Can We Say “Goofed”?

Can We Say “Goofed”?

Easter 5

 

The actor Gale Gordon spent a great many hours on stage and the screen with actress Lucille Ball.  The actress had been told she could not act and encouraged to seek another career but she held fast to her dreams.  Gordon remembered her tenacity this way:  “Lucille didn’t care about messing herself up.  A lot of stars of her stature wouldn’t do physical comedy because they were afraid they’d get their hair messed up of they’d look bad.  I remember once she fell into a vat of green dye.  She came out with not only her hair green but everything was green!”

 

Fear of failure often detracts us from being mindful of the moment.  Every failure is a lesson if we would but look at it that way.  Wayne Dyer speaks to this.  “Life is all about learning and one of the most memorable ways of learning something is by messing up.”

 

Being mindful means being aware and that includes being able to admit when we make a mistake.  As far as I know, no one ever died from admitting they goofed.  To be certain, some mistakes can result in death and such a tragic consequence is a lesson we all need to remember. 

 

What about the everyday mistakes we make?  We need to acknowledge our shortcomings, learn from them, and then grow from them.  Life is too short to wallow in self-pity or bemoan being human.  Life is too precious not to make it be the very best we possibly can.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson has a great approach regarding the subject of our inevitable messing up and goofs.  “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

 

Tonight I will go to bed giving thanks for the day I lived.  It will have included some goofs but also some smiles, some tears but also opportunity for joy, some escaped opportunity but also a chance to learn.  Hopefully, you will also be mindful of the entirety of your day and be thankful for the chance to have lived it.

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For the Minute

For the Minute

Easter 4

 

There is an irony in the fact that, as I am writing about being mindful, the art of being actively engaged in the moment we are living, I have to take a time out.  Life is messy and the past week was… well, quite messy.  There was simply no time to meditate.  We’ve all had those days, right?  Where, for each minute, we really need another sixty.  So how can we be in the moment when there are so many things vying for our attention?

 

What if it was possible to be mindful in less than sixty seconds?  Dr. Alice Boyles offers some tips of how to practice mindfulness in less than one minute.  First, she suggests, as we are eating, we should practice mindfulness but instead of attempting to do mindful eating all the time, “try mindful eating for the first two bites of any meal or snack.  For the first two bites of any meal or snack you eat, pay attention to the sensory experiences – the texture, taste, smell, and appearance of the food, and the sounds when you bite into your food.  You don’t need to savor per se, you’re just paying attention to your sensory experience in an experiential rather than evaluative way.”

 

Next she has an idea about something we all do – breathing.  “Instead of formal meditation, try paying attention to what one breath feels like.  Feel the sensations of one breath flowing into and out from your body. Notice the sensations in your nostrils, your shoulders, your rib cage, your belly etc.”  I tried this on an elevator.  It was a new elevator and I was only going up four floors but that gave me enough time to pay attention to one breath.  It also helped calm my usually jittery feelings about being in an elevator.

 

Some of her other tips include just being and giving your brain a minute vacation instead of trying to catch up on one’s email.  We all tend to take those few minutes of nothing to do just that.  Instead, she suggests, we should give our brain a break and simply be in the moment.  Trust me, the emails will still be there and you will probably feel more included to answer them later.

 

Another mindfulness practice in less than one minute is to simply focus on the feeling of air upon our skin.  Dr. Boyles explains that this allows one to “practice being in experiential processing mode (as opposed to evaluative “judging” mode, which is our default.”  We can also do a mental body scan and think about how we feel.  Don’t just focus on the aches and pains, though.  Include some positive feelings as well.  If you do have some negative feelings, try to soften or improve them.  Scanning for feelings of comfort gives one a sense of well-being and that is also calming.

 

My favorite piece of advice is to practice mindfulness on something you tend to do out of habit, some little something you do every day.  For instance, if you take a printed newspaper, slowly and mindfully open it.  If you drink a hot beverage in the morning, deliberately think about getting the cup out of the cabinet, pouring the liquid into the cup, smelling the beverage and then slowly sipping it.

 

Life is far too precious to waste any of it and by practice mindfulness, we are attuned to the beauty of our living.  Mindfulness enables us to observe our thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

Come to the Party!

Come to the Party!

Easter 3

 

“Life is kind of like a party. You invite a lot of people, some leave early, some stay all night, some laugh with you, some laugh at you, and some show up late. But in the end, after the fun, there are a few who stay to help you clean up the mess. And most of the time they aren’t even the ones who made the mess. These people are your real friends. They are the ones who matter most.”  This anonymous quote offers some good advice about friendship but does it only refer to the friendship of others or can we also use it internally in being a friend to one’s self?

 

James Baraz once wrote that “Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”  Amit Ray describes it this way:  “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

 

This series is on mindfulness and how we can utilize what we know from our past and what we see in our present to construct a brighter future.  It means accepting what has been, being aware of what is, and then create positive expectations about what might come.

 

Our life is a gift and our living is the party for that gift.  We tend to think of parties as perfect moments in time but really, parties are a great deal of work, require both planning and clean-up, and guests are both a blessing and, sometimes, a trial.  There is always someone a little too loud and every party and that person who tends to sit in a corner and just stare.  Generally, parties are a great deal of fun and we think of them fondly because we see the big picture and do not spend our time nit-picking our memories looking for the negative.

 

When we approach our living as a party, we will do the planning (hopefully!) and there will be clean-up.  Some days will be a little too much, like the loud party guest and other days will leave us feeling left out like the wallflower at a dance.  What remains are life lessons and those people who travel the journey with us are our true friends.  We need to make sure that we befriend ourselves as well.  Too often people are mere acquaintances with their true self instead of close friend.

 

“In the end,’ according to Jack Kornfield, “just three things matter: How well we have lived; how well we have loved; how well we have learned to let go.”  Mother Teresa offered this advice on living mindfully:  ““Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

 

 

Present and Accounted For

Present and Accounted For

Easter 2

 

Most of us began our childhood days in school by answering to a roll call.  A teacher would call out our name and we would answer “Here”.  Then the teacher would send a note to the office or record in the roll book that all were “present and accounted for”.  A teacher needed to keep track, especially since school attendance is compulsory in many areas.  Knowing that your child is safe inside the halls of academia is also a good feeling for the parents.  It does, however, set up expectations for us that perhaps go too far.

 

First, in today’s world, school is not always a safe haven.  Young girls are abducted by fanatical groups who see strong women as a threat and educating girls as the first step in creating strong women.  Mental health issues unaddressed have also been at the heart of most school shootings and have resulted in many school now spending as much on security as they do on textbooks.

 

Taking attendance at school is not a bad thing and school security has been important for over forty years.  The problem comes when we expect our life to be as clear and simple as taking attendance.  Just showing up is important but as we go through our living, are we truly “present” or do we just go through the motions?

 

If we are to really live what we learned during our Lenten series, we must be mindful of our living.  We must be present each hour and not just go through the motions.  All too often we awake dreading the day.  Life is not always fair.  There is no getting around that basic fact.  There will always be someone who appears prettier, has more toys, gets ahead in what seems like an easier and faster career projector.  Life is messy and, at times, unfair.  It can still be good, nonetheless.

 

Instead of waking up thinking of all the things you “have to” do that day, why not open your eyes and marvel in those things that you “get” to do?  You have to get up early and go to work?  Rejoice that you have a job; not everyone does.  You have to clean house; be grateful you have a house.  Someone made fun of your religious head covering?  It is always wrong for someone to bully another based upon religious or spiritual preferences but give thanks that you are strong and secure enough in your faith to wear it in public because not everyone is or can.

 

Life is not always fair but it is always good and a blessing to live.  Hopefully in these fifty days of Easter we will explore the many things we get to do in our living.  I hope today you will be mindful of those blessings and present as you do them.  Life is the greatest gift of all and we get to experience it each and every day.  When we are truly mindful of that, then we are not only present, we are able to recognize and account for the beauty that life can be.

In-Between to Birth

In-Between to Birth

Easter 1

 

For almost a month, I joined millions in watching the live feed from an animal park in New York state.  A giraffe was due to give birth and the world seemed fascinated.  There were various feeds one could follow and several offered advertising with proceeds in the form of pet supplies and food being given to local animal shelters.  I happily participated in making my watching count.

 

There were those, however, who felt it all a great deal of nonsense.  “Get a life” was the most common negative comment seen.  Some readily admitted to watching in-between commuting and so felt they were not for whom such comments were directed.  Others felt they were being mindful to the miracle of birth.  I claim to be a part of neither camp.  I watched because I find giraffes fascinating creatures.  I do wonder at their evolution and creation for they seem to be a bit in-between the larger mammals and the delicate faces of the smaller ones.

 

The Rt Rev Steven Charleston recently made a comment about our being “in-between”.  Yesterday, as I was watching the birth of the giraffe calf so many had eagerly awaited, He posted this:  We are in-between. Right now, we are in-between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But in reality we are always in-between in life. In-between is where we live and move and make our reality. We go from birth to death between many polarities: health and illness, joy and sadness, hope and despair. We inhabit these spiritual spaces of transition, constantly moving from one level of experience to the next. It is in the in-between that we discover the presence of the sacred, that creative force that helps us transition and adapt. We are the people of the in-between.”

 

Watching the young calf be born, along with millions around the world, I realized that we were all in-between and teetering on the edge of something very similar to world peace.  This young calf and his two giraffe parents had united millions around the world, something no politician or political party had ever been able to accomplish.  As we spent time in the in-between of a fifteen-month pregnancy and its culmination in birth, we were all feeling hope and fear, joy and wonderment.

 

Being mindful of our living is something we often fail to experience.  The reality of this birth was beautiful.  As the calf slowly edge his way out, the mother would welcome him with her tongue and kisses.  It was as if she realized her calf’s reality was changing drastically and she wanted to encourage him and comfort him that all would be all right. 

 

Our blog series this Easter season will be on mindfulness.  I hope this period will bring you joy and enlightenment in your living.  Life is all around us and while we need to spend less of it online and more of it in person, we can learn from all aspects of it.  Today is a new day and our reality, much like the new giraffe calf’s has changed.  Let us give thanks for this new day and recognize the new life ahead of us all.

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt

Lent 46

 

Debra Wise defines a scavenger hunt as “a party game in which the organizers prepare a list defining specific items, which the participants seek to gather or complete all items on the list, usually without purchasing them.”  This weekend I did my own abbreviated type of scavenger hunt trying to resolve some technical issues; hence, the delayed posting of this post.

 

The word scavenger is an interesting one.  The word “scavenger” is an alteration of  the word “scavager”, which came from the Middle English ”skawager”  which meant “customs collector”.  However, its etymology can also be traced from the Middle English “skawage” meaning “customs”, the  Old North French “escauwage” meaning “inspection” and the Germanic “schauwer” meaning  “inspect”. It is also perhaps closely derived from the Old English “scēawian” and German “schauen” words meaning “to look at”, and modern English “show” (with semantic drift).

 

In olden times a scavenger was someone paid to clean the streets but in more modern usage the word refers to one who searches for and collects discarded items.  In chemistry, though, a scavenger is a substance that reacts with and removes particular molecules, groups, etc.

 

We never hear Lent described as a scavenging season and yet, I am offering the notion that perhaps it is.  Lent is a time to seek out that which we can and should eliminate or reduce in our living as well as a period in which we are encouraged to collect better habits.  We have spent this Lenten series doing just that as life relates to the Beatitudes so in this the last post of the series, let’s scavenge a recap.

 

One of the weakest links and most dangerous threats to our living successfully is our own ego.  It is when we feel depressed or worried that we lose that false image and allow others and our spirituality to help us.  Being poor in our ego or spirit often gives us to learn from others and live a fuller life.  The same is true for when we grieve.  Most of us would prefer to offer compassion than receive it because we feel in control when we offer it.  Being on the receiving end sometimes makes us feel weak but it should not because then we become stronger by fully being part of humanity.

 

The humble and meek are usually much more content with their daily lives than those trying to pretend they have everything… or should have everything.  When we are content, we are better able to help others and live more productively and efficiently.  Those who want justice and righteousness, who work for it daily are the people who make a difference in this world.  They are also the people who not only give care to others, they receive it.  These are the people whose inside voice matches their outside actions and that brings about personal and external peace.  “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete and fight.  That’s when you discover who you really are and your place.”  I really like that quote from the Message Bible.  As I have said before, life is a pace, not a race.

 

While the Beatitudes are from the New Testament, they do not only apply to Christians.  They offer us all good advice on how to find the pearls of wisdom that life offers us each and every day.  All we have to do is go on a scavenger hunt for life!

The Long Walk Home

The Long Walk Home

Lent 44-45

 

Lent is traditionally thought of as a period of forty days and forty nights.  This year, because the date for Easter is the Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Vernal Equinox, we have six extra days.  It is as if Mother Nature decided we needed some extra time.  Most of us go through life begging for more time, wishing a day had a few extra hours.  Thus this Lenten season begs the question:  Did you use your extra time wisely this year?

 

This Lenten series has been about how we respond to life and I used the eight verses of the Beatitudes as both prompts and lessons for doing so.  In deciding how to spend one’s time and in retrospect, if our time was used wisely and efficiently, productive not only for the present but as a prelude to the future, we need to really consider the words of the Beatitudes.  They offer truth as well as encouragement.

 

I have also used the analogy that our life is something like a treasure hunt, an adventure in which we seek the best we can obtain – happiness and joy.  If we are authentic about our reasons for our actions and our purposes, we must admit that the ultimate quest is one for contentment and delight.  In our careers, our hobbies, and even our mates, we seek that which brings us pleasure and amusement, giving reason to the humdrum necessities of life.

 

Google executive Mo Gawdat seemed to have it all and yet, he was not happy.  He set about to find real happiness and recently gave an interview about his search.  He used the common analogy we have all heard:  Is the glass half full or half empty?  Gawdat believes “Happiness is looking at the glass and seeing the truth of the glass.”  He goes on to explain that we need to recognize that glass as being half full and be grateful for that.  Then, he continues, we need to see the half empty portion and ask what we can do about it.  “True happiness is not about what the world gives you.  It is about what you think about what the world gives you.” 

 

Happiness is equal to or greater than the expectations of one’s life and the reality of it.  We sometimes believe life should behave a certain way and if it doesn’t, then we become unhappy.  Life is not always fun, Gawdat believes.  Fun is when we accept our life and are happy.  We achieve happiness when we accept the life we have at that moment and feel at peace about it.

 

Many people reading this are going to say “Well, yeah, easy for an executive to talk about accepting life.”  Mo Gawdat came to this realization the day he went from having a delightful family vacation to his son dying, a time span of four hours.  He went from fun to the harshest life had to offer in four brief hours, one-sixth of a day’s span.  How was he ever going make that long journey home and find normalcy ever again?

 

The Beatitudes do not offer us a perfect life.  They offer us a way to find the peace and happiness Mo Gawdat spoke about and encouraged us to seek.  For Christians, today is Maundy Thursday and tomorrow is Good Friday, a day in which their hero was tortured and left to die, crucified in front of his mother and followers, one who had betrayed him and another who had denied knowing him.  There is no joy in the events of this Thursday and Friday remembered and yet, without them, the rest of the living of this hero’s purpose would not have been possible.

 

The long way home for Mo Gawdat was not an easy one but he says that each day gets a little bit better.  The secret to happiness, he believes, is to accept where we are at the moment and move forward at peace.  “I can either chose to suffer, or I can choose to sort of accept life as harsh as it has become and reset, make that the zero-point and try to make that slightly better than it is today, and slightly better tomorrow…  “Happiness is not about what the world gives you – happiness is what you think about what the world gives you.”

 

As we make that long walk home from whatever we have encountered today, we can choose what to think about what life has given us.  We can reset for tomorrow and vow to make it better or we can crawl in a hole and let the tides of life drown us.  Make whatever thorns came your way today a crown of success for tomorrow or at least, a first step towards a better future.  You alone are the only one that can take that step for yourself.  Sometimes smiling and being nice is the best way to run the race of life.  And then, to quote the Moody Blues, “When all the stars have fallen down into the sea and onto the ground, and angry voices carry on the wind, a beam of light will fill your head and you’ll remember what’s been said by all the good men this world has ever known.”