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Wow…

Wow its been nearly a year since I’ve posted something. Where has the time gone? And more importantly what have I really accomplished? That said, It’s time for a rant especially with all that has gone on around us these last few months. I think it just might be time for that proverbial “bitch slap” to help keep or rearrange priorities…. Lord knows its easy to get distracted these days. Without further ado:  avoidence

In this age of the quantified self, we measure how many hours we slept, steps we took, calories we burned. Yet we know nothing about ourselves. We spend more time checking-in to our stats than our souls. Our experience is mined for data but not depth. We have all these numbers to improve now, but no idea how to dial back the numbness.

Life isn’t necessarily a spreadsheet, yet our useless fascination goes on. We spend more time shopping – considering the thread-count of our sheets before purchase, than we do soul searching, you remember that beautiful art of thinking about the quality and purpose of our lives.

We are addicted to the constant digital stream, often peering gape-mouthed into the sordid details of other people’s lives; (ie. “Keeping up with the Kardashians” or “I am Cait”) in the process we have checked-out of reality, neglecting our own life so pregnant with potential and meaning.

If we are to measure, monitor and improve anything, let it be our presence and character, a mindfulness for who we are and how we are experiencing and relating with the  world. Have I been true to myself? Have I lived vibrantly today? Have I loved openly today? Have I made a difference today? Let us check in to ourselves in these ways; for in the end, these are the only measures that matter.

Nuff said….

Til next time…

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a day of Thanksgiving…family, friends and health come to mind as things to be thankful for….I’m also thankful for all who have crossed my path or me theirs and left a mark on my life….some of those I caught their names….some crossed so fast like a shooting star on a summers night that names were not ever exchanged…even those who have caused me ill feelings have taught me something in life…and yes- I am thankful for them as well…..

I ask at this time of year that you make that call to that person that you’ve been meaning a-charlie-brown-thanksgiving-original1 (1)to….that you invite that person you know is alone to come join you for a meal….that you bring some wood to those who would appreciate a warm night time fire….and that you tell those who have impacted your life just that…..tell them of the difference they made to you and watch the tears well up in their eyes…..Blessings to all of you who take the time to come visit me here…..you have made me smile often….I am humbled to know you all.

Til’ next time…

A reboot? Maybe….

I might not know a lot about you personally (okay, maybe nothing) but there’s one thing I can assume with certainty; you’re a thinker. And as you read my stuff, there’s something else I might assume with a high level of probability (but not certainty); you’re a periodic over-thinker. Or worse; a chronic over-thinker.

Nothing wrong with thinking of course (it kind of helps with that whole ‘living life’ thing), but there comes a point in the cognitive process where healthy thinking morphs into unhealthy (obsessive, destructive, weird, compulsive, anxiety-producing, fear-driven) over-thinking. Bells?

In summary…

Thinking: good.
Over-thinking: shit.

The science of Meta-Cognition is an area which explores the notion of ‘thinking about thinking’, (among other things) which is both fascinating and relevant, but to be able to put it into some kind of practice in the real world and create some kind of a positive outcome on a personal level is tricky because after all, you are you, you think like you think, your self-created reality is your reality (only yours), your beliefs are pretty much set and like the rest of us, it’s all you know. And while you exist, interact and ‘operate’ in a physical, three-dimensional world (like the rest of us), the place you do most of your ‘living’ is in your head. Specifically, your thinking.

But….

What if there was a better way to see the world and yourself in it? What if the thing that held you back in life was not your intelligence, talent, education, qualifications, body, environment, opportunities or (insert barrier of choice)? What if your biggest limitation was, in fact, your thinking? Your crappy self-talk? Your self-limiting beliefs? About the world? And you in it? Your propensity to find problems, not solutions? To look past the good stuff and see only the bad stuff? To talk yourself down? Way down?

Okay, be honest and courageous, does any of that sound like you? A little bit?

If you answered no, you can stop reading now (well done, see you next time) and if you answered yes, well done also; you’ve just stepped into a place called self-awareness. Not to be confused with self-loathing. When we start to operate in a state of self-awareness, we begin to discover that ‘our reality’ is just that (our reality) and that we each exist and operate in a multitude of realities and possibilities, all created by the people around us. Operating in self-awareness helps us to understand, connect with and empower others. It also helps the world around us, and the people in it, ‘make sense’ (to us).

In life, there’s no doubt that bad things happen to good people but in the middle of that life, there’s you and me. The story tellers. The interpreters of events. The creators of experiences. And the makers of reality.

When we change our thinking, we change our life.

Til’ next time….

  1. Don’t trust people (too soon).
  2. Expect people to lie.
  3. Don’t expect people to celebrate your success.
  4. Expect resentment.

Now, before anyone starts jumping up and down, shaking their fist and expressing their disdain at my lack of faith in humanity… take a breath and put your soap box away. Put the emotional reaction on hold for a moment and consider a few things. Do you think I would share something so (seemingly) negative without good cause? And by the way, it’s not really negative but rather reasonable, rationale and realistic advice (albeit uncomfortable to hear or read), based on my every-day, real-world experience. Over a very long timewoods---web-copy.

The truth is that many people confuse pragmatic, not-always-comfortable, reality-based advice with negativity. They are quite different. Negativity is expecting a poor outcome for no logical reason or irrationally expecting the worst every time. Whereas, anticipating the possibility (notice I didn’t say certainty) of less-than-desirable behavior from someone (or ones) in your orbit can be not only money-saving, career-saving, relationship-saving, and sanity-saving, in some extreme situations, it can even be life-saving.

That matters.

If you’ve met me (or read me for a while), then you know that I’m a positive, solution-focused person who works diligently to find and develop the best in people but in the middle of my optimism, I’ve experienced the negative version of ALL of the above four behaviors on a regular basis for my entire working life. Often, all on the same day! Is this revelation a display of negativity or toxic thinking on my part? No, it’s a commentary on a thirty-year career, thousands of encounters and an honest insight into one facet of human behavior.

I’ve had people that I cared for (deeply) lie to me, trash talk me, steal money from me (literally), undermine me, resent my success and sabotage my endeavors, so in my world, expecting the best from people (all the people, all the time) would be irrational and potentially, dangerous. (*I’ve also had total strangers be incredibly generous, kind, loving and supportive.)

So, am I saying don’t trust people? Absolutely not. Am I saying everyone’s a lying, selfish, resentful dick? Nope. What I am saying is that life is not a Disney movie and while most people have the capacity for all things generous, kind and incredible, you might want to pay attention (to people) for a while – quite a while – and then base your expectations (of them) on your experience, insight and observation.

This might be an uncomfortable lesson for some of you but I can assure you that learning it this way is more pleasant than the alternative.😉

Til’ next time…

Disagreements?

I know its been a while, but now that things are calming down it time to take a look at whats going on around us. Since it is election/campaign season (God when isn’t it in the US) I need to speak. 

I believe it’s okay to disagree with or have a contrary opinion to someone (healthy even), but it’s not okay to launch a personal attack on a person simply because they don’t share our thinking, beliefs or perspective. Sadly, this seems to be happening more and more in social media and in society at large. It’s kind of unpleasant and unnecessary. Apart from the fact that it makes the attacker look like an irrational, self-righteous dick (and therefore, less likely to be listened to or respected), he/she will destroy any chance of being able to educate, enlighten or influence the other person (because they’ve just created disconnection and disdain), even if they’re 100% right (which is'You can have any opinion you want as long as it's mine.' unlikely). And no, I’m not talking about disagreeing with or reacting to something extreme (like criminal behaviour, for example), but rather, the way we respond to, and interact with, people in our day to day lives. The way we create friction, tension and dis-ease out of nothing.

Every day I hear and read things that I don’t agree with. As do you, I’m sure. It’s part of life. Part of being a conscious, considered being. Our challenge, then, is to know how to invest our time and energy (in relationship to the things we disagree with) while being mindful, self-aware and realistic about what type of impact, effect or outcome a specific response might have.

In this regard, sometimes the best response is no response

good bye….

One of the perks of my profession that I have enjoyed over the years is that I have been able to meet folks who have or had some notoriety. They usually were “infamous” types but every once in a while I’ve had the privilege and honor of meeting someone genuinely kind. I been thinking about some of the chance meetings I have had with Robin Williams. Actually I’ve have been debating about addressing his death the last few days… I’ve met him on a few occasions where I actually got to speak to him, before going on stage (albeit for just a few minutes… where he was in that quiet shy almost vulnerable place). Yet as soon as the lights went on, and he was announced I saw him morph into a completely different person. I was always fascinated by that.

It’s a curious thing isn’t it, to miss someone you didn’t really know? Maybe it has something to do with their entrance? In show biz, and life, a big entrance can leave a big impression, and Robin made a very big one. He crashed into our lives 36 years ago, and took up a kind of residence. Now that he’s left, maybe we miss more than the person? Maybe we miss the version of ourselves that was on hand during that first meeting. Does that make sense?

When I first saw Mork and Mindy, I was eighteen years old, and badly smitten with a girl named Margie. We watched the first episode together in her parents basement, and laughed like lunatics. Then we made out. When I heard about Robin on Monday, my first feeling was shock. Then, a kind of sadness, too shallow to call grief, but to too real to ignore. It wasn’t till later that I found myself wondering about Margie for the first time in years, and recalling my eighteen-year old self with a weird mix of nostalgia and melancholy.

Some people enter our lives and become benchmarks in ways we don’t realize. Then they exit, and we struggle. Sometimes, those people are high-school buddies, and sometimes, they’re stranrw jwgers who somehow felt like friends.

Either way, it sucks when they go.

I’m going to miss him, but hopefully he and Jonathan Winters are having a good laugh somewhere. Just the thought of that makes me smile.

RIP RW may you find peace where ever you are.

Til’ next time….

Tough Journeys…

Difficult times can be a test of our souls, and as such can be some of the most instructive times possible.

If you think about it, it’s easy to be happy and motivated when things are going well. But what happens when they fall apart, or unexpected troubles come your way, or things go exactly as you don’t want them to? What do you do then?

Florence Thompson with several of her children 1930

Florence Thompson with several of her children 1930

 

Unfortunately,  I’ve been learning about this personally, and I can give you a word of encouragement: you are stronger than you think.

You’ll go through difficult times, and suffer, and learn. And come out stronger and better at the other side.

There are four things that I’ve been learning about that help me through tough times:

First: Happiness isn’t outside of us.

We often seek happiness outside of ourselves, through pleasure (food, shopping, video games, TV, Internet, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs) or other people (the person of our dreams, approval of others, social networks) or big life goals (travel, creating a business, art).

But I’ve learned that none of those things actually makes you happy. Sure, they can give you a boost of pleasure or joy, but it’s temporary and soon you’re looking for the next thing that will make you happy. This leaves you in a constant state of seeking pleasure, distraction, approval, comparisons to others, and so on. And it doesn’t result in contentment.

However, when you come to the point and realize that happiness isn’t outside of you, but actually comes from within … then we can always access it. What is the source of this inner happiness? I find that I can do certain things that make me happy: being grateful for who I am and what I have, learning about myself and the world, playing and being curious, thinking about others and wishing them happiness … these things might be tied to external things (what I have or other people), but they are available no matter where I am, what I have, or who I am with in the world.

And they can help during a tough journey. If you can find happiness inside you, then no matter what’s happening externally, you can access this source of happiness. You might lose your job(✔), get sick(✔), lose a loved one(✔), have to go through a difficult medical procedure, go through a divorce(✔✔) … and you can still find this happiness. It IS there if you choose to use it. Please don’t misunderstand…the external circumstances of your life matter, but they don’t take away your true source of happiness.

Second: Start to embrace your entire range of experiences. (Even the bad ones!)

Too often we want just a small range of experiences — the good things, the comfortable things, the experiences that make us feel good about ourselves. And yet, reality is very different. It gives us a lot of different types of experiences, from anger and frustration to joy to pleasure to coldness to loneliness and grief. These are all part of our human condition and unavoidable.

We can rail against the injustice of having to lose something we love, having to go through difficulty, having to be lonely and sad, having to be treated unfairly. That will just lead to more unhappiness.

Or we can embrace the entire range of our experiences. That will include all our emotions, all our joyful moments and painful ones and everything in between. Life is not just the warm and beautiful. It’s all of it. It’s curly!

Embracing these experiences means taking everything in with open arms, being vulnerable to whatever happens, being compassionate with ourselves when things are hard, giving ourselves some kindness and love and gratitude no matter what happens. It means accepting what is, and accepting ourselves as we are, not trying to mold ourselves into the perfect human, whatever we think that may be. Not trying to mold our lives into the perfect lives, whatever we think that may be.

This isn’t easy, I’ll admit, but this kind of openness leads to much greater happiness with life.

Third: Never hesitate to renew your gratitude.

Our lives are filled with miraculous gifts, and we are constantly taking them for granted, and complaining that life isn’t better. I do it myself, all the time. But when I catch myself doing this, and remember to be grateful. When I do, life is suddenly so much better.

Is your job boring? You might be grateful you have a job at all, a roof over your head, food on the table. Are you unappreciated? You might be grateful you have anyone in your life at all, perhaps some loved ones.

You have life. That in itself is such an incredible gift.

You might be grateful for your health, if you have it. Or you might not have perfect health, but you have legs to walk on. If you have no legs, perhaps you have eyes to enjoy the sight of a cherry blossom or a sunset. If you have no eyes, perhaps you can hear music. If you have none of these, perhaps you can still learn things from reading in Braille. Imagine being without the joy of Tolstoy and Shakespeare and Cervantes! We live in an amazing world, no matter what our circumstances.

And for anyone reading this (myself included), we need to think about how incredible it is that we have computers, and smart phones, connected to a powerful thing called the Internet. We have comfortable homes, great food, fairly good health, books to read, gorgeous nature all around us, people who love us. That’s quite miraculous, and yet… we take it all for granted. When times get tough, you might not have all of this. But you still have a lot to be grateful for.

And finally: find a way to be kind to yourself.

As we work on embracing the entire range of our experiences, there will be some difficulty. It’s not always easy to allow ourselves to be sad, scared, frustrated, or grieving.

How do we live through these experiences without giving up?

We find compassion for ourselves, kindness, and love.

Suffering (in all kinds of ways) is part of our experiences as humans. We suffer, in ways small and large, yet all we want to do is be happy.

We all have that in common.

Accepting our suffering and our desire to be happy as a part of being human … we then turn to wanting our suffering to end. Wishing ourselves happiness and wellbeing. This is kindness and compassion for our suffering selves. It’s not feeling sorry for ourselves, but wanting ourselves to be happy.

Whenever we see pain and fear in ourselves, we can recognize it, and we can wish ourselves happiness. Wish an end to the suffering. Be kind to ourselves.

And then, having given ourselves this kindness, we can turn to the person next to us, and recognize they too are also suffering and just want to be happy. If they lash out at us in anger, recognize that they are just suffering like us. Try wishing them happiness; wish an end to their suffering. In doing so, not only can we melt our own hardened hearts, but also open ourselves to others and embrace them with love.

And the journey, as hard as it may be, becomes better.

Until next time…

 

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