19 February 2024         

   

Thank you for being here with us today!  We all have another week
to do with as we will, and we hope that you're able to create many
positive moments for yourself and for the other people in your world!

    

   

   

Voluntary Simplicity
Jon Kabat-Zinn

A Commitment to Laughter
Earl Nightingale

Recreation
tom walsh

   

   

     
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Simple and Profound Thoughts
(from Simple and Profound)

The world is full of wonders and miracles but people take their little hands and cover their eyes and see nothing.   -Israel Baal Shem

We should never be ashamed to own we have been in the wrong, which is but saying in other words, that we are wiser today than we were yesterday.
-Jonathan Swift

Don't laugh at youth for their affectations; they are only trying on one face after another to find their own.
-
Logan P. Smith

They who labor diligently need never despair, for all things are accomplished by diligence and labor.   -Menander

   

  
Voluntary Simplicity
Jon Kabat-Zinn

The impulse frequently arises in me to squeeze another this or another that into this moment.  Just this phone call, just stopping off here on my way there.  Never mind that it might be in the opposite direction.

I've learned to identify this impulse and mistrust it.  I work hard at saying no to it.  It would have me eat breakfast with my eyes riveted to the cereal box, reading for the hundredth time the dietary contents of the contents, or the amazing free offer from the company.  This impulse doesn't care what it feeds on, as long as it's feeding.  The newspaper is an even better draw, or the L.L. Bean catalogue, or whatever else is around.  It scavenges to fill time, conspires with my mind to keep me unconscious, lulled in a fog of numbness to a certain extent, just enough to fill or overfill my belly while I actually miss breakfast.  It has me unavailable to others at those times, missing the play of light on the table, the smells in the room, the energies of the moment, including arguments and disputes, as we come together before going our separate ways for the day.

I like to practice voluntary simplicity to counter such impulses and make sure nourishment comes at a deep level.  It involves intentionally doing only one thing at a time and making sure I am here for it.  Many occasions present themselves:  taking a walk, for instance, or spending a few moments with the dog in which I am really with the dog.  Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.  It all ties in.

It's not a real option for me as a father of young children, a breadwinner, a husband, an oldest son to my parents, a person who cares deeply about his work to go off to one Walden Pond or another and sit under a tree for a few years, listening to the grass grow and the seasons change, much as the impulse beckons at times.  But within the organized chaos and complexity of family life and work, with all their demands and responsibilities, frustrations and unsurpassed gifts, there is ample opportunity for choosing simplicity in small ways.

Slowing everything down is a big part of this.  Telling my mind and body to stay put with my daughter rather than answering the phone, not reacting to inner impulses to call someone who "needs calling" right in that moment, choosing not to acquire new things on impulse, or even to automatically answer the siren call of magazines or television or movies on the first ring are all ways to simplify one's life a little.  Others are maybe just to sit for an evening and do nothing, or to read a book, or go for a walk alone or with a child or with my wife, to restack the woodpile or look at the moon, or feel the air on my face under the trees, or go to sleep early.

I practice saying no to keep my life simple, and I find I never do it enough.  It's an arduous discipline all its own, and well worth the effort.  Yet it is also tricky.  There are needs and opportunities to which one must respond.  A commitment to simplicity in the midst of the world is a delicate balancing act.  It is always in need of retuning, further inquiry, attention.  But I find the notion of voluntary simplicity keeps me mindful of what is important, of an ecology of mind and body and world in which everything is interconnected and every choice has far-reaching consequences.  You don't get to control it all.  But choosing simplicity whenever possible adds to life an element of deepest freedom which so easily eludes us, and many opportunities to discover that less may actually be more.
  
* * *

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  I say let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen. . . . In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and the thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a person has to live, if one would not founder and go to the bottom and not make one's port at all, by dead reckoning, and one must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds.  Simplify, simplify.     -Henry David Thoreau

more thoughts and ideas on simplicity

   

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A Commitment to Laughter
Earl Nightingale

One of the enriching blessings of growing older all the time is that it has a way of improving one’s commitment to laughter — or at least it should.  The person without a good sense of humor is a person to avoid as though he were a known carrier of the plague.

Horace Walpole once said, “I have never yet seen or heard anything serious that was not ridiculous.”  And Samuel Butler said, “The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken seriously.”  It has been said that seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.  Oscar Wilde said, “It is a curious fact that the worst work is always done with the best intentions, and that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves very seriously.”

I remember that when I was in the service, one of the toughest jobs I had was to keep from laughing at the wrong times — during an admiral’s inspection, for example.  There is nothing funnier than the seriousness of the military, especially high-ranking military.  The fancy costumes, the panoply, the shining sabers, the serious faces — it was all, to me, hilariously funny.

We can be serious about situations.  When a youngster is ill or hurt, or someone insults your spouse, you can get very serious about the situation in a hurry.  But that’s not taking ourselves seriously. That’s different.

The thing that bothered me about Hemingway, as much as I admired his work, was that I thought he tended to take himself too seriously.  He didn’t seem to be able to laugh at himself.  And I think he suffered from this flaw in his character.

I have found it a good rule of thumb to be slightly suspicious of anyone who takes himself too seriously.  There’s usually something fishy there someplace. I think this is why we love children so much:  Life is a game to them.  They will do their best at whatever work is given them, but they never seem to lose their ebullient sense of humor; there is always a sparkle of humor in their eyes.  When a child lacks this, he or she is usually in need of help.

Dictators are famous for their lack of humor.  The mark of a cruel person is that he doesn’t seem to be able to see anything funny in the world.  And, a sense of humor was what was so great about Mark Twain.  No matter how serious the subject, he could find the humor in it and bring it out.  All the great comedians have this ability to see what’s funny in the so-called serious situation.  They can poke fun at themselves.  There are those who believe that a sense of humor is the only thing that has kept the human race from totally extinguishing itself.

People who are emotionally healthy, with a sense of proportion, are cheerful people.  They tend to look upon the bright side of things and see a lot of humor in their daily lives.  They’re not Pollyannas — they know what’s going on and that a lot of it’s not at all funny — but they don’t permit the dark side of things to dominate their lives.  To my mind, when a person lacks a sense of humor, there’s something pretty seriously wrong with him.

Samuel Butler said, “A sense of humor keen enough to show a man his own absurdities as well as those of other people will keep a man from the commission of all sins, or nearly all, save those that are worth committing.”

It took a sense of humor to write that, and only people with blank spaces where their senses of humor should be will find it offensive.  There’s something so healthy about laughter, especially when it’s directed at ourselves.

There are times for all of us when all the laughter seems to be gone, but we should not permit these periods to last too long.  When we’ve lost our sense of humor, there isn’t very much left.  We become ridiculous.  We must then go to war against the whole world, and that’s a war we cannot win.

* * * *

Learn more about Earl here.
  

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Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what
you feel.  And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you
must feel that you can trust them, too--even when you’re
in the dark.  Even when you’re falling.

Morrie Schwartz (quoted by Mitch Albom)
Tuesdays With Morrie

   

 
Recreation

I've known many, many people who truly have had no idea what recreation means.  They might have had an idea of what it's supposed to be in the backs of their minds, but they never truly engaged in any sort of recreation themselves, and without exception, they paid very heavy prices for this neglect in their lives.  There are few things as important to us as true recreation, putting ourselves in situations in which we are able to put aside the day-to-day stresses and anxieties and focus fully on the present moment--in which we're doing something completely different than we normally do.

In my own life, there are few things that are more important than recreation.  I don't focus on recreation to the extent at which I neglect my responsibilities, but I do make sure that I set aside time in order to do things that are fun, that get me out into nature, and that keep me focused on something different from the things that I normally focus on, whether that be paying attention to a hiking trail and my surroundings, walking through a town or a park where I've never been before, or even playing tag or throwing a frisbee around with a kid who doesn't have any desire at all to talk about my job or my family or my bills.

Recreation is about using our bodies in different ways and keeping our minds focused on something different--in this latter way, it's definitely a form of meditation when it can keep our thoughts occupied with thoughts that push out those thoughts that cause us stress and keep us worried.  And when our recreation keeps us focused on an activity for an extended period of time, we can return to our thoughts about work or family problems almost with a new mind, and certainly with a refreshed mind, which can help us to gain new insights and to tackle problems without also having to deal with exhaustion.
   

The word "recreation" is really a very beautiful
word.  It is defined in the dictionary as "the
process of giving new life to something, of
refreshing something, of restoring something."
This something, of course, is the whole person.

Bruno Hans Geba

   
Few of us would be cruel enough to run a horse to exhaustion.  But many of us are cruel enough to run ourselves to exhaustion, especially mental exhaustion.  The symptoms of mental exhaustion generally aren't visible enough for us to take them for the very real warning signs that they are, so we allow ourselves to pass through them, telling ourselves that we're just tired or cranky or wimpy, and that we should just drive on and get things done.  This is a very destructive pattern of behavior, though.

When I teach writing, I tell my students that if they have a five-hour block set aside to write a paper or to study a unit, it's much better to work for two hours, then take a twenty- or thirty-minute walk, and then come back to the work.  This short recreation break can make the difference between work well done and work finished in a state of exhaustion--which probably won't be the best work they can do.  The recreation allows them to shift their thinking to something else so that when they come back to the subject of their work or study, their minds are fresher and much more able to make important connections.
    

Our age has become so mechanical that this has also affected
our recreation.  People have gotten used to sitting down and
watching a movie, a ball game, a television set.  It may be good
once in a while, but it certainly is not good all the time.  Our
own faculties, our imagination, our memory, the ability to do
things with our mind and our hands–-they need to be exercised.
If we become too passive, we get dissatisfied.

Maria von Trapp

    
And I have to agree with Maria--sitting down and watching something is not a true form of recreation, for it's completely passive in nature.  Recreation needs to be active so that our minds can be focused on something other than a screen--we focus on catching or hitting a ball, or making something concrete, or looking at our surroundings.  We get our blood flowing and we stimulate the production of chemicals that keep us feeling vital and alive.  We remind our bodies that they were created to be active, and through our activities we allow them to be so.

"Re-creation" is not simply about entertainment.  It's about taking care of ourselves and our minds, bodies, and spirits.  It's about taking time away from our everyday pursuits and using that time to rejuvenate ourselves so that we can be more effective in what we do, and so that we can enjoy it more when we get back to our normal tasks.  Too many businesses don't understand this, and they try to get people to stay focused only on work, hour after hour, day after day, week after week.  They don't understand that the breaks that we take for recreation help us to do a much better job in the time we dedicate to our work.
   

Recreation's purpose is not to kill time, but to make
life, not to keep a person occupied, but to keep them
refreshed; not to offer an escape from life,
but to provide a discovery of life.

unattributed

   
What do you enjoy as a recreational activity?  Do you do it often enough?  If not, how could you manage to work more recreational time into your schedule?  Remember, doing so isn't about trying to get out of work or to shirk your responsibilities, but it is about trying to make sure that you're in an optimal state for making sure that you meet those responsibilities.  Be it a game of frisbee or catch with a kid or a friend, or a nice walk at lunchtime, or a pick-up basketball game somewhere, you can find opportunities for recreation almost anywhere--and the benefits for doing so far outweigh any arguments against taking the time to re-create yourself.

   
More on recreation.

   
   

   

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Just for today I will remember that I am getting better and becoming whole.  I will realize that I have more to bring to a relationship than I did yesterday.  Just for today my life is beautiful, I am beautiful, and I have all I need to get through the day.

Katherine Gardner

  
The Trouble Tree

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and then his old pickup truck refused to start.

While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence.  On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family.  As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.  When he opened the door he underwent an amazing transformation.  His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward, he walked me to the car.  We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me.  I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

"Oh, that's my trouble tree," he replied.  "I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing is for sure, troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and children.  So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home.  Then in the morning I pick them up again."

"The funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick them up, there aren't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before."

Everybody needs a trouble tree.
   

  

In terms of days and moments lived, you’ll never again be as young as
you are right now, so spend this day, the youth of your future, in a way
that deflects regret. Invest in yourself.  Have some fun.  Do something
important.  Love somebody extra.  In one sense, you’re just a kid, but
a kid with enough years on her to know that every day is priceless.

Victoria Moran
Younger by the Day

    

  
  

Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.