Become the Watcher


When I become aware of my thoughts, it does not make me become my thoughts. Quite the contrary, only then do I have a chance to sort out what’s real from what’s misapprehension, distortion and nonsense. Without attention most thought bounces mindlessly in my brain like light reflected back and forth between a hundred mirrors; lots of motion but getting nowhere.

The musing of my mind is most often barely me at all and instead some creation loosely based on a combination of all I have been through, felt or experienced. This kind of thinking is created like a mindless chemical reaction. When I pay attention to what is bouncing around in my head I become the watcher who is able, with good reliability, to sort out the good stuff from the ravings of a lunatic (which is exactly what the thoughts of an unattended mind are!).

A frantic mind misses opportunities and pushes them away. If a good opportunity comes your way, and your mind is going a mile a minute, that opportunity will wiz right by you.

When opportunities come, you need a quiet place for them to alight, to rest. A frantic mind actually pushes them away. Multi-tasking creates more stress and makes the mind more frantic. Do one thing at a time and complete it.

It is the nature of the mind to have thoughts. We mistakenly identify with our thoughts and think that’s who we are. But to the mind, all thoughts are the same. The thoughts that make our ego feel good, we pull towards us, and the ones that make our ego feel bad, we push away. This push and pull is what makes the mind frantic.

Truth comes through the mind, not from the mind. The mind is the vehicle for truth, not the source. The source of truth is the universe, spirit, God, whatever you want to call consciousness. Chandra Alexander

When beginning a meditation practice about a decade ago, my mind wrestled with me. It did not want to be closely examined and fought back by increasing the stream of silent babbling within my brain. Only for a few seconds could I redirect my thinking before the ‘bully’ that was my mind took over again. The majority of the time my unconscious thoughts still win, but over time I have found moments of peace while sitting still with my eyes closed and allowing myself to just be.

The key lesson learned has been once I started paying attention to my thoughts and attempting to sort out what is fact from fiction; what is reality from complete lunacy; an amazing thing happened. Gratefully I began to be able to sort out with decent consistency what was my own BS and what was truth.

The rational man doesn’t hate it
when he is proven wrong;
he is actually grateful,
since his knowledge
has been enriched.

Love More


There is a desire within each of us,
in the deep center of ourselves
that we call our heart.
We were born with it,
it is never completely satisfied,
and it never dies.
We are often unaware of it,
but it is always awake.

It is the Human desire for Love.
Every person in this Earth yearns to love,
to be loved, to know love.
Our true identity, our reason for being
is to be found in this desire.

Love is the “why” of life,
why we are functioning at all.
I am convinced
it is the fundamental energy
of the human spirit.
the fuel on which we run,
the wellspring of our vitality.

And grace,
which is the flowing,
creative activity, of love itself,
is what makes all goodness possible.

Love should come first,
it should be the beginning of,
and the reason for everything.
From “Living In”
By Gerald G. May

All that matters on this earth ultimately is people and love. Everything else exists to support and make possible those two things. The utter simplicity of that thinking escapes me most of the time, but with each reminder a little more of the knowing remains behind. I am grateful for each little smidgen of that wisdom!

If you love and get hurt, love more.
If you love more and hurt more,
love even more.
If you love even more
and get hurt even more,
love some more until it hurts no more…

The Year’s Last, Loveliest Smile

The first day of fall was a week ago, but until today the weather was still very much summer like. Today is the first ‘fall like” day we’ve had. It’s overcast, rainy and cool. The following originally posted almost a year ago on October 8, 2012 shows a true ove of autumn. 

The first chill of fall has hung around for three days now and there is change in the air. Lawns and bushes are still holding their green, but leaves are coming down. The time of autumn’s grand display is not far away when frost turns most everything into bright yellow, vibrant orange and brilliant red.

The seasons have long suited me in a different manner than is typical where Spring is the first season, Summer comes after, Fall arrives third and Winter comes at the end. Autumn is the season I love best and comes first in line for me. Fall to me is the awakening; a new beginning. Winter comes afterward as a time of growth, study and reflection. Spring growth comes with a general bursting forward followed by Summer which is just Spring in old clothes; over-grown. After all a season with two names, Fall and Autumn, must be special!

Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale. Lauren DeStefano

Squeeze your eyes closed, as tight as you can, and think of all your favorite autumns, crisp and perfect, all bound up together like a stack of cards. That is what it is like… the wonderful brightness of Fairy colors. Catherynne M. Valente

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. George Eliot

Use what you have, use what the world gives you. Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness; harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire. Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce, roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself. The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before the black and white silence of winter. Shauna Niequist

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. Albert Camus

Gratitude overflows on these cool days and chilly nights of Autumn. Feeling the fresh air of Fall on my skin and seeing the landscape unfold in an abundance of color is truly one of my favorite things. It is some of God’s greatest art.

Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.
William Cullen Bryant

Better With Age


Walking across a college campus for a business meeting with the athletic director of a Midwest college an epiphany hit me. In my late thirties college aged people hardly noticed me. I suppose I just looked like someone’s Dad. It occurred to me that I had become “invisible to college girls”. And that makes sense considering I was on average close to twenty years older. However, the male ego is a fragile thing.

I’m absolutely certain the twenties are not an age I would want to endure again. Too much change; too many mistakes; too much uncertainty and a general lack of respect from those older. The thirties were a time of arriving, but not yet getting there. I swear I did not deserve to be called an adult until at least my 40s!

The quality of my life has continued to improve as I have aged. An article published in the U.K. sheds light on aging.

Researchers have found that people’s’ mental abilities peak at 22 before beginning to deteriorate just five years later.

Professor Timothy Salthouse, “Results converge on a conclusion that some aspects of age-related cognitive decline begins in healthy, educated adults when they are in their 20s and 30s,” he said.

The study of 2,000 men and women lasted over seven years. The respondents, aged between 18-60, were asked to solve visual puzzles, recall words and story details and spot patterns in letters and symbols. The research by the University of Virginia found that in nine out of 12 tests the average age at which the top performance was achieved was 22.

The first age at which performance was significantly lower than the peak scores was 27 – for three tests of reasoning, speed of thought and spatial visualization. Memory was shown to decline from the average age of 37. In the other tests, poorer results were shown by the age of 42.

However, the report published in the academic journal Neurobiology Of Aging, found that abilities based on accumulated knowledge, such as performance on tests of vocabulary or general information, increased until at the age of 60.

Another article about a related study in the same U.K. newspaper said, “While university-age participants were quicker to make choices which led to immediate rewards, another group aged 60 to 80 were much more adept at taking strategic decisions which took future stages into account”. Two experiments designed to mirror realistic decision-making scenarios showed that older people were far better at making choices that led to long-term gain.

So to the college kids who I am invisible to, enjoy your twenties because it’s downhill after that. I just can’t help smirking a little when I write that. The next time some 30-something hotshot who thinks they have the world by the ass lays a ‘tude on me I will silently think he or she is actually quite comical. They’re already past prime in some ways and don’t even know it.

I am happily grateful to be a bit less admiring of younger ages after reading the British articles. I’ve gotten better with age. All in all, I am the best I have ever been.

It’s not how old you are,
it’s how you are old.
Jules Renard

Cannot Be Seen or Even Touched

Feeling_Red_by_gilad EDIT

The truth: “This poem made my eyes mist up”. Somehow when Ana Castillo wrote “I Ask The Impossible” she managed to string words together with an urgent honesty and patient clarity that speak to me.

I ask the impossible: love me forever.
Love me when all desire is gone.
Love me with the single-mindedness of a monk.
When the world in its entirety,
and all that you hold sacred advise you
against it: love me still more.
When rage fills you and has no name: love me.
When each step from your door to our job tires you–
love me; and from job to home again, love me, love me.
Love me when you’re bored–
when every woman you see is more beautiful than the last,
or more pathetic, love me as you always have:
not as admirer or judge, but with
the compassion you save for yourself
in your solitude.
Love me as you relish your loneliness,
the anticipation of your death,
mysteries of the flesh, as it tears and mends.
Love me as your most treasured childhood memory–
and if there is none to recall–
imagine one, place me there with you.
Love me withered as you loved me new.
Love me as if I were forever–
and I, will make the impossible
a simple act,
by loving you, loving you as I do.

Proof that the kind of love Ms. Castillo wrote about exists or has ever existed can’t be concretely found. Yet, I believe, but see it as uncommon and a stroke of fate far more than intention. Within me is certainty that most ‘impossible’, but lasting loves are lived quietly. Such people need no glamor or recognition for they have already won life’s most sought after prize: true and lasting love.

My softness of heart was a weakness years ago, but has grown into what appears to be fairly rare, or at least rarely shown by others. There is nothing I am more grateful for than my ability to feel deeply.

The best and most beautiful things in the world
cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart.
Helen Keller

Years of Friction

tree adapting to friction

It is not work that kills men, it is worry.
…worry is rust upon the blade.
It is not movement that destroys
the machinery, but friction.
Henry Ward Beecher

In Colorado last week visiting my son, I was waiting in the car when I noticed the little tree in the photo. No only had the sapling accepted to its position in life and had adapted to it, the tree had begun to use the adaptation to its benefit against the winds in Boulder.

Years of friction of the tree trunk rubbing against a cable caused the sapling to adapt. Now as the tree gets older it has begun to grow around the source of friction making itself stronger in the process. It changed and now benefits from what once was the source of injury.

And so it is with life. Resistance to life as it is, does not benefit a person. The injury is to the thinker and not the subject of the thoughts. Things improve when one allows them self to be adapted to real life. The little tree does not think. It only does what is the most healthful for survival. For the tree, like humans, adaptation is often he different between a good life and a difficult one.

The sapling could not know the Serenity Prayer, but practices its principles implicitly.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
From a poem by Reinhold Niebuhr

I am grateful to the small tree. It “spoke to me” with a reminder to adapt to one’s circumstance when there is not other option.

A gem cannot be polished
without friction,
nor a man perfected
without trials.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Song in Your Heart

Originally Posted on January 13, 2012 by 

From “Give Me Roses” by Marvin L. Cartee

If I am due but one little rose
While living upon this earth,
Let it be given while I’m still alive,
As a token of what I’m worth.

Give me my roses while I’m still alive,
Don’t sit there and hold them and wait,
Don’t wait until the day I am gone
Because then it’s a little too late.

If you love someone don’t hesitate
To tell them you love them today.
Don’t put it all off for tomorrow
‘Cause tomorrow may have passed away.

So if I am due one little rose,
While traveling along life’s highway,
Don’t hold onto that flower too long,
Please give me my roses today.

Dear ________,

I have been unsuccessful in fully expressing how much of a difference you make in my life. The scope of what is inside is difficult to form into words, but I will try anyway. In written form I have put down here at least a little of what I want you to know.

Thank you for being kind to me and noticing when I just need someone to listen. When I have no wish for approval of my feelings, but just need to be heard you always pay close attention to what I had to say. You honor me with that kindness and often help me often bear what you or even I do not understand.

All too aware I am of my shortcomings and faults. Certainly you must see them too, yet you rarely acknowledge them and chose instead to see the good in me. You have always seen more than I have ever believed about myself and tell me so. Never will I see me as you do, but my view of self is far better than it ever could have been without you.

Together with you over time I have learned the joy of doing nothing. Just being together gave hours great value and there was nothing we had to do to make it so. I learned with you that wasting time with a friend is one of the most meaningful ways to cash in minutes of my life.

You have always given me good advice although I have not always followed it. At all times you have my best interest in mind and no other intention. I thank you for your counsel and for never trying to push it on me.

Never was I able to openly express my love of someone as a friend until our friendship. I learned how to hug each time I see you and again when we part. Never was that something I could do before, but through you such expression of affection has become natural and easy with all that I care about.

You have been kind to me when I was not being so to you.
You have been patient with me when my patience was gone.
You have helped me without questioning or without even being asked.
You have been there for me when I needed you to, but could not ask.
You have been my friend even when you did not like what I was doing or saying.
You have never made a practice of saying “I told you so’ although there have been many times you could have.
I have deep admiration your honesty and directness.
I have great respect for your power to think beyond what others see.
I marvel at your ability to express your feelings to others.
I think a lot of your multiple talents and how you put them to good use.
I marvel at how you are kind and never rude, even to those who are to you.
I have high regard for your beliefs and practice of them.
I am often astonished at how much you love and am loved by your family and friends and how those feelings are openly expressed.
I appreciate you just as you are: once single measure of flaws and imperfection and a hundred measures of quality and character.

I am privileged to have you as my friend. I am fortunate to be yours. Without hesitation or reservation, I love you clearly and freely as only a true friend can love another. Thank you for being in my life.

A friend is someone
who knows the song in your heart
and can sing it back to you
when you have forgotten the words. 
Bernard Meltzer

Intention, Decision and Chance


Does the walker choose the path,
or the path the walker?
Garth Nix

When I was younger destiny seemed out of my control.; a predetermined path to eventual destinations. I grew up, became an adult and stopped thinking much about fate. My mantra was “if it is to be it is up to me”. I was lord and master of my life in those days, or so I thought.

A false sense of clarity is a frequent symptom of youth and my case of the “Mr. Know-It-All” virus was worse than most. Growing up in the chaos of a dysfunctional family caused me to end up with an over developed sense of self-reliance. I learned to survive. My belief was only person I could rely on was me. I entered adulthood believing what Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

What worked for a while when life was simpler, did not serve me as well when life became complicated with career, marriage and a child. Well into my thirties I began to see that where destiny had placed me had a lot to do with my decisions.

My problem was choices made in my 20s and 30s were too often not the best ones. Good or bad choices, they helped shape my fate just the same. “Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences”, wrote J.K. Rowling. Over time I came to make better decisions because I tired of living with and trying to fix choices made recklessly. Better decisions made my destiny better. Seems simple now, but arriving at that realization was anything but simple.

Today I think of destiny as a cosmic soup of intention, decision and chance seasoned with the divine. In the throes of making a big decision it’s never clear exactly what is influencing me. The best I can do is take my time, pay attention to my feelings and ask for outside input from friends and my higher power.

I am grateful for the wisdom life lends a person who is open to learn.

There’s nowhere you can be
that isn’t where you’re meant to be…
John Lennon

Exploding Fireworks and Ringing Bells


I am a lover of love in it in all forms. Mother or Father for a child; a child for parents; a friend for a friend; a lover for their beloved and even the way one can dream up a fantasized person and fall in love with him or her.

A lover’s feelings can be intense and severe when expressed frankly and bluntly. I was moved by the sincere rawness within a letter from “A Wallflower Christmas” by Lisa Kleypas shared below.

“The letter had been crumpled up and tossed onto the grate. It had burned all around the edges, so the names at the top and bottom had gone up in smoke. But there was enough of the bold black scrawl to reveal that it had indeed been a love letter. And as Hannah read the singed and half-destroyed parchment, she was forced to turn away to hide the trembling of her hand.

—should warn you that this letter will not be eloquent. However, it will be sincere, especially in light of the fact that you will never read it. I have felt these words like a weight in my chest, until I find myself amazed that a heart can go on beating under such a burden.

I love you. I love you desperately, violently, tenderly, completely. I want you in ways that I know you would find shocking. My love, you don’t belong with a man like me. In the past I’ve done things you wouldn’t approve of, and I’ve done them ten times over. I have led a life of immoderate sin. As it turns out, I’m just as immoderate in love. Worse, in fact.

I want to kiss every soft place of you, make you blush and faint, pleasure you until you weep, and dry every tear with my lips. If you only knew how I crave the taste of you. I want to take you in my hands and mouth and feast on you. I want to drink wine and honey from you.

I want you under me. On your back.

I’m sorry. You deserve more respect than that. But I can’t stop thinking of it. Your arms and legs around me. Your mouth, open for my kisses. I need too much of you. A lifetime of nights spent between your thighs wouldn’t be enough.

I want to talk with you forever. I remember every word you’ve ever said to me.

If only I could visit you as a foreigner goes into a new country, learn the language of you, wander past all borders into every private and secret place, I would stay forever. I would become a citizen of you.

You would say it’s too soon to feel this way. You would ask how I could be so certain. But some things can’t be measured by time. Ask me an hour from now. Ask me a month from now. A year, ten years, a lifetime. The way I love you will outlast every calendar, clock, and every toll of every bell that will ever be cast. If only you—

And there it stopped.”

The letter from Lisa Kleypas’s book is powerful, passionate and gritty just as real  love actually is. Loving someone means going beyond what is politically correct and speaking heart and soul honestly in their full dimensions.

I am grateful there are some with deep feelings about love who write about them (like Lisa Kleypas).  They encourage me to finish the love story book I have been working on for a few years. And I am reminded to settle for nothing less than love that is genuine with plenty of beautiful fireworks.

Love encompasses so much,
reaches so far, and heals so deeply,
that any attempt to describe it,
no matter how poetic, only dilutes it.
Steve Maraboli

Allow Gratitude to Transform Your Life


We all know that being grateful and appreciative is very beneficial, but have you ever noticed that it’s often easier said than done? Sometimes finding the good in a trying situation can by pretty challenging. Yet, the benefits of maintaining genuine gratitude and appreciation in spite of what’s going on around us are certainly worth looking into.

This is where focus comes to the rescue. You can actually transform your life by training yourself to search for, discover, and focus on legitimate reasons to feel grateful and appreciative.

We all have blessings in our life! No matter where we are, and regardless of what we might be going through, there are always things we can be grateful for. The challenge is to train ourselves to focus on gratitude, and to intuitively search for reasons to manifest appreciation. This may, or may not be your natural tendency, but with practice, all of us can certainly develop a predominate attitude of gratitude backed up with true expressions of appreciation.

Do you know someone who never has a bad word to say about anyone or anything? Someone who just naturally sees the silver lining, even around the darkest cloud? How do you feel when you are in the company of that person? Don’t you feel refreshed and positive?

What about the other end of the spectrum? Do you know someone who always needs to point out the negative aspect of every situation? How does that make you feel? Nobody feels empowered around someone like that, especially since negative attitudes can infect those who are exposed to them regularly.

When trying to cultivate a greater sense of gratitude in your life, you should seek out those whose dominant tendency is positive and upbuilding. It’s also a good idea to avoid spending too much time with those who like to dwell on the negative. Choosing your associates wisely can really help us to cultivate a much greater degree of gratitude and appreciation.

It can be very difficult to resist adopting a negative viewpoint when you are surrounded by it. To maintain a more grateful and appreciative perspective, we need to break away from the mentality of the masses and learn to think for ourselves. We need to make a conscious effort to filter the information we are exposed to. That means we need to find ways of limiting our exposure to negative input. We also need to be willing to take action to actively move away from sources that influence us in a negative way.

See the big picture. When you find yourself in a difficult situation, look for the beneficial aspects created by that situation. Ask yourself: “What have I learned here that will benefit me in the future? When I look back on this experience a year from now, what will I be grateful for?”

Finding something to be grateful for every day is life changing, even when that gratitude is for something that was difficult to endure. Over time my slant on being alive and my perspective of other people has shifted to be far more positive that it ever used to be. My chosen emphasis on gratitude has been life changing and brought a new way of seeing everything.

I truly believe we can either see the connections,
celebrate them, and express gratitude for our blessings,
or we can see life as a string of coincidences
that have no meaning or connection.
For me, I’m going to believe in miracles,
celebrate life, rejoice in the views of eternity
and hope my choices will create a positive ripple effect
in the lives of others. This is my choice.
Mike Erickwen