Posted on | January 19, 2015 | No CommentsBreathing. We do it all the time but we seldom think about it much. So here’s a short exercise for you to consider. Lie down, relax, breathe. Who could resist that, eh? Now, pay attention. Does your breathing come easily? Do you find yourself gulping air? Do you breathe through your mouth? Try using only your nose. How easily does the air flow into your lungs and out again? If you’re like most people the answer is: not very well. We grunt and gasp and the exchange of air is not easeful over a five minute period. Perhaps you have a slight cold, or a cough. Something holds up your easy breathing. Notice this. Why does this matter? Simply because the way we breathe is the most basic way we interact with our world. Do you allow yourself to accept the air and then breathe out the carbon-dioxide? Or is it a bit of a struggle? Pay attention to the muscles in your jaw and face. Are they tense? I bet they are. If so, remember, you are doing this to yourself all day, every day, 24/7. Worried about wrinkles? You might want to think about those tense muscles. The way you breathe is an indicator of the way you face your entire life. Can you let the energy of the universe flow through you, like a simple inhalation and exhalation? Or is it a fight? And could you make it easier for yourself? Often relaxing will do that for us – yet we don’t do it often enough. The way you breathe will mirror the way you are in the rest of the world. You can claim easeful breathing, and an easeful life, any time you want. But first you have to notice what you’re doing, and if it’s a struggle, you’ll have to listen to your body and consciously learn to breathe easily. It’s not hard if you pay attention. It’s the natural, default position. But somehow, somewhere, most of us have strayed from this. We’re like high speed cars but we’ve left the e-brake on, and we waste energy stifling ourselves. It’s time to pay attention and make a few adjustments. Take a breather. Change your life.
Posted on | January 8, 2015 | No CommentsThe atrocity perpetrated in Paris yesterday was a strange one as well as a tragic one. We have to ask ourselves what kind of religious view we're dealing with when it has to be "protected" by armed murderers. Any deity that requires such support is surely a feeble one. And yet this action is not that different from the sorts of massacres regularly committed by "believers" in the time of the Spanish Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation and .... well, you can fill in that blank with whatever your favorite historical reference might be. It would seem from this that we are dealing with individuals who see their world in a way that we would consider to be outmoded, as coming from another century. And yet we certainly have beliefs systems with us today in the US that claim they know the only true way to heaven and that everyone else is an infidel condemned to Hellfire. Try talking to those lovely people who stand on the doorstep and want to convert you to be a Mormon, next time they drop by, and once you scratch the surface you'll see exactly the same thing. Ditto for Catholics, actually. And for many another belief. The problem is not religious extremism. We've always had it. The problem is that within those webs of compelling beliefs sometimes individuals choose to enforce their views at gunpoint. Since this is the case we need to think differently. Rather than ridiculing another's beliefs (no matter how bizarre we may think them) we may need to think about respecting any and all religions so we can open a dialog about what it means to be in a society where, inevitably, differences of opinion occur. The Jehovah's Witnesses do not come to our doors with guns, and we are better off for it. In contrast to this in the Middle East all those subsets of belief - Shia, Sunni, Al Qaeda, Hamas, ISIS, and so many more, all inevitably linked with political creeds and regional alliances - regularly fight it out and cause only misery. How to remedy this is problematic, yet it can be done, and the first step is respect. In the meantime we must contain those who would do harm, bring them to justice, and try to lead everyone back to peace.
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..... keep looking »