25 July 2017      

It's time for our final issue of July!  We've come a very long way during
this new year of ours, and we're very glad that you've been along for the
ride.  May the rest of the month and the rest of the year be full of loving,
caring moments for you, and may you be able to create most of them!

Watch Your Thoughts (an excerpt)
Richard Carlson

The Search (an excerpt)
Arthur Gordon

What We Find to Be Important
tom walsh

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Of course there is no formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.

Artur Rubinstein

Acceptance of what has happened is the first step
to overcoming the consequence of any misfortune.

William James

Growth begins when we start
to accept our own weaknesses.

Jean Vanier

  
Watch Your Thoughts (an excerpt)
Richard Carlson

The idea of watching your thoughts might sound odd at first, but you will soon see that this is a very accurate description of a very useful tool.  And once you get the hang of watching your thoughts, it will become one of the most powerful tools available to you.

This technique has been around for as long as people have been meditating.  Watching your thoughts is a small change that offers you the amazing opportunity to stop the wheels from turning every second and gain critical perspective.  The payoff will change your life for good.  Here's how it works.

The technique itself is not complicated, and don't let anyone convince you otherwise.  Imagine going to a theater and watching a movie.  You can be completely immersed in the movie and yet a part of you is totally detached.  If you're watching the latest horror movie about giant sea monsters, you obviously don't feel compelled to bring scuba tanks and underwater guns to the theater.  Why?  Because you are detached enough to know the movie is just a movie.

When you start watching your own thoughts as you would a movie, the same detachment allows you to witness the many thoughts that occur in your brain, but without being overcome by these thoughts.

What you come to realize is that you have an infinite number of thoughts every day, and many vie for your attention simultaneously.  It's as if one is yelling out to you, "Pay attention to me," while another is saying, "No, pay attention to me."  This realization, like the scary movie, can be frightening.  The good news, however, is that, just like the movie, these are only thoughts.  And as you watch thought after thought enter your mind, you realize that you can quiet the inner noise they make.  This is where the importance of detachment comes in.

Over time, and with a little practice, you can get to the point where you treat your own thoughts much like the movie you watch at the theater.  You can be totally responsive to them, yet detached enough to keep your bearings and not allow your thoughts to drive you nuts.

Let me give you an everyday and personal example of how watching your thoughts works.  A few weeks ago, two very dear friends of mine separately asked me to do them a favor on the same day.  At first I welcomed the chance to help out.  It's rare that either of these friends asks me to do anything for them, and both are always there for me.  The problems was that both favors were being "called in" at exactly the same time!  There was no way around it.  If I was to help one friend, I would have to let the other friend down.

Obviously this wasn't a life-or-death dilemma, but you can probably imagine what my mind started to do.  My thoughts began going in about six different directions, and each thought seemed perfectly logical as it called out to me, "This is why you should do it this way."  Then, not a tenth of a second later, another thought would jump in and say, "But, Richard, you can't possibly be there for John; he's never once not been there for you."  When I imagined saying no to both requests, a few self-loathing thoughts sneaked into the mix, such as "How can you possibly be so selfish?"

Fortunately, about five minutes into this potentially endless agony, I remembered the technique of watching my thoughts.  Instead of engaging my thoughts any further, I simply started to observe them.  It was as if I stepped back and removed myself from the picture.  I did nothing else but watch.  Within a few minutes my thoughts began to slow down.  My mind quieted, and the situation seemed less like an emergency.

Shortly thereafter, I knew it would all work out just fine.  I trusted that I would make the right decision, which, as it turned out, I did.  I was able to be with one friend and, explaining the situation, had a heart-to-heart phone conversation with the other.

Every day we must deal with hundreds of competing thoughts.  The small change we can make is to stop trying to engage every thought that pops into our mind and stop trying to figure out every drama in our mind.  Instead, we can simply step back and watch the show.  It's really just like watching that movie on the screen.

You can go as far as you want to with this technique.  It can be a tool you use on occasion to deal with the stress that builds up during the day.  Or you can make it an integral part of your everyday life.

The next time you become agitated, worried, harried, or simply unable to focus, step back and watch your thoughts.  The results will amaze you.  With just this subtle shift, you can move from stress and uncertainty to resolution, calm, and joy.

  
  

Carlson, author of the bestselling Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, goes beyond the effort to minimize stress with 39 techniques for making positive changes in all aspects of life. Rather than embarking on lengthy or costly self-improvement projects, he suggests trying out smaller, simpler adjustments that he believes can make a real difference in everything from one's communication skills to peace of mind.

   

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The Search (an excerpt)
Arthur Gordon

It was one of those curiously aimless Sunday afternoons that every family knows.  I had driven the children out into the country to look for pinecones and acorns; any objective is better than none!  Their mother had a touch of flu; I was mainly interested in letting her get some rest.  So we were on our own, the kids and I.

It was one of those hazy autumn days we get sometimes in the Deep South when no wind stirs and the dust motes hang like golden smoke in the soft air.  It was also one of those days when I was feeling depressed.  No single, overwhelming problem.  Just a combination of things.  A friend had done me an unkindness, or so I thought.  A promising writing assignment had fallen through.  There was, inside our family circle, a corrosive little problem of human relationships that stubbornly refused to yield to reason or common sense.

These things kept eddying through my mind, and just about sundown we came across a place that seemed to fit my mood perfectly:  a forgotten cemetery in a quiet oak grove, lichen-covered headstones tilted fantastically under a ghostly canopy of Spanish moss.  The children ran around like a pack of hounds, making a game of finding the oldest date.  ("Hey, look, an 1840!" "Ha, that's young.  Here's an 1812!")  I stood by one of the weathered stones and watched.  Disturbed by the shouts and laughter, a big brown owl drifted out of a magnolia tree and vanished on reproachful wings.  Don't be upset, old owl, I said to him in my mind; children's voices don't trouble the dead.

The stone beside me marked the resting place of somebody's BELOVED WIFE who died in 1865 OF A FEVER.  Beneath her name was a line of script, almost indistinguishable.  I looked closer, wondering which biblical phrase her grieving children might have chosen.  But it was not a quotation; it was a statement:  EVER SHE SOUGHT THE BEST, EVER FOUND IT.

Eight words.  I stood there with my fingers on the cool stone, feeling the present fade and the past stir behind the illusion we call time.  A century ago this woman had been living through a hideous war.  Perhaps it took her husband from her, perhaps her sons.  When it ended her country was beaten, broken, impoverished.  She must have known humiliation, tasted despair.  Yet someone who knew her had written that she always looked for the best, and always found it.

It's strange, sometimes, how a single phrase will haunt you.  As we walked back to the car through the gray twilight, I could not get this one out of my mind.  EVER SHE SOUGHT THE BEST.  There was courage in the words, and dignity, and purpose.  And a kind of triumph, too, as if they contained a secret of inestimable value.  What you look for in life, they seemed to be saying, you will surely find.  But the direction in which you look is up to you.

The station wagon was waiting by the side of the road.  As the miles fled past, I found myself thinking of the things that had been bothering me.  They were real enough, but now I saw that I had been focusing, not on the best, but on the worst.  Where my friend was concerned, what was one misunderstanding compared to years of affection?  The lost assignment was disappointing, but there would be others.  The family difficulty was a rocky little island, but after all, it was surrounded by an ocean of love.

We were home at last.  The children straggled in, tired now, ready for their supper.  I looked at the house and thought of the worries I had often entertained there like honored guests, inviting them in, spreading banquets before them, giving them a preposterous preference over all the good things the same house contained.  Perhaps, I told myself, you've learned something today:  SEARCH FOR THE BEST.

The living room was familiar and quiet; the chair was an old friend; the fire muttered in the grate.  Search for it? I said to myself.  You don't have to search very far.  No one does.  It's around us all the time, the goodness, the abundance, the wonder of living.  The miracle of it all.

The five-year-old climbed up on my lap and burrowed his porcupine head into my shoulder.  I could see the firelight reflected in his dreaming eyes.  "Daddy?"

"Yes?"  It would be dark, now, in the old burial ground.  Darkness and silence, and the old owl watching the shifting leaf-patterns, and wisdom carved on an ancient stone.

"Tell me a story."

"A story?"  One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh.  "Well, once upon a time. . . ."

  
  

A book to help people stay in love with life by Arthur Gordon. This collection of Gordon's short stories will bring back the gift of joy, wonder, and hope to all who read it. From life's littlest, often over-looked moments to the important days we all hope to enjoy, Gordon finds a way to express such warmth and comfort that zeros in on the heart. This book has been around for 40 years but now is available on line for a new generation of readers.

   

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Acceptance of one's life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not
mean running away from the struggle.  On the contrary it means accepting
it as it comes. . . .  To accept is to say yes to life in its entirety.

Paul Tournier

   

 

What We Find to Be Important

It's taken me a very, very long time to come to a point in my life at which I'm able to make choices based on the things that I think are really important.  I'm not completely there yet--I still make decisions based on money when I have fears that I may not have enough in the future, and I still make some decisions based on what I believe people will think about me after I do a certain something.  But at least when I do these things now, I'm aware of them, and very often I'm able to reverse a decision before I actually act.  I may decide to buy something that I know is lower quality because I want to save a few bucks, and often I'm able to catch myself before I actually buy the cheaper thing instead of the thing that's going to last longer and be more satisfying.

When I think about these tendencies, I have to think for a moment or three about just what I truly find to be important, and why.  When I'm deciding how to grade a class for a semester, is it more important to have a strict grading policy that I'm unwilling to compromise on, in order to force the students to push themselves harder to reach certain performance goals, or to have a flexible policy that allows many students to get high grades as long as they put forth a lot of effort?  Over the course of years I've come to the conclusion that being a strict grader always has been a reflection of my own insecurities as a teacher rather than being a pedagogical stance or strategy that allows students to receive decent grades for strong effort rather than expecting them to memorize certain things that they may or may not remember six months from now.

   

To learn new habits is everything, for it is to reach
the substance of life.  Life is but a tissue of habits.

Henri Frederic Amiel

   

Here are some things that are truly important to me.

Compassion.  I want to try to feel--or at least understand--what other people feel so that I don't disregard those feelings.  If I feel compassion, I'm able to show caring and kindness in situations in which I might otherwise feel impatience and frustration.  If I feel compassion I'm much less likely to judge others; rather, I can observe what they're going through and try to recognize opportunities to help them out when I can.

Learning.  I want to spend my time on this planet learning as much as I can about as many things as I can.  I'll never learn everything about everything, of course, but I can learn a lot about many things.  And the more I know the more I understand about life and living, and with that knowledge I can help others to understand many things they might otherwise not get.

Individuality.  I don't want to simply follow the crowd in the things that I do--I want to do things that I truly care about, that mean a lot to me as a person.  If I simply follow others, then my true self rarely shines through because I'm really doing nothing that is unique or creative.  When I follow others, I actually can hurt myself because I'm not doing anything to reach my potential in any way, and my potential is one of the most truly unique aspects of who I am--and wasted potential will never be recovered.

    

As I grow to understand life less and less,
I learn to live it more and more.

Jules Renard

    
Helpfulness.  When a chance to help comes up, I don't want to turn my back and hope that someone doesn't see me.  I want to do the best I can to help other people, within certain limits, of course.  I don't want to be used because of my willingness to help others, but I also don't want to become skeptical of every request for help.  Our helpfulness can be something that makes another person feel more peace of mind, that gives someone the encouragement they need to go on, that makes someone feel positive about the world they're living in.

Acceptance.  It's up to me to accept others for what they are, and not to judge them based on what I think they should be.  I may not always like what they are, but that doesn't mean that I can't accept them.  When I try to fight the way things are, or when I allow them to rob me of my peace of mind, then the problem I face is of my own making.  Sometimes we feel justified in not accepting things because we like to think that things shouldn't be that way.  The reality is, though, that the world doesn't work based on our personal perceptions of how things should be.  And until we accept things as they are, we are simply unable to move on to other things.

Kindness.  This is a concept that isn't valued nearly enough.  Kindness, indeed, should be a way of life.  If we allow it to be so, then we're going to find that our lives become much more pleasant and fulfilling.  We may not be as financially "successful" as someone who's a cutthroat businessperson, and we may encounter people who try to take advantage of us because of our kindness, but things like this should reinforce our decision to be kind rather than make us consider not being kind any longer, or only being kind to people we like.  Kindness is as a drink of cool water after hours of being thirsty--it's simple and it's effective, and it makes the recipient--and the giver--feel incredibly good and very much loved.
   

Life is not always what one wants it to be, but to make
the best of it, as it is, is the only way of being happy.

Jennie Jerome Churchill

   
Moderation.  We live in a society that encourages over-indulgence, in food and material goods and in things like vacations.  Our advertising is geared towards making us want more and more, and we develop a need to "keep up with" our neighbors by buying more and more things.  For the most part, we've lost the ability to be moderate--to eat moderately sized servings, to be happy with a less expensive car, to work less and spend more time with our families.  I know couples who won't be having children who live in five-bedroom houses.  This lack of moderation often leads to financial problems as we struggle with payments on credit cards and vehicles and mortgages.  When we over-indulge, we end up having to pay for it, one way or another, and the stress often comes afterwards--and we don't make the connection between the stress and our own lack of moderation.

Love.  Easily the most important aspect of life.  When we love, we live.  Unfortunately, most of us learn to love with conditions--that others love us back, that they act a certain way when we love them, that they thank us for our love, that they somehow "deserve" our love.  Love by its very definition, though, is unconditional, and when we learn to love without condition, we learn to live our lives fully and completely.  What's important to me is that I show love in all that I do--that I not insult to make a joke, that I not ask more of people than they're able to give, that I not judge, that I help when I can--including helping by not helping, showing "tough love" sometimes when I really feel that it's needed the most.

What's most important to you?  Are you here to get what you can no matter what the cost may be, or to give all that you can?  Are you here to consume or create, to give or to take?  The things that are important to you help to show not just who you are as a person, but the kind of life that you're living--be it a self-centered life, or an others-centered life.  The choice is always up to you, and you're the one who most lives with the results.  Whatever's important to you, though, make sure that you put it front-and-center in your life so that you can benefit from it, and so that others may benefit from it, too.

   
More on life.

   

One of the most important elements
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When things are bad, we take
comfort in the thought that
they could always be worse.
And when they are, we find
hope in the thought that things
are so bad they have to get better.

Malcolm Forbes

  
The more I focused on lack and on what I couldn’t have, the more depressed I became.  The more depressed I became, the more I focused on lack.  My soul whispered that what I really yearned for was not financial security but financial serenity.  I was still—quiet enough to listen.  At that moment I acknowledged the deep longing in my heart.  What I hungered for was an inner peace that the world could not take away.  I asked for help and committed to following wheresoever Spirit would lead me.  For the first time in my life I discarded my five-year goals and became a seeker, a pilgrim, a sojourner.
     When I surrendered my desire for security and sought serenity instead, I looked at my life with open eyes.  I saw that I had much for which to be grateful.  I felt humbled by my riches and regretted that I took for granted the abundance that already existed in my life.  How could I expect more from the universe when I didn’t appreciate what I already had?

Sarah Ban Breathnach
   

  

We can be thankful to a friend for a few acres or a little money;
and yet for the freedom and command of the whole earth,
and for the great benefits of our being, our life, health,
and reason, we look upon ourselves as under no obligation.

Marcus Annaeus Seneca

    

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