Dandelion Growing Out of a Crack

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Suddenly I realized that I wanted everything to be as it was when I was younger. When you’re young enough, you don’t know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the sidewalk outside your front door is a garden. You could believe that a song your parent was singing in the evening was the most tragic opera in the world. It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer you. Lullabies for Little Criminals Heather O’Neill

When I tell people I was ten years-old before I lived in a house with an indoor toilet most don’t believe me, at least not at first. I cared little about that fact before adolescence when I began not sharing it. That was a long time ago and I have come to know that experience was one of many which taught me great gratitude for things as simple as a bathroom. Doing without makes one appreciate what they have a lot more.

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

A Simple Life

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When I slow down and pay attention it is easy to be positively overwhelmed by the richness of my life; by how much I am loved; by how much of the good I have been afforded. Today with misty eyes, once again, I say “thank you” to the universe. I am grateful beyond expression.

Meaning is not something you stumble across,
like an answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt.
Meaning is something you build into your life.
You build it out of your own past, out of the affections
and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind
as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent
and understanding, out of the things you believe in,
out of the things and people you love,
out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something.
The ingredients are there.
You are the only one who can put them together
into that unique pattern that will be your life.
Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you.
If it does, then the particular balance
of success or failure is of less account.
John Gardner (Beth Jordan)

The Only Life You Could Save

One of the type phrases I have worked diligently to eliminate are statements like “she made me angry…”, “he made me feel bad…”, “they caused me to feel self-conscious.” and any other assertion that pushed the majority of my mood or state of mind off on someone else.  Certainly what others do, affects me.  Being long shy of perfection, the actions and words of others do get to me, but far from how the once did.

If I could soak up only the good effects that come from praise, positive acknowledgement or expressions of caring and love, that would be wonderful.  I am glad to be “made” by others to feel such things and choose to be effected by them.  However, the tendency is to reflect away the pleasant to some degree and soak up the negative to a point beyond what was said or done.  It is a human condition that dates back to living in the wild when acute awareness of what was bad, wrong or dangerous kept one alive.  That sensing ability is not without benefit today, but I would be better if about 90% of that sense left me.

I know the effect on me of another’s actions or words is in vast majority my choice.  No one makes me feel ANYTHING unless I give my permission.  No longer does that old dodge for my feelings and reactions work well for me.  Once the truth is known, it is quite difficult to delude one’s self any more.

“THE JOURNEY” by American poet Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only that you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

These days I am focused on saving and shaping the one life I have control over: MINE!  In the doing of it there has been a discovery I actually can change others indirectly.  As time passes others notice my genuine growth and peace of mind and end up wanting some of what I have.  It is a path I can instruct others about.  The best I can do is illustrate what I have learned through my actions and thereby teach by example.

Once upon a time “I walked mostly in the dark of ignorance”, but now make my way largely “in the light of knowledge” learned the hard way (at least the majority of the time!).  To be grateful for the person I am today, gratitude must be genuine for every trial and problem faced.  Those challenges, especially the ones I could not imagine how I was going to live through initially have brought my most profound teachings.

Don’t settle for comfort.
Don’t ignore the emptiness.
Seek love.
KatieP – http://head-heart-health.com/

First posted on March 26, 2012

8 Easy Steps

happy

Excerps from a deeply touching Huffington Post article published a few weeks ago, “How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps” by Kate Bartolotta

Setting aside our first-world problems and pettiness, if you are online reading this, you have both electricity and WiFi or access to them. Odds are you are in a shelter of some sort, or on a smart phone (and then kudos to you for reading this on the go). Life might bump and bruise us, it may not always go the way we plan and I know I get frustrated with mine, but here’s the thing: You are alive. Because you are alive, everything is possible…

1. Stop believing your b#llsh!t. All that stuff you tell yourself about how you are a commitment phobe or a coward or lazy or not creative or unlucky? Stop it. It’s b#llsh!t, and deep down you know it. We are all insecure 14 year olds at heart. We’re all scared. Let it go. Be who you are beneath the b#llsh!t.

2. Be happy now. Not because The Secret says so. Not because of some shiny happy Oprah crap. But because we can choose to appreciate what is in our lives instead of being angry or regretful about what we lack. It’s a small, significant shift in perspective. We can choose to let the beautiful parts set the tone.

3. Look at the stars. It won’t fix the economy. It won’t stop wars. It won’t give you flat abs, or better sex or even help you figure out your relationship and what you want to do with your life. But it’s important. It helps you remember that you and your problems are both infinitesimally small and conversely, that you are a piece of an amazing and vast universe. …it helps.

4. Let people in. Truly. Tell people that you trust when you need help, or you’re depressed — or you’re happy and you want to share it with them. Acknowledge that you care about them and let yourself feel it. Instead of doing that other thing we sometimes do, which is to play it cool and pretend we only care as much as the other person has admitted to caring, and only open up half way. Go all in — it’s worth it.

5. Stop with the crazy making. Life is full of obstacles; we don’t need to create extra ones. Don’t take things personally. Most of the time, other people’s choices and attitudes have absolutely nothing to do with you. Unless you’ve been behaving like a jerk, in which case…

6. Learn to apologize. Not the ridiculous, self-deprecating apologizing for who you are and for existing that some people seem to do… The ability to sincerely apologize — without ever interjecting the word “but” — is an essential skill for living around other human beings.

7. Practice gratitude. Practice it out loud to the people around you. Practice it silently when you bless your food. Practice it often. Gratitude is not a first world only virtue. Gratitude is what makes what we have enough. Gratitude is the most basic way to connect with that sense of being an integral part of the vastness of the universe…

8. Be kind. Kindness costs us nothing and pays exponential dividends. I can’t save the whole world. I can’t bring peace to Syria. If the biggest thing we do in life is to extend love and kindness to even one other human being, we have changed the world for the better. Full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-bartolotta/happiness-tips_b_3956114.html

Nuff said…. thanks Kate!

The happiest people seem to be
those who have no particular cause
for being happy except that they are so.
William Ralph Inge

Love Is…

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This morning I sat in my chair in front of the computer thinking about what to include here today. A number of ideas came to me, yet none were ones I felt like delving into. Consequently I went searching in my “idea file” where I save things as I think of them or come across an item.

I settled on a poem by Susan Polis Schultz. After reading it through slowly I was reminded why I had saved it in the first place. Within her words there is wisdom to be had and direction for a good life to be found. I hope you find it as meaningful as I do.

Love is
being happy for the other person
when they are happy
being sad for the person
when they are sad
being together in good times
and being together in bad times
Love is the source of strength.

Love is
being honest with yourself at all times
being honest with the other person at all times
telling, listening, respecting the truth
and never pretending
Love is the source of reality.

Love is
an understanding so complete that
you feel as if you are a part
of the other person
accepting the other person
just the way they are
and not trying to change them
to be something else
Love is the source of unity.

Love is
the freedom to pursue your own desires
while sharing your experiences
with the other person
the growth of one individual alongside of
and together with the growth
of another individual
Love is the source of success.

Love is
the excitement of planning things together
the excitement of doing things together
Love is the source of the future.

Love is
the fury of the storm
the calm in the rainbow
Love is the source of passion.

Love is
giving and taking in a daily situation
being patient with each other’s
needs and desires
Love is the source of sharing.

Love is
knowing that the other person
will always be with you
regardless of what happens
missing the other person when they are away
but remaining near in heart at all times
Love is the source of security.

Love is
The
Source
Of
Life

Today

Ms Schultz is a documentary film producer and director and an American poet. She was associated with the start up of bluemountain.com, one of the very first on-line greeting card sites (now owned by American Greeting). She is also the mother of U.S. Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado.

Today my gratitude overflows for beautiful arrangements of words like that of Ms. Schultz. While a love of poetry and an appreciation of language well used are in decline today, that is not the case with me. Just as flowers brighten a room or art can give meaningful depth to a wall, good poems and eloquent sayings are meaningful embellishments of my mind. It is the knowing of such beauty that serves as a balance for all the less appealing portions of what I know.

Painting is poetry
that is seen
rather than felt,
and poetry is painting
that is felt rather than seen.
Leonardo da Vinci

First posted here on September 27, 2011

A Little Positive Trail Behind Me

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The innocence of a child can be especially touching. For me that’s true partly because some of my innocence was stolen as a kid and partially because living has softened me over time. While the story below is just that, a “story”, it illustrates how naively wise children can be.

A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived. So he packed a backpack with Twinkies and six-pack of pop, then started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man with a flowing beard, sitting on a bench in the park just staring at some pigeons.

The boy sat down next to him and opened his bag. He noticed that the old man looked hungry. So he offered him a Twinkie. The old man gratefully accepted it and smiled at the boy.

His smile was so pleasant that the boy wanted to see it again. So he offered him a can of pop. The old man smiled again. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling but never said a word.

As it started growing dark, the boy realized how tired he was and got up to leave. But before he had gone few steps, he turned around and gave the old man a hug. The old fellow gave the boy a big bright smile.

A short while later when the boy opened the door of his house his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that make you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God”. But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know, He’s got the most beautiful smile I have ever seen”.

Meanwhile, the old man, radiant with joy, returned home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and asked, “Dad, what did you do today that makes you so happy?”

He replied, “I ate Twinkies in the park with God”. And before his son could respond, he added, “He is so much younger than I expected”.

As the holidays approach I am grateful for a polishing of the sensitivity of my heart that parable gives me. I hope the refreshed shine makes me a bit more open to the humanity of others and helps me to show mine to them. To leave something of a positive trail behind me is my highest aspiration.

I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but still I can do something;
and because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
Edward Everett Hale

First posted on November 16, 2012

Soldier’s Prayer

My intent it not to honor war or the politics that often fester their eruption.  My purpose here is not to talk of what to do about foreign tyrants or those that carry out evil against their countrymen.  This is not a monologue of what is right and wrong and what should have or should not have been done.  What I put here today, one day after Veteran’s Day is my tribute to the men and women who willingly have gone into the darkness of battle and conflict in the name of country, family and countrymen.      

A Soldier’s Prayer By Joanna Fuchs
Lord, wrap your arms around me
In this hostile, brutal place;
Let me draw peace and comfort
From your restful, sweet embrace.

Help me do my duty
To uphold what is right;
Give me strength and courage
Each day and every night.

Lord, hear this soldier’s prayer
To You in heaven above;
Protect me with your power,
And sustain me with your love.

Often I have thought it was good fortune not to have been drafted to serve in the war of my youth: Vietnam.  My friends and family who went came back mostly whole, but for so many that was not true.  Well aware I am of how the men and women who were called to go there never received the credit, honor or respect due them.  I was against that war, but never against those who served.  Any time I see a Vet wearing something that indicates he/she served in ‘Nam I always thank them for their service.  To a person each and every one has been grateful.  Every single one!  Far too little appreciation has been given to those people.

Taken from “Welcome Home and I Love You!” by Eileen Breedlove  
When you pass by a Vet
that made it home,
or hear of a brother
that is lost in Nam.

Open your hearts
and show them respect.
They gave of themselves
and they did their best.
WELCOME HOME!

Taken from “In Your Honor” by Anonymous
Unselfishly, you left your fathers and your mothers.
You left behind your sisters and your brothers.
Leaving your beloved children and wives,
You put on hold, your dreams, your lives.

On foreign soil, you found yourself planted
To fight for those whose freedom you granted.

Without your sacrifice, their cause would be lost
But you carried onward, no matter the cost.

When it was over, you all came back home
Some were left with memories to face alone.

Those who survived were forever scarred
Emotionally, physically, permanently marred.

With a hand upon my heart, I feel
The pride and respect; my reverence is revealed.
Every day, I give my utmost admiration
To those who fought to defend our nation.

For all U.S. personnel who served in Vietnam or were deployed before or after to fight, protect or advise in places like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Iraq, Panama, Kuwait, Somalia, Serbia, Bosnia, Afghanistan and all the other locales known and the ones we likely will never know:  THANK YOU.  You have my deep respect and gratitude.

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.  
José Narosky

First Posted on November 12, 2011 

Future’s So Bright…

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A time of personal evolution began for me fourteen years ago and the catalyst was a promotion/job transfer.  Left behind was a comfortable position of eleven years and a city known well after eighteen years of living there.  Familiar surroundings and old-friends quickly became something a thousand miles away from where I relocated.  While a son finished out a school year that just began, I lived by myself for eight months in the new city with visits back to my family around every 4 weeks.  Here began real awareness that something was definitely wrong in my life; with me.

The first reaction was to point attention to my childhood, other people and circumstances to explain some of my behavior.  “It was their fault!”  Then came separation, divorce, my son 750 miles away, a new relationship, therapy, a hiatus from affairs, a 2nd marriage, an affair that ended that marriage, five weeks in treatment for depression and compulsions, more therapy, four years spent avoiding love relationships and finally becoming accustomed to being by myself.  A good bit of the cure was overcoming loneliness and learning to be comfortable in my own company, a process that I thought at times was going to kill me.

Frequently I am asked what the “secret” was that allowed me to evolve, grow and change to be the person I am today.  My response is “there’s no secret”.  Trust me, I wish there was a shortcut because I would have taken it long ago.  Getting from there to here focused primarily on four things:

1) Motivation, 2) Doing the work, 3) Support from others 4) Stop worrying about the future.

Motivation:  For a day, week or even a full month here and there I thought was stimulated enough to make changes in my life and behavior.  Given time old habits came back.  Only when EVERY DAY I felt change HAD to happen did my behavior evolve positively in lasting ways.

Do the Work:  Thinking about living life differently is not enough.  Growth takes hard and consistent work; lots of it!  It took reading (tons) about what ailed me to gain understanding.  I had to go to therapy and realize I got as much out of it as I put in. Working a twelve program was very hard, but yielded lasting results.  I had to make amends with those I had wronged, most of all myself.   had to bust my butt and even today that is the recipe for continuing to move forward.

Support of others:  There is no way I could have accomplished my personal growth and recovery without the help of others.  My therapist was a huge help.  The support of a handful of close friends even when they did not understand made a big difference. The support of peers during rehab helped a lot as did assistance an ex-wife gave me then.  Attending help-group meetings at least once a week has been an important part of my work to grow.  Without the support of others, I would not have made it.

Stop worrying about the future: It was necessary to stop being concerned about the future and instead just take life one day at a time.  The attitude I had to adopt was to just get through the present day.  Sometimes I could stay focused only on the current hour or even the present minute. My behavior always happened in the “now” and could only be addressed in the “now”.

I had to learn how to feel happiness and allow myself to know joy.  A good explanation comes From a book I read titled “Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow: 12 Simple Principles” by Karen Casey:  Joy is always available to us, moment by moment. But we must keep our minds open and pay attention. A closed mind or a mind filled with fear or judgment will never know joy.  More here: http://www.dailyom.com/library/000/000/000000583.html

Learning the power of my thinking and coming to know my thoughts intimately, even the bad ones, was another key to getting better.  I could not truly embrace the good if I did not know those thoughts well.  Nor could the “stinking thinking” be changed unless I knew that thinking well.  From the Wisdom of the Mystic Masters by Joseph J. Weed comes:  Each thought at its inception produces an effect.  There is a vibratory wave, a radiation from the center, not unlike the radiation of a radio wave from a broadcasting tower.  The wave moves outward equally in all directions with gradually diminishing intensity, which varies with distance.  It continues to emanate from the mind of the thinker as long as the thought is held but it ceases instantly the thinking changes or stops.

Sitting here finishing this blog today, I am so happy to be where my efforts have taken me.  Getting here has been damn difficult, but worth every discomfort.  I am grateful to my Higher Power, all those who aided my journey to now and those who will help me stay on my path in the future.

The Future’s So Bright,
I Gotta Wear Shades”
Lyric from a Timbuk3 song

Originally Posted on December 29, 2011

I Love You Like….

poem from sisterWritten by a baby sister to her older sibling for a “cupcake” themed baby shower
http://beckylelowery.blogspot.com/2013/09/stevis-little-cupcake-baby-shower.html

My family of origin was a mangled mess of divorce, dysfunction and parental abuse.  Losing contact for many years with most of my family was a method of coping and survival. While I’ve stayed close to one brother, I have three half-sisters that are close to my heart who I have not been in touch with for a long, long time. Finally I concluded the abusers continue to have control as long as we remain apart.

Today after close to two decades I will reconnect with one of my sisters. I am excited beyond words to see her. I am sooooo grateful life is allowing me the chance to reconnect. See you soon sister!

For there is no friend like a sister
in calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
to fetch one if one goes astray,
to lift one if one totters down,
to strengthen whilst one stands.
Christina Rossetti

The Key To A Happy Life

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and showing appreciation. It is a mindful acknowledgment of all that we have been given. When we focus on the abundance in our lives, we discover a greater capacity for generosity, cheerfulness, and contentment.

From “A Poem Of Gratitude” By Chuck Danes

I share my debt of gratitude with all my spiritual friends
Whether Christians, Muslims, Jews, and such or even Buddhist zens
Regardless of the place we live or where your faiths begun
My gratitude begins with this, “I’ve learned that we are One”

I’m grateful for the many days when clarity is strong
As well as those it “seems” that life has somehow led me wrong
For it’s those times that awaken me and nudge me toward the light
Till once again my hopes and dreams are clearly held in sight

I’m grateful for the love within the circles that I dwell
My family, friends and even those who’ve made life seem like hell
For each of those have taught me more regarding how to Love
Provide me feelings to express these things that I write of

I’m grateful too for false beliefs which led me on my quest
For mentors met along the way I truly do feel blessed
Who clearly showed me of the need to understand my worth
And “Higher Truth” which promises a life divine on earth

I’m grateful for the joy I feel, I’m grateful for the fear
Understanding what it is and that it draws me near
To the life I know is waiting on the other side
And when it comes I must hold fast and use it as a guide

I’m grateful for all nature, the birds the grass, the trees
The lakes which hold abundant life, a summer evenings breeze
The clouds above the ground below, the moon, the stars, the sun
The days and nights which represent that another day is done

I’ve learned to stay in gratitude no matter how things seem
That perceptions held as negatives will only slow your dream
So even though my path will lead through troubled spots I know
I must keep on, keep focus fixed, on life’s abundant flow

There’s so much that I’m grateful for, though sometimes I’ll forget
Beliefs rekindled from the past that I perceive as threats
But it’s these times I must remind myself of what I know
That when they show their presence, that they’re here to help me grow

One final thought I’ll share today before I say I’m through
I’m so grateful for these words to give today to all of you
It is my wish that they will help you keep the attitude
Which leads to that which you desire and comes through gratitude
Complete poem: http://www.abundance-and-happiness.com/a-poem-of-gratitude.html

Expressing gratitude is a rewarding habit that affirms the grace of the giver. Gratitude opens our hearts, encourages us to savor each gift that comes our way, and magically frees us from jealously guarding our possessions. It lets us celebrate today rather than waiting for the next level of accomplishment or wealth. It is a reminder that one can always find reason to be glad. open/close from http://www.wisdomcommons.org/virtue/60-gratitude/meditations\

Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands,
because if we are not grateful,
then no matter how much we have we will not be happy
because we will always want to have something else or something more.
Brother David Steindl-Rast

First posted here on October 18, 2012