1 November 2016      

Hello, and welcome to our first issue of our eleventh month!  Now that November
is here, we're well on our way to winter, in the midst of another autumn of our
lives.  May you make the rest of this autumn some of the best days of your life!

You May Not Know What Really Matters
an excerpt      Elaine St. James

The Allegory of the Service Station
an excerpt     Rosamund Stone Zander

Looking Out for Others
tom walsh

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Treat your friends as you do your pictures, and place them in their best light.

Jennie Jerome Churchill

If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.

Chinese saying

If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.

Thomas Alva Edison

  
You May Not Know What Really Matters
an excerpt
Elaine St. James

According to a recent Time/CNN poll, close to 65 percent of us spend much of our so-called leisure time doing things we'd rather not do.  That is a staggering statistic, especially when you consider the incredible number of options that are available to us today.

I think there are two reasons a lot of us aren't doing the things we really want to do.  First of all, many of us don't know what those things are.

When I think back to my hectic lifestyle, I have to admit that one of the reasons I allowed my life to continue to be so complicated is that I hadn't slowed down enough in recent years to figure out what I wanted to do, not only in terms of my work life, but in terms of a lot of my personal choices.

I knew the basic things:  I knew my husband, and family, and special friends were important.  I knew that for me, spending time in nature was important.  I knew maintaining my health with exercise and an appropriate diet were important.

But there were other areas, such as my life's work and many social and leisure activities, I just sort of drifted along with because it was easier than taking the time to come up with alternatives.

For any number of reasons we lose sight of what we want to do.  Perhaps we weren't encouraged as children to make our own decisions.

Or maybe we have easygoing, compliant personalities and have gone along with what other people have wanted to do, or have wanted us to do, for so long that we've forgotten what's important to us.

Or perhaps we never allowed ourselves to believe that doing the things we enjoy is even a possibility for us.

If you've spent a lot of years not knowing what you really want to do, either in terms of your career or in terms of your personal, social, civic, or family life, it can seem like an impossible task to stop what you've been doing--or at least slow down for a bit--and figure it out.  It often seems easier to keep on doing things we don't want to do.

Secondly, what we want to do can often be difficult to do.

For example, if your deep, dark, hidden desire is to write the great American novel, it would seemingly require a major disruption in your life to arrange things so you could even get started on it.  Often it's easier to continue doing things you almost want to do, or don't mind doing.

So our lives get frittered away by a social engagement here, a luncheon there, an evening of television here, or the habit of working evenings or weekends or both on projects that we don't have all that much interest in.  And the things we really want to do, in our heart of hearts, get put on the back burner.

One of the things simplifying your life will do is free up time for you to figure out what really matters to you, and then enable you to arrange your time so you can do it.   
  
   

Living the Simple Life.
Elaine St. James
100 simple principles for simplifying life, a process that can create for you many benefits, such as more free time, less stress, fewer constant tasks, and many other life-improving results.

   

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The Allegory of the Service Station
Rosamund Stone Zander

On an April morning I dusted off my bicycle from its winter hibernation and pedaled toward the Museum of Fine Arts, a route that would take me across the Charles River and along the flowering paths of the Fenway.  Finding it hard going over the Boston University Bridge, I stopped to check my tires and saw that the front one was nearly flat.  Yet I was in luck, for just ahead, at the foot of the bridge, was a service station whose air pump shone invitingly from across the road.  But not up close:  it took a couple of quarters to put it into operation, and I, traveling lightly, had only a folded ten-dollar bill in my shirt pocket.

Two big men were in attendance, on at the pumps and one standing idle.  I approached them, my ten-dollar bill outstretched.  "Do you have change for the air pump?" I asked.  They shook their heads.  No.  It was Sunday, and the till was empty, they explained.  I showed them that my tire was flat and that the air pump wouldn't work without two quarters.  Again they shook their heads, looking away and down, their hands in their pockets, shuffling their feet like two slow bears.

Three unhappy people, a worthless ten-dollar bill, an air pump standing idle, a bicycle no one could ride, and great art out of reach.  "How unnecessary!" I thought.  "How irritating, how petty," I argued as I went down in defeat.  But nothing changed--there was the idle air pump, the airless tire, the ten-dollar bill that wasn't worth the paper it was printed on, and there we were, we hapless three. . . . With that last thought my perspective lightened, and I felt a shift.  I glimpsed, for an instant, that the very people I perceived to be blocking me, their elusive change jingling in their pockets, shared my distress.  We were three unhappy people.

Then a molecular change, a brightening of the day.

"Will you give me two quarters?" I asked, cheerfully, intimately, my whole self on the wing.

The man before me looked up slowly as though confronted with an ancient riddle.  The onlooker sprang to life.  "Yes!" he said, reaching into his pocket.  "I can give you quarters," and he stretched out his hand.  And then, suddenly, miraculously, it all worked:  the coins, the air pump, the bicycle, our partnership.  Yet the other gentleman still stood in some confusion.  "Do you know a back-roads route to the Museum of Fine Arts?" I asked.  He beamed.  The directions spilled forth as from a horn of plenty.

Like a tap to a kaleidoscope that shifts identical pieces of glass into different patterns, the scene changed before our eyes from bankruptcy to abundance with just the slightest nudge to the frame.  Initially we were relating to each other in the assumption that money is scarce, exchanges must be fair, and that property boundaries were impenetrable.  This perspective had us locked into a condition of breakdown.  From there I might have cajoled and persuaded them to give me the quarters:  "Look, lend me two quarters for goodness sake, and I'll return the money on the way back from the museum," and I might have gotten my dreary way.  But it hardly would have brightened anyone's morning.

Not even mine.  Persuasion is typically used to get the thing you want, whether or not it is at someone else's expense.  Persuasion works fine when the transaction benefits them as well.  We call that "aligning interests."  But in this case there was nothing in it for the two men, at least from the world of measurement, except to see me on my way.

The practice of enrollment, on the other hand, is about generating possibility and lighting its spark in others.  It is not about the quarters.  The sudden realization that we were all trapped in a box of scarcity, unable to act effectively over a matter that cost no more than fifty cents enabled me to step into a universe of possibility--the only place from which you can enroll other people.  This may seem like an easy leap, but how often when we are caught behind a driver who has veered into the exact-change lane by mistake do we sit there honking and fuming?  Why not jump out of our car and toss two quarters into the bin?

The plain request "Will you give me two quarters?" conveyed a vibrant new world, one in which asking, giving, and receiving were all easy, generous acts.  Possibility has its own music, its own gestures, its own kind of radiance, and the attendant caught the the spark.  How could we help but be joyous that we had the means among us to make everything work?

   
   

Presenting twelve breakthrough practices for bringing creativity into all human endeavors, The Art of Possibility is the dynamic product of an extraordinary partnership. The Art of Possibility combines Benjamin Zander's experience as conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and his talent as a teacher and communicator with psychotherapist Rosamund Stone Zander's genius for designing innovative paradigms for personal and professional fulfillment. Through uplifting stories, parables, and personal anecdotes, the Zanders invite us to become passionate communicators, leaders, and performers whose lives radiate possibility into the world.

   

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When you have too much month for your paycheck, then what you need to do is
realize that there is abundance all around you, and focus on the abundance
and not your lack and as night follows day abundance will come to you.

Sidney Madwed

   

 

Looking Out for Others

When I was driving to a practice yesterday, something happened that was very frustrating.  As I came up to a red light, I was going to make a left turn, and there was a left turn lane that I needed to move into.  Unfortunately, the vehicle ahead of me came to a stop some twenty feet behind the car ahead of it, completely blocking the left turn lane.  The driver didn't consider at all the possibility that someone behind her might need to get into that lane.  I honked very shortly and she started to move up a bit, but by then it was too late--the left turn arrow became green, and by the time she moved enough to let me (and the three cars behind me) go and I got to the cross street, it had turned yellow.

It wasn't a major catastrophe.  It didn't ruin my day or make me incredibly angry or cause a heart attack.  And if there had been one more car in front of her, getting cut off from that lane would have been a natural result of that moment's traffic pattern.  But it wasn't, and the incident did remind me of just how important it can be to go through our days keeping other people in mind, no matter what we're doing.  Because our actions do have effects on other people, and we can either make their moments easier or harder depending on what we do.

Traffic is a good example of how we can be courteous and helpful without really having to go out of our way.  I regularly slow down and flash my lights when someone needs to pull out into a street with a steady flow of traffic--as long as I determine that I'm not creating a dangerous situation when I do so.  On the other hand, I almost always take the right-of-way when I have it, because I know that it's one of the most important things that we can do to keep traffic flowing, and thus to keep other people safe.  I use my turn signals to change lanes because I want other people to know what I'm doing so that they can make any adjustments they need to make, not just because it's the law.  And I don't talk on my phone or text, ever, because I respect the right of the other people on the road to know that I'm fully concentrated on my driving.

   

The race of humankind would perish did they cease to aid each other.
We cannot exist without mutual help.  All therefore that need aid
have a right to ask it from their fellow humans;
and no one who has the power of granting can refuse it without guilt.

Walter Scott

   
But traffic is only one small part of our lives--a bigger part for some, obviously, but still a rather small one.  Most of us are pretty constantly in contact with other people, and if we're going to look out for their rights and help them to have positive experiences, we need to be willing and able to take actions that accomplish both of those goals.  We can be courteous to others, or we can be rude, or we can be indifferent.  We can be encouraging or discouraging.  We can be helpful, or we can be harmful or neglectful.  We can share a smile and a greeting, or we can share a harsh look and negative energy.  It really is up to us.

Sometimes we feel that we're not able to be helpful to other people because not enough people are helpful to us.  We feel burdened, and we have a hard time thinking about helping someone else when we know that we need help ourselves.  One of the realities that I've learned about life, though, is that I often feel that I need more help during times when I'm being less helpful--the cause-and-effect relationship is backward in my mind.  It's not the lack of others helping me that's making it difficult for me to help others; rather, it's the lack of me helping others that's making it difficult for others to help me.  What goes around truly comes around, and if I'm not contributing to the world, why would I expect the world to contribute to me and my life?

Yesterday in the supermarket, the woman ahead of me in line finished putting her groceries on the belt at the checkout, and then she put down one of those separators that keep her groceries separate from the next person's.  It was a very small gesture that nevertheless made me feel good, because it was obvious that she wanted to give me the chance to start unloading my groceries.  It just felt nice to be the recipient of a kind act, no matter how small it might have been.  And that's the way I want to make others feel.  Even if it's in very small ways.
    

In the time we have it is surely our duty to do all the good we can
to all the people we can in all the ways we can.

William Barclay

    
Looking out for others costs very little.  In the article above, it cost fifty cents--and the astonishing part of that article is that neither of the men thought of just giving the two quarters to her.  Somehow we're programmed from early on to keep what is ours and to part with it only in dire circumstances, and that tendency keeps us from being as helpful as we can.  I've done it myself in the supermarket when the person in front of me didn't have enough money for everything and had to not get an item or two--I've been impatient and judgmental, thinking that they should have paid closer attention to the prices.  That was me a long time ago, though.  Nowadays, I look at the situation and figure out whether it's worth it to pay for those extra items.  It isn't always worth it.  If they're deciding not to buy the apples but are still buying the 12-pack of beer, then I won't be helping out with the apples, obviously.  But if it's obviously a shopping trip for a family's food, what's wrong with contributing a few dollars to someone else's life experience?  People have done the same for me--so why wouldn't I?

Courtesy pays itself back manyfold, but the only problem is that we don't always see the payback.  Sometimes when we help someone, that person ends up helping someone else because of our helpfulness, but we never see it happen.  We have to trust that courtesy is contagious, that the ripple effect actually is at work in life.  If I help John and he feels so good about being helped that he helps someone else, then part of the help that other person receives comes from us for starting that ripple.

We've been conditioned that we're in it for ourselves, that life is competition and we'd better not help someone else because if we do, they're going to beat us.  At something.  We think that our resources are limited and scarce, so we'd better save every penny.  When I lived my life like that, I wasn't a very happy person--now that I do my best to help others first, I find that life is much more fulfilling and enjoyable.
   

Our worth is determined by the good deeds we do,
rather than by the fine emotions we feel.

Elias L. Magoon
  
  
What do we live for if not to make
life less difficult for each other?

George Eliot

   
I'm helping to coach a middle-school cross-country team right now, and while that situation has added some stress to my life--mostly in the area of time management--it has also been incredibly rewarding.  I love working with them and I know that my experience in running is helping them to learn how to run well at a young age, and I know that they appreciate it.  I also know that my being there helps the other coaches to not have to do everything themselves, because there's another adult there to split the duties with them.  I wouldn't trade doing this for anything, and it's been a very positive addition to my life.  I have time and a talent to share, so I'm doing my best to share it with young people who want to learn more about it and become better runners.

Experiences like this remind me that our major purpose for even being on this planet is helping others.  Period.  When we pull ourselves out of the habit of helping other people, we pull ourselves out of the cycle of life, the give-and-take that makes life such a rich experience.  If we help only our own family, we suffer from isolation and a sense of detachment from everyone else.  Money is meant to be circulated and shared, not hoarded--which is something I need practice on myself!  But when we look at our opportunities for helping, not all of them have to do with money.  My entire career has been dedicated to helping others (as a teacher), and I've been fortunate to be able to do work that I love doing and to make a decent living doing so.

   
More on helpfulness.

   

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Most of my major disappointments have turned out to be blessings in disguise.  So whenever anything bad happens to me, I kind of sit back and feel, well, if I give this enough time, it'll turn out that this was good, so I shan't worry about it too much.

William Gaines

  

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 "burning bush" was not a miracle.  It was a test.  God wanted to find out
whether or not Moses could pay attention to something for more than
a few minutes.  When Moses did, God spoke.  The trick is to pay attention to
what is going on around you long enough to behold the miracle without
falling asleep.  There is another world, right here within this one,
whenever we pay attention.

Lawrence Kushner

    

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