Any Fool Can Know…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seek Wisdom, Not Knowledge

What was hidden away by three generations of my white ancestors is a strong reason for pride for me: the remnants of Alabama Cherokee in my blood: deluded now, but a strong 1/8th of me.

Native American Ten Commandments

1. Treat the Earth and all that dwell therein with respect.

2. Remain close to the Great Spirit.

3. Show great respect for your fellow beings.

4. Work together for the benefit of all Mankind.

5. Give assistance and kindness wherever needed.

6. Do what you know to be right.

7. Look after the well-being of Mind and Body.

8. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater Good.

9. Be truthful and honest at all times.

10. Take full responsibility for your actions.

My European heritage is tempered with Native American ancestry. The small amount of the latter often keeps the majority of the former in balance. I am grateful.

Seek wisdom, not knowledge.
Knowledge is of the past.
Wisdom is of the future.
Native American saying

How You Play The Game

Being an ambitious and driven person it has been results I’ve focused on most for the majority of my life. I suppose that will never completely change. However in recent years I’ve learned to have a lot of respect for my effort. Being able to accurately see when I have “done my best” has become a healthy benchmark and a boost to my self-esteem. It took a lot of failures to discover giving something all I had to give was ultimately what matters most.

Was my effort toward what I was trying to accomplish the best I had to give at the time? Being able to ask that question and truthfully answer it has been a sizeable alteration of my vantage point. Now I know doing my absolute best puts me in a place where I own no one, especially myself, an apology or excuse.  My best is ALWAYS enough.  Giving all I have to something is an accomplishment within itself.

There is a positive bent to realizing all is not lost if I don’t win the battle. What matters is having the strength to try with all I know to do, to fight for my objective and face the possibility of falling short; of being defeated. If all I do is put a gold star by my name each time I master something or fully accomplish it, so much due credit will be lacking. Some of my greatest and most elegant struggles were for things I never completed or fully accomplished. Giving myself praise for effort lights my self-esteem up and recognizes I am what I do, not just what I accomplish.

My brain used to be like Velcro only for my full and rare successes.  I made them stick so I could wallow in them as long as I could.  My thoughts were like Teflon for what I failed doing or succeeding at.  I refused to let falling short stick to me and wanted to forget as fast as I possibly could.   

Of course I still like completely realizing an objective but the fact of its accomplishment has the most joy when I don’t dwell on it. When I stopped hiding my failures, things got better.  Being pleased with “me” all the times I did my very best, but fell short or did not complete what I had started gave me a lot more to be proud of. It turned out how I kept score internally matters a lot!  A corny, but true saying describes well what I have come to know first hand:  “It’s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game!”

So here I am today readily able to give myself full credit for a lot of time and effort diligently put into a failure. It’s the struggle that matters; the amount of heart and soul I put into my effort that has become an improved self-judgment yardstick. And I am far better for it and grateful for the perspective that allows me to see things that way.

There are defeats more triumphant than victories.
Michel de Montaigne

Most Easily Understood

What often passes as general consensus is that the most meaningful thoughts of wisdom usually are filled with a good quantity of words, flowery expression and clever use of language. However, there are times a thought becomes striking in its simplicity, as I believe the four sayings below exemplify.

What’s done is done.
William Shakespeare

Turn your wounds into wisdom.
Oprah Winfrey

The best mind-altering drug is truth.
Lily Tomlin

My gratitude is sizeable for those who have the ability to boil down what they are saying into a small kernel of few words that are easily understood. Without the weight of layers and layers of vocabulary one’s intent is most easily understood.

The best things in life aren’t things.
Art Buchwald

The World At My Fingertips

One third of the year 2012 is already over! Today is May 1st or the 122nd day of the year. There are 244 days remaining until the year is over.

Flowers are blooming, gardens are underway while the trees and grass have adopted their summer green.  Birds have built their nests and mother birds are sitting on the eggs.  Some have already hatched and others will soon. 

It’s a work day in the United States, but for the majority of the world, today is a holiday.  In many countries today is “May Day”, one of the most observed national holidays on the planet. 

Many believe the month of May was named after Maia, who was both a Greek and  Roman goddess.  Her name related to a Latin word that means increase or growth and in both cultures Maia was considered a nurturer of life.

There an old English superstition that calls  for young girls to rush out into the garden first thing in the morning on May 1st.  In an old tale first day in May dew has magic properties and anyone who washed their face with it would have a clear complexion all year. 

What’s above illustrates how in just a few minutes one can peruse the Internet for an almost endless collection of facts on any subject.  The ‘Net” has been a game changer in my everyday life.  I am grateful for this world at the beck and call of my fingertips.  

A little seed, for me to sow…
A little earth to make it grow…
A little hole, a little pat,
A little wish, and that is that.
A little sun, a little shower…
A little while, and then a flower!
“A Little Seed” nursery rhyme by Mabel Watts

Around In Circles

Tomorrow marks 366 days, one full year, of writing Good Morning Gratitude.  Somehow a “leap year” seems appropriate as I ‘leaped’ into this lead only by spiritual guidance beyond my understanding.   I have learned a great deal from this true learning experience.

1 – Doing something daily becomes much easier when done frequently enough to become part of my routine.

2 – There are measures of discipline within I previously never before gave myself credit for.  I feel more able and capable than I have in years (maybe ever!).

3 – Permanently altering my routine is a good way to change any of my habits.  Getting up earlier to write for ninety minutes each day came easy (most days) once I got into the swing of it.  Now I have more time each day that ever before ‘to do stuff’ I want to do.

4 – Gratitude is cumulative.  The more I am thankful the more that comes to be thankful for.  This new attitude of gratitude sweetens every breath I take, even the most difficult!

5 – My writing has improved. Doing something every week for ten hours or more does improve one’s skills (next self-chosen challenge is to get into better shape).

6 – Apparently I have things to say that resonate with others.  I know this before and that knowledge comes now only by knowing thousands read  I am deeply thankful for the encouragement each reader has given me.

7 – Telling my secrets has brought people closer to me and has moved me to feel closer to them.  My truths, even the ugly parts, have not driven away people as I feared telling such things might.

8 – Letting the world know of my unfiltered my experiences, mistakes, successes, failures, trials, heartbreaks and tribulations has given me strength beyond what I can explain.  By venting the darkness I see more clearly in the light.

9 – What I think most about is what I get more of.  Focusing on what to write about brought much to me that is healthful ranging from making peace with old heartaches to growing my ability to open my heart.

10 – The Internet is filled with what can bring light and inspiration or ugliness and darkness to a person’s life.  It is a matter of choice.

11 – A lot of people are reading more now than in a long, long time.  The paradigm shift is they are doing much of their reading on-screen.

12 – The love and support of friends makes a HUGE difference when taking on a big task.  Without it I am certain I would not have made my one year goal of writing here every day. Thank you all.

13 – I learned first hand a lesson about growth that Alice discussed with the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

Alice: Where I come from, people study what they are not good at in order to be able to do what they are good at.

Mad Hatter: We only go around in circles in Wonderland, but we always end up where we started. Would you mind explaining yourself?

Alice: Well, grown-ups tell us to find out what we did wrong, and never do it again.

Mad Hatter: That’s odd! It seems to me that in order to find out about something, you have to study it. And when you study it, you should become better at it. Why should you want to become better at something and then never do it again? But please continue.

Alice: Nobody ever tells us to study the right things we do. We’re only supposed to learn from the wrong things. But we are permitted to study the right things other people do. And sometimes we’re even told to copy them.

Mad Hatter: That’s cheating!

Alice: You’re quite right, Mr. Hatter. I do live in a topsy-turvy world. It seems like I have to do something wrong first, in order to learn from what not to do. And then, by not doing what I’m not supposed to do, perhaps I’ll be right…

I am DEEPLY grateful for all the benefits doing this work as brought me.

Achievement is largely the product
of steadily raising one’s levels of aspiration and expectation.
Jack Nicklaus

Beyond My Ability

In only seven days I will have accomplished what seemed like an impossible goal when beginning. On Monday, April 25, 2011, I wrote the first daily installment of “Good Morning Gratitude”. Through vacations, sickness, business travels and days of all sorts I have somehow been faithful in focusing on a source of gratefulness each day then sharing it here.

There was inspiration far beyond just my singular existence that moved me to action. I have NEVER been this dedicated to anything, EVER!  Quite simply upon waking on that Saturday morning near a year ago I knew was supposed to write a blog each day about gratefulness. That was quite interesting as I had never written a blog or even read someone’s on a regular basis. That weekend almost a year ago was largely spent learning how to blog, setting one up, finding an available domain name and things of that sort. Now here I am, but only because something bigger than me planted my feet on this path and has supported my efforts all the way (especially when I was tired and wanted to take a ‘day off’!).

“You Are Blessed”

If you woke up this morning
with more health than illness,
you are more blessed than the
million who won’t survive the week.

If you have never experienced
the danger of battle,
the loneliness of imprisonment,
the agony of torture or
the pangs of starvation,
you are ahead of 20 million people
around the world.

If you attend a church meeting
without fear of harassment,
arrest, torture, or death,
you are more blessed than almost
three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator,
clothes on your back, a roof over
your head and a place to sleep,
you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank,
in your wallet, and spare change
in a dish someplace, you are among
the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you hold up your head with a smile
on your face and are truly thankful,
you are blessed because the majority can,
but most do not.

If you can read this message,
you are more blessed than over
two billion people in the world
that cannot read anything at all.

You are so blessed in ways
you may never even know.

Due to having religion shoved on me in an abusive childhood, “church” has never been a comfortable place for me. Praying to “God” as a kid for the bad stuff to end brought no relief. So He/She/It and I were never good ‘friends’. Life experience has brought change, growth and wisdom which in turn has brought me to believe there is a power beyond the bounds of this Earth. It is best for me to not try to quantify or to put what I feel into any particular definition as logic tries to disprove my feelings. Instead, I just accept that my “Higher Power” IS.

 In so many ways as in the poem here and beyond, I am blessed. For the divine inspiration to write here daily and for the tens of thousands of times someone has stopped by to read my thoughts, I am humbly grateful beyond my ability to express those feelings.  I never dreamed in my wildest imagination what has happened could have come to pass.

I am no longer a part of the majority of the blessed that can, but mostly do not express gratitude.  With emotions strong while typing though misty eyes I can truthfully say sharing my gratefulness with the world each day here has profoundly and permanently changed me.

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues,
but the parent of all the others.

One of the Few Havens

A good friend who knows books are prized possessions asked, “if you could only keep a few in your collection what would you pick?” This morning I spent about fifteen minutes looking from shelf to shelf in my library contemplating which of these “friends” I most prize. Here’s what’s in the stack on my desk I selected:

1 – “The Family Mark Twain”. Most all of Twain’s work in one volume. Sam Clemens had a style that speaks to me in a way no on else does. His sense of humor, adventure and speaking of the truth even when it was not popular moves my soul.

2 – “The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran”. Again I am cheating just a little for a number of Gibran’s books are contained in this one big volume. He had a special way of writing that touches the fiber of my being with their emotional truth. It moves my heart.

3 – “Why Your Life Sucks..” by Alan H. Cohen. There is no modern-living handbook that lays out how to achieve some measure of contentment and happiness so practically. His advice can be life changing. It was for me! I re-read this book around every two years.

4 – “Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman PhD. Through the knowledge in this book I came to know that Optimism or Pessimism is a learned/chosen way of being ingrained by behavior and manner of thinking. One can change/grow, it just takes time.

5 – “Man’s Search For Meaning” Viktor Frankl. From a man who survived the Nazi death camps with his sanity I learned first hand that the quality of one’s life is not so much about what happens, but how we each allow what happens to effect us.

6 – “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau. If I could keep two or three books this one would be among them. Thoreau wrote in a way that speaks authoritatively from first hand knowledge how his by-the-lake experiment showed how little a man actually needs.

7 – “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. What I needed showed up at the exact right moment. When I was truly ready to begin to learn a path to a better life, this book came to me through a friend. The past is a delusion; the future a delusion. There is only ‘now’.

8 – “Awakening the Buddha Within” by Lama Surya Das. This book and Tolle’s “Now” came into my life at almost the same time. Each compliments the other. It was here I discovered the enlightening ‘Eightfold Noble Path” I imperfectly do my best to live by.

9 – “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsch. Traditional Christianity calls this book heresy, but I find it to contain a great deal practical advice about views of life and God. Fact or fiction, the contents set my mind at ease more so than ever before.

10.- “Additional Poems to the Golden Treasury”. Published in 1931, a copy of this little red book came to me over 30 years ago. More than any other factor it strengthened a still continuing love of poetry. My thanks to a one-time mother-in-law for giving it to me.

11 – “Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett 1845-1846”. No greater love story has ever been. My first-edition copy of this two-volume set only came into my life about six years ago. Through reading them the hapless romantic was kept alive within.

12 – “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” by John Wood. All I have to do is look at this book to be reminded one person can make a huge difference if prepared to do what is necessary to accomplish a meaningful goal. It removes doubt about the power of one.

13 – “Growing Yourself Back Up” by John Lee. Another of the books I re-read every year or two. Small, simple and easy to read it’s been a big help in reconnecting me with my inner child. Finding out about another’s path to healing helped to heal me.

There are more and as I wrote down this list here I thought of at least a half-dozen other book with deep personal meaning. However, I have resisted the urge to lengthen the list past my initial selections. All total I paid no more than a few hundred dollars for the entire stack of thirteen, but their continuing value to me is near priceless.

To the writers I am thankful for the help each gave to me. To an even greater degree I am grateful to whatever divine force that brought book and author into my life at a time I could appreciate and learn from each one.

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.
Edward P. Morgan

A Master of Love

Once upon a time, a Master was talking to a crowd of people, and his message was so wonderful that everyone felt touched by his words of love. In the crowd there was a man who had listened to every word the Master said. This man was very humble, and he had a great heart. He was so touched by the Master’s words that he felt the need to invite the master to his home.

When the Master finished speaking, the man looked into the eyes of the Master and told him, “I know you are busy and everyone wants your attention. But my heart is so open and I feel so much love for you that I have the need to invite you to my home. I want to prepare the best meal for you. I don’t expect you will accept, but I just had to let you know.”

The Master looked into the man’s eyes, and with the most beautiful smile he said, “Prepare everything. I will be there.” Then the Master walked away.

At these words, the joy in the man’s heart was strong. He could hardly wait to serve the master and to express his love for him. This would be the most important day of his life: He bought the best food and wine, and found the most beautiful clothes to offer as a gift to the master. Then he ran home to prepare everything to receive the Master, He cleaned his entire house, prepared the most wonderful meal, and made the table look beautiful. His heart was full of joy because the Master would soon be there.

The man was waiting anxiously when someone knocked at the door. Eagerly, he opened the door, but instead of the master, he found an old woman. She looked into his eyes and said, “I am starving. Can you give me a piece of bread?”

The man was a little disappointed because it was not the Master. He looked at he woman and said, “Please, come into my house.” He sat her in the place he had prepared for the Master, and gave her the food he had made for the Master. But he was anxious and could hardly wait for her to finish eating. The old woman was touched the generosity of this man. She thanked him and left.

The man had barely finished preparing the table for the master again when someone knocked at the door. This time it was another stranger who had traveled across the desert. The stranger looked into the man’s face and said, “I am thirsty. Can you give me something to drink?”

The man was a little disappointed again because it was not the Master. He invited the stranger into his home, and sat him in the place he had prepared for the master. He served the wine he had intended to give the Master. When the stranger left, the man again prepared everything for the master.

Someone knocked at the door again. When the man opened the door, there stood a child. The child looked up at the man and said, “I am freezing. Can you give me a blanket to cover my body?”

The man was a little disappointed because it was not the Master, but he looked into the eyes of the child felt love in his heart. Quickly he gathered the clothes he had intended to give the Master, and he covered the child with the clothes. The child thanked him and left.

The man prepared everything again for the master, and then he waited until it was very late. When he realized the master was not coming, he was disappointed, but right away he forgave the Master. He said to himself, “I knew I could not expect the Master to come to this humble home. Although he said he would come, something more important must have taken him elsewhere. The master did not come, but at least he told me he would, and this is enough for my heart to be happy.”

Slowly he put the food away, he put the wine away, and he went to bed. That night he dreamed the Master came to his home. The man was happy to see him, but he didn’t know that he was dreaming. “Master you came! You kept your word.”

The Master replied, “Yes, I am here, but I was here before. I was hungry, and you fulfilled my need for food. I was thirsty, and you gave me the wine. I was cold, and you covered me with clothes. Whenever you do for others, you do for me.”

The man woke up, and his heart was filled with happiness, because he understood what the master had taught him. The Master loved him so much that he had sent three people to give him the greatest lesson: The Master lives within everyone.

Perhaps you have never thought about it, but on one level or another, all of us are masters. We are masters because we have the power to create and to rule our own lives.
You have the same power as any other human in the world. The main difference between you and someone else is how you apply your power, what you create with your power. Be a master of love!

For the small measure of enlightenment I have achieved there is deep gratitude to the many people and dozens of books that have helped light my way (such as “The Mastery of Love” written by Ruiz where the story above comes from).  To those whose thoughts, words and personal assistance pick me up at the darkest hours and help me carry my burdens, I will always be humbly and profoundly grateful.

A Prayer for the day: Today is a new beginning. Help us to start our life over beginning today with the power of self-love. Help us to enjoy our life, to enjoy our relationships, to explore life, to take risks, to be alive, and to no longer live in fear of love. Let us open our heart to the love that is our birthright. Help us to become Masters of Gratitude, Generosity, and Love so that we can enjoy all of your creations forever and ever. Amen.

Above story and prayer by Don Miguel Ruiz from his book “The Mastery of Love”.
You can read the entire short book by Ruiz for free here LINK

Think Low and Think High

All my adult life I have bumped into conclusions made logically by scientists and researchers that say a person’s creativity peaks when they are young. There is no real consensus on how young this happens. Hypotheses vary from those who say eighteen months to others asserting peak creativity happens around twelve just before puberty.

The theories are that creativity is at its highest level when young while we “don’t know better” and have not been conditioned by reason and conformity. This way of thinking says in order to coexist with other people we learn to follow the rules and adhere to certain values (which are usually more about what you can’t do that what you can).  The result is creativity has to be placed into a straight-jacketed so we can follow what has already been instead of reinventing our worlds every day like a child does. Growing up we are taught to be polite and nice to people, to fit in, to adhere to what is “normal” (whatever that is!) and not scare others with our creative thoughts.

At least to a degree schools are conformity camps that, in varying degrees, attempt to drill what is conventional and customary into kids. While learning about life skills like readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic we also get smart-stepped into doing mostly what others do and have done. Generally we are taught there is one acceptable, true way of thinking and there is most often only one right answer for a problem (the one the teacher believes). Largely we end up being awarded for writing well, following instructions and regurgitating facts, figures and formulas and NOT for creative and lateral thinking. We are taught to rarely, if ever, question the wisdom and supreme knowledge of teachers and professors.

Research has now begun to show in adulthood we usually do lose a great deal of our creativity but it is more by choice than the cognitive fading that comes with age. The number one culprit falls under the heading of ‘use it or lose it’; we simply stop trying to be creative. We begin to do things one way, we get comfortable, don’t change and settle into easy to follow and relatively mindless ruts.

Habits are not the only things that hide away our creativity.  Falling into the ‘expert trap’ obscures it too. ‘Experts’ usually spend more time defending their “hill” than questioning it or developing other approaches. It is easy to become “all-knowing” on a subject and fall into the habit of allowing knowledge make one feel obliged to it.

Eureka! Before all my middle-aged friends begin to wring their hands in “lack of creativity anguish” I want to turn what I have written so far upside down and include material from an article in Psychology Today By Shelly Carson, PhD called “Creativity and the Aging Brain”. She wrote: In a recent study… the University of Toronto found that older participants were… more distractible than their younger counterparts. However, members of this older, distractible group were also better able to use the distracting information to solve problems presented later in the study.

Dr. Carson goes on to tell about other studies on aging and cognition that suggest an aging brain is marked by a broadening focus of attention. She says this lines up with numerous other studies that suggest that a broadly focused state of attention is a trait found in almost all highly creative people. The data suggest widened attention allows one to separate and distinguish quickly all sorts of varying information. Combining remote bits of information is the hallmark of the creative idea, Dr. Carson writes.

Still other credible research shows that the parts of the brain concerning self-consciousness and emotions are thinner in the aging brain which lines up with a diminished need to please and impress others. Dr. Carson calls this, a notable characteristic of both aging individuals and creative luminaries. She goes on to say, both older individuals and creative types are more willing to speak their minds and disregard social expectations than are their younger, more conventional counterparts.

In pondering the subject of creativity and reading about it, my conclusion is older people have a storehouse of knowledge gained from living, learning and experience. Taking bits of that knowledge and seeing them in new and original ways is what a creative brain does. The only barrier to being an older creative type is simply habits and ruts.

Highly fertile ground for deeply creative activity exists in my aging brain. To have more creativity all I need to do is throw off old ways of thinking and allow new ones to come in. That thought will send me out into the world today with a happily altered view and a grateful (and hopefully more creative) mind!

Think left and think right
and think low and think high.
Oh, the thinks you can think up
if only you try!
Dr. Seuss