3 November  2015      

Good day, and welcome to our first issue of November!  It's hard to believe
that we're in the next-to-last month of the year already, but here we are!
We sincerely hope that you're able to make this a very special month indeed!

Judgment (an excerpt)
Laura Berman Fortgang

 Listening
John Milton Fogg

Strategies for Achievement
tom walsh

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If I were to begin life again, I should
want it as it was.  I would only
open my eyes a little more.

Jules Renard

When you discover that you are
riding a dead horse, the best
strategy is to dismount.

Dakota tribal saying

Don't limit a child to your own way of loving, for the child was born in another time.

from a Rabbinical saying

The aim of life is to live, and to live
means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly,
serenely, divinely aware.

Henry Miller

  

Judgment (an excerpt)
Laura Berman Fortgang

Keeping my own judgment at bay is part of my work.  Whether I am coaching people or sitting with them in a ministry context, I am invited into their most personal thoughts and feelings.  It is a privilege and honor to be there, and to earn it I have to remain neutral and unattached.  I am not supposed to take sides.  The secrets, weak spots, and fears I hold for these people must be locked away in a vault inside my brain, not to be brought up unless it is in service to them.  If I interact with someone outside a coaching session, those precious secrets never come out of the vault.  I am to know that person as he or she wants to be known in his or her public persona.  Otherwise, those treasures could become weapons.

Truthfully, it is easier to do this in my work than in contexts where my consciousness is not as focused or raised as high.  I had a humbling lesson about this a couple of years ago in a conversation with a childhood friend.  Past history had preserved our friendship, but geographical distance kept us from being well connected.  We also operate on different belief systems and found it hard to talk about personal things, which contributed to our infrequent contact.  In an attempt to strengthen our relationship, I thought hitting on some points that we'd avoided before might be beneficial to us both.  I was very, very wrong.

My friend and I had both been given opportunities for education that not all in our extended families had enjoyed.  I always wondered why my friend, once on the path to taking premed courses, chose not to pursue any particular career path and instead had worked in administrative jobs for almost two decades.  I asked in hopes of understanding her better and bridging a better connection, but instead I stepped on a land mine.

"Who are you to judge my choice of work?" she exploded.  "It was good enough for both of our mothers, why isn't it good enough for me?"

Wow.  I hadn't realized that I had judged her.  I knew how brilliantly smart she was and how underused she felt in each of her administrative jobs.  I thought I was simply wanting more for her, but I had to admit that I had passed judgment.  It was subtle, but it was so.  I had been looking down on her for not doing more with what I felt she had.  I was humbled by that and shifted immediately to knowing that the only way to move the relationship forward was to accept her for exactly who she is, no more, no less.

From there, I hoped we'd have a chance at a meaningful relationship.

We've all been judged in one form or another.  Whether it was by a parent, a teacher, a boss, or a friend, we know what it feels like to be judged.  Some of us may have even had the misfortune of being falsely accused of a big infraction.  And still, with the mental and physical memory of that pain, we can't help doing it to others and, often, to ourselves.

One of my pet peeves in the social realm occurs when someone has been trusted with my private world and I have to endure a ribbing at my own expense in front of others.  If I've shared things with someone that are later used publicly to one-up me or embarrass me, I have to question what that person's motivation is.  When I ask, a common response from people is:  "I was just kidding!"

Let's look at the motivation for "just kidding."  Who gets to be "up" and who gets to be "down" when we slap people publicly with a joke at their expense?  You may have thought you were just kidding, but your ego was trying to be superior or gain power and your undisciplined mind allowed it.  There's a time and a place for humor with friends, and I can zing a joke with the best of them, but when comedy becomes another form of condemnation, we have to see through the disguise to our desire for power--and thus separation--the root of feeling that meaning is missing.

Clearly, the need for growth continues.  It is a constant exercise in mindfulness and compassion to find greater meaning to the little dramas of life that want to smack us back into knee-jerk reactions.  It takes time and patience with ourselves and others to climb over the obstacles that the mind and the ego want to put in the way of harmony with the people around us.  It's so much easier to stop at the base of the mountain of judgment and only see the limited view.  It takes great effort to climb to the top and see more clearly for miles and miles around.  The view from there is inspiring.  It's the feeling we all want for our lives of unlimited possibilities and a connection to the beauty of the natural order of things.  That view is attainable whether we are looking  in the mirror or into the face of another person.  When we realize we are they and they are we, that in essence we are one, judgment would be impossible without condemning ourselves as well.  When we clear our minds from the judgment of others and ourselves and even situations, we are free.  Meaning shifts from being a sense of superiority to a sense of oneness and connection.
  
  

In The Little Book on Meaning Laura Berman Fortgang reveals that while our hunger for a meaningful life can be enormous, our desire for meaning is usually satiated by small, bite-size morsels of meaning-the small, almost incidental events or "achievements" that comprise the fabric of our lives. According to Fortgang, meaning is where you look for it, and through tenderly drawn stories from her own life and the lives of those around her, she shows readers how they too can peek around corners to discover the small elements of their lives that truly matter.

   

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Listening
John Milton Fogg

In the beginning, it is written, was the word.  Problem is, nobody was listening.  Besides the universal life purpose that I believe all human beings share of learning to love and be loved, listening is the life lesson I wished I'd learned long ago--in the beginning.

"Listen," my mentor, Carol McCall said (and so titled her book), "there's a world waiting to be heard."  All you need do is read a magazine, newspaper, blog, or (perish the act) turn on the television to learn how people, communities, corporations, countries are not listening--and the tragic price they are paying for not listening.

Even though 85 percent of what we know we learn by listening, researchers have found that we are distracted, preoccupied, or forgetful three-quarters of the time.  Oh we hear what people are saying, but we're not listening.  Not really.  Proof?  More research:  We only remember 20 percent of what we hear.  Why?  Because although we listen to between 125 to 250 words per minute, we think at 1,000 to 3,000 words per minute, and while other people are speaking, we're thinking, thinking, thinking. . . .  Here's what William Stringfellow wrote in the Quaker monthly Friend's Journal:

Listening is a rare happening among human beings.  You cannot listen to the word another is speaking if you are preoccupied with your appearance, or with impressing the other, or are trying to decide what you are going to say when the other stops talking, or are debating about whether what is being said is true or relevant or agreeable.  Such matters have their place, but only after listening to the word as the word is being uttered.  Listening is a primitive act of love in which a person gives him- or herself to another's word, making oneself accessible and vulnerable to that word.

Simple science shows us that no two things can take up the same space at the same time.  So it is with listening.  You cannot think and listen; read and listen; day dream and listen; write and listen; agree, disagree, argue, interpret, mind read, rehearse, plot, plan, placate, or even listen and listen.  Listening requires our full and focused attention on the other person.  Real listening truly honors people.  Authentic listening can actually heal people.

One bit I appreciate most about the quote from Stringfellow is "Listening is a primitive act of love. . . ."  What makes that special and important for me is that it takes me right back to the beginning.  If, as I said and believe, every human being shares the same life purpose to learn to love and be loved, then listening gives me a simple--though not easy to master--truly elegant power tool to fulfill my life's purpose.

Yet the number of us who have had formal educational experience in listening is less than two in every hundred people.  I wished I'd learned to listen long, long ago.

~John Milton Fogg is the author of The Greatest Networker in the World

  
  

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Even if I may be going through a challenging experience, I am grateful,
for I know that good will come from it.  Will I learn of inner strength that
I didn't know I had?  Will I gain a renewed appreciation for my life and
the people in it?   I am grateful for my present circumstances,
for I know they offer opportunities for growth.

unattributed, The Daily Word

   

 

Strategies for Achievement

I believe that one of the curses of modern life is that we are set up to live our lives passively, watching TV, watching sports, reading things online that other people have written.  And one of the most common causes of frustration and dissatisfaction with life becomes a lack of a sense of achievement--a lack of doing something that we're proud of, and that we enjoy doing.  We're taught to go through our lives passively experiencing other people's accomplishments in the forms of books, movies, music, television, sports, etc., yet we're very rarely given specific instruction on how we, ourselves, might be able to achieve.

Many of us feel that our most important achievements could come from our jobs, but even there, aren't we usually just doing what we're supposed to do?  Not enough of us feel that our greatest achievement is our family--and I say not enough because the fact is that because so few people put a great deal of true effort into making sure that their families are doing well, there's an awful lot of dysfunction to be found in our families.  If more people viewed a healthy and happy family as a potential achievement, then more people would be parts of healthy and happy families.

But how do we achieve?  Some people rarely undertake tasks because they don't know how to end them; their tendency is to get part-way through them and then drop them for something else.  Others never start because of their fear that the achievement won't be worthwhile.  Still others don't see the point in trying to achieve something on their own because no one else recognizes their efforts or compliments the finished result.

   

Four steps to achievement:
Plan purposefully.
Prepare prayerfully.
Proceed positively.
Pursue persistently.

William A. Ward

   
We don't need to go into the reasons for achieving here.  A sense of accomplishment and pride is generally its own reward, and can change our lives.  But if we do want to achieve things in our lives that are significant to us, then we do have to acknowledge certain requirements for achievement.  I present these in no particular order, for that's going to be different for each person.  But without these things, our chances of achieving something significant to us are much, much less.

First, we have to devote time to what we're trying to do.  It will take time to get the task done, and it will often take time to do the planning necessary.  Sometimes it will take time to prepare ourselves to be able to do what we're trying to do (see below).  There is very little achievement where there is very little time dedicated to the task.

We also have to focus.  Turn the cell phone off.  Turn the computer off.  When I'm writing a novel, I work on a computer that has no Internet connection, for I know that the temptation to look something up will be strong, and once I do that, one click will get me to another page, where I'll start reading something. . . .  You get the idea.  Focus is extremely important if we want to achieve, so it's important that we create a situation with as few distractions as possible so that we can dedicate ourselves to the task at hand.
    

Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open,
concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want.
No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.

Paulo Coelho

    
We also need to be realistic.  I've known quite a few people who seem to sabotage themselves every time they decide that they want to achieve something.  They set themselves up to try to do something that they simply have no right to expect to be able to do--someone who hasn't trained decides to run a marathon, or someone who has no experience in home maintenance decides to remodel his house's bathroom.  If I have a week off, I'm not going to be able to write a novel in that time.

It's important that we're prepared for what we're doing.  This one logically follows the idea of being realistic.  If I've never done any sort of home maintenance, then there are classes I can take and books that I can study.  I can prepare myself with the knowledge necessary to do the job.  But knowledge is not all that's necessary--I also need to have the right tools to do all the work.  And it would be a good idea to have enough time blocked off to actually do the work, and all of the parts and furnishings necessary to get the job done.  If I'm going to run a marathon, I can prepare myself with two or three months of running, especially for longer distances.

Are you willing to sacrifice?  Time?  Social functions?  Television programs?  It isn't always necessary to do so, but some things do require us to make a choice.  Of course, it's important to choose carefully what to sacrifice depending on what the trade-off is--would you trade quality time with your family for the chance to repaint your car, or would it be better to trade television time for that chance?  Some trade-offs just aren't worth it, and we need to be realistic in the ways that we decide what kinds of trades we make.
   

What distinguishes people of genuine achievement from the rest of us
is not so much their intellectual powers and aptitudes as their curiosity,
their energy, their fullest use of their potentialities.  Nobody really knows
how smart or talented he or she is until that person finds the incentives
to use him- or herself to the fullest.  God has given us more than
we know what to do with.

Sydney J. Harris

   
Achievement is a question of effort--without the latter, there is none of the former.  But we can create and sustain conditions that help to make that effort result in an actual achievement.  We don't have to be the best artist to create a painting.  We don't have to be the best writer to create a novel.  We don't have to be the most adept at social situations in order to develop friendships or business connections.  We just need to know what we want to accomplish and then make sure that we do all that we can to give ourselves a chance to actually achieve what we desire.

   
More on achievement.

   

One of the most important elements
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Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.  There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right.  To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

  
Bring a heightened state of awareness to your daily life by noticing your surroundings and thinking of their history.  For example, imagine the history of a wooden table.  Think back to when it was a tree in the woods.  Look at the grain and see the lines, each signifying a year, and think of that tree standing all that time in one place.  Then imagine it being cut down, taken to a mill, made into lumber, shipped to a furniture factory, sawed, glued, and finished.  Imagine the table on the transport truck, and then in a store, and think of the people walking by and touching it.  Then remember when it came into your life.  It has a history, the same as we do.

A heightened state of awareness comes when we look, and then look again, and then relax into whatever situation we are in.  When we have a capacity for fascination with simple things, we are able to sit peacefully for hours on a park bench, or in an airport, engrossed by the different gaits and gestures of people as they walk, talk, and stand.  We develop the ability to be patient as we stand in line at the grocery store because we have the ability to look with fascination and wonder at all that surrounds us.

Charlotte Davis Kasl

Once upon a time there was a woman who longed to find out what heaven is like.  She prayed constantly, "O, God, grant me in this life a vision of paradise."  She prayed in this way for years until one night she had a dream.  In her dream an angel came and led her to heaven.  They walked down a street in paradise until they came to an ordinary-looking house.  The angel, pointing toward the house said, "Go and look inside."

So the woman walked in the house and found a person preparing supper, another reading the newspaper, and children playing with their toys.  Naturally, she was disappointed and returned to the angel on the street.  "Is this all there is to heaven?"

The angel replied, "Those people you saw in that house are not in paradise--paradise is in them!"

Edward Hays

   
  

The really idle person gets nowhere.  The perpetually
busy person does not get much further.


Heneage Ogilvie

    

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"Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers," wrote Wordsworth over 150 years ago.  And we're still doing the same.
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