Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Life goes on - Meditation for 5/1/14

Ships of the Sea Museum; Savannah GA

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“In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life.  It goes on.”  - Robert Frost

“We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble over them, climb on them or build with them.” – William Ward

     When we have developed expectations that some person, place or thing in our life is permanent and it proves to be temporary we feel our foundation is crumbling.  We had convinced ourselves that our life was going to be a certain way, and when our illusions are dashed it can feel as though a portion of our identity has been wiped out.  It doesn’t matter that all such foundations are illusions to start with – to us it is real.  We are human, and we come to rely on things to help us make sense of our world. So how do we deal with unplanned circumstances that “throw us for a loop?” 

     There are all the clich├ęs.  Expect the unexpected.  Life goes on.  Keep calm and carry on.  Pull yourself up by the bootstraps.  They go on and on.  But when we are in the middle of the forest we cannot see the trees.  And if the thing that failed to live up to our expectations was a core part of our life?  We may even start having thoughts of just calling it quits altogether.

     This is one of the places that a well-developed spiritual relationship fills a role that nothing else can.  We either have developed a relationship with the spirit or we have not.  If we have not, we ultimately become convinced either that life conspires against us and our well intentioned plans and designs or that everything that happens is by random chance.  However, if we have practiced following the spirit and observing the results of this path, we have developed a confident understanding that regardless of circumstances, a path will emerge that will bring us growth and opportunities to be of service.  And although facing a catastrophe may be necessary for us to begin following this path, it sure is easier if we have done the work when times were “good.”

Today, may I do the work.   

Have a great Thursday !!

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Detach with love - Meditation for 4/30/14

Magnolia Gardens; Charleston SC

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“Detach with love.”  - Anon

“I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I cannot cure it.”  - Anon

     It is difficult when someone close to us is engaging in destructive behavior and there seems to be nothing we can do to stop it.  A friend is cheating on their spouse, a sibling is abusing prescriptions, a business affiliate that is cheating the system, a child is drinking excessively – there are many varieties.  Inevitably they drag us into their negativity and try to have us cosign their nonsense.  It may be that they expect us to protect them from the consequences of their actions, we may face legal liability by just knowing what they are doing and our silence makes us a co-conspirator, or they may just try to get us to rationalize it along with them.  It is natural for us to feel that we are responsible to some degree for those we love, but in reality we have no control over their behavior.  It is easy to get to a point of frustration that we threaten to cut them out of our life or expose them for their behavior – and thus we end up spiritually and emotionally sick along with them.  These situations are more common than we would like to admit.

     We must find a way to distance ourselves without burning bridges or putting ourselves in an emotional state that we become so harsh that we cannot reverse course later.  The first step is to realize that we have no control over them – these natural feelings of being “responsible” for the consequences of others behavior is an illusion which is easily exploited.  For our own emotional health, we have to believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.  So, the only remaining option is to create some distance.

     First, we need to stop rescuing them from the consequences of their actions – this causes more harm than good because we “train” them that they can continue in their negativity unscathed, which causes nothing but escalation of the behavior.  Second, we can draw clear boundaries without bringing threats or intimidation into the equation, and stick to these as long as the behavior remains unchanged.  We also need to make clear that we are not going to accept latent liability for their actions - regardless.  Then we need to extract ourselves from the relationship as gracefully as possible without taking on false feelings of guilt or shame.  Much more can be said about this, and when in the situation we need to educate ourselves.  By doing so, we save ourselves much unnecessary grief in life.

Today, may I detach with love when necessary.

Have a great Wednesday !!

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Tired of arguing? Meditation for 4/29/14

Statue in Bonaventure Cemetery; Savannah GA

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“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”  -  John Wooden

“Pick your battles carefully.”  -  Old adage

     Several times lately I have been asked for my opinion on something by people who have an axe to grind.  One situation was someone who wanted me to agree that a certain group of people were not qualified to do a specific job.  In the other case, a man wanted me to agree that if everyone were able to openly carry firearms we would be better off.  These are far from the only times I have been asked for my opinion on issues that I have no control over in my life.  But what has changed is my attitude.

    You see, I don’t feel that I have to have the answer or need to have an opinion on things anymore.  Part of learning to accept the things you cannot change is learning that most things in life fall into this category.  Part of learning anything is the growing awareness that learning itself is the progressive discovery of our own ignorance.  And yet so often we feel we have to have an answer – that we cannot say we don’t have an opinion or that we don’t know without appearing dull or simple.

     But why do we have to have an opinion?  And even if we have one, why do we need to feel obligated to share it with someone else?  In both of these cases I was able to state that I really didn’t have an opinion on the issue, and didn’t care to form one.  Amazingly, both people dropped the topic.  I am not saying that there won’t be those people who consider our stating we don’t have an opinion as their cue to get on the bully pulpit, but I am saying that it is surprising how seldom we have to voice one at all.  It sure makes life a lot easier.  We don’t have to convince or argue our point, we don’t have to sort through a lot of other folk’s notions on things that are irrelevant to what we are supposed to be doing anyway, and it saves an awful lot of wasted words.   

     And when it comes to trying to convince anyone of anything, the old saying “One convinced against their will is of the same opinion still” becomes relevant.  It might well save us a heated conversation or a headache brought on by wracking our brain over things that don’t affect us right now anyway.

Today, may I be prudent.

Have a great Tuesday !!

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Want to win? Meditation for 4/28/14

Houlihan Bridge; Savannah GA

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“Surrender to win.”  -  Anon

“You cannot fulfill your purpose when you are focused on your own plans.”  -  Rick Warren

     When life brings us circumstances that vex us to the point that we are giving up rent-free space in our head, we need a solution.  All manner of things get us worked up – expectations we have that life is going to cooperate with our will, desires that plague us to the point we become irrational, realities that conflict with fixed notions we have formulated in our head.  Often it is other people or institutions that are acting in a manner that will interfere with the vision we have for our life.  But whatever it is, we must realize that what we resist persists.  Ever notice that it is when we “reach wits end” and give up on something that things start to change?  The reality of this life is that we just invigorate the very things that we want to change by resisting them.
     But this is where semantics plague us.  We think that surrendering to the reality of a situation is to give up on it entirely.  This is not the case at all.  For instance, say I have driven my car in the ditch.  I can stand there and complain to the passengers that they were distracting me.  I can cuss the road builders for having built an unsafe road.  I can whine how the suspension and tires on the car are not adequate.  But nothing is going to get better until I quit trying to assign blame or make excuses and surrender to the fact that my car is now in the ditch.  Only then can I start looking at alternatives or solutions to the circumstance I am facing.  Think this is trite?  Well, think about your last feud with someone that ended up resolving itself into a friendship.  At what point did the feud end and the friendship begin?  It happened at precisely the moment you surrendered to the reality that the other person is who they are, has done whatever it is they have done, realized that we are powerless over their behaviors and decided to accept them just as they are.   As long as we continue to bicker, plot, scheme, whine or engage in any other negative we are going to stay stuck right where we are.

     Just as surrender does not equal quitting, powerlessness does not equate to helplessness.  We need to find the internal calm and quiet to create the space for intuition to ease in, for new attitudes to take root and new actions to become possible.  And remember, this intuition does not tell us why we are to take a new course of action, it simply prescribes the actions that will achieve the best outcome for all involved.   It is just another of the paradoxes of the spiritual path – power comes from surrender, and surrender comes from the realization of powerlessness.  It will save us much aggravation if we can keep this fresh in our mind so that we can utilize it the moment we become disturbed.

Today, may I stay centered.

Happy Monday !!

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Think you are independent? Meditation for 4/25/14

Canvas painting for sale in Savannah GA

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“No man is an island.”  - Thomas Merton

“In learning you will teach; in teaching you will learn.”  -  Phil Collins 

   “You are not the boss of me.”  How hard so many of us fight accountability.  In fact, many of our relationships are but thinly disguised competitions for “control.”  We either try to dominate the other party, or that failing, we become dependent upon them.  This is not an easy thing to see when we first start looking at ourselves, but if we take an honest look, in how many of our close relationships are we content to just “let the other person be” and love them for who they are?

     In those relationships where we have subconsciously dependent, we might well rebel consciously against the other person’s “power” over us.  In relationships where we have asserted ourselves on another, we might delude ourselves into taking credit for their successes and blame for their failures.  Both ends of the spectrum are unhealthy. 

     But only a fool seeks his own counsel.  Left to our own devices, most of us will get ourselves well off the path and either isolating or becoming grandiose with false pride.  Even without these extremes, we all fall into periods of procrastination.  Other times when we become so judgmental of others that we cost ourselves opportunities.  Still others we stop taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually and begin to decay. 

     To some degree we all fight the notion of someone else having “control” over our lives.  The last thing we want is to have to be accountable to someone.  But if we are to progress to our potential we must do it.  And if we must do it, why not do it by choice and pick someone whom we trust to guide and mentor us?  A wise decision and the continued commitment to make ourselves accountable in the proper manner will pay dividends in all areas of our lives.  And ultimately it will lead us to something even more rewarding – we will end up being a mentor for those that come along behind us.

Today, may I commit to being teachable. 

Happy Friday!!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What legacy are you creating today? Meditation for 4/24/14

Statue of Juliette Gordon Low

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“Promise little.  Perform much.”  - Yiddish proverb

 “The liar is always lavish with oaths.”  - Pierre Corneille

     Often there is a cascading effect to a broken promise.  If we don’t deliver on a promise to do a necessary task, others have to pick up the slack.  This leads them to break commitments that they have made leading still others to view them as unreliable.  If they try to explain themselves by blaming us for our misdeed, they put themselves in the position of being viewed as a whiner.  If we have promised goods or money to someone else, they have often made plans which require the resources we have committed, and when we do not deliver the same trickling down of negativity occurs.  Of course other times we are in the middle of this equation – someone promises us that they will do something and we make promises to others based upon that commitment.  When they do not follow through, our choices are to take full responsibility and appear unreliable ourselves or to try to shift blame onto the other – neither option is very attractive.  Other times we are faced with someone who cannot follow through with what they have committed to and blames yet another.  And where does it end?  The impact of a broken promise can ripple through dozens of lives, each individual compromised in one way or another.

    Unexpected things happen now and then, but in most instances broken promises can be directly attributed to people-pleasing rooted in fear of abandonment.  Making commitments just because we want other people to like us will lead us down bad paths – the temporary good-will they show us is soon shattered when we do not follow through.  Obviously we need to be able to commit and we need the commitments of others to plan things and function as a society, but when doing so we need to be clear.  If there are contingencies, we need to say there are contingencies so that others can plan realistically.  If we inadvertently put someone in the middle, we need to make it right – a phone call to others affected will go a long way. We over-promise and under-deliver because we want to be liked or we fear that God will not come through for us with what we need in order to get things done – just two more ways that fear sets us up for the very things that we are trying to avoid.  But when we legitimately do get caught off guard, we can remember that staying committed in the face of conflict produces strong character.  And we can remember that under-promising and over-delivering may not get us the accolades we crave up front, but it is the foundation for creating a legacy of reliability.

Today, may I be reliable

Have a great Thursday !!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How important is it? Meditation for 4/23/14

Sewee Bay; SC

“How important is it?”  -  Anon

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.  And by the way, it’s all small stuff.”  - Richard Carlson

     There are no shortage of things to get worked up about.  Mechanical things quit working.  We find places are not what they were made out to be, or we tire of them.  People disappoint us, do dumb things, break their word, play games with our emotions – shoot, we disappoint ourselves.  Maybe we fall into the “patience” trap for a while.  We tell ourselves that things will change, we just need to hang in there and “endure” them for a while.  Meanwhile our life slips by as we live like the proverbial donkey chasing a carrot of happiness – we trudge along sure that salvation awaits us at some point in the future.  We go to great lengths to convince ourselves that we will be whole and complete when _________ - fill in the blank. 

     Other times our fear that things will never change expresses itself in anger and we either lash out at others or isolate and poison ourselves with negative thoughts and emotions.  Or, maybe we are so spiritually immature that we require the embers of anger within to motivate us to move forward with life.  Whatever the case, this “patience” thing ultimately becomes a trap that consumes us – we become disillusioned because so few of the things we are being “patient” about come to pass in a manner that satisfies us.

     Acceptance of “what is” is the only path to peace and serenity.  Early on this path comes the unpalatable realization that if we are disturbed the problem lies within us – nothing has the power to upset us but ourselves.  Finding out that we cannot change others is also a difficult thing to come to grips with – after all we figure we have all sorts of power to “win friends and influence people.”   Further along, we find out that what other people think is none of our business – in fact it is irrelevant as to what we are supposed to be doing.  Even worse comes the realization that what WE think is irrelevant to what we are supposed to be doing.  And perhaps the toughest one of all is when we come to realize that almost everything we have ever done in our lives has been a reaction to one fear or another – almost nothing we have done has been rooted in love and faith.

     This is the way to peace – the way to acceptance.  And we can only do it by letting go of one thing at a time.  Ultimately we come to find that none of it is all that important in the big scheme of things – in fact nothing really matters besides building that intuitive contact with God as we understand God.  But with our limited vision today – just for today, we can let go of our need to control and know that all is well and as it should be.

Today, may I let go.

Have a great Wednesday !!

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Stay the course !! Meditation for 4.22.14

Collin Braden in Savannah GA

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“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  - Lao Tzu

“The difference between winning and losing is often . . . not quitting.  – Walt Disney

     Perseverance is continued effort on a course of action despite difficulty, failure or opposition.   Nothing new and untested is undertaken without its share of critics, self-doubt and fear.  If the path were well worn, it would not be something new and applause would abound.  But if we are led into uncharted waters, we have to understand that the waters are uncharted for a reason – perhaps others have tried and failed or perhaps no one has ever seen the potential benefit in the course of action we are going to pursue.  But if the message to move forward is clear to us, then go we must.  The first steps are usually the hardest, because once we have built momentum and others see that the path is going somewhere they want to join in the effort.  But even then, we know that we will face obstacles and dead-ends.  

     If we put ourselves in the position that we are going to develop fixed expectations about the outcome of our efforts we limit the potential for new opportunities along the way.  Although we keep our eye on the goal we must remain flexible in our approach and avoid the rigid thinking that comes with these expectations.  When it appears that walls have appeared in our path, if we relax and seek guidance rather than beating our head on the wall in front of us we usually find the what initially appeared as an obstacle really just broadened our horizons.  As we turn each adversities into opportunities our course brings about many new vistas.  But the only time we can seek such guidance and make the decision again to take another “first step” along the path laid out for us in the moment that we face the obstacle; if we don't keep our head where our feet are our anxieties will block these from view.  But if we just persist in the path this moment, around this obstacle, we avoid the normal fears that sabotage us.  One inch at a time, one moment at a time, one day at a time we build the legacy of our lives.  What are we doing now?  The answer becomes clear, and we are back on our journey of a thousand miles.

Today, may I persist.

Have a great Tuesday !!

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Want beautiful things? Meditation for 4/21/14

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“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”  - Oscar Wilde

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”  - R. Francis Kennedy

     Some years back, a woman that was very close to me, a picture of health in her mid sixties, was shocked to learn that she had at most a couple of months to live from an aggressive brain tumor.  Shortly after digesting the news, she called her children together and insisted that some good come from her passing.  As we define tragedy in this existence, our own death has to rate among the worst things that can befall us.  This woman’s example lights a beacon for those of us that would see.

     There is no situation so tragic that we cannot improve it with love and compassion.  When news of a major negative thing that will affect our lives comes to us, what is our first knee jerk reaction?  To deny it?  Anger?  Trying to negotiate it away? 
     Is it possible to be loving enough that we look to the betterment of those around us regardless of our own calamity?  Perhaps we can train ourselves to look at crises as opportunities to create beauty, but to do that we must first develop that attitude in the day to day happenings in life.  For the habits we create dealing with the mundane details of life set our pattern when major issues strike.  What small circumstance that would usually annoy us can we find a way to turn into a thing of beauty today?  If we look we will find plenty of opportunity, and if we act on these we will totally change the legacy we leave tomorrow.

Today, may I seek excellence. 

Have a great Monday !!

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Can't get enough? Meditation for 4/18/14

Meditating in Forsyth Park; Savannah GA

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"Variety is the spice of life."  - William Cowper

"Everything in moderation."  -  Oscar Wilde

     Many of us struggle with compulsive behavior.  One potato chip, one spoon of ice-cream, one alcoholic drink and we are off to the races.  And it doesn't stop with consumption - our current day society glorifies the "win at all cost" mentality.  There are those of us that endlessly pursue romantic conquests, exercise to the point of injury and diet to the point of unhealthiness.

    I am sure that in some cases there is a genetic predisposition to this behavior and I do not pretend to have the answers to this aspect.  But I do know that in every case I have witnessed it stems from looking outside ourselves to find comfort and security.  There are many problems with this approach to discomfort - first the "cures" never last.  And it always takes "more" to reach the same level of comfort that a previous "dose" delivered.  It seems that the more the afflicted thinks about solutions to the problem the worse it gets.  

     Then problems develop on the other end as the afflicted one goes on "diets" where they deny themselves any comfort at all.  They are irritable and angry and ultimately either launch themselves into some new obsession or "relapse" into the old behavior and are worse than ever before.

     The last thing that seems logical is that a spiritual solution would be the answer.  But in most cases this is precisely the case.  The thing that needs corrected is the need to feel whole and complete, because when we do we don't require anything outside ourselves to feel "ok."  The good news is that those few who realize this and start on a path of spiritual growth soon realize that they don't need "anything" to be whole and complete - they need simply to be rid of the fears, false notions and negative programming that has been ingrained over the years.  

      In some cases, such as the alcoholic or drug addict, the substance that was used to seek comfort can never again be safely used as a physical addiction has set in.  But for one who finds the spiritual solution to obsession, most things can be enjoyed in balance and moderation.  As with everything else, denial and struggle don't work for long.  It is only in giving up the fight and resolving our internal conflicts that a permanent solution can present itself.   

Today, may I enjoy life appropriately.  

Happy Friday everyone !!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What are you pursuing today? Meditation for 4/17/14

Magnolia Plantation; Charleston SC

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"When we avoid facing our emotional pain and sorrow it ultimately robs us of joy and peace."  -  Anon

"The best way out is always through."  -  Robert Frost

     We feel sadness at the loss of friendships and opportunities.  We feel pain when we avoid coming to grips with our fears and anxieties.  We know sorrow when those close to us suffer or die.  Our society often teaches that these are trivial matters, that we need to "pick ourselves up by our bootstraps" and march on.  So we stuff our feelings and march on in our pursuit of happiness, which we are told lies just around the next corner in the form of a new purchase, a new accomplishment, a sexual affair, the right drug or whatever the latest gadget the purveyors are pushing is.

     Happiness is a false sense of well being based upon having experienced some equal or greater offsetting sadness or boredom.  The two are joined at the hip - the pursuit of happiness is equally the avoidance of sadness at all costs.  And when it is boiled down, sadness is most often risking or facing abandonment by others because we are deemed deficient or defective.  It is no pursuit - it is a death spiral into a meaningless life and depression.  Sooner or later no distraction is large or intense enough to divert us from the fact that we have no clue who we are or what we want.

     Serenity.  Peace.  Joy.  These things are states of being rather than emotions.  They arise from within as the result of eliminating those things that conflict us.  These things are not dependant upon circumstances - we can know serenity, peace and joy AT THE  SAME TIME we are feeling sadness and sorrow.  This will seem impossible to the conflicted one, who is sure that salvation lies in the right purchase, the right ritual, the right relationship - and on the madness goes.

     Through the millennia the wise ones who have gone before us tell us that only the proper inter-linking of self examination, prayer and meditation create an unshakable foundation for life.  These allow us to face things directly - and as we do we find our anxieties are always either unfounded or grossly exaggerated.  The only way out is through - and serenity is the goal, not happiness.  Perhaps today we can resolve one more internal conflict in our pursuit of it.  And before we know it, we will find we are at peace, regardless of our circumstance.

Today, may I do the work.

Happy Thursday !!
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Think you got it figured out? Meditation for 04/15/14

Ashley River; Charleston SC

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”  – Mark Twain

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary.  For those who don’t, no proof is possible.”  - Stuart Chase

     In and of themselves, our thoughts have no power over us.  We are not responsible for our thoughts – it is our words and actions that we are accountable for.  But our thoughts have a way of becoming ingrained when we do not challenge them, and we start to accept them as fact.  It is when we face the prospect that thoughts that we have come to believe are threatened that we start feeling threatened.  Still more deeply ingrained are the beliefs that we hold that were handed to us by those that raised us and we have never questioned, and when these are called into question our hackles go up quickly.  We all hold beliefs that are inaccurate – we can just look back a year ago and see how many things our minds have changed about.  This process of maturing will continue, and there are ways to accelerate the pace, or at least make it a bit less painful.

     A woman named Byron Katie developed a four step system for challenging beliefs that can work quite well to take our ego out of the way of the growth process.  The first step is to question our belief.  First, we ask ourselves if the belief we hold is true.  (I believe quitting smoking is difficult.)  If yes, we ask ourselves if we absolutely know it is true.  (There are some people who have said that they quit smoking with little or no difficulty – there is a slim possibility it might not be difficult.) Of course we cannot absolutely know anything, but we may still be pretty convinced.  Next we can look at what happens when we believe that thought.  (I keep on smoking.)  Then fourth, we ask ourselves who we would be if we did not hold this belief.  (I would be a non-smoker.)

     Ms. Katie goes on to discuss how we can take these false beliefs and turn them around by asserting thoughts on the other side.  (Quitting smoking is not difficult.)  I have tried it on a few things, and it takes being willing to be willing to change if change is merited in order to begin to change thinking.  But since beliefs that we hold that are false tend to cause a lot of pain as we try to manipulate them into truth, this is a simple exercise well worth using to challenge why we believe what we believe. 

Today, may I challenge my thoughts.  

Have a great Wednesday !!

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