Road Trip to Winston…Last Words?

About to commence a road trip down to Winston-Salem.

I’m striving to live in the miraculous here and now rather than think about the future, so rather than talking about some of my “plans” for once (if) I arrive in Winston-Salem, I’ll instead assume that these are the last words I ever write.  Lots of bad drivers out there..including myself…not to mention that I’ve never fully understood how my lungs worked in the first place, so if they suddenly decided to stop it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world.
Last words I have…what do I want to say?

1.  I love you!

2. World Peace is possible.  It starts with creating peace in your own world.

3. Whatever Creative Force brings the miracles to my life,  Hallelujah!  Pretty cool force, you are.  If we challenge our beliefs about the world and open ourselves to the possibility of a Creative Force that will aid us in our journey for justice, I think we will all be pleasantly surprised about how real this Force is.  Whatever you want to call it, it is there, and I am grateful for it.  It has brought me here & now, loving friends and family, and an awareness of so much beauty, goodness, and love.  What more could anyone ask for?

I would like to continuing living in humanly form for a bit longer, so to spread more love and tap into the tremendous potential that lies dormant within every one of us, but if the Creative Force passes me along to the next stage of existence, it’s all good 🙂

Until next time,

May you be filled with loving kindness.

May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.

May you be healthy in body, mind, and spirit.

May you love and be loved.

Hallelujah!  Amen.

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A Step Along My Path: Loving Strangers

What kind of world do you want to live in?  If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t mind living in a completely good and loving world.  Love is awesome, right?  If I could, I’d like to experience Love all the time!  Thankfully, Love is an internally derived state.  As soon as we make the decision to Love, we experience Love.  It is as simple as making a choice.

Then again, choices aren’t so simple!  Sometimes it’s even hard for me to decide if I want to inhale when stepping with my right foot or my left.  We make lots of choices each day, some more significant than others, and one decision that I feel is of great importance is the attitude we project out into the world.

Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, wrote a great book titled, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  His story is incredible, and one of his primary conclusions can be summarized in a realization he had while in a concentration camp:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

He speaks of a phenomenal power we all have within us, what I consider a Divine Blessing. Even in the most dire of situations, Dr. Frankl rose above his external circumstances and chose to embody an empowering attitude that enabled him to endure tremendous suffering.

If a man entrenched in some of the worst circumstances imaginable can overcome his adversity with a positive mental attitude, certainly we can too.  This world is what we make of it, and I believe an attitude of love and acceptance towards the world is one that allows us to embrace the world with open arms as though it is our dearest friend.

To expand upon the idea of an attitude of love and acceptance, think of a world that is genuinely good.  If you want to participate in this world, you’ll have to be genuinely good yourself.  That means being awake and aware in the moment, cherishing people and the goodness that flows throughout your day.  One of my favorite quotes helped me to more fully understand how we can move through our day tuned in and in touch with genuine goodness.  It goes like this:

“I shall pass this way but once.  Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any person, let me do it now.  Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” 

If we want to live in a genuinely good world, we’ve got to accept the responsibility to create it for ourselves.  As we set an example of living in the moment and cherishing the beautiful life flowing all around us, then others too will enter our world and experience the goodness.  The best way to lead is by example, so choose an attitude of love and share your kindness with the world.

Do You ever get Bored? Go for the Win/Win Habits!

Do you ever get bored?  Isn’t that kind of a scary feeling?  Suddenly your favorite TV show finishes or you come to the end of your Pop Culture Magazine and you are left wondering, “What do I do now?”  Some existential thoughts might even enter your head for a moment.  You start to think, “Why am I here?”  or “What am I doing with my life?”  You ask yourself some big questions that you’re not quite ready to answer, not until you watch one more episode of Dawnson’s Creek followed up by E! True Hollywood Story so you can learn once again how celebrities aren’t really that happy and how fame often destroys more than it creates.

What do you do when you get bored?

For the past 3 months I’ve been relatively self-employed, meaning I make all the decisions regarding what I do, when I do it, how I do it, and, most importantly, I’m clear on my answer to the big “Why?” question.  Because I’m clear on “Why?” I can always ask myself, “What can I do right now to help me fulfill my major definite purpose?”  Whenever boredom strikes, boom!  I’m there with a question, an answer, and action.

Thankfully, establishing a few good habits that move the world towards Peace allows me to lean on these habits as a strong foundation for a peacemaking life.  My answer to how I can fulfill my major definite purpose is often practicing one of my established habits.  Some of these habits include walking, yoga, and juggling, all of which I consider forms of meditation.  Meditation, I believe, is always beneficial in moving the world towards Peace.  This claim is grounded in neuroscience as well as the practical sustainability of the practice for anyone who wishes to join in on the fun.  Anyone can do it, any time.  No equipment necessary.

The other beautiful quality of grounding a life in good habits is that it significantly reduces the “need” one might have to plan for the future.  If you can decide on an activity you believe is not only very good for you but also gives to the greater good, then you are completely free and even encouraged to do that activity as much as you please.  You don’t have to plan when you do it – you just do it. You help yourself and you help others. Isn’t that wonderful?  Think Win/Win!

When you find such a Win/Win activity, you can lean on that whenever you want to escape from the clutches of boredom. Allow this Win/Win activity of yours to become a habit, because you know it’s that good. No one will deny you the right to win for yourself and win for the greater good.  Even something like moderate exercise I believe is a Win/Win, because when we take care of our physical bodies then we enable ourselves to perform with greater energy and give more to others.  Similarly, when we read with the intention of sharing the knowledge with others as well as applying the wisdom to our own lives, that is another Win/Win activity.

By bettering ourselves, we better others.  By bettering others, we better ourselves.  The world is our mirror.

Establishing Win/Win habits that align with your purpose in life can be tough, especially when you might not even be so sure about your purpose at this point.  Good news is that you are completely free to consider the question each and every day, because pondering your purpose in life is most definitely Win/Win.

Until you get down to specifics on your purpose, though, the great man Matthew Kelly devised a completely logical purpose for all people to pursue, no matter your color, creed, or calling card.  Essentially, he says that our purpose in life is to become the best-version-of-ourselves.  Be your best!  It’s as simple as that.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, he breaks his life down into four categories: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. You can develop Win/Win habits to aid your growth in each of the categories.

By choosing to become our best selves, we empower ourselves to learn, grow, and give more and more, each and every day.  Taking the time to develop the Win/Win habits to move us along the path of becoming our best selves is totally worth it.  After all, who wouldn’t want to be their very best?

Boredom???  Yeaaahh right!  Go do something that makes you better and moves you along the path of giving more to others than you ever have before.  Of course – don’t forget to smile 🙂

What Are You Willing To Live For?

I stumbled upon the above question in a book by Matthew Kelly.  He explains that we don’t need people who are willing to die for a cause – the age of martyrs has already come and gone – but what we could really use are dedicated people willing to live for a cause.

Living…that sounds easy enough.  We are living now, right?  Well, some might argue that we are dying if we are not moving in the direction of achieving what we want to achieve and becoming all that we are meant to be.  As one of the wisest men I’ve ever heard speak said, “If you’re not moving in the direction of your goals, you’re moving away from them.”  In the same way, if you’re not living for a cause, you’re living for nothing!  Don’t let your life go to waste.

My cause can be described in a variety of ways.  Perhaps the dreamiest way of putting it is with the words “World Peace.”  If inner-peace is possible, as we have all likely experienced at one time or another, then World Peace is achievable too.  When was the last time you experienced inner-peace?  When did you not have a care in the world?  You were probably flowing completely in the moment, without thinking about the past or the future.  You were just being.  Perhaps you were laughing, smiling, admiring Nature.  We’ve all experienced those moments that don’t seem like the passing of time but rather an eternal paradise – that is until someone coughs, our phone rings, or we start to think about the haircut we really need.   Then those moments pass away.

If we can experience it once, we can experience it again and again – it’s simply a matter of tuning our awareness to the beautiful things in life.  So long as we are aware of beauty, living in the past or the future serves us no purpose, and we can bask in the glorious present.

One of my favorite ways to tune into the beautiful world is to sit outside and focus on my hearing.  I will listen to the loudest noise first, for about a minute, then moving my focus to the second loudest noise, I will continue the process until after about 5 minutes I’ll be focusing on my breathe, and then finally tuning into the beating of my heart, the softest of sounds.

This hearing exercise helps me become aware of some of the awesome activity that is happening around me all the time but occasionally is forgotten because of the over-stimulation of our modern culture.  We live in a world with a lot of noise, and we rarely taking time to appreciate each layer of sound that hits us.  When we slow down, relax, and listen, we heighten our own awareness and grow in enjoyment of the here and now.  Inner-peace, anyone?  If only for a few minutes, it is there!

Really though, perhaps your cause isn’t World Peace.  Maybe you are more of a Feed the Hungry or Clothe the Naked kind of person, which is great!  There are all kinds of needs in this world, and certainly each one of us is not only capable but called to make this world a better place.

In Matthew Kelly’s book, he distinguishes two key characteristics of Saints – people who he considers worthy examples to follow.   The first quality they all have in common is a singleness of purpose.  With a singleness of purpose, they enable themselves to align all of their thoughts and actions to work towards fulfilling that purpose.  Imagine if everything you did was committed towards the same ultimate end.  That kind of thought and action-orientation would increase our effectiveness to levels like we wouldn’t believe!  If we take time to decide on our singleness of purpose, not only will we grow in effectiveness, but we’ll also rise above many of the pesky first world problems like boredom, laziness, and greed, that might otherwise sink our ship and lead us to become less than we are meant to be.

The second quality shared amongst the Saints and nearly all “successful” people is that they have good habits.  Our habits are those things that we do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  In many ways, our habits shape our lives.  If we practice good habits on a daily basis oriented towards fulfilling our singleness of purpose, there is no telling what we are actually capable of.

Going forth, please consider these questions.  They are big questions so are not meant to be answered in a couple of minutes, unless of course you already know.  They are good questions to think about every day, and as you think about them more you will notice increased clarity in thought and action.  You also might start to realize how incredible you really are. 🙂

1.  What are you willing to live for? What is your singleness of purpose? 

2.  What are your habits? 

3.  What is a new habit, which if done every day, would definitely increase the quality of your life?  To help think about this question, consider dividing your life into four categories: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.  What is a positive habit you can start doing to improve yourself in any of those areas?

Hallelujah!  And…Peace!

How to Help the Homeless: Sustainable Practices

“Blessed are the Street Performers, for they will awaken the zombies from sleep.”

I am big into helping the homeless.  The strange thing is that every time I visit a shelter or talk with any homeless people, they seem more cheerful than most people I know.  It makes me wonder, “Do the homeless people really need help?”

As Brother and I experienced on our Street Retreat, homelessness can really be a joy.  Especially blessed with a perspective that allowed us to enjoy meditation, yoga, nature, the presence of people and the miraculous life-giving force that spawned this beautiful creation – we had a ball.  The homeless people we encountered also seemed satisfied with their lives.  It was as though they had all stumbled across the best kept secret in the world and were reaping the harvest from it. What is this secret?  The Biblical Ideal!

“Give up everything and come and follow me.”  Pretty sure the Bible says that somewhere.  To our materialist, consumerist culture, giving up anything is a frightening proposition.  After all, isn’t acquiring material possessions the only way we know how to temporarily enjoy ourselves and keep our minds occupied so we don’t think about bigger questions like “Why am I here?” and “Dude where’s my car?”

If the homeless people we all want to help are actually living a life much closer to the Biblical Ideal than most of us, how can we help them?  Some of them do suffer from drug issues, loneliness, and possibly depression.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem plausible to move them away from the Biblical Ideal and integrate them back into the traditional money-worshipping society.  Instead, wouldn’t it be amazing if they learned sustainable practices like meditation and yoga?  What if the next homeless person you walked by was juggling, not because he wanted your money, but juggling simply to enjoy the moment?  Even more, what if you saw a group of four homeless people sitting together playing cards – not playing for money, but just playing to play?  You could even ask that homeless guy you know for a yoga lesson.

There are all kinds of free things to do in this world.   We miss out on a lot of the simple joys of life possibly because they are always available to us so we take them for granted and think they are less valuable than watching 30 minutes of CSI.  We live in pipe dreams of a virtual world that tells us we don’t have a good life, but don’t worry because you can watch these people who do. Then we forget how amazing life is and how many beautiful treasures were bestowed upon us at birth, for free!

If we really want to help the homeless, we should teach them sustainable practices.  Of course, to teach them sustainable practices, we first need to learn them!  Instead of watching television tonight, consider spending some time on YouTube and try out one of the many free yoga videos they have.  Or, pick up 2 balls and start tossing them back and forth from hand to hand like you are casting rainbows.  I assure you, it is way more fun than hurting your back on a couch and numbing your brain.

Cherish those gifts of yours.  They were given to you for a reason 🙂
p.s.  Just realized today is Monday.  Happy Monday to you!

What Can We Learn from Nature?

A lot of things!  I’ve only just begun to see Nature as a wonderful teacher in this world, so hopefully insights continue to flow as outdoor experiences deepen in meaning.

Recently I realized that the natural world, plants and wild animals, are definite models worthy of emulation.  We can all better ourselves and the world if we look to them as examples as how to live the good life.  They thrive on simplicity and day-to-day living.  The future is entirely imaginary to them, and any concept of hoarding is unknown.

Plants in particular simply move in the direction of sunlight at any given moment.  There is nothing more to it.  Sure, they compete with neighboring plants to survive, but hey – who is going to blame a plant for wanting to survive?  The beautiful thing about their survival is that they exist in complete peace whether or not they live or die.  They strive to survive, but if they get outcompeted, they humbly accept defeat, perhaps offer some seed to the wind, and return to the ground they came from.  Can we live in such a way?

Plants accept the goodness of being and nothing more.  Even in death, what some might consider un-being, they live in total acceptance.  There is no grand rebellion – no catastrophe stirred by any withering plants.  They flow as nature allows them, whether it be in life or death.  Living in the present, all they do is move towards the sun.

In a similar way, I think we can all make it our primary objective to move towards the sun.  Perhaps the physical sun, if you’re a pilot, scientist, or astronaut, or maybe a metaphorical sun, likened to goodness. Christians would say they are moving towards the Son, Jesus, by looking to him as a model for emulation.  Essentially, I think the sun represents that which we all want.  This universal want of ours is singular and the same for everyone.  What is it?  Light!

How do you perceive light?  Here’s a story:  Just the other day I was sitting down after a yoga session in a meditative posture.  Usually, I’m keen on visualizations of the Peace Sign, or a Circle, something I understand as purely good.  However, I soon realized that, even with my eyes closed, I was objectively seeing something amazing.  The back of my eyelids became something like a screen for truth, and I would see all kinds of various light and images when I chose to focus on what I was still actually seeing when I closed my eyes.  I realized that even in darkness, there is light.  Light is everywhere.   I’m pretty sure scientists will even tell you that we are light.

As we grow towards becoming the truest version of ourselves, we allow others to experience the Light that is not only in us, but everywhere.

What would Aliens think of Us?

Quickly!  Go be miserable for 40 hours a week so you can sit on the couch for 2.8 hours a day and learn about how terrible the world is for another 30 minutes.  While you’re at it, you might as well spend most of your time complaining about how much your job sucks while not doing anything about it, and how you think the world is incredibly unfair and that you are completely powerless.  Also, don’t forget to poop!

The way we spend our time fascinates me.  What are we doing with our lives?  And what do we really care about?  I think it’d be hard to say that we actually care about other people, given that we allow around 20 million people a year to die from from preventable causes like malnutrition, dehydration, and starvation.  Meanwhile, we care enough about clothing, electronics, food, and cars to nearly spend all of our income acquiring these silly inanimate objects that we think might be imbued with mystical powers to bring us eternal happiness.  Sometimes I picture us as a bunch of chickens running around with our heads cut off.  We don’t have a clue about how to live fulfilling, joyous lives – or better yet – we know exactly how to live such lives, but are too afraid to accept the truth of a joyous life because it goes so utterly against everything that culture indoctrinates in us from an early age.

The TV will never tell you to just be happy.  The TV tells us to want things and work to buy these things that will then bring you some sense of fulfillment in life.  The TV, in many ways, provides purpose and meaning for people’s lives.  Without a TV, who would tell us that we should work hard and suffer so that we can afford the latest tech gadget, flashy watch, or Ben & Jerry’s?  The TV fills us with ideas of all these things that we don’t have, and thanks to hundreds and thousands of people who are paid to conspire together in rooms to figure out how to make us consumers want to buy these products that essentially have no purpose but to fill the space in our oversized houses and apartments, we think we not only want these things that companies sell on TV, but we need them.

If you look to people who report the highest levels of happiness in the world, my guess is Buddhist monks will be right near the top.  Similarly, I think monks are one of the few people aliens would not dismiss as absolutely bat-shit insane.  They have actually found peace in their lives and do not look to the physical world to provide them with their sense of happiness and fulfillment.  They cherish the gifts that were given to them free, at birth.  I’m not saying we should all become Buddhist monks, however I do think that we would all benefit from baby-stepping in that direction.

How do Buddhist monks live?  I don’t really know.  I’m not a Buddhist nor have I ever met a Buddhist monk, however I think we can all conjure up a general representation of what they do on a daily basis.  A founding principle for most of them is simplicity of living.  They do not find their joy and value in worldly things, but instead spend time connecting with the   inner-most part of themselves, others, and the universe.  They flow in harmony with Peace.  They do not indulge in food, because they understand that eating is a nourishing ritual rather than a poisonous one, and they move deliberately in the moment, not dwelling on the past or future.  Whatever comes their way in life, they accept it.  Loving kindness and compassion are core Buddhist virtues.

Do you have core virtues?  If so, what are they?  If not, maybe think about it some more 🙂

One of my favorite monks out there, Thich Nhat Hon, simplified his motto for life down to 4 key words, “Smile. Breathe, and Go Slowly.”  Compare that to a traditional American motto that might read something like this: “Work, Buy, and Vegetate.”  We need much less than we think we do.  Really, I don’t think we need anything to enjoy this present moment.  Just make the decision to enjoy what is, and you will!

Those aliens would have a lot more respect for us if we stopped poisoning ourselves, letting our fellow humans die from preventable causes, and if we found joy in life instead of operating from some cultural delusion that tells us worshipping the mighty dollar is the only source of happiness. Let’s maybe cut back the dollar worshipping just a little bit, eh?  Sit down, breathe, and experience Peace that is with you here and now.

This morning my dad shared some words of wisdom with me. He said, “Be thankful for all things.”  Amen.

Thank you for being!