Call to Inspire

Call to Inspire

2019.01.18

Mindfulness – The Human Spirit

 

The measure of any person is by their forward movement, the forward motion of our intentions.  We are not always successful but we should never give up or give in.  Life is best lived moving forward.  It really is the only profitable direction we have to travel.  Going backwards really does not accomplish very much unless we learn from the past.  That just might be the most difficult lesson of all.

 

“It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.  This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.”  He came from what many would call a less privileged heritage and became the most influential man in his country.  This might have been a quote from Gandhi or Mandela but it is part of Barrack Obama’s farewell address as President of the United States of America.

 

In his speech outgoing-President Obama spoke of the American dream that began in 1776 when a group of colonists committed to a certain belief, not just one he shares but one that the entire nation was built upon and a belief that continues to motivate and inspire. 

 

“And it’s not just my belief.  It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.  It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.”

 

The American dream is about giving people a chance and freedom or, as President Obama defined it,  “The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.  For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation.  It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.  It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize.  It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.” 

 

His farewell address was not so much about saying goodbye but about inspiring everyone to continue the good fight for all people.  He noted that the path towards that is often bumpy and full of potholes.  “So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional.  Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.  Yes, our progress has been uneven.  The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody.  For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.  But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.”

 

The measure of any person is by their forward movement, the forward motion of our intentions.  We are not always successful but we should never give up or give in.  Life is best lived moving forward.  It really is the only profitable direction we have to travel.  That first step of such a life is taken with purpose, with mindfulness.  We must continue the good fight not just for ourselves but for everyone.  Who inspires you?  Who inspires you?  Who do you want to inspire?  I’d love to hear from you because your living is a lesson for us all.

Kindness in the Moment

Kindness in the Moment

2019.01.14

Mindfulness – The Human Spirit

 

I sincerely believe mindfulness comes naturally to the soul,  There are hundreds of videos on the Internet that display animals showing kindness to other animals, often from different species and breeds.  It is the mindfulness of those animals that makes their kindness a natural thing.  So we aren’t more humans doing it?

 

Jason Mraz asks the same question in the lyrics of his song “Living in the Moment”.  If this life is one act

Why do we lay all these traps

We put them right in our path

When we just wanna be free

I will not waste my days

Making up all kinds of ways

To worry about some things

That will not happen to me

So I just let go of what I know I don’t know

And I know I’ll only do this by

Living in the moment

Living our life

Easy and breezy

With peace in my mind

With peace in my heart

Peace in my soul.

 

 

Being kind to another might just be the easiest thing we could ever do and it certainly it the best gift to give ourselves.  Take a walk in your neighborhood or on a downtown street and share a smile with someone.  Shopping local markets and small businesses will help your fellow neighbors.  Offering to give someone a ride if you know you are both attending the same event is not only kind, it helps the environment and saves money.  Many offices and organizations have a coupon bowl where people can place unused coupons and retrieve one they might need.  Donating old clothes that are still in great shape always helps the community as does the offer to be a foster parent.  Many animal shelters need dog walkers and cat petters and pet fostering is always in high demand. 

 

 

We all should live in the moment but we need to make the best of each moment and that includes being the best we can be as people.  Spend a few minutes imagining what kindness looks like to you and then offer than to someone else.

 

Living the Now

Stories of the Human Spirit

Week One

2019.01.12

 

Living in the moment is often described as the art of now.  During the next six weeks we will discuss how to perfect our ability to do just that as well as read about stories of the human spirit that illustrate this.  After five years of daily postings on this blog, I took a week off to do just that – live in each moment without deadlines.  John Steinbeck once wrote “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray” and my vacation plans did just that.  Still, it was in that week of chaos, spelled f-l-u, that I realized the true meaning of a favorite quote of mine:  “You have within you right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.”

 

Our concept of normal is whatever is familiar to us and so, Julie really thought her life was fairly normal.  She had grown up going to public school and once a week took part in scouting activities in the troop that met at a neighborhood church.  Going to the scout meetings meant her parents did not have to find a babysitter for her after school on meeting days but it also meant she would learn different skills.  The other girls were cordial but as an introvert, their lack of including her in a close circle of friends really wasn’t too troubling.

 

As the years passed Julie continued in scouting although nothing really was a favorite pastime except working with the disabled youth her troop spent time with at a nearby community center.  In the summer she volunteered as a counselor at a camp for the disabled and enjoyed the interactions with the campers.  They made up for the camp lifestyle which was definitely not her style and the lack of inclusion from the other counselors.

 

Winning a college scholarship, Julie continued her studies and, seeing the world through her roommates’ eyes, realized her “normal” was not quite like everyone else’s.  Being forgotten at home had not been the normal for others nor was the exclusion by relatives.  Still, there were classes to attend, papers to write, and a degree to finish.  Life went on and Julie went about it each day.  She convinced one of her classes to volunteer at a local residential school for the disabled and continued to volunteer each summer as a counselor.  There were joys to find in each new day.

 

Julie began her last year in college with great anticipation.  In six month she would have the degree she had worked so hard to attain.  Her family had emphasized their pleasure at anticipating her graduation and having her out on her own which is why she was so dumbfounded when both parents told her they were suddenly going to stop helping her fund the last six month of her education.  Her two parents had divorced years earlier and their acrimony had reached new levels with Julie as the game piece being used to punish each other.  She had a part-time job so she asked for extra hours to pay for a place to store her belongings.  It was little more than a storage unit with no utilities or a place to sleep.  She sold her car to pay for the rest of her tuition and supplies.  Julie earned one meal a day at her work and became an expert at washing up in public restroom stalls.  Using the public restrooms just before dawn meant she could wash her hair in the sink and then leave with no one realizing her hair was now wet.  Walking the two miles to the college campus gave her hair time to dry and her early arrival gave her time to study and complete assignments.

 

The spirit of the disabled youth she had worked with was Julie’s example.  She had watched kids struggle to walk, delight in learning to write their names, and exude joy in breathing in each second of their lives.  These kids who had so many obstacles took each minute as it came and had never given up.  Julie was determined to do the same.  She sometimes slept behind a friend’s apartment or, after offering to clean up the choir room after choir practice, on a couch in the music department at the local church. 

 

On a cool spring day, Julie walked across the stage to receive her diploma.  She had been homeless the last six month and no one had noticed.  Not once had her appearance seemed different to her classmates.  She had relied on the skills learned as a child, the examples of those many deemed incompetent, and completed her college education with honors.  Her life exemplified Brian Tracy, Canadian author and motivational speaker, statement:  “You have within you right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.”

 

Life does not come with guarantees and I sincerely hope none of you ever end up in Julie’s position of being homeless.  I do believe, though, that we do have in our history a wealth of knowledge that helps us meet the challenge of each new day.   I will close with another of Tracy’s quotes:  “The potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be released and channeled toward some great good.”

 

So how do we start to perfect our ability to live in the moment.  Years later someone asked Julie how she had found the strength and courage to keep going during her last year in college.  “It was simple”, she replied.  “I kept breathing and as long as I was breathing, I needed to live today so I’d hopefully be able to do the same tomorrow.”   This past week I lived in the moment of being ill and breathing was sometimes a bit uncomfortable.  However, it gave me a great understanding about the concept of breathing through the moment. 

 

A young man picked up a phone in a phone booth in the middle of the dessert one day and received the same sort of answer.  The setting was Burning Man, an electronic arts and music festival for which 50,000 people descend on Black Rock City, Nevada, for eight days of “radical self-expression” – dancing, socializing, meditating, and yes, even a bit of debauchery.  One can see all sorts of things at Burning man but a phone booth in the middle of nowhere that purported to be a direct line to God was unusual, even for Burning Man.  The voice at the other end had one word of advice – Breathe.

 

“Ordinary thoughts course through our mind like a deafening waterfall,” writes Jon Kabat-Zinn, the biomedical scientist who introduced meditation into mainstream medicine. In order to feel more in control of our minds and our lives, to find the sense of balance that eludes us, we need to step out of this current, to pause, and, as Kabat-Zinn puts it, to “rest in stillness—to stop doing and focus on just being.”  We need to stop, breathe, realize we are living in this moment and not two days away, and breathe in the “now”.  Once I gave up trying to pretend I wasn’t ill, I started to improve.  Stay focused on the here and now and let tomorrow worry about itself.

 

 

Expect

Expect

2019.01.05

12 Days of Kindness

 

Someone once asked Michael Jordan to what did he attribute his success on the basketball court and in life.  Jordan answered:  “You have to expect great things of yourself before you can do them.”  While most of us can never achieve what Michael Jordan has, his advice is excellent advice for us in this new year of 2019.  Michael Jordan lived his career in the present tense and we need to live our lives the same way.

 

“I don’t expect you to except me, but I do expect you to accept me.”  This quote from Jarod Kintz may seem like a perfect example of how confusing the English language is but it also is a great example of  how most of us should live.  Life is the quintessential on-the-job training experience.  No matter how hard we try we cannot fully prepare for tomorrow because it is always something of a surprise.  Each hour offers a chance to succeed or fail. 

 

Why expect anything other than success?  In a world where our differences seem amplified, it has become commonplace to expect the worst.  We do not turn to the news expecting the program to be full of happy thoughts and joyous happenings.  We have become slaves to depressing expectations.  What if we expected goodness?  What if we expected greatness in ourselves and then realized it when it occurred?

 

Few of us will ever win the championships Michael Jordan won but he can’t cook my special breakfast gravy like I can.  In that, I am the great one.  We all have talents that make us special.  The other day I sat in front of a toddler, an adorable baby only five months old and together we listened to a guest speaker.  The baby understood little about the speaker but gurgled at all the right times and smiled throughout.  She made me happy I was present and her smile still brings a smile to my face several days later.   In expecting a great time of life, the baby was as much a pro as Michael Jordan.  For sure the baby was great at smiling.

 

Perhaps your talent isn’t cooking but it is in cleaning a house or repairing an engine.  Some of us are loving caregivers while others are detailed researchers.  We all have a uniqueness that makes us great.  Perhaps yours is in expressing joy or gratitude, organizational skills that keep things rolling, or maybe you are a dreamer that envisions great projects.  Everyone has something to offer the world. 

 

Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing our supposed faults, what if we looked in the mirror and expected to see our greatness?  William Shakespeare advised “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”  The actress Judy Garland summed it up best:  “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”  Expect to be you and expect that you are not only a person of value but greatness.

 

This ends our twelve days of kindness and, if you have been paying attention, you will have figured out that each day’s title was a clue.  The titles, in order of the twelve days, were Generosity; Respect; Acknowledge; Clemency; Envision…  Accept; Need; Dare …. Laughter; Open; Veer; Expect.  These are ways to experience and live kindness:  G-R-A-C-E … a-n-d … L-O-V-E.  When we are generous, show respect, acknowledge one another with forgiveness and clemency, we are then able to envision a better life.  We should accept and need each other, daring to laugh, be open, learning from life’s detours when we veer off course, and expect good things.

 

The Christmas season has reached its end with the twelfth day of Christmas being today.  Tomorrow begins Epiphany, a season of revelation, expectation, and presence.   It is a good lesson for us all to expect ourselves to be present in each moment, reveling in what life offers us, and expecting to make today great and tomorrow even better.

Veer

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas 11

Veer

 

“Oftentimes, people reflect on their lives and wonder how they came to be at a certain crossroad or exactly how they got where they ended up. This can apply to anything in life, be it career choices, our choices of marriage partners or even personal decisions we’ve made, crises we’ve lived through.. A path is just that; a means of getting from one place to another and made up of individual stones or paces we take one after the other…When we start out on a certain path in our life, we don’t have the luxury of seeing where our footsteps will lead us…That’s the beauty of living…Every decision we make along the way leads us to more paths and so on and so on until by the end of our days, our life is one continuous string of smaller paths we have taken…All combined to make the final trail…Is it fate that leads us to veer from the original path we had in mind or is it something called destiny? Or is it a certain amount of luck, good and bad, or personal choice?”

 

I found the above quote online but could not find by whom it was said.  We could spend days discussing it and whether or not the things said were true.  One thing is clear, though.  Our lives do contain those moments in which we seem to head “off course” only later to wonder if the “off course” was really the course we really needed to follow.  Sometimes life’s detours take us where we needed to be all along.

 

Some of the sweetest fruits look ugly on the outside.  The rough texture of the skin of an avocado is in direct contrast to the smooth inner texture of the fruit hiding inside.  Somewhat a color much like algae, who would expect the fruit of the avocado, often considered a bit bland, to be considered a superfood?  Life often hides its treasures in the same way.

 

A friend of mine considers people who never think outside of the box to be people who believe in a “small God”.  People who discriminate do so, according to my friend, because they cannot conceive of a God who has children that look different than they do.  Such people, my friend believes, have a narrow vision of their deity, a tunnel vision that does not allow for any colors beyond the primary colors, nor people who are different than they.  In short, my friend concludes, they have a small, boring, bland God.

 

There are times when the world seems too vivid, life’s happenings too real and far too painful.  There are days when bland and boring would seem like a gift to me.  Then I realize that such bland and boring days would teach me nothing, give me no new opportunities to grow, and usually do not offer a reason to smile or laugh or feel the joy of life.

 

In her book “Rise Up and Salute the Sun”, Suzy Kassem wrote:  “I have been finding treasures in places I did not want to search. I have been hearing wisdom from tongues I did not want to listen. I have been finding beauty where I did not want to look. And I have learned so much from journeys I did not want to take. Forgive me, O Gracious One; for I have been closing my ears and eyes for too long. I have learned that miracles are only called miracles because they are often witnessed by only those who can see through all of life’s illusions. I am ready to see what really exists on other side, what exists behind the blinds, and taste all the ugly fruit instead of all that looks right, plump and ripe.”

 

Today your challenge is to veer just a little bit off the beaten path you usually take and experience a fuller life.  Perhaps it will be to take a different route home.  Maybe you will select a different entrée to eat or just add a slice of avocado on a burger or to top off a baked potato.  Maybe instead of watching television you will exercise or perhaps,  or maybe you will put a treadmill in the room with your television or computer and do two things at once for a brief period.  Maybe you will stop by a mall on the way home and walk inside, not purchasing anything, just getting some exercise and smiling at those you pass.

 

A popular viral video on Facebook features a toddler standing by the glass railing of an escalator.  People descend to the floor below on the escalator as the toddler waves goodbye.  Some never veer from their routine, never see her wave or smile, never realize someone has just shared the joy of life and caring about their journey with them.  Others, however, do see her, the motion of her hand catching the corner of their eye.  Instead of going down the escalator like they usually do, caught up in their own world, they veer from their norm and return her wave.  Some smile back, and there are a few that even respond with their own “Bye bye!”

 

“In life one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day – or to celebrate each special day.” Rasheed Ogunlaru’s quote speaks to our challenge today.  We can either stay on our regular course, limiting not only our God but our life, or we can realize that today is special just be being.  Veer away from the humdrum of the regular routine and see the beauty of the moment.  Let your deity be all that he/she could be and your life will be as well.

 

Open

Open

2019.01.03

12 Days of Kindness

 

The teacher read the message reluctantly.    The sender’s name was not familiar and yet…  There was something familiar about it.  While his life history wasn’t a secret, the message did reference a position he’d held for only one year.  Hesitantly, he responded and the answer he received confirmed that the message was indeed from a former student, a student at a school he’d been at for only one year.  The former student just wanted to say thank you, thank you for believing in his class, in opening their minds to the world outside their own small town and rural countryside.

 

The student had traveled the world, a bit unexpected for someone who had grown up in a rural sparsely-populated area in the middle of the country.  The student had limited access to television and radio and a night out for the student in high school was spent behind the barn throwing bottle caps at a homemade target.  The teacher had never traveled outside their home country but had lived in large cities, seen Broadway plays, opera, and live concerts and loved his cable tv.  The student thanked the teacher for showing him life was about taking risks while the teacher was considered a planner, non-spontaneous in his living.  This irony was not lost on the teacher.  He had received a beautiful thank you note for teaching the student lessons that were not evident in his own life.  He had no regrets, though, and was glad the student had surpassed the teacher. 

 

Life is about a great many things but perhaps the best summation is that life about being open.  Sometimes that means being open to going where life takes us and sometimes it simply means being open to what is in front of us.  Every day asks us to be open to the goodness in people, even when such goodness is very well hidden.    Each day also offers us a chance to be open to a positive perspective.  My challenge to you today is to be open, to choose to see the positive.  After all, we awake each morning with a choice. 

 

Shannon Adler’s poem is directed toward female empowerment but applies to both men and women:  “You chose.  You chose to give away your love.  You chose to have a broken heart.  You chose to give up.  You chose to hang on.  You chose to react.  You chose to feel insecure.  You chose to feel anger.  You chose to fight back.  You chose to have hope.  You chose to be naïve.   You chose to ignore your intuition.  You chose to ignore advice.  You chose to look the other way.   You chose to not listen.   You chose to be stuck in the past.  You chose your perspective.   You chose to blame.  You chose to be right.  You chose your pride.  You chose your games. You chose your ego. You chose your paranoia.   You chose to compete.  You chose your enemies.  You chose your consequences.”  Adler concludes:  “Choose to let go.  Choose dignity.   Choose to forgive yourself.  Choose to forgive others.  Choose to see your value.  Choose to show the world you’re not a victim.  Choose to make us proud.”

 

We cannot control everything we encounter in life but we can control how we choose to react.  Be open today to the positive choice, the lesson contained within the openness of living.  Leonardo da Vinci is reported to have said, “Pity the student who does not surpass his master.”  The student who cannot surpass the teacher is a student who has never been shown how to be open, the value of being open to life’s choices, the advantage of what being open can bring. 

 

American statesman Benjamin Franklin understood the challenge of being open to living.  “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”  Be open top being involved in life.  “It’s opener, out there, in the wide, open air.” Even the children’s book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Suess recognizes the value of being open.  Try it today and you’ll give yourself a gift of kindness.