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1 January 2019      

Power and Happiness (an excerpt)
Alan Cohen

This Year
tom walsh

Happy New You!
Wilferd A. Peterson

I shall try to remember all this day that I am
a divine creation with infinite possibilities.
-Benjamin Eitelgeorge

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Simple and Profound Thoughts
(from simpleandprofound.com)

Not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

George Sala

Kindness is never wasted.  If it has no effect on the recipient, at least it benefits the bestower.

S.H. Simmons

To be alive, to be able to see, to walk. . . it's all a miracle.  I have adapted the technique of living life from miracle to miracle.

Artur Rubinstein

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different types of good weather.

John Ruskin


Power and Happiness
an excerpt
Alan Cohen

In my hometown I had been studying with two famous martial arts masters who had joined to create an academy.  When they taught together, the energy was mythic.  Their synergy seemed to call the very gods from heaven.  Those classes gained renown and were filled to overflowing.  I never missed a session.

Then the two teachers had a falling-out.  They accused each other of various indiscretions and they parted ways.  Controversy and gossip followed in the wake, and students were urged to follow one or the other.  The drama of their parting was quite distressing for me.  I could not understand why two gifted teachers could split apart when their chemistry together was so magnificent.  It seemed that they had fallen from their lofty perches to the dregs of human personality.  Bitter and confused, I could not bring myself to choose one or the other.  For that matter, I did not wish to see either.  I went to Lao Tse and told him of my upset.

“You just failed martial arts,” he told me.

His remark disarmed me.  “How did I do that? I have been studying with these teachers for years and I am approaching an advanced belt.”

“The secret of martial arts is to take the power your opponent directs against you, and use it for your benefit.”

Yes, I had learned that.  But what did it have to do with my current dilemma?

“In this case your opponent is not a person.  It is the force of change.  Your resistance to the teachers’ parting is weakening you.  If you accept it as a fact of life, you will regain your power.”

As I tried to absorb the master’s insight, he walked to a cabinet and took out a sword.  He had shown me the weapon once before; it was a gift from a warrior who had renounced battle so he could become Lao Tse’s student.

He handed the gleaming weapon to me.  As the cold steel touched my hands I felt powerful just holding it.

“Now give me the sword,” the master ordered.

I followed his instruction.  Suddenly he took a swipe at my head.  I ducked and spouted a nervous laugh.  I looked at him incredulously.

“You just gave me your power.  Now you are at my mercy.”  He took another swipe, this time closer.  I backed away.  Would this go on all day?

“Now, take back your power.”  The master extended the sword toward me, clutching it with both hands.  I hesitated to reach for it, not wanting to engage in combat with my mentor.

“Go ahead, do as I say.”

I took a breath and tried to grab the sword from him.  He resisted.  I tried harder, until we were wrestling for the weapon.  Finally I pulled it from his grasp.  I’m sure he could have held on to it, but he wanted me to learn the lesson.  We straightened up and dusted ourselves off.

“Now you have your power back,” said Lao Tse.  “Don’t give it away to me or anyone, ever again.”

The lesson was starting to sink in.  “The sword represents the power I gave to my teachers?”

“You gave your power to the condition of them teaching together.  If they are together, you are happy.  If they are not together, you are unhappy.  This is not the way of the Tao.  It is the way of the fool.  You cannot afford to allow your happiness to depend on any external situation.  You must find the source of your happiness within you.  Then nothing in the outside world will be able to remove your peace.”

I handed the weapon back to the master and he replaced it in the cabinet.  Silently he left the room, leaving me to ponder how I had given my power away in many areas of my life.

more on happiness
more on power


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Happy New You!
Wilferd A. Peterson

The conventional Happy New Year approach is to think of the New Year as something that happens outside ourselves.  It is a good luck wish that the New Year, in some magical way, will bring us our heart's desire.  We look to the New Year to make us happy.

When we expect happiness to come to us from the outside we are usually disappointed.  Happiness is not guaranteed by sunny weather, a raise in pay, a new car, a beautiful home or anything else of a material nature.  External things are often possessed by very unhappy people.

Happiness does not come out of a New Year; it comes out of men and women.  Life does not change when we hang a new calendar on the wall or when the clock strikes midnight and a New Year begins.  The only way life will change for us is when we change ourselves.

The source of happiness is not in events happening outside of us; the source of happiness is within us.  We cannot control the outside world but we can control our own thoughts and emotions.  All true happiness is an inner experience.

There is a new phrase to speak to each other as we face the adventure of a New Year. . . "Happy New You!"

The way to make the New Year the best year of your life is to look to yourself, not to the year, for your happiness. . . .

To realize that happiness does not depend on the birth of a New Year, but on the birth of a New You.

To know that the months, weeks, days, hours and minutes of the New Year are empty until you fill them with happiness.

To face the fact that time is dead until you give it life, and that your happiness depends on the quality of life you give it.

Happy New You!



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There is only the moment.  The now.  Only what you are experiencing
at this second is real.  This does not mean you live for the
moment.  It means you live in the moment.

Leo Buscaglia



This Year

I have to start by saying that I don't really believe in the concept of "years."  I accept and live within the constraints of the concept because we human beings have adopted it to explain how time flows in our reality, but the difference between December 31 and January 1 is really just a move from one day to the next, rather than one year to the next.  If I drive across a state line, the landscape and air don't change when I get into the next state--I have exactly the same conditions ten feet into the new state that I had ten feet before I crossed the line, but we like to divide things up and try to compartmentalize everything in our lives to make them easy to deal with.

That said, I do see the start of the new year as a convenient transitional period, a time when I can rather conveniently wrap up a previous chapter in my life and begin a new one.  I like how this metaphor allows for something completely new--in a novel, a new chapter can start out in a new country, in a new time, on a new planet, with new people--whatever the author sees fit to include.

The new chapter doesn't have to affect everything in my life.  I may start a new chapter concerning my teaching, but continue with an ongoing chapter about my running.  I may try to renew a relationship, but let my work chapter continue as it has been going.  I know from experience that if I try to change everything, I run the risk of being overwhelmed with the task before me, and I end up changing nothing.  That's just how things work with me.


We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room,
drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.
Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through
the rooms of our lives. . . not looking for flaws, but for potential.

Ellen Goodman

When we look at a new year, we basically see time stretching out before us--365 days lie ahead of us, and you can multiply that by 24 if you want to know how many hours that is.  Each of those days gives us many possibilities to learn, to grow, to give, to take, to experience, to risk, to challenge ourselves, to do new things that we've never done before.  But sometimes we get caught up in the river that's flowing straight and true within banks that could be called limitations.  Our jobs keep us occupied for so many hours, and then we have tasks that simply must be done on weekends, so that five-day camping/hiking trip isn't going to happen, is it?

And we may put all of our hopes on vacation time, as many people do, only to find that we're not able to go where we wanted because of the wants or needs of a partner or a family member.  So many of our vacation days are spent in the same places doing the same things with the same people that we often go years without doing anything new or different.  And that can be frustrating.

So can we build into this new year ways in which we can do little new things?  Ways in which we can take little risks and gain small new experiences?  I try to do this all the time, often with disappointing results, but often with great ones.  I deal with quite a few people each day, so how can I contribute in a positive way to their lives, even if I see them only for a few minutes, or an hour or two?  In my own life, what can I do to try something new, to do things that nourish my spirit and give me a life that's more dynamic, more spontaneous (sometimes), and more enjoyable?  (And I qualified "spontaneous" because some of my most favorite times are simple, quiet hours spent reading in the afternoon, or resting.  Spontaneity can be great, but it isn't always necessary!)

It depends on us. . . Another year lies before us like an unwritten page,
an unspent coin, an unwalked road.  How the pages will read,
what treasures will be gained in exchange for time,
or what we find along the way, will largely depend on us.

Esther Baldwin York

In my own life, one of the things that I need to do the most is develop a different relationship with time.  I find that as I get older, I get more stingy with my time--I don't want to do this or that thing because it will take time away from other things that I really enjoy.  But that said, when I end up doing other things, I usually end up enjoying myself a great deal.  So I think that I need to go with the flow more often, and allow myself to spend time on things that I may balk at at first, giving myself a chance to meet new people and have new experiences.  For example, I schedule almost nothing in the evenings because I like to relax, but some of my evening activities have been extremely enjoyable.  Perhaps I need more of them!

I also would like to do more things that tap into my creativity rather than things that require of me nothing that anyone else couldn't do.  Much of the work that I do is often redundant, and while I do try to be creative and productive with my writing, there are other creative things that I like to do, like drawing and painting and taking pictures and developing classes that are interesting.  This, also, will require me to re-visit my relationship with time.

I'd also like to get back to writing a lot of letters.  My letter-writing has suffered dramatically over the last few decades.  I used to regularly go to a cafe and write a couple of letters to friends, but I don't do that any more.  Part of the reason is that I almost never got letters back, but I'm wise enough now to realize that getting letters back isn't the reason that we write letters.  It's a nice experience when it happens, but the letters that we write--just like everything else that we give--should be sent without expectations.  When we add expectations of a letter back, the giving that is inherent in a letter simply isn't there any more.  It's become a transaction.

And I'd also like to spend more time in nature, running, hiking, and sitting and enjoying.  This includes when it's raining or snowing, too.  Nature has a calming influence on me, and I love how I feel when I'm in the middle of the forest surrounded by none of the trappings of "modern" life.

Every new year people make resolutions to change
aspects of themselves they believe are negative.
A majority of people revert back to how they were
before and feel like failures.  This year I challenge you
to a new resolution.  I challenge you to just be yourself.

Aisha Elderwyn

These are just three ways that I could enrich my life this year.  Of course, the danger is to do one of each thing the first week, and then stop doing them as I get caught up in daily life.  Another danger is that I'll say to myself, "Yeah, but it's only February.  I'll start painting in the summer or the fall."  And then when the summer and fall come. . . .

These aren't resolutions.  I'm not going to set myself up for failure by making myself promises that I possibly can't keep.  These are things that I truly want to do and that I'll make every effort to do.  And when I do them, great.  But perhaps something else that's equally as desirable will come up, and I'll do that instead--I don't want to be breaking any promises to myself just because I changed my mind or changed my focus, so I won't make these promises.

But I've already written these ideas down on a card that I'll keep next to my favorite spot on the couch so that I can remind myself that I want to do them this year.  I'll read the reminder each day and then decide if that day or that week is when I'm going to do one or the other of them, and we'll just keep going from there, adding to the list when necessary.

My goal isn't to change my life completely or to become a new person.  But I don't want to stagnate and stop learning and growing, and these seem to me to be good ways--and enjoyable ways--of continuing to enjoy life and not allowing it to become drab, dreary, and repetitive.  I like doing nothing very often, resting and relaxing, but it's not a way to live a life if I want that life to count for something.  So this new year gives me a chance--even if it's only an illusion that there's something different between today (2019) and yesterday (2018)--to consider things in my life that I'd like to change, risks that I want to take, and journeys that I want to start.

More on today.


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New Year's Eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no person has quite the same thoughts this evening as those that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.

Hamilton Wright Mabie

Make New Year's goals. Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you're interested in fully living life in the year to come.

Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious, and subconscious level. Goals give our life direction.

What would you like to have happen in your life this year? What would you like to do, to accomplish? What good would you like to attract into your life? What particular areas of growth would you like to have happen to you? What blocks, or character defects, would you like to have removed?

What would you like to attain? Little things and big things? Where would you like to go? What would you like to have happen in friendship and love? What would you like to have happen in your family life?

What problems would you like to see solved? What decisions would you like to make? What would you like to happen in your career?

Write it down. Take a piece of paper, a few hours of your time, and write it all down--as an affirmation of you, your life, and your ability to choose. Then let it go.

The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.

Melody Beattie


The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year.  It is
that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new
backbone, new ears, and new eyes.  Unless a particular person made
New Year resolutions, he or she would make no resolutions.  Unless one
starts afresh about things, that person will certainly do nothing effective.

G.K. Chesterton




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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