13 June 2017      

Hello there, and welcome to this new day!  We have a whole new set of hours,
people, and experiences ahead of us, if only we'll take advantage of the opportunities
that we have to reach out and stretch ourselves beyond our previous limits!  What are
you going to do with this brand-new today with which you've been blessed?

The Principle of the Present Moment
Richard Carlson

The Callings of the World
Gregg Levoy

The Ambitious Violet
Khalil Gibran

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Our judgment is best when we can forget ourselves and any reputation we may have acquired and can concentrate wholly on making the right decisions.

Raymond A. Spruance

Sow an act, and you reap a habit.  Sow a habit, and you reap a character.  Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.

Charles Reade

Standing in the middle of the road is very
dangerous; you get knocked down by
the traffic from both sides.

Margaret Thatcher

  
The Principle of the Present Moment
Richard Carlson

Much has been said about "living in the moment."  Virtually every spiritual teacher throughout history has suggested this solution.  In fact, this may be one of the oldest and wisest pieces of advice for living a happier life.  Yet, despite all the emphasis on this advice, very few people seem able to implement this critical principle in their daily lives.  I believe this seemingly simple concept  is so elusive because the untrained mind is much like a puppy--it wanders off without realizing where it's going!  Before long, the puppy (like our thoughts) gets away from us.

Of the five principles discussed in this book, this is the one your therapist is least likely to have shared with you.  After all, much of therapy is spent discussing your childhood and other issues surrounding your past.  And while you can certainly gain some insight into your present life by understanding your past, doing so is almost always taken to excess.  Keeping your attention riveted to the past (or future) can become an insidious habit that's difficult to break.  Many therapists actually encourage their clients to live in the past (or in the future), without realizing they are doing so and certainly with no intended harm.

If you've ever been in therapy, you are undoubtedly familiar with the practice of encouraging a client to "reexperience" the past.

Therapists prompt clients--sometimes harshly--to focus on, think about, and most frequently, discuss in great detail the past.  This is done instead of teaching clients how to bring their attention back to the here and now--the only way to experience true happiness.  In addition to focusing on the past, clients are encouraged to "get in touch with" the negative feelings that accompany their negative thoughts of the past. . . .

When your attention is primarily in the present moment, the bulk of your experience comes from a place of wisdom rather than reactivity.  Although you will feel content when you focus on the present moment, you won't repress or deny anything that's truly relevant.  The thoughts and memories you need to grow as a person (even the painful ones) will surface at the appropriate time:  when you have the ability to handle them and the inner resources to know what to do with the information you receive.  Wisdom is like a built-in emotional monitor.  It helps you keep your bearings and your perspective.  It directs you toward happiness without encouraging you to pretend that things are different than they actually are.  Wisdom does allow for negativity, but only when it's necessary and appropriate--a far cry from the negativity typically generated in a therapy session.

The only way to experience genuine and lasting contentment, satisfaction, and happiness is to learn to live your life in the present moment.  Regardless of your past experiences, the specifics of your current circumstances, how much you analyze your past or speculate about your future, you will never be happy until you learn to live in the present moment.  A mind that is "out of the moment" is fertile ground for worry, anxiety, regret, and guilt.  This doesn't mean that every moment of your life should (or ever will) be spent focused in this moment, only that it is important that this occurs more often than not. . . .

Thoreau said, "Above all, we can not afford to not live in the present.  He is blessed over all mortals who loses no moment of passing life in remembering the past."  I couldn't agree more.  I think you'll find that mastering this principle is remarkably simple.  It just takes a little practice.  Beginning today, start observing where your thoughts are focused.  Are you engaged in what you are doing right now?  Or, have your thoughts drifted toward the future or the past?  You'll probably catch yourself drifting away dozens, even hundreds, of times a day.  Don't worry.  Pretty soon, this number will diminish substantially.  You'll discover that when you are engaged in this moment, you'll feel happy and satisfied.  This positive reinforcement will give you the faith to continue your practice.
  

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The Callings of the World
Gregg Levoy

When I play the piano, I sometimes finish a piece by holding my foot on the sustain pedal and listening intently as the sound fades and eventually merges with the surrounding silence.  When the last note is barely audible, there is a moment when I'm not certain if I'm still hearing the note or imagining it, whether it's part of me or part of the world.

No matter how hard I struggle to discern where I leave off and others begin, ultimately I find that there's no telling.  I cannot convince myself that there is such a place.  I cannot find a ramrod boundary line, only watery expanses, and in the diminuendo I'm always being carried out into the world.  I grapple with a question once posed by the psychologist June Singer:  "The space between us, is it a space that separates us or a space that unites us?"

The world continually reminds us that our calls both do and do not belong solely to us.  Just as calls issue from our own bodies in the form of symptoms, they also come from the body politic, of which we're each single cells.  Where an affinity of wounds connects us to others, where the world in its shocking condition touches our lives in a personal way, we can find ourselves responding to a call and turning from sympathizers to activists.

What we each determine is a fitting response is entirely subjective.  One person might take on multinational corporations or federal laws or the plight of an entire race of people, another might adopt a child from the Third World, and yet another might simply sweep the street in front of the shop every morning.  For some, all the activism they can handle in this life is in trying to heal their own souls, though by most accounts this is the work of the world.  Contemplative nuns and monks, writers, and most artists serve the world best, for instance, in solitude.  They touch the world most intimately when they're completely alone, conferring their medicine through prayer and painting, through writing books and working the beads.  They may seldom see a soul yet be engaged in the deepest soul work, which simultaneously serves the greater community.

The world never stops calling, never stops acting as though it belongs to us, and its pain is always gathering force like storms offshore.  It sends out flares the way we send signals into space, always hoping that someone will come across them, will understand what they mean, will trace the calls.  It shouts to us from the sickroom, from the cold calculus of the daily news, and from whatever we can't stand to look at and so avert our eyes.  The world gets harder and harder to ignore as it gets smaller and its problems bigger, as whatever hits the fan gets a little more evenly distributed.
   

This is the first book to examine the many kinds of calls we receive and the great variety of channels through which they come to us.  A calling may be to do something (change careers, go back to school, have a child) or to be something (more creative, less judgmental, more loving).  How do we recognize it?  How do we distinguish the true call from the siren song?  How do we handle our resistance to a call?  What happens when we say yes? What happens when we say no?

   

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Just as a word of encouragement during failure is
worth more than a whole book of praises after success,
small deeds done are always better than great deeds planned.

Patti LaBelle

   
The Ambitious Violet
Kahlil Gibran

There was a beautiful and fragrant violet who lived placidly amongst her friends, and swayed happily amidst the other flowers in a solitary garden.  One morning, as her crown was embellished with beads of dew, she lifted her head and looked about; she saw a tall and handsome rose standing proudly and reaching high into space, like a burning torch upon an emerald lamp.

The violet opened her blue lips and said, "What an unfortunate am I among these flowers, and how humble is the position I occupy in their presence!  Nature has fashioned me to be short and poor.  I live very close to the earth and I cannot raise my head toward the blue sky, or turn my face to the sun, as the roses do."

And the rose heard her neighbor's words; she laughed and commented, "How strange is your talk!  You are fortunate, and yet you cannot understand your fortune.  Nature has bestowed upon you fragrance and beauty which she did not grant to any other.  Cast aside your thoughts and be contented, and remember that he who humbles himself will be exalted, and he who exalts himself will be crushed."

The violet answered, "You are consoling me because you have that I craved.  You seek to embitter me with the meaning that you are great.  How painful is the preaching of the fortunate to the heart of the miserable! And how severe is the strong when he stands as advisor among the weak!"

And Nature heard the conversation of the violet and the rose; she approached and said, "What has happened to you, my daughter violet?  You have been humble and sweet in all your deeds and words.  Has greed entered your heart and numbed your senses?"  In a pleading voice, the violet answered her, saying, "Oh great and merciful mother, full of love and sympathy, I beg you, with all my heart and soul, to grant my request and allow me to be a rose for one day."

And Nature responded, "you know not what you are seeking; you are unaware of the concealed disaster behind your blind ambition.  If you were a rose you would be sorry, and repentance would avail you but naught."  The violet insisted, "Change me into a tall rose, for I wish to lift my head high with pride; and regardless of my fate, it will be my own doing."  Nature yielded, saying, "Oh ignorant and rebellious violet, I will grant your request.  But if calamity befalls you, your complaint must be to yourself."

And Nature stretched forth her mysterious and magic finger and touched the roots of the violet, who immediately turned into a tall rose; rising above all other flowers in the garden.

At eventide the sky became thick with black clouds, and the raging elements disturbed the silence of existence with thunder, and commenced to attack the garden, sending forth a great rain and strong winds.  The tempest tore the branches and uprooted the plants and broke the stems of the tall flowers, sparing only the little ones who grew close to the friendly earth.  That solitary garden suffered greatly from the belligerent skies, and when the storm calmed and the sky cleared, all the flowers were laid waste and none of them had escaped the wrath of Nature except the clan of small violets, hiding by the wall of the garden.

Having lifted her head and viewed the tragedy of the flowers and trees, one of the violet maidens smiled happily and called to here companions, saying, "See what the tempest has done to the haughty flowers!"  Another violet said, "We are small, and live close to the earth, but we are safe from the wrath of the skies."  And a third one added, "Because we are poor in height the tempest is unable to subdue us."

At that moment the queen of violets saw by her side the converted violet, hurled to earth by the storm and distorted upon the wet grass like a limp soldier in a battle field.  The queen of the violets lifted her head and called to her family, saying, "Look, my daughters, and meditate upon that which Greed has done to the violet who became a proud rose for one day.  Let the memory of this scene be a reminder of your good fortune."

And the dying rose moved and gathered the remnants of her strength, and quietly said, "You are contented and meek dullards; I have never feared the tempest.  Yesterday I, too, was satisfied and contented with Life, but Contentment has acted as a barrier between my existence and the tempest of Life, confining me to a sickly and sluggish peace and tranquility of mind.  I could have lived the same life you are living now by clinging with fear to the earth.  I could have waited for winter to shroud me with snow and deliver me to Death, who will surely claim all violets.  I am happy now because I have probed outside my little world into the mystery of the Universe. . . something which you have not yet done. 

"I could have overlooked Greed, whose nature is higher than mine, but as I hearkened to the silence of the night, I heard the heavenly world talking to this earthly world, saying, 'Ambition beyond existence is the essential purpose of our being.'  At that moment my spirit revolted and my heart longed for a position higher than my limited existence.  I realized that the abyss cannot hear the song of the stars, and at that moment I commenced fighting against my smallness and craving for that which did not belong to me, until my rebelliousness turned into a great power, and my longing into a creating will. . . . Nature, who is the great object of our deeper dreams, granted my request and changed me into a rose with her magic fingers."

The rose became silent for a moment, and in a weakening voice, mingled with pride and achievement, she said, "I have lived one day as a proud rose; I have existed for a time like a queen; I have looked at the Universe from behind the eyes of the rose; I have heard the whisper of the firmament through the ears of the rose and touched the folds of Light's garment with rose petals.  Is there any here who can claim such honor?" 

Having thus spoken, she lowered her head, and with a choking voice she gasped, "I shall die now, for my soul has attained its goal. I have finally extended my knowledge to a world beyond the narrow cavern of my birth. This is the design of Life. . . . This is the secret of Existence."  Then the rose quivered, slowly folded her petals, and breathed her last with a heavenly smile upon her lips. . . a smile of fulfillment of hope and purpose in Life. . . a smile of victory. . . a God's smile.

   

  

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The roots of love sink down and
deep and strike out far, and they are
arteries that feed our lives, so we
must see that they get the water
and sun they need so they can
nourish us.  And when you put
something good into the world,
something good comes back to you.

Merle Shain

  
Several years ago, a friend of mine lived with me during the final few months of her life.  Not completely understanding the effects of her illness, I kept saying, "Michelle, you must eat.  You're getting too thin!  Eat!"  And after she died, I read in her journal about how "Marianne takes it for granted that if you eat, you gain weight; if you want to go out somewhere, you can; and if you want to live past this year, it's a reasonable proposition."  She was someone who had so little to be happy about, but she taught me so much about happiness.  During those months, right after the birth of my daughter, I would come home to find my dying friend with my baby snuggled next to her.  There was a smile of bliss on both their faces that I will remember all my days.

Marianne Williamson
Everyday Grace
   

  

Everything you need for your better future and success has already
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No, they're free.  And there's probably a library in every neighborhood.
Only three percent!

Jim Rohn

    

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