28 February 2017      

Hello, and welcome to the last day of February!
We hope that you end your month extraordinarily well!

 Wholeness (an excerpt)
Rachel Naomi Remen

Character:  The Grandest Thing in  the World
Orison Swett Marden

Finding Balance in What We Say
tom walsh

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It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.

Robert H. Goddard

Surpassingly lively, precious days. What is there to say except:  here they are.  Sifting through my fingers like sand.

Joyce Carol Oates

If we are ever to enjoy life, now is the time, not tomorrow or next year . . . Today should always be our most wonderful day.

Thomas Dreier

Wholeness (an excerpt)
Rachel Naomi Remen

When I first met Jeanne, her psychology practice was barely above water.  She shared offices with a group of physicians, and, desperate to be accepted and work under what she perceived as the umbrella of their credibility, she took whatever crumbs fell from their professional table.  Hers was the smallest office in the complex and hers the only name not listed on the office door.  It was obvious from the first how dedicated and gifted a therapist she was, and this compromising attitude troubled me.  But Jeanne felt validated by the association and certain that she needed referrals from these physicians in order to have patients.  She would stay there two more years.

Jeanne was a shy person, a little apologetic and sometimes hesitant in finding the right words.  She was also just the slightest bit clumsy.  All this made her very endearing.  You felt somehow at home with her and safe.  Her patients adored her.

One day at lunch, she told me that she was moving from her present office.  Pleased, I asked her why she had decided to leave.  "They do not have wheelchair access," she said.  I looked at her in surprise.  She looked away.  "Rachel," she said, "I have not told you everything about myself.  Years ago when I was young, I had a very serious stroke.  I was not expected to recover."  I was astonished.  "I had no idea," I said.  She nodded.  "I know," she replied.  "Nobody does."

I had noticed her occasional troubles with words and her awkwardness.  But even with my training, I had not guessed Jeanne was a miracle.  I could barely imagine the focus and determination she had drawn upon all these years, that she drew upon still, to live her life every day.  "But why have you kept this a secret, Jeanne?" I asked, astounded.

Almost in tears, she said that for years she had felt damaged and ashamed.  "I wanted to put it behind me," she said.  "I thought if I could be seen as normal I would be more than I was."  And so she had guarded her secret closely.  Neither her colleagues nor her parents knew.  She had felt certain that others would not refer to her or want to come to her for care if they knew.  She was no longer sure this was true.

"And what do you plan to do now?" I asked her.  She looked down at her hands clasped in her lap.  "I think I will just be myself," she told me.  "I will see people like myself.  People who are not like others.  People who have had strokes and other brain injuries.  People who can never be normal again.  I think I can help them be whole.

Over the past five years, Jeanne has become widely known for her work.  She has been honored by several community groups and interviewed in the newspapers.  She speaks often and consults for businesses and hospitals.  The many people she has helped refer others to her.  For the first time, her practice is full.  Her own name is on her door.  All that she needed in order to serve was the courage of her vulnerability.

In My Grandfather's Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, a cancer physician and master storyteller, uses her luminous stories to remind us of the power of our kindness and the joy of being alive.  Dr. Remen's grandfather, an orthodox rabbi and scholar of the Kabbalah, saw life as a web of connection and knew that everyone belonged to him, and that he belonged to everyone.  He taught her that blessing one another is what fills our emptiness, heals our loneliness, and connects us more deeply to life.  My Grandfather's Blessings is about how we can recognize and receive our blessings and bless the life in others.


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Character:  The Grandest Thing in the World
(an excerpt)

Orison Swett Marden

A good character is a precious thing, above rubies, gold, crowns, or kingdoms, and the work of making it is the noblest labor on earth.  Money-getting has well been called unhealthy when it impoverishes the mind, or dries up the sources of the spiritual life; when it extinguishes the sense of beauty, and makes one indifferent to the wonders of nature and art; when it blunts the moral sense, and confuses the distinction between right and wrong, virtue and vice; when it stifles religious impulse, and blots all thoughts of God from the soul.

It is just as important to set apart time for the development of our aesthetic faculties as for cultivating the money-getting instinct.  A man cannot live by bread alone.  His higher life demands an impalpable food.  It takes a large bill of fare to feed an immortal being.  The mind and soul in a well-developed man are ever more imperious in their demand for the true and the beautiful than is the body for material food.

Character is perpetual wealth, and by the side of him who possesses it the millionaire who has it not seems a pauper.  Compared with it, what are houses and lands, stocks and bonds?  “It is better that great souls should live in small habitations than that abject slaves should burrow in great houses.”  Plain living, rich thought, and grand effort are real riches.

Neither a man’s means, nor his worth, are measurable by his money.  If he has a fat purse and a lean heart, a broad estate and a narrow understanding, what will his “means” do for him—what will his “worth” gain him?  What sadder sight is there than an old man who has spent his whole life getting instead of growing?  If he has piled up books, statuary, and paintings, with his wealth, he may be a stranger amongst them.  How poor he is if his soul has shriveled to that of a miser, and if all his nobler instincts are dead!

Do you call him successful who wears a bulldog expression that but too plainly tells the story of how he gained his fortune, taking but never giving?  Can you not read in that browbeating face the sad experience of widows and orphans?  Do you call him a self-made man who has unmade others to make himself—who tears others down to build himself up?  Can a man be really rich who makes others poorer?  Can he be happy in whose every lineament chronic avarice is seen as plainly as hunger in the countenance of a wolf?  How seldom are sweet, serene, beautiful faces seen on men who have been very successful as the world rates success!  Nature expresses in the face and manner the sentiment which rules the heart.

*  *  *  *

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Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals;
cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty
that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes
your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all
delightful conditions, all heavenly environment.

James Allen



Finding Balance in What We Say

We've all heard people talk about how someone in their lives always criticized them and never praised them.  We've probably had someone like that in our own lives:  a person who seemed to want to harm us every time they opened their mouth, and who never seemed to want to say anything positive.  These people tend to be quite toxic, even though they would say about themselves that they're "just trying to help" by constantly pointing out flaws that "need fixed."  Or they're "just trying to help" by constantly giving advice on how things should be done instead of letting others find their own ways of doing things.

Or it could be that they simply talk about the same one or two things over and over and over again, to the point that others start to avoid them eventually because there really isn't any talking to them unless you, too, want to talk about the same things over and over again.

We tend to talk a lot, as that's one of the most important ways that we build bonds with our fellow human beings.  Unfortunately, though, few of us are taught when we're young to pay attention to what we say or to try to balance our communication so that it's more effective, more loving, and more compassionate.  We tend to learn to say what we want to say, without thinking about just what we're doing with our words.  And that's a sad thing, because many of our relationships that fail, do so because of a lack of effective communication.  Paying attention to what we say and how we say it can help us to show our love and compassion to other human beings, and even if we never become perfect communicators (and who does?), we can still become more effective communicators, helping others in our lives to feel better about themselves and to be able to accomplish the things that they hope to get done.


A relationship is like a garden.  If it is to thrive it must
be watered regularly.  Special care must be given,
taking into account the seasons as well as any
unpredictable weather.  New seeds must be sown
and weeds must be pulled.

John Gray

We speak more than we probably do anything else in our lives, with the possible exception of sleeping.  Yet somehow, most of us don't really think about the implications of speaking so much--we seem to think that because we do it so often, we must be pretty good at it.  Most of us, though, aren't extremely effective communicators, and that's mostly because we've never really been taught to be so, and we've never made the effort to learn about what's effective and what's not.

What I notice about many people is that they don't have a sense of balance in their speech.  They tend to stick to topics and ideas that feel safe to them, and they tend to speak in ways that they believe will help them to achieve certain goals.  They speak to persuade others to see things their way; they speak to get things from others; they speak to defend themselves or to attack others, even in subtle, almost unnoticeable ways.

If we look for balance in our speech, though, then we're going to be trying to lift other people up and encourage them in addition to spreading information; we're going to be talking about what we like about others as well as talking about what bothers us about them; we're going to be finding out about others as well as talking to them.

Relationships are all there is.  Everything in the universe only exists because
it is in relationship to everything else.  Nothing exists in isolation.
We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.

Margaret J. Wheatley

As a teacher, one of my most important tasks is to share information with my students.  One of the more remarkable realities of teaching, though, is that it's not at all necessary for me to talk constantly in order to teach others about certain information, ideas, or processes.  When I talk a little and then turn the students loose to talk to each other to try to come up with answers, I find that my silence is much more effective than my continued talking.  When I spend a certain amount of time giving encouragement and praise instead of talking about the information I need to share, that's often even more effective than continuing to focus solely on the information.

You see, when we speak, we do affect other people, whether we realize it or not.  Our words have the power to uplift or cast down, to build or to destroy, to help to grow or to kill.  We can use our words to help others to heal or to cause them to feel bad about themselves and their lives.  The power of words is something that everyone has access to, but that few people consider seriously enough to make an important priority in their lives.  But we really do need to make learning how to balance our words between the necessary and the uplifting, between the information and the caring, between the criticism and the praise, if we're going to be able to affect other human beings in positive, loving ways.

We all know people who have a parent or two who always criticize and never praise.  We know bosses like this, colleagues like this, customers like this.  We know people who always complain and almost never look on the bright side of anything.  On the other hand, I've also known people who always praise and who never say a thing about problems that are happening.  In all of these situations, there's a lack of balance, and that simply can't be healthy.

That's another lesson I've learned the hard way.
All relationships will die if they aren't nurtured.  Just
as a flower will die if it's not watered. Because love is
demonstration, not declaration.

Patti LaBelle

When we don't have balance in our speech, we lost a lot.  We can lost the love and respect of people for whom we care; we can lose credibility; we can lose our audience when others simply don't want to talk to us any more.  We need to learn how to balance our speech sincerely and clearly, so that we can contribute to the positive in the world by encouraging others to continue to do good things and to stop doing bad things.  We need to praise as well as criticize, though we can't completely stop with the criticism--as long as it's constructive and helpful.  How we communicate with others is extremely important, not just to us, but to them as well.  And our communication is our responsibility, so we need to take it seriously, be aware of just how we're communicating, and take steps to make sure that there is balance in what we do as communicators.

And I would say that this is especially true for our speech with children, for they see us as role models and they take to heart that which we say--and we owe them a good start in life, a start that lets them know that they are good people with unlimited potential, but that also lets them know that there are limits and that not everything that one does is wonderful or even acceptable.  They have long lives ahead of them, we hope, and we can contribute to making those lives positive by making sure that we are balanced in what we say.

More on balance.


One of the most important elements
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From the porch one observes the simple rhythms of daily life:  the neighbor setting out the garbage in the early morning, the woman from the next street who regularly walks her little dog just after suppertime, the school-age boys exercising prowess in bicycling, the elderly widow receiving a rare visit from an in-law, the business-like drivers of passing cars whose faces mirror their intent to get where they are going.

Seated upon the porch one finds it unnecessary to comment upon or analyze what one sees and hears.  It is enough that it is.  Being is not something to be taken for granted or overlooked but something to be breathed in and celebrated with sweet contentment and a grateful heart.

Wendy Wright

Twelve Rules for Building Self-Confidence

1.  Focus on your potential instead of your limitations.
2.  Determine to know the truth about yourself.
3.  Distinguish between who you are and what you do.
4.  Find something you like to do and do well, then do it over and over.
5.  Replace self-criticism with regular, positive self-talk.
6.  Replace fear of failure with clear pictures of yourself functioning successfully and happily.
7.  Dare to be a little eccentric.
8.  Make the best possible peace with your parents.
9.  Determine to integrate the body and spirit.
10.  Determine to live above neurotic guilt.
11.  Cultivate people who help you grow.
12.  Refuse to allow rejection to keep you from taking the initiative with people.

Alan Loy McGinnis



There are so many things that can provide us with peace.  Next time you take
a shower or a bath, I suggest you hold your big toes in mindfulness.  We pay
attention to everything except our toes.  When we hold our toes in mindfulness
and smile at them, we will find that our bodies have been very kind to us.  We know
that any cell in our toes can turn cancerous, but our toes have been behaving
very well, avoiding that kind of problem.  Yet, we have not been nice to them
at all.  These kinds of practices can bring us happiness.

Thich Nhat Hanh


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