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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pay Attention

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles...what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles...In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.
~ Jesus

Most of what we think, say, and do in life goes unnoticed.  Sorry, but it's true. Many of us are not even aware of our own thoughts, words, and actions much less those of others, or theirs of ours.  Someone once said, "We wouldn't worry so much about what people think of us if we only knew how seldom they do."   

So, why should we even care?  Here are two good reasons:

#1 - Because what we think determines what we say and do, even when we are unaware of what we are thinking.  Our brains are constantly at work, even when we are sleeping.  Much of this work is unconscious and automatic to keep our bodies functioning.  However, neuroscience has shown us that even those brain functions are altered by the conscious thoughts.  What we think really does matter. We literally become and are our thoughts.

#2 - Because we never know which thought, word, or action of ours will affect someone else.  We rarely know when someone is paying attention, or not.  How many times have we thought we were paying attention to someone but realized our thoughts were a million miles away?  How often does an unexpected smile, kind word, or pleasant tone from someone catch us by surprise and stay with us?  So why not pay more attention to what we are projecting into other people's lives.

You can probably think of many more reasons as to why we should care about our thoughts, words, and actions.  But now the question is, how do we do this? 

Take a look back at the first words of this blog - Most of what we think, say, and do in life goes unnoticed.  We can change this by simply paying more attention to what we are thinking, and in turn saying and doing.  When we are mindful of our inner lives our outer lives begin to reflect that awareness.   

Even if no one else notices, we do.  And that should be enough, because we spend more time with ourselves that with anyone else.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Blank Pages

One of the most frightening and exhilarating things to a writer is a blank page.  Sometimes it glares back at you, telling you the "idea" bank account is empty.  Other times it invites you into the abundance of imagination, potential and possibility.  Either way, the page sits empty awaiting the pen or keystroke that makes it no longer blank.  Then we're off and writing!

Each and everyday we live is also a blank page.  "What!  Is he crazy?"  I can hear you now, because I also hear myself.  "You should see my schedule today.  Empty?  Hardly!  If only I had the luxury of and day with nothing on my calendar."

This may be true, and probably is.   However, just because we have things on our schedule doesn't mean we have no control on how are present in those spaces of time during the day.  We can determine our attitude toward the people with whom we meet and the items on our agenda.  Then if we look closely at each day's schedule we also discover blank spaces between our meetings, phone calls, and emailing.   Are we compelled to fill these spaces or satisfied to leave them empty and open to imagination and possibility?

Then again, we could look at the day ahead and say, "Chuck it!  I'm going for a hike, or reading a book, or taking in a museum, or..., or...

Regardless of how we fill the day ahead, we will fill it by the choices we make.  The content of each and every day is really up to us.

So, wherever you are in your day, filled or not, look for the blank pages and know that you hold the pen or keyboard that will fill them.  Then you're off and living.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


"Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."
~Jesus,  Luke 5

Many years ago I was a lifeguard at a public swimming pool and one of the sidelines of that job was also teaching swimming lessons, mostly to young children, for the public recreation department.

We always started out in the shallow end of the pool were we learned to be comfortable in the water and under the water.  Then came the basics of breathing, floating, treading, kicking and finally arm strokes.  Once we had the basics in hand we worked on distance. Our first major goal was swimming across the pool without stopping. 

When students were able to swim across the pool they could go into the deep end of the pool. This is where things got interesting. There was usually one or more students who were afraid of going in the deep end, even though they could swim perfectly well across the pool, and sometimes back as well.    

My response to them always began with, "You can swim.  And when you're swimming it doesn't matter how deep the water is."  With most students it only took a few minutes in the deep water to realize this. Before long they were gleefully jumping from the diving board, which of course was usually their ultimate goal.

Like those children in the swimming pool, when we trust our capacity to acquire new knowledge and learn new skills, and then trust what we already know, this is usually enough for us to take the next step. Before long we're "swimming." And when we're swimming it doesn't matter how deep the water is.  Then comes the fun of jumping from the diving board!

So, it is time to get out of the shallow end and into deeper water?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Applied Knowlege

"Knowledge isn't power until it is applied."
~ Dale Carnegie, from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

" doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves."
~ James 1:22

"‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock."
~ Jesus, Matthew 7:24

If it is true that the fundamental teachings of all major world religions are some form of love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness and peace, and that most people in the world are familiar with these teachings and say they "believe" in them, then why is there so much hatred, selfishness, cruelty, condemnation, and violence in the world?

Dale Carnegie, quoted above, also says, "...if you would never read anything more basic or more profound than such hackneyed proverbs as ‘Don’t cross your bridges until you come to them’ and ‘Don’t cry over spilt milk.’...—instead of snorting at them—...we would lead almost perfect lives."

Truth be told, most people already know what we need to know to lead peaceful, meaningful lives if we would only put that knowledge into practice.  As author Robert Fulghum says, "All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten."

We know "loving our neighbor as we love ourselves" and "loving ourselves as God loves us" makes life better, but how many of us actually do it?

How many of us "religious types" are actually practicing the compassion, kindness, forgiveness and peace taught by our respective religious traditions?

Just like the old song says, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin in me." Sounds to me like a pretty good place to start.  Actually it's the only place to start.

More quotes by Dale Carnegie

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


"For everything there is a season..."
~The Preacher of Ecclesiastes

Today is the first day of Fall.  I know the official first day of Fall is the Autumn Equinox on or about September 21.  But it just isn't Fall to me until October gets here.  The name even sounds like cooler temperatures, turning leaves, later sunrises and clear blue skies. Another unmistakable sign of Fall for me is the first hint of red in the small maple tree just outside our front door.  Soon it will glow like a burning bush in the early morning sun.

Seasons are creation's way of reminding us that change is not the exception but the norm throughout all of creation.  We live with an illusion that there is constancy in our lives when in actuality the opposite is true.  Quantum physics tells us that everything is, at some level, always in motion.   The Seasons are a constant never-ending cycle of decay and regeneration.

So are our lives. Like the leaves of trees, the cells in our bodies fall away and then regenerate.  The experiences of our lives quickly fade into yesterdays while tomorrows quickly become today. Every moment quickly becomes the next.

The Preacher of Ecclesiastes, quoted above, also famously says, "There is nothing new under the sun" indicating that there is a "sameness" to the cycles of Creation.  But, what if the the constancy of Creation is it's ever changing nature? The more things remain the same the more they change, but change they will.

The wisdom for us in all of this is the more we know and accept change in our lives, the more likely we are to actually affect the changes, or at least our attitudes toward the changes.

One more bit of wisdom from The Preacher: "I know that there is nothing better for [us] than to be happy and enjoy [our]selves as long as [we] live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all [our] toil." 

Have a great Fall Season!