3 January 2017      

Welcome to our new year!  The calendar has started telling us that it's
now 2017, so it's up to us to start this new year in the most positive ways
possible, without necessarily focusing on results--they'll almost never be
what we expect them to be, anyway, so let's just add good and positive
to the world and not worry about how others react!

 Life Is Our True Home (an excerpt)
Thich Nhat Hanh

Let the Past Go!
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Three Things I'm Going to Do This Year--Regularly
tom walsh

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In spite of all our hopes, dreams, and efforts, change is real and forever.  Accept it fearlessly.  Investigate the unknown; neither fear nor worship it.

Joseph A. Bauer

The more fun you have, the greater your value to yourself and to your society.  The more fun you share with others, the more fun you have.

from the "Purported Utterances of the Oaqui"

If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of the human become in its long journey toward the stars?

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

  

Life Is Our True Home
an excerpt
Thich Nhat Hanh

In the Buddhist tradition, a session of sitting meditation always begins with the sound of the bell.  This sound is a gentle reminder to come home to ourselves.

Our true home is the present moment, whatever is happening right here and right now.  Our true home is a place without discrimination, a place without hatred.  Our true home is the place where we are no longer seeking anything, no longer yearning for anything, no longer regretting anything.  When we return to right here and right now with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to establish our true home in the present moment.

Your true home is something you have to create for yourself.  When we know how to make peace with our body, to take care of our body, and release the tension in our body, then our body becomes a comfortable, peaceful home for us to come back to in the present moment.  When we know how to take care of our feelings--when we know how to generate joy and happiness, and how to handle a painful feeling--we can cultivate and restore a happy home in the present moment.  And when we know how to generate the energies of understanding and compassion, our home will be a very cozy, pleasant place to come back to.  But if we're not able to do these things, we won't want to go home.  Home is not something to hope for, but to cultivate.  There is no way home; home is the way.

Liberation lies in the present moment.  We can be in touch with all our spiritual and blood ancestors right in the present moment.  We need to learn how to come back to the present moment, and penetrate that moment, in order to discover our true home.  When we can feel these ancestors with us in the present moment, we no longer need to worry or suffer.  When we stop trying to find our home outside ourselves--in space, time, culture, territory, nationality, or race--we can find true happiness.

Our true home is not an abstract idea.  It is a solid reality that we can touch with our feet, our hands, and our mind in every moment.  If we know this, then nobody can take away our true home.  Even if people occupy our country or put us in prison, we still have our true home, and no one can ever take it away.  I speak to those of you who feel that you have never had a home.  I speak to the parents who feel that the country they left is no longer their home, but that the new country is not their home yet either.  Each one of us can practice to find our true home and to help our children find their true home also.

You may wonder if the most wonderful moments of your life are already behind you.  Or you may think the happiest moment of your life is still to come.  But this is the moment we have been waiting for.  The Buddha said, "You have to make the present moment into the most wonderful moment of your life."
  
  

This collection of autobiographical and teaching stories from peace activist and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is thought provoking, inspiring, and enjoyable to read. Collected here for the first time, these stories span the author’s life. There are stories from Thich Nhat Hanh’s childhood and the traditions of rural Vietnam. There are stories from his years as a teenaged novice, as a young teacher and writer in war torn Vietnam, and of his travels around the world to teach mindfulness, make pilgrimages to sacred sites, and influence world leaders.

   

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Let the Past Go!
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Do not begin the new year by recounting to yourself or others all your losses and sorrows.  Let the past go.


Should some good friend present you with material for a lovely garment, would you insult her by throwing it aside and describing the beautiful garments you had worn out in past times?

The new year has given you the fabric for fresh start in life; why dwell upon the events which have gone, the joys, blessings and advantages of the past!

Do not tell me it is too late to be successful or happy.  Do not tell me you are sick or broken in spirit; the spirit cannot be sick or broken, because it is of God.


It is your mind which makes your body sick.  Let the spirit assert itself and demand health and hope and happiness in this new year.


Forget the money you have lost, the mistakes you have made, the injuries you have received, the disappointments you have experienced.


Real sorrow, the sorrow which comes from the death of dear ones, or some great cross well borne, you need not forget.  But think of these things as sent to enrich your nature, and to make you more human and sympathetic.  You are missing them if you permit yourself instead to grow melancholy and irritable.


It is weak and unreasonable to imagine destiny has selected you for special suffering.  Sorrow is no respecter of persons.  Say to yourself with the beginning of this year that you are going to consider all your troubles as an education for your mind and soul; and that out of the experiences which you have passed through you are going to build a noble and splendid character, and a successful career.

Do not tell me you are too old.  Age is all imagination.  Ignore years and they will ignore you.

Eat moderately, and bathe freely in water as cold as nature's rainfall. Exercise thoroughly and regularly.


Be alive, from crown to toe.  Breathe deeply, filling every cell of the lungs for at least five minutes, morning and night, and when you draw in long, full breaths, believe you are inhaling health, wisdom and success.


Anticipate good health.  If it does not come at once, consider it a mere temporary delay, and continue to expect it.


Regard any physical ailment as a passing inconvenience, no more. Never for an instant believe you are permanently ill or disabled.

The young men of France are studying alchemy, hoping to learn the secret of the transmutation of gold.  If you will study your own spirit and its limitless powers, you will gain a greater secret than any alchemist ever held; a secret which shall give you whatever you desire.

Think of your body as the silver jewel box, your mind as the silver lining, your spirit as the gem.  Keep the box burnished and clear of dust, but remember always that the jewel within is the precious part of it.


Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success.  A whole, clear, glorious year lies before you!  In a year you can regain health, fortune, restfulness, happiness!


Push on!  Achieve, achieve!
  

*   *   *   *
  
From The Heart of the New Thought, 1902.  Ella's book is available for download on our free e-book page!

   

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People who take the risk make a tremendous discovery:  The more things
you care about, and the more intensely you care, the more alive you are.
This capacity for caring can illuminate any relationship:  marriage, family,
friendships--even the ties of affection that often join humans and animals.
Each of us is born with some of it, but whether we let it expand or diminish
is largely up to us.  To care, you have to surrender the armor of indifference.
You have to be willing to act, to make the first move.

Arthur Gordon

   

 

Three Things I'm Going to Do This Year--Regularly

I do like new year's resolutions, but I find them to be a bit nebulous, usually.  After a while they tend to hang over our heads like laundry that hasn't been washed yet and that keeps piling up.  Except with the laundry, you have the chance to do it all at one time and get it out of the way--only to have it start to accumulate once again.  We do that with resolutions, too.  "I resolve to be more fit" becomes a week or two of exercise in January, then another week in March once we realize that we've forgotten to fulfill that resolution.  Maybe we'll pick it up again in April or May, but we can always rationalize by saying, "I am more fit because I'm eating less junk," whether or not we have an exact measurement of the junk we've eaten this year versus the junk we ate in previous years.

I'm just going to do some things this year.  They aren't really promises to myself, just things I'm going to do.  And the nice thing about this list is that I can post a note on my door reminding me of exactly what I need to do in order to fulfill these tasks.  And they aren't difficult tasks at all, but one thing I know about them is that all three things will have very positive effects in other areas of my life--I want to do things that affect me in positive ways in more than just an immediate result.

First of all, I'm going to get rid of a lot of stuff, either by giving it away or throwing it away.  This is going to be one of the most important things that I can do for myself (and for my wife) because I have quite a lot of stuff that I don't really use, and it tends to become clutter from time to time.  I can do this with a very concrete strategy--each day, I'm going to get rid of three things.  Now, I'm not going to make myself a task that's impossible to fulfill by forcing myself to get rid of things I really love, but I'm also not going to "cheat" by throwing away three old index cards one day.  I can get rid of a dvd and a shirt and an old candle one day, and two books and a couple of pens that I never use the next.

Having too much stuff can be one of the most damaging elements of our lives.  In my case, the tendency comes from a childhood situation in which we could never trust what the future held--we had to keep everything because there was always a chance that we'd hit rock bottom tomorrow and have to rely on what we had saved.  So I keep things because I think that if I don't keep them, I'll never see them again.  But life since childhood has taught me that I can trust life, and it's taught me that I don't need to save everything just to make sure I don't have to go without.  I need to start trusting life more and trying to regulate life less by getting rid of many things that I don't really need.  But I may want to watch that movie again, so I'm keeping the DVD.  Hmm. . . I haven't watched it in four years, and I have about ten other DVD's that I haven't seen yet--I think that getting rid of a DVD of a movie that wasn't even one of my favorites is a pretty safe risk.  And whenever I go to get a sweater, I pass over that one in favor of others, so maybe I should give that one away.

   

The search for security is often marked by the collection of things.
They seem a fortress against need.  We get caught up in the belief
that "more is better."  Piles of objects often take more time to clean
and store than they save.  We exhaust ourselves taking care of our
property and social roles.
How many things do you have stored away for the future, like
squirrels with their nuts?  If you were asked to give away one half,
what would you keep?  When you dream about a fire, what do you
rescue in the house?  Make a list.  Figure out what is weight and what
helps you float. . . . When you let go of the constant urge to acquire,
what you truly need begins to flow into your life.

Jennifer James

   
Second, I'm going to study about my vocation to become the best teacher I can be.  And I have to clarify here--I've already studied more than most of my fellow teachers have, including a doctorate in education, so I'm pretty well off as far as this topic goes.  But studying doesn't necessarily mean putting my nose to the grindstone and suffering through tedious hours of dry reading and writing.  It also means reading interesting works on teaching and methodologies, sharing ideas and strategies, and learning new ways of approaching things like grading and assigning work to do.

You see, I don't want to become stagnant as a teacher--I don't want to be that teacher that continues to do the same things year after year just because it's safe and comfortable.  I want to employ new strategies that may help my students to learn better; I want to develop new ideas that will help them to be more proficient in whatever it is that I'm teaching.  I want my students to feel respected and appreciated, and it's important to read up on strategies for doing so.  I want to help them develop their confidence and their willingness to take risks, and that's something that I can't learn from works that address only pedagogy.

If I were in customer service, I would want to read up on how to make customers feel valued (Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People comes to mind), not just strategies for how to persuade people to buy something ("would you like to supersize that?").  If I were in the insurance business, I would constantly keep up on the different policies available to my customers so that they would always have what's the best for them.  If I were a nurse, a soldier (I did tons of studying when I was in the Army), or a police officer, I could find plenty of things to read that would help me in my job and make me better at it.

It was either Jim Rohn or Earl Nightingale who once said that if you were to read just one book a month on your profession, by the end of the year you'll be one of the most well-read people on the planet in your chosen field, because other people simply stop studying about their jobs once they get them and become comfortable in them.
    

The more that you read, the more things
you will know. The more that you learn,
the more places you'll go.

Dr. Seuss

    
Third, I'm going to consciously try to contribute in positive ways to the lives of others.  And I'm going to try to make this a daily task--I'm going to keep track of whom I've encouraged and whom I've helped to do something important in their lives.  I don't want to keep track to make myself feel better or to quantify what I'm doing; rather, I want to hold myself accountable to this task and not let a day or a week go by without working on it.

There are many ways to contribute to the lives of others.  A greeting card with an encouraging or appreciative message can do wonders; a phone call just to say hi can make a person's day.  A sincere and well-placed compliment may be remembered for a long time; if they make something to sell, buying something that they offer can send a very strong and positive message.  Helping someone out with something that they need may be in order; helping them to learn something that they need to learn can prove to be invaluable (as long as I'm actually competent enough to help someone else!).  Sometimes even just being there to talk to someone can be a wonderful thing to do for another person--as long as our focus is on listening and really hearing what that person has to say.  Relatively few people have the experience of actually being listened to in most of their conversations, and allowing someone to speak without correcting them or giving them advice for how to "fix" things is a tremendous gift that we can give.

Very often we just assume that people don't need to hear positive things from us, for from what we can see, their lives are going just fine.  I often think that other people's lives are much easier and much more positive than mine, and I'm surprised when I find out just how much adversity they're dealing with.  Most of us would be surprised, I believe, at just how much other human beings are craving some positive words from their fellow people--and we can be the ones who provide those positive and, yes, loving words for them.
   

Kindness is an inner desire that makes us want to do good things
even if we do not get anything in return.  It is the joy of our life to
do them.  When we do good things from this inner desire, there is
kindness in everything we think, say, want and do.

Emmanuel Swedenborg

   
I'm pretty sure that I wasn't born to change the world in big ways.  I won't be a president or a king or even anyone in an important policy-making position, but that's more than okay by me.  As long as I continue to try to make a positive mark on the lives of others around me, and as long as I continue to try to make my own life happy and fulfilled, this life of mine will be a meaningful and worthwhile experience.  These promises to myself can definitely help me to have more positive experiences, and if I find after a couple of months that they're not serving the purposes that I hope they'll serve, then I can modify them.  It's up to me.

   
More on life.

   

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Her heart--like every heart,
if only its fallen sides were
cleared away--was an
inexhaustible fountain of
love:  she loved
everything she saw.

George MacDonald
The Day Boy and the Night Girl

  

A New Kind of Resolution

You are not just the size of your bank account, the neighborhood you live in, or the type of work that you do.  You are, just like everyone else, an almost inconceivably complicated mix of abilities and limitations.

A new kind of New Year’s resolution is becoming increasingly popular.  Instead of dwelling on something they think is wrong with them and resolving to improve, a lot of people are taking a different approach.  They are resolving to accept themselves.  To acknowledge that, faults and all, they are complete people, good people.

Kathleen, a member of a group that spreads the acceptance philosophy, explains that she used to feel like she was in a trap she could not get out of.  She would try to correct herself and change herself, and the failure to change was actually worse than the original problem itself.  She felt like a “maniac” because of the pressures to change and the weight of failure.


Now Kathleen counsels accepting yourself, which does not mean ignoring your faults or never trying to improve.  What it does mean is “believing in your own value first, last, and always.”


From The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by David Niven.

   
  

When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously,
it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them.
It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves.

Katherine Mansfield

    

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