8 November 2016      

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 On Loneliness and Solitude (an excerpt)
Kent Nerburn

The Tiny Black Dot
Jeff Keller

Choosing the Least Stressful
tom walsh

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Delve within; within is the fountain of good,
and it is always ready to bubble up, if you always delve.

Marcus Aurelius

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Teilhard de Chardin

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.

Mother Teresa

On Loneliness and Solitude (an excerpt)
Kent Nerburn

You should spend time alone.  Not just minutes and hours, but days, and if the opportunity presents itself, weeks.

Time spent alone returns to you a hundredfold, because it is the proving ground of the spirit.  You quickly find out if you are at peace with yourself, or if the meaning of your life is found only in the superficial affairs of the day.  If it is in the superficial affairs of the day, time spent alone will throw you back upon yourself in a way that will make you grow in wisdom and inner strength.

We can easily fill our days with activity.  We buy, we sell, we move from place to place.  There is always more to be done, always a way to keep from staring into the still pool where life is more than the chatter of the small affairs of the mind.

If we are not careful, we begin to mistake this activity for meaning.  We turn our lives into a series of tasks that can occupy all the hours of the clock and still leave us breathless with our sense of work left undone.

And always there is work undone.  We will die with work undone.  The labors of life are endless.  Better that you should accept the rhythms of life and know that there are times when you need to stop to draw a breath, no matter how great the labors are before you.

For many people, solitude is just a poet's word for being alone.  But being alone, in itself, is nothing.  It can be a breeding ground of loneliness as easily as a source of solitude.

Solitude is a condition of peace that stands in direct opposition to loneliness.  Loneliness is like sitting in an empty room and being aware of the space around you.  It is a condition of separateness.  Solitude is becoming one with the space around you.  It is a condition of union.

Loneliness is small, solitude is large.  Loneliness closes in around you; solitude expands towards the infinite.  Loneliness has its roots in words, in an internal conversation that nobody answers; solitude has its roots in the great silence of eternity.

Most people fear being alone because they understand only loneliness.  Their understanding begins at the self, and they are comfortable only as long as they are at the center of their understanding.  Solitude is about getting the "I" out of the center of our thoughts so that other parts of life can be experienced in their fullness.  It is about abandoning the self as the focus of understanding, and giving ourselves over to the great flowing fabric of the universe.

In solitude silence becomes a symphony.  Time changes from a series of moments strung together into a seamless motion riding on the rhythms of the stars.  Loneliness is banished, solitude is in full flower, and we are one with the pulse of life and the flow of time.

The awareness we experience in solitude is priceless for the peace it can give.  It is also the key to true loving in our relationships.  When we have a part of ourselves that is firm, confident, and alone, we don't need another person to fill us.  We know that we have private spaces full of goodness and self-worth, and we grant the same to those we love.  We do not try to pry into every corner of their lives or to fill the emptiness inside us with their presence.

As always, look at the world around you.  The mountain is not restless in its aloneness.  The hawk tracing circles in the sky is not longing for union with the sun.  They exist in the perfect peace of an eternal present, and that is the peace that one finds only in solitude.  Find this peace in yourself, and you will never know another moment of loneliness in your life.

Seldom does a book come along that speaks to the core issues in life with the clarity and wisdom of Simple Truths. Award-winning author Kent Nerburn offers clear and gentle guidance on such central life experiences as love, work, possessions, strength, solitude, and death. This is a profound book, deeply informed by the spiritual traditions of the West, the Far East, and Native Americans, with whom the author has worked for many years. Its simple format and beautiful presentation make it ideal for the intelligent gift-giver looking for a small treasure.


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The Tiny Black Dot
Jeff Keller

During some of my presentations, I take an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of white paper and make a little black dot in the middle.  Then I show the sheet to people in the audience and ask them what they see.  The majority will say that they see a black dot.  Very few, if any, will tell me that they see a white sheet of paper with a tiny black dot.

We tend to look at our lives in very much the same way.  We have our health, enough food to eat, a job that pays the bills and allows us some leisure activities, but we don't focus on that.  We don't appreciate that.

Instead, we concentrate on the tiny black dot - the 10% in our lives that we don't like. . . or the things we wish we could change.  By concentrating on the 10% that represents our problems or things we don't like, we develop a negative attitude and feel lousy.  Plus, there's a universal principle that comes into play: we attract what we think about most.

By focusing on what is lacking in our lives, we create more experiences of scarcity.

Think about your life.  Are you paying too much attention to the 10% that isn't what you want it to be, as opposed to the 90% that's going well?  I'm not saying we should ignore our challenges or things we'd like to change.  But if we paid a lot more attention to the 90% that IS working, we'd have a better attitude and we'd get better results.

When it comes to your job, do you concentrate on all the positive aspects of your position, or do you gripe about your salary and your co-workers, or the fact that someone else got the promotion you wanted?

What about the basic necessities of life?  Do you feel gratitude every day for the food you eat, the clothing you have, the roof above your head, or do you take all of these things for granted?  Worse yet, do you complain that you don't have more?

And let's not forget your body and your health.  How much time do you spend thinking about what IS working?  Your body is a miracle, make no mistake about that.  There's nothing "ho-hum" about your body and its day to day operation.

Albert Einstein once said that there are two ways to live your life:  one way is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as though everything is a miracle.

Most of us walk around with a ho-hum attitude about the miracle of our bodies. We treat this amazing creation as if it's no big deal.

Consider this:  your heart is only the size of a fist and yet it pumps blood through your body.  Every day, the heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood and beats about 100,000 times.  That's just in one day.

In one year, that amounts to 36,500,000 beats.  And in most cases, the heart just keeps on beating 36,500,000 times a year for many decades.  Stop for a moment and recognize the enormity of this miracle.

And, of course, you don't have to change any body parts or beat your chest manually to keep your heart going.  It automatically beats and sends the blood through your body with no effort on your part.

Now, let's consider your brain.  The brain and spinal cord are made up of many cells, which include neurons.  There are about 100 billion neurons in the brain.  100 billion!  Neurons are nerve cells that transmit nerve signals to and from the brain at up to 200 miles per hour.  Isn't this amazing?

Of course, your ears. . . your eyes. . . well, I could go on all day about the miracle of your body and how we take it for granted.  Just one final example to drive the point home.

When you get a cold and have difficulty breathing for a few days, I bet you'll often tell everyone that you are congested and don't feel well.  When the cold clears up in a week and your breathing returns to normal, you probably don't say:  "My breathing is perfect today! I'm able to get all the oxygen I need!"  Why does it make sense to complain about your breathing for the one week it is impaired. . . while failing to acknowledge the other 51 weeks when your breathing is full and healthy?

Stop taking this incredible body for granted.  Appreciate all the things that ARE working!  You're a walking miracle, and part of an extraordinary universe.

Some of you may feel that ignoring the black dot is not the answer--and that you need to focus on the  black dot to improve certain conditions in your life.  Well, if you choose this route, here are three strategies you could use:

1.  Worry about the black dot.
2.  Complain about the black dot.
3.  Take some proactive steps to eliminate or reduce the black dot.

The only strategy that makes sense is #3.  Yet many people select strategies #1 and #2, which only makes them more miserable.

Be brutally honest with yourself.  Are there any areas of your life where you're ignoring the large white sheet and seeing only the tiny black dot?  Do you see the faults of those at work or at home, and seldom affirm people for their positive contributions to your life?  If you're like most of us, you have an abundance of blessings, yet you're often blind to them.

If you've been staring at some tiny black dots recently, take responsibility for that.  And recognize that nobody is forcing you to keep your eyes on the black dot.  You've developed the habit of focusing on the negative and your life (and the lives of those around you) will be greatly enriched if you start to shift your vision toward the white sheet.

You have a choice.  You can keep staring at the black dot and telling others about all the things that are wrong in your life, or you can begin to appreciate your many blessings.  Sounds like a pretty easy choice to make, doesn't it?


Jeff Keller, President of Attitude
is Everything, Inc, is a speaker,
seminar leader and writer in
the area of motivation and human
potential.  For more than 10 years,
he has delivered his uplifting
presentations to businesses and
organizations throughout the United
States and abroad.  Jeff is also
an attorney who practiced law
for more than 10 years before
pursuing a full-time career
as a speaker and writer.


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The balance and peace we seek for ourselves and our society won’t be achieved
through mental effort alone.  Mind and spirit are meant to travel together,
with spirit leading the way.  Until we make a conscious commitment to understand
and embrace our spiritual nature, we will endure the ache of living without
the awareness and guidance of the most essential part of ourselves.

Susan L. Taylor



Choosing the Least Stressful

A couple of Saturdays ago, there were three races in our town.  I like to run competitively (as long as it's fun!), so this was something that proved to put me in a bit of a quandary.  I had originally signed up for one of them that is basically a state-wide cross-country meet for adults; it's generally a lot of fun, though it is highly competitive and has a lot of runners.  The evening before the run, though, I received a couple of emails about the course and the parking for the event--there were a record number of entrants, so the course was going to be crowded and everyone had to be careful; and the parking was going to be tight because of the location, and everyone who could needed to carpool.

I took those two pieces of information as a sign that I should look into the other two runs.  I looked at one of them and found that there were over 700 runners registered.  I looked at the other and saw that there were 40.

To me, the answer became obvious--I could go to one of the big races that would have lots of people and a crowded starting lines and courses, or I could go to a low-key, relaxed race that promised no crowds and very little stress.  Of course, I chose the least stressful of the options, and I was really glad that I did.  It's not to say that I wouldn't have enjoyed the other races--I know that they would have been what I made them, and that I could have had fun at them and seen a lot of people that I know.  But on a Saturday morning after a long and stressful week, the last thing that I needed was another source of stress, so I chose the option that promised to be the most relaxing and the most fun, and I'm pretty sure that it was.


The greatest weapon against stress is our
ability to choose one thought over another.

William James

When we go places, we usually look for the most relaxing route, as long as it doesn't take us extremely far out of our way.  If we have a three-hour drive on a stressful road like a crowded Interstate, we try to find an alternate route because we know that the extra stress generally isn't worth the time we save.  There are several routes I can take to drive to visit my parents, for example, and the route I usually follow takes eleven hours instead of ten, but the peacefulness of the roads makes the trip a pleasure instead of a trial; we arrive at their house (or at home) feeling much better than we would if we were to follow the stressful route--not to mention the fact that it's safer, too.

Sometimes, extra stress is necessary for different reasons.  I could teach my classes without giving the students exercises to reinforce what they've learned, and that would give me much less work to do.  But I know from experience and research that those exercises help them to learn, so the way that's less stressful for me is less effective for them--so in that case, I choose the more stressful of my options, because the stress I take on is for their benefit.  If I've invited someone over for dinner and I want to treat them to a special meal just because, deciding to make a more complicated meal does raise the stress level a bit.  Some things that we decide to do for others do add stress to our lives, but in my experience it's usually worth it--and it is a choice that I make.

Stress is the resistance to what's happening right now.
As we allow ourselves to open to this moment fully,
there is absolutely no stress.

Stephan Rechtschaffen

There are also situations, of course, when we don't necessarily have a choice about the stress we face.  When we're at work, certain stressful situations arise seemingly out of nowhere, and we don't always get to decide that we don't want to deal with that stress, or we don't get the luxury of deciding to take a less stressful course of action.  In these cases it's important that we be able to deal with the stress effectively so that we don't lose our peace of mind--and that's why sometimes, when I know that I'm in a good position to do so, I actually choose the most stressful options available to me.  If I'm given the choice between two tasks to do and one looks to be more difficult and complicated, I'll very often let someone else take the easier task, and I'll take the more difficult one.  I won't do this if things in my life are very stressful at that moment, but I'll do it often just so that I can train myself to deal with stress so that it doesn't overwhelm me when it does show up in my life.

In fact, my decision to join the Army years ago came partly because I wanted to challenge myself by putting myself into an extremely difficult and highly stressful situation for a long period of time (among other reasons, of course).  And one of the things that I know for sure is that since that experience, almost nothing has proved to be overwhelmingly stressful to me.

No one can escape stress, but you can learn to cope with it.
Practice positive thinking. . . seize control in small ways.

Adele Scheele

I don't avoid stress all the time.  When I do so, though, I'm doing my best to keep balance and peace in my life.  Sometimes stress is completely unnecessary and it doesn't serve any purpose at all--and those are the times when I'll look for a much-less-stressful alternative to a particular course of action.  While there is great value in getting used to stress, there is also a time and place when it's good to do so--and many more times and places when it's not going to help us a bit, and possibly even cause us a bit of harm.  It's important that we be able to discern which stressful situations can be effective learning experiences and which should be avoided, because the ways that our lives play out are partially determined by the amount and types of stress that we face--and the amounts and types of stress that we avoid.

More on stress.


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We can think of the times--perhaps only yesterday--when we listened to a friend in need, or finished a task that was nagging at us.  Maybe we made an appointment to begin a project we've been putting off.  Success is taking positive action, nothing more.  Many of us, in our youth, were taught that success only came in certain shapes and sizes.  And we felt like failures.  We need new definitions; it's time to discard the old.



Far too often many people do not prepare themselves for success.  While they wish success would favor them, they may put just enough effort into life to get by, thinking that if by chance something big comes along, they'll grab it.  But if you're not prepared for success, you may find it difficult to hold on to the opportunities that come your way.  Success requires understanding, fortitude, and foresight to bring the "blade to the full grain in the ear."

As an exercise, ask yourself from time to time what you are doing to prepare yourself for success.  Have you established and become fully committed to your goals?  Are you willing not only to cultivate the soil and plant the seed but also to nurture and care for the tender blade and the young ear as it appears?  Are you willing to go the extra mile, and give the energy and attention that the opportunity calls for?  Are you willing to stand firm with your convictions, your principles?  Are you prepared to stand alone, if necessary?  Have you trained yourself to recognize opportunity when it knocks?

John Marks Templeton
Worldwide Laws of Life


The motive, if you are to find inner peace, must be an outgoing motive.
Service, of course--service.  Giving, not getting.  Your motive must be
good if your work is to have good effect.  The secret of life is being of service.

Peace Pilgrim


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