6 September  2016      

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 Solving Life's Problems
Peace Pilgrim

from Everyday Zen
Charlotte Joko Beck

Coasting
tom walsh

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Who will tell whether one happy moment of love, or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort that life implies?

Eric Fromm

I didn't belong as a kid, and that always bothered me.  If only I'd known that one day my differentness would be an asset, then my early life would have been much easier.

Bette Midler

Anyone can forge a little link of brotherhood, or at least understanding.  Some day perhaps every boy and girl will have become at home in a foreign country, and there could be no more useful step towards the abolition of war.

Havelock Ellis

Civilized people have exchanged some part of their chances of happiness for a measure of security.

Sigmund Freud

  
Solving Life's Problems
Peace Pilgrim

When societies get out of harmony, problems develop within the society. Collective problems. Their purpose is to push the whole society toward harmony. Individuals can discover that they can not only grow and learn through individual problem solving, they can learn and grow through collective problem solving. I often say I've run out of personal problems, then every once in a while a little one presents itself somewhere. But I hardly recognize it as a problem because it seems so insignificant. Actually, I want to do all my learning and growing now by helping to solve collective problems.

There was a time when I thought it was a nuisance to be confronted with a problem. I tried to get rid of it. I tried to get somebody else to solve it for me. But that time was long ago. It was a great day in my life when I discovered the wonderful purpose of problems. Yes, they have a wonderful purpose.

Some people wish for a life of no problems, but I would never wish such a life for any of you. What I wish for you is the great inner strength to solve your problems meaningfully and grow. Problems are learning and growing experiences. A life without problems would be a barren existence, without the opportunity for spiritual growth.

I once met a woman who had virtually no problems. I was on a late-night radio program in New York City. This woman called the station and wanted me to come to her home. I was intending to spend the night at the bus station, so I said okay.

She sent her chauffeur for me, and I found myself in a millionaire's home, talking to a middle-aged woman who seemed like a child. She was so immature, and I wondered at her immaturity, until I realized that the woman had been shielded from all problems by a group of servants and lawyers. She had never come to grips with life. She had not had problems to grow on, and therefore had not grown. Problems are blessings in disguise!

Were I to solve problems for others they would remain stagnant; they would never grow. It would be a great injustice to them. My approach is to help with cause rather than effect. When I help others, it is by instilling within them the inspiration to work out problems by themselves. If you feed a man a meal, you only feed him for a day--but if you teach a man to grow food, you feed him for a lifetime.

It is through solving problems correctly that we grow spiritually. We are never given a burden unless we have the capacity to overcome it. If a great problem is set before you, this merely indicates that you have the great inner strength to solve a great problem. There is never really anything to be discouraged about, because difficulties are opportunities for inner growth, and the greater the difficulty the greater the opportunity for growth.

Difficulties with material things often come to remind us that our concentration should be on spiritual things instead of material things. Sometimes difficulties of the body come to show that the body is just a transient garment, and that the reality is the indestructible essence which activates the body. But when we can say, "Thank God for problems which are sent for our spiritual growth," they are problems no longer. They then become opportunities.

Let me tell you a story of a woman who had a personal problem. She lived constantly with pain. It was something in her back. I can still see her, arranging the pillows behind her back so it wouldn't hurt quite so much. She was quite bitter about this. I talked to her about the wonderful purpose of problems in our lives, and I tried to inspire her to think about God instead of her problems. I must have been successful to some degree, because one night after she had gone to bed she got to thinking about God.

"God regards me, this little grain of dust, as so important that he sends me just the right problems to grow on," she began thinking. And she turned to God and said, "Oh, dear God, thank you for this pain through which I may grow closer to thee." Then the pain was gone and it has never returned. Perhaps that's what it means when it says: 'In all things be thankful.' Maybe more often we should pray the prayer of thankfulness for our problems. Prayer is a concentration of positive thoughts.

Many common problems are caused by wrong attitudes. People see themselves as the center of the universe and judge everything as it relates to them. Naturally you won't be happy that way. You can only be happy when you see things in proper perspective: all human beings are of equal importance in God's sight, and have a job to do in the divine plan.

I'll give you an example of a woman who had some difficulty finding out what her job was in the divine plan. She was in her early forties, single, and needed to earn a living. She hated her work to the extent that it made her sick, and the first thing she did was to go to a psychiatrist who said he would adjust her to her job. So after some adjustment she went back to work. But she still hated her job. She got sick again and then came to me. Well, I asked what her calling was, and she said, "I'm not called to do anything."

That was not true. What she really meant was she didn't know her calling. So I asked her what she liked to do because if it is your calling you will do it as easily and joyously as I walk my pilgrimage. I found she liked to do three things. She liked to play the piano, but wasn't good enough to earn her living at that. She liked to swim, but wasn't good enough to be a swimming instructor, and she liked to work with flowers.

I got her a job in a florist shop so she could earn her living working with flowers. She loved it.  She said she would do it for nothing.  But we used the other things too. Remember, she needed more than just a livelihood.  She needed other things.  The swimming became her exercise.  It fits in with sensible living habits. The piano playing became her path of service.  She went to a retirement home and played the old songs for the people there.  She got them to sing, and she was good at that.  Out of those three things such a beautiful life was built for that woman.  She became a very attractive woman and married a year or so later.  She stayed right in that life pattern.

I knew another woman who was confined to her room and had been there for quite some time. I went in to see her and I could tell immediately from the lines in her face and the tenseness of her that it wasn't physical at all. And I don't think I had talked to her for more than five minutes before she was telling me all about how mean her sister had been to her. The way she told it, I knew she had told that story again and again and mulled over in her mind constantly that bitterness against her sister. I found myself explaining to her that if she would forgive, ask forgiveness, and make peace with her sister, then she could look for an improvement in her health. "Huh!" she said. "I'd rather die. You have no idea how mean she was." So the situation drifted for awhile.

But early one morning at dawn this woman wrote a beautiful and inspired letter to her sister, which she showed to me. (There is something very wonderful to be said about dawn. Sunset is good, too. The only thing is, at sunset most everybody is awake and they're hurrying and scurrying around. At dawn most everybody is slowed down or asleep and they are much more harmonious when they're asleep. So dawn is often a good time for spiritual things.) I immediately went into town and mailed the letter before she could change her mind. When I got back, she had changed her mind--so it's a good thing I had mailed it! She worried a little, but by return mail came a letter from her sister, and her sister was so glad they were to be reconciled. And you know, on the same day that letter arrived from her sister the woman was up and around and out of bed, and the last I saw of her she was joyously off for a reconciliation with her sister.

There's something to that old saying that hate injures the hater, not the hated.

   

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from Everyday Zen
Charlotte Joko Beck 

My dog doesn't worry about the meaning of life. She may worry if she doesn't get her breakfast, but she doesn't sit around worrying about whether she will get fulfilled or liberated or enlightened. As long as she gets some food and a little affection, her life is fine. But we human beings are not like dogs. We have self-centered minds which get us into plenty of trouble. If we do not come to understand the error in the way we think, our self-awareness, which is our greatest blessing, is also our downfall.

To some degree we all find life difficult, perplexing, and oppressive. Even when it goes well, as it may for a time, we worry that it probably won't keep on that way. Depending on our personal history, we arrive at adulthood with very mixed feelings about this life. If I were to tell you that your life is already perfect, whole, and complete just as it is, you would think I was crazy. Nobody believes his or her life is perfect. And yet there is something within each of us that basically knows we are boundless, limitless. We are caught in the contradiction of finding life a rather perplexing puzzle which causes us a lot of misery, and at the same time being dimly aware of the boundless, limitless nature of life. So we begin looking for an answer to the puzzle.

The first way of looking is to seek a solution outside ourselves. At first this may be on a very ordinary level. There are many people in the world who feel that if only they had a bigger car, a nicer house, better vacations, a more understanding boss, or a more interesting partner, then their life would work. We all go through that one. Slowly we wear out most of our "if onlies." "If only I had this, or that, then my life would work Not one of us isn't, to some degree, still wearing out our "if onlies." First of all we wear out those on the gross levels. Then we shift our search to more subtle levels. Finally, in looking for the thing outside of ourselves that we hope is going to complete us, we turn to a spiritual discipline. Unfortunately we tend to bring into this new search the same orientation as before.

Most people who come to the Zen Center don't think a Cadillac will do it, but they think that enlightenment will. Now they've got a new cookie, a new "if only." "If only I could understand what realization is all about, I would be happy." "If only I could have at least a little enlightenment experience, I would be happy." Coming into a practice like Zen, we bring our usual notions that we are going to get somewhere--become enlightened--and get all the cookies that have eluded us in the past.

Our whole life consists of this little subject looking outside itself for an object. But if you take something that is limited, like body and mind, and look for something outside it, that something becomes an object and must be limited too. So you have something limited looking for something limited and you just end up with more of the same folly that has made you miserable.

We have all spent many years building up a conditioned view of life. There is "me" and there is this "thing" out there that is either hurting me or pleasing me. We tend to run our whole life trying to avoid all that hurts or displeases us, noticing the objects, people, or situations that we think will give us pain or pleasure, avoiding one and pursuing the other. Without exception, we all do this. We remain separate from our life, looking at it, analyzing it, judging it, seeking to answer the questions, 'What am I going to get out of it? Is it going to give me pleasure or comfort or should I run away from it?" We do this from morning until night.

Underneath our nice, friendly facades there is great unease. If I were to scratch below the surface of anyone I would find fear, pain, and anxiety running amok.  We all have ways to cover them up.  We overeat, over-drink, overwork; we watch too much television.  We are always doing something to cover up our basic existential anxiety. Some people live that way until the day they die.

As the years go by, it gets worse and worse. What might not look so bad when you are twenty-five looks awful by the time you are fifty. We all know people who might as well be dead; they have so contracted into their limited viewpoints that it is as painful for those around them as it is for themselves. The flexibility and joy and flow of life are gone. And that rather grim possibility faces all of us, unless we wake up to the fact that we need to work with our life, we need to practice.

We have to see through the mirage that there is an "I" separate from "that." Our practice is to close the gap. Only in that instant when we and the object become one can we see what our life is.

Enlightenment is not something you achieve. It is the absence of something. All your life you have been going forward after something, pursuing some goal. Enlightenment is dropping all that. But to talk about it is of little use.

The practice has to be done by each individual. There is no substitute. We can read about it until we are a thousand years old and it won't do a thing for us. We all have to practice, and we have to practice with all of our might for the rest of our lives.

   
   

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Is it wholly fantastic to admit the possibility that Nature herself strove
toward what we call beauty?  Face to face with any one of the elaborate
flowers which the human's cultivation has had nothing to do with, it does
not seem fantastic to me.  We put survival first.  But when we have a
margin of safety left over, we expend it in the search for the beautiful.
Who can say that Nature does not do the same?

Joseph Wood Krutch

   

 

Coasting

Sometimes life does get difficult.  There are times it seems when I'm trudging uphill with no end to the climb in sight--I look ahead and all I see is more hill, more climbing, more struggle.  These are the times when it's easy to get discouraged, to feel that there's no real purpose in going on because there's not going to be any relief from the difficult times.

But I took a bike ride yesterday that illustrates to me the importance not just of going on, continuing to trudge, but also the importance of pushing ourselves that little extra while going up that hill.  Heading north from our house, there's a beautiful little road that's paved for fifteen miles, then turns to dirt.  The problem is that it's a road that leads into the mountains, so it's almost all uphill from where we live.  I had gone a few miles out on it before, but yesterday I wanted to go to the spot where it turns to dirt.

If you've ever ridden a bike uphill, you know the struggle involved, especially when the road gets steep.  The beauty of riding uphill, though, is that you know that eventually what goes up must come down--you're going to have to descend if you spend a lot of time ascending.  So as I pushed myself up some of the hills that were extremely difficult yesterday, I kept reminding myself that this very same hill that's causing me great grief at the moment will be a hill that will bring me great satisfaction later when I'm heading in the other direction.

And that type of reminder is very important to me.  When I was down in the very low gears, riding at just four or five miles an hour uphill, I knew that when I was heading in the other direction I'd be able to coast with no effort at all except to steer the bike.

Whenever life throws me some difficult times these days, I remind myself of all the runs that I've done and bike rides that I've taken that have involved hills and mountains.  I know that it's important to keep in mind the fact that this too shall pass, these difficult times are like the uphill trudging that I do, that eventually becomes downhill coasting as long as I persevere and keep on going up that hill.

One of the most important parts of this principle, though, is recognizing when I'm just not ready for a particular hill, or when this hill just isn't worth the effort.  I couldn't have done the fifteen miles yesterday if I hadn't trained for it--I couldn't head out on my bike one day without any practice at all and expect to do the climbing I did yesterday.  Likewise, there are other hills around that simply wouldn't be worth the effort because they're too dangerous or because the road isn't paved or because my bike couldn't handle it.  We do have to have the discernment necessary to choose our battles--the hills that we challenge--wisely.

The reward yesterday came almost immediately--it took me 90 minutes to do the 15 miles north, but once I turned around it took me only 50 minutes to do the same distance back home.  There were points at which I hit 30 and 40 mph, coasting, without having to pedal.  In life, too, I know that these downhills come along, times when things go well, when we accomplish what we want seemingly without having to put forth any real effort.  We have to remember that when we're struggling, we're struggling to get to the top of a hill, when all that we've learned from the struggle will come together to help us, to give us the chance to coast downhill for a while until our next great struggle comes up.

   
   

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For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.

Rainer Maria Rilke

  
Be a Positive Thinker
Pamela Owens Renfro

Remember. . . there is a deeper strength
and an amazing abundance of peace
available to you.
Draw from this well;
call on your faith to uphold you.
You will make it through this time
and find joy in life again.

Life continues around us,
even when our troubles seem to stop time.
There is good in life every day.
Take a few minutes to distract yourself
from your concerns--
long enough to draw strength from a tree
or to find pleasure in a bird's song.

Return a smile;
realize that life is a series of levels,
cycles of ups and downs--
some easy, some challenging.
Through it all, we learn;
we grow strong in faith;
we mature in understanding.
The difficult times are often
the best teachers, and there is
good to be found in all situations.
Reach for the good.
Be strong, and don't give up.

Renaissance is a wonderful, rich word that means revival, a new birth.  It is the spirit of new life and new values.  Here are some ways to bring yourself a touch of the spirit:

Express love to a family member or a stranger in a way that does not involve money.

Give the present of your time and attention to a child.

Take time to reach toward your own spiritual center in whatever way touches you.  Give yourself love.

Make one contribution to peace within your family, among your friends, and in your world.

Choose peace of mind over conflict.

Jennifer James
Success Is the Quality of Your Journey
   
  

Finish every day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them
as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely
and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This day is all that is good and fair.  It is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

    

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