12 July  2016      

Good day, and welcome to today!  We're well past the halfway point of the year,
and life keeps on keeping on.  We hope that you're truly enjoying the year that
you're living through, and that you're able to make extraordinary the last half!

 Be Improvement-Oriented
Hendrie Weisinger

Food for the Spirit
David Thomas

Strategies for Approaching Enlightenment
tom walsh

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The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

John Keats

Accept everything about yourself--I mean everything.  You are you and that is the beginning and the end--no apologies, no regrets.

Clark Moustakas

By being yourself, you put something wonderful in the world that was not there before.

Edwin Elliot

No matter what accomplishments you achieve, somebody helps you.

Althea Gibson

Be Improvement-Oriented (Tip #3)
Hendrie Weisinger

It's intrinsic.  It is part of your nature.  I'm speaking about your desire to want to improve, to want to do better.  Vocational theorists and psychological research tell us that people want to do their bests in tasks that are meaningful to them.  Use your own experience to validate this point.

For example, if you love to play golf, I'm sure you do not need a pro to tell you to play your best, although you will want the pro to tell you how to play your best.  If you love to cook, I'm sure you try to make the dish as tasty as possible, although you may need a recipe book and a few cooking lessons to satisfy your taste buds.

The problem is that, for many of us, our desire to improve is stifled by the criticisms we receive.  Why?  Because most of the criticisms we receive (or give) place a strong emphasis on the negatives (if you have a negative appraisal of criticism).  The criticized behavior is usually defined as irrevocable.  The recipient is told what he did, thus placing the action in the past; any chance of change for the better is precluded.  Since there seems to be little chance for improvement, the recipient, in order to protect his self-esteem, defends his actions rather than looking for ways to improve.  The criticism loses its positive power.

Furthermore, whether or not one feels that people lack an inherent wish to improve, the fact remains that a constant barrage of negative criticism will undermine any recipient's confidence, making it difficult for her to believe she can do the job.

Interest is diminished.  Many educators and much educational research testify to the point that negative criticism (emphasizing the negatives) given to a child in a particular subject will not only turn her off to that specific subject but will also turn her off to trying to master and explore other areas.

Similarly, the sales manager who, after observing three presentations of the new sales recruit, only emphasizes the negatives of each of her presentations, is doing a good job of convincing the new recruit that she is in the wrong line of work.  Her apathy will soon become apparent and, of course, will draw more negative criticism from her manager.  This is a bit ironic considering the fact that the history of criticism tells us that one of criticism's most important functions is to help one improve.

Do you--and those you work with--emphasize the negatives when it comes to criticism?  Just think about the last three times you were the giver or the taker of criticism.  If you find that the negatives are continually emphasized, then you can help yourself, those you work with, and your organization become more productive by making your criticisms improvement-oriented.

Making criticism improvement-oriented creates the mental set of using criticism as a teaching and educational tool.  The task becomes to figure out, "How can she do it better?  How can I help her improve?"  You begin to formulate specific ways in which you can help the recipient.  You become solution-oriented.

One way to make criticism improvement-oriented is to move the criticism forward, into the future.  Emphasize what the recipient is doing or can do, not what he did.  Instead of telling your new recruit, "You did a poor job in presenting the data," which is sure to prompt recipient defensiveness, try, "In your next presentation, use better overheads to show the data.  It will help clarify your points."

The latter improvement-oriented criticism not only offers a helpful action to take but focuses on the fact that your new recruit is going to get another chance; you communicate the confidence- building message, "I trust you to succeed."

Change becomes possible because you stress how the recipient can do it better next time.  And this lets the recipient feel secure in knowing she will get another chance.  She can also feel confident because her critic believes she has the ability to do the job.  With this in mind, your trainee can begin to focus her energy on improving her future performance rather than on defending past results.  Criticism becomes a put-up instead of a put-down.

This empowering book helps readers take the sting out of criticism--and transform it from a destructive, demoralizing disaster into an energizing, educating experience that builds relationships and increases individual and organizational success. Using real-life scenarios and the author's 21 tips to positive criticism, readers will learn to:  Think of criticism as a positive thing; Become strategic criticizers and develop their skill in using the power of positive criticism; Stay cool, calm, and collected when giving or getting criticism; Criticize their boss--without getting fired, and more.


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Spirit to Spirit
David Thomas

Food for the Spirit

If we acknowledge the fact that we are spirits having a human experience here on this planet, then with that knowledge come a whole bunch of responsibilities--which is perhaps one reason why so few people are willing to acknowledge this truth.  After all, why should we be responsible about our lives if we don't necessarily have to?  Life seems much more manageable if we don't have a whole load of responsibilities to live up to, doesn't it?  And living without responsibilities can be very pleasurable--there's no denying that.  But as a spirit, we do have to keep in mind that we have responsibilities that we would not have if we didn't know just how close to God we really are.

One of the areas in which we more regularly fail to live up to our responsibilities is in eating.  Most of us have been provided with more than enough food to maintain our bodies in its optimal form so that we can continue to use them and experience this world.  But most of us also regularly fail in our responsibility to ourselves and to God to eat food wisely and practically, maintaining our bodies as they're supposed to be.

Many of our contemporary societies face huge problems with overeating because of the ready availability of so much food.  The human body needs a certain number of calories each day because it needs energy--and calories are nothing more than a measurement of energy.  For example, a couple of cookies might have 100 calories.  It takes about 100 calories to walk a mile.  It doesn't matter if those calories come from the cookies or a glass of milk or an apple--if I want to walk a mile, I need to eat 100 calories worth of food.

Likewise, it takes about 3500 calories to add one pound to the human body.  Many of the calories that we take in are stored as fat if we don't use them.  If I eat 200 calories worth of cookies and walk only one mile, then I've eaten more than I need.  If I'm ten pounds overweight, then I've eaten 35,000 calories more than I've needed.

Why is this important?  Because our goal as spirits always should be to respect the gifts that we've been given and to use them responsibly.  And if we're eating more than we need to get by, we're not being responsible.  The most responsible thing that we can do while we're here is to find our ideal weight, reach it, and maintain it.  After all, there are plenty of people in the world who don't have enough to eat at all, and how can we look them in the eyes, spirit to spirit, and say that we've eaten many more calories than we need while they are unable to get as many as they need just to survive?

A large part of this problem comes from our penchant to eat foods that are ridiculously unhealthy and full of calories that are unnecessary and extreme.  If we need to take in 2,000 calories a day and that latte that we just drank has six hundred, then guess what?  We've just taken in a third of our daily intake, and we're still going to be hungry for more because that latte takes no time at all for our bodies to digest it and process the nutrients (which in this case are purely sugar and/or cream).  So if we still take in our normal number of calories in solid food, then we've taken in 600 calories more than we need for today, and that can add up rather quickly in extra weight over time.  The same thing happens if we take in what we need and then add ice cream or chocolate.

(Remember something very important, though--"ideal weight" does not mean super-skinny or even any one thing for all people.  Your body has a weight at which it functions best.  You feel healthy and energetic, and you're able to do things like climb four flights of stairs without too much effort.  Your body type will help you to find that weight, but so will your instinct and your intuition.  You'll know when you're deceiving yourself just to avoid the possible difficulty of losing some extra weight.)

The thing to do, of course, if we really want that latte, is to get a smaller version with 400 calories, and then lower our intake of solid foods by 400 for the day so that we can be sure we're taking in just what we need for the day.

Speaking of what we need, it's dismaying to see just how often people throw food away and just how much they throw away.  Restaurants often tend to serve us too much food because they think that bigger plates ("generous" portions) will attract more customers, and while most people finish the food on their plates (which leads to eating more than we need), many other people simply eat part of it and leave the rest to be disposed of.  Food is a gift to us, and we need to be responsible about it--leaving it to be thrown away is not a responsible use of food.  Likewise, filling our refrigerators with more food than we can eat and then throwing away large amounts of it every couple of weeks is not something that a spirit would do--it's something that our human nature allows us to do because our human nature doesn't stay focused on the common good, but on our own personal needs.  The spirit, however, is focused on the greater good, and wasted food is recognized for what it is--wasted.  And it's not an unlimited resource, so we must be responsible for it.

Although it occurs much more rarely, many people don't eat enough food, even though they've been provided with the means to do so.  There are many reasons for which people do this, but no matter what those reasons, it's not a responsible way to use the gifts that have been given to us.  We have food because it's the only form of energy that we're able to use with our bodies--we can't fill ourselves up with gasoline or use the heat from a fire to provide ourselves with energy.  If you've been given enough food to eat and you don't eat it, then your body is not working at its optimal levels, and that's something that shouldn't happen?

Why is this so important?  Partly because of what I've said already:  food is a gift, and it should be used responsibly.  But another element of the equation is that if our bodies are not working at their optimal levels, we're doing a huge disservice for everyone else in our lives.  Medical costs rise for everyone in a society when rates of obesity rise.  How many people can't play with their children because the extra weight they're carrying around won't allow them to do so without great discomfort and a higher risk of injury?  Likewise, someone who undereats often won't have to energy to help out with some sort of physical task that could be very important.

We always have a choice concerning the food that we eat.  There were two times in my life when I weighed 30 pounds more than I weigh now, so I know how easy it is to gain weight without really noticing it happen.  That's why I step on a scale every morning nowadays, because I know that I have a responsibility to maintain a certain weight, and I'm able to catch it early when I start to eat more than my share.  Because as a spirit here on this planet in human form, I know that I have a responsibility to be able to function at ideal levels because someone, somewhere, sometime, is going to need my help with some task, and I'll be much more able to help them if I'm at an ideal weight.


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Matthew Fox

We must work on our souls, enlarging and expanding them.  We do
so by experiencing all of life--the beauty and the joy as well as
the grief and pain.  Soul work requires paying attention to life,
to the laughter and the sorrow, the enlightening and the frightening,
the inspiring and the silly.



Strategies for Approaching Enlightenment

How can I possible write anything about approaching enlightenment when I don't consider myself enlightened at all?  Though it sounds like an impossible task, it really isn't.  First of all, I'm writing about "approaching" enlightenment, not about becoming enlightened.  And secondly, I've been fortunate enough to read tons of material about becoming enlightened--enough to know that my instincts and my intuition are extremely strong and reliable guides on the path to enlightenment, and they have told me quite often when I'm on the right trail and when I'm not.

I think that we do have to keep in mind that most of us have a somewhat inaccurate idea of what it means to be enlightened.  In our cultural stories we hear and read about enlightened individuals who know more than we do and who see more than we do.  They've somehow uncovered the secret to life and are able to access it in order to make themselves happy just sitting in the lotus position all day, meditating.

But enlightenment is also about living--living with and among others, helping others to reach their goals and to learn all they can about life.  Enlightenment is about seeing mistakes that others are making, and even about knowing how to give them subtle, gentle instruction about how to make adjustments in their own perspectives and actions so that they no longer sabotage their own happiness and peace of mind, so that they're able to find some degree of satisfaction and happiness in their lives.


Everybody wants to get enlightened but nobody wants to change.
This is the simple, daunting truth that has been staring back at me
from the eyes of countless seekers over the years.  "I really want
to get enlightened," they insist.  "But are YOU ready to CHANGE
now?" I ask.  "What?" is the inevitable response—surprised and
even slightly stunned.  And I repeat, "Are YOU ready to CHANGE
now?"  What follows is always a strange and surreal moment of
ambiguity, confusion, and backpedaling.
"But I thought you wanted to get enlightened... "

Andrew Cohen

If we are truly to be enlightened, it's important first of all that we learn to turn away from the things of the world that keep us focused on stuff that really, truly does not matter in the bigger picture of life.  One of the true elements of enlightenment is a lack of attachment--and we attach ourselves to things constantly.  Favorite sports teams, favorite clothes, the dream car, all sorts of possessions, status quos (wanting things to stay just as they are), relationships, people, jobs, etc.  For example, there's nothing saying that having a relationship is harmful, but when we become attached to a certain relationship, we start to allow it to influence our lives too strongly, and we can lose our peace of mind whenever there are any sorts of changes in that relationship.  If we're attached to the relationship, a change can be difficult for us to handle; if we enjoy the relationship without attachment to it, we'll be able to accept changes and continue the relationship within the rules of its new dynamics.

Another important element of enlightenment is acceptance.  Things are as they are right now, and nothing that anyone can do can change that, period.  Now, we can change things for and in the future.  If I'm jobless right now, I can go out and search for work, but that search doesn't change a thing for right now.  That search may mean that tomorrow I won't be jobless, but that's tomorrow.  Right now, at this moment, I'm jobless.  And I must accept that fact.  People are doing horrible things to each other, and we see that in the news all the time.  Do we deny that fact, or do we accept it?  Nothing we say or do can change it for right now, though we could start an organization that can help to promote change--remember what MADD was able to accomplish--but that change will happen in the future.  We must accept that right now, things are as they are.

I might wish that my boss wasn't so rude, but I have to accept his rudeness and not deny it, simply because he is rude.  If I deny that fact, then I'll continue to be surprised and hurt by his rudeness.  If I accept it, his rudeness will neither surprise nor hurt me in the present moment, because I know that he's a rude person, and what else can I expect from a rude person other than rudeness?

That earthquake that just hit and killed hundreds of people?  I must accept it.  It has happened, and the results are there.  This gets difficult when there are victims--when someone kills a large number of innocent people, it may seem counterintuitive to want to accept something like that.  But it's only when we accept it that we can start to process it in our minds--if we deny it, then we're never able to process it and allow ourselves to deal with it emotionally or rationally.

Enlightenment does not consist of pretending to be where we are not;
enlightenment means being in touch with where we are and being willing
to learn what God would have us learn from it.  Sometimes the purpose
of a day is to merely feel our sadness, knowing that as we do we allow
whole layers of grief, like old skin cells, to drop off us.

Marianne Williamson

When you give someone a gift or loan them some money, do you expect a "thank you"?  And if the thanks don't come, are you disappointed and perhaps even angry?  Perhaps 98 out of every 100 people will tell you that you have every right to expect the other person to say thanks, but what happens when that person doesn't do so?  Do our anger and our disappointment come from the fact that the person said nothing, or do they come from our expectations not being fulfilled?  An enlightened person will realize that the gift we gave or the money we loaned doesn't belong to him or her anyway, that it's something temporal, of this world, and it belongs truly to no one.

If I expect my son to do his chores and he doesn't do them, is that the same thing?  The important question is this:  am I upset because he didn't do them, or because he didn't meet my expectations?  Am I able to look at his not doing them simply for what it is--the chores didn't get done--or do I make it into something that it may not be, such as rebelliousness or disobedience?  And if it is rebelliousness, can't I look at that as a trait of my son rather than a reflection of what he thinks of me?  My expectations, though, muddy the water and make it very difficult to see clearly just what's going on.

When we're able to start seeing and accepting things for what they are, then we've made an important step towards being truly aware of what is in our lives.  Awareness is definitely an important part of enlightenment--just think of what the word "enlightened" means.  It's a state of being in the light, and light is what makes seeing things possible.  The opposite of seeing is blindness, and no amount of light can change the state of being blind.  Being aware means seeing, wholly and fully.  It means knowing things that we couldn't know if we were blind to our lives and the world.

Awareness defeats ignorance, and ignorance keeps us chained to our limitations.  We must be aware of our surroundings if we're to be able to take advantage of all the good they offer us and if we're to be able to avoid the negative that they could cause if we aren't aware.

It's one thing to be aware that another person is with us, and another thing to be mindful of that person's needs, fears, hopes and dreams.  It's one thing to be aware that we're eating, and another to be mindful of the tastes that we can enjoy and the fact that the food is providing us with extremely important nutrients.  Mindfulness takes us out of our own little worlds and helps us to see and feel the worlds of others.  Mindfulness awakens compassion, pity, a desire to share, admiration, and so many other elements that can make our lives much richer.  Enlightenment is impossible without mindfulness because if we are not mindful, we see only surfaces of things, and we never go deeper into what those things really are and how they function.

Nirvana or lasting enlightenment or true spiritual growth
can be achieved only through persistent exercise of real love.

M. Scott Peck

It's important to say that I don't consider myself enlightened.  I know, though, that I feel much closer to being enlightened than I did twenty years ago, and I don't feel that enlightenment is this unachievable goal that only one person in a million will reach.  I also don't feel that the path to enlightenment is the same for everyone--one person may reach it through their art, while another may be able to do so through their work, and another through their devotion to their family.  I do know that it's possible to work our ways towards enlightenment, even though for some of us, "work" may be exactly the opposite of what we need to do.  We need to trust our hearts and interact with life and living, stop trying to control all situations, and accept what's in our lives and be aware and mindful of all that is here for us.

You can become enlightened without moving to a foreign country and meditating for 14 hours a day.  You need to find your path to enlightenment and stick to that path, being committed to it, and not succumb to frustration. 

More on silence.


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If I had a formula for bypassing
trouble, I would not pass it round.
Trouble creates a capacity to handle
it.  I don't embrace trouble; that's
as bad as treating it as an enemy.
But I do say meet it as a friend, for
you'll see a lot of it and had better
be on speaking terms with it.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

I have a friend, a chemotherapy nurse in a children's cancer ward, whose job it is to pry for any available vein in an often emaciated arm to give infusions of chemicals that sometimes last as long as twelve hours and which are often quite discomforting to the child.  He is probably the greatest pain-giver the children meet in their stay at the hospital.  Because he has worked so much with his own pain, his heart is very open.  He works with his responsibilities in the hospital as a "laying on of hands with love and acceptance."  There is little in him that causes him to withdraw, that reinforces the painfulness of the experience for the children.  He is a warm, open space which encourages them to trust whatever they feel.  And it is he whom the children most often ask for at the time they are dying.  Although he is the main pain-giver, he is also the main love-giver.

Every thought which enters the mind, every word we utter, every deed we perform, makes its impression upon the inmost fiber of our being and the result of these impressions is our character.  The study of books, of music, or of the fine arts is not essential to a lofty character.  It rests with the worker whether a rude piece of marble shall be squared into a horse-block or carved into an Apollo, a Psyche, or a Venus di Milo.  It is yours, if you choose, to develop a spiritual form more beautiful than any of these, instinct with immortal life, refulgent with all the glory of character.

Orison Swett Marden

True strength does not magnify others' weaknesses.  It makes others stronger.
If someone's strength makes others feel weaker, it is merely
domination, and that is no strength at all.

Kent Nerburn


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