2 May 2017      

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 The Warmth from the Windows
Thomas Kinkade and Anne Christian Buchanan

Learning from Life
Charlie Badenhop

Be Good!
tom walsh

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The greatest amount of good we can do in this world lies not in what we say or in the opinions we advance, but in what we are, the atmosphere we carry with us.

Paramananda

The spiritual path is one of falling on your face, getting up, brushing yourself off, turning and looking sheepishly at God and then taking the next step.

Aurobindo

Do not place your happiness in distant lands or in grandly imagined tasks; do well what you can do, until you can do greater things as well.

Will Durant

  
The Warmth from the Windows
Welcoming Yourself into Your Own Life

Thomas Kinkade with Anne Christian Buchanan

Someone asked me once why I paint so many houses and cottages with warm, glowing windows.  At first I didn't know what to say.  After all, how does an artist explain why he paints what he does?

I've thought a lot about that question, though, and now I think I have an answer.  I paint glowing windows because glowing windows say home to me.  Glowing windows say welcome.  They say all is well.  They say that someone's waiting, someone cares enough to turn a light on.

For a person like me, who grew up in a single-parent household and often had to come home to an empty house, that "someone's home" glow is irresistible.  It draws the eye like a brightly wrapped present, a promise of wonderful secrets inside.  Can you see a brightly lit window without even the smallest urge to go peek in, to see what the people are doing and what their lives are like?  I can't either.

In fact, as I am dabbing brushfuls of golden paint on those windows--whether on a rambling Victorian mansion or a tiny little fishing cabin--I am always imagining a world of family gatherings, of quiet times spent in the company of loved ones.

I can almost smell the toasty aromas of popcorn or pie baking.  I can hear the lively sounds of laughter and perhaps the tinkle of a music box. . . .

Conversation, too, is what I imagine going on behind the glowing windows in my paintings.

Lively conversation--about books, about old movies, about hopes and dreams, about the many blessings God gives us.  Conversation that can occupy a whole evening.  Conversation where people's lives touch in a meaningful way.

That kind of conversation has almost become a lost art in our high-tech age.  We became aware of this loss during a summer we spent in a little English village.  There, social activity is built around the town pub.  People gather there to eat a simple meal or drink the famous English ale, but mostly to talk and laugh.

Here in America, we've installed television sets everywhere so that people never have to converse.  Even restaurants have given in to this trend, and it is often difficult to find a table where you can escape the distracting glare of a television set.  Have you ever walked at night by a window where the television light was on?  The light is dim and cold.  But walk at night by a window where a fire is flickering, where a candle is lit, and see the difference.  The warm glow in the windows is so inviting that it draws you in.

It's not high-tech entertainment that puts the warmth in the windows, but human connection.  It's human warmth that makes up the golden glow.  And I think that most of us are instinctively drawn to that warmth.

And yet the glow in the windows is not reserved solely for families like mine.  The warmth is not exclusive, not unreachable.  The windows can shine wherever you find a resting place for your heart.

I think of my mother.  She and my father parted ways when I was very young, and she has lived alone for nearly twenty years, since the day my brother and I left for college.  And Yet her house always glows with that "someone's home" light because my mother, more than almost anyone I know, is serenely at home with herself. . . .

You can put that same light in your windows by surrounding yourself with your work and your play and your memories.  If you love art, cover your walls with paintings or prints that speak to your soul and bring you peace.  If you love music, put the piano in the center of the room and keep the stereo tuned to your favorite station.  Pad the sofa with fluffy pillows.  Drape a soft afghan on your favorite chair--and put a favorite book nearby.  And yes, you might want to light a candle on the windowsill.

You also put the light in your windows by sharing your life with others.  Invite neighbors or friends for an evening of checkers or chamber music or conversation, giving them a taste of your life.

But most of all, you put a light in the window by coming home to yourself.  By becoming friends with who you are and who you can be.  by finding a resting place for your heart.
  
   

Picture a place you're yearning to be.
A place where work, home, and play are properly balanced, where people exist peaceably, where relationships flourish.  A place where there's time for what's really important.
Picture life the way you're hungry to live it, in your deepest heart of hearts.
Picture simpler time.


Like his warm, engaging paintings, this celebrated artist will help you discover how to create calm, not chaos; peace, not pressure, in your own life--a life of simpler times.

   

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Learning From Life
Charlie Badenhop

Do you ever find yourself thinking, "Life has taught me some tough lessons, and the scars do not heal easily"?  This article can help you learn valuable lessons from the past, instead of allowing the past to determine your future.

The quality of the life we live is based upon the learning we derive from our experiences.  I know that for myself, it is sometimes easy to feel that "Life has taught me some tough lessons, and the scars do not heal easily."  When I find myself thinking like this it means that I have fallen into the trap of believing that "It is ‘only natural’ that an ‘X’ type event or relationship, will lead to a ‘Y’ type response."  At other times it becomes apparent that if I had somehow learned something different from a particular challenging situation, the quality of my life would be much more rewarding.

In working with a client struggling with alcoholism, we spent our first session with the client telling me in detail how he had come to live such an unhealthy debilitating life.  In short he said:  "Both my parents were alcoholics, and both of them were physically abusive to me.  I grew up never knowing what bad thing would happen next.  I learned from my parents that the best way to not have to feel the pain and uncertainty of life was to escape into an altered state of alcohol-induced euphoria."  When listening to a client tell such a sad story, it is easy to believe that their situation was all but preordained.

As fate would have it, a week after beginning to work with this client, I went to a business luncheon to hear an inspirational speaker discuss how we can live our life fully and succeed in times of hardship.  Indeed, the speaker was truly inspirational.  When the talk was over I waited around to thank him.

After introducing myself and thanking him, I asked him how he had come to lead such an exemplary life.  He looked around to make sure no one else was listening and in a low voice he said the following:  "Both my parents were alcoholics, and both of them were physically abusive to me.  I grew up never knowing what bad thing would happen next.  I learned from my parents that the worst possible way to deal with the pain and uncertainty of life was to escape into an altered state of alcohol induced euphoria.  My parents taught me a difficult but very important lesson.  I learned from them that staying present in the moment is the only real chance we have for living a fulfilling life."

What a truly great example of embodied spirit the motivational speaker offers us.  The quality of our life is not dependent on the circumstances we encounter.  The quality of our life is dependent on what we learn from the circumstances we encounter.  Perhaps the greatest example of this wisdom is present in the life of Nelson Mandela.  He is a man that suffered great pain and hardship, and somehow his suffering seasoned his soul in a way that has led him to be compassionate and caring.

In the course of exploring how to live our life more fully we can consider pondering one question over and over again:  "What can I learn from the difficulties I am experiencing, that will actually ADD to the quality of my life?"  At the very least we can begin to entertain this fact:  We can derive a wide range of learning from any single circumstance, event, or relationship.  When we get the most stuck in life is when we believe that the one thing we did learn is the only thing that can be learned.

*   *   *   *   *

© Charlie Badenhop.  Charlie is the originator of Seishindo, an Aikido instructor, NLP trainer, and Ericksonian Hypnotherapist.  Benefit from a new self-help Practice every two weeks by subscribing to his complimentary newsletter "Pure heart, simple mind" at seishindo.org.   Contact Charlie at seishin@seishindo.org.

   

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We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have
the life that is waiting for us.

The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.

Joseph Campbell

   

 
Be Good!

I like the words "good" and "goodness."  They're simple words packed with meaning, and almost no two people in the world would agree on just what they mean.  Many people even disagree whether people's actions are motivations are good in their depths or if they're good on the surface.  For example, if a person gives a certain amount of money to a charity to avoid allowing his or her spouse to get that money in a divorce settlement, is the act a good act, or a selfish act?  It may be good that the charity gets the money, but many people want to stop there and not think things through more thoroughly--is it good that the charity gets money that the spouse might have needed desperately, but is now denied?

In such a case, one person's good is another person's bad.  Do the two sides balance out?

I believe that for an act or motive to be good, it truly has to be pure.  In other words, if I do a kind act for a neighbor, it's truly good only if I have absolutely no expectations of any sort of reciprocal benefit.  If I encourage someone, I have no expectations of any sort of thank you or other sign of gratitude.  I do it simply because I know that it's good and because I want to do good.

Because you see, if I do something "good" for you and expect your gratitude or some sort of reward in return, then I'm creating an obligation for you, one that you probably neither want nor need.  And if you don't fulfill that obligation, the results can end up being anger, frustration, and resentment on both of our parts--and how can such a result even remotely be considered good?  And if it ends up with such results, then the "good" of the original action was simply an illusion, not a truth.
   

It is very difficult to know exactly what good should come out of
a particular situation.  To attempt to manipulate circumstances
so your idea of good can come about, is to let the ego play
God--and that, as you know, can and does backfire.

Neem Karoli Baba

   
So if I want to be good--and I do, even if I'm not sure what it means--I need to be aware of my motives and my desired outcomes for any action that I take.  Am I doing this just because I want to do something good?  If so, there's a good chance that the action I take is, in fact, good.

Being and doing good, I think, is mostly a matter of heart, and much less a matter of mind.  In our hearts, we know when we're doing good and we know when we're doing something to benefit ourselves, and it's important to listen to our hearts when they speak to us.  If we do this, we can be much more sure that what we're doing is, indeed, good.  I may help a neighbor with something to make her feel obligated to send a plate of cookies my way the next time she bakes, but my heart will know that my motive is not pure.  My heart will know it if I'm helping just to help, with no attempt to make her feel obligated.

And if a plate of cookies does appear without any attempt to make her feel obligated, then there's another good act in this world.  If she sends over the cookies because she knows I'm expecting them for having helped her, then just how "good" is her act?

There are, of course, acts that count as mutual goods.  Perhaps my co-worker is having a hard time with a certain task, and it ends up being my task at the end of the day.  Teaching him or her how to do the task and do it well is good for that person and for me, as I'll no longer be expected to take on that task, and I can focus on my own work.
    

Goodness consists not in the outward things we do, but in
the inward thing we are.  To be good is the great thing.

Edwin H. Chapin

    
When we examine our motives for doing the things we do, we start to change as people.  When we start to try to do good for the sake of good and not for any potential benefits, we start to become good people in our core, at heart.  When we start to be good, then we start to do things for motives that are much more pure, and we start to strengthen and reinforce the good that is in us.

A good person doesn't need to have ulterior motives for doing things--that person knows that when we do good, we greatly improve the quality of our own lives.  When we're good to other people, we strengthen the world and we strengthen ourselves, and we give the others a bit more faith in the goodness of life and humanity.  Goodness helps to destroy cynicism, and it helps others to see the world more brightly.  Being good helps us to avoid many kinds of stress, the kind that comes from fearing being caught doing something we shouldn't do or saying something we shouldn't say.
   

Doing good for others is not a duty.  It is a joy,
for it increases your own health and happiness.

Zoroaster

   
I want to be good, and I want to do good.  It isn't always easy, though, for there are almost always conflicting motives in the way of doing good.  Yes, I can help this person, but there's a cost of time.  Yes, I can do that good thing, but it will cost money.  That's definitely a good thing to do, but it's risky--I'll risk failure and I'll risk being criticized.  And saving time and money, of course, are two of out stronger desires as people, as is the avoidance of failure and criticism.  But the stakes are very high--do I want to look back five years from now and think of all the good I didn't do because of my fear, or all the good I did do in spite of my fear?  To me, the answer to that question is very obvious, and it's within my power--with every decision that I make--to answer it with the knowledge that I did, indeed, do every good I could.

   
More on goodness.

   

One of the most important elements of living life fully is awareness-- awareness of our surroundings, of other people and their motives and fears and desires, of the things that affect us most in our lives, both positively and negatively. In the twelve years of livinglifefully.com's existence, this essay series has been a mainstay of the weekly e-zine--a series that has explored not just the things that exist and that happen around us, but also our reactions to those things. The first five years of the column are now available exclusively on Kindle.

   

  

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Be grateful for what you do have, and
you will find it increases. I like to
bless with love all that is in my life
right now--my home, the heat, water,
light, telephone, furniture, plumbing, appliances, clothing, transportation,
jobs--the money I do have, friends,
my ability to see and feel and taste
and touch and walk and to enjoy
this incredible planet.

Louise Hay

  
i thank you God for this most amazing
day:  for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:  and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e e cummings

An Irish Blessing

May your joys be as bright as the morning,
and your sorrows merely be shadows
that fade in the sunlight of love.
May you have enough happiness to keep you sweet,
Enough trials to keep you strong,
Enough sorrow to keep you human,
Enough hope to keep you happy,
Enough failure to keep you humble,
Enough success to keep you eager,
Enough friends to give you comfort,
Enough courage and faith in yourself to banish sadness,
Enough wealth to meet your needs,
And one more thing:
Enough determination to make each day
a more wonderful day than the one before.

   

  

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why
a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his or her parents every
time around -- and why his or her parents will always wave back.

William D. Tammeus

    

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