What a guy.  Has anyone been fortunate enough to meet him?  Without him, there’s no telling where I’d be in this life.  Of course, without anyone, no telling.  We all influence one another in ways that we cannot know.  In fact, just this morning, a video on Albert Einstein informed me of an old Chinese Proverb, “It is impossible to know the results of your actions.” But enough of proverbs, back to my awesome Brother!

Quintessential example-setter.  Back in the day, and by day I mean about 2 years ago, after I just finished pledging, I realized how much direction I could use in my life.  My values were oriented around drinking and more drinking as being the pinnacle existence.  Thankfully, my conscience accepted that something was drastically wrong with my current value-orientation and was in search to find a better way of living.

And suddenly, boom!  There was Brother at the dinner table.  Charismatic, funny, energetic – basically The Man.  I thought to myself, “Wow, I want to be like him.”  Too pent up with pride and holding onto fringes of superiority founded in my massiveness of muscle, which I now realize is nearly useless since we are no longer rolling around stones and hunting buffalo, I could not squarely talk to Brother about the issue.  Instead, I passively observed his superior way of connecting with people, hoping that it would just rub off on me.

As a fortunate college kid on Winter Break, nearly a month mixed of December and January was mine to recover from pledging a fraternity and make strides in my life.  Aside from Brother, though, I didn’t really know where to look.  Brother only stayed home for about two weeks, at which point he prepared his return to Austin, Texas.  Clinging to his every movement, desperately seeking for some way to learn from his ways without surrendering my pride, I followed him around the house.

On the day of his departure, he perused the family book collection, seeing if anything caught his fancy.  Books, you say?  Reading books for pleasure was a completely foreign concept to me.  Books were for school, I thought, and I would certainly not squander my precious time engaging in such a boring activity.

Thanks to Brother being awesome, however, I decided to overcome my judgments about reading and give it a try.  Brother picked out a book from my dad’s collection entitled, “Life’s Greatest Lessons,” by Hal Urban, and planned to take it with him to Austin.  But…I would have none of it!  Acting selfishly, out of desperation perhaps, I insisted that I wanted to read that book and asked if he would leave it behind.  Thankfully – thanks to Brother, my dad for having the book, and God for sharing it with Brother – he left it for me to read.

Life’s Greatest Lessons was the first book I ever allowed myself to read for pleasure, and since then I’ve found a great joy in reading and in learning.  We can learn about literally anything, and that is a truth that Brother shared with me at just the right time.  This life really is amazing.

I am indebted forever to Brother, because he was setting the right example at the right time when I was searching for a role model.  My parents and sisters are also role models, but, as you can probably imagine, it is much easier to relate to Brother, close in age and of the same sex, than parents distance in age or sisters made of different parts.

Here’s to you Brother!  And here’s to everyone who has the courage, the confidence, and the belief in themselves to strive for goodness so that others may look to them as an example worthy of emulation.

“It is impossible to know the results of your actions.”

We have Superpowers! Or at least, Let’s Pretend.

Let’s just pretend we all have superpowers and can create and have anything we want in life.  What do we really want? Is it a material possession or is it some sort of feeling?

If you could have anything in the world, no limits, what would it be?  More importantly than whether or not you can actually have such a thing, does it make sense to go for it with all of your might?  We do not know the limits of our potential, and to limit ourselves to not being able to have what we want is just shrinking and depriving ourselves of the joys of living and the good times that follow from pursuing a worthy cause.

We would all benefit by taking the time to decide what is it is we really want in life.  Achieving a singular focus is difficult, but it is so worth it!  Only once we have our focus can we commit every ounce of our being to the pursuit of our worthy goal.

Imagine what your life would be like if you were so clear on what you wanted that you committed every second of your day to getting it.  You and everyone else would probably be amazed at how quickly you grow as a person and achieve the results you desire.

Your focus does not have to be acquiring X amount of dollars, although many of us are deceived into believing that accumulation of material wealth is the most surefire measure of success.  When we take time to think, we will realize that any desire we have for money is just a stepping stone to something greater.  What is that greater something?  Make that your focus, and the material wealth, if it is necessary, will surely follow.

How would you Live your Last Day?

I was blessed this morning by my friend Kevin who played a song titled “One Day” by UGK.  The songs refrain goes, “One day you’re here, baby, and then you’re gone.”  Listening to the song placed me in perspective of my life, and helped me realize how often I take life for granted and belief I will keep on living for another 30, 50, 60 years – yet there is no telling what today might bring.  Today could very well be my last day, and so I don’t want to live today any differently than I would live my last day.  In order to live in such a way, that requires me to know how I want to live my last day.  Hooray for our power to think!

How do you want to live your last day of life?  This is an important question for all of us to answer, because in today’s day and age, death is a very real possibility at any moment.  Thousands die in car accidents every day – what is to say that couldn’t be one of us?  People die from heart attack, cancer, all kinds of disease.  Of course, let’s not forget the absurd stockpile of nuclear weapons that could blow up the world 100 times over.  Why we have that many weapons I have no idea – perhaps we are preparing to defend ourselves against aliens – in which case, holy smokes! Aliens!!! That’s just one more reason to consider that today might be our last day.

Pondering such a question should not be a morbid thought.  Rather, it is a beautiful thing to consider, because when we think about the end of our lives, we realize what is actually important to us.  Sometimes we spend our time thinking about petty concerns that really are of no practical concern to us when we consider our last day.  Placing ourselves in perspective with our last day will help us to elevate our preferences and focus on what we really believe in.

Taking life for granted is easy to do in this age of hyper-stimulation, planning, and savings, yet thinking about our last day can reveal our truest self.  Shakespeare supported, “Know thyself,” and it is strange to think that we do not know ourselves, but I think he was definitely right.  We have a responsibility to know ourselves and to be true to ourselves, and the only way to do that is to answer tough questions.

Here are a few more questions to consider regarding the last day.  To consider these, perhaps don’t consider yourself lying on a death bed, but instead walking along the streets of your hometown, passing both people you as well as strangers.  It is an ordinary day and you are in good health, yet you know you will not make it to tomorrow. How would you like to treat others?  How would you like to feel about anyone and everyone who crosses your path on that last day?  What would you want to think about yourself and about how you are living in the moment?  What would you pursue?  Would you want to accomplish anything or share something with other people? Is there any lesson you would want to impart upon the world?  What would you want to give to others?  What would you want to talk about?  How would you want to breathe?  What expression would you like to carry on your face?  How would you like to understand any notion of God, a Divinity, or Higher Power?

Okay – now you are walking by the last person you will ever talk to before you die.  What will you say to them?  What will you share with them?

I hope this exercise has been helpful, and that you have the courage to take the time to answer the questions using your magnificent mind.

Until next time – Peace, Love, Joy, Prosperity, whatever it is that you want, it is yours! Hallelujah. 🙂

Peace for the Win!

There are few things everyone in the world agrees on as an ideal.  In fact, there might not be anything.  When on the streets of New York, I sought to enjoy every moment, no matter what circumstances might currently be affecting me.  I found a reservoir of great joy and happiness in the idea of peace.  Whether wishing to peace to others, holding up a peace sign, or simply saying peace with every step I took on the streets – peace pervaded my reality. Something about peace so wholly aligned with my essence that it energized me in a way beyond what I had ever experienced.

I believe there is an inherent goodness to peace.  Whether we are talking about inner-peace or World Peace, most everyone in the world will agree to such a state as an ideal.

I said “Peace,” and flashed the peace sign to over a thousand people during my week on the streets in NYC.  Throughout that whole experience, only one person responded in a negative way. As we walked past each other I shared with him an enthusiastic, “Peace!” to which the yarmulke-wearing man replied, “No.  I don’t like peace. I like war.”   Even though that man suggested he liked war, I think that if we talked further he would have explained how he believed war was a necessary step in order to achieve peace.  Who knows.  Either way, I think we are easily deluded to believe that war is a necessary evil, and that just makes no sense to me.

We live in a world filled with death, and that death occurs well beyond the scope of war.  Perhaps the worst part about the death that occurs at almost every second of every day is that so much of it is entirely preventable.  Whether we are letting people die from malnutrition or consenting to the slaughtering of animals so we can get a protein in our bodies, such death is preventable.  We all possess the ability to become more conscious of our daily activities, and we can choose to not participate in institutions that promote death.  Elevating our preferences for food so that we do not consent to the unjust murdering of animals is a necessary step to achieving World Peace (and it very might well be necessary for mere survival if this drought continues).  We can sacrifice a little bit material comfort for the people without food and water in this world, and by doing so we are demonstrating that we value the wellbeing of humanity.  We are global citizens, and the world is getting smaller and smaller.  Some day we may all come face to face with the people of the world who are starving to death – will we give food to them then?

World Peace is a very real possibility.  The achievement of such a feat begins with individuals.  We are incredibly powerful, and the impact we have on the behavior of one another is likely beyond our ability of knowing.  Just remember that each time you act a certain way, you are setting an example.  Is the example you set one worth following?

If we are to commit our lives to one cause, could it be World Peace?  Is there a better option?   As far as I understand, World Peace is a worthy cause.  The best part about it is that everyone pretty much agrees to it!  Sure, there are some people who think lots of war is necessary to achieve World Peace, or that World Peace is impossible without the world uniting under the umbrella of some religion – that may or may not be the case – but we shouldn’t let notions of religious differences hold us back from doing what we can to achieve inner-peace in our own lives.  Once we have inner-peace, we can then share the peace with others, and person by person, World Peace becomes a very real possibility.

Consider the question, “What do you need to be at peace?”  The answer might be a lot simpler than you first think.  If your answer is complex, think about simplifying your demands for peace so that you can experience it now. Peace is here and now as soon as we choose to become aware of it.

What is the Ideal Education?

An ideal education is one that allows us to experience the greatest feelings we know at all times.  The tricky part about education is that ‘the greatest feelings we know’ are only defined by what we know.  Without experiencing love, how can we experience love all the time, or know love, or love others?  For anyone who knows love, you must share love with others!  A lot of people in this world do not know what love is, or do not know what we peace is, or joy, or goodness, or gratitude.  In this way, people are deprived of an ideal education!  By living in love, peace, joy, and goodness, or at least striving to do so – assuming we all have at least some sort of ideas of what love, peace, joy, and goodness are – then people can learn from experiencing us that such feelings do exist.  We have to live the experience that we want ourselves to experience at all times, and as we do that, we allow others to learn of our ideal experience and how we understand love, peace, joy, and goodness.  We cannot define these words with more words – we can only define them by our actions and our way of being, our presence.

What does love look like in action?  Or peace, or joy, or goodness?  I don’t know.  I do, however, have an idea, and so I am striving to live in love so much as I understand, and, ideally, each day my understanding of it grows, and so I can live in more love than the previous day.  Only by attempting to live in love will we ever make any strides to experiencing it more and more.  And, if there is one worthy endeavor, is it not to experience love at all times?  By allowing yourself to strive for a life filled with love in action, you allow others to learn from experiencing you.  You let others know that there is love in the world, or at least that people are seeking to have love.  By having loves ourselves, we can then share it with others.

Just because something like ‘World Peace’ is the canned answer for what any Miss America contestant wishes for – that doesn’t mean that World Peace is not a worthy cause!  World Peace is a very real possibility, and so much as we strive to live in a personally peaceful world, we will radiate peace and share the experience of peace with others.  Our experience of life is contagious, and we are all each others teachers whether we want to be or not.  We all influence each other, and so we should all do everything within our power to influence everyone in the absolute best way that we can by striving to live our ideals at all times.  When we strive to live in a world filled with love or peace or perpetual joy – whatever your ideal might be – only then can others experience our own ideals.

It is sad how so many people are deprived of love in this world.  Or, if they have experienced love, it was probably a fleeting moment that they considered rare and possibly never to return again.  Some people think they have experienced love and that it will never return.  And, when people think love will never return, they live in hopelessness, despair, and misery.  But that does not have to be the case!  Love is available to us at all times, and we have the power to share love with others, to brighten others’ days, and to be the change we want to see in the world.  We are allowed to pursue anything we want in life, and experience anything we believe is good, and by us striving for and experiencing goodness, we share that positive experience with others and allow others to learn from us.

Let us all accept responsibility for our connectivity in this world, and realize that we are always setting an example whether we want to or not.  People will always learn from us, whether or not we think we are teaching them anything.  As responsible individuals, we have the ability to set an example worthy for emulation at all times – so long as we strive to live in a way that we believe is genuinely good.  Strive to live in love and you will find that you grow in love each and every day, and you allow the world to do the same.

What Would You Like to Teach to Others?

We all have learned some specialized knowledge throughout our lifetime that transcends the ordinary teachings of the classroom.  More than the Pythagorean Theorem, the date of the Emancipation Proclamation, and what elements compose water, we all possess far more practical knowledge that we use in our ever day lives.  The knowledge I speak of is not necessarily used to create a specific product for a customer, but it is knowledge we apply to ourselves so that we live happier and more fulfilled lives.

As an example, many of us have likely realized how good it feels to smile or to take a deep breathe. We also might have discovered how good it feels to stretch, or to laugh, or to sing, just because we can.  Even more, some of us might have a deep passion for animals, or for nature, and we are educated in such a way that allows us to soak in the beauties of the natural world more than an ordinary person.  We all have our own way of seeing and being in the world, and there is nothing to say that anyone person’s way is perfect, yet certainly we all likely have our special activity that gives us a great sense of happiness and fulfillment.  We also have the ability to share our special moment with each other, so that we may revel in the moment of our special act together.

To do something repeatedly for an hour each day because you enjoy it and all the benefits it provides to you is a gift, and it is a gift worth sharing.  What personal treasure of yours would you like to share with others?  What brings you a great sense of joy? Don’t keep it to yourself!

We all have treasures worth sharing.  We also possess the ability to develop treasures through practice.  For myself, I’ve recently taken up juggling, and each time I do it I sense some signs of improvement, and that personal growth in my abilities brings me joy. Especially when I remember that the better I get a juggling, the more capable I become at sharing the joy with others.  Also, research in neuroscience suggests that juggling actually increases the size of our brains and increases our visual motor functions.  Perhaps most importantly, for me, juggling is a way to train my focus and attunement with the present moment.

Here is one of many articles online about the health benefits of juggling:

It is a very special and meaningful kind of education when we get to share information that goes beyond the traditional classroom setting.  As Emerson said, “Every man is my superior in that I learn from him.”  Just so, let us share our treasures with others!

Miracles of the Moment

Recently I’ve grown in my appreciation for many of the miracles of this most wondrous creation, and it struck me that the universe is so entirely beyond my own understanding, and in fact my very presence here and now is completely above my own reasoning and any attempt to know how I am where I am or what puts me here as opposed to anywhere else is far more complex than I care to fathom. Certainly you could trace the entirety of my life and it might ostensibly appear that my here and now is completely logical and simply a traveling from A to B, but in terms of my own thinking and the processing of the massive number of decisions, interpretations, and opinions that were made to place me here rather than somewhere else likely ranges well into the numbers that I cannot name. Rather than attempt such a feat, I’ll accept ignorance, and continue to wonder.  The circumstances of the here and now are so far beyond us, yet so completely relevant to our lives – it is hard to do anything but smile.

So what do we do with such stark chances that we are anywhere, much less exactly where we are here and now?  I don’t think we can do much else but claim ignorance and marvel in the miracle of it all.  Absolutely, we should not take our here and now for granted, because every moment is the summation of the entirety of one’s life, and to think the moment is anything but extraordinary is depriving yourself of a whole lot of love, peace, and enjoyment.

Even acknowledging the miracles of the here and now, what do we do with it?  Just smile and move on?  Likely many people will do that, and perhaps that is the best idea, because if we take a minute to ponder the placement of every object in our here and now, and even consider our own life history that amounts to this moment, then we might become completely awestruck and incapable of moving anywhere else. Paralysis may strike.  It almost struck me while meditating in Times Square surrounded by hundreds of people – why would I ever want to leave?  There are certainly some moments that may be more memorable than others, but the truth is that all are equally miraculous.  All are expressions of the entirety of our lives, and we are responsible to do and to be in the here and now and nowhere else.  Do not discount the present for the future!  The future is imaginary, and there is no guarantee of tomorrow.  Only when we take time to slow down and live in the moment do we begin to smell what life is all about.

Appreciate what is.  And just be.  Breathing is a good start.  How often do we take our breathe for granted?  Or our hands? Eyes? Legs?  Even our ability to think, or to smile?  Some of the most miraculous of gifts were given to us at birth, yet we seem to forget about them.  There is a great poem by Dr. Tennyson Guyer in which he places us all in perspective of the gifts we’ve been given.  We have access to many of these gifts all the time, in the moment, so long as we choose to acknowledge the miracle of ourselves.  Once we cherish ourselves, we can then move on to cherishing others and the entirety of the world around us.  After all, miracles persist in every moment.

Here is a link to the poem by Dr. Tennyson Guyer entitled “The World is Mine.” :

A Walk back from the Theater

Last night, walking back from the theater in the middle of the night, I found great strength in the peace sign.  I felt empowered, fully capable, and confident.

A few times, however, I would come to an overpass and walk under a bridge, or walk in a part of town that was unlit.  At these moments, I found that the peace sign was not necessarily enough to cast away my fears, and so I began to sing.  “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah,” according to the rhythm of the Hallelujah song I learned from Shrek.  I was thinking through in my mind how I perceived the message of Hallelujah, and interpreted it as “Praise be to God.”  Even greater than Peace is God.  And great is God who gave us voices to sing, even if it might be one of the most tone-deaf voices on the planet.

In addition to singing Hallelujah, I found courage in the marine motto, “Semper Fi!”  I occasionally chanted “Semperi Fi – Always Faithful!” and could hear it echo across the trees.

I’ve been searching for a source of energy, vitality, vigor, vim – whatever you’d like to call it – that allows me to cast out fears and act upon what I believe is right.  Often times I will meditate on Peace and experience a closeness to a greater power during those times.  Last night too I found great energy in Peace.  Even then, though, I came back to the looming realization, “I do not know what Peace is.” Just as I do not understand the nature of God or the nature of the universe or really the nature of anything – I do not completely understand Peace.  I have notions of what Peace is and what Peace looks like, a vision which currently consists of people meditating together, but other than that – Peace is ambiguous to me.

Before I began meditating on Peace, which started shortly after I came across Thich Nhat Hon’s book, “Peace is Every Step,” I found the concept of Agape particularly powerful.  Agape, as I understand it, is a love in the incredible potential for goodness that resides in all people.  Rather than loving someone for particular behaviors, even if such behaviors are unjust, such as theft, Agape allows us to love all people, no matter what they are doing, because we know that deep down inside of all of us rests an infinite source of potential to love, give, and serve – to act completely just.  This notion of the ever-present great potential of all individuals is how I understand the Spirit that flows through each one of us.

Before Agape, who knows what I meditated on, or if I meditated at all.  Nonetheless, I’m a firm believer in meditation and the notion that we become what we think about.  Therefore, meditating on ideals allows us to more fully manifest those ideals in our daily lives.

Last night, I found myself in a greater state of ignorance than ever before, especially in the darkness, and found that singing “Hallelujah” and chanting “Semper Fi” were the most invigorating words I possessed.  Praise be to God, whoever and however God works, and let me remain always faithful to just action as I come to understand it more and more.

Love the Family

Imagine every action of yours aligned with achieving the greater good for humanity Wouldn’t that be a wonderful life affirmed by a sense of higher purpose?  Sometimes I think we limit ourselves by thinking we are lost in the shuffle.  Sometimes we think that one in seven billion is pretty bad odds to make an impact in this world, yet the very notion that any of us are here to begin with is truly miraculous, so why should we disempower ourselves by thinking that we are just one fish in a pond?

To expand upon the Goldfish metaphor of earlier, I really do believe we select our community.  Whether or not we choose to perceive ourselves simply as local citizens or as citizens of the world are entirely up to us. Whether or not we choose to think our family only consists of our parents, immediate siblings and children, or if instead we see all the world as our family, is entirely up to us.  Depending upon the environment we choose to associate with, we will experience that reality.  Our world is only as big as we make it, and as soon as we choose to accept ourselves as global citizens responsible for the wellbeing of all mankind, only then will we move into greater planes of love and freedom.

I say freedom because it expands the possibilities for how we may serve those that we love.  When the whole world becomes our family, we unlock new levels of love that we might likely not have experienced before if we think that only our immediate family loves us.  However, with one big family, you receive love from every member of your family.  Family loves family for no reason other than simply being!  It is a beautiful, pure love, much as I understand God’s love for us.  No strings attached, unconditional love.

When we realize not only that we are loved by everyone at all times, but also that our family is in need and we can always be helping them, then we will cease with lazy activities and ineffective behavior.  When we identify with the oneness of mankind, only then do we rise to greater levels of service, loving all of our family with our actions.  If we only feel responsible for ourselves or a select group of people close to us, then we likely will fall well short of achieving our potential.  Only when we grow to accepting responsibility for the world as global citizens can we self-actualize.  So long as we think we are only taking care of a few people, we will exhibit behavior of greed.  However, if we identify with the oneness of humanity and perceive all as our brothers and sisters, we will soon realize the absurdity of selfish behavior and we will achieve and give more than ever before.

We are all in this together!  A trite expression, but it rings true.  There is something about proverbs that never gets old.  Imagine the great shift of achievement that would occur if we identified with the world as one family.  We would soon cut out our lazy behavior as well as our selfish consumption of television and food.  We would become healthier, more giving, and more loving.  Our world would suddenly be filled with love, peace, joy, and justice.  Taking care of one’s immediate family is not enough to say that one lives justly, but striving to give everything we’ve got for the welfare of our fellow brothers and sisters – that sounds like a good way to live.

Think about behaviors you currently do that you know you would cease doing if your son, daughter, brother, or sister was suffering from malnutrition.  How would you change your life so that you could provide for them?  The situation described above is a real situation that is happening right now.  Ending poverty might sound like a daunting task, but it simply comes down to crafting global citizens.  As soon as we realize that we are empowered to save others and to be the change we want to see in the world, then we will really begin to shine, relentlessly pursue justice, and put our great love into action.


Watching Television…

Can anything good ever come of it?  Of course!  Seek and ye shall find.  Just the other night I happened to sit down with a friend in front of a grandiose 42’ screen to watch Game of Thrones.  I had never seen the show before, but it seems like whenever people talk about TV, that show usually pops up in the conversation.

So there I was, watching this epic Game of Thrones show I’d heard so much about but never watched before, and this was one of the first time watching an actual show (not sports) on television in months.

Once the show started, I was immediately overcome with a sense of waste and lack of fulfillment.  Certainly, I could be doing better than things than watching a television.  Alas, I sat resolute in the comfortable seat and explored my friend’s lifestyle with him.

Okay – that didn’t last long.  I stood up and walked outside.  After venting some stress with a couple pseudo-karate/yoga moves, I went back inside to see if I could derive some value and meaning from the show.

Much to my surprise, boom!  It hit me.  All I needed was a single sentence, maybe even just a word to tantalize my thought and provide me with an anchor to appreciate the show.  Suddenly, a kinglike figure began to speak to his presumed son, “What is it you really want in life?”  That was all I needed to hear.  Faith in humanity had been in restored.

As much as I’m severely against watching television, to the extent that it leads to us withering away into our sofas and puts us in eerie states of forgetfulness and indifference to the world, I have not doubted that the people who make television shows have good intentions.  Or, at least, they realize that to make a compelling television show, they have to not only relate to the human condition, but also help people understand it.  By posing the question, “What is it you really want in life?” the writer gave the audience a supreme opportunity to turn off the television and pause.  Reflect.

Only shortly after the Street Retreat finished did I ever consider what it is that I really want in life.  After a lot of thought, which still continues on today, I have articulated and re-articulated what exactly it is I want in life.  To answer the question requires not only time, but also a desire to live a fulfilled life.  Answering the question might lead to some pretty severe questioning of one’s current position, so approach the loaded question with caution.  And, as dangerous as the question might be to answer, I highly encourage everyone to give it a shot.  Give it a thought.  Take the time to get to know yourself and understand what is it you want in life.