Hey, Hey, My, My

In the spring of 1968, a fourteen boy was spending two nights away from home attending a regional science fair at a minor state college.  Having never been on a college campus, much less stayed overnight on one the young man was filled with wonder.

In the two hours he was allowed free time, he explored the campus and early on found the school book store which sold a lot more than books.  In the boy’s hometown of 1,400 people there were only two places to buy records:  the ‘five and dime’ that stocked only 45’s and the IGA grocery store that had a few bins of albums.

Prior to the campus visit the young man had been a top 40 radio listener and leaned toward artists like the Beatles (who he never saw together in concert), Paul Revere and the Raiders (his first rock concert in March ’67 with a friend and his older sister) and Motown acts like Temptations and The Supremes.  Little did he know the March ’68 visit to a college was going to result in a sharp left turn in his music taste.

Thumbing through the albums in the Jacksonville State book store the boy saw names he did not recognize like early albums by Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd when they were completely obscure.  The fourteen year old spent almost an hour thumbing through the LP’s taking time to read the liner notes.  Ultimately it was cover art that drew him in to buy two albums:  “Heavy” by Iron Butterfly and “Are You Experienced” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.  He had no idea the effect these records would have on him, especially the Hendrix album.

Once home he listened to both albums over and over and over on his mother’s portable hi-fi.  While the Iron Butterfly LP became a favorite and led him to their “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” album that would be released a few months later, it was Jimi Hendrix’s music that completely captured his attention.  The album he purchased, although released the year before, was just beginning to catch on in th eU.S. and had already been followed by the release of a second album.  And a third one was soon to follow.  He bought both instantly when the came into the IGA.

While he had no idea about the drugs that accompanied the psychedelic scene, the young man loved the look, long hair and clothes of the culture and adopted it.  It helped him to begin to ‘find himself’.   Years later he found out at a high school reunion that ‘in the day’ he had been known as the “original hippie of Clay Country, Alabama”.  He liked hearing that as it suited his sense being uniquely original.

Just in case you have not figured out who that young man was, it was ME!

I never saw Jimi Hendrix live.  About three months before Woodstock he played once in Alabama on May 7th, 1969 in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama.  But that was before I got a driver’s license later in the summer and could not find a way to get there.

Last night I got to enjoy about the closest thing to Jimi live I will likely ever get to see:   “The 2012 Experience Hendrix Tour”.  The show featured around 25 musicians from the famous to the semi-famous who spent over three hours taking turns playing Hendrix tunes.  Billy Cox from one of Jimi’s bands was there. So was Robbie Krieger of the Doors and Brad Whitford from Aerosmith.   Others on stage were Buddy Guy, Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, Jonny Lang, Mato Nanji of Indigenous , Eric Johnson, Dwezil Zappa, Bootsy Collins, Chris Layton, Eric Gales, the Slide Brothers and more.

Near the end of the show it was one of the youngest guitarists present that seemed most to be filled with the musical spirit of Jimi Hendrix.  Kenny Wayne Sheppard’s blazing “Voodoo Child” rendition is a performance I will never forget.  When I closed my eyes it was like Jimi was on stage.

For any Hendrix fan the “Experience Hendrix Tour” is a must see if it comes to your town.  How someone got so many guitar players on one tour I will never know, but will always be grateful he or she did.

Had he lived, this November James Marshal Hendrix would have turned 70. R.I.P.

Hey hey, my my. Rock and roll can never die.
Neil Young

Onto Houses and My Windowpane

How long has it been since I walked in the rain just for the fun of it?  About 10 hours!  The good feeling that comes to me when raining fills a day goes back to my childhood.  I have no idea how those times got fixed in my mine as so wonderful when I was little, but am grateful they did.  It is an extraordinary feeling.

“Rain Drops” by Ellen Baumwoll (mothergoosecaboose.com)
Rain drops from the clouds and onto trees,
Down the tree trunks and off the leaves.
Down a mountain, into a brook,
Past a chipmunk in a nook.
Into a pond, off a log.
On top of a turtle and onto a frog.
Onto roads, onto the grass,
Onto trains and trucks that pass.
On top of bridges, cars and boats.
Even onto people’s coats.
Onto houses and my windowpane.
I just love to watch the drops,
The drips and drops of rain.

Last evening about 9pm with my rain resistant jacket, boots and an umbrella I set out for a half mile, thirty minute walk through my neighborhood.  The constant drizzle ebbed and flowed with intensity moving from light to heavy moment to moment. Lightning every minute or so painted the sky electric blue-white for a split second followed by the low throaty rumble of distant thunder.  The constant gentle tapping on my umbrella by the raindrops made a comforting sound as I walked.

Walking down my street I noticed was how new and fresh everything looked.  Cars shimmered in street light with a new temporary shine from the rain.  Even the pavement and sidewalk looked less worn with water filling cracks and imperfections.  At least half the homes were already dark and peaceful for the night.  Those houses mixed with the ones still showing the light of life pouring out from within gave the street a peaceful, soft and warm glow.

If plants could make audible sound I am certain last evening there would have been joyful noise filling my block.  I imagined the trees, flowers and bushes might make a consistent aaahhh of pleasure like I might when first slipping into a warm bath. It seemed the very leaves on the trees were upturned inviting the rain and trying to catch a little more.

I noticed the assorted smells of the season have begun.  The scents came and went sometimes as several mixed together into a symphony of delightful smells.  Walking by a tulip tree that is just starting to flower I stopped for a few moments to absorb a little extra of the sweet, pleasing aroma.

Paying attention to the sound of the storm drains I noticed in the flatter areas the rushing water made the sound of a small creek gurgling by.  On the small hill I live the storm drain roared like a river over rocks as at least eight inches of water assaulted the opening and fought to get through.

The entire time of my walk I saw only one car moving and it was simply being relocated in a driveway.  On the street nothing was moving except the water and me.  The roads are never as crowded on an evening filled with rain.  I heard no hum of traffic in the distance, nor whine of a motorcycle; a sort of usually unnoticed peace.

A year ago I moved into the home where I now live and have seen the very elderly gentleman next door only once.  He is in failing health and several times an ambulance has had to come get him.  In recent months 24 hour care givers have been coming and going, but last night the house was completely dark.  That alone made me realize anew what a great gift my health is and how blessed I was to be able to enjoy a simple walk in the rain.

Today is the first day of spring.  I find it fitting that the rain is still coming down, since after all ‘spring showers do bring spring flowers”.  My jacket and boots are still in the entry way drying and my umbrella should by now be mostly dry out on the porch.  More than most I am grateful not only for all life the rain makes possible, but for the spectacular experience of a downpour itself.  My walk last night in the mist and showers will be a long remembered experience; one I am deeply grateful for.

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness
has never danced in the rain.

Belief is Important; Trust is Essential

A small girl and her father were crossing a bridge.  The father asked his little daughter Sweetheart, please hold my hand so that you don’t fall into the river.  The little girl said No, Dad. You hold my hand.

What’s the difference? Asked the puzzled father. There’s a big difference, replied the little girl.  If I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go.

In any relationship, the essence of trust is not in its bind, but in its bond. So hold the hand of the person whom you love rather than expecting them to hold yours.

Definition of trust:  assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, integrity or truth of someone or something.

It is not uncommon for a person to emotionally love another, but not trust him or her.  Just as often one may trust another but not emotionally love him or her. To trust someone I have to believe they have my best interest at heart and would not hesitate to put consideration of me in front of them self.  Without doubt or hesitation I can rely on him or her.

While the beginning of trust may be given freely, it is earned over time by consistency.  To be trusted, I must show another person I will not use them or take advantage of them. I won’t abuse their love or generosity. I will think of him or her before acting.

Re-earning a person’s trust is done in the same way, but is far more difficult.  Once trust has been violated it may not be as fully possible as it once was.  It may not be achievable again at all!  If it is re-established, the rebuilding of trust takes a much longer period of time and may never achieve the strength that was once shared.

Each of us is different as to how early we can trust another.  Some have been seriously hurt previously and hesitate to trust again.  Other people can be very “trusting” even toward those who do not deserve their trust.  No matter the individual, you earn and re-earn people’s trusts through reliance on the consistency of character.  Each of us proves over time we are trustworthy or not by what we do.

The universal truth is if I have broken another’s trust, I have NO RIGHT to expect anything from the other person, especially trust.  I should not hold it against someone if they find they can not trust me again.  It is their right to protect them self from me or anything they perceive might hurt them again.  Even if a person I’ve hurt badly allows an opportunity to rebuild it will take huge amounts of perseverance and consistent proof to prove myself worthy.  In such as instance I must remember I am being given a chance I actually do not deserve.

Violating another’s trust not only hurts them, I damage me as well.  Learning to trust my self is difficult, but the only way to heal my own wounds caused by my own untrustworthiness.  Being true to my self is a large part of the ability to be trustworthy to others.

I am grateful for those who trust me and to deserve their trust.  There is much thankfulness for those whose trust I violated who have allowed me the chance to rebuild being trustworthy.  For those I proved myself unworthy of their trust, I respect the need to protect yourself and not trust me again.

Belief is Doubtful, Trust is Certain
Belief is from Mind, Trust is from Heart
Belief is Ordinary; Trust is Extra-ordinary
Belief is Limited; Trust is infinite
Belief is Partial; Trust is Complete
Belief is Important; Trust is Essential
Believe many; Trust only a Few
From “Belief vs. Trust” by Gan Chennai

Whatever the Outcome… Forgive Yourself

Likely the period of most profound growth for me was time spent immersed in learning who I was and coming face to face with ‘what was and is’ while at “The Meadows” in Wickenburg Arizona.  Those weeks in the high Sonora  Desert in 2007 were eye-opening and life changing beyond anything I can describe.

When I think of the experience, the first things that come to mind are:
1) Life is pretty much what you make it into.
2) Letting the past go is critical to having a future.
3) People I care about and those who care about me are what really matters.

On point number three I was exposed at The Meadows to a loosely structured way of making amends.  The process can those willing to listen and hear what I have to say, but is not sure thing.  However it almost always works in helping me make peace with myself.

To verbally attempt to make amends all that’s needed is someone willing to hear me out, even if they can barely stand to do so.  Attempting to make amends with another who does not want to be around me and holds great bitterness and hatred will only serve to make the chasm between us wider and deeper.

The amends process is mentioned often in recovery and self-help groups although the only “written form” I am aware of is the sheet just below.

The process is to over time thoughtfully fill out the ‘amends sheet’ and share the contents with the person you hurt, offended or wronged.  Sometimes sharing it with another is impossible and my healing comes from the focus to complete the form.  At other times it will make no difference and the abhorrence the person feels will be unaffected.

There are other occasions when a someone considers what was shared and accepts the amends somewhere in the future.  And there are the instances when an amends makes an instant difference.  It has amazed me how a person who could hardly stand to be in my presence softened and connected with me again when I spoke my amends. The “Likes/Loves” section can lend a lot toward helping reestablish some equilibrium between people.

It is important to remember an amend is not just an apology, but instead is about establishing justice as much as possible. If the indiscretion can’t be paid back or rebuilt, then symbolically restoration needs to be made.  Nothing says the latter stronger than a true change in the behavior and future actions of the offender.

Sometimes it makes no sense to make an ‘in-person” amends as more damage could be done by it.  At others amends are impossible because a person one hurt has passed on or is impossible to locate.  Then a “living” amends can help. This simply means living differently. Amends are about a genuine change in behavior instead of the patchwork of an apology.

The ten tips below about making amends can be found here in depth LINK
1. Face your own feelings first… it’s not always self-evident.
2. Understand what it takes to make amends. Go beyond desire to cover up shame.
3. Write down the reasons to make amends.  Get out of your head and on paper.
4. Look over your reasons… See patterns emerging?
5. Practice what you need to say in your head. Prepare your notes (form).
6. Express genuine regret and provide measurable promises to change.
7. Decide to meet … face-to-face (at) a good, neutral place (if it makes sense)
8. Don’t overdo it! Avoid making assumptions about their feelings or perspective.
9. Keep it simple and to the point.
10. Resolve to move on.  Whatever the outcome… forgive yourself.

Today’s blog came from looking for a file in my documents and stumbling across “The Meadow’s Amends Form”.  It has served me so well in making peace with others and myself.  The greatest benefit of each attempted amends, whether accepted well or badly by another, is the healing that has come to me.  For every one I have made and all those I yet will, I am very grateful for the process I was taught its many benefits.

The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged;
he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.
G.K. Chesterton

NOTE:  To save the form right click on it at the top of the blog and select ‘save picture as”.

Profoundly Tender Affection & Mood of Merriment

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

This morning surfing on-line for an Irish wish and prayer to send to a few friends on St. Patrick’s day I found this one I liked most:

May love and laughter light your days…
And warm your heart and home…
May good and faithful friends be yours…
Wherever you may roam…
May peace and plenty bless your world…
With joy that long endures…
May all life’s passing seasons…
Bring the best to you and yours…

Those words stuck me as being exactly the wish I wanted to send to a few people .  After reading the prayer several times I began to drill down and focus on what some of the words actually meant.  Through doing that I came away with a more personally meaningful insight of what is expressed in those eight lines.

LOVE:  a profoundly tender affection for another person

LAUGHTER:  A mood of merriment or amusement.

WARM: feeling of kindness or vitality

HEART:  the center of emotion and feeling

HOME: retreat of safety or shelter

GOOD:  virtuous; righteous

FAITHFUL: allegiant; loyal

FRIEND: people attached through feeling

ROAM:  go, walk or travel

PEACE:  freedom from strife or dissension

WORLD:  your part of Earth

PLENTY: abundant supply without impairment

BLESS:  sanctify, bestow good; holy

JOY:  great happiness; delight

ENDURE: sustain without impairment

LIFE: human existence; animate existence

SEASON:  periods when conditions are best

BEST:  highest quality; most advantageous,

YOU:  total of who you are

YOURS:  what belongs to you.

Then taking those definitions I reworked the eight lines to say essentially the same thing in a different (albeit a little longer) manner.  I am grateful for the added relevance that flowed to me as I reshaped the words to how “Mr. Spock” might have expressed them.

A new interpretation of an old Traditional Irish Wish and Prayer
by James Browning
May a profoundly tender affection & mood of merriment light your days…
And bring a kindly feeling in your center of emotion & retreat of safety…
May virtuous & allegiant people attached through feeling be yours…
Wherever you may go, walk or travel…
May freedom from strife & an abundant supply sanctify your part of Earth
With great happiness that long sustains without impairment…
May all human experience in periods when conditions are best…
Bring the highest quality to the total of who you are & what belongs to you…

Only In Your Mind

Not long ago I came across a slight twist on “as you think, so shall you find” written by Wayne Dyer.  It’s a long paragraph and took a few reads to get to the essence of what he had said.   So here I have broken it apart into five pieces so it is a little easier to absorb.

As you think so shall you be! Since you cannot physically experience another person, you can only experience them in your mind. Conclusion: All of the other people in your life are simply thoughts in your mind. Not physical beings to you, but thoughts.  

Your relationships are all in how you think about the other people of your life. Your experience of all those people is only in your mind.  

Your feelings about your lovers come from your thoughts.  

For example, they may in fact behave in ways that you find offensive. However, your relationship to them when they behave offensively is not determined by their behavior, it is determined only by how you choose to relate to that behavior.  

Their actions are theirs, you cannot own them, you cannot be them, you can only process them in your mind.

People are as you perceive them, not as they are is.  That’s the truth Dyer’s paragraph boils down to for me.  Of course, EVERYTHING on Earth is as we think of them and not the completeness of what they are.  For example, what we see is not what is actually before us.  It is what we perceive based on reflection of light.  Even then there are spectrums of light we can see and many we can not.

How I live today is far different from how it was ten years ago.  It is not the conditions of my life that have changed.  I am still me, the same person as before.  The world remains round.  The sun continues to rise and set.  Folks around me are still basically the same.  I have the same job in the same profession.  It is not people, places, things and situations that have been altered:  It is MY WAY OF THINKING that has become changed.

My practical discovery is the only way to change one’s life is to change my thoughts.  My previous experiments of applying external things to alter my existence did work sometimes, but only for a short while.  Rapidly my life always returned to the same as before:  the life I wanted to change.

These days I am mostly happy because I chose to be.  There was no internal switch I flipped and caused that to be.  I worked at it.  When I began to live as if I was happy, I began to have more happiness.  Optimism came to me because I planted the seed of it within, nurtured it and over time it grew.  And so on.

Stopping being obsessed with my past came only when thought by thought, little by little I began to catch myself thinking about it.  At first being able to push away tripping over my history only worked occasionally.  However, with long-term consistency and practice I can now, more often than, successfully push the past away.  All I have done and all that has happened is still within me and thoughts still arise about it.  The difference is I can exercise some control and shorten the duration of such thinking.  In this way my life is no longer directed by what happened and I live more in the present than ever before.

Nirvana eludes me.  Enlightenment has not descended upon my being.  Instead as an athlete trains to get in shape, I have trained myself mentally over time to compete with my thoughts.  I don’t always win, but I am victorious a lot:  enough to be permanently life changing.  My gratitude for these insights is profound and my thankfulness for the many teachers I learned about this path from humbly resounds within.

We tend to get what we expect
Norman Vincent Peale

A Straight Line From Then To Now

Going through a tattered trunk filled with old things dating back to my teen years I came across an old wallet.  Two things were inside:  a photo of my brother when he was about thirteen and a small much yellowed clipping.  I remember cutting the piece out of a Sunday newspaper “Parade” magazine and recall it was writing by a man in prison.

Why do we usually view the past as a straight line from then to now, yet view today as filled with uncertainty and chaos?  In time what makes us feel lost today will eventually be perceived as part of a future straight line view. Why can’t I have that future view now? 

It’s quite ironic I found that clipping in a wallet made by a convict.  In my formative years road maintenance, right of way mowing and trash pickup on state highways was done by trustee convicts.  These were not “chain gangs” like the movies where men are chained to each other.  All dressed in white except for their prisoner number on the back and front of their shirt and jacket, these men were free to do their work unencumbered by bindings.

In these prison work crews were usually six to ten men who were transported in the back of dump trucks.  One or two guards with side arms were present to keep track of the convicts. Usually these men were those imprisoned for nonviolent, lesser offenses and had little to gain from trying to escape beyond extending the time they had already been sentenced to.  That’s why they were called “trustees” and were men who appreciated being allowed out in the open.

The work these men did was patching potholes, putting up signs, picking up trash and driving tractors to mow the right of way.  Most appreciated the chance to work and do something meaningful.  I’m not sure of the amount but seems like that got a quarter an hour for their work or less than $3.00 per day.  Back then cigarettes were less than fifty cents a pack and so a few bucks was a lot for men who had so little.

My home Alabama county had nothing but two lanes roads until about ten years ago. In my early driving years the convict work crews would block a lane when doing work on the other side.  At each end of the work area a convict would have the job of directing traffic into the one open lane.  It never failed if you were stopped and had to wait the prisoner there would try to sell you leather goods they made.  Wallets handmade and tooled were small enough to carry in their pockets and pull out to sell.  The one I found in my old trunk was one of those:  navy blue dyed, thick leather with a tooled design all over one end.  There is no memory of what I paid the convict for it, but I remember clearly the man and joy on his face that I bought it.  Such happiness for just a few dollars for something so well made that had to have taken days.

Around lunchtime convict crews working within a few miles would come into the family store I worked at in my early teens.  This was back in the days when soft drinks almost all came in reusable bottles that were worth three cents to a bottler.  We paid two cents per bottle to anyone who brought them in.  The prisoners would frequently bring in bags (we called toe sacks) filled with bottles they picked up on the side of the road.  We paid two cents for each one to the convicts who always seemed respectful and polite.

Once observation that sticks with me yet today is almost all the men on the work crews were African-Americans.  As the years passed I connected the dots to realize that these men were being discriminated against, likely to a degree I can’t even imagine.  Yet, they were probably better off than some since they got to “work” on the “outside”.  I can’t imagine what went on with minority men who were viewed much more sternly.

Today I am grateful for several things learned seeing these prison work groups as a kid.  Between seeing these crews and visiting my Mom’s cousin in prison one time I gained a healthy respect for the law and the basic values I was taught.  Witnessing the appreciation of the convicts for being “free on the outside” helped me know I never, ever wanted to be locked up.  Seeing their appreciation for tiny, little things made an impression never to be forgotten. And my memory of the work crews is a vivid reminder of the discrimination that went on in the Deep South when I was growing up.  All those nameless men on the work crews taught me well by just by their presence.  I am grateful.  In return I tell their story here as a testament to the fact they lived.

Inside these walls
things look so gray.
But, the crimes I committed
are why I’m here today.

I keep my head up
and learn to cope.
Freedom will come again
and this gives me hope.

So many different people
with faults to accept.
Looking to God with a smile
is all I have left.

My life has been better
and I still have waters to wade.
I plan to make my life good;
Turn lemons to lemonade.

From “These Walls” by a prisoner identified only as C.S

The Point Is To Live Everything

In my 20’s there was this feeling that one day everything would be just the way I hoped it would be.  I grew up believing all would come if I worked hard and was a good man who did not murder, steal, lie, commit adultery or covet what someone else had.  In every single ‘rule of life’ I was not an “A+” student, but was a good, honorable and decent young man.  Disillusion came by my early 30’s wondering why my graduation into the life I thought I deserved had not unfolded for me.  Oh, to have known then what I know now!

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Rainer Maria Rilke

Rilke wrote that over a hundred years ago, but his advice is as good now as then.  For me what rings most true are his words “the point is to live everything”.  In stunning simplicity I believe he states wisdom that will help lead anyone toward a richly meaningful life.  Not only the good, joyful and pleasurable should be embraced and lived; pain, disappointment and sorrow needs be lived fully as well.

My thinking used to be that grief, distress and heartbreak were interruptions to my life; just detours on the way to the “good life” I was convinced was ahead.  In retrospect it’s clear now I was living a richly wonderful and good life in my younger years, yet had limited awareness of it then.  Like one who chews food so fast they get little satisfaction or taste I was chewing up life without fully experiencing the myriad of flavors of life.

With regularity I come across quotes by Helen Keller and am touched by them, such as Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.  She gained a deep and profound wisdom that came through “living everything” well including being deaf and blind from the time she was a toddler.  Everyone knows a few people who seem to be able to bear life’s pain with poise and grace.  They have a special way of showing the world their magic without even knowing it and illustrate well the best way to live.

Famed psychologist and philosopher Carl Jung said what we resist persists.  Within those four words he encapsulates why I encountered so many malcontented years:  I resisted ‘what was’.   Fighting unchangeable reality only created more of it.  Amazingly simple to me now!

My life experience got a lot better as I learned to open up and accept ALL of my life’s circumstances. Today I know the more I resist the longer a difficulty or discomfort continues.  When I am able to accept my circumstances there is no immediate calm and joy.  Life does not work like that.  But when I can “just be” and say yes to what is, a frame of mind comes that enables me to cope well with what challenge is upon me and “live the questions” well.

Everything will be okay in the end. if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. Unknown

How You Made Them Feel

The story below has come into my email several times over the last ten years, yet it never fails to touch me in a positive way.  I hope it does the same for you.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
The Cab Ride

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I walked to the door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.   After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.  She kept thanking me for my kindness.. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated’.

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy’, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?’

‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly.  ‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice’.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice.. ‘The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. ‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.  We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.  As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now’.

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.  Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.  ‘How much do I owe you?’ she asked, reaching into her purse.  ‘Nothing,’ I said.

‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.  ‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.  ‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’  I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light… Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest o f that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments..

But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Reading again about the kindness in the story I am grateful to be reminded that people and love is all that really matters.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya Angelou

Content and Worth of My Thoughts

Having had a series of little things happen all in one day I found the peace of mind from a wonderful week’s vacation knocked slightly off-balance this past weekend. I lost my car keys and never found them, a candle melted on a pillow and a speaker, a folding closet door broke off its hinges, an electronic photo frame a deceased friend gave me stopped working and three other similar annoyances came at me inside six hours.  But I am OK! I used number one and number two below of my ‘twelve guidelines for peace of mind’.  Almost always when I find myself agitated, uneasy, worried or irritated it is because I am violating one of my own guidelines.

1.  The only control possible is control over myself.  I can’t change what happens to me, but I can exercise some power over my feelings about any occurrence.  Plus, only when I am in self-control can I learn any lesson that might be shown to me.

2.  Accept what is.  Every day I will face inconveniences, annoyances, accidents, aches and pains that are completely beyond my control. The power of peace comes from my enduring them cheerfully.  When I do sometimes a disadvantage becomes an advantage.

3.  Give up the need to be recognized or noticed.  Praise is only momentary.  Nurturing my sense of worth is far more important than the praise of another.  All I need to do is believe in myself, do my best to live ethically and sincerely and let go of perfection.

4. Keep the green monster of jealousy out of my life.  Being jealous blocks my peace and ties me up with animosity, longing and fear while showing only insecurity.  Jealousy or envy always brings restlessness and is a quick and easy way to show just how stupid I can be.

5. Stay out of other people’s business.  I need to mind my own business no matter how good my intentions are.  Because I think my way is the best does not mean it is for someone else!  I must let others have their “own stuff” without interfering.

6. Forgiveness is a gift I give myself.  Nurturing ill feelings is like taking poison and expecting someone else to get sick.  Resentments and grievances fester to hurt only the one who bears them:  ME!  Forget, forgive, and move on.

7. Limit intake of information.  After a point “the news” is simply mental noise. My rule of thumb is consume no more newscasts, data and information than I need. Over indulging makes peace elusive as my mind becomes like an overloaded ship that’s difficult to sail and keep on course.

8. Listen to my intuition and my heart. My heart accurately guides me toward what is right.  When I pay attention to my intuition, deepest values and principles I find them to be nearly always a more accurate navigation system than my thoughts.

9. Eliminate unessential stuff.  This is a work in progress, but I FINALLY get “less is more”.  It is easier to have a peaceful mind with less to worry about. Eliminating the non-essential allows more focus better on the essential.

10. Think about self less.  In the past the majority of time was spent thinking about my needs and problems.  The lesson learned has been that purely self-centered thoughts rarely bring peace. More than ever I try to cultivate thoughts of what I can do for others and then do them.

11. Slow down.  My life is far too much of a rush, but I realize the detriment of it.  Another work in progress.  To make the best decisions I need to slow down and step away from distractions.  Only then can my heart and intuition best guide me.

12. Less procrastination. Failing the first time does not really matter.  Mistakes usually can be rectified.  Too much time previously was wasted with “should I or shouldn’t I?” Months and even years were lost in my futile mental debating. The key is to get off my buff just do it.

My gratitude this morning?  To be past the nagging happenings of Saturday!  The quality of my life begins with the content and worth of my thoughts.

Do not confuse peace of mind with spaced-out insensitivity.
A truly peaceful mind is very sensitive, very aware.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama