Posted on | December 16, 2014 | No CommentsNo matter what goes on in the world, no matter if you're doing fine or on top of the world, someone, somewhere wants to bring you down and make you depressed. This seems to be human nature, at least for many people. Find the gloom and stick there. Once we realize that it's simply a bad habit a whole lot of people have, like smoking or poor self esteem, we can choose not to let it get to us. We can also choose not to do it to others.
Posted on | November 17, 2014 | No CommentsI’ve been having a good sort out at home. Things are getting pitched out, donated, or given away. This is good. Today I found myself looking through old photos and uncovered a stash of negatives in their neat plastic sleeves. Trips made long ago to far off places swam into my view. I agonized for a while. Should I keep them? Who reprints from negatives these days, anyway? And what would I do with yet more pictures? How could I tell if they’d be any good? Perhaps they’d faded…. And as I sat there trying to make up my mind I knew, viscerally, that I did not need them. I did not need this stuff from the past. I have memories, and those will do nicely, thank you. I do not need to go back in time and obsess about which bits of the past need saving. That was when I realized that I’d truly thrown away a whole load of “negatives”.
Posted on | November 15, 2014 | No CommentsThese past few days I’ve had the deep pleasure of being the almost full-time companion of my little grand-daughter, 21 months. Everyone agrees that she’s a delightful child (and I would certainly not argue with that) and I’ve been privileged to be part of her joy as she discovers new things about Nature, toddling in the garden, picking up pine cones and talking to the squirrels. We’ve read her favorite books together, we’ve had meals in which she’s discovered that she really likes some things and really dislikes others (onions didn’t float her boat). And at the end of each day, when she conks out at about 8pm, I find I’m ready to conk out too. How her mother manages to look after her and run a full-time tutoring agency, and be the loving and devoted parent she is – well, it astonishes me. I have a renewed respect for all the hard-working moms out there. A deep respect.
Posted on | November 12, 2014 | No CommentsThe house I’m now living in was a curious item when I first got here. There was a huge steel safe in a closet. Then there was a keypad on another room, with an electronic code to let one in to just that one room. And that was in addition to the whole house security keypad in another room, with the corresponding slab sized electronic security gizmo in the hall closet, the one which linked to the motion detectors and various alarms. Yet the back door was protected by only the flimsiest of old style door locks, which was broken. Looking out of my windows I can see my neighbor leaves his computer on his open front porch, at all times. My other neighbor has his speedy bicycle on his porch. All unprotected. My neighbor two doors up has a security device of a small, friendly dog, called Sidney, who occasionally yaps at the blue jays. Security does not come from locks and keys. It comes from within.
Posted on | October 20, 2014 | No CommentsSometimes old habits - and old thoughts - can be hard to escape from. Visualize them as a cat you don't really want to know that keeps scratching at your door, begging to be let in. It seems so pathetic, so pitiful, that we sometimes give in and allow it to take up residence in our life. We think we can ask it to leave, but really, each day it stays it gets a little harder to evict. It chews the furniture, our shoes, and yowls in the middle of the night. It upsets the other cats, who were quite contented until now. So think of it this way: this cat is not happy with you. It really doesn't want to destroy your house. It just does it because it's feeling bad about itself. That's the time to let it go and find another owner. And you know what? Since it's a cat, it will do just that. Oh, it'll hang around for a while and try and make us feel guilty, but we'll have to be firm. In the end it'll be better for us both. Our old habits and patterns are, sometimes, just like cats.
Posted on | October 13, 2014 | No CommentsSometimes we find ourselves waiting... just waiting for something we think is going to change. We imagine that it will be a big change, a change for the better, an astonishing breakthrough, a flash of something enlightening. What is far more likely is that we'll wait and we'll find that what we longed for - out there on the world - turns out to be a disappointment. Our team didn't win; our number didn't come up; the stroke of luck we anticipated requires us to put in far more work than we'd imagined. That sort of thing. At such times we are faced with a gentle reminder. What's "out there" is not going to miraculously change our lives. Only what's in your soul, what's "in here" will ever do that. There's only one lesson: Listen to your heart, and then act. You have to save your own life.
Posted on | September 7, 2014 | No CommentsSometimes we are faced with difficult situations. Should I say what I truly think, or should I pretend everything is just fine and let the situation slide? The “nice” way is to let the slide happen. But what if allowing the slide means that more unpleasant things follow on? What if people get hurt? Should the foreman of a factory just be nice to the inefficient worker – even if the defective parts produced threaten innocent consumers? Obviously not. Yet shouldn’t that worker also be entitled to respect….? This is exactly the situation faced by Arjuna in one of the most sacred of texts of India, the Baghavad Gita. He faces a battle, and then realizes those are his relatives in the opposing rank. What should he do? He agonizes, but eventually decides that he must do his duty to what he sees as right. He must fight. What can we conclude from this? Compassion is good, but too much passive compassion steps over the line to cowardice. A colleague of mine calls this “idiot compassion”, and it is not real compassion at all. It’s an easy way out, one that brings worse things afterwards. Gandhi’s doctrine of non-violence did not mean that people failed to protest what they saw as wrong. Instead, they faced a violent situation without offering violence – even though they were brutally treated. Do we have the courage to do that? Without courage compassion cannot truly exist.
Posted on | August 16, 2014 | 3 CommentsI realize I've not posted here for some time, and there's a reason. Life is busy, and joyous and active -- and sometimes those small delights of life seem almost impossible to "share". But they are real, even so. For instance, there's the delight I feel in greeting 18 month old Zoe at the front door, when she smiles her wonderful smile that says, "I just made it up all this steps, almost on my own!" At such moments I'm too busy giving her a hug to whip out the iPhone. I'm too engaged in the moment to record it, and I'm feeling my joy too much to be able to put anything on hold and note it down. "Catch joy flying" William Blake advised. That's what I've been doing, I guess.....
Posted on | July 30, 2014 | 2 CommentsThat's a term I see a fair amount these days. The way it's used is that this is something one has to do before one dies -- before one "kicks the bucket". Yet there's a sense also that this is a statement says : "I won't have truly lived unless I have a list of things I completed". The suggestion is that life is a series of events that have to be ticked off a list because without that it would not be meaningful. Go to Vietnam, check. Did that. Go to China, check. Did that. But life isn't like that. We don't look at a loved one and say, "Was loved, check. Did that". We don't say "Had a beautiful day, check. Did that." What we tend to say is, "I had a beautiful day and I want to keep having more beautiful days as often as possible as long as I live". Or we know we are loved and we say, "I am loved, and I wish to keep on being loved and loving others until I croak". Isn't that closer to what matters? That's not a once-off deal. We do ourselves no favors by looking at the world this way. Let's stop turning life into a commodity by creating bucket lists.
Posted on | June 24, 2014 | No CommentsI recently took a few days off to be in the countryside - the real countryside; quiet and still, and yet alive with small creatures. I relinquished all usual communication devices and found myself slowing down, noticing more, breathing more deeply, feeling profoundly connected to something more vital than usual. And yet here I am writing about it in a public forum. Why is it that we need Nature, love the peace it brings - and yet we seem to be only too eager to return to the daily whirlwind? This is the human dilemma. We love quiet but crave activity. There's nothing wrong with that (it's not as though we can easily change it). Yet it's a question of getting the balance right. Fair quiet, have I found thee here? And Innocence, they sister dear? Mistaken long I sought you then, In busy companies of men... That's Andrew Marvell, praising the garden he loved. He felt the contradiction, too, back in 1660, and yet he was drawn back to politics and the bustle of daily life, inexorably. We need that tension between calm and quiet. The challenge is how we choose to balance them. keep looking »