11 September 2018      

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Grace, Gratitude, and the Sacred Experience
Jean Shinoda Bolen

Helping a Spring
Ralph Waldo Trine

Being Considerate
tom walsh

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The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

Henry Miller

Every person takes the limits of his or her own
field of vision for the limits of the world.

Arthur Schopenhauer

When they tell you to grow up,
they mean stop growing.

Tom Robbins

Grace, Gratitude, and the Sacred Experience (an excerpt)
Jean Shinoda Bolen

I move through my day-to-day life with a sense of appreciation and gratitude that comes from knowing how fortunate I truly am and how unearned all that I am thankful for really is.  To have this perspective in my everyday consciousness is in itself a gift, for it leads to feeling "graced," or blessed, each time.  For example, my workday commute takes me through a tunnel toward the Golden Gate Bridge.  Sometimes I emerge to see a panoramic view of bay and bridges and city, or perhaps I see only the tops of the bridge towers emerging through the thick fog.  I am struck by how beautiful each sight is.  Every time I see beauty around me I appreciate what I am seeing, and simultaneously I have this sense of appreciation--for being alive to have this particular moment.

My children evoke a much deeper sense of gratitude.  Feelings mixed with simultaneous appreciation well up in me toward them.  There is a sensation in the middle of my chest, and the words that I stopped saying out loud, "You warm the cockles of my heart," come to mind.  I have never taken my children for granted or have been unaware that things could have been different.  That they were preceded by three miscarriages is only part of it.  The miracle of new life that I felt when they were born left an indelible mark on my psyche.  I remember being awed, recalling the perfection of a little hand with nails perfectly formed in miniature and the stillpoint numinous experiences of nursing or holding them during the middle of the night.

In my work, when I am able to make a difference to someone, catch a glimpse of a person's soul, or hear a dream and sense how profound the human psyche is, I feel privileged to be in this moment.  And when I narrowly escape being in an accident or have some sense of a close call, I literally and physically appreciate being alive and unharmed in this moment.  When I feel this gratitude-for-being, it is like singing a thank-you and hearing a response in which divinity is present.

When San Francisco suffered an earthquake in which most were spared and the potential for devastation averted, it seemed as if our entire community responded from the heart with thankfulness and helpfulness.  People commented on how wonderful this was, how what really matters became clear, and why did we have to have a disaster for us to realize this?  For a time, what we had, compared to what could have been taken away, was in our consciousness, and we felt gratitude.

As I was growing up, I became very much aware that bad things happen to people; medical school, internship, and residency further brought this home to me, case by case.  My work as a psychiatrist has added to this awareness.  I do not know that there is an answer to the question, "why them and not me?"  As a consequence, however, of witnessing the suffering and abuse that has happened to others, when bed things happen to me I do know that this, too, is part of my life:  my turn to experience pain and loss, which is partly redeemed by my conviction that no experience goes to waste.  As a therapist and teacher, through my writing or analytic work, whatever happens to me will help me someday to better understand and help someone.

Over the years I have come to believe that life is full of unchosen circumstances, that being human has to do with the evolution of our individual consciousness and with it, responsibilities for choice.  Pain and joy both come with life.  I believe that how we respond to what happens to us and around us shapes who we become and has to do with the psyche or the soul's growth.  Now that I am in my fifth decade, I can look back and say that the hardest and darkest times in my life led me deeper and farther along my spiritual path.  At the same time I am not at all sure that, at least in this life, such is the case for everyone, especially the very young who are abused or who arrive in this world innately handicapped.

It has not been the difficult times, however, that most shaped my spiritual life, but the times that were "sacramental"--situations that were imbued with grace, sacred moments in which I felt the presence of God or Goddess or felt connected to the universe or Tao.  Or those times I was in nature or at a sacred site, and felt myself enter a sacred place, or have a sacred meeting, a soul-to-soul communion with another person.  These are the experiences that have really mattered, the ones that changed me--the spiritual experiences that led me to what I am doing with my life.  I directly felt the presence of divinity, and knew it.  Each experience was subjectively and intensely real, more so than ordinary reality.

more on gratitude


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Helping a Spring
Ralph Waldo Trine

There is a wood separated by a single open field from my house.  In it, halfway down a little hillside, there was some years ago a spring.  It was at one time walled up with rather large loose stone — some three feet across at the top.  In following a vaguely defined trail through the wood one day in the early spring, a trail at one time evidently considerably used, it led me to this spot.  I looked at the stone enclosure, partly moss-grown.  I wondered why, although the ground was wet around it, there was no water in or running from what had evidently been at one time a well-used spring.

A few days later when the early summer work was better under way, I took an implement or two over, and half scratching, half digging inside the little wall, I found layer after layer of dead leaves and sediment, dead leaves and sediment.  Presently water became evident, and a little later it began to rise within the wall. In a short time there was nearly three feet of water.  It was cloudy, no bottom could be seen.  I sat down and waited for it to settle.

Presently I discerned a ledge bottom and the side against the hill was also ledge.  On this side, close to the bottom, I caught that peculiar movement of little particles of silvery sand, and looking more closely I could see a cleft in the rock where the water came gushing and bubbling in.  Soon the entire spring became clear as crystal, and the water finding evidently its old outlet, made its way down the little hillside.  I was soon able to trace and to uncover its course as it made its way to the level place below.

As the summer went on I found myself going to the spot again and again.  Flowers that I found in no other part of the wood, before the autumn came were blooming along the little watercourse.  Birds in abundance came to drink and to bathe. Several times I have found the half-tame deer there.  Twice we were but thirty to forty paces apart.  They have watched my approach, and as I stopped, have gone on with their drinking, evidently unafraid — as if it were likewise their possession.  And so it is.

After spending a most valuable hour or two in the quiet there one afternoon, I could not help but wonder as I walked home whether perchance the spring may not be actually happy in being able to resume its life, to fulfill, so to speak, its destiny; happy also in the service it renders flowers and the living wild things — happy in the service it renders even me.  I am doubly happy and a hundred times repaid in the little help I gave it.  It needed help, to enable it effectively to keep connection with its source.  As it became gradually shut off from this, it weakened, became then stagnant, and finally it ceased its active life.

Containing a fundamental truth deeper perhaps than we realize, are these words of that gifted seer, Emanuel Swedenborg:  "There is only one Fountain of Life, and the life of man is a stream therefrom, which if it were not continually replenished from its source would instantly cease to flow."  And likewise these:  "Those who think in the light of interior reason can see that all things are connected by intermediate links with the First Cause, and that whatever is not maintained in that connection must cease to exist."

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The important thing to remember is that peace comes
from within your own heart and mind, not from
some outside source, and when you refuse
to be disturbed by things about you,
life will flood your being with dynamic energy.



Being Considerate

It's sometimes difficult to be around other human beings.  Sometimes, people seem so caught up in themselves and their own lives that they don't show any consideration at all for others.  When my wife and I were camping this past weekend, we were woken up at 11 p.m. by someone who had come into the campground late and started chopping wood.  At 11 p.m., when there were hundreds of people sleeping all around him, he was chopping wood.  Yesterday I tried to cross a fairly busy street at a crosswalk--four cars went by before someone stopped to let me go, even though the law is very clear that when someone is in a crosswalk, you're definitely supposed to stop.

I've become convinced that one of the most important elements in my life is the consideration that I show for others.  The night before our wood-chopping neighbor showed up, my wife and I arrived very late at the very same campground.  We did everything we could to keep the noise down, keep our voices down, and not wake anyone up, for we knew that people were sleeping.  We weren't being quiet because we were scared that people would get mad at us; rather, we were being quiet because we know how important sleep is to people, and we simply didn't want to disturb other people's sleep.  We weren't trying to be considerate so that other people would compliment us or think better of us; we were being quiet because it was the right thing to do.

Being considerate of others will take your children
further in life than any college degree.

Marian Wright Edelman

Our society seems to have moved in a direction in which self-gratification is the most important element of a person's life.  I need to chop wood right now, and I'm not even going to consider the right of the people around me to get their sleep.  I'm in a hurry right now, so I don't have to obey the law and let someone cross the street in a crosswalk.  I want to hear my music as loud as possible, and I don't have to think about the people next door who are trying to enjoy a peaceful afternoon or evening.

I believe that a large part of this phenomenon has to do with the fact that so many young people have grown up interacting with screens, and not with people.  As they grow up, the screens get smaller and smaller, but they also take up more and more of their time.  I teach at a college, and I'm astonished sometimes at the number of young people who simply don't make eye contact with anyone else as they walk around campus.  The lack of eye contact of course doesn't mean that these are inconsiderate people, but there definitely seems to be a disconnect between them and other people--and if they don't have or make contact with other people, it will be difficult for them to understand the needs and desires of others.  Young people who have grown up spending more time in front of screens instead of with other people simply aren't going to understand the needs of other people enough to be considerate of those needs when they make decisions on what to do in their own lives.  And if I don't know how my actions affect others, how can I decide whether or not I really should do a certain something?

Really big people are, above everything else,
courteous, considerate, and generous--not just
to some people in some circumstances--but to
everyone all the time.

Thomas J. Watson

And of course, I haven't said a word yet about the cell phone, and the amazing lack of consideration for others that people show when they're having supposedly personal conversations.  I've had to change tables in restaurants because of people doing business very loudly in the booth next to mine or talking very loudly to their spouse or child or grandchild or friend.  Somehow, many people have come to think that being on the phone justifies all sorts of rude behavior.  With someone doing business in a restaurant, I want to go up to them and say, "Look, I came here for a peaceful meal, and listening to your stressful conversation about your work problems is ruining that possibility.  I'll tell you what--if you don't do business here in the restaurant, I won't come into your office and eat my breakfast."

Of course, I don't do so, for then I would be the rude one for interrupting their call, wouldn't I?

There are very, very few absolutely necessary calls made on cell phones.  Somehow, though, we categorize any incoming call as "urgent," and we just have to take it, no matter where we are, and no matter whom we're with.  I know personally, though, when someone interrupts a conversation with me in order to take a call, it makes me feel completely unimportant, for I know that the person I'm with finds something else to be much more important than our conversation.  And I don't say that to be overly sensitive (I'm not) but to be realistic, as someone who honors his own feelings. 

The habit of being uniformly considerate toward others
will bring increased happiness to you.

Grenville Kleiser

We're doing young people a great disservice when we don't teach them the importance of being considerate of others, and we're doing ourselves a great disservice when we don't practice consideration for others.  When we're inconsiderate, we're treating our fellow human beings with a lack of respect, with a lack of common courtesy.  There's a very good chance that we're making them feel stressed or negative or down, and that's never a good thing to do to another person.  We always should have other people's feelings in mind, for we truly do appreciate it when others respect our feelings.

And how can we be living our lives fully if we're treating others with less than their due of respect and courtesy?  If we want to get the most out of our lives, then we have to help others to get the most out of theirs, and not bring them down with a lack of consideration.




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Practicing patience is an opportunity to let go and let God, and to transmute
negative emotions into positive virtues.  With patience, you are relaxed
and centered; you have energy and attention that you can readily draw
on; and you can proceed with the assurance that things are in their rightful
place, even though you may not necessarily like them.  Patience is absolutely
essential if you wish to keep treading the spiritual path.

Michael Goddart

The Art of Living Each Day
Wilferd A. Peterson

Each day is a lifetime in miniature. 

To awaken each morning is to be born again, to fall asleep at night is to die to the day.

In between waking and sleeping are the golden hours of the day.

What we cannot do for a lifetime we can do for a daytime.

"Anyone," wrote Robert Louis Stevenson, "can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down."

Anyone can hold his temper for a day and guard the words he speaks.

Anyone can carry his burden heroically for one day.

Anyone can strive to be happy for a day and to spread happiness around.

Anyone can radiate love for a day. 

Anyone can rise above fear for a day and meet each new situation with courage.

Anyone can be kind and thoughtful and considerate for a day.

Anyone can endeavor to learn something new each day and mark some growth.

Sir William Osler pointed out that just as ships are kept afloat by airtight compartments, living in daytight compartments will help us to avoid wrecking our lives.  Osler gives us a magic word with which to face the day:  Equanimity.

The supreme art of living is to strive to live each day well.

When we fail and fall short, let us forgive ourselves and consider the words of Emerson:  "Finish every day and be done with it.  You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day; you will begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered by your old nonsense."

Live a day at a time and remember that tomorrow is another today.


A strong passion for any object will ensure success,
for the desire of the end will point out the means.

William Hazlitt




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