27 June 2017      

Hi there!  So we've made it to the end of June--it's hard to believe that
2017 is already half over!  We want to wish you a wonderful ending to your
month and a great beginning to your next one--take care and enjoy this issue!

The Principle of Now
Wayne Dyer

The Invitation
Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Kindness to a Stranger
tom walsh

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The true joy of humankind is in doing that which is most proper to our nature; and the first property of people is to be kindly affected towards them that are of one kind with ourselves.

Marcus Aurelius

If you would be interesting, be interested; if you would be pleased, be pleasing; if you would be loved, be lovable; if you would be helped, be helpful.

anonymous

Drag your thoughts away from your troubles--by the ear, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.  It's the healthiest thing a body can do.

Mark Twain

  
The Principle of Now
Wayne Dyer

You've heard it many times, so often in fact that it has become a cliché:  Live in the present.  The now is all there is.  Forget about the past; it's over.  Don't worry about the future; there is only today.  While these are familiar refrains, the truth is that living in the now is an elusive activity for virtually everyone.  It may be easy to say, but it's very tricky to do day in and day out.  And yet, Alan Watts is absolutely correct in the above quotation when he states that it "already is the case."  This is why living in the present moment is so baffling.

Think about the past and you're not living in the now. . . but the now is the only time available for thinking about the past!  Live in anticipation of the future and you're admonished for not being here now. . . but now is all you have for engaging in that delicious "futurizing."  Thus, as Alan Watts reminds you, you strive for what already is.  To be in the now is really your only option.  But the real question isn't how to live in the now, it's how to use the now by being present--rather than wasting it on reflections of the past or concerns about the future. . . .

Ego, Excuse Making, and the Elusive Now

After spending several days preparing to write this chapter, I was trying to focus on its significance when I decided to go for a long swim in the ocean.  As I walked toward the water, I noted that I felt some tension in my solar-plexus region.  It wasn't anything serious--it was just the discomfort I often feel when I have many things to do or decisions to make.

At the moment I was about to dive in, my thoughts went back to the reading I'd just finished on the psychology of the now.  I decided to see if I could totally immerse myself in the moment (which, of course, meant that I was in fact striving for what "already is the case," since I have no other moment than this one), only this time, I'd be fully present, letting everything just be.  I wouldn't worry about the ache in my chest, think about how cold the water would be or which direction the current was flowing, or rehash all the things I had on my current to-do list.  I'd simply be in the now.

I indeed let everything go and stayed focused on the instant, the place, and the surroundings.  And something strange and wonderful happened.  My chest stopped hurting, I loosened up, all of my anxiety dissolved, and I felt totally energized.  For the next 60 minutes or so, I moved through the water staying 100 percent present.  The moment I decided to just be there completely, with all other thoughts pushed aside, the discomfort I was experiencing disappeared.  Moreover, I had the most peaceful swim I've ever had, and I emerged from the water fully refreshed.

My conclusion is that the present moment is an antidote for the pain and difficulties we experience, which we habitually try to soothe with rationales and explanations.  When we plunge ourselves 100 percent into the now, experiencing it and nothing else, we're on an Excuses Begone! journey, with no need for all of those old habituated thinking patterns.

In fact, excuses are simply what you've developed to explain now moments that are tangled into the past or future.  If you're truly in that blissful presence of the now, there's no desire to alter what is.  When your sentences express that "It's going to be difficult . . . it will take a long time . . . I'm not smart enough . . . I'm too old," you're wasting a present moment with excuses from a not-now moment!  And when are you having these thoughts?  You guessed it--the only time you have a thought is in the now.  So if your present moment is being used up replaying why present-moment thinking is incorrect (making excuses), is it available for you to do something constructive?  Obviously not!

All excuses are avoidance techniques to keep you from taking charge and changing your thinking habits.  If you weren't rehashing your excuses but were instead immersed in the now, you'd be experiencing your own form of the bliss and healing that took place for me during my magical swim.  You see, when I removed ego from the moment, I stopped thinking about myself and focused on being fully present--and then I was able to be truly here without ego's excuses.  I had plenty of explanations for the tension in my chest, but when I moved totally into the now with no other thoughts, the excuses disappeared along with the pain.

  

In this groundbreaking work, Wayne presents a compendium of conscious and subconscious crutches employed by virtually everyone, along with ways to cast them aside once and for all. You’ll learn to apply specific questions to any excuse, and then proceed through the steps of a new paradigm. The old, habituated ways of thinking will melt away as you experience the absurdity of hanging on to them.  You’ll ultimately realize that there are no excuses worth defending, ever, even if they’ve always been part of your life—and the joy of releasing them will resonate throughout your very being. When you eliminate the need to explain your shortcomings or failures, you’ll awaken to the life of your dreams.

   

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The Invitation
Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting in your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit in pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade from it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tip of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day, and if you can source your life from God's presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.

I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here.  I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.  I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
   
   

In The Invitation, Oriah expands on the poem that started it all, exhorting us to fully examine our lives, learn to live with intimacy and joy, and, above all, be true to ourselves. The Dance is the celebrated follow-up that reveals how to let go and enjoy the dance of life.  To dance, alone or with others, is to slow down and realize that who we are is enough. Finally, in The Call, Oriah shows that each of us has our own call, our own specific place in the universe, and a contribution that only we can make.

   

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I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think,
all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read,
and all the friends I want to see.  The longer I live the more my mind
dwells upon the beauty and wonder of the world.  I hardly know
which feeling leads, wonderment or admiration.

John Burroughs

   

 
Kindness to a Stranger
Arriving in Geneva

     It had been a very long day.  I had left Barcelona that morning, hitchhiking eastward, heading to Switzerland.  My hitchhiking experience had been limited to Spain before then, and Spain is a country where hitching is extremely difficult to do.  Both times that I tried it I had ended up spending many hours on the side of the road, taking two days to get to places that really should have taken me just under a day.  So I was prepared to spend at least one night in France—the day before I had changed some pesetas to French francs so that I would have something with which to pay for a youth hostel somewhere.  Then I would change whatever French francs I had left to Swiss francs.
     Fortunately or unfortunately, though, I found myself standing on a street leading into Geneva at about seven p.m.  I wanted to catch a bus into the city, but of course I had no Swiss francs at all and it was far too late to find an open bank.  I was just about to resign myself to walking all the way into the city when I decided to take a chance and put my weak French to use to find out if there were some way to change a few francs from the French to the Swiss version.
     If nothing else, it was a beautiful evening to be in Switzerland for the first time.  It was early May, and the weather had been mild the whole day—right around 70 or 75 degrees with clear blue skies all the way across southern France.  I certainly wasn’t in desperate need of shelter, and even a long walk into town wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.  The street was quiet, and very, very clean—after a year in Spain, the cleanliness of Switzerland was almost shocking, and one of the first things that I noticed.  I absolutely loved living in Spain, but the clean streets were almost luxurious and very attractive.
     I had no idea exactly where I was.  I’ve looked at maps since then, trying to figure out what street I was on, but to no avail.  The man who had given me the last ride had left me right at the border on what looked to be a typical suburban street with nothing on it that distinguished it from any other suburban street.  There were a few stores and restaurants and everything else that one would expect to find on the outskirts of a major city.  He had told me that I could get a bus from there to the city, a bus that I couldn’t get on without risking getting a significant fine for riding without a valid ticket.
     One of the biggest problems I’ve dealt with in my life has been shyness, especially early on, so it was kind of surprising that I decided to ask someone for help.  It was especially surprising because I’d have to ask in French, which is definitely not a language that I would consider myself to be strong in.  Nevertheless, when a young woman was walking by me, I caught her eye and asked, “Perdon, est-ce que vous pouvez me dire, on peut-on changer d’argent?”  I just wanted to exchange some francs for francs, but I had no idea where I’d be able to do so.
     I couldn’t even describe her to you right now.  I have a vague memory of what she looked like, but I also have a feeling that the memory has been warped by later experiences with other people.  I can’t remember what her voice sounded like, or how tall she was, or even what color hair she had.  What I do remember is the kindness in her eyes, but also the melancholy there.  She took one look at me and told me to follow her.
     In a couple of minutes we were seated in a cafe, and we each ordered a coffee.  I was kind of bewildered—I had simply wanted to know where to exchange some cash, and to be sitting down in a cafe with someone I didn’t know was not at all what I had expected.  But it was okay—she seemed like a very nice person, and when you’re hitch-hiking through a continent that’s foreign to you, you don’t really ask too many questions.  You tend to go with the flow and do what’s called for at the moment.
     It turned out to be a fascinating time for me—a very short amount of time, to be sure, but fascinating nonetheless.  She spoke English pretty well, so we were able to have a conversation that was actually interesting, especially for me.  I don’t know how she felt about it.
     It turned out that she was on her way home.  She lived in France and worked in Switzerland, as the rents and the costs of living in general were much cheaper in France than in Switzerland, even just across the border like that.  She didn’t particularly like her job, it seemed, but it was good for her to be earning more money.  She explained the bus system to me, and told me that I only needed on Swiss franc to ride the bus into the city, which wasn’t much at all.  She even gave me a franc, so I didn’t need to change any money, though she also told me that there on the border, you could use whichever currency you wanted to in most places.  They accepted both the Swiss and the French money, so generally there was no problem.  Of course, that wasn’t something that an ignorant American tourist would know, but it was good to learn.
     It was a very surreal situation for me—I had left Barcelona just that morning, and now I was sitting in the outskirts of Geneva, having a cup of coffee with a complete stranger.  I remember so little of the conversation that it almost seems silly writing about what happened because I can’t give any details.
     But the details don’t matter to me.  What does matter is the fact that this young woman showed me a kindness that I had no reason at all to expect, and that I’ve appreciated ever since.  I think about her often—how a young French woman gave me a very pleasant introduction to the city of Geneva, even though she didn’t live there herself.
    After about half an hour, she said she had to get home.  I told her that I was going to be in Geneva for a few days and I offered to buy her lunch as a thank-you—she had even paid for the coffees.  She though a moment, then she shook her head and thanked me anyway.
     It’s funny to think of how much a chance encounter can affect a person for the rest of his life.  She showed me a model of compassion and kindness that I’ve ever since aspired to meeting myself, even though I usually fall far short of doing so.  A complete stranger in Geneva taught me a great deal about caring for other people, and it’s a lesson that I continue to try to live up to, as a thank-you to her.  I’ve forgotten much about our short time together—her name, what she looked like, what kind of work that she did—but I’ll never forget her kindness.  Or her sadness.  Or what seemed to be sadness.  Her melancholy struck me deeply, I think mostly because even though I felt the sadness very strongly, she was still willing to help out a complete stranger, a foreigner, who needed a bit of help.  Perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps she wasn’t sad at all.  She might have been very tired after a hard day of work, or she might have been distracted by something going on in her life.  It doesn’t matter.
     Before we parted ways, she walked me to the nearest bus stop and told me which bus to take and where to get off when I reached Geneva.  I felt like I was unable to express the gratitude that I felt for her help and for her taking the time to have a cup of coffee with me.  I said “Merci beaucoup,” but those two words most certainly didn’t feel adequate.  They would have to do, though, because she was soon on her way, and I was soon on a bus into town.  She was out of my life as quickly as she had entered it, but the memory of how she helped me is something that will never leave me.
     I've thought about her often since then.  Did she go on to live a happy life?  Did she have a loving family and plenty of friends?  Why did she go out of her way to help me and to talk to me, when she could have just showed me the bus stop and handed me a coin?
     The questions that I have will never be answered, of course, but that's okay.  I have a wonderful memory of a kind person helping me out when I really needed help, and that's worth a fortune to me.
     Because I want to be the person that she was to me.  I want to be kind to strangers, to help them out when they need help.  I want to know that kindness is a huge part of my life, and that I really am contributing to the peace and harmony of the world when I am kind.  I would like to be the person who gives to others with no thought of getting anything back, even if it's something as simple as a one-franc coin that will allow them to take a bus to where they need to go.  On a spring evening on the outskirts of Geneva, that young woman taught me an extremely important lesson about life, and I sincerely hope that someday I'm able to make kindness something that people remember about me--if they remember nothing else about me, may they remember that "he was kind."

   
A Matter of Moments

This is a new column for me, a way to examine and explore things that have happened to me in my life that have been extremely positive and extremely negative--things that have helped me to learn about life and living and about myself and my strengths and my weaknesses, my prejudices and abilities, my shortcomings and my gifts.  It's based on the idea that while life is long and varied, there are many moments that stand out, times when we've learned important lessons and developed significantly as human beings in a very short time.  One of the reasons I'm doing it here is simple:  I've wanted to write this as a book for a long time, and if I do  the separate entries each week, by the end of a year or so, the book will be written and will need just a bit of work to tie everything together.  So please enjoy these moments!
    

   
More on goodness.

   

One of the most important elements of living life fully is awareness-- awareness of our surroundings, of other people and their motives and fears and desires, of the things that affect us most in our lives, both positively and negatively. In the twelve years of livinglifefully.com's existence, this essay series has been a mainstay of the weekly e-zine--a series that has explored not just the things that exist and that happen around us, but also our reactions to those things. The first five years of the column are now available exclusively on Kindle.

   

  

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Always, I suppose, if you have a few perfect days, you can count on some kind of trouble.  But whether or not you live with a happy attitude depends on your own cast of mind and the power of your faith.  What you think determines what you are.

Norman Vincent Peale

  
I remember this illumination happening to me one noontime as I stood in the kitchen and watched my children eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  We were having a most unremarkable time on a nondescript day, in the midst of the most quotidian of routines.  I hadn't censed the table, sprinkled the place mats with holy water, or uttered a sanctifying prayer over the Wonder bread.  I wasn't feeling particularly "spiritual."  But, heeding I don't know what prompting, I stopped abruptly in mid-bustle, or mid-woolgathering, and looked around me as if I were opening my eyes for the first time that day.

The entire room became luminous and so alive with movement that everything seemed suspended--yet pulsating--for an instant, like light waves.  Intense joy swelled inside me, and my immediate response was gratitude--gratitude for everything, every tiny thing in that space.  The shelter of the room became a warm embrace; water flowing from the tap seemed a tremendous miracle; and my children became, for a moment, not my progeny or my charges or my tasks, but eternal beings of infinite singularity and complexity whom I would one day, in an age to come, apprehend in their splendid fullness.

Holly Bridges Elliott
   

  

Don Juan assured me that in order to accomplish the feat of making myself
miserable I had to work in the most intense fashion, and that it was absurd.
I had now realized I could work just the same in making myself complete and strong.
"The trick is in what one emphasizes," he said.  "We either make ourselves miserable,
or we make ourselves strong.  The amount of work is the same."

Carlos Castaneda

    

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