17 July 2018      

Hello, and welcome to a beautiful midsummer day!

Talking to Ourselves (an excerpt)
Parker J. Palmer

The Accumulation of Wealth
Ralph Waldo Trine

Letting Go of Holding On
tom walsh

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Life is not always what one wants it to be, but to make the best of it, as it is, is the only way of being happy.

Jennie Jerome Churchill

It is only the souls that do not love
that go empty in this world.

Robert Hugh Benson

Mindfulness means paying attention
in a particular way; on purpose, in the
present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

Jon Kabat-Zinn


Talking to Ourselves (an excerpt)
Parker J. Palmer

What does it mean to "speak our own truth" in a circle of trust?  Of course, the question cannot be answered in terms of the common, which will vary vastly depending on who is speaking and when.

But no matter what the content may be, speaking our truth always takes the same form:  we speak from our own center to the center of the circle--to the receptive heart of the communal space--where what we say will be held attentively and respectfully.  This way of speaking differs markedly from everyday conversations in which we speak from our own intellect or ego directly to the intellect or ego of someone on whom we hope to have an impact.

Everyday speech is "instrumental" rather than "expressive," intended to achieve a goal rather than simply to tell one's own truth.  When we speak instrumentally, we try to influence the listener by informing or affirming or rebuking or making common cause.  But when we speak expressively, we speak to express the truth within us, honoring the inner teacher by letting it know that we are attending to its voice.  Our purpose is not to teach anyone anything but to give the inner teacher a chance to teach us.

Of course, knowing when we are speaking from the soul rather than the intellect or ego is difficult, since the intellect and ego insist that they are the center of our lives and they speak the voice of truth!

It takes time to learn to distinguish between the various voices within us and even more time to get regular access to the voice of the soul.  The signs that we are speaking from that inward center are subtle, as subtle as the stillness of a pond; the capacity to recognize them grows slowly as we speak in a space where no one is making ripples.

Though it is hard to know when we are speaking from our own center, it is not so hard to know when we are speaking to the center of the circle:  expressive speaking is less stressful than its instrumental counterpart.  When we speak directly to others in order to achieve a goal, we feel the anxiety that comes from trying to exercise influence.  But when we speak to the center of the circle--free of the need to achieve a result--we feel energized and at peace.  Now we speak with no other motive than to tell the truth, and the self-affirming feelings that accompany such speech reinforce the practice.

How we listen in a circle of trust is as important as how we speak.  When someone speaks from his or her center to the center of the circle, the rest of us may not respond the way we normally do--with affirmations or rebuttals or some other way of trying to influence the speaker.  So we learn to take in what is said with as much simple receptivity as we can muster.

Receptive listening is an inward and invisible act.  But in a circle of trust, it has at least three outward and visible signs:

*  Allowing brief, reflective silences to fall between speakers, rather than rushing to respond--silences that honor those who speak, give everyone time to absorb what has been said, and slow things down enough so that anyone who wishes to speak can do so.

*  Responding to the speaker not with commentary but with honest, open questions that have no other intent than to help the speaker hear more deeply whatever he or she is saying--a demanding art.

*  Honoring whatever truth-telling has been done by speaking one's own truth openly in the center of the circle--placing it alongside prior expressions as simple personal testimony, with no intent of affirming or negating other speakers.

When people speak instrumentally, trying to get leverage on each other, it is nearly impossible to listen receptively to what another says.  We listen with half a mind, at best, busily filtering what we hear so that we can embrace what we agree with and reject the rest.  We listen, that is, with our egos.  But when people speak expressively, we listen openly, with our souls.  Now we can attend fully to what is being said, knowing that people are not trying to comment on us and our truths but are making an honest effort to express truths of their own.

As we grow in our ability to listen this way, we give the gift of "hearing each other into speech."  As our listening becomes more open--and speakers start to trust that they are being heard by people whose only desire is to make it safe for everyone to tell the truth--their speaking becomes more open as well.

Like every gift given, this one returns as a gift to the giver:  when we learn how to listen more deeply to others, we can listen more deeply to ourselves.  This may be the most important result of the unconventional speaking and listening that go on in a circle of trust.

more on listening


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The Accumulation of Wealth
Ralph Waldo Trine

Is it the ambition of your life to accumulate great wealth, and thus to acquire a great name and along with it happiness and satisfaction?  Then remember that whether these will come to you will depend entirely upon the use and disposition you make of your wealth.  If you regard it as a private trust to be used for the highest good of mankind, then well and good, these will come to you.  If your object, however, is to pile it up, to hoard it, then neither will come; and you will find it a life as unsatisfactory as one can live.  There is, there can be, no greatness in things, in material things, of themselves.  The greatness is determined entirely by the use and disposition made of them.  The greatest greatness and the only true greatness in the world is unselfish love and service and self-devotion to one's fellow-man.

Look at the matter carefully, and tell me candidly if there can be anything more foolish than a man spending all the days of his life piling up and hoarding money, too mean and too stingy to use any but what is absolutely necessary, accumulating many times more than he can possibly ever use, always eager for more, growing still more eager and grasping the nearer he comes to life's end, then lying down, dying, and leaving it.  It seems to me about as sensible for a man to have as the great aim and ambition of life the piling up of an immense pile of old iron in the middle of a large field, and sitting on it day after day because he is so wedded to it that it has become a part of his life and lest a fragment disappear, denying himself and those around him many of the things that go to make life valuable and pleasant, and finally dying there, himself, the soul, so dwarfed and so stunted that he has really a hard time to make his way out of the miserable old body.  There is not such a great difference, if you will think of it carefully, one a pile of old iron, the other a pile of gold or silver, but all belonging to the same general class.

It is a great law of our being that we become like those things we contemplate.  If we contemplate those that are true and noble and elevating, we grow in the likeness of these.  If we contemplate merely material things, as gold or silver or copper or iron, our souls, our natures, and even our faces become like them, hard and flinty, robbed of their finer and better and grander qualities.  Call to mind the person or picture of the miser, and you will quickly see that this is true.  Merely nature's great law.  He thought he was going to be a master:  he finds himself the slave.  Instead of possessing his wealth, his wealth possesses him.  How often have I seen persons of nearly or quite this kind!  Some can be found almost anywhere.  You can call to mind a few, perhaps many.

During the past two or three years, two well-known millionaires in the United States, millionaires many times over, have died.  The one started into life with the idea of acquiring a great name by accumulating great wealth.  These two things he had in mind—self and great wealth.  And, as he went on, he gradually became so that he could see nothing but these.  The greed for gain soon made him more and more the slave; and he, knowing nothing other than obedience to his master, piled and accumulated and hoarded, and after spending all his days thus, he then lay down and died, taking not so much as one little, little penny with him, only a soul dwarfed compared to what it otherwise might have been.  For it might have been the soul of a royal master instead of that of an abject slave.

The papers noted his death with seldom even a single word of praise.  It was regretted by few, and he was mourned by still fewer.  And even at his death he was spoken of by thousands in words far from complimentary, all uniting in saying what he might have been and done, what a tremendous power for good, how he might have been loved and honoured during his life, and at death mourned and blessed by the entire nation, the entire world.  A pitiable sight, indeed, to see a human mind, a human soul, thus voluntarily enslave itself for a few temporary pieces of metal.

The other started into life with the principle that a man's success is to be measured by his direct usefulness to his fellow-men, to the world in which he lives, and by this alone; that private wealth is merely a private trust to be used for the highest good of mankind.  Under the benign influences of this mighty principle of service, we see him great, influential, wealthy; his whole nature expanding, himself growing large-hearted, generous, magnanimous, serving his State, his country, his fellow-man, writing his name on the hearts of all he comes in contact with, so that his name is never thought of by them without feelings of gratitude and praise.

Then as the chief service to his fellow-man, next to his own personal influence and example, he uses his vast fortune, this vast private trust, for the founding and endowing of a great institution of learning, using his splendid business capacities in its organization, having uppermost in mind in its building that young men and young women may there have every advantage at the least possible expense, to fit themselves in turn for the greatest direct usefulness to their fellow-man while they live in the world.

In the midst of these activities the news comes of his death.  Many hearts now are sad.  The true, large-hearted, sympathizing friend, the servant of rich and poor alike, has gone away.  Countless numbers whom he had befriended encouraged, helped, and served bless his name, and give thanks that such a life has been lived.  His own great State rises up as his pall-bearers, while the entire nation acts as honorary pall-bearers.  Who can estimate the influence of a life such as this?  But it cannot be estimated; for it will flow from the ones personally influenced to others, and through them to others throughout eternity.  He alone who in His righteous balance weighs each human act can estimate it.  And his final munificent gift to mankind will make his name remembered and honoured and blessed long after the accumulations of mere plutocrats are scattered and mankind forgets that they have ever lived.

Then have as your object the accumulation of great wealth if you choose; but bear in mind that, unless you are able to see beyond self, it will make you not great, but small, and you will rob life of the finer and better things in it.  If, on the other hand, you are guided by the principle that private wealth is but a private trust, and that direct usefulness or service to mankind is the only real measure of true greatness, and bring your life into harmony with it, then you will become, and will be counted, great; and with it will come that rich joy and happiness and satisfaction that always accompanies a life of true service, and therefore the best and truest life.

One can never afford to forget that personality, life, and character, that there may be the greatest service, are the chief things, and wealth merely the incident.  Nor can one afford to be among those who are too mean, too small, or too stingy to invest in anything that will grow and increase these.

more on wealth


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Letting Go of Holding On

I hold on to lots of stupid things.  Sometimes it's resentment, sometimes it's a CD that I never listen to, sometimes it's the hope of something that I think may happen, but that I know won't.  I have some theories about why I do this, but there are times when theories about why really aren't important, and it's more important to look at the behavior itself and think about what I can or should do to let go of my behavior of holding on to things.  It's an interesting concept:  I want to let go of my tendency to not let go.  It sounds like quite a challenge, doesn't it?

Why do we not let go of things?  I've done a lot of reading on the topic, and one of the common ideas is that the things that we hold on to help us to feel safe, help us to feel a sense of security and consistency.  What we know is comfortable, and what we don't know is scary.  Even if what we know is damaging or destructive, it's somehow preferable to something that's unsure and possibly negative.  How many people hold on to destructive relationships because they're afraid of being alone?  For some reason, they see being alone as the only possible outcome of ending the relationship--not getting involved in a much more positive and fulfilling relationship.  So they hold on to what they have, refusing to let it go.

And they don't even consider for a second that being alone for a certain amount of time might be the best thing to happen to them.


There are things that we never want to let go
of, people we never want to leave behind.
But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end
of the world; it’s the beginning of a new life.


One of the most fascinating things that we tend to not want to let go of is a belief.  Once we start to believe something, it seems to get so completely ingrained in our psyches that we think that letting it go will permanently damage us somehow.  We may believe that a certain person is dishonest, and even when we're faced with evidence that the person is, indeed, very honest, we can hold on to our lack of trust in that person for a very long time.  How many people believe that the people in their choice of political party are the only people who can and should be trusted, the only people who actually tell the truth?  And no matter what evidence they see that their beliefs are inaccurate, they still cling to their loyalty because they simply don't know how to go about changing their beliefs without damaging themselves or their view of reality.

And one of the questions that we must ask ourselves and answer very clearly is this:  Where did our beliefs come from?  Because many of our beliefs were passed on to us from other people, especially our parents and other relatives.  Are these beliefs authentic?  How many people in the past went through life as racists because they learned from their parents that people of other races were inferior?  How many of us go through life thinking of ourselves as inferior because someone convinced us when we were young that we weren't "good enough"?  And how many of us have simply adopted the same religious and spiritual beliefs as our parents because we've never really taken the time to consider them and decide whether or not we believe the same things?

Who you are now is a result to a great extent of your beliefs.  If I believe that I'm meant to live in poverty, then guess what?  If I believe that I deserve the very best and I'm not willing to settle for less, then guess what?  It's important that we examine our beliefs and make sure that they serve us and that they're authentically ours, and not just beliefs that we've borrowed from someone else.  And if they have been borrowed, then perhaps it's time we let them go.

We must learn to let go, to give up, to make room for the
things we have prayed for and desired.

Charles Fillmore

There are many other things that we need to let go of if we're going to find our potential in life.  One of the most important things for me, and something that I still have great problems with, is letting go of expectations of others.  This is particularly difficult for me because I'm a teacher, and one of the basic elements of our job is that we have expectations of students.  In fact, it's a legally required set of expectations that students have to meet on their standardized tests.  But there's a lot to be said for meeting students at their own level, and trying to help them to grow from there rather than trying to immediately make them able to reach the state's expectations.

Sometimes we also need to let go of some of our material things, especially if they're holding us back.  I've known people who are so wrapped up in certain things that they spend most of their families' money on cars, on guns, on sports paraphernalia--you name it, and there's some sort of want or need that most of us could start to let go of in our lives.  In my case, for example, I think I could let go of my need to stockpile food in the pantry.  The need seems to come from my younger years, when we often didn't have anything to eat for a few days before the paycheck came because the money was spent on drinking.  But there is no drinking as a part of my life now, and there never has been, so if I let go of my need to stockpile food, I think I'd be okay.

Just try convincing my brain of that, though.

There have been times in my life when I've had to let go of certain friendships, for they've been destructive rather than helpful.  One recurring theme among people who write about letting go seems to be that when we let go of one thing, we make room for something else.  Letting go of a destructive relationship frees up time for us to pursue positive relationships, or even to simply do more things that we love doing without necessarily looking to replace the relationship itself.  If we let go of an expensive fixation, we can free up money for more positive things, such as saving it for retirement or using it to serve our communities.

Every time you let go of something limiting,
you create space for something better.

Stephen C. Paul

In his novel A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens portrays Marley's ghost as being attached to a large chain to which also were attached cash boxes and padlocks and deeds and other such things--the things that enslaved him while he was alive, the things to which he was completely attached and which he was never willing to let go of.  And now in the afterlife, Marley is doomed to roam the world to try to do the things he never was willing to do while alive--because he was never willing to let go of his love and his need for more and more money.

Let go.  I can't even write these words and read them without feeling a sense of relaxation, a sense of peace.  Let go of your fears.  Let go of your inauthentic needs and beliefs.  Allow your life to move forward without the chains that currently shackle you.  Let go of hatred and resentment and judgment.  Let go of the words "I can't," for they hold you back.  Let go of the expectations of how things should be--life turns out how it's meant to turn out, and people do things that they do, and our peace of mind should not depend on them turning out any other way.

Let go.  Relax.  Do your best in all you do, but attach yourself to very, very few things, and you'll find that your life is simpler and happier.

More on letting go.



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What if we--just you and me--made a commitment to mindfully integrate kindness into each and every day of our lives?  We would start a kindness revolution.  Let's do it.  Let's become the proverbial pebbles in the pond and send out ripples of kindness into the world each day.  Those whose hearts are touched by our kindness will, hopefully, be encouraged to pass it on, and a revolution of much-needed kindness will have begun.

Sue Patton Thoele

The average American sees just about as much of real life, of the things worth while, as we see of the beautiful scenery through which we pass, driving our cars at high speeds.  Of course now and then we divert our eyes long enough to get a hasty glimpse of a mountain peak or a beautiful valley or a gorgeous sunset, but the beautiful scenery, the details of the glorious flowers, are all lost upon us.

All the wonderful details of little experiences, the fine courtesies, the exquisite things of life, the things that are worth while, are lost to us because we live at such a terrific pace.  We cannot take time to see things, to appreciate them, to enjoy them.  We do not take time to enjoy our friends.  Our whole mind is anxiously focused upon the machine and the road in front of us.

We are like the men who carried the mails on the pony express.  We are borne along at a terrific speed, and we only dismount to mount again.  And so we go tearing through life forever changing from a tired to a fresh pony.

Bent forms, premature gray hair, heavy steps, and feverish haste are indicative of American life. Restlessness and discontent have become chronic, and are characteristic of our age and nation.

This straining, struggling, and striving is not life; it is a fever, a disease, well named Americanitis.  It bears no relation to happiness.

Orison Swett Marden
The Joys of Living (1913)


Our inner child is still in there somewhere, aching to be let loose from
all the layers we’ve piled on over the years.  Why not break him or her out
for the day or even a moment?  Be playful.  Blow some bubbles.  Skip
around the block.  Feel the freedom.  Take fearlessness out
for a test run.  Let yourself have some fun.

Lynn Hasselberger




A new way of reading has been here for a while now.  And while we still love our books, if you're like many people, you get tired of lugging around the books that sometimes weigh more than anything else we carry.  Imagine carrying hundreds of books--novels, self-help, history, travel, you name it--and reading them comfortably on a no-glare screen, setting things like text size to your own preferences.  It's a great experience, and it's available to us now for less than the cost of ten books.  And there are plenty of free books to download, especially timeless classics--you can easily get enough free books to pay for the Kindle.  Give yourself the gift of wonderful literature that you can easily bring with you, wherever you go!

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