27 March 2018      

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The Art of Living with Ourselves
Wilferd A. Peterson

Try Giving Yourself
Arline Boucher and John Tehan

Teaching and Learning
tom walsh

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To pursue joy is to lose it.  The only way to get it is to follow steadily the path of duty, without thinking of joy, and then, like sheep, it comes most surely, unsought.

Alexander Maclaren

Some things can only be understood when you're in a tree house. With a pile of warm chocolate chip cookies.  And a book.

Dr. SunWolf

Cease trying to work everything out with your minds.  It will get you nowhere.  Live by intuition and inspiration and let your whole life be Revelation.

Eileen Caddy

  
The Art of Living with Ourselves
Wilferd A. Peterson


Wrote the poet and mystic Maeterlinck:  "The thoughts you think will irradiate you as though you are a transparent vase."  We radiate what we are and so it is more important to be than to get, to become than to possess.  People tune in to our inner wave length.  There is much wisdom in the old Hindu saying:  "Beware, beware, what goes forth from you will come back to you."

As a boy I learned a little rhyme that I have never forgotten:  "Don't be a veneer stuck on with glue, be solid mahogany all the way through."

Our first task then, in living with ourselves, is to be ourselves, to be genuine and sincere, to go forth to others as the persons we truly are without sham or pretense.  Beyond this our task is to grow in mind and spirit.

While driving on the Ohio Turnpike I saw a sign exhorting drivers.   "Stay Awake, Stay Alive," it cried.  These words, it seems to me, have even deeper significance as a way of life.  The more awake we are to what goes on around us the more alive we will be.  Being wide awake opens the way to experiencing the infinite riches of body, mind, heart and spirit.

We do not sufficiently use the senses God has given us.  The magazine ETC, the quarterly review of the International Society of General Semantics, devoted a full issue to the subject of LSD and other psychedelic drugs.

Editor S.I. Hayakawa made this vital point:  "Most people haven't learned to use the senses they possess.  I not only hear music, I listen to it.  I find the colors of the day such vivid experiences that I sometimes pound the steering wheel with excitement.  And I say why disorient your beautiful senses with drugs and poisons before you have half discovered what they can do for you?"

The great mystics did not fog up the windows of heaven with drugs.  They did not distort their visions with poisons.  They found their own senses and their perceptive ad intuitive powers sufficient to experience the Presence of God.

To make the most of ourselves we must become aware of the miracles all around us.  We must open our eyes, ears, minds, hearts, spirits.  We must think about great ideas such as space illimitable, time everlasting, energy inexhaustible.  You have the magic power within yourself to broaden your horizons, to lift your consciousness, to live more abundantly.

To learn to live with ourselves we must often get away by ourselves so we can find quiet, solitude, and time to think and meditate.

The poet Robert Frost stressed the importance of separateness.  He told a group, of which I was a part, that we must be careful that we do not homogenize society as we homogenize milk. . . so the cream at the top disappears.  The heart and the lungs work together, he explained, but they are also separate organs.  A person, he said, should endeavor to achieve separateness in his or her thinking, even amidst the pressures of the crowd.  And often we may experience a greater feeling of togetherness with people when we are separate and alone, rather than with others.  We must learn to live together, but we must not lose the precious gift of separateness.

The growth of the self, however, is not accomplished only in solitude and isolation.  Aloneness must be balanced with contacts with people and the world.  There is need to try out our ideas on others, to sharpen our minds, to contend with those who disagree with us.  We can learn from our enemies as well as our friends, and often those who are hardest on us contribute more to our growth than those who make things easy for us.

I have always liked these words attributed to Walt Whitman:  "Have you learned lessons only of those who admired you and were tender with you and stood aside for you?  Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed the passage with you?"

The self needs the spur of conflict, competition, even defeat, for out of those come strength and character.

Heed these words by Epictetus:  "So when the crisis is upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a tough and stalwart antagonist--that you may be a winner at the Great Games."

The art of living with ourselves also requires that we be resilient and flexible so we will not break ourselves against the hardness of life.  I learned this important lesson from a naturalist in Bryce Canyon, Utah.  I asked him about the gallant lone pines on the mountaintops that survive the full sweep of wind and storm.

I was told that the pines are called Limber Pines.  To demonstrate, the naturalist took a branch of a Limber Pine and tied it into a knot.  In a few minutes he untied the knot and the branch immediately sprang back to its original position.

It is not through never bending that the trees survive.  It is in never failing to spring erect again after the gale has passed that victory is achieved.

Resiliency is also an important factor in the art of living with ourselves.  The winds of life--the conflicts, pressures, changes--will bend us, but if we have resiliency of the spirit they cannot break us.  To courageously straighten up again after our heads have been bowed by defeat, disappointment and suffering is a supreme test of character.

To learn to live with ourselves, to make the most of ourselves, to achieve wholeness of personality, to grow into more effective human beings--this is the first vital step in the art of living.

   

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Try Giving Yourself
Arline Boucher and John Tehan

Gracious giving requires no special talent, nor large amounts of money.  It is compounded of the heart and head acting together to achieve the perfect means of expressing our feelings.  It is love sharpened with imagination.  For, as Emerson explains, "The only gift is a portion of thyself."

A little girl gave her mother several small boxes tied with bright ribbons.  Inside each were slips of paper on which the child had printed messages such as, "Good for two flower-bed weedings," "Good for two floor-scrubbings."  She had never read Emerson, but unconsciously she put a large part of her small self into her gift.

When unexpected expenses wrecked a business girl's budget at Christmas, she hit upon a similar happy idea.  Her presents that year were "time credit" slips which her friends could cash in at their convenience.  A young couple received slips entitling them to leave the baby with her for two week-ends.  To a niece in college went an offer of her car for a Christmas vacation trip.  An elderly shut-in could claim her time for five reading-aloud sessions.  No costly presents gave so much satisfaction--both ways.

A young bride received a wedding present from an older woman.  With it went a note, "Do not open until you and your husband have your first tiff."  When there finally came a day of misunderstanding the bride remembered the package.  In it she found a card box filled with her friend's favorite recipes--and a note, "You will catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar."  It was a wise woman indeed who gave of her experience with her gift.

Often the most successful gift is a spontaneous one.  Act while the impulse is fresh--giving of yourself knows no special days.

Probably no gift ever thrilled a doctor more than a letter he received from a youngster on her birthday.  "Dear Doctor, 14 years ago you brought me into this world.  I want to thank you, for I have enjoyed every minute of it."

Family gifts should be the most satisfying because we know each member's wish and whim.  Yet how often we make the stereotyped offerings--ties, candy, or household utensils.  One man I know is planning an unusual present for his wife.  When I saw him coming out of a dancing studio, he explained:  "I got tired of hearing my wife complain about my dancing.  It's going to be a lasting birthday present for her--my dancing well."

An elderly lady on an Iowa farm wept with delight when her son in New York had a telephone installed in her house and followed it up with a weekly long-distance call.

Flowers are our first thought for a sick friend.  But why not a more imaginative idea?  A friend in a hospital received a flowerpot filled with dirt.  On top was a packet of seeds with the note, "You'll have more fun growing your own!"  A nurse told me about a woman patient whose recovery dated from the moment a neighbor brought her a pressure cooker, something she had always wanted.

In her autobiography, His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Ethel Waters tells about her gift to Rex Stout when he was convalescing.  Though she was starring at the time in a Broadway play, she turned up early one morning at the hospital and, dressed as a nurse, carried in his breakfast tray.  She spent the day with Stout, diverting him with chitchat, wheeling his chair, giving him all her attention.  Friends of the author said that this was his most cherished gift.

In your own profession or business you have imaginative gift opportunities.  One Christmas morning a Washington, D.C., woman was waiting for a trolley to go to the station when a taxi stopped beside her.  The driver motioned her to get in.  At the station when she fumbled in her purse for the fare, the driver said, "Nothing doing--I asked you.  Merry Christmas."  In memory of her sister who was killed in service during the war, a waitress often pays the checks of servicemen who sit at her table.

All gifts that contain a portion of self signify that someone has been really thinking of us.  One of the most useful and thoughtful travel presents a girl ever received was currency of the country to which she was going.  A friend bought her some pesos from a bank so that she would have the correct money for tips and taxi fare when she first arrived in Mexico.

A GI stationed in Mississippi tells this story:  "I made friends with a sharecropper who lived near camp.  Though poor, he was the most contented man I had ever met.  One day when I was grousing about not being able to borrow $20 that I needed, he handed me the money, saying it was a gift, not a loan.  He explained it this way:  'If I lend you this money and for some reason you never return it, I must always think you have wronged me.  If I give it to you as a gift, we're both happy.  When you have the money and feel you want to make me a gift of $20, then we'll both be happy again.'"

Chances for heroic giving are rare, yet every day there are opportunities to give a part of yourself to someone who needs it.  It may be no more than a kind word or a letter written at the right time.  The important thing about any gift is the amount of yourself you put into it.

1951

   

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I believe imagination is our premium resource. We carry
within us the lost diversity this planet needs. Engaging
our individual expression, using imagination to inform,
expand, and guide us, we can begin to return to Eden.

Suzanne Beth Stinnett
Little Shifts

   

 
Teaching and Learning

I've recently been involved in a discussion about teaching.  In this discussion, several teachers have expressed their opinion that it's a good thing to give students their cell phone numbers and email addresses so that students can contact them at night with questions about their homework.  While on the surface this might seem like a rather harmless perspective, it really does scare me to think of just how often teachers become enablers, and just how little privacy and personal times teachers allow themselves to have.

When I finish teaching for the day, I'm done for the day.  Don't get me wrong--I don't bolt out of the building with the last bell.  I hang around and talk with students and give help wherever I can to those who want it.  I usually coach sports, which puts me at school even longer, and I volunteer for a lot of activities, which adds even more time.  But when I go home, I'm at home and not at work.  My down time at home, the time when I rest my mind and my body and my emotions, is the time that allows me to do well when I am at school.  If I were to receive a call at 8 p.m. from someone who has a question about homework, would I be doing that person any favors by answering the question for them?  Usually not.
   

Education is not the filling of a pail,
but the lighting of a fire.

William Butler Yeats

   
You see, there are two sides to education:  teaching and learning.  The teacher's responsibility reaches only so far--the learner also has a responsibility to put forth some effort to develop strategies for learning material.  We don't learn by simply listening to someone tell us answers--we have to process the information and then hopefully respond to it in ways that show that we truly do understand it.  Our young people today, however, are not learning to do this--they're simply learning to ask someone else for the answers (even if that someone else is a corporate entity such as Google), and then accepting those answers without considering whether they're accurate or not.

Teachers have a very important job; there's no doubt about that.  But that job does not and should not extend into their living rooms at night--when they're done for the day, they should be done for the day.  They need the down time to rest and recuperate.  And if they have given homework, then it's important for their students to come up with the best answers they can, themselves.  The answers may not even be completely accurate, but the process of at least working towards the answers is the most valuable part of learning.  Having a ready source of the answers to call and ask for information does not exactly make a positive learning experience.
    

Learning is not attained by chance.  It must be sought
for with ardor and attended to with diligence.

Abigail Adams
  
Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

Albert Einstein

    
And students need time with material that doesn't make sense to them to try to get it to make sense.  Instead of calling the teacher for an explanation, a student needs to sit down with the material again in order to try to figure out what he or she missed the first time around.  And to do it a third time if they miss things the second time around.  It's in struggling with things that we truly learn about them--things that are simply explained to us by others rarely make their way into our long-term memories.

I don't ever make my students suffer, but I do try to make them think.  I don't hand them answers on a silver platter, but I also don't withhold answers when it looks like someone is reaching the limits of his or her patience, or is about to be overwhelmed with frustration.  You see, I want my students to learn how to deal with problems on their own rather than just call a teacher or type a phrase into a search engine.  When my students move on past my classes, I want them to be self-sufficient--able to ask for help when they really need to do so, but also able to function on their own when they need to.  The attrition rate in college is over 40%, and I know from experience that most of that is due to too many students not being able to function on their own, and not having those teachers who gave them every answer there for them any more.
   

You know that I don't believe that anyone has ever taught anything
to anyone.  I question the efficacy of teaching.  The only thing
that I know is that anyone who wants to learn will learn.  And maybe
a teacher is a facilitator, a person who puts things down and shows
people how exciting and wonderful it is and asks them to eat.

Carl Rogers

   
If we want to learn, the first thing we need to do is to learn how to learn.  If we want our young people to be good learners, we have to help them to learn how to find answers themselves, and not just ask the nearest bystander for information.  Life is an amazing journey, and there's much to learn along the way--and we'll never know how much richer our lives could be, if we but knew how to learn all we can from every situation we face.  So learn how to learn, and teach young people to learn for themselves by not giving them every answer they ask for.

As a teacher, one of my most common answers to a student's question is, "You tell me."  When someone asks what a word means, I give them a dictionary.  It would be easier for all of us if I were just to give the answer, but I'm not looking for easy answers--I'm looking to prepare young people for the adventure that lies before them.  And there are many astonishing adventures in front of you, too, with many wonderful lessons to teach.  May you be ready and able to learn when the chances come your way.

   
More on compassion.

   

  

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In all things preserve integrity;
and the consciousness of your
own uprightness will alleviate
the toil of business, soften the
hardness of ill-success and
disappointments, and give you
a humble confidence before
God, when the ingratitude of
people, or the iniquity of the
times may rob you
of other rewards.

Barbara Paley

  
When your self-identity and beliefs merge, differences feel threatening.  You are likely to defend your turf, become righteous and angry, and possibly shame or abuse other people who see things differently.  When people adopt a belief--be it about religion, politics, sex roles, or whatever--as the one, correct belief, their minds get locked up in a rigid box, and other people with differing beliefs are seen as the enemy.  And what do you do to the enemy?  Abuse them, shame them, hate them, or even kill them. . . .

Listen to your beliefs, think about how you learned them, and realize that they are not genetic, nor are they the "only way."  You are free to acquire new perspectives, to absorb new ideas, and to question everything you were taught to believe.  As your mind opens to exploration and change, you'll feel a new lightness and more joy.

Charlotte Davis Kasl
   

  

They speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such
as offend them or to tribulation.  Tribulation does not make people
impatient, but proves that they are impatient.  So everyone may
learn from tribulation how his or her heart is constituted.

Martin Luther

    

  

   

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