Any Fool Can Know…

truthAround eight years ago Deepak Chopra wrote “The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life”. I read when it was new, but upon reopening it realized most of the content had been forgotten. Research says we lose about 2/3’s of meaning of what we read within a few days. At best only about 10 percent remains long-term.

With Deepak’s book I doubt that I remembers 1% since I read it at a time of great turmoil in my life. Consequently, thumbing through my underlining in the book was an eye opener.  The moral of that realization?  Books can only reveal the broadest scope of their contents by repeated reads while in different frames of mind.

The concept of the book is described as: every life is a book of secrets, ready to be opened. The secret of perfect love is found there, along with the secrets of healing, compassion, faith, and the most elusive one of all: who we really are. We are still mysteries to ourselves, despite the proximity of these answers, and what we most long to know remains lodged deep inside.

The “second secret” in Deepak’s book contains what for me is a jewel of pure wisdom: I have no need to control anyone or anything: I can affect change by transforming the only thing that I ever had control of in the first place, which is myself.

The”fourth secret” covered in Chopra’s book is “What You Seek, You Already Are”. Here’s some of the passages I underlined:

  •   …seeking is another word for chasing after something.
  •   The spiritual secret that applies here is this: what you seek, you already are.
  •   The problem is that seeking begins with a false assumption.
  •   Seeking is doomed because it is a chase that takes you outside yourself.
  •   Don’t censor or deny what you feel: The road to freedom is not through feeling good; it is through feeling true to yourself.
  •   Be genuine …truth has the power to set aside what is false, and doing so can set us free.
  •   When I find myself being overshadowed by anything:
    * I say to myself, “This situation may be shaking me, but I am more than any situation.”
    * I take a deep breath and focus my attention on whatever my body is feeling.
    * I step back and see myself as another person would see me
    * I realize that my emotions are not reliable guides to what is permanent and real. …walk away.

Reading and learning something once is not enough. Only when the lesson and resulting knowledge sticks from practice and experience does it become meaningful. Intellectual knowledge unpracticed is actually a burden and a blinder that obscures my path and causes me to stumble while thinking “I know the way”.

Over and over and over… what I need comes into my path when I am open to receive it. It’s a repeated small miracle for how often that clarity has been shown to me recently. I get it; I ready do and accept the insight with much gratitude.

Any fool can know.
The point is to understand.
Albert Einstein

Living Messages

Having never done a word count on any blog I placed here, it surprised me to find the count is as high as it is. The low side is six hundred and high range is approaching eight hundred words for an average of roughly 700 words. It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Using that premise each blog is worth around two-thirds to three-quarters of a picture. That does not fit what I am aiming for, so for today I have placed the equivalent of seven thousand words here!

It’s amazing the joy I feel now there was not apparent a half hour ago before I looked through images of happy children to pick ones to put here. I am grateful for the tenderly positive effect this little experience had on me.

Children are the living messages
we send to a time we will not see.
Neil Postman

Freedom and Choice

A futurist’s comments I read about fifteen years ago predicted one day the number of big stores where you go to buy things would be far fewer. The suggestion was made that instead of going to Sears or Best Buy to make a purchase, in the future one might pay admission to a “display store” that had one each of many things to peruse. A choice made could be bought on the spot but only with delivery later to the buyer’s home within a few days.

A couple of the major Internet sellers are experimenting with same day delivery in New York City this holiday season. Things are changing!

The futurist also predicted grocery stores much smaller than what we have now would become popular for two reasons: 1) Some people don’t like all the walking and searching necessary in big box stores and 2) a good number of consumers actually want LESS choices. Smaller stores have always been a factor for the inner portions of major East Coast metropolitan cities. Same is true in Europe to an even greater degree for cities and towns of all sizes.

Most people equate choice and freedom. It seems so reasonable. Freedom means you are free to choose, right? It means you are free from restrictions. If you can’t choose, then you are not free. And it would seem to follow that the more choice you have, the more freedom you have. But it doesn’t work out that way.

The more options you have, the more energy you have to invest in making decisions. Which shampoo? Which car? Which dress? Which restaurant? Which movie? Your energy and attention are consumed by these decisions, and you have less left with which to live your life.

What does choice give you? One answer is that choice makes it possible for you to shape your world according to your preferences. All this does is to enable you to fashion a world that is an extension of your own patterns. With modern technology, you can weave a cocoon of your preferences and rarely run into anything that contradicts them. You end up isolated from the richness and complexity of life.

What is freedom? It is the moment-by-moment experience of not being run by one’s own reactive mechanisms. Does that give you more choice? Usually not. When you aren’t run by reactions, you see things more clearly, and there is usually only one, possibly two courses of action that are actually viable. Freedom from the tyranny of reaction leads to a way of experiencing life that leaves you with little else to do but take the direction that life offers you in each moment. From an article in the Winter 2012 Tricycle Magazine titled “Freedom and Choice: Breaking free from the tyranny of reaction” by Ken McLeod.

Thoughts of simplifying my life are getting stronger year by year, which is odd since I have spent my adult life accumulating. In my last move it became readily apparent what a burden “all my stuff” has become. I’m a single man who lives alone in a home of over 3000 square feet filled with stuff that took two moving trucks and six men fourteen hours to load and unload. I only moved a mile and a half!

When I read what I just wrote, I feel a bit ridiculous made worse by the knowing I have a big rental storage unit for things my home has no room for. I am grateful for the growing realization and acceptance that one day all of my stuff will be someone else’s.

The model of ownership,
in a society organized round mass consumption,
is addiction.
Christopher Lasch

The Cloud and the Dune

A young cloud was born in the midst of a great storm over the Mediterranean Sea, but he did not even have time to grow up there, for a strong wind pushed all the clouds over towards Africa. As soon as the clouds reached the continent, the climate changed. A bright sun was shining in the sky and stretched out beneath them, lay the golden sands of the Sahara. Since it almost never rains in the desert, the wind continued pushing the clouds towards the forests in the south.

Meanwhile, as happens with young humans too, the young cloud decided to leave his parents and his older friends in order to discover the world. “What are you doing?” cried the wind. “The desert’s the same all over. Rejoin the other clouds, and we’ll go to Central Africa where there are amazing mountains and trees!”

But the young cloud, a natural rebel, refused to obey, and gradually, he dropped down until he found a gentle, generous breeze that allowed him to hover over the golden sands. After much to-ing and fro-ing, he noticed that one of the dunes was smiling at him.

He saw that the dune was also young, newly formed by the wind that had just passed over. He fell in love with her golden hair right there and then. “Good morning,” he said. “What’s life like down there?”

“I have the company of the other dunes, of the sun and the wind, and of the caravans that occasionally pass through here. Sometimes it’s really hot, but it’s still bearable. What’s life like up there?”

“We have the sun and the wind too, but the good thing is that I can travel across the sky and see more things.”

“For me”, said the dune, “life is short. When the wind returns from the forests, I will disappear.”

“And does that make you sad?”

“It makes me feel that I have no purpose in life.”

“I feel the same. As soon as another wind comes along, I’ll go south and be transformed into the rain; but that is my destiny.”

The dune hesitated for a moment, then said: “Did you know that here in the desert, we call the rain paradise?”

“I had no idea I could ever be that important,” said the cloud proudly.

“I’ve heard other older dunes tell stories about the rain. They say that, after the rain, we are all covered with grass and flowers. But I’ll never experience that, because in the desert it rains so rarely.”

It was the cloud’s turn to hesitate now. Then he smiled broadly and said: “If you like, I could rain on you now. I know I’ve only just got here, but I love you, and I’d like to stay here for ever.”

“When I first saw you up in the sky, I fell in love with you too”, said the dune. “But if you transform your lovely white hair into rain, you will die.” “Love never dies”, said the dune. “It is transformed , and besides, I want to show you what paradise is like.”

And he began to caress the dune with little drops of rain, so that they could stay together for longer, until a rainbow appeared. The following day, the little dune was covered in flowers. Other clouds that passed over, heading for Africa, thought that it must be part of the forest they were looking for and scattered more rain. Twenty years later, the dune had been transformed into an oasis that refreshed travelers with the shade of its trees.

And all because, one day, a cloud fell in love, and was not afraid to give his life for that love.

“The Cloud and the Dune” fable by priest and theologian Bruno Ferrero*, came to me unforeseen when doing a completely unrelated search. The story’s simplistic beauty and wisdom moved me to share this delightful teaching tale. For the second day in a row coincidence, or as I choose to think my Higher power, bought me an unexpected catalyst to grow my measure of morning gratitude.

True love is like ghosts,
which everybody talks about
and few have seen.
Francis Duc de La Rochefoucauld

*Find Bruno Ferrero’s blog “Circle of Joy” here:

There’s An App For That

Expanding my level of gratitude has been a life changer to a degree not easily explained. What is different changed slowly ever so slightly day by day, week by week, month by month.

Like most new things initially the excitement about my new endeavor with this blog pumped me up. That was followed about two months into writing it of having to push myself to keep going every day.

Around six months into writing daily about what I was grateful for, the benefits began to manifest in ways I could easily notice. One of the surprising happenings was I often got the most good from telling the world about some of the worst things I’d ever done. There has been something extraordinarily cleansing about that experience.

Now that eighteen months of creating each morning have passed, I can emphatically tell you I wish I had started sooner. Yes, I had read for years about keeping a gratitude journal. Many times I began but could never get the practice planted and growing for me. That’s why I probably have a dozen journals with only a few pages filled. Not sure why I felt each time I attempted anew to keep a gratitude journal I needed a fresh one. That’s just another little peculiarity that shows me to be uniquely myself!

At the top of list of benefits of sharing my thoughts of personal gratefulness each day is I have become an optimistic. Previously I wore the label of “realist”. Now I’m the bane of people who think of them self that way. What I came to know is “realist” is just another name for pessimist. And for those who readily identify them self as pessimistic suffice it to say I make them uncomfortable with the generally good vibe I have for living the majority of the time. I always hope a little of it rubs off.

If you’re not the sort who wants to spend a good bit of your time writing on-line or in a journal, there’s an app for that! I can’t tell you much about it yet, as it is a discovery of just this morning.

Here’s what the Apple store said about the app:

Gratitude and Happiness Tracker is a free iPhone and iPad app that helps you to track happiness levels, and specifically three daily practices: expressing gratitude, staying in touch with friends, and doing acts of kindness.

The app is extremely basic and simple to use. It’s nothing fancy when it comes to looks, but it gets the job done. On the graph page, you will be able to see the graphing of your happiness and practices at a glance.

You select the practice, enter in whether or not you completed it, and if you like jot down a quick note. Hit save and it records your responses.
The app is just a basic way to keep track of your daily happiness level and encourage you to express gratitude, take time for friends, and commit one random act of kindness every day. Who knows? It could be a great app for moving closer to the person you aim to be!

The Gratitude and Happiness app is currently rated at three and a half stars, so I did spend 99 cents to download it on my iPhone. It looks like an hour or so will be needed to figure it out and complete set up. I’ll do that this week and a ways down the road I’ll let you know how the app worked out for me. My gratitude goes to the creators of the app and to the search for something completely unrelated this morning that brought it to me. There are happenings here and there I used to think were coincidence, like this one, that now I know often it’s my Higher Power at work.

The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies;
but let the thankful heart sweeps through the day
and, as the magnet finds the iron,
so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!
Henry Ward Beecher

Thinking There Is One More Stair

A dear friend, Jan, died in a car accident over five years ago. I still have not had the heart to move the photos I have of her and her husband into an archive. Without the ability to explain it, even moving them from the directory where they reside is a discomfort even now I am not ready for.

There are two voice-mail messages on my phone from a friend of over 35 years. Bill passed away about two years ago. I know I need to save the audio onto a disc, but disturbing them from where he left the messages is not something I am ready to do.

One of the best friends of my life, Mac, died in 1993 and it was ten years before I got around to collecting together my mementos and photos of his life. I was not ready previously to store them away.

In all three cases, it wasn’t an unwillingness to let go of a person I loved and accept their death. Rather, leaving things where each placed something or as they created them was a private tribute to people who have special places in my heart. Past that I can’t explain it.

At the end of August I blogged about a poem I found purely by coincidence which was particularly meaningful written by an ordinary person I knew nothing about named Sherry Potter. The connection to her brought about thought the efforts of my friend Doug helped create a permanent place in my heart and mind for her. At the time it gave me solace that she was a surviving fighter of cancer. The story is contained within these two blogs:

About two weeks ago I received an email about Sherry from a family member  who found my email address on her computer. Sherry Potter passed away on November 6, 2012 within about two months of the contact she and I had. While I barely knew her, we did connect and I feel a sense of loss. I put off writing about her death and only this morning did I look again for the email from a family member. Sadly I apparently deleted it accidentally. As Best I recall from the email her poem was written about a man she was married to at one time, but never got over. Most all of us have those we loved, who for one reason or another, moved on in life without us. With that having happened to me more than once, I especially related to Ms. Potter’s poem “Ghosts”

I dance in the moonlight and your ghost in my arms dreaming of what might have been.

I hope that life has been kind to you and that I am not forgotten.

I send warm breezes to kiss your lips that I cannot reach and I envy them.

Time and space has taken their toll, but the memory of you and our lost love lives in the secret places of my heart.

We cannot know what the fates have in store for us as the future has yet to be written.
I wonder, will the paths we choose bring us back to each other or further apart on divergent paths, never to meet again in this life.

I only know that my memories of you warm me like a soft blanket against winters cold grip, comforting me when I feel I can no longer stand strong against the hardness of life.

We will not waste our precious time on ‘what ifs’ but yet in fleeting moments they invade my thoughts without invitation and that is when I dance in the moonlight with your ghost in my arms.

Mixed in with my sadness, is gratitude to have bumped into her, ever so briefly, in this life. May you forever dance happily in the moonlight Sherry Potter: November 4, 1941 – November 6, 2012.

It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one.
We all know that our time in this world is limited,
and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet,
never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens
to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom
in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is.
Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment
of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.
Lemony Snicket

The Place You Were Meant To Be

Yesterday my favorite used book store had a “buy two get one free” sale I took advantage of. One I picked up for a couple of dollars is called “It I Had My Life To Live Over…” Edited by Sandra Haldeman Martz. It’s a collections of stories, thoughts and poems by older woman as they reflect on their lives. The ‘title’ piece and the inspiration to buy the book is called “I’d Pick more Daisies” by Nadine Stair. It’s beautiful. Read for yourself.

If I had my life to live over, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip.

I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.

I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.

I would go to more dances.

I would ride more merry-go-rounds.

I would pick more daisies.

Stop and see; slow down and notice. What really matters comes to me through small messages such as “I’d Pick More Daisies” crossing my path.  As I have slowly become more aware, without looking for them, reminders come regularly to heighten my awareness and point me forward.  It was the beginning of being “present” which was the hardest, but with that behind me a good way now, clarity comes consistently in small bits and pieces.  I am grateful for every one of them!

If you can see how limitless you really can be
without lessening someone else’s reputation,
values or experiences, then step forward
into the place you were meant to be.
Danielle Maylyn

May Your Prayer of Listening Deepen Enough

A grimy and smelly swamp is some of the most fertile ground on Earth. It nurtures growth with its hidden richness. In the slim of near putrid water the strongest roots must grow, made necessary by the weakness of the ground around. Human life can be this way. That thought was stated well by Edwin Hubbell Chapin close to a hundred and fifty years ago when he wrote:

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;
the most massive characters are seared with scars.

Only in middle age has it become possible for me to reap the benefits of pain, heartache, and grief. Each bit of discomfort though did little to teach me within itself. What hurt, hurt! What broke my heart, did so, without little shown to me at the time except agony.

Julio Caesar wrote “Experience is the teacher of all things” and his statement was not incorrect. It is however, incomplete. What age has taught me over time was not just to feel, but to pay closer attention to what happened. In looking closely and discerning the ‘hows and whys” of sorrow and anguish, I learned. It is “Awareness” that has become my greatest teacher; the smoother of my heart and soul while a grinder of my misplaced beliefs and thoughts.

The BEST teacher is the conscious observing and relating to daily circumstances, then responding to it out of one’s own experience, being aware that this comes out of an old programming, which happened in one’s past. So also observing these reactions, one is able to decide to follow this track or to try a new way, what might guide to a new experience and triggering new unknown reactions to be observed and so allowing to get to know oneself. With other words: Life is the best teacher – if one opens up to it!

‘Experience’ not necessarily is a teacher and for sure not the most efficient, because experience mostly serves to confirm old experiences as being part of the self-image.
The best and most efficient teacher without doubt is one’s own awareness. But to be such, one has to step beyond one’s personality, only then there is a true ‘learning’ otherwise every thing experienced only serves to confirm one’s programmed personality, to survive with one’s narrow and limited self-image and world view.

To be able to go beyond one’s personality one must be so much stuffed with experience – in a very long evolutionary process – that there is nothing left to gain more satisfaction. And after being cooked in one’s own juice long enough, what might happen through a lot of suffering like personal tragedies, loss of family, bankrupt or long incurable disease, then the personality breaks down and gives space to do the first step beyond one’s self-centered existence. BeiYien

Today I can’t damn or wish to push away any good or bad thing that has happened to me. To do so would be do deny a portion of who I am. All and everything that encompasses my life has been the mill that has produced the “me” I am today. While I would not willingly choose to endure many experiences and happenings a second time, I am grateful for them, one and all. Allowing ‘self’ to truly become “grist for the mill” brings glimpses of occasional enlightenment with growing propensity as I grown my awareness. These prescious insights are great gifts I am thankful for.

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of God.
From “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings”
by John O’Donohue,

Grateful In Greater Measure

This Thanksgiving morning I have spent about an hour reading email, sending holiday wishes and looking at the news of the day on-line while dimly in the back of my mind thinking about writing here. For this blog focused on gratitude, I first thought I wanted to leave some intricately bold and meaningful statement about the meaning of Thanksgiving. Instead the main theme my mind settled on is neither complicated or long. It’s only sixteen words:

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was,
“thank you,” that would suffice.
Meister Eckhart

Better than I have done on any previous Thanksgiving, my intention is to spend this day wrapped in a glow of sincere gratitude while asking for guidance in becoming an ever improving version of ‘me’.

There’s no record to be found for the original source or who wrote the piece just below. The words speak to the core of my being and state clearly my aspirations for living life well. I give humble thanks to the anonymous writer whose work so accurately reflects the philosophy of life I have adopted.

    • This is your life!
    • Do what you love. And do it often.
    • If you don’t like something, change it.
    • If you don’t like your job, quit. Now!
    • If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV.
    • If you are looking for the love of your life, stop. It will be waiting for you when you start doing thing you love to do.
    • Stop over analyzing, life is so simple.
    • All emotions are beautiful.
    • When you eat, appreciate every last bite.
    • Open you mind, heart and spirit to new things and to new people. We are united in our differences.
    • Ask the next person what you see what their passion is and share your inspiring dream with them.
    • Travel often.
    • Some opportunities only come once. Seize them.
    • Getting lost will help you find your self.
    • Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them. So go out and start creating with them.
    • Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.

My short prayer for today:
Maker of all things and higher power that guides me from the inside out;
May I learn to be grateful in greater measure for all that comes to me;
May I more clearly see that pain is necessary for a balanced life;
May I learn the lessons being taught to me with less resistance;
May all those I love know the depth of feeling in my heart for them;
And May I fear death less and embrace life more.

Happy Day Before Thanksgiving Day

“Thanksgiving Day” by Linda Maria Child

Over the river and through the wood
To Grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground
Like a hunting hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow~
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood~
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Oh, how things have changed inside me. The near 500 days I have sat here each morning expressing gratitude has altered me permanently for the better. I am softer, more open and introspective; calmer, more joyful and have greater peace than ever before. Best of all I love life and feel acutely alive. Emotions are just below my skin ready to comfort me or bring me feelings of all sorts. No longer do I hide from them. Good or bad, positive or negative I embrace the man that I am. My thanks giving this year includes gratefulness for ‘me’. I don’t think I have ever said that before! Wow!

I am grateful for what I am and have.
My thanksgiving is perpetual…
O how I laugh when I think
of my vague indefinite riches.
No run on my bank can drain it,
for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.
Henry David Thoreau