3 July 2018      

Good day!  We're just more than half-way into the year now, in our
seventh month.  How are you going to spend your first full month of summer?

Always Do Your Best (an excerpt)
Don Miguel Ruiz

The Loving Person
John Marks Templeton

Happiness
tom walsh

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You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one.  Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own.  It's just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.

Paulo Coelho

People should never be ashamed to own they have been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that they are wiser today than they were yesterday.

Alexander Pope

Disbelief in magic can force
a poor soul into believing in
government and business.

Tom Robbins

  

Always Do Your Best
an excerpt
Don Miguel Ruiz

There is just one more agreement, but it's the one that allows the other three to become deeply ingrained habits.  The fourth agreement is about the action of the first three:  Always do your best.

Under any circumstances, always do your best, no more and no less.  But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next.  Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.  When you wake up refreshed and energized in the morning, your best will be better than when you are tired at night.  Your best will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick, or sober as opposed to drunk.  Your best will depend on whether you are feeling wonderful and happy, or upset, angry, or jealous.

In your everyday moods your best can change from one moment to another, from one hour to the next, from one day to another.  Your best will also change over time.  As you build the habit of the four new agreements, your best will become better than it used to be.

Regardless of the quality, keep doing your best--no more and no less than your best.  If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough.

When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself, and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal.  But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgment, guilt, and regrets.

Just do your best--in any circumstance in your life.  It doesn't matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself.  And if you don't judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment.  By always doing your best, you will break a big spell that you have been under.

There was a man who wanted to transcend his suffering so he went to a Buddhist temple to find a Master to help him.  He went to the Master and asked, "Master, if I meditate four hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?"

The Master looked at him and said, "If you meditate four hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in ten years."

Thinking he could do better, the man then said, "Oh, Master, what if I meditated eight hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?"

The Master looked at him and said, "If you meditate eight hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in twenty years."

"But why will it take me longer if I meditate more?" the man asked.

The Master replied, "You are not here to sacrifice your joy or your life.  You are here to live, to be happy, and to love.  If you can do your best in two hours of meditation, but you spend eight hours instead, you will only grow tired, miss the point, and you won't enjoy your life.  Do your best, and perhaps you will learn that no matter how long you meditate, you can live, love, and be happy."

more on moderation

   

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The Loving Person
John Marks Templeton

Two students, Bill and Mike, moved to new towns with their parents.  Bill disliked his new community from the first day.  He felt the new school was inferior to the one he had attended in his former hometown.  His new classmates seemed boring and unfriendly.  "I wish we hadn't moved here," Bill told his parents.  "This is a cold, dull place, and I'll never fit in."

Mike was far more fortunate.  He discovered that his new school was not only excellent academically, but provided many interesting activities and challenges.  "I can't believe how many new friends I made today," he stated to his family at the dinner table after his first day at Miller High.  "I feel as though some of the students have been my friends forever."  Before you pity Bill for not moving to a town as warm and friendly as the one Mike moved to, you should know that they moved to the same town, the same neighborhood, and they attended the same school!

Why did two young people respond to a similar situation so differently?  Bill tends to expect the worst in life, whereas Mike is outgoing and friendly.  Mike went to the new school with a smile on his face and an open and positive outlook.  Mike is a loving person who lives in a loving world.

The loving person creates a positive atmosphere.  Jill, for example, was a loving person.  She was the friend you could count on--always ready to listen, to help, and to comfort.  When Jill's mother died of cancer while Jill was still in high school, she was surrounded by love, not only from her family but also from her many friends.  Jill's giving of herself was being returned ten-fold.  Even in great sorrow, she lived in a loving world.

The loving person can feel hurt, can experience anger, can be put out at someone for some reason.  These are human emotions.  Life, after all, offers its share of disappointments, troubles, worries, and sorrows for each of us.  We cannot expect continuously happy days.  But the loving person refuses to allow negative emotions to become dominant.  The loving person can forgive another who may have hurt him or her.  The loving person goes for a long walk or becomes involved in an activity that takes his or her mind off the feelings of anger or frustration that may be threatening his or her peace of mind.  Loving people clear the air by talking with the person with whom they may be angry, and then perhaps offer a hug or a handshake in reconciliation.  Regardless of the degrees of stress or confusion they must undergo, those people's worlds continue to be loving worlds.

Try a smile instead of a scowl.  Expect the best and not the worst.  Do your utmost to be understanding and to care for the people in your life.  The "Bills" of this world often find things to complain about throughout their lives.  The "Mikes," on the other hand, not only look for the best but help to create that best through their own attitudes and integrity.  The loving person, from youth to old age, lives in a loving world and leads a full and happy life, finding the strength to face problems and tragedies because of the loving world they inhabit.

Dr. Glenn Mosley wrote the following in an article entitled "Love and Friendship":  "Love is more than sentiment; it is a need, a hunger, a thirst that is perfectly natural.  No one can live happily without giving and receiving love.  It is the fulfilling of the law, and the fulfilling of life.  We must understand Jesus' teachings on love. . . . 'God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.'  In other words, to the extent that we let this divine activity hold sway in us we become a portion of the divine heart of God."

It may sometimes seem difficult to be open to others who may seem cranky, ill-tempered, selfish, and hostile.  Yet, a loving person realizes that understanding another's problems and frustrations can help to open the way to compassion.  A loving person, living in a loving world, knows that the miracle of love can find a way to pass the "impassable" human relations obstacle.

  

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Try to be mindful, and let things take their natural course.  Then your mind will
become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool.  All kinds
of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will
clearly see the nature of all things.  You will see many strange and
wonderful things come and go, but you will be still.

Ajahn Chah

   

 

Happiness

I know some people who, I'm sorry to say, probably will never be happy.  They're living on the same planet as the rest of us, have the same opportunities as those people around them, know people who are very similar to the people everyone else knows, and whose bodies function just as well as other people's bodies, yet they look at the world in dark and depressing ways.  They don't see opportunity, but rather limitations.  They don't see other people as potential friends or at least fellow travelers to the grave; rather, they see them as threats or at the very most as wastes of their time.

Sometimes I feel that the main goal in life is to be happy, and from happiness, all other good things will spring.  The truly happy person is more likely to serve others, to feel hope and compassion, to love others unconditionally, because they don't have a lot of emotional needs that they expect others to fulfill.  They're happy because they see the world as a bright and beautiful place, and they're right there in the middle of it.  And they're happy because they've made the most of their opportunities, and they're grateful for having had them.  And they're happy because they've spread love to others, even in very small ways that may seem insignificant to other people who probably aren't all that happy because they need to judge all the things that other people do.

   

The happiness which we receive from ourselves is greater
than that which we obtain from our surroundings. . . .The
world in which a person lives shapes itself chiefly by the
way in which he or she looks at it.

Arthur Schopenhauer

   
As I grow older and older, I realize that most of my happiness depends upon me and not just on the ways that I see the world, but also on the ways that I act in the world.  I can see the world as a wonderful place, but if I don't contribute to that wonder, I'm pretty sure that I won't be happy.  Therefore, I'm busier in some ways than many other people who have hours a day to spend in front of the television or computer screen, but I'm busy doing things that I love doing, so that's okay.  (I still need rests from these things, though, but that's for next week!)  I don't feel obligated to contribute and I don't feel that others judge me harshly if I don't contribute, but the ways I feel when I do contribute make it all completely worthwhile.

I've also learned to keep my expectations fairly low, not because I don't think that others are capable of meeting high expectations, but because my judgment doesn't help other people to grow and thrive and be happy themselves.  I don't know where other people are in their journeys, and there's no justification for me to expect them to be at certain points that they may or may not have reached yet.  They are where they are, and it's my responsibility--especially with my students--to find out where that is and meet them there rather than expecting them to meet me where I am.
    

It was probably a mistake to pursue happiness; much better to
create happiness; still better to create happiness for others.  The
more happiness you created for others the more would be yours—a
solid satisfaction that no one could ever take away from you.

Lloyd Douglas

    
I want to be happy, but I don't want to be so at the expense of others--I don't want to find my happiness in the act of defeating others or making them less than they are.  I want to be happy, but I can't just simply sit around and wait for the world to make me happy--I need to take an active role in finding and maintaining the happy states in my life.  I know that I would not be happy doing something like going to the beach every day for the rest of my life and sitting in the sun.  That's a very enjoyable pastime now and then, but it doesn't make for a life.  I'll never be happy watching television for hours every day--then I'm passively taking in other people's work, other people's perspectives, other people's creativity.

I'm fortunate to have identified some of my strengths, and the things that I'm strongest at are the things that I'm using right now to contribute to others.  I'm a good runner, so I'm volunteering my time to help coach a kids' track and cross-country team.  I'm good at languages, so I'm teaching languages right now as my main source of income.  I'm good at reading and interpreting literature, so I've spent many years teaching others to do the same thing in my English classes.  I'm good at writing, so I'm trying to write as much as I can in ways that may or may not help others--I can't control whether those ways actually do help others, but I can put my stuff out there for others to access, and let life take care of the rest.
   

The life that is sharing in the interests, the welfare, and the happiness
of others is the one that is continually expanding in beauty
and in power and, therefore, in happiness.

Ralph Waldo Trine

   
Perhaps the key to all my efforts are the last seven words there:  "let life take care of the rest."  I've identified my strengths and I'm using them, but happiness would still be hard to find if I had high expectations about how people react to what I do.  As a teacher, I don't get disappointed in students who don't understand what I'm teaching, for that disappointment would drag me down.  Rather, I look for other ways to present the material so that they may get it easier.  As a coach, I don't expect every runner to improve their times by certain amounts--instead, I'm glad when they put forth the effort because I know that not everyone's mind and body are ready for the type of running that we're doing.  My happiness does not depend on their performance, though I do make every effort that I can to help them to improve.

There are things that I'm bad at, too, and I do not let those things erode or deteriorate my happiness.  I accept my lack of ability and do the best I can in those areas, and I even try to improve in them, but I don't beat myself up about them if I don't perform to certain standards.  While I'm quite good at painting the walls of a room, I'm not very good at all at painting pictures.  That's okay.  I'm quite good at encouraging other people, but I'm not good at all at meeting strangers, except in certain well-defined situations.  That's okay--I'll never be a social butterfly, but I can live with that.  If my social calendar were fuller, I wouldn't have time to do many of the other things that I do.

I want to be happy, and it's important that I do the things that will make me happy and that I do my best to add something positive to the lives of others.  That will give me the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that will help me to be happy, as long as I don't mess it up by adding to the mix expectations that probably can't be met--which would lead to my disappointment, which would diminish my happiness, etc., etc.  My happiness is within my reach because I determine whether I'm creating the conditions in which it can thrive or not, and I determine just what I need to do to make happiness a real part of my life.

   
More on happiness.

   

   
  

   

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We ought for our own good to have access to nature and knowledge of it.  To my mind, it is monstrous that any child should grow up without some acquaintance with nature, and above all I would say without an opportunity for intimate knowledge of some individual plants and animals.

J.B.S. Haldane

  
The promise Creator gives us
Comes with every new day,
The gift of breath, the gift of life,
Opportunities in a vast array.
How do we count our blessings,
Through the choices life can bring?
Is it through joyful lessons?
Or the fears to which we cling?
Are we learning to show gratitude,
For the victories over human pain?
By honoring the feeling choices,
We grasp the will we've regained.
Can we change our focus,
With no need to defend?
Acknowledging joy and sorrow,
Without judging foe or friend?
Tomorrow promises the fullness
Of every human way to know:
How we master each challenge
Determines our balance -
reflecting how we grow.

The Promise of Tomorrow
Jamie Sams
"Earth Medicine"
   

  

Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that
face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality.
We feel that the road to technology. . . . has led modern society to a damaged and seared
earth.  Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction,
and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional
native people have traveled and are now seeking again?
The earth is not scorched on this trail.  The grass is still growing there.

William Commanda

    

  

   

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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