Who Am I?

welcome_to_the_good_life_by_CYWORLDThe following taken from words spoken almost a hundred years ago by twentieth-century Indian Guru Sri Ramana Maharshi is heady stuff and took me a few reads to let it soak it.

Every living being longs to be perpetually happy, without any misery. Since in everyone the highest love is alone felt for oneself, and since happiness alone is the cause of love, in order to attain that happiness, which is one’s real nature and which is experienced daily in the mindless state of deep sleep, it is necessary to know oneself. To achieve that, enquiry in the form ‘Who am I?’ is the foremost means. ‘Who am I?’ The physical body… is not ‘I’. The five sense organs… and the five types of perception known through the senses… are not ‘I’. The five… vital functions such as respiration, are not ‘I’. Even the mind that thinks is not ‘I’. Devoid of sensory knowledge and activity, even this [state] is not ‘I’. After negating all of the above as ‘not I, not I’, the knowledge that alone remains is itself ‘I’. The Self, one’s real nature, alone exists and is real.

What I end up with in boiling down the Guru’s line of thinking is: when everything I think, feel or can do is stripped away, it is there “I” am to be found. It is only then when I am in touch with the essence of myself can I be truly happy. I get it and am grateful for light into my understanding. It is in the letting go; letting go of everything, where “I” am to be discovered.

We carry within us
the wonders we seek
without us.
Eric Butterworth

Letting Go of Regret

amazing-sunrise-on-the-track-hdr-250896If I had followed through on the childhood dream of being a scientist, would my life be better or worse? What would my life be like now if I had married a different person when I was twenty-two? What might have been if I had left for the woman I loved when I was thirty-five? How might life be now had I not been so careless with money when it was flowing in freely?

Questions…meaningless, worthless questions, but knowing that plainly does not stop me from playing the shoulda, coulda guessing game occasionally.

In an article on psychologytoday.com, Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. wrote:
We often associate regret with old age – the tragic image of an elderly person feeling regretful over opportunities forever missed. Now, groundbreaking new brain research shows how this stereotype may be true, at least for a portion of the elderly who are depressed. On the other hand, healthy aging may involve the ability to regulate regret in the brain…

A new study conducted by researchers at the University Medical Center – Hamburg, in Germany provides an exciting demonstration of how healthy older people may actively disengage from regret when nothing can be done. Young people, who, presumably have more life opportunities for change and depressed elderly, who, presumably, have a deficit in emotional processing, were more regretful when confronted with missed chances for financial gain.

These researchers scanned the brains of three groups of subjects using MRI technology: Young people with average age 25, healthy older people with average age 66, and depressed older people, also 66 on average. All participants worked on a computer game during the brain scan in which they had to decide whether to keep opening boxes or rest. Each box could contain an amount of money or could contain a devil emblem that meant they lost all their money and ended that round of the game. To prime regret, researchers showed people after each round how far they could have gone to earn more money.

Behavioral strategies differed between the groups in a way that was consistent with the brain findings. Whereas the young and depressed elderly took more risks on subsequent rounds, the healthy elderly did not change their strategies across 80 rounds on average. Overall, the riskier strategy did not lead to more money, suggesting that the young and depressed elderly took on extra stress for no gain.

An exciting implication of this study is that brain functioning does not merely deteriorate in old age, but that aging can result in better emotion-regulation and stress management. This is consistent with other research showing old people have less intense negative emotions and are happier than middle-aged people on average. Feeling that one has done the best one can, given the circumstances and letting go of regret can lead to self-compassion and peace. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201206/the-neuroscience-regret

After reading that article I feel better and believe I’m in the “healthy group”. As the years pass there is less regret and I am more often filled with contentment and happiness. Getting here did not happen accidentally. In the last decade there has been great personal exertion to grow, heal and improve that have paid off. While some of the growing pains hurt like hell, the overall results are something I am ecstatically grateful for.

A man is not old until
regrets take the place of dreams.
John Barrymore

To Learn and Grow

Beautiful-Nature-beautiful-nature-1600x900Another new day has arrived I am blessed to get to live. Some things I do will be well done. Others mediocre at best. Through it all I will try to live the hours better than yesterday. I will do my best and be content with it, yet knowing life will continue to improve me day by day if I live with intention.

 “The true measure of greatness is our capacity to navigate between our opposites with agility and grace — to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never to stop trying to get better.”

Constantly seek to learn and grow, but accept yourself exactly as you are.

Learning and growing require a willingness to look honestly and unsparingly at our shortcomings. Start with your own greatest strength. When you overuse it, it’s almost surely a window into your own greatest weakness.
In my case, the strength is drive and passion. Overused, it turns into aggressiveness. By being aware of my inclination to overuse a strength — by recognizing my own vulnerability — I was able to make a different choice.

Add Value to Others and Take Care of Yourself

Gratifying our most immediate needs and desires provides bursts of pleasure, but they’re usually short-lived. We derive the most enduring sense of meaning and satisfaction in our lives when we serve something larger than ourselves. Giving to others generates an extraordinary source of energy.

Selfishness is about making your own gratification paramount. Self-care is about making sure you’re addressing your own most basic needs, so you’re freed and fueled to also add value to others.

Focus Intensely and Renew Regularly

Unlike machines, however, human beings aren’t meant to operate at the highest intensity for very long. Instead, we’re designed to pulse between spending and renewing energy approximately every 90 minutes.

The world’s best performers — musicians, chess players, athletes — typically practice the same way: for no longer than 4 ½ hours a day. They also sleep more than the rest of us, and take more naps.

These great performers figured out that when they push for too long, their attention wanders, their energy flags, and their work suffers. But because they’re so focused when they are working, they get more done, in less time. Taken from “Six Ingredients of a Good Life” By Tony Schwartz http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2010/12/six-ingredients-of-a-good-life.html

To find balance between who I am and who I wish to be is my intention this day. To wish for no more than I am, but know it is made possible by living each day well. For the every breath I take today, I am grateful!

2 things:
If it makes you happy, do it.
If it doesn’t, then don’t.

Simply This Thing, and Then the Next

fragile_as_we_are_by_nelleke-d5dqyfsIf we tune-in on thoughts of failure, illness, discouragement, despair and hate, the charts of our lives will take a sharp downward course.

If we tune-in on thoughts of victory, love, hope and faith, our lives will become larger, finer, more worth while.

If we tune-in on the surface things that break like bubbles and leave us nothing, our lives will be shallow and empty.

If we tune-in on the deeper things, eternal principles of plain living and high thinking, the riches which men have put into immortal literature, art and music, then entire personalities will grow and expand.

If we permit ourselves to become selfish and cold toward others, the springs of love and sentiment will dry up leaving us but the husks of life.

If, on the other hand, we are kind and thoughtful and considerate of others; if we strive always to pluck a thorn and plant a flower wherever we think a flower will grow, riches more valuable than much fine gold will enter our lives.

Saint and sinner, prince and pauper, the things men tune-in on become a part of them and make them what they are. Lilly Ames-Light

A hard learned, greatly meaningful lesson of my life has been nothing stays the same; given time every thing changes. Impermanence is the only constant that life offers. My attitude toward living is the fountain of richness of for my existence. Embracing living as it comes with as little consternation as possible is the key to my happiness. “It’s all good, even when it is bad”. I am grateful.

Life is perhaps after all simply this thing, and then the next.
We are all of us improvising. We find a careful balance
only to discover that gravity or stasis or love or dismay or illness
or some other force suddenly tows us in an unexpected direction.
We wake up to find that we have changed abruptly in a way
that is peculiar and inexplicable. We are constantly adjusting,
making it up, feeling our way forward, figuring out how to be
and where to go next. We work it out, how to be happy,
but sooner or later comes a change-sometimes something small,
sometimes everything at once, and we have to start over again,
feeling our way back to a provisional state of contentment.
Anne Giardini




Doubt is the opposite of faith, but sometimes doubt can be a pathway to faith.


Weakness is the opposite of strength, but sometimes weakness can be the pathway to strength.


Addiction is the opposite of sobriety, but sometimes addiction can be the pathway to sobriety.


Infidelity is the opposite of fidelity, but sometimes infidelity can be a pathway to fidelity.


Failure is the opposite of success, but sometimes failure can be the pathway to success.

“Enough” by David W. Jones

It pleases me to know the kind of person I have become: most definitely imperfect; but imperfectly whole and happy. It feels extraordinary to now say “I love me!” and feel the authenticity of the words.

Gratitude abounds for a balance I feel within me the majority of the time. In being thankful for what is, I must have gratitude for what brought me here: heartaches, miracles, problems, blessings, difficulties, good fortunes, setbacks and lots of love. All that and more shaped me even though I frequently resisted with great tenaciousness.

Thankfully life is stronger than my will and when it overtook me, real happiness began. How wonderful it is to lose to the goodness of life and the power of love.

A loving heart
is the beginning
of all knowledge.
Thomas Carlyle

Photograph by Nick Owen

What A Child Sees

cd54c7a9782e7f71540ec11044a71de5No one is ever quite ready; everyone is always caught off guard. Parenthood chooses you. And you open your eyes, look at what you’ve got, say “Oh, my gosh,” and recognize that of all the balls there ever were, this is the one you should not drop. It’s not a question of choice. Marisa de los Santos

It was a long week and still fighting off the remnants of a cold, I knew once arriving home going anywhere wouldn’t happen. So an obligatory visit to the land of craziness, Wal-Mart World, was made after work. My fatigue caused me to walk back and forth unable to find things a good bit. By the time I got near the registers I was shuffling through exhaustion. Then came the wake up call.

A young couple with two children was over one lane and the late 20-something guy was griping at the woman telling her stupid she was. Everyone within twenty feet could hear him. Never will I forget the look on the woman’s face: one of absolute unhappiness and shame. She appeared hopelessness as if she had no choice except to endure her choice, the man she was with. Her head was bent downward which suggested she had known this treatment time and time again. The bruise beside her left eye made me think she likely faced worse later. Knowing that tugs strongly at my heart, but there is nothing I can do except tell about her here.

As bad as I felt for the young woman, I felt worse for the children. A boy around five and a girl around three stared straight at their parents taking in every thing that was being said. They were learning how a husband treats a wife and that a woman must accept what comes. How awful. I doubt if that relationship will ever improve. I hope the wife gets away from the her as#h*le husband some day.

So how does such a dark scene end up in a gratitude blog? Simple this: I am deeply thankful for parents who raise their children with respect and understand far more is taught by what a child sees than what they are told.

There is nothing more pathetically sad
than a parent who teaches a child not to hit
by spanking them. Well, that, and adults
who think hitting someone will solve a problem.
Anitra Lynn McLeod

If You Don’t Love What You Do…


I had been busy deafening my parents for years by creating high-pitched squawking melodies on my “recorder”, the closest thing we had to a wood instrument at home. On band day I was so excited to finally get to see and hold a genuine, shiny flute in my 10-year-old hands.

I picked it up, my eyes gleaming, and held it to my lips. “Pfffffffffffffffffffft.” Nothing. I tried again, blowing into it like the 12-year-old owner of the flute had showed me. Again, nothing but a music-less “Pfffffffft.” I couldn’t believe it. My heart-felt heavy in my chest, and tears pricked at my eyes. I gave up, and handed her back her flute. Next, I decided to try the clarinet. It wasn’t the flute, and I wasn’t a huge fan, but at least it was still in the part of the orchestra that got the pretty melodies. “Honk-screech!”

Feeling even worse, I made my way to the back of the room where the brass instruments were. Someone handed me a French Horn. I held it to my lips, and out came a full, rich sound totally recognizable as belonging to a musical instrument. I shrugged, and wrote down “French Horn” next to my name, as by default this was obviously my instrument.

I played the French Horn for five years, including the first couple of years of junior high school. I hated the thing. I never got the good parts of any musical piece. In my second year of junior high school, my apparent “rare talent” for this instrument got the attention of a professional French Horn player in the city. He even offered me free private lessons after school. (It really was so kind of him to do that, I hope he never reads this). The plan was that I’d play in a major youth orchestra, and eventually play professionally.

I don’t remember how, but somehow I managed to quit the darn thing, despite everyone’s excitement about my supposed talent. I didn’t get much respite though, as fairly soon after I got sucked into the vortex of being a “gifted student in the Sciences”. I was finally spit out by the system at the age of 28. By then, I was not surprisingly a suicidally depressed Emergency Medicine resident. Same phenomenon, different vocation.

People don’t mean any harm by identifying talent in kids and giving them opportunities to develop that talent. If the child actually enjoys the activity, this is a fantastic thing. A friend of mine in junior high was discovered by a professional ballet company, and within weeks accepted an offer of a full scholarship at the best ballet school in the country. She dances professionally today at a well-respected company. But she loves ballet – this is the difference.

I so wish that some grown-up had encouraged me to choose the musical instrument that I loved passionately, along with the reassurance that I could learn how to play it. I wish that someone had seen past my “gift for science” and paid equal attention to how much I loved my creative writing classes.

You can only go so far on talent alone. If you’re good at something, it gets noticed and valued by others, and it certainly opens doors. It can generate much-needed income, which can be important. Yet when it comes to truly fulfilling your potential and knowing the joy of doing what you were made to do, the only thing that will give you that experience is what you love.

I fully appreciate that you can’t always do what you want. Economic realities are what they are, and it would be foolish for many people to abandon the job that pays the bills in order to pursue their passion. Then again, there are plenty of people who have done just that, and have done very well.

Regardless, if you’re honest with yourself about what your true passion is, you owe it to yourself to pursue it in some form, even if you never quit your day job and you never earn a penny doing what you love. The key is to do what you love, somehow. From “Being Good at Something Doesn’t Mean You Should Be Doing It” by Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/201203/being-good-something-doesn-t-mean-you-should-be-doing-it

And so it is with great gratitude within the last year I discovered what I have long done as a profession was never what I truly loved, but instead what I chose to make money doing. The avocation has treated me well, but is far from the work I want this life to leave behind. This is the year I change direction and follow my dreams. For the inspiration and new courage to try something new, I am thankful.

Until a person can say deeply and honestly,
“I am what I am today because of the choices
I made yesterday,” that person cannot say,
“I choose otherwise.”
Stephen R. Covey

Today I Will Be Happy With Less.

sobering grateful thought one

That’s just eleven words with a
sobering with truthful meaning.
“Today I will be happy with less”.


sobering grateful thought two quote tecumseh

…Eleven words at the top and forty-seven more just above; fifty-eight words of absolute truth about one of the greatest secrets of a good life….

Soon to be two years I have found something to be grateful for each morning and focused on it for about an hour. There are no words that I can say to tell you of the conviction I have that practicing gratefulness is life changing. I urge you… no I beg you with all my heart, to take a little time for gratitude every day. Do it for just a month and you will never be the same again.

Happiness cannot be traveled to,
owned, earned, worn or consumed.
Happiness is the spiritual experience
of living every minute
with love, grace, and gratitude.
Denis Waitley

With Our Thoughts

19All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him;
if a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him;
like a shadow that never leaves him.

In my mind there is always a wind of thought blowing. It’s precise force and direction is ever-varying, but the breeze is constant. If I focus on one way of thinking enough I become bent into that direction like a tree blown by a constant wind.

If I spend time thinking of my want and desire of something, I get no closer to satisfying the longing and instead cause unsated yearning to grow.

If frequently go to thoughts of how much someone hurt me in the past, I bring the pain to the present to breathe new life into it.

If I am able to bring a joyful memory to mind during a difficult time, my trouble is tempered and made less heavy.

The more I am grateful of love I am given, the more love I received.

The more I am grateful for happy moments when they arrive, the more come to me.

The greater my gratitude for life, more arrives to be grateful for.

It is not within my control to master all my thoughts, but at any given moment I am capable of moderating them. It is the direction of the winds in my mind that shape my life. Realizing quality of life is more about my thinking that any other factor has been a great insight. I am grateful that with awareness I can paint whatever comes at me with new color of my choosing.

With our thoughts,
we make the world.

Only Time Will Tell

2 real selfHaving grown up in 1960’s Alabama, it seemed everyday I witnessed the distance between people; the void between have’s and have not’s and between races. I was blessed to grow up poor in a family that believed all people should be treated with kindness and respect. Trials and difficulty is a great equalizer of people.

By sixteen I had long hair and the south generally did not like “my kind”. I learned first hand what it is like to be refused service in a restaurant and repeatedly heard “is it a boy or girl?”. While tame compared to what many went thought, it was one of the early great lessons of my life. At eighteen I left the deep south to finish my growing up in Colorado with a vow never again make my “down there” and I haven’t (yet, anyway).

Leaving Alabama and Mississippi (where I graduated high school) behind was the first major permanent detour in the life planned as a teenager. I left behind the dream of a scholarship and advanced education at the University of Alabama and of even finishing a college degree. I left behind the first true love of my life, the first girl/woman I cried over. And ever since life has been ever leading me where it does; not necessarily in the direction I imagine.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us” (credited to both E.M. Forster and Joseph Campbell) sums up what living has shown me over and over: have a general idea of where I’d like life to take me, but be flexible knowing most of it will turn out differently than I imagine. Aging has helped me become more readily adaptable. Now in middle age and having swallowed scores of “never’s” from my teens, gads of “not me’s” from my 20s and baskets of “won’t happen’s” from my 30’s, my view of life is pliable and malleable, and becoming more so.

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. From “The Painted Drum” LP by Louise Erdrich

There have been times I could not see forward. All ahead looked black and bleak. There was little imagination for the future. I’ve lost people I couldn’t for a time live without, but learned to anyway. Professionally I have been blessed with more success than I would have ever dared imagine when younger, but my work has broken my heart far more than romance ever did.

These days there is more hope within me than I previously have ever known. The storm of youth has subsided and I am enjoying the beauty of the late fall of life. The cold of winter is a page or two back on my life calendar, but I am hopeful to live it well. Within love penetrates me as never before with a depth of joy I could not have appreciated when I was younger. I am grateful for the steadfast belief that the best of my life is ahead and that the greatest period of personal development lies there. My instinct tells me not to worry; those good things will be mine, but only time will tell.

How terribly sad it is
that people are made in such a way
that they get used to something
as extraordinary as living.
Jostein Gaardner