17 October 2017      

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Commentary on Confusion
Iyanla Vanzant

Susan L. Taylor

tom walsh

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Love is the difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.

Iris Murdoch

When you expect good, it's available constantly, and it makes itself a reality in your life.

Alfre Woodard

A strong positive mental
attitude will create more
miracles than any wonder drug.

Patricia Neal

Commentary on Confusion
Iyanla Vanzant

Chaos and confusion are not the same things.  Chaos is the energy we create when we have a need to be needed, when we want to make ourselves feel important, when we are trying to convince ourselves we are not important, and when we need something to do.  Chaos looks confusing, but it is not confusion.  Chaos is a cleverly disguised way of saying, "I know what to do and you don't!"  Or, "You know what to do, so please rescue me!"  Or, "Get out of the way!  I'm in control here!"  Or, "There's something else I need to be doing, but I can't do it now because I'm busy creating chaos!"  Confusion, on the other hand, is a mental and emotional response to the failure to admit what we really want, because we are afraid we will not get it.

Confusion is an experience of having the brain shut down.  There is a barrage of information coming at you, and you can't figure out what is real from what is unreal.  The natural response is a perceived experience of not knowing what to do.  Well, that's impossible!  You always know what to do because you have a divine connection to the One Mind that knows everything.  Confusion is about the mental and emotional outgrowth of knowing exactly what to do, and having this knowledge clouded by the belief that you are not good or smart enough to do it.  This is augmented by the fear that if you do it, you might not do it right, or that if you do it the way it needs to be done, somebody will get mad at you.  The natural response to this self-defeating mental chatter is for the intellectual mind to shut down.  The result is what we call confusion.

There was a time in my life when I was very confused about why I couldn't sustain a lasting, meaningful relationship.  It seemed as if I would never have a fulfilling or lasting relationship with a man, and that friends would always betray me.  I told myself that it wasn't my fault, and that I had done the best I could in every situation.  I finally retreated into the self-debasing judgment that there was something wrong with me.  As confused as I was and damaged as I believed I was, I kept dragging myself in and out of relationships and friendships.  The confusion eventually spread to my career.  I could never seem to figure out what my supervisor wanted.  I never seemed to do anything right.  From there, the confusion spread to my finances.  I could not figure out why I never had enough money, why I kept bouncing checks.  Where was the money going?  I was putting it in the bank.

Confession is another important step toward the elimination of confusion.  I confess, I was not willing to ask the men in my life for what I wanted because I was afraid they would leave me.  I confess, I was not willing to tell my friends when they were overstepping their boundaries because I thought they would be mad at me.  I confess, I was not handling my finances with attention and care because I thought there was never enough to do what I wanted to do.  I confess, I believed I was ugly, too fat, not smart, unworthy, unvaluable, and a disappointment to my mother and God.  The result of not confessing these things to myself about myself and taking healing steps toward correction was confusion.  The final straw came when I lost my car!  No, it was not stolen.  I lost it in the parking lot.  I parked it right under the big letter C.  When I returned from my shopping expedition, it was not there.  It took me forty-five minutes to find my car right where I had parked it--under the big letter F.  F stands for fog.  My brain was fogged by my unwillingness to ask for what I wanted.

Until you are ready to admit to yourself exactly what it is that you want, you will experience confusion.  Until you are willing to ask for exactly what you want in life, from any situation, or in your relationships with other people, you will experience confusion.  The confusion will not subside until you honestly believe that you deserve what you want; that you are entitled to the experience of what you want; and that, if it is for your higher good, you will eventually have exactly what you want.  In order to move out of confusion, you must be willing to be still long enough to get in touch with what you really want.  This can be a pretty frightening experience, particularly when there is negative self-talk and negative chatter going on in the mind.  You can alleviate this kind of disruption with self-affirming thoughts and actions.  Once this is done, and you identify what you want, you must be willing to mentally and emotionally ride out the experience of admitting what you want.  Stop worrying about how and when it will happen.  Realize that you can have in life only what you are meant to have.  Everything you receive is for your growth and healing.

Once you have admitted what you want, consciously take steps toward the realization of that experience.  Do and say the things that are a reflection of your desire.  Do not settle for something you know is a reasonable facsimile of what you want.  Hold out for the real thing to show up.  Ride out your dream.  You will know it when it shows up because it will meet every aspect of what you have said you want to experience.  In the meantime, keep affirming yourself.  Be willing to admit when you make a mistake.  Ask for help or support when you need it.  As you move toward your goal and gather new information, realize it is never too late to change your mind.  As soon as you realize the need to make another choice, admit it to yourself, and then do it.

"If you know who walks beside you, you can never be afraid." This is the premise from which Iyanla Vanzant has launched her enormously successful 40-day, spiritual self-help program. One Day My Soul Just Opened Up is designed as day-by-day journal/workbook to help readers believe in a divine presence while pondering daily spiritual lessons such as simplicity, peace, compassion, and nonjudgment.


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Susan L. Taylor

One of the most helpful things we can do for someone who is grieving is to stay in touch.  It often happens that within a week following the funeral, people have forgotten about the bereaved, or have forgotten that the person left behind is still in a lot of pain.  Remember to give a friend who is in mourning a call each day.  Ask "How are you doing today?  What are you feeling?" and allow her or him to tell you, or else to say nothing.  We can be of great comfort to grieving hearts simply by lending an ear and allowing those who are bereft to express just how much they hurt.

We can find solace in reminiscing about those whom we have lost, in recounting the stories that best characterize them, in laughing at the humorous moments we have shared.  By sharing such stories, we keep our memories of our loved ones alive and remind ourselves of the ways our lives have been touched by theirs.  In West Africa it is believed that the deceased continue to live for as long as there is someone to call their names.  By allowing a small spark of our loved one's spirit to live on in us, they remain with us still.

Remember, too, that life only appears to begin with birth and end with death.  The flow of life is in fact continuous and eternal; birth and death are merely transformations.  We are made up physically and spiritually of the billions who have passed before us.  They gave us life, they gave us our culture, they gave us the world on which we have built our present world.  Our values and traditions, our habits of thought are in large measure the wisdom of their experience passed down through the ages.  Our breath, the very air we breathe, was once their breath.  We are, each of us, an integral part of something vast beyond comprehension--a vital link in a process so perfect that it wants for nothing and wastes nothing.  That something is life.  Death, the inevitability of it, or the illusion of it, helps us to think about and appreciate the miracle we are moving through.

Our lives are characterized by transitions and transformations, by necessary losses and unexpected gifts, by an unending series of passages.  Life is change.  All our lives we are confronted by letting go.  Western culture teaches us how to hold on to things, not how to let them go, but letting go is one of the encompassing themes of life.  Nothing in the material world is forever.  Throughout the many stages of our lives we experience myriad transitions and what we might call loss:  We are forced to leave the warmth and security of our mother's womb, give up her breasts, her lap, our innocence, many of our childhood dreams, our youth.  Critical to our growth and happiness is learning how to live with loss; we simply cannot have everything as we wish it.  Parents, children, lovers and friends part, and sometimes it is we who must part.

Our lives are full of separations that shake us up, force us to attend to our emotional selves and to learn new ways of being in the world.  Although many of our losses are painful, they encourage our gains.  The lesson life is trying to teach us is that, regardless of the challenges and changes in the physical world, we will abide in peace by aligning ourselves with our inner changelessness.  The power of God in us is more than equal to any moment--no matter what it brings.  We live in a loving, supportive universe that is always saying yes to us.  Every transition, even the one we call death, is part of a continuum of being.  Death is not the end, but rather another step in the unending process of our unfolding.  It is a pathway to God.

It may sometimes seem as if our baptisms are all of fire, but in the fire we forge new strengths.  Though we sometimes despair, the wakes we plan for ourselves are always premature.  Time and again we emerge from this chrysalis changed, remade, born again.  This is the pattern for all life, the end of each journey marking the beginning of new and different ones.  Have faith.  When those who are dear to us make their transitions, when we ourselves approach with trepidation that threshold of infinity, know that their lives and ours are cared for by a power greater than any pain.

Using experiences and insights from her own life, Susan Taylor explores the intimate themes and concerns that have long been her unique territory:  self-empowerment, the exploration of love and self-worth, issues of faith and commitment, the celebration of the journey of life.  As she makes clear throughout her writings, life is not easy:  It is full of difficulties and challenges.  But it is through grappling with the challenges that life presents that we are given an opportunity to grow.


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Always remember, there is more strength in you than
you ever realized or even imagined. Certainly nothing
can keep you down if you are determined to get
on top of things and stay there.

Norman Vincent Peale



One of the most difficult skills that I've been working on for the past couple of decades has been that of mindfulness, the ability to look around myself at the world and notice all that is happening, all that is around me, without judging it or wishing it were different.  It's just too easy to see things and not accept them as they are, but wish that they were somehow different.

We often spend our lives in a kind of a state that keeps us thinking, "What do I have to do about that?"  We get so used to having to fix things and take care of things that we sometimes can't even look at a beautiful scene without thinking that someone needs to mow that grass or rake those leaves.  We can't look at a tree without thinking that it would be prettier if (fill in the blank).  Or, worse still, we can walk by absolutely beautiful scenes without even noticing them, or pass by situations that we should contribute to, oblivious to the fact that we could make a significant difference in something because our minds are too caught up in our thoughts to allow us to see what's all around us, right here and right now.

It's easy to get lost in our own heads.  It's easy to allow the thoughts and worries and plans and hopes to take on their own lives and control our minds in such a way that we lose sight of all that's around us in any given moment.  It's difficult to allow those thoughts and problems to take a back seat in our lives in order to be completely aware of what's right here, right now.  Perhaps there's a person who really could use you to take a couple of moments to pay attention to him or her; perhaps there's a cool autumn breeze that's going to calm your spirit with its amazing touch--but only if you actually notice it.

Cultivating a generous spirit starts with
mindfulness.  Mindfulness, simply stated,
means paying attention to what is actually
happening; it's about what is really going on.

Nell Newman

You're surrounded at the moment by beautiful and special things.  The chances are, though, if you're like most of us, that you don't even see some of those things any more because you've grown so used to them that your eyes just skip right over them when they're in your field of vision.  After all, you can't spend a couple of moments admiring the beauty of that picture or that small sculpture on your desk because there's something much, much more important that you have to think about.

The truth is, though, that there really is nothing more important in this world than slowing down and taking the time--even if it's just thirty or sixty seconds--to appreciate something special in our lives.  And even if we appreciate the same thing day after day, so what?  If it's beautiful and we like it and/or it reminds us of someone or someplace special, then it's worth that small investment in time that it takes to be mindful of it.

But mindfulness obviously isn't just about appreciation and noticing things.  While being appreciative and seeing things definitely can make our lives richer, they aren't the only reasons for which mindfulness is important.  When we are mindful, we see things that can be or must be done.  We notice the words of someone else that tell us "I'm saying that I'm okay, but I'm really not."  We can see things that we missed and that are too important to be missed.  In some professions, mindfulness is absolutely necessary--someone who makes a living cooking, for example, needs to pay close attention to all that's going on with the food, but also needs to be aware of his or her surroundings.  A doctor needs to pay attention to the symptoms, but also has to listen to what the patient tells him or her.  It's very easy to get hyper-focused on a task at hand--and there's nothing wrong with that in small doses--and then lose sight of everything else that makes our lives so rich and full.  How many parents do you know who are not mindful of their children because they have so much else to do that's somehow more "important"?

I don't know if you can live inside each and
every moment.  But when you can, try
to stop, look, and listen long enough to be
right where you are, not in your past,
not in your future.  Just right in the middle
of a split second in time.

Leslie Levine

In his book Island, Aldous Huxley writes of a community of people who have trained birds all around who constantly repeat the words "Here and now."  They serve as a constant reminder to those people of what's really important--who is here and what I can do, right here and right now.  So when their inner monologues start in their minds and pull them away from the present and cause them to regret the past of worry about the future, a bird comes along and tells them exactly what's important in life:  here and now.  Because here and now are the only places, in space and time, in which we can actually have some sort of influence; the only places in which we can actually act.

My mindfulness can be a blessing to others, as well.  As a teacher, I'm pretty constantly thinking about what we're going to do tomorrow and next week, and it's very easy for me to get caught up in the subject.  But in my entire teaching career, which now spans over twenty years, the moments that I remember as being the most important are those in which I've noticed something about particular students and I've commented on them.  "You do a great job with the short stories."  "Are you okay today?  You look a bit down."  "I noticed you carrying that book--do you like that author?"  These have been the times when I've made true connections with my students, and they are times that have allowed the students to realize that I do pay attention to them, and that I do care.  And they've come about because I've been able to step away from the stress and strain of teaching in order to pay attention to the human beings who are in my classes.

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now
without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without
holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant
without fearing it will always be this way (which it won't).

James Baraz

Mindfulness can be simple, as James points out.  But "simple," alas, doesn't always mean "easy."  Mindfulness allows us to listen to someone share an opinion that we see as silly or even harmful, and not try to change that person's opinion, but to try to understand it.  Mindfulness allows us to recognize and accept something negative in our lives, even as we do what we can to deal with it.

Most importantly, mindfulness helps us to learn about life, to witness and appreciate all that is around us, and a truly mindful person is one whose wisdom grows steadily because he or she is much less likely to try to impose his or her will onto the world, being satisfied instead to learn and to grow.  When we learn like this, we also learn to discern between situations that truly need our input or effort and those situations that are best left alone to be resolved by others.  When we're mindful of the world, we see the causes and effects without necessarily putting ourselves in the situations, and we gain knowledge that can be very important to share with others, later.

One of my most important goals is to be more mindful.  There are many strategies that I can take to do this, from putting up little notes to remind me of the present moment to emailing myself reminders to pay attention to electronic alarms on my watches and clocks that bring me back to the present moment.  With so many different methods available to me to remind myself to be "here and now," there really is no reason not to be more present in my life, is there?

More on mindfulness.


What does it mean to live a full life? How do we stay happy and content in a world that often seems to be throwing more at us than we can handle? Universal Principles of Living Life Fully explores different aspects of our selves as human beings, aspects that we are able to develop and expand when we need to in order to make ourselves more comfortable in the world we live in. It explores 57 different elements of who we are, from love to mindfulness to adversity to prayer, in an effort to help you to figure out just where to focus your energy and attention when life is being difficult for you.



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The true measure of success is, are you growing in love for your fellows?  Are you finding peace in your heart?  Are you finding acceptance for yourself in your heart?  These things are better gauges of success than anything else.  If love is growing within you, then you are being successful in your life.


The True Measure of Greatness
Randall S. Weeks

A young student once asked his old teacher, "Teacher, what is the true measure of greatness?"  The teacher looked far away into the mountains and gave the following reply:

Some measure greatness in height and weight, but great people are never so tall as when they stoop to talk to a child or bend their knees to help a hurting friend.

Some measure greatness in physical strength, but great people are never so strong as when they shoulder the burden of the downtrodden stranger.

Some measure greatness in terms of financial gain, but those who show generosity to their family and friends, they are the ones who are truly rich.

Some measure greatness in applause and accolades, but those who seek opportunity to serve in the quiet places of the world, theirs is the higher reward.

Some measure greatness in commitment to achieving in material ways, but those who spur others on to reach their goals is great indeed.

Great people have vision and do not keep the truth to themselves.

Great people have passion for life and are not ashamed to show it.

Great people expect the best from others and give the best of themselves.

Great people know how to work and how to play, how to laugh and how to cry, how to give and how to receive, how to love and how to be loved.

There are many people who are by the world called "great," but those who bear honor in their hearts, who can, in the evening hours, lie upon their beds and peacefully close their eyes, knowing that they have done all that is within their power to live their lives fully and fruitfully, those are truly great people.


Difficulty creates the opportunity for self-reflection and compassion.
If we embrace what's happening, we are also embracing what is
possible--and a road opens up for God to meet us halfway.

Suzan-Lori Parks




A new way of reading has been here for a while now.  And while we still love our books, if you're like many people, you get tired of lugging around the books that sometimes weigh more than anything else we carry.  Imagine carrying hundreds of books--novels, self-help, history, travel, you name it--and reading them comfortably on a no-glare screen, setting things like text size to your own preferences.  It's a great experience, and it's available to us now for less than the cost of ten books.  And there are plenty of free books to download, especially timeless classics--you can easily get enough free books to pay for the Kindle.  Give yourself the gift of wonderful literature that you can easily bring with you, wherever you go!

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