8 May 2018      

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Set Your Own Priorities
Kristine Carlson

The Mirror
Bruce I. Doyle III

Loss of Awareness
tom walsh

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Even the common articles made for daily use become endowed with beauty when they are loved.

Soetsu Yanagi

Out of our beliefs are born deeds; out of our deeds we form habits; out of our habits grows our character; and on our character we build our destiny.

Henry Hancock

Giving encouragement to others is a most welcome gift, for the results of it are lifted spirits, increased self-worth, and a hopeful future.

Florence Littauer

  

Set Your Own Priorities
Kristine Carlson

We live in a "gotta keep up, gotta keep going" era.  So, do you continue to live like a sheep, just following the flock because of some irrational fear you're not going to keep up?  Or do you reflect on the kind of life you really want, and then set your own priorities?  My vote is in:  set your own priorities.

Buying in to peer pressure seems ridiculous after the teenage and college years, but many of us buy in without being aware of it.  We rarely define what it is that we really want, or ask ourselves the question, "Why do I want this?"  We just keep ourselves busy adding more, more, more to our daily routine of too much.  We, as mothers, complain of being a chauffeur to our children, and spend countless hours driving them around from activity to activity.  Yet we are the ones who fully control the master schedule.  How much "quality" family time are we really spending at home?

Much of the time, if we are really honest with ourselves, we are signing up our kids for countless activities and basing many of our priorities on what is going on around us.  If our kids aren't doing the same things as everyone else's, we translate this into fearful thoughts such as:  "My kids won't measure up.  They won't have the same opportunities as other children their age.

I'm not a good mother if I don't keep them active."  Really, all we are truly ensuring with this speedy pace is that our children will adopt this philosophy by habit, and you can bet they will do it better.  More, more, more running around.  They will probably barely remember their childhoods, as it will seem to have been a blur.

What happened to "downtime"?  How many kids still run through fields and catch butterflies, press wildflowers, and play with imaginary friends?  The answer to the question, "What are your priorities?", is an individual one.  Do you want to prioritize blasting around from one sport and dance class to the next, or is one activity per kid, per season, enough?

Another thing I've noticed in my own community is the pressure that parents feel to ensure that their children are keeping up with educational standards.  I want to know who decided that nowadays, fifth graders have to do the work we did in the seventh grade?  The number of hours and degree of difficulty of the homework Jazzy had in fifth grade last year blew my mind.  And what shocked me further was the parents who said it was not enough.  One day I asked Jazzy, who was ten years old at the time, "Why don't you go outside and play?"  She responded in frustration:  "Mom, I have too much work today--I can't be a kid anymore!"  Boy, don't kids just say it straight the way it is?

While on the one hand, I want my kids to do what is expected of them in school because it teaches them responsibility, I take issue with the amount of work they're being given.  Childhoods are fleeting, and we only get one chance to create those special memories for our children.  I want my kids to grow up and say, "Wasn't being a kid great?"

So, figure out what your priorities really are, and hold on tight to being true to them.  You constantly need to ask yourself and your family:  Are we doing too much?  Are the activities we are selecting benefiting us--or are they burdening us?  Are our children under too much pressure?  Are we under too much pressure?

Set your own priorities; evaluate and contemplate the manner in which you are living your life.  Live life the way you want to, with your own set of values.  Stop running around simply because "you gotta keep up, and you gotta keep going."  You will take an enormous weight off your shoulders by letting go of this attitude, and you will find the payoff intrinsically enormous!

more on slowing down

   

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The Mirror
Bruce I. Doyle III

When we examine the concept that your beliefs determine your experiences, we will see that your experiences (external events) are driven by your beliefs (internal events).  You can then use the outer events to see what you really believe.  This is often referred to as mirroring.

The universe you experience mirrors your belief system back to you.  If you want to change your experiences, you must change your beliefs.  Your life experiences are great teachers, but if you don't realize that you're in class, you may miss the entire course.  Sure, it will be offered again, but you know what happens to tuition every year!

. . . . In most cases, the reflections of unpleasantness that are mirrored back to you (your perceptions) have to do with beliefs you hold about yourself.  Poor self-esteem is the major cause of individuals' dissatisfaction with their lives.  We experience our defined inadequacies and limiting beliefs (many of which are transparent) by seeing in others what we are not seeing or what we refuse to accept about ourselves.  Next time you feel critical of someone, reflect back and see if you aren't, in some way, identifying with a trait in yourself that you don't like or haven't accepted.

If you issue a judgment--either verbally or mentally--about someone else's behavior and that judgment is accompanied by emotion, you're getting hooked.  The emotion is a great indicator that you have an opportunity for some self-discovery and possible healing on the issue in question.  If you only observe someone else's behavior, just notice it without any emotional response, you are clear.

Don't be ashamed if you find yourself issuing judgments.  This behavior is something that may take some time to change, should you choose to do so.  Every one of those judgments is tied to a belief.  It may take a while to track down all those beliefs.  Be kind to yourself as you do so.  Judging yourself for judging others just compounds the issue.

I can recall often hearing, as I was growing up, my grandfather and my dad speaking critically and very judgmentally of other people--those who were different from them.  Those of another race and people who were poor were deemed "naturally lazy," and those who were "the filthy rich" were "crooks."  I didn't think that much of those opinions rubbed off; we had only one black person in school, and I liked him a lot.  He was always in a good mood and usually had us in stitches.  Later in life I had other friends who were different from me.

I never thought, therefore, that I had an issue with race until I fell in love, head over heels, with the woman of my dreams.  Shortly after we began dating, she informed me that her previous relationship had been with a black man.  I was stunned.  My judgment was put right in my face.  It wasn't transparent any longer.  I had a long list of judgmental beliefs about the kind of white woman who would date a black man.  I had to either walk away from the relationship to prove that I was right or look at my limiting beliefs.  They sure didn't fit my current beliefs about the woman I was dating.  The mental conflict was agonizing.

Fortunately, she was understanding, and I was able to get in touch with my limiting beliefs about the situation and release them.  It took several months of soul-searching to let go of them--not to mention the male insecurity issues they dug up.

Things always happen for a good reason.  Several years later, my youngest daughter introduced us to her new boyfriend during parents' week at college.  You guessed it--he was black.  I was pleased that it didn't bother me a bit.  He was a nice young man.  It felt good to have that issue behind me, too.

Each time you let go of a limiting belief, life gets calmer and calmer.  The mental chatter just diminishes.  It's your assessment (perception) of external events that creates your experience of them.  If you don't like what you're experiencing, you can always revise your assessment of what's happening.

more on beliefs

   

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The therapist does not treat patients by simply giving them
another set of beliefs.  He or she tries to help them see which
kinds of ideas and beliefs have led to their suffering.  Many
patients want to get rid of their painful feelings, but they
do not want to get rid of their beliefs, the viewpoints
that are the very roots of their feelings.

Thich Nhat Hanh

   

 

Loss of Awareness

One of my biggest fears for human beings comes to me because of what I see in our world all around me, every day.  I constantly watch as more and more people pay attention more to their phones than to the trees that surround them; more to Facebook and Snapchat than to the information they're supposed to be learning in class; more to the conversation they're having while walking down the street than to the people they pass while walking.  We're facing a world in which people know less about the world they live in than they know about the virtual worlds that don't exist at all, except as a collection of byte-sized instructions that allow programs to run.

For many people these days, it seems as if the world around them doesn't exist any more.  They're so focused on what comes through their omnipresent phones that they no longer hear the sounds of the birds, and they don't feel the touch of the breezes.  They hardly listen when the person they happen to be with at the moment because their minds are on whether or not a certain person has responded to the last text message, and what that person may say when they do respond.

How many sunsets are being lost?  How many nice moments with strangers aren't happening?  How many learning experiences are being passed by?

   

Today, I choose awareness.
I choose to be aware of the beauty of life and living.
I choose to be aware of the simple truths in life.
I choose to be aware of the simple pleasures in life.

Iyanla Vanzant

   
When I went to college, we didn't have things like that to carry around with us, so there was much more connection between people all the time.  After all, we were all students at the same school, so we had something in common from the start.  I had many conversations with people I didn't know who just happened to be in the same place as I at the same time.  There were still the people who avoided eye contact for whatever reason--social fears, insecurities, disinterest.  But all in all, we were in an environment that was stimulating because of the unmitigated potential--you never knew whom you were going to meet on which day.

When I watch people walking around campus now, though, I see that at least half of them have their eyes exclusively on their phones, except for the occasional glance up to make sure they're not about to walk into a light pole.  When I walk into my classroom a few minutes before class starts, more often than not all of the students are focused on their phones.  I tell them often, "I remember when you got to class early so that you could have a nice conversation with the person next to you," but in general, they really don't care to hear that.  I know that they're losing a great opportunity to get to know someone much better by having a decent conversation, but they've made the decision that what's on their phone is more important to them than the person sitting next to them.

So they'll never be aware of certain things.  They'll never know that the person next to them or behind them likes to read the same books, belongs to a club that would be very interesting, has the same problems with his or her parents that they do.  They don't know where the other people in class are from, and they don't know anything about their hopes and dreams and aspirations--all because they choose to ignore the people in the room with them in favor of checking their email or looking at videos of cats being silly.

I also see a loss of awareness in the ways that people are making themselves busier and busier all the time.  It used to be that we knew who the busy people were--they were the exception to the rule, the workaholics who spent so much time fulfilling commitments at work or in their social worlds that they didn't have time to sit quietly and have a cup of coffee or tea and simply experience the world around them.  Because we tend to get so busy so often, we don't learn nearly as much about the broader lessons in life.  If I'm focused on my job all the time, it's hard for me to learn about anything else.  I know parents who don't know much of anything about their kids because they're so focused on work and social obligations that they don't have time to sit down and enjoy their children's company and learn something about them.
    

I shall open my eyes and ears.  Once every day I shall simply stare
at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person.  I shall not then be
concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that
they are.  I shall joyfully allow them their "divine,
magical, and ecstatic" existence.

Clyde S. Kilby

    
And of course, the question is, "so what?"  Who says that people need to be aware of their surroundings?  If they like being on their phones all the time, then what's wrong with that?  Isn't that just another kind of awareness, or awareness of something else other than the natural world and the people around you?

The problem that I see with this question is that the awareness of what's on a computer or phone screen is simply awareness of things that other people have said or done, and our only possibility of interacting with that input lies in reacting, not acting.  It also sets up expectations for us--once I text someone or send them a message through social media, I have the expectation that they'll respond.  And in that response I don't hear tone of voice, and I don't see the look in the eyes of the person with whom I'm communicating.  My "awareness" is limited to a very narrow set of inputs, while I'm still missing the awareness of the beauty that surrounds me.  It's like having a wonderful dinner put in front of me, but eating only the bread on the side plate.  The bread may taste good, but it provides very few nutrients and only a tiny bit of the flavor available to us.

A lack of awareness deprives us of the experience of the richness of the world in general and our immediate surroundings.  When we have material wealth, we generally use that to improve our situations, to make our homes more attractive and enjoyable, to enjoy some of the things that we need money to do (like travel).  Yet without awareness, our spiritual, intangible wealth goes untapped.  When we don't see the beauty, we never appreciate it.  When we don't know that something amazing is right in front of us, we never experience that amazing something.  If we never find out that this other person knows a lot about something that interests us, then we never benefit from that person's knowledge and experience.
   

How then, do we come in contact with ourselves?  Number one,
by becoming aware.  Isn't that a nice word--aware?  It kind of hits
you right where it matters, doesn't it?  To be aware.  To be aware
of everything.  To be aware of life.  To be aware of growth, to be
aware of death, to be aware of beauty, to be aware of people,
flowers, trees.  Open your mind and begin to see and feel!

Leo Buscaglia

   
Likewise, a lack of awareness keeps us from seeing need.  Many of us are very good at seeing need in the visible things that are supposedly within our control--the floor needs swept, the laundry needs done, the tree needs to be pruned.  But how long does our son or daughter feel depressed before we recognize the changes in behavior?  How many words of encouragement do we not share because we don't see that someone else is struggling with something important?  How often can we not answer a question about our own town or neighborhood because we never spend the time to get to know our own surroundings?  Do the flowers need water?  Does the dog need attention because it's feeling neglected?  Do you, yourself, need some down time because of the stress you're going through, but that you don't recognize because you're unaware of the present moment, thinking instead about next week's work?

How often do we rob ourselves of the experience of something beautiful because we simply don't have time--or make time--to stop and ponder the beauty that is there?

How many times have you heard someone say--or said yourself--"This is wonderful; I never knew it was here?"

We work to develop awareness because it's beneficial to us.  It helps us to learn about the world we live in, to take care of the world, and to contribute to that world; to learn about ourselves, and to take good care of ourselves.  Without awareness of our present moment and our surroundings and the people in our lives, our lives become empty shells, full of unfulfilled potential to contribute.  So today, just once, stop for two or three minutes and make yourself fully aware of your surroundings--the sky, the air, the trees, the pictures on someone's desk, the beauty of the music you're listening to, the sparkle in the eye of the person you're with, the intricacy of the woodwork in the building you're in.  When you can develop that awareness and fully appreciate your surroundings, then you've taken a huge step towards becoming the person that you're meant to be.

   
More on awareness.

   
   

  

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I believe that the first test of a truly great person is his or her humility.  I do not mean by humility, doubt of his or her own powers.  But really great people have a curious feeling that the greatness is not in them, but through them.  And they see something divine in every other person.

John Ruskin

  

Creating Your Character is Like an Artist Creating a Sculpture
Jim Rohn

Could creating your character be likened to an artist creating a sculpture?  I believe that character is not something that just happens by itself, any more than a chisel can create a work of art without the hand of an artist guiding it.  In both instances, a conscious decision for a specific outcome has been made.  A conscious process is at work.  Character is the result of hundreds and hundreds of choices you make that gradually turn who you are, at any given moment, into who you want to be.  If that decision-making process is not present, you will still be somebody. You will still be alive, but may have a personality rather than a character.

Character is not something you were born with and can't change like your fingerprint.  In fact, because you weren't born with it, it is something that you must take responsibility for creating.  I don't believe that adversity by itself builds character and I certainly don't think that success erodes it.  Character is built by how you respond to what happens in your life, whether it's winning every game or losing every game, getting rich or dealing with hard times.

You build character out of certain qualities that you must create and diligently nurture within yourself, just like you would plant and water a seed or gather wood and build a campfire.  You've got to look for those things in your heart and in your gut.  You've got to chisel away in order to find them, just like chiseling away the rock in order to create the sculpture that has previously existed only in your imagination.

But do you want to know the really amazing thing about character?  If you are sincerely committed to making yourself into the person you want to be, you'll not only create those qualities, but you'll continually strengthen them.  And you will recreate them in abundance even as you are drawing on them every day of your life.  Just like the burning bush in the biblical book of Exodus, the bush burned but the flames did not consume it.  Character sustains itself and nurtures itself even as it is being put to work, tested, and challenged.  And once character is formed, it will serve as a solid, lasting foundation upon which to build the life you desire.

   

  

We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are.
Sane or insane.  Saints or sex addicts.  Heroes or victims.
Letting history tell us how good or bad we are.  Letting our
past decide our future.  Or we can decide for ourselves.  And
maybe it's our job to invent something better.

Chuck Palahniuk
Choke

    

  

   

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