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19 March 2019      

Giving back to Life
Leo Buscaglia

No Fear!
David Thomas

The Five Secrets You Must Discover
before You Die      John Izzo

The good and the wise lead quiet lives.    -Euripides

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Simple and Profound Thoughts
(from simpleandprofound.com)

You give but little when you give of your possessions.  It is when you give of your heart that you truly give.   -Khalil Gibran

It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed your own.   -Jessamyn West

Nothing is worth more than this day.   -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Liberty exists in proportion to wholesome restraint.   -Daniel Webster


Giving back to Life
Leo Buscaglia

What is essential, I think, is to live life in wonder.  All this magic that's around us, but we let it go by!  In Asia they say life is a great river, and it will flow, no matter what you do or don't do.  We can decide to flow with the river, and live in peace and joy and love, or we can decide to battle it, and live in agony and despair.  But the river doesn't care.  Life doesn't care.  In either case, all of our streams run into the same sea.  It's up to you.

What is essential is not only to take from life, but it is essential that you put something back into it.

We've forgotten our responsibility to give.  I have several charities to which I give but, because I send it to "other lands," I can't deduct from my income tax.  "You're crazy!"  How sad.  We've really forgotten how to give.  I give love because I love you, not because I expect you to love back.  If I give expecting something in return, I'm sure to be unhappy.  When you say good morning to someone, it's because you volitionally want to say it, not because you expect something back.  If you expect something back and they don't say it, then you're bummed out, "I knew I shouldn't have said good morning."

I go out sometimes--and really, we've reached this point--and say good morning and somebody turns to me and says, "Do I know you?"  And I say, "No, but wouldn't it be nice?"  Sometimes they say no.  That's their privilege.  But I did my thing.  I said hello.  They did their thing, saying hello back or not.

If we don't expect, we have all things, says Buddha.  Love because you will to love.  Give because you will to give.  Flowers bloom because they must, not because there are people fawning over them!  You live and love because you will.  Because you must.

I had a girl come into my office this week who sat there for almost an hour talking about "me, me, me!"  This is a quote:  "I'm not sure what I want from life."  Finally, this good old nondirective counselor shouted out, "What the hell are you giving to Life!?  Every day you take something from the ground, you take from the air, you take from the beauty--what are you giving back?"  We never think about what we're putting back, do we?

While writing a book on counseling, I spent three months alone in northern California in a little cabin.  Every day I would go for long, long walks along the Smith River into the redwoods, and spend hours.  One day I got into a grove of giant redwoods and saw a sign against one of those enormous redwoods that some ranger had scribbled out explaining the life cycle of a redwood, probably without realizing how really beautiful it was.  It showed that when the redwood was this big, Buddha was born, when it was this tall, Jesus was born, when it was so big, Hannibal crossed the Alps, and on and on.

In the last paragraph he said, "Even when a tree dies and lies on the earth's surface, all is not over.  Decomposers begin their job of breaking the tree down slowly.  As the years go by the tree blends into the soil, returning all it took so that others may live."  Isn't that outrageous?  And immediately I thought this could be applied to human beings.  At least in the end we will have to give something!  That wonderful, continuous cycle.  Maybe Leo Rosten was right when he said that the purpose of life is simply to count, to matter, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.  Maybe that's essential.

more on giving


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The Five Secrets You Must Discover before You Die
John Izzo

What are the secrets to happiness and meaning? Why do some people find a deep sense of purpose while they are here and die with few regrets while others end their lives bitter and disappointed?

About two years ago I set out to answer that question by asking several thousand people to identify the one person they knew who had lived a long life and found true happiness. It seemed to me that each of us knows at least one person who achieved true success. After receiving over 1,000 nominations, I interviewed 235 people from the age of 59-106 (who had over 18,000 years of life experience) asking them to reflect back on their lives: What brought happiness? What gave meaning? What did they regret? What did they wish they had learned sooner? What did not matter in the end?

These “wise elders” were an incredibly diverse group ranging from a town barber to CEO’s, from poets to native chiefs, Holocaust survivors to war veterans, and represented all the major religions and cultures of our society. My goal was not to interview famous people but to identify ordinary people who had found extraordinary happiness. What I discovered were five clear themes of what it means to live a happy and meaningful life (and to die with a smile on your face). In my new book, The Five Secrets You Must Discover before You Die, I share the five true paths to finding meaning in life and show how we can live these secrets.

The first secret I learned from these interviews is Be true to yourself. Each one of us is on a unique human journey and the path to true happiness is to be true to ourselves. This means knowing what brings us happiness and focusing our life on what matters to us. It means reflecting on a regular basis as to whether our life fits our soul. In our daily lives it means knowing what brings us joy and ensuring that we fill our life with the right elements. It also means following our unique destiny. One of the people I interviewed was a Latino woman who talked about the importance of following our “destina.” The idea is that each of us has a path that is most true to us, which is not so much a destination as a way we are meant to be in the world. For example, I am a teacher and philosopher by nature and when I stay close to that path I experience true joy.

Being true to self often means drowning out other voices that would ask us to live their dreams instead of ours. Ron, a gifted chiropractor, told me the story of how he planned to become a medical doctor but when he visited a chiropractor shortly before starting medical school he discovered a profession that connected to his true self. “Others told me I was crazy but I knew it was my path.”  He told me that to follow your heart you must have the “discipline to listen and the courage to follow.” This means asking if the life we are living is true to our deepest sense of self and it sometimes requires a step of courage to follow our soul. Are you being true to yourself right now?

The second secret I learned is to Leave No Regrets. It seems to me that what we fear most as we age is not death, but rather to come to the end of our life feeling that we never truly lived. The saddest words ever spoken at the end of life are “I wish I had…” Tom, a native healer, told me that the great fear at the end of life is “the great incompleteness; that you did not do what you came here to do.” One of the most interesting things I discovered in talking to 235 wise people is that almost no one regretted risks they took that did not work out and most said they wished they had risked more. When I asked these people about major crossroads in their lives, many of them talked about taking risks-sometimes large and sometimes small-which wound up bringing great happiness. One of the keys to moving towards what we want instead of what we fear is to focus on the best possible result and not the worst. Are you going for what you truly want in your life or acting with fear?

Become Love
was the third secret I learned from these people. Not surprisingly, the greatest source of happiness for people and the largest place of regret had to do with people. What I discovered is that those who made people a priority in their lives and who developed deep personal relationships found true happiness. Many of them told me that “things” rarely brought true joy whereas family and friends brought lasting happiness. One way to focus on relationships is to get intentional goals for our personal relationships just like we do in our careers.

Yet the most interesting thing I uncovered is that being a loving person, the choice to give love, is even more important in determining happiness than getting it. These people talked to me about the importance of choosing love and kindness as your way in the world. They taught me that when we choose to be a loving person we find a deep sense of meaning in life.

The fourth secret was to Live the Moment. One of the most common things people told me was how fast life goes by and how important it is to enjoy each moment. One woman told me “when you are young you think sixty years is an incredibly long time but when you get there you realize it was only a moment.” Among the secrets they shared were how important it is to live in the present, to fully enjoy whatever experience you are having (and not to wish you were somewhere else), and to live with gratitude focusing on what you are grateful for rather than what you don’t have. They told me that we have no power over the past and little power over the future. Many of them said that whenever you find yourself saying “I will be happy when or I will be happy if” that it is important to remember that happiness is a choice we make inside. One woman told me: “You have to stop judging your life and start living your life. Stop keeping score trying to decide if you are winning. Instead live each day fully and stay in the moment.” Are you living with gratitude right now, focusing on enjoying your life rather than judging it?

The fifth and final secret was to Give More Than You Take. When I asked people what gave their life the greatest meaning, people told me again and again people that being of service and knowing that you made things better because you were here was by far the greatest source of meaning. I learned that whether in career or personal life, that it is what we give not what we take that gives life meaning. Many of them also reminded me that we have little control over what we get from the world every day (whether people will love us, whether we will win the lottery, etc.) but we have complete control over what we give to the world (whether we choose to be kind, charitable, and to give to others). These people reminded me that everything we take from the world dies with us, but everything we give to the world gets recycled. A wise woman named Susan told me that “when we are young we cry for ourselves but as we age we learn to cry for the world.” Indeed all the spiritual traditions remind us that true happiness comes from focusing on being of service and in the process joy finds us. Are you focused on giving or getting each day?

What I also discovered is that it is not enough to know the secrets, we must live them. One man told me “many of us know what is important but it is not enough to know, you have to put these things into practice.” These people taught me a great deal about how to live the secrets as well and I share many of their techniques in the book. One of my favorites was sixty-four year old Joel who told me about how he reminds himself each day to live the moment. “When I wake up the first thing I do is say a prayer thanking God and the universe that I get to live one more day and I pray that I will treat it as a gift. At night, just before I go to bed, I have a time of meditation and remember all the things that I am grateful for that day and ask for one more day.”

Someone once told me “if you want to live a happy life; ask someone who has lived one.” This past year I had the privilege to sit at the feet of 235 of the wisest people I have ever met and I was amazed how clear they were on what mattered, what didn’t matter, and how each of us can create a life of meaning and happiness.

* * * * *

Copyright John B Izzo, the best-selling author of Second Innocence and host of the public television series The Five Things You Must Discover Before You Die. Holding advanced degrees in religion and psychology, Izzo has spoken to over one million people on four continents about living more purposeful lives.



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And so taking the long way home through the market I slow my pace
down.  It doesn't come naturally.  My legs are programmed to trot
briskly and my arms to pump up and down like pistons, but I force
myself to stroll past the stalls and pavement cafes.  To enjoy just
being somewhere, rather than rushing from somewhere, to somewhere.
Inhaling deep lungfuls of air, instead of my usual shallow breaths.  I
take a moment to just stop and look around me.  And smile to myself.

For the first time in a long time, I can, quite literally, smell the coffee.

Alexandra Potter
The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather

No Fear!
David Thomas

Imagine that--being a spirit means that we have nothing to fear.  It's hard to conceive of, isn't it?  Especially since so many of our actions and decisions, so much of what we do and think and feel, is based on fear.  It's really quite astonishing to think of being fearless, when all is said and done, and it seems quite impossible.  But it's a simple fact:  when we see ourselves as spirits, spiritual beings who are here having a human experience, there simply is nothing to fear.

Let me explain, because it really sounds too simple and too good to be true.  To explain well, we need to think of the things that we're afraid of.  We fear other people's judgment, we fear running out of money, we fear losing our jobs, we fear failure, we fear rejection, we fear pain, we fear disease, we fear death, we fear loss, we fear others taking advantage of us.  And that's enough to start with.  But let's think about those fears, and how strongly tied they are to our experiences here as human beings.  We know in our depths that these fears are somewhat irrational, but we rarely think about why they may be so--because they are tied to our experiences here, and are not at all tied to who we are as spiritual beings.

Of course, that's easy to say.  But what does it really mean to us?

It almost seems like a cop-out, doesn't it?  "I don't have to worry about paying my bills because I'm an eternal spirit and my bills don't matter on that level."  And many people do use the concept as an excuse for their own negligence or irresponsible behavior.  But looking at ourselves as spirits is not an effort to shirk responsibility; on the contrary, once we recognize ourselves as spirits, we face an even higher level of responsibility because we known that we have a purpose or three for being here, and irresponsible behavior can sabotage our efforts to fulfill that purpose or those purposes.

So much of our fear is fear of loss, and much is fear of judgment.  Neither of those things matter, though, when we embrace our spiritual reality.  To an eternal being, the loss of something temporal like a relationship or a possession or a job or even a house may be extremely painful, but it's not something that we can't get over.  We know that part of what we're learning here is how to deal with adversity, so all of our losses are part of our lessons--and with each loss that we have to deal with, our learning grows deeper, so our knowledge and wisdom grow deeper as well.

But other people might judge me if I do this!  That's okay--let them judge.  One of the true benchmarks of true wisdom is the ability to do what we know needs to be done without being concerned about how others will react.  If it needs to be done, it needs to be done, right?  If it needs to be said, it needs to be said.  And if I really like this jacket even though I know my friends will make fun of it, then the jacket needs to be worn, doesn't it?  On the day you pass from this world, another person's judgment is not going to be there in your mind--unless you allowed that judgment to keep you from doing something important to you, and in that case, you'll be remembering it as the cause of the regret that you're feeling.

As spiritual beings, we also know that miracles do happen, but much of the fear we feel as humans is due to the fact that we've stopped believing in miracles, choosing instead to believe in the logical/rational nature of the brain that's inside of our heads.  The brain is an amazing instrument, it's true, but only when used in tandem with a spirit--by itself, it's pretty useless.  It does allow us to do some pretty cool things and to figure out some pretty important concepts, but we also depend upon it far too much, even allowing it sometimes to be more important to us than our spirits are, and that, my friends, is a huge mistake.  Logic is important, but there are plenty of things that are much, much more important, like love and peace of mind and heart.

We fear being unloved.  That's our brain taking in evidence and misinterpreting it, coming to the conclusion that we are unlovable.  That's simply not true.  You and I are loved deeply and fully by the God that created us--whatever you perceive that God to be.  You are loved by other spirits, even if they have allowed their humanness to interfere with their ability to express that love.  Don't allow their lack of ability to express their love to keep you from feeling their love.  You know it's there--don't allow that brain of yours to convince you somehow that it's not.  Your fear of being unloved is unfounded, and when you approach the world from the perspective of who you are as a spirit, you'll know that love is there even when others can't see it.

Cast away your fear.  It serves no purpose most of the time.  (And the fear I'm talking about is not the same as the fear of danger that can keep you out of dangerous situations--you understand that, I'm sure!)  Allow your spirit to shine through your humanness, and you'll find that your life becomes something different, something brighter, something much richer and deeper and fuller.


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The path of awakening
is not about becoming
who you are.  Rather
it is about unbecoming
who you are not.

Leonard Jacobson

The primitive, physical, functional pattern of the morning of life, the active years before forty or fifty, is outlived.  But there is still the afternoon opening up, which one can spend not in the feverish pace of the morning but in having time at last for those intellectual, cultural, and spiritual activities that were pushed aside in the heat of the race.  We Americans, with our terrific emphasis on youth, action, and material success, certainly tend to belittle the afternoon of life and even pretend that it never comes.  We push the clock back and try to prolong the morning, overreaching and overstraining ourselves in the unnatural effort.  We do not succeed, of course.  We cannot compete with our sons and daughters.  And what a struggle it is to race with these overactive and under-wise adults!  In our breathless attempts we often miss the flowering that waits for afternoon.

For is it not possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period of second flowering, second growth, even a kind of second adolescence?  It is true that society in general does not help one accept this interpretation of the second half of life. And therefore this period of expanding is often tragically misunderstood.  Many people never climb above the plateau of forty-to-fifty.  The signs that presage growth, so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence:  discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing, and interpreted falsely as signs of decay.  In youth one does not as often misinterpret the signs; one accepts them, quite rightly, as growing pains.  One takes them seriously, listens to them, follows where they lead.  One is afraid.  Naturally.  Who is not afraid of pure space--that breath-taking empty space of an open door?  But despite fear, one goes through to the room beyond.

But in middle age, because of the false assumption that  it is a period of decline, one interprets these life-signs, paradoxically, as signs of approaching death.  Instead of facing them, one runs away; one escapes--into depressions, nervous breakdowns, drink, love affairs, or frantic, thoughtless, fruitless overwork.  Anything, rather than face them.  Anything, rather than stand still and learn from them.  One tries to cure the signs of growth, to exorcise them, as if they were devils, when really they might be angels of annunciation.

Angels of annunciation of what?  Of a new stage in living when, having shed many of the physical struggles, the worldly ambitions, the material encumbrances of active life, one might be free to fulfill the neglected side of one's self.  One might be free for growth of mind, heart, and talent; free at last for spiritual growth; free of the clamping sunrise shell.  Beautiful as it was, it was still a closed world one had to outgrow.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Gift from the Sea


Most people enter into relationships with an eye toward what
they can get out of them, rather than what they can put into
them.  The purpose of a relationship is to decide what part of
yourself you'd like to see "show up," not what part of another
you can capture and hold.  The purpose of a relationship is not
to have another who might complete you; but to have another
with whom you might share your completeness.

Neale Donald Walsch




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