29 August 2017      

Hello, and welcome!  Our world is continuing to move through space
at incredible speeds, and time continues to go by as we age and learn
and grow and continue to develop.  We hope that the end of this month
finds you in a very good place, ready and willing to learn from all that
has happened so far in the month and all that will happen in the few
days of August that are left to us.  Take care and enjoy!

Death and Life
Dean Orish

Personality
Zig Ziglar

Common Moments
tom walsh

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Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

James Baldwin

Develop success from failures.  Discouragement and failure
are two of the surest stepping stones to success.

Dale Carnegie

Discipline is necessary to curb the mind,
otherwise there is no peace.


Jiddu Krishnamurti

  
Death and Life
Dean Ornish
(This passage comes from the forward to
the book Enjoy Every Sandwich.)

Imagine the unthinkable: You’re a well-known, prominent physician, you have a loving wife and two beautiful kids, and you’ve made a meaningful difference in the lives of many thousands of people. Your only major unfulfilled desire is to be a rock star, and you’re working on that one, too.

In a heartbeat, your life is turned upside down:  your doctor just told you that you have metastatic cancer and you probably have less than a year to live.

We all know we’re going to die one day; the mortality rate is still 100 percent, one per person. But it’s not something we think about very often unless we’ve had a brush with a life-threatening illness or know someone who has. Even then, though, the awareness of our mortality is hard to hold on to.

For example, people who have recently had a heart attack will do just about anything that their doctor or nurse recommends—change their diet, exercise, quit smoking, etc.—for about six weeks or so, and then they tend to go back to their old habits and patterns of living.  Because it’s just too terrifying for most people to come to terms with their mortality.

And yet, a fundamental part of many spiritual traditions is a wonderful paradox:  to the degree we can embrace our mortality rather than deny it, we can live that much more completely and joyfully.  When something profoundly shakes your worldview—like finding out that you have cancer and only a year to live—it radically alters the preconceptions and paradigms of your life.

In this extraordinary book, Dr. Lee Lipsenthal shares his transformative journey with us.  Deeply personal yet universal in scope, he eloquently describes how accepting death is intensely clarifying, helping us to understand, to really know in every cell, every fiber of our being, what matters and what does not; how we want to spend our precious time, doing what, and with whom.  It’s not just about how to die peacefully and gracefully; more important, he describes how to live fully.

As he writes, “Being fully alive, I discovered, has nothing to do with the presence or absence of disease.”  He describes how compassion and forgiveness don’t excuse or condone what another person may have done to hurt us, but it frees us from suffering—right here, right now.  And when we can apply that same compassion to ourselves—shining a light in the darkness, letting go of anger and judgment—then it frees us and everyone else around us.  When a person may have only a year to live, why waste any time holding on to hurts and grievances?  And then we realize, “Why should we, either?”

As Quincy Jones said after surviving a ruptured aneurysm that caused bleeding into his brain many years ago, “Live each day like it’s your last, and one day you’ll be right.”

The awareness of death grounds us.  It helps us to fend off the advertisements and magazines and well-meaning friends and family who say that having more and doing more is what brings lasting happiness, when we know better.

Preconceptions limit perceptions.  Seeing is believing, but we often see only what we believe.  Studies show that we are continually filtering our perceptions of how we believe the world is.  While this helps to provide a sense of order, it also limits our experiences.  Preconceptions can lead to boredom because they limit our experiences so significantly.

Great artists and scientists are able to see the world without filtering it through the veil of their preconceptions and paradigms.  They literally see and experience the world in a new way, and then they can share their vision with others, helping to transform the world we experience.  This is what Lee does here.

Confronting and accepting death can shatter our preconceptions and shake our beliefs to the core.  This can frighten and overwhelm us, or open doors to new, more beautiful ways of living and being that allow us to experience our world anew.  Sometimes both.  It can even open us to remarkable experiences that don’t fit within the conventional scientific worldview, as Lee courageously shares.

I had a near-death experience when I was in college, and it changed my life.  I had become profoundly depressed to the point of being actively suicidal.  However, once you really come to terms with your own mortality, it’s easy to descend into nihilism: why bother, nothing matters, big deal, who cares, etc.  That’s what happened to me, and it’s one of the reasons that we don’t think about our own mortality very often.

When I ultimately decided to stay alive, I made a conscious choice to live as fully as possible. Having come about as close as possible to killing myself without actually doing it—staring into the abyss—was liberating.

I decided not to rely on the advice of others on how to live my life, for doing so had almost killed me. So, it became important for me to find out for myself, which meant I was going to lead a messy life.  I didn’t want to borrow wisdom; I wanted to know from my own experiences.  I would try a lot of different things, make a lot of mistakes and learn from them.  Then, I’d know what was true and what was not. Whatever wisdom I developed would be experienced, not borrowed.  As Joseph Campbell once wrote, “I don’t have faith, I have experience.”

What helped me survive was realizing that an antidote to nihilism is to create meaning in all aspects of our lives.  Making every act sacred is what enables us to more fully enjoy life, or as Lee writes, “to enjoy every sandwich.”
  
  

As medical director of the famed Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Lee Lipsenthal helped thousands of patients struggling with disease to overcome their fears of pain and death and to embrace a more joyful way of living. In his own life, happily married and the proud father of two remarkable children, Lee was similarly committed to living his life fully and gratefully each day. The power of those beliefs was tested in July 2009, when Lee was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. As Lee and his wife, Kathy, navigated his diagnosis, illness, and treatment, he discovered that he did not fear death, and that even as he was facing his own mortality, he felt more fully alive than ever before. Told with humor and heart, and deeply inspiring, Enjoy Every Sandwich distills everything Lee learned about how we find meaning, purpose, and peace in our lives.

   

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Personality
Zig Ziglar

My dictionary tells me that personality is the "personal or individual quality that makes one person be different and act differently from another."  Personality is "the total physical, intellectual, and emotional structure of an individual, including abilities, interests, and attitudes."  Personality is the sum total of all of our qualities.  With this in mind, let's explore the benefits and ramifications of a pleasing personality.

Today at lunch in a family restaurant, one of the hostesses came by and, with a pleasant smile, asked us about our meal.  We commented that it was delicious, and she said, "I'm really pleased.  We're glad you folks are here with us."  After she left, I commented to my wife that she was certainly a pleasant, personable young woman, and my wife wholeheartedly agreed.

Too many people have forgotten that we can choose to smile and be pleasant or to frown and be rude and thoughtless.  Too many people make the wrong choice, and their personalities make them come across as people we don't want as friends or coworkers.

There is only one opportunity to make a first impression, and all of us instinctively make decisions or judgments about an individual within the first few seconds of crossing paths.  With that in mind, I believe that when we teach our kids to smile, to be pleasant and cheerful, to be courteous and respectful of others, to pleasantly respond to requests or questions, we are helping them to develop a personality that will open many doors for them.  Once the doors are opened, only character will keep them open, so it's even more important to give the personality a foundation with character.
   

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The principles we live by, in business and in social life,
are the most important part of happiness.

Harry Harrison

   

 
Common Moments

Not every moment is meant to be special in a way that you'll remember it forever.  Not every moment becomes a memory that will stay with us, one that we can refer back to by day and time:  "Do you remember that morning in December five years ago?"  Most of our moments consist simply of us living our lives, doing our things, trying to get by in the best ways we know how.  And that's a good thing, of course.  If we constantly lived a life of highs, of spectacular moments, we certainly wouldn't get much of the rest that we need.  We definitely wouldn't learn some of the most important lessons in life, those lessons that come as we experience something for the twentieth time and finally see beyond the surface of the moment to catch a glimpse of something deeper that we had no idea was there.

These are moments that are just as important to me as the "high" moments, the memorable events that stick with us.  Here are some of my favorite "common" moments, things that happen over and over again, and which I try to appreciate each time I experience them.

Lying down for a nap when I need one is one of my favorite types of moments.  Simply having the luxury of being able to lie down for a nap is an incredible blessing, one that I appreciate a lot.  But when I'm tired or groggy and I need to rest, having the ability to lie down and sleep is one of my favorite things in the world.  Being able to drift off to sleep in the middle of the day is a great thing, and I do my best to make sure that I make the most of these moments because they are very special indeed.

Having a conversation with a very young child is always great.  This happened to me just a few days ago, when I was able to spend about half and hour talking with Olivia, who's four.  She had a lot to say and a lot to ask; she helped me to understand how she sees the world, and she made me clarify many things that I think and believe.  "Why?" is a four-year-old's favorite question, and she used it liberally.  She also explained to me what dog heaven is like and why there are no dog houses in dog heaven.  I love hearing what very young people are thinking.

When a student gets something for the first time, it's a great feeling.  After all, since I'm a teacher that's one of my main goals in life--for students to understand something that they didn't understand before or do something they hadn't been able to do before.  Most of the time the students move along with me, learning through process, mostly, and that's fine.  Most of their learning doesn't come in moments, but over days and weeks and months.  But sometimes there are those moments of comprehension when something just clicks, and all of a sudden many other things seem clearer, too, because of that moment of comprehension.

Eating food that I really like, such as chocolate, can make for a wonderful moment--as long as I make the effort to be mindful of the moment and to appreciate it fully.  Eating is something that we tend to take for granted, but sometimes something that's really good can help us to appreciate the experience more and make the most of it.

I love it when I'm able to look into the eyes of another person and actually see the eyes.  Our eyes are amazing things, yet we don't often look closely at those of someone else.  Sharing that kind of look, though, makes for a truly special moment, one that can be life-changing, one that can completely change our perspective on the other person and what we think about that person.

When I'm listening to music and a really good song gets to a really good part, that makes for an extremely special moment, too.  One of the beauties of this type of moment is realizing that it took the rest of the song--the unspectacular moments--to lead up to this part of the song.  And isn't that just how life is?  We spend our time doing unspectacular things only to lead up to spectacular moments.  We parent a child through many unrewarding days and suddenly the child does something amazing.  We do our jobs consistently without reward when suddenly someone compliments us or thanks us for the wonderful job that we do.  Most people know the end of Beethoven's Ninth all by itself, but it means much, much more when it comes at the end of the entire symphony.

In our society we tend to want to try to have moment after moment of highs, of amazing things, yet life doesn't work that way.  I could go on and on with more "common" moments that are truly amazing to me, but the point is already made, isn't it?  I know that in the future, some of my best moments of all will be coffee with a friend, a conversation with a very young person, a class that goes very well, an hour sitting on a park bench relaxing.  If I wait for the highs, for the exceptional moments, I'm setting myself up for a lifetime of disappointments.  But if I accept the common moments for the miracles that they are and the wonders that they bring, then I'm forging a life that I can live without regrets, and when I look back my life will be literally full of really nice moments, not just a couple of spikes on a graph that happened years apart from each other.
   

   
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The value of compassion cannot be over-emphasized.  Anyone can criticize.  It takes a true believer to be compassionate.  No greater burden can be borne by an individual than to know no one cares or understands.

Arthur H. Stainback

  
Because it is possible to create--creating one’s self, willing to be one’s self, as well as creating in all the innumerable daily activities (and these are two phases of the same process)--one has anxiety.  One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever.  Now creating, actualizing one’s possibilities, always involves negative as well as positive aspects.  It always involves destroying the status quo, destroying old patterns within oneself, progressively destroying what one has clung to from childhood on, and creating new and original forms and ways of living.  If one does not do this, one is refusing to grow, refusing to avail oneself of one's possibilities; one is shirking his or her responsibility to him- or herself.  Hence refusal to actualize one’s possibilities brings guilt toward one’s self.

But creating also means destroying the status quo of one’s environment, breaking the old forms; it means producing something new and original in human relations as well as in cultural forms (e.g., the creativity of the artist).  Thus every experience of creativity has its potentiality of aggression or denial toward other persons in one’s environment or established patterns within one’s self.  To put the matter figuratively, in every experience of creativity something in the past is killed that something new in the present may be born.  Hence, for Kierkegaard, guilt feeling is always a concomitant of anxiety: both are aspects of experiencing and actualizing possibility.  The more creative the person, he held, the more anxiety and guilt are potentially present.

Rollo May
   

  

Slow down and take the time to really see.  Take a moment to see
what is going on around you right now, right where you are.
You may be missing something wonderful.

J. Michael Thomas

    

  

   

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