warmed my heart, it was the hug that lingered that touched me down to the core of my being.  In that moment I was reminded that he is the only true goodness I can trace all the way back to where my memory begins.  That realization was another small moment of joy. 

The warmer than usual winter here has fooled the daffodils of early spring into coming up early.  All over my yard the green little stalks are clustered in flower beds, but only one stalk has had the strength to flower.  The temperature has been down into the teens in the last week, but I noticed that one little yellow flower was still standing tall this morning when I took out the trash.  When color is everywhere, a single flower does not draw much notice, but when one dab of bright daffodil yellow is all there is it becomes very noticeable.  For that split second I noticed the bloom alive and well, I smiled and thought to myself “good for you little fellow”.  Another small moment of joy. 

My work has been extraordinarily busy for the last three weeks and I have spent almost no time with my best friend, Mel.  The couple of visits we have been together I have either been tired, distracted or both.  Outside of my Brother and Son, there is no man closer to me and I have missed his company.  Getting an email inviting me to see a movie tonight caused me to smile momentarily with just the thought of hanging out with my buddy.  Another momentary appearance of a tiny joy.

Sometimes joy is a discovery solely within myself.  Seeing the counter of the days I have written this blog cross 292 earlier this week brought a momentary feeling of joy.  That number represents an 80% accomplishment of my goal of writing here every day for a year, something I honestly would not have believed six months ago possible.  Realizing I had found the kind of discipline I have never been capable of brought a joyous feeling for a short moment.

Always I have considered myself to be a sensitive person with good awareness of my feelings and believed those to be accurate self perceptions.  One unexpected jewel of truth gained from writing about gratitude every day, is my level of gratefulness has increased ten-fold.  My heart, mind and soul have been brought to a level of insightful awareness beyond anything I have known or could have imagined. 

Life is blend of difficulty, challenge and grief combined with joy, happiness and delight.  In what measure I focus my thinking on each is the largest determining factor of the quality of my life. It is with much gratefulness I share publicly that personal truth.

Things don’t go wrong and break your heart
so you can become bitter and give up.
They happen to break you down and build you
up so you can be all that you were intended to be. 
Charles “Tremendous” Jones

You Are More Than Who You Think

Without cause or catalyst I can name, once in a while I have found myself alone glancing into a mirror being startled by the sudden realization “I AM!”.  These rare moments started in childhood somewhere about ten years old.  The feeling is not bad particularly, but one does send me into an odd loop of thinking and self-questioning for a little while. 
When I really SEE myself this way thoughts rattle quickly to temporarily permeate my being.  They range from a startling “I really am here!?!?” and one of surprise like “so that is what I look like” to one of questioning in the realm of “I look very different from what my mind tells me” and “who am I?”.  It is the latter that unnerves me the most.  I think that’s because no answer ever comes that is simple enough to encapsulate in a though and in trying to find one a twinge of fear shows up.  I don’t have a “motto”, “slogan” or “self-description” that sums me up in a comfortable way. Maybe no one does.  
Sorting out how “who I am” is something not taught at school and is one of the most bewildering things about life.  As a small child I was seasoned by the “old-fashioned” ways taught in the isolated rural south.  By the third grade my existence was peppered with the pain of a broken family and a general lack of caring from the adults responsible for me.  Children always blame them self for the problems of their parents and as a child my response to such feelings was to build a nature of conformity.  At a time that could have been about self discovery, my self-identity was obscured and largely out of my sight. 
Teenage years brought a time of questioning for the majority of what I had been taught intentionally or had learned from watching adults.  My formative quizzical years from thirteen to sixteen found me perplexed about 90% of everything!  And what does a healthy, trouble teenage boy do in regard to what he does not understand?  REBELLION, of course and pretend I knew everything!

Beginning in my teen world of the late 60’s and increasingly since, media hype surrounding celebrities – their image, body shape, fashion and hair style – it has been easy to get sucked in, longing to look like, sound like, act like and be admired just like the famous faces.  The silent pressure from all around created a gnawing tension between being myself and fitting in with the people around me. 

Internally I have forever been overshadowed by a self-consciousness that grew from a concern about what others think of me. With a dread of being put down for simply being who I really was it became easy in many circumstances just to do, say and act as I thought I was expected to.  It was my way of being accepted.  

Only in recent years has my fear subsided enough to where I can consistently talk openly about my problems, what I really believe in and the things that truly matter most to me. Before I was always afraid of not being understood or I’d be thought less of.  The issues of childhood and mistakes of my adult life combined with nausea from pretending gave me the impetus to change and grow beyond the “me” I had been.  Initially with reluctance, and later with growing confidence I have allowed myself to show more and more of the person that truly is me.

Now there is a knowing if others can’t respect me for the “true me” or are going to be judgmental then they are not worth my time, energy, friendship or love.  Today my knowledge is certain that my self-identity is so much more than what I wear or do.  Rather it is made up of what I believe in, what I dream of, what standards I hold myself to and about allowing myself the freedom to live first for no one else but me. 

In many ways my education of who I am has me still in class learning. Even now the questioning of who I am and where I belong linger and swirl, but thankfully not to the point of completely clouding life in front of me.   Though hard work, lots of honest introspection and the help of many I have found confidence and strength to counter my fears. There is much gratefulness to love, rather than fear, who I am.   

“Who You Are” by Wave Carberry

You are a rare wild orchid, magically lit from within,
But warmed outside by flaming sun of passion.
You are strong, and cling tenaciously to love.
No jungle predator can tear you from your home,
For you protect your own.
But when shrieking storms have blown down
All the stable trunks of home,
And you stand swaying in the shifting wind,
Know this, my friend:
You are more than who you think.
No one can define you, or diminish you,
Even at the brink of loss and sorrow.
You fold within yourself
Seeds of growth and power,
The light of understanding.

Saint Valentine’s Day

It is said the tradition of Valentine’s Day began because this was the date birds began to choose their mates. An early reference in print to Valentine’s Day is found in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Parliament of Fowls” in 1831: For this was Saint Valentine’s day, when every bird of every kind comes to this place to choose his mate.

Here are some random thoughts that touch me offered on this special day to honor those who loved before us and those who love now.

Over ten years ago at an estate auction in Arkansas I bought a beautiful old Valentine along with its envelope in a frame. The two cents in stamps are postmarked February 14, 1896 or exactly one hundred and sixteen years ago from today.

While the sender and the recipient are almost certainly no longer here, the loving and kind gesture of the sender lives on. Through the sentiment of the card and the care I and others have taken of it, the wish is here today for me to share. The outside of the card is at the start of this blog and on the inside is found:

Not sunlight in its prime,
Not moonlight’s gentle ray’s
Is half so fair as love
which brightens
day by day.

Here are three favorite quotes about love from the movies that bring the warmth of love to my heart when I read them:

My heart, it’s like my chest can barely contain it, like it doesn’t belong to me anymore, it belongs to you. If you wanted it, I’d wish for nothing in exchange, no gifts, no goods, no demonstrations of devotion – nothing but knowing you love me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine. “Stardust”

I feel like you are the reward for everything I did right in my life. “Then She Found Me”

What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same – only love.” “Don Juan DeMarco”

One of the most famous love stories of the last two hundred years is that of poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.  The opening line Elizabeth wrote for Robert in the forty-third “Sonnet to the Portuguese” is widely known and the “Sonnets…” is one of my absolute favorite works of poetry:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old grief’s, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,–I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

A few lines from the thirty-eighth sonnet:
First time he kissed me, he but only kissed
The fingers of this hand wherewith I write;
And ever since, it grew more clean and white,
With sanctifying sweetness, did precede
The third upon my lips was folded down
In perfect, purple state; since when, indeed,
I have been proud and said, “My love, my own.”

And from the thirty-ninth:
I think of thee!–my thoughts do twine and bud
About thee, as wild vines, about a tree,
Put out broad leaves, and soon there’s naught to see
Except the straggling green which hides the wood.

For the hapless romantic spirit of my soul and the joy in my heart, I am very grateful this Saint Valentine’s Day for life, for love and the insight to appreciate both.

The rose is red, the violet’s blue,
The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it should be you.
From 1792 English nursery Rhyme book
“Gammer Gurton’s Garland” by Joseph Ritson

Progressive Jerks Forward & Developmental Back Stepping

With a cut or scratch on my skin, I know with proper care healing will take place.  The deeper the wound, the more time needed for the healing to happen.  Even then there often is a scar and the size of it depends a good amount on the care I take of the wound.

Healing emotional wounds is similar.  How much care I give the abrasion in my psyche affects the mending process.  Just like a visible injury healed on the outer body, recovery of the heart and mind usually leaves behind a scar but inside, unseen.  The inability to see it lends difficulty to knowing when healing has fully taken place.

Ever noticed how when we get hurt physically and someone asks if we are OK, the first response is often “I’m fine”.  My response has been like that when I was in searing pain and ultimately had to get medical attention.  I suppose admitting being hurt suggests some sort of weakness.  Why this is my nature I really have no specific idea, but have been doing it recently by saying I am OK when I really am not.

I am wrestling with an issue with roots back in childhood and tentacles all over my adult. My belief was I had moved past the issue to where it would not bother me again.  That thinking was a mistake.  Just as scar tissue is never as strong as original skin, when recovered emotionally from a childhood wound there remains a tender and easily re-injured scar.

The Buddha said desire was the cause of suffering.  Addiction is compulsive desire run rampant.  From my early adult life I was a relationship addict and had to be involved with a woman to feel complete (if not more than one at the same time).  Like any addiction, desire was never sated for long and over time it took more and more to satisfy the desire if only for a short while.

A part of my healing was to live with loneliness until being with someone was not driven by compulsion.  Will I ever achieve that one hundred percent?  Not likely, but getting the upper hand over that desire is something I am glad happened for me.  However, I have discovered a part of my self-control came from cultivating aversion which actually is not about being healed.  It is rather about building another form of compulsion:  one away from what is desired.

It is healthy to make the discovery I have.  Doing the real work on one’s self to find more contentment in life brings a constant series of doors being opened where an entry point was previously unknown.  This journey of self-discovery is exciting and rewarding while at the same time difficult and worrisome.  Healing and recovery is not a process that moves at a constant speed.  Rather it is a combination of progressive jerks forward and developmental back stepping.

My present challenge brought another little piece of clarity.  It is something I know but was not practicing particularly well:  worry churns the same thought over and over in my head building it to a size beyond its real meaning.  Worrying is just aversion or more accurately, fear.  Slaying this dragon or at least making it my friend means moving past my fear.  I have to walk right into the mouth of what I am afraid of and stride through it in order to move forward.

What you have read today is simply me thinking in written form while sorting out why an old way of being and thinking is affecting me so much.  Sharing publicly here is my way of overcoming contempt and aversion prior to deeper investigation.  Such has been my way with many things.  Building disapproval and even hatred for ways of being in my past is not healthful.  Just admitting that truth will help me overcome my aversion so I can heal better.

In Zen, there is a path called the “Great Doubt” or the “Don’t Know Mind”.  Simply it is only when I accept the answer is not known that it may be found.  As soon as I settle on a quick solution blindness will come over me for other considerations.  As soon as I have it “figured out” that is when I stop learning.

I am grateful to realize the wisdom of every answer I arrive at must be provisional, based on the information I have at that moment and my own ability to see it clearly.  With my current quandary I am uncomfortable, yet am learning greater penetration into wisdom by bearing the questioning.  It is challenge, difficulty and pain that are the most prolific  teachers.

Today I will not fear change and new ways of seeing or being.  I will not hold discomfort at arm’s length.  Without fear of the learning’s impact on my life I will let insights openly come so the lesson being taught can find me   I am grateful for the new perceptions that will help me to do just that.

Growth means change and change involves risk,
stepping from the known to the unknown.

To Love More and Be Happy

A company business trip took me to the Florida for most of the week.  The trip was completed with a stop in Alabama to visit family for a couple of nights.  As much as I no longer find business travel to be enjoyable, the first part of the trip was more than a fair trade-off  to see my Brother, his wife and my niece.

Arriving home late yesterday afternoon I was near a walking zombie.  The meetings of the week started early and the evening dinners went late.  Arriving home my state was near exhaustion.  Too tired to unpack and too wired to go to bed at 7pm, I turned on the cable box to find something interesting to unwind and decompress with.  I ended up on pay-per-view stumbling across a documentary called “I Am” by Tom Shadyac who directed movie comedies such as “Ace Ventura:  Pet Detective” “Patch Adams” and “The Nutty Professor”.

For some people there are events that happen which are deeply life changing.  For Shadyac it was post-concussion syndrome after a 2007 bicycle accident in Virginia.  A 2011 New York Times article stated that: the symptoms of a concussion (didn’t) go away. Something as simple as a trip to the grocery store was painful for Shadyac, whose brain was unable to filter various stimuli. After medical treatments failed to help, he isolated himself completely, sleeping in his closet and walling the windows of his mobile home with black-out curtains. As his symptoms finally began to subside, the director wanted to share his inner quest in the way he knew best: through film. 

Shadyac gave away much of his fortune mostly through donations to worthy causes.  He reoriented and simplified his life, sold his 17,000-square-foot home and moved into a trailer park in Malibu.  Some think he “lost it” but after watching his documentary I think his experience enabled him to “get it”!

In the film, Shadyac does interviews with scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists, and philosophers focusing on two questions:   “What’s Wrong With the World?” and “What Can We Do About it?”  The documentary is about “human connectedness, happiness, and the human spirit” and explores the nature of humanity and our world’s ever-growing addiction to materialism.  In the trailer for the film Shadyac says he went looking for what was wrong with the world and found instead a lot of what was right about it.

Although some reviewers have not thought kindly of Shadyac’s documentary, I was moved to tears by what I saw and heard.  I don’t think he worries much about what others think as Tom Shadyac has found his own personal truth, something most people never even brush up against, much less tell the whole world about.  As the centuries-old wisdom in the “I Ching” says before a brilliant person begins something great, they must look foolish in the crowd.

Here’s are some of Tom Shadyac’s favorite quotes that shed light on his point of view and that of the documentary:  

“…Our life might be much easier and simpler than we make it…Why need you choose so painfully your place, and occupation…? Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates all whom it floats, and you are without effort impelled to truth, to right and a perfect contentment.”

“Study to overcome that in yourself which disturbs you most in others.”

“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

“When we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The final essence I am left with now some twelve hours after seeing Tom Shadyac’s “I Am” documentary is my life is better when I am guided more by my heart than my mind.  Within my feelings are the strongest and truest connections to my most authentic self.  I have known for a good while my mind spins falsehood and fabrication with regularity, but my heart rarely does.  The key for me is to tune out my egoic mind’s loud and constant talking when I can in order to hear and feel the soft voice of my heart.  While my practice of that wisdom is far from perfect, my gratitude is large to simply have knowledge of it.  I get better at living it every day. 

link to film website and trailer for “I Am”

When all your desires are distilled
You will cast just two votes
To love more
And be happy.

Only One Way To Happiness

A blog filled with words borrowed from
“14 Timeless Ways to Live a Happy Life”
by Alex Blackwell ( link ):

1. Notice What’s Right
Some of us see the glass as being half-full, while others see the glass as half-empty. The next time you are caught in traffic, begin thinking how nice it is to have a few moments to reflect on the day, focus on a problem you have been trying to solve, or brainstorm on your next big idea. Take all that life throws out you and reframe it with what’s right about the situation.

2. Be Grateful
How many times do you say the words “thank you,” in a day? How many times do you hear these same words? Learn to be grateful and you will be open to receive an abundance of joy and happiness.

3. Remember the Kid You Were
Do you remember how to play? I’m not referring to playing a round of golf or a set of tennis. I’m talking about playing like you did when you were a child – a game of tag; leap-frog, or street baseball. One way to find or maintain your happiness is to remember the kid you were and play!

4. Be Kind
Kindness is indeed contagious and when we make a commitment to be kind to ourselves and to others we can experience new heights of joy, happiness and enthusiasm for our lives.

5. Spend Time with Your Friends
Although an abundant social and romantic life does not itself guarantee joy, it does have a huge impact on our happiness. Learn to spend time with your friends and make the friendships a priority in your life.

6. Savor Every Moment
To be in the moment is to live in the moment. Too often we are thinking ahead or looking ahead to the next event or circumstance in our lives, not appreciating the “here and now.” When we savor every moment, we are savoring the happiness in our lives.

7. Rest
There are times when we need the time to unwind, decompress, or to put it simply, just “to chill.” Life comes at all of us hard and fast. Fatigue, stress and exhaustion may begin to settle in on us faster than we may think, or notice. The best remedy for this is indeed rest.

8. Move!
The expression a “runner’s high” does not infer an addiction, but a feeling or a state of mind – a state of euphoria. There is no question exercise, or any physical exertion, elevates your mood and enhances a more positive attitude as well as fosters better personal self-esteem and confidence.

9. Put on a Happy Face
Sometimes we have to fake it until we make it. I’m not suggesting that we not be honest, real or authentic, but I’m suggesting, sometimes, we just need to put on a happy face and keep moving forward.

10. Pursue Your Goals
The absence of goals in our lives, or more specifically avoiding to pursue our goals, makes us feel like we are stuck and ineffective. The pursuit of goals in our personal lives, in our relationships, or with our careers, is the difference between having a mediocre life or a life full of passion and enthusiasm.

11. Finding Your Calling
Some find meaning in religion or spirituality while others find purpose in their work or relationships. Finding your calling may be much more than accomplishing one simple strategy for increasing your happiness, but having a sense of purpose – of feeling like you are here for a reason – can perhaps bring the greatest joy of all

12. Get into the Flow
Flow is the form of joy, excitement and happiness that occurs when we are so absorbed in an activity we love that we can lose ourselves and time seems to stand still. To find and sustain true happiness in our lives, we must get off the sidelines and get into the flow.

13. Play to Your Strengths
One way to achieve flow is by understanding and identifying our strengths and core values, and then begin to use these every day. Once we are aware of our strengths we can better incorporate them in all aspects of our lives.

14. Don’t Overdo It
Know when to say when. What gives you joy and happiness the first time may not work the second time. Set healthy and reasonable boundaries for yourself and don’t overdo it.

When I came across this list and first read it I was glad to realize I practice all fourteen of them.  Some are more regular than others, but all are change agents for the better in my life.  I am grateful for the growth in my life!

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.

Master Gardener of His Soul

He made me angry with what he said.

She made me feel sad because she did that.

They made me feel hurt by not including me.

My employer made me feel bad when I did not get the promotion.

Most everyone, at least occasionally, expresses them self in the context of being “made” to feel one thing or another.  The reality however is no one makes us feel anything without our consent.  Through my growth of recent years I’ve learned to do my best to catch the words “he/she/they/you/it made me feel …” before they flow out of my mouth.  When expressing myself that way I am essentially trying to blame others for what is taking place inside me.  Fault is being reassigned for my thoughts, words, actions and feelings.  My “self” is being given up to an outside force. 

My knowledge today includes that I alone own my feelings and emotions and am responsible for what I do with them.  People can do or say things I can choose to make myself feel bad about, but I have to make the choice to allow it.

Giving my self away over and over used to be a frequent habit.  When thinking someone “made” me feel this or that I felt like one of those Superballs I had as a kid that when thrown bounced recklessly off any surface it hit.  With practice that kind of bouncing behavior became ingrained and made it easier to not take responsibility for my behavior.  Truth is I needed to look inward to find why I felt and reacted the way I did. 

Down deep now I know no one can make me ‘feel less’ than unless I already feel less than.  No one can make me feel crazy; no one can make me feel inadequate; no one can make me feel sad; no one can make me feel anything at all.  The most anyone else can do is to remind me of what I already feel inside.  If I have anger buried, someone can do or say something I might use to wake that feeling up, but only if I already have anger hidden inside me in the first place. 

My discovery has been that what worked the quickest to cause me to say others “made” me think or feel was most often what I needed to work on most.  By digging through a bunch of long-buried feelings I have slowly become more confident in my own skin.  As that confidence has grown I have become more adept at taking responsibility for my choices, feelings and thoughts.  I find myself saying things like “you made me feel …” less and less.  The frame of reference I now cultivate is simply “I feel …” That statement more accurately puts me in touch with what is going on inside me.

According to science, my thoughts about anything said or done by another can trigger a neurological response that sends chemicals into my brain trying get a reaction. The choice however is mine how I react.  The challenge I have had to work on (and still do) is my emotional responses have been repeated so much they are ‘habits’.  Having habitual reactions means when a trigger occurs – someone raises their voice, uses a certain tone, or behaves in a particular way – my neurological reaction occurs automatically.  Without my conscious awareness I then automatically act on the emotion as though I can’t control it.  My thinking was “this is just who I am” when in fact that is/was how I behave.  When I can accept this truth I am accept responsibility for myself, for my emotional state and my behavior.

When something happens that raises emotions within that make me feel out of control I have learned to try immediately to identify the emotion by asking “what am I feeling?”  Then I usually can find what my need behind the emotion is.  I ask myself “what do I need at this moment?” When that question can be answered I can move to meet my need.  Sometimes it is to set a boundary with someone.  At others my need is to ask for help or simply take a time out and walk away for a while.  With repeated and consistent practice I create new habits and ways of being.

Today I know what I feel is about me. To say someone else “makes” me feel is shirking responsibility.  The reality is that no one can make me feel anything. “I” alone am responsible for my emotions.  What I DO with those emotions is all about me and no one else.  I am deeply grateful to have that wisdom, even if my practice of it is far from perfect.

A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life.  James Allen