23 February  2016      

Welcome, and thank you so much for being here!
We've put together this issue with our usual goal of providing
heart-felt and useful uplifting material, and we certainly hope
that you're able to find something here that speaks to you!

 Waking Up from the Dream and Drama
Richard Moss

Security
Jennifer James

Strategies for Finding Balance
tom walsh

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There is no loneliness if one is satisfied with oneself.

Hans-Ulrich Rieker

It is astonishing how much more people
are interested in lengthening life than improving it.

Charles C. Colton

Laughter lifts us over high ridges and lights up dark valleys in a way that makes life so much easier.  It is a priceless gem, a gift of release and healing direct from Heaven.

Alan Cohen

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.

Native American Proverb

  

Waking up from the Dream and Drama
Richard Moss

Recall a time when you woke up in the middle of the night worrying about something--perhaps a work issue or an unresolved conflict.  Most likely your mind jumped from one concern to the next, as each anxious thought reminded you of something that in turn created another worry.  Maybe you started thinking about an uncomfortable interaction with a family member, or you recalled the way a colleague at the office had been dismissive toward you and as a result you felt resentful.  Do you remember repeating certain conversations in your mind and regretting what you said or didn't say, or rehearsing what you would say next time if you got the chance?  Probably the more you thought about it, the more agitated you felt.

Or maybe you woke up and started worrying about money, about all the expenses piling up.  How would you ever manage?  Did this lead to thoughts about other people who were better off, or those who didn't have so many financial issues?  Did the envy make you more upset; did it make you feel more helpless or angry or even more of a victim?

So there you were, tossing and turning in bed, exhausted by your own thoughts and emotions; and to top it all off, realizing that you had an especially busy day ahead, you got scared about not being able to get back to sleep.  How would you get through the day after having been awake all night?  And this new vicious circle of thinking continued, feeding on itself, consuming you in its reality.

If you recognize yourself in this scenario, don't feel bad.  This is typical of what the ego does whenever you feel threatened or unsafe in any way, especially with the uncertainty of a health issue or if you are in the midst of major change.  The ego simply does not know how to deal with challenging feelings like vulnerability and feeling out of control.  When the ego is running the show, you can notice a dynamic:  One thought generates an emotion that leads to another thought that generates another emotion.  Round and round you go like a dog chasing its tail--well, in this case tale--becoming increasingly agitated and upset, even if in the moment you are otherwise fine, safe, and secure in your bed.  Meanwhile, you never even really recognize the original feeling that triggered this mental stampede; you never actually face it and meet it with awareness.

To get you so worked up, the ego has to make you oblivious to the present moment, because the ego recedes when you are fully in the Now.  So to maintain itself, your ego will yank you away from the Now--away from reality, thought by thought.  If you begin to observe what your ego is doing (as we will soon discuss), you will notice that when the ego leads your awareness away from the Now moment, there are only four places it can take you:  into the past, into the future, into stories about yourself, and into stories about others.

The good news is that you can get off this not-so-merry-go-round as soon as you recognize that you are not in the present.  Ask yourself, "What is actually happening now?"  Look around you, observe, and listen.  What is the contrast between your actual situation in your immediate surroundings--the sounds, the quality of light, the colors, and so on--versus the mental and emotional world created by your thoughts?  Become aware of your breathing and bodily sensations.  Let yourself relax.  You may be sick, but you aren't under attack, except by your own thoughts.

Recognize what your ego has done:  It has yanked you out of the present, into memories and expectations.  Thinking about the past has created emotions of guilt, blame, regret, or nostalgia and thinking about an imaginary future has generated anxiety and fearfulness.  You have been overtaken by debilitating mind-made emotion.  This intense self-contraction is the hallmark of ego at its worst.  But becoming aware that you are not in the present and realizing I'm in the future or I'm in the past is what it takes to wake up out of the dream and drama.

As you restore yourself to the present, the inner turmoil recedes because you have stemmed the tide of thoughts that had been creating and sustaining it.  You are cutting through delusions.  As you begin to use the power of your awareness to come back to the present moment, you become more embodied, more awake to your true self, and able to address the demands of your life with clarity.

Every time you leave the Now, you inevitably identify with a story you tell yourself, about yourself, your health, or your life.  It is as though you've fallen down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland into an imaginary universe.  But unlike Alice, who knew that she was in a fantasy world, most of us are totally convinced that it is real.

This is crucial to understand, because blind identification with your stories will continue forever unless you recognize the pattern and expose it to the light of Now-moment awareness.  You are only your authentic self when you wake up and take your rightful place as the aware being watching the whole show but no longer captured by it.

The process of awakening into greater awareness and presence is sometimes referred to as the death of the ego.  In fact, many spiritual teachings talk about killing the ego.  But the ego doesn't and indeed shouldn't die as you develop a high degree of presence; rather, it ceases to rule your mind and determine your experience.  Thereafter, it serves awareness by providing your unique point of view, but no longer in a way that defines your identity, separates you, and makes you special.  As the ego recedes and awareness prevails, your identity as a separate self becomes less dominant, and at last you really taste the fullness of being.
   
   

Drawing on his three decades
of teaching consciousness,
Richard Moss plays the role
of wise shepherd, accompanying and encouraging the reader
on a journey toward the
genius within and away
from fear and other limitations.
Most importantly, he offers
an always-available compass
that directs readers back
to the true self, and into
the magic of the
present moment.

   

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Security
Jennifer James

What do you need to feel safe in the world?  It's the same set of skills that children need.

The acceptance of your physical characteristics.  Are you careful not to tease children about their physical image?  Are you comfortable with yours?

Friendships with people of both sexes.  Can you trust both men and women?

Emotional independence.  Can you separate yourself from the adults who parented you?  Can you survive alone?  Do you see yourself as a separate individual?  Do you encourage your children to take care of themselves?

Do you have a clear set of personal values?  Not values that are an imitation of your parents', but ones you have carefully thought out and chosen to live by?

Are you involved in your community?  Some contribution to the larger good is essential to well-being.  Children need early involvement in giving and being a part of their community.

Can you stand alone economically?  Economic independence is essential to peace of mind.

Parent your children with these thoughts in mind and consider them yourself.  A safe personal foundation allows you and them to take risks and to choose a fuller and more creative life.

   

A new perspective can
change your life. With
wit, vitality, and grace,
Jennifer James shares
insights about the feelings
and events of our lives.
Her stories about success,
aging, and losing the car
keys show by example
how to live a life filled
with passion and humor.

   

   

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(This photo's from a spring
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You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles
between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in
your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in
a world but a world lives in you.

Frederick Buechner

   

 

Strategies for Finding Balance

I've often been out of balance, and I still am from time to time.  It's easy for me to get out of balance for two main reasons:  I grew up in a family that hardly knew any balance at all, and I live in a society in which balance not only is neglected as an important personal trait, but is actually discouraged by the marketers who want me to spend more time and money on their products.  Ours is also a society in which overworking has actually become a norm for many people, and the work/rest balance is one of the most difficult of all for many people to find.

Most of my strategies for finding balance are highly dependent upon mindfulness, for it's almost impossible to even know that I'm out of balance unless I'm mindful of my current situations.  For example, if my mind is hyperfocused on one stressful situation that is keeping me feeling awful, I have to be able to recognize the fact that I'm out of balance if I want to do anything to re-establish the balance I so desperately need.

And that's one of the major myths we grow up learning:  the situation is what's causing us stress.  Actually, most often it's our reactions to the situations that are causing the stress because we allow our lives to fall out of balance in order to (we think) cope with the situation.  The reality is that if we maintain our balance, almost all situations are fairly easy to deal with because we're able to recognize them for what they truly are--probably important, but not nearly as drastic as we make them out to be.

   

Balance in your life between work and your personal life is
very important.  Without balance, you eventually burn out,
negatively affecting your performance at work.

Byron Pulsifer

   
It's now fairly easy for me to recognize when I'm out of balance.  I'm stressed out, I'm worried, I'm disliking something that I normally like, I'm not getting work done that's usually easy for me to do, I'm not enjoying the company of people I normally love to be around.  When I recognize these symptoms, instead of getting annoyed with myself, I now tell myself that something is out of balance, and I find a place to be alone in the quiet so that I can find out what it is.  Sometimes I'm worried because one job has become so pressing that I'm neglecting another one; sometimes social or volunteering commitments have taken up much more time for a while, and something else has fallen by the wayside--perhaps I've been running less, and running is one of my most effective means for dealing with stress.

I've even gone through times in which one job has basically taken over my whole life for a period of time, and when that has happened, I've simply acknowledged that for that period of time, there will be no balance, and I commit myself fully to the tasks at hand, knowing that I will get back to the state of balance soon (being in the Army during wartime was one of those situations, as was leading a group of students on study abroad programs in Spain).

So what are the strategies for dealing with being out of balance?  Since there are so many areas of our lives that are part of any equation, it's important to figure out just where the changes need to come.  For example, our work and family lives may be out of balance, while our rest time is still fine.  If work is taking away from our family lives, we need to recognize this and make some adjustments.  Perhaps I'm working extra hours because I want the promotion, but my relationships with my wife and children are suffering.  Could it be possible that your family would much prefer your presence to the extra income that the promotion would bring?  Is it possible that you could adjust your work schedule to go in earlier in the morning when family time isn't as important?  Perhaps you could put off the promotion for a year in order to strengthen your family ties.  Or you could sit down with your family and tell everyone what's going on, and make a promise (which you'll keep, of course) that when the promotion comes, you'll be spending more time with them.

Or perhaps it's time to find a job that doesn't ask so much of a sacrifice from you.  There are wonderful jobs out there that do allow for the people who do them to have a happy and fulfilling family life.

Many of us find it difficult to balance what we earn with what we spend, and the easy availability of credit has made this even more of a problem.  We're now able to spend money we don't have, and we don't realize that we're ransoming our futures when we do so.  Part of this problem arises from our inability to distinguish between what we want and what we need--we spend money because we think we need something, and then we end up rarely using it.  This is not an effective strategy for managing our finances.  The most effective strategy that I've found is simply to wait--when I'm in a store and I see something I think I need, I often force myself to wait a week before I buy it.  It's amazing how many of those things I've ended up not needing at all.
    

Fortunate indeed are the people who take exactly the
right measure of themselves and hold a just balance
between what they can acquire and what they can use.

Peter Latham

    
Another strategy that I use is to write down things that I need and want under two headings--needs and wants.  Once I'm writing them down with the vow of being honest to myself, I'm often surprised by just how many of the things that I thought I would write in the "needs" column end up in the "wants" column.  The items in the needs column, of course, get the highest priority; the items in the other column then need to be prioritized.

But what about those days when you're feeling stressed out and you just can't seem to figure out why?  Those are days when eventually I come to my senses and simply say to myself, "Wait a minute.  If I'm feeling this way, something has to be out of balance."  Otherwise, I wouldn't be feeling that way.  Then I take stock of what I'm doing and what I'm thinking about, with an eye out for the area that is unbalanced.  Perhaps I'm worrying about money and not focusing on the work I'm supposed to be doing.  Maybe I'm thinking about a problem at work and not paying attention to my family, even though I'm with them.

In those cases, I have to be stern with myself and force myself to stop what I'm doing--the thinking or the stressing--and refocus my energy towards the areas that are being neglected.  If I find that I'm neglecting my need for recreation, I'll take a walk or go for a run.  If I'm neglecting my family, I'll make sure that I spend time with them very soon.  If I'm neglecting work, I'll identify the most important thing that needs to be done for work right now, and then I'll sit down and do it.

Of course, if I'm looking for true balance in my life, these things will need sustained effort, not just today's small attempt to put things back in balance.  And that sustained effort depends upon our ability to make decisions that will maintain balance rather than destroy it--I need to decide that I'm going to spend a certain amount of time on my favorite hobby and then do so if that hobby is going to be beneficial to me.  I need to decide that I'm not going to become overwhelmed with work and then constantly make decisions that allow that original decision to become my reality.
   

The Amish love the Sunshine and Shadow quilt pattern.  It shows
two sides--the dark and light, spirit and form--and the challenge of
bringing the two into a larger unity.  It's not a choice between
extremes:  conformity or freedom, discipline or imagination,
acceptance or doubt, humility or a raging ego.  It's a
balancing act that includes opposites.

Sue Bender

   
Sue's words here are important to keep in mind.  Many of us aren't able to recognize that some things aren't all there is--we don't have to spend seventy hours a week at the office to be good at our jobs.  We don't need to be the next Olympian in our sport and spend all of our spare time training if our work and families are crying out for our attention.  We can't spend all of our spare time sitting in front of the television when there are other parts of our lives that need our attention.

When we talk about regrets later in life, many of them come from our inability to balance our lives earlier.  Much of what people regret are the things they've neglected in favor of other things that have turned out to be not nearly as fulfilling as they thought they would be.  Wherever we are in life right now, it's extremely important that we start to pay attention to balance, for when our own lives are well balanced, then we can actually be much more helpful to the other people who need our help in life.

   
More on balance.

   

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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If we fight against the waves
that pass over us in life, we are
overpowered.  If we move with
the waves in life as they roll
over us, the wave passes on.

Pesikta Zurtarti

  
A few years ago, on a liner bound for Europe, I was browsing in the library when I came across a puzzling line by Robert Louis Stevenson:  "Extreme busyness, whether at school, kirk, or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality."  Surely, I thought, "deficient" is a mistake--he must have meant "abundant."  But R.L.S. went merrily on, "It is no good speaking to such folk:  they can not be idle, their nature is not generous enough."

Was it possible that a bustling display of energy might only be a camouflage for a spiritual vacuum?  The thought so impressed me that I mentioned it next day to the French purser, at whose table I was sitting.  He nodded his agreement.  "Stevenson is right," he said.  "Indeed, if you will pardon my saying so, the idea applies particularly to you Americans.  A lot of your countrymen keep so busy getting things done that they reach the end of their lives without ever having lived at all."

Arthur Gordon

If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up in one another's, that we can be free only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious world would come into being where all of us lived harmoniously together as members of one family, the human family.

Desmond Tutu

   
  

We do not succeed in changing things according to our desire,
but gradually our desire changes.  The situation that we hoped to
change because it was intolerable becomes unimportant.  We have
not managed to surmount the obstacle, as we were absolutely
determined to do, but life has taken us around it, led us past it,
and then if we turn around to gaze at the remote past, we can
barely catch sight of it, so imperceptible has it become.

Marcel Proust

    

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