A Living, Not a Life

4535868510_a1bdaf6707What is work? According to the dictionary: activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something; job; employment; a trade, profession; labor, task, or duty that is one’s accustomed means of livelihood.

Yep. That’s where I will be heading shortly this morning: off to work to earn my paycheck. But later this year I will leave the profession I have long grown tired of and jump off into the unknown. Each thought of doing more of I really want to do with less money, I grow increasingly excited. Fifteen years ago I would have thought that was craziness. Today I know the scorecard of life is NOT about money, what job is held nor how much one works, but instead about how much one lives.

We’re ambivalent about work because in our capitalist system it means work-for-pay (wage-labor), not for its own sake. It is what philosophers call an instrumental good, something valuable not in itself but for what we can use it to achieve. For most of us, a paying job is still utterly essential — as masses of unemployed people know all too well. But in our economic system, most of us inevitably see our work as a means to something else: it makes a living, but it doesn’t make a life. Gary Gutting, New York Times

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway. Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself. Adrian Tan

When I weigh things out I don’t believe I wasted the majority of my life working. The way forward was blessed with a rewarding profession that enhanced my existence to a great degree. Over time though, it became just a job; something I did because I thought I was required to do. There were true responsibilities of paying bills, saving, helping my son get the education he wanted and supporting a couple of ex-wives. Those are behind me.

Eventually I will need to generate income to augment my savings, but what I do will be something I truly want to do that does not rob me of too much time. What a rare advantage to have the room to sort out what that might be (actually I believe if I keep an open mind and my awareness sharp it will appear in my path). I’m approaching a new personal frontier that is both stimulating and forbidding. It’s the new and uncertain feelings that I am the most grateful for. They make me feel fully alive!

Work without love is slavery.
Mother Teresa

The One You Feed

indianstortellA Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Having lived long enough to know the words of the “Old Indian” are true, I can attest to the wisdom in this legend of my ancestors. I have been know to frequently say “a person finds what they are looking for” or “we end up right where we put ourselves”. By those I mean “expecting good brings them and anticipating bad attracts it” and “thoughts are our compass that directs us to where we end up”. Plain and simple: thoughts breed more like thoughts.

Far from having become some namby-pamby simpleton who is lost in positive euphoria all the time, I am still very much human in spite of my growth and present day understanding of myself. I have bad moments like everyone else. I just don’t allow myself to get stuck there. I readily fight the “bad wolf” for my happiness and contentment.

With long-term intention and lots of practice, being somewhere north of the line between happy/sad and good/bad has become relatively easy to maintain most of the time. Practice does not make perfect, but it can make one darn good at something! In the beginning throwing off the negative thoughts was difficult; a war of sorts. However the more battles I won, the more I began to win until today shooing away negativity is usually not that hard. I am very grateful for the slow process of practice and learning that brought me to the good life I life today. I ended up living with the “good wolf I fed”.

Negative thoughts breed negative thoughts,
and positive thoughts breed positive thoughts.
When you are aware of this,
you will become aware
of the ultimate power
that you hold over your own life!

It Is Within Your Ability


Today brings a morning where my intention is to leave a beautiful image or two here along with a piece of inspiration. And that I will, but am hesitant to not fill the space with more words. But instead of using language to hide my intent, I will instead let go and let what my instinct had me put here be enough.

You are equal to all others.
Some may have greater talents and power
where you are lacking
but you are greater in areas
where they cannot go.
Do not stop your own growth and progression
by trying to emulate… or follow… anyone.
Step out with courage,
develop all that you are meant to be.
Look for new experiences….
Meet new people,
learn to add all new dimensions,
to your present and future.
You are one of a kind….
equal to every other person.
Accept that fact;
live it… use it… stand tall
in belief of who you are.
Reach for the highest accomplishment;
touch it… grasp it…
Know it is within your ability!
Live to win in life
and you will.
Diane Westlake

7073625621_d59fc99cd4_zI am grateful to be reminded of what I know but don’t practice well all the time: the perfect imperfection I am and all that makes me capable of. With beautiful images and a comforting thoughts in my mind I am off into my day a happy man.  I hope the hours between now and my next post bring you all you hope for and need… and more.

Far away there in the sunshine
are my highest aspirations.
I may not reach them,
but I can look up
and see their beauty,
believe in them,
and try to follow where they lead.
Louisa May Alcott

Loneliness and Solitude

Solitude 268px-Frederick_Leighton_-_

In our language we have two words,
Solitude and Loneliness.
Solitude is being alone
Without thinking about being alone.
While Loneliness is being alone
And being aware you’re alone.

When I read those words in a small book from 1981 called “Meet Me Halfway” by Javan I was struck pointedly about the difference between solitude and loneliness. The two had always been associated together as essentially the same thing in my thoughts. The epiphany of the moment is the greatest block to being able to find solitude is loneliness itself. Having spent the majority of my life feeling a lack and being lonely for someone or something I could not put my finger on, it now comes as no surprise that solitude was always out of my reach.

Psychology Today had this to say about the two states: Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing. It is possible to be with people and still feel lonely—perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness.

Loneliness is harsh, punishment, a deficiency state, a state of discontent marked by a sense of estrangement, an awareness of excess aloneness.

Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.

Solitude suggests peacefulness stemming from a state of inner richness. It is a means of enjoying the quiet and whatever it brings that is satisfying and from which we draw sustenance. It is something we cultivate.

Coming to understand the different between loneliness and solitude I can grasp better a comment by one of my heroes, Henry David Thoreau. He wrote I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. Previously I always thought that statement was in the realm of being anti-social. I get it now!

Before I am misunderstood, its important to note how much I enjoy being with close friends and a few members of my family. Often while with them in the past I still felt great loneliness. Why? I was a stranger to myself. Wishing my childhood had been different and running away from mistakes as an adult, I had never gotten to know myself. And that is the most lonely state a person can know.  We are always with our self and to be disconnected from self is the greatest loneliness possible.

I have lived alone now ten of the last fifteen years and for a good part of that time my loneliness was so acute I actually ached, but for exactly what I did not know. I thought it was a partner; a lover; some angel to come save me and make everything okay. No one fitting that description came that I noticed. However, the person to do the saving was around the whole time: ME!  I am deeply grateful for the self discovery, an awakening, that came to me in the last five years.

In this age of ultra-connectedness it’s challenging to find solitude. Sometime I have to step away from email, Facebook, texts, and a phone that’s always on. When I first tried to do that it was harder to shut it all off than I would have thought. Now I can do it for a half day, a day and even for a weekend sometimes. It is an ability acquired only through difficulty which in turn brought clarity.

Today I enjoy my solitude. I relish the times when it is me alone in my home and all is quiet except the occasion creak of the house or the soft hum of a car going by outside. It’s then my thoughts are clearer, my meditations more peaceful, my reading better comprehended and my mind, body and soul seem to connect at a higher level.

The best art, the best writing, the best discoveries are often created in solitude, for good reason: it’s only when we are alone that we can reach into ourselves and find truth, beauty, soul. To even comprehend a portion of the magnitude of that statement brings earnest gratitude into my heart.

The greatest thing in the world
is to know how to belong to oneself.
Michel de Montaigne

For Seekers and Searchers

JDDavis-letting-go-water-efict-gifFor a long while long I have labeled myself a “seeker” and a “searcher”. That comes from an earnest desire to garner more wisdom, to understand and embrace life more fully and to grow my level of contentment and happiness. I think I picked the right labels. How do dictionaries define Seeker or Searcher?

a person who inquires;
 one who looks for truth;
 someone who makes a thorough examination or investigation;
 those who look carefully in order to find something;
 a person who intentionally comes to know

Within my seeking and searching here’s a few random bits of wisdom that have I have assimilated,  backed up by a quote:

Living well takes consistent practice.
As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. Henry David Thoreau

You are the fix to whatever bothers you.
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. Buddha

There is only now. Nothing else.
What matters is to live in the present, live now, for every moment is now. It is your thoughts and acts of the moment that create your future. The outline of your future path already exists, for you created its pattern by your past. Sai Baba

Your difficulties are often your greatest teachers.
Adversity is the first path to truth. Lord Byron

If you keep going you’ll find the answer.
Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley. Theodore Roethke

The easy way is usually a trap.
The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. John Dewey

Experience is the only truth humans readily accept. No matter how often we are told or reminded we don’t accept a fact as 3-dimensional until we have first-hand experience.  I am grateful for the life lessons learned without having to repeat learning them a dozen times.  And for the ones I have yet to learn, I will keep trying until they sink in.

If you find a path with no obstacles,
it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.
Frank A. Clark

Great Wealth of Life

daffodil-bill-wakeleyGrab  your imagination hat and put on your best fantasy shoes.
Dress up in daydreams and set your mind on make-believe.
Then come along with me in a delicate journey of words arranged to inspire.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
“I, Wander’d Lonely as a Cloud”
by William Wordsworth

memories dock EDITOld favorite memories are treasures carried invisibly inside. There is no one who has the same ones stored away as I do. My memories are mine and mine alone to keep as long as my mind works enough to recall them. The dearest ones don’t fade. Those memories grow more vivid over time, embellished perhaps, but more beautiful just the same.

Just as Wordsworth later remembered seeing “ten thousand daffodils” by a lake when he laid on his couch and daydreamed, I have my own cherished reminiscences. Memories are the great wealth of life. To realize that while I am not too old to remember them is something to be grateful for!

If you have true gratitude,
it will express itself automatically.
It will be visible in your eyes,
around your being, in your aura.
It is like the fragrance of a flower.
In most cases if there is a beautiful flower,
the fragrance will be there naturally.
The flower and its fragrance cannot be separated.
Sri Chinmoy

Just the Way I Am

free-beautiful-landscape-desktop-wallpaper-06-2010_2560x1600_81790I am been an emotional and sensitive person going back to as long as I can remember. Over time feedback from others (grown ups mostly when I was a kid) taught me to hold in my emotions. At times I felt as if I was going to combust with the feelings I held back.

Learning to deal properly anger came with learning that anger is fear turned inside out. Once I accepted and began to practice that wisdom expressing being angry in a healthy way followed.

Hiding happiness was not an issue for a long time simply because I rarely ever felt truly happy. Feeling like something was wrong with me (which it was) I faked happiness and got damn good at it. In the last decade getting to the roots of what was amiss inside me changed all that. Peace is within me about the happenings of my childhood. YEA!!!

In “finding myself” that was inside me all along, a full spectrum of emotions was freed to show themselves in healthy ways. One of the more important is no longer am I ashamed to cry. Of course, grief and sadness can bring tears, but happiness is just as likely. Being touched by something truly beautiful makes my eyes mist up. Movies bring tears frequently, but passages in books can do it just as easily. A hug from someone I care about  touches me frequently to watery eyes as can a thoughtful card or an email. I am blessed to be as I am.

It is a grave injustice to a child or adult to insist that they stop crying. One can comfort a person who is crying which enables him to relax and makes further crying unnecessary; but to humiliate a crying child is to increase his pain, and augment his rigidity. We stop other people from crying because we cannot stand the sounds and movements of their bodies. It threatens our own rigidity. It induces similar feelings in ourselves which we dare not express and it evokes a resonance in our own bodies which we resist.

As adults, we have many inhibitions against crying. We feel it is an expression of weakness, or femininity or of childishness. The person who is afraid to cry is afraid of pleasure. This is because the person who is afraid to cry holds himself together rigidly so that he won’t cry; that is, the rigid person is as afraid of pleasure as he is afraid to cry. In a situation of pleasure he will become anxious. As his tensions relax he will begin to tremble and shake, and he will attempt to control this trembling so as not to break down in tears. His anxiety is nothing more than the conflict between his desire to let go and his fear of letting go. This conflict will arise whenever the pleasure is strong enough to threaten his rigidity.

Since rigidity develops as a means to block out painful sensations, the release of rigidity or the restoration of the natural motility of the body will bring these painful sensations to the fore. Somewhere in his unconscious the neurotic individual is aware that pleasure can evoke the repressed ghosts of the past. It could be that such a situation is responsible for the adage “No pleasure without pain.” From “The Voice of the Body” by Alexander Lowen

It’s a great gift to feel as deeply and profoundly as I do. Today, tears are to me like rain is to trees: water to grow on. Ever noticed how happy trees look after a good rain? I am affected the same way and grateful now for what I once hated about myself. And with that another two points goes up on the side of being happy with my self just the way I am.

But smiles and tears are so alike with me,
they are neither of them confined
to any particular feelings:
I often cry when I am happy,
and smile when I am sad.
From “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” by Anne Brontë

You Are Here Now

tumblr_mb9ou0V4zm1rbvjfno1_500Like 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 by 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.

“For Equilibrium, a Blessing”
From “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings”
John O’Donohue

For the joy, laughter, grace, reverence, respect, freedom, perspective, time, freedom, clarity, love and every blessing of my life I have learned a gratitude in the last two years never before experienced. The more I acknowledge the gifts and express my thankfulness, the more of the good, wonderful and beautiful arrives.

I ask, “If life was always this uncomplicatedly simple why did it take me so long to see that?” The answer immediately echoes back “It does not matter, you are here now”.

Courage is the price
that life exacts
for granting peace.
Amelia Earhart

Dams In Our River of Life

leatherback-sea-turtle-babyThe greatest emotional war I have ever witnessed as been the one with myself. For years there was a storm of thoughts and feelings moving round inside ranging in intensity from thunder on the horizon to a full-fledged hurricane. When I look back now it’s clear that fear was what stormed in me, so strong I could not face it. Instead I distracted myself with anything and everybody external and in being inordinately busy, I hid out.

Age grants wisdom if one is open to receiving it. I learned I had to get still sometimes, shake off everything outside me and stand square with my feelings and thoughts. It was in such moments that I began to discover what peace was. It was not about more of anything. Rather peace for me is about slowing, even stopping, the storm inside.

Dalai Lama XIV said “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” Buddha spoke a shorter version; “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without”. For me to sincerely begin the inner work toward peace, I had to face my greatest fears.

Fear is one of the biggest single factors that deprives one of being able to achieve your full potential. We experience fear more as a result of our internal communication of mind rather than because of actual external factors.

Fear is an unseen enemy that whispers negative thoughts into your mind, body and soul. It tries to convince you that you will not prosper and that you cannot achieve your full potential.

Our lives can be compared to beautiful streams, which are destined to flow, grow in majesty to create wonderful features such as cascading waterfalls, and give nourishment and life to those in its path.

Sometimes we let fear put up a small dam in our rivers of life and it causes us to have stunted growth. We need to be able to rise above it, rise above the fear, break the dam and let our potential flow.

When we allow fear to create dams in our rivers of life, then our streams become like the Dead Sea, which is stagnant and void of life and movement. When we confront fear, we break the dams and free our potential to flow forward.

We are beings of immense potential, ability and skills. In order to realize our God-given talents we need to break through the fear barrier, which through its invisible walls traps us better than any physical prison can be constructed by the hands of man. Our human will and faith can break any barriers that fear can construct. Inshan Meahjohn

Are my fears gone? Some are, some aren’t. The subtotal is considerably less now days. Sometimes I find big fears based on small things. Realizing that, the fears became small too. Some fears bother me less simply because I have grown accustomed to them. The known is always less scary than the unknown.

A summed up realization just hit me: I have more peace within that ever before because I am willing to face my fears. That’s an ah-hah moment to be grateful for.

Spirituality is not to be learned
by flight from the world,
or by running away from things,
or by turning solitary
and going apart from the world.
Rather, we must learn an inner solitude
wherever or with whomsoever we may be.
We must learn to penetrate things
and find God there.
Meister Eckhart

Innocence Leaves Us Free

2709A friend posted this photo on Facebook last night. I was mesmerized by it. My curiosity to know what the two little girls are looking at is akin to what they must have been feeling when the photograph was made. Apparently they are in a museum’s modern art gallery, but it’s not what’s hanging on the walls that is fascinating the young ones. It’s in solving the mystery of what’s behind the grate.

Unadulterated awe about the mystery of simple things is weak by the time adulthood arrives. Grownups know all too well about what works and what doesn’t, with “too well” being the operative words. In “being big” most forget how to try the impossible and how to absolutely believe in things based only on faith like the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. We lose the majority of our curiosity and forget how to effectively waste time playing.

In a “Huffington Post” article I found suggestions of “10 Ways to Be a Kid Again”
1. Make a silly face at a stranger. Everyone likes a silly face. I bet you’ll crack someone up.
2. Eat ice cream for dinner. The fun part about being an adult is you can do what you want when you want. We are already aware of our immense responsibilities so for one night let it go.
3. Go to bed early. Some kids hate bedtime, but once they’re down they sleep like rocks. Give yourself a ridiculously early bedtime one night this week.
4. Hang out with your friends. Kids have play dates. Call a pal and actually get together and do something fun like go to the park and play Frisbee.
5. Color or draw something. Coloring brings back memories for most of us. Dig up some of your old coloring books if you can.
6. Try to say the alphabet backwards. Kids are great at crazy tasks. They try with all their might. See how fast you can say it.
7. Have a race. The next time you are walking with a friend race them to the corner. It’s fun to see other adults reacting to spontaneous racing.
8. Skip down the hallways at work. Mid-day sluggish getting to you? Skip to your meeting and you’ll probably brighten up the whole office.
9. Wear what you want. Kids come up with interesting outfits when they’re allowed by their parents to dress themselves. Come up with your own interesting outfit one day this week.
10. Try a handstand. Kids do yoga poses naturally, just for fun. Try a handstand and don’t worry about falling over.

Yes, some of the ten things are not that practical, but who cares. No grades will be given on how well done each one is. I wonder if I’ll break something trying the tenth one; a hand stand! Yet, the child in me wants to attempt it and is already badgering me “Come on Dad, can we try? Please, can we try? Please! Please! You can do it. I’ll show you how.”

I am grateful that voice of the seven-year old boy in me is no longer silent. He spent many years unnoticed and unwanted, but in my recovery, he is recovering too. I love my rediscovered whimsical childish side. Writing that makes me want to buy some finger paint. I don’t think I’ve done that since I was eight!

When we are children we seldom think of the future.
This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves
as few adults can. The day we fret about the future
is the day we leave our childhood behind.
Patrick Rothfuss