Get Busy

 

Get Busy

 

Easter 20

 

 

 

I adore books.  Whether it is at a tag sale, a consignment shop, a library or a bookstore, books just seem to call out to me.  On occasion, I apparently call out to them as well.  You see, it is not unusual for a book to simply and quite literally fall at my feet.  When that happens, I usually find that within the books are little tokens of wisdom at a time when I most needed it.  So now, whenever a book seems to fly off a shelf or table, I go on a literary surprise hunt and get busy learning.

 

 

 

“The Unmistakable Touch of Grace” by Cheryl Richardson is one of those books that literally dropped into my life via the top of my head.  I was sitting in the coffee shop of a local bookstore when an employee rolled a cart passed our table with stacks of books on it.  The top book dropped onto our table after bouncing on my head.  The paperback didn’t hurt,; it just startled me.  Then we all laughed at the irony of the ungracefulness of a book about grace.  The book looked interesting and I ended up taking it home.

 

 

 

At home, my book about grace slipped of my bed, this time due to the antics of a very large dog.  It landed on the floor open to this passage:  “As painful as they may be, some of our most difficult relationships hold the promise of our greatest healing.  When you learn to see your relationships in this way, you might discover that the friend who constantly took advantage of you, did so (on a spiritual level) to challenge you to stick up for yourself.”

 

 

 

Mindfulness and this passage have a great deal in common.  Tikun-olam is a Hebrew concept which means “Improve the world”.  Mindfulness encourages us to do that very same thing and the above passage lets us know we can do that even in the midst of our darkest time.

 

 

 

Mindfulness teaches us to never take our living for granted.  Each minute not only counts, it is a lesson for us.  It is very easy to savor the good times but unless we get busy and learn to savor the negative experiences, we are prone to repeat them time and time again. 

 

 

 

Recently I was taken advantage of and it hurt, especially since I had just given this person an expensive gift.  About a minute into my own little pity party, I suddenly remembered to be mindful of the big picture. I realize that I was more proud of my actions and generosity than I was hurt.  After all, I cannot and should not want to control others.  I can only dictate my own actions.  By practicing mindfulness, I realized an inner peace and calming of the soul. 

 

 

 

When you find yourself in those dark hours or hearing that negative voice, take a moment and get bust being mindful of the complete moment, what preceded it and then realize what will make the future better.  When we get busy with savoring life our life, we will realize the beauty of its being.

 

The Next Step

The Next Step

Easter 7

 

Okay so let’s say you have really thought about the last hour and fully been in the moments of each of those sixty minutes.  You fully experienced that sip of beverage and felt is as it entered and then followed its course through your throat.  You smelled that bite of food before partaking it and then thought about the texture and taste instead of gulping it down in a hurry.  You felt that air on your skin as you walked outside and heard the ambient sounds around you.  What comes next?

 

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, and human rights activist, who was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. His books include “Being Peace”.  Nhat Hanh describes the process as being mindful as much more than just thinking about things.  “Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives. You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life. There are those of us who are alive but don’t know it. But when you breathe in, and you are aware of your in-breath, you touch the miracle of being alive. That is why mindfulness is a source of happiness and joy.

 

“Most people are forgetful; they are not really there a lot of the time. Their mind is caught in their worries, their fears, their anger, and their regrets, and they are not mindful of being there. That state of being is called forgetfulness—you are there but you are not there. You are caught in the past or in the future. You are not there in the present moment, living your life deeply. That is forgetfulness.

 

“The opposite of forgetfulness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you are truly there, mind and body together. You breathe in and out mindfully, you bring your mind back to your body, and you are there. When your mind is there with your body, you are established in the present moment. Then you can recognize the many conditions of happiness that are in you and around you, and happiness just comes naturally.

 

Nhat Hanh believes we are all entitled to being happy.  Many people do not.  They would rather wallow in their self-pity because it seems comfortable to them.  The next step after you have been mindful for an hour is to be brave and practice mindfulness for a day. 

 

Nhat Hanh explains:  “During the time you are practicing mindfulness, you stop talking – not only the talking outside, but the talking inside. The talking inside is the thinking, the mental discourse that goes on and on and on inside. Real silence is the cessation of talking – of both the mouth and of the mind. This is not the kind of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant kind of silence, a very powerful kind of silence. It is the silence that heals and nourishes us.”

 

The next step is to believe you deserve the right to be happy and let the silence teach you.  Listen ot the advice of this monk.  “Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not work or effort. Do you have to make an effort to breathe in? You don’t need to make an effort. To breathe in, you just breathe in. Suppose you are with a group of people contemplating a beautiful sunset. Do you have to make an effort to enjoy the beautiful sunset? No, you don’t have to make any effort. You just enjoy it.  The same thing is true with your breath. Allow your breath to take place. Become aware of it and enjoy it. –  Effortlessness; Enjoyment. The same thing is true with walking mindfully. Every step you take is enjoyable. Every step helps you to touch the wonders of life, in yourself and around you. Every step is peace. Every step is joy. That is possible.”  When you achieve that, then your step will be one of joy.

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.”

 

 

Life Relatable

Life Relatable

Lent 10

 

Not having been there at the time the Beatitudes were originally said, I do not know for sure why they were ever spoken.  However, I think it safe to surmise that they were felt to be pertinent and important for the audience to hear.  While they were uttered almost two thousand years ago, I do think they are still relatable.  Today, I am featuring a guest post, written by a college student several years ago.  In it this student explains why the Beatitudes are just as pertinent today as when they were first spoken.  Life was messy then.  Life is messy now, regardless of who we are.

 

“Sometimes I just can’t relate to the Bible. To be clear, I like the Bible. The stories are engaging, scandalous, and funny (well, if you can decipher 1st century humor), with good morals and memorable characters. So while I do like the Bible, I don’t always feel like I can relate to it. I have little in common with the authors: kings and prophets sent to inspire the masses with divine intervention when things got rough. I don’t know about you, but I’m no prophet. I’m barely a king.

 

“So while I do like the Bible, often when I read it I do so as though I would read a novel about Afghanistan or an article about outer space: a interesting story about a different world that I will never see. The story may be real, but it is very far away, the people are not like me, and the surroundings are not familiar—while I may have sympathy, I cannot have empathy. It is like a news report that I read, murmur a judgment on, and discard, already forgotten, as I move on to the next. However, in today’s passage from Psalm 44, the saints and martyrs with whom I have nothing in common are gone. In their place is a scared, lonely, confused individual, someone who is struggling to understand why God is so silent while they are suffering. This is a very human passage written by a very vulnerable human. This is a passage I can relate to.

 

“Lent is a funny time, but it is necessary. We spend so much of our lives pretending that everything’s okay, masking our pain and confusion, thinking that everyone else seems to have life figured out, so we should, too. However, I believe that it is in being truly vulnerable that we find our greatest strength. It is in letting others see just how scared, lonely, and confused we really are that we allow them to do the same. Once we let each other in behind the walls of confidence and brave faces only then can we truly begin to build each other up, to rely on each other. If you get a chance these next 40 days of Lent, be vulnerable. It’s scary, and uncomfortable, and takes far more faith than you would imagine. It’s what Lent is all about. Be vulnerable. After all, isn’t that something we can all relate to?”

 

I think the Beatitudes are pertinent because they are words we can all relate to and understand.  They speak of misery, of pain, of unfulfilled goals and yet, within each of those things, there is hope and a reason to forge ahead through life’s messes.  Few of us are kings and even fewer prophets and yet, we all get scared, lonely, discouraged.  By keeping our faith, we can find the strength to carry on with our living and discover success.  More on the treasure hunt of life in the next post.  Until then, be vulnerable.  It is something we all find relatable.

 

Swim Upstream

Swim Upstream

Epiphany 32

 

It was with no small amount of surprise when someone introduced me as a lifestyle blogger.  I do not discuss fashion, what I eat, where I went, or even trends.  I do not spend a great deal of time thinking about labels except to organize things but I have to confess I would have been hard put to categorize this blog with a label.  Still, was I really a “lifestyle” blogger?

 

What we do is discuss life and the various ways to live it.  Spirituality and religion play a big part because I think they are the fuel that drives the engine of our lives.  I never would have said this was a theological blog, however.  I hope it causes you to think and perhaps ponder how you are living but does that make this a lifestyle blog?  Apparently, to many, it does.

 

Then I was asked to write a lifestyle piece.  I thought, given the above paragraph, that I had been doing just that.  Be more specific, I was told.  Okay.  Here is my specific lifestyle piece.  I really don’t think it is much different than the other almost eleven hundred posts but you can decide.  As always, I would love to get your feedback.

 

We all get caught up in the hectic pace of life, the “rat race” as it was called in the 1950’s.  The exact origin of the phrase “the rat race” is unknown but it does appear in the 1947 John Steinbeck novel “The Wayward Bus”.  A female character describes her father’s lifestyle as “He was afraid of his friends and his friends were afraid of him. A rat race she thought.”

 

A rat race is any exhausting, unremitting, and usually competitive activity or routine, especially a pressured urban working life spent trying to get ahead with little time left for leisure, contemplation, etc.  Rats are often portrayed as running around and around through a maze in a laboratory setting to gain the coveted prize – a piece of cheese.  Their one focus is the prize at the end and little attention is paid to anything else.

 

The rat race typically means no work-life balance, no independence, high stress, long commutes, and general dissatisfaction with life. Work-life balance refers to a proportionate way of life. While work is necessary, its purpose is to provide the means to enjoy a satisfying life.  Many people caught up in such a rat race suffer burn-out, and often have higher incidences of divorce, addiction, and other poor health problems.

 

“A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice, lest you jeopardize your chances of self-promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts. And before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit.” These words were spoken by Jimmy Reid, at a Glasgow University address in 1972 and are still true today.

 

So how do we avoid the proverbial rat race?  We learn to swim upstream.  This is not easy but it really is not that hard either.  When asked if he ever thought man would go to the moon, Neil Armstrong answered with a strong affirmative.  He felt it was in the nature of man to challenge known science and to explore.  He was proven correct when he became the first man to walk on the moon.

 

Life is about living, really living, not just going through the motions.  It requires us to be fully involved with the process of being alive.  W.C. Fields once said: “Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream.”  My lifestyle tip for your today is to swim upstream and really enjoy being alive.  Lady Gaga sang this in her performance Of “Born This Way” last night, “I’m on the right track baby; I was born to survive.  I’m on the right track baby; I was born to be brave.”

Imagine

Imagine

Epiphany

 

I really want to write about imagery but since we are focusing on verbs and action this Epiphany season, I elected a verb form of the word family.  Then I realized that that word  “imagine” was really want I wanted to discuss.

 

There are purportedly seven major types of imagery, each corresponding to a sense, feeling, or action.  These include visual imagery which pertains to graphics, visual scenes, pictures, or the sense of sight.  Then there is auditory imagery, a form of mental imagery that is used to organize and analyze sounds when there is no external auditory stimulus present. This form of imagery is broken up into a couple of auditory modalities such as verbal imagery or musical imagery.   It also includes the imagery of onomatopoeia, using sounds or words about sounds to evoke images of such things that create those noises.  Olfactory imagery pertains to odors, scents, or the sense of smell and the less known gustatory imagery pertains to flavors or the sense of taste.  Tactile imagery pertains to physical textures or the sense of touch while the lesser known kinesthetic imagery pertains to movements or the sense of bodily motion. 

 

Finally there is organic imagery or subjective imagery which pertains to personal experiences of a character’s body, including emotion and the senses of hunger, thirst, fatigue, and pain.  It is this last type of imagery that often poses the greatest threat to us because it can also raise an awareness of fear.  Recently, over the past eighteen months, this type of imagery has been most prevalent worldwide.  Fear is defined by the website and magazine Psychology Today as “a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats.”

 

Laughter is also a response.  Psychology Today says this about laughter:  “Laughter just might be the most contagious of all emotional experiences. What’s more, it is a full-on collaboration between mind and body. Although laughter is one of the distinguishing features of human beings, little is known about the mechanisms behind it.  Scientists do know that laughter is a highly sophisticated social signaling system, helping people bond and even negotiate. Interestingly, most social laughter does not result from any obvious joke.”  Laughter is also beneficial, as is fear.  Laughter “has numerous health benefits: It releases tension, lowers anxiety, boosts the immune system, and aids circulation.”

 

So today I am asking you to imagine both fear and laughter.  Both are vital responses necessary to the human condition and yet, while they seem very far apart, both serve essential functions.  Carl Sagan, though, reminds us to be certain of that which we consider fearful as well as that which makes us laugh.  “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

 

In other words, just because we laugh does not mean something is great.  While Columbus, Fulton, and the Wright Brothers proved themselves to be correct, the laughter they received had little to do with their success.  Their actions were backed by just that – real action.

 

We need to make sure that those things which create fear are also real.  Recent news stories have been built upon fiction, not fact.  Certainly there is shame to be heaped upon those who fabricate such false stories, attempting to engage our imaginations and create fear, but there is also shame on those who readily accept such rather than taking a few moments to fully imagine what might be truth.

 

What if we stopped trying to create fear and simply lived today in the best possible way we could, not worrying or being fearful… just being as productive as possible?  Imagine that, as John Lennon did, please.  “Imagine there’s no heaven.  It’s easy if you try – no hell below us, above us only sky.  Imagine all the people living for today.  Imagine there’s no countries.  It isn’t hard to do; nothing to kill or die for and no religion too. 

 

Imagine all the people living life in peace.  You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.  Imagine no possessions.  I wonder if you can; no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man.  Imagine all the people sharing all the world.  You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.