Enter the Forest

•June 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been revisiting Campbell’s Pathways to Bliss a lot lately.  A passage from the Introduction carries a lot of resonance.  It comes at the end of a long description of What Bliss Is.  He ties it to a guide for living life — explaining that in our modern times we have two choices for living life, two compasses we can follow — or guides.

The first is to look externally and outward for a guide — a personality from our youth who seemed noble and great.  If we choose this path we most likely find ourselves often searching for similar figures for direction.

The second, and far less traveled path is to live for bliss.  In ancient Sanskrit, there’s a saying…sat-cit-ananda.  They are one but broken apart they represent the three aspects of “thought.” Being-consciousness-bliss. 

So what is BLISS?  Bliss, described by Campbell, is “that deep sense of being present, of doing what you absolutely must do to be yourself,” it is the, “path to transcendence.”  He goes on to add, “your bliss can guide you to that transcendent mystery, because bliss is the welling up of the energy of the transcendent wisdom within you.

He finishes his introduction with a story that, “embodies the essential image of living one’s life, finding it, and having the courage to pursue it.”

The story is from the adventures of King Arthur, and it is calledLa Queste del Saint Graal.

*         *        *

It takes place in King Arthur’s banquet hall.  All of the knights are sitting around the Round Table.  Arthur will not let anyone eat until an adventure has occurred.  They are waiting for today’s adventure — and it does…The Holy Grail reveals itself to the Knights — not fully or clearly — but covered with a giant, radiant cloth.  Then, it withdraws — disappearing and leaving all of the Knights in desperate awe.

One of the Knights rises and says, “I propose that we should all go in quest of that Grail to behold it unveiled.”

The Knights then decide something very interesting.  They vow to each other that they will not go forth in a group, that doing such would be a disgrace.  Instead, a pact is created.  From here, each Knight will venture into the forest at the point of his choosing, when it is darkest and a point where there is NO PATH.

Why?

According to Campbell, the lesson of the story is a way to live life, to follow one’s bliss.  To live blissfully each of us must enter the forest at its darkest point, where there is no path.  Where there is a way or a path, it belongs to someone else, it’s theirs and not our own.

Each of us is a unique phenomenon — each of us must enter the dark forest on our own, and in it…must find our own pathway to bliss.

Through Einstein’s Eyes

•June 7, 2012 • 1 Comment

Albert Einstein is widely recognized by history as “the father of modern physics.”  Even as a boy, Einstein saw the entire world differently — with a unique zeal, curiosity, and childlike imagination and enthusiasm that carried him throughout his life.  He was inspired by new ideas, by asking questions and finding the answers — of accepting all of life’s mysteries and questing to explore, uncover, and reveal them.

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) — “The Father of Modern Physics”

Last March, I wrote a post about the 3 Truths as described in Daniel Millman’s book Way of the Peaceful Warrior.  They are the rules to live all life by…Humor, Paradox, and Change.  Living in this kind of truth consistently requires the almost immeasurable courage of a great warrior and the innocent fearlessness of a child.   In and of itself, this is a paradox.

When you read about Einstein’s life, albeit even briefly — you discover a man who seemed to champion these 3 truths fluently and effortlessly.  His life’s work did in fact change the way in which we live and effectively see the world forever.  This work is the basis for quantum physics and now sits at the base of many New Age belief systems — suggesting much of his work explains the mysteries of existence and bring us closer to what we widely recognize as “God.”

What did the world look like through Einstein’s eyes?  How did light move, how did time feel and spread, what kind of depth and texture did he see and experience in?  Beyond the way he saw the physical world, I think equally as fascinating is looking at his experience through his unique life philosophy.  Below is a list I read recently of 10 Einstein quotes that give a great preliminary insight into the way he viewed living this life.  Again, keep in mind the natural and easy connection to the 3 Truths — and what it is to live life embracing Humor, Paradox, and Change…

1. Follow Your Curiosity “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

2. Perseverance is Priceless “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

3. Focus on the Present “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

4. The Imagination is Powerful “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions. Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

5. Make Mistakes “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

6. Live in the Moment “I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.”

7. Create Value “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

8. Don’t be repetitive “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

9. Knowledge Comes From Experience “Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.”

10. Learn the Rules and Then Play Better “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”

How much do you follow your imagination and intuition?  How often do you let it shape your reality?  Do you have the courage to fail, to focus in on and live in the moment?  To thirst and hunger for knowledge and experience? Do you work and love with equal and balanced passion?

These are just some small rules to live by, rules of a life successfully lived in my opinion, and rules that happen to inspire and thrill me.  There is a little bit of madness in all success, a need to seek out and solve problems and the internal spark and thrill of competing against others and in the process bettering oneself are qualities that exist preternaturally in all individuals who take on any grand feat, task, or challenge.  Coupled with the wherewithal to keep going forward when only you know the road and the only one willing to travel it.  It takes a certain kind of individual — one that embraces all that life brings to them — constantly seeking answers, challenging oneself and others — all to change the world in their own special way.

Einstein might say that it takes a shred of madness, a certain kind of courage, a rich sense of humor and a spirited sense of adventure.

It’s a special kind of genius.

Home

•May 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It’s the third house in on the block.  Neatly nestled in between the grammar school and high school.  The police station and firehouse are nearby.  There’s a brook that it faces, and a baseball field behind its fence.  When I was young it was sided with white and decorated with green shutters.  At some point it changed — I don’t remember exactly when, somewhere when I was a teenager.  Now it’s a dark baize and the shutters are a deep maroon red.  I know because I passed it recently — on my way to somewhere else.  There’s a red maple tree out in front, it’s branches long and extended and it’s leaves full and crisp.  That tree’s much taller than I remember it being when we left there — when it was my home.

I’ve called many places “home” since I left there.  A town house and three apartments to be exact — but none have ever come close to being the home that that house was.  Lately, it feels as if my home has been calling me back to it.  I still revisit it in many of my dreams, it’s vibrant and rich, and feels so real every time I go there.  When I think about it — there are so many powerful  yet stranded and disconnected memories…

I remember playing with my toys in the shaggy blue carpet of the playroom my parents set up for me.  Years later it would become an office — the place where I’d write my first three screenplays, and imagine what those movies would some day look like.  Even then, I could take a break in between scenes and curl my toes in that carpet — remembering what it was to be a child, with all it’s promise, potential, and imagination.

I remember the unfinished basement — threatening and scary as a young child, except for the nights my father would play his drums after a long day of work.  Was probably his way of escaping the thoughts of a stressful day — it made the entire house feel as though it was alive.

The backyard, especially in the summers.  When I was still very young, I remember my Mother allowing me, and two of my friends to dig a great hole all the way in the back.  They heard a rumor that we could find China, but I wanted to discover dinosaur bones.  All three of us would be disappointed, but not as much as my father how would have to fill our mess up.

In later years that backyard would become the place we’d throw parties and grill food.  We’d hop the fence and go out to the field behind it and play football games or shag fly balls.  There was nothing better than waking up on a Saturday or Sunday — all the windows open, the smells of breakfast and fresh coffee downstairs and the sound of an aluminum bat driving baseballs into the outfield.  It was a great way to start those summer days every weekend.  Every once and a while I’d find a random baseball had made its way back there, by the time we moved out of that house…we had a lot of them.

I think often of nights sitting out there by candlelight with my friends, laughing and talking…I think of the night we handed out the tapes of the first film we did together — signing our names to the cassette boxes — imagining a future fulfilled by our dreams, and one all shared together.  After High School, those friendships slowly taper off and peel away.  I’ve been more fortunate than most to hang on to many of my closest friendships from growing up — but not all, and there’s certainly some of them that I miss and think about often.

Inside I remember the old radiators that used to bang, pop, and hiss at the beginning of every winter.  I remember my cat sleeping on or next to them.  If I walked by he’d look up lazily and yawn, maybe roll over and stretch.  He had a great way of bringing peace to me as a child, no matter what else was going on.  It’s funny and strange how a pet can become such a friend, the unspoken bond you create with them, their innate understanding of your moods and frustrations.   Some people believe that our pets create some kind of inseparable bond with us, a guide and compass for us.  He still shows up in that house sometimes when I visit it in my dreams, and those encounters are always so visceral that when I wake up — for a moment, I feel as if he was still really alive.

I remember saying goodbye to him before he was taken to the vet for the last time — he fought through failing kidneys for a long time.  I was proud of him.  But when I said goodbye to him that day for the last time his eyes told me that he needed to give up.

I remember the way my grandfather used to come in through the back door, always loud, smiling and whistling some song only he knew.  The energy in the house would always change when he entered — warmer, brighter — some people just have that around them.  When you’re a child you notice these things more than when you’re an adult.  It’s a shame what time of life does to our senses and perceptions.

And I remember vividly the last time he was at our house, early April — by himself and without my grandmother.  Jovial, open, enigmatic.  Laugh louder than other times, vibrancy greater.  He looked back one last time before he walked out the back door, and he smiled — he had a great smile, wide and bold.  For a man that could sometimes be so serious, when he smiled you could find the child inside of him.  That was the last time I’d see it.

After college ended, I was so focused on myself and my new career and all the goals it would carry with it that I feel like I missed much of what was going on around me.  As my parents struggled to sell the house and move to something more manageable I wasn’t there mentally, emotionally, and most of the time physically.  At the time I felt inaction was wrong, reflection an impediment, I needed to keep moving — forward.  What took hold of me in that short time after college I feel like has never let go — except for disparate and fleeting moments where I can see through life and read my own as if it were a storybook.  This is one of those moments.

The last few things I remember in detail was when the house was broken into and we were robbed.  A stranger took jewelry and heirlooms from us, things that can’t ever be replaced or recreated.  My bedroom was spilled out onto the floor.  Clothes, old souvenirs, pictures, and even letters from girlfriends — all strewn and scattered.  He had dumped all of the dresser drawers out to look through their contents.  Going to sleep that night was impossible, thinking of the fact that someone was in there — looking through your life.

Eventually my parents sold that house, and moved onto the next chapter of their lives.  Me along with them but only for a few months.  Once they were settled, I never saw my Mother happier — a new life.  They both loved that house — but it was time to move forward. I barely remember the morning I left it for the final time, it was late summer and a rainy morning — I didn’t have time for it, I needed to get to work.

When I look back now, I think about how awkward it feels to realize someone else is living there.  There is something so extraordinary about the home you grow up in.  And the feeling of nostalgia and connection I have for that house doesn’t make me sad, but instead humbles me, it makes me grateful — for the people I was surrounded with, for the love I always came home to — no matter what.

It was always home.

Paolo’s Prayer – Part I

•April 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

In 1023, Carasco was a modest village.  It rested quietly next to the Mediterrean sea on the Eastern coast of Italy.  Despite all that had crumbled in the world around it, it remained relatively untouched.  Very little changed here from season to season, year to year, decade to decade.  Men and women married, some raised crops and livestock, they built homes and filled them with children.  Most of the men were fisherman here, a tradition passed down from one generation to the next, the salt air and hissing sea were as much a part of each villager as their flesh and bones.  Each day the sea would bring life to them, and each night they would give thanks for what was given.  They led simple lives – none of them seemed to yearn for much more — many never dared to dream of anything else.

 

Paolo did.  When he was a child, he’d sit up in the rocks by the sea at night and stare up into the sky.  He’d stare at the stars and wonder who and what was out there – maybe staring back at him.  He knew there were other places that looked very different from his home – he would often hide himself in corners and behind walls and listen to the stories of the men that came to his village on boats from other places that no one in his village would ever see.  These men talked of places that looked like seas of sand, lands overgrown with thick trees and vines, and mountaintops covered with bitter cold snow.   He would think about all of these places when he would stare at the stars and he would imagine what it would be like to go to them someday.

 

But Paolo’s father had other plans.  He was strict and cold, he said little and he valued nothing above hard work.  He was a fisherman, as was his father before him, and his father before that.  Paolo was the middle child of eight, and four of them were brothers.  Paolo’s mother had died during the birth of their youngest child, his little sister.  He had not gotten the chance to say goodbye to her, but after she had died he clearly remembers feeling a deep fear.  He focused on what would happen after this life ended.  In his mother’s absence, Paolo’s father worked the boys hard., and forced them to pray harder.  But Paolo did not pray for the forgiveness of his sins, or the blessing of a good fishing season as he was instructed.  His prayers belonged only to him.  He prayed to see these other lands he’d heard about, he prayed for something or someone to take him away from the only home he’d ever known.  He asked God for the chance to be here long enough to live the life he imagined.

 

The beginning of the end began like any other day that summer.  It was hot, the sun beating down on everything, making the rocks, sand and sea glisten and the air shimmer and boil.  Their ship was from the East, and even as it rocked and tumbled towards the dock it looked just like any other.  But the men on board were anxious and rattled.  They were pale, frail and some burst out with violent hacking coughs as they walked.  They explained to one of the villagers that they needed time to rest and dock, that they had spices to trade in exchange for time.

 

It was only later that the villagers learned that they also needed a place to bury their dead.

 

Three of the men on board that ship had died at sea.  One of them became sick very suddenly, then the second, and then the last.  No one knew how it had exactly started, but by the time they did notice, the men’s skin became hot like fire, and spotted with ugly dark red.  Their necks swelled and bulged and their jaws tightened until they could no longer speak, and not much more time passed until they could no longer breathe.

 

Over the years, the people of Carasco had invited many travellers from the sea to stay in their village.  They had given them shelter, food, and fresh water from their very own homes.  They had been good and in return hoped for God’s grace and mercy.  They did nothing different for these men, and accepted some of the spices and exotic silks and skins from their ship as payment for their hospitality.  This wealth was distributed amongst the villagers, these gifts brought deep into their homes and shared with their families.

 

After a few days, most of the fisherman from that boat were dead, and many of the villagers were now struggling with the same deep sickness.

 

Paolo would watch as his family would become stricken – one by one.  Their bodies become wretched, bruised and soiled until each and every one of them succumbed.  It wasn’t just his family, so many of the villagers around them, all the people Paolo had known his whole life were falling one by one to this invisible wrath.

 

Not only grief, but fear engulfed Paolo.  Had his prayers been so selfish that they created a curse upon his village?  Had he asked God to send this plague and take everyone he had ever known?  The torment seemed inescapable, and the fright of falling like everyone else controlled his mind.  He was afraid of meeting the same awful fate as his family.  He now begged to God, over and over again…

 

“I don’t want to die.  Dear God, don’t let me die.”

 

He decided one night to correct the curse, to take fate back into his own hands.  He started a fire, one that would spread swiftly and meanly.  And then he fled as fast as his feet would take him.  There were no more horses to ride, no more sheep to steal — all the animals were dying too.  He sprinted away from his village and into the countryside, away from the sea that had brought life and eventually death to his village.  He dragged his body to higher ground – safe from the plague he believed.  Finally feeling safe enough – he decided to stop.  The reality suddenly set down upon him, the weight of it felt as though it was crushing him.

 

Paolo set fire to the only home he had ever known; and now from a safe distance he stood and watched it burn, taken into the heavens by black smoke and hot ash.  He was all alone now – but he did have what he had prayed for — he was alive.  He let his knees fall to the Earth and his large dark eyes settled on the burning village below.  He closed them, shutting out the distant sounds of crackling fire and popping wood.   The wind ceased and the air became silent.  He now prayed to God for something new…

 

“Dear God, please don’t let me die all alone.”

 

He would fall asleep here that night, exhausted and hungry.  In the morning he would awaken from this very spot, the deepest sleep he’d had in weeks.  He would slowly rise back up onto his knees and would set his eyes back upon his village hoping it all had been just some nightmare. But when he looked upon his village, he would find nothing but rubble and smoke.

 

He thought about all of the men that had come before him, those that had decided to settle beside the sea – to commit to the land, to build houses, boats, and raise crops.  He thought about the hundreds of families that had lived in this place many years before he walked upon the Earth.  The wind kicked up, into his face and he swore for a moment he could feel them all.  In that moment he realized something…

 

… it takes many men to build a village, but only one to burn it down.

 

It was now time for him to turn his back on this place – for him to leave, and this time he would not ever look back.

 

Way of Change

•March 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

CWE’s “Change-Makers” was really inspired by a two sources.  One, was the teachings of Indian Philosopher and human rights activist Mahatma Gandhi.  His ideas about conquering hate and oppression with love and inner strength really resonated with me and I felt strongly like they aligned with the core of our organization’s mission to empower students to be confident leaders.  His “Top 10 Fundamentals for Changing the World” had a huge impact on the development of this program.

The other inspirational source was a self-empowerment “handbook” written by author Paulo Coelho called “Warrior of the Light.”  This book is full of short notes on accepting one’s life as a warrior’s journey and offers suggestions for a way of living that teaches us how to accept failure, embrace life for all that it is, and how to maximize one’s own inner strength and potential.

I decided recently that I’d like to put together several fundamentals of what it means to be “A Change-Maker.”  These are elements that describe one’s inner spirit and mettle, not their outward actions.  We highlight Change-Makers’ accomplishments and accolades, but we celebrate them for what those outward actions say about their true character.

12 Ways of The Change-Maker

 

#12.  A Change-Maker Doesn’t Allow Others to Suffer in Silence.

When a Change-Maker sees someone being wronged, hurt or persecuted they are compelled to take it upon themselves to be that person’s voice.  They will act directly and swiftly in coming to that person’s defense and never ask for anything in return.

#11.  A Change-Maker Understands the Difference Between Sympathy and Empathy. 

When a “Change-Maker” sees someone in pain or distress they do not feign understanding and put themselves at a distance.  Instead, a Change-Maker absorbs, appreciate, and wrestles with that pain or difficulty as if it were their own.  This compels them to change the situation for the better, even when other say it “shouldn’t matter to you this much.”  A Change-Maker doesn’t see helping others as a burden, but instead as a blessing.

#10.  A Change-Maker Always Chooses Love

Even when a Change-Maker sees others acting out of places of hate or ignorance they always challenge themselves to rise above and act differently.  A Change-Maker recognizes that when others act this way it is because they are afraid, angry, and alone.  A Change-Maker realizes that separation is the root of these feelings and acts and understands that love and connection are attributes of the strong.  A Change-Maker builds many more bridges with their lives than they break.

#9.  A Change-Maker Does Not Accept Pessimism

A Change-Maker feeds their own strength and the strength of others through a natural optimism and idealism.  Thus, they will not accept negativity around them.  They recognize how it drains their natural energy and will confront it harshly if needed.  A Change-Maker keenly recognizes the difference between a real victim and one who only sees themselves as such.

#8.  A Change-Maker Sees the Lessons in Everything

In good events and in bad, a Change-Maker is able to identify a valuable life lesson in all.  They see an opportunity for growth, change, and inner-improvement in everything that happens around or to them.  A Change-Maker recognizes that they are always learning new things — including about themselves — and embrace new knowledge openly.

#7.  A Change-Maker is More Critical of Themselves than They are of Others

A Change-Maker has far greater expectations of themselves than they do of others.  They are always seeking a greater understanding of themselves because they realize that it will help them to understand all others.  Thus, a Change-Maker isn’t blind to their own faults in any conflict and will only identify others’ missteps after carefully analyzing, articulating, and apologizing for their own.  A Change-Maker recognizes that no one grows strong all on their own.

#6.  A Change-Maker Seeks Their Own Approval not the Approval of Others

A Change-Maker is not guided by the acceptance or approval of others.  They quickly recognize and understand the motives of others around them and thus aren’t swayed by their opinions.  A Change-Maker’s standards are higher than any goals anyone else can set for them.  A Change-Maker always strives to do their best, and is disappointed in themselves when they do not.  The disappointment of others means little to a Change-Maker.

#5.  A Change-Maker Values the Counsel of Others but Not Above Their Own Instincts

A Change-Maker chooses their mentors and close friends carefully.  They value openness and transparency with these individuals and are the first to offer this, but they expect it to be given immediately in return.  This is because a Change-Maker believes in the virtues of balance and fairness.  They listen to those they respect and value their unique wisdom.  They factor the opinions of others into their decisions, but ultimately their final decision is one they own completely.  A Change-Maker enjoys being responsible for their own actions.

#4.  A Change-Maker Lets Their Actions Speak for Them

A Change-Maker is often reluctant to talk about themselves.  Very rarely will they talk about what they plan to do in the future.  This is because a Change-Maker realizes that talk often gets in the way of action.   While they always respect the past and are constantly hopeful about the future they focus primarily on what should be done right now.  A Change-Maker realizes that no matter what, others will define them the way they want to.  They cannot control others’ opinions, praises, or criticisms of them — all they can control are their own choices and actions.  A Change-Maker welcomes decisions and never shies away from making them.

#3.  A Change-Maker Does Not Force Their Beliefs on Others

A Change-Maker chooses their mission because they are unable to deny it.  Thus, they have very strong beliefs and are passionate about the causes that matter the most to them.  However, a Change-Maker does not force their beliefs on others nor do they attack the beliefs of others.  They recognize this as arrogance and insecurity; someone that is confident in themselves doesn’t need to boast about their beliefs.    A Change-Maker always treats others the way they wish to be treated.

#2.  A Change-Maker Respects Leadership

A Change-Maker never chooses to be a leader.  A Change-Maker realizes that leadership is always a distinction given by others.  That being said, when a Change-Maker is looked at to lead they accept the responsibility that comes with it humbly and wholly.  A Change-Maker often has doubts about their leadership.  They often worry about the needs of those that follow them and struggle deeply with the question “why do they follow me?”  However no one that follows them ever sees this doubt or struggle.  Within they fear that this doubt or struggle makes them weak, but they are wrong.  This inner-doubt is one of the qualities that makes them a great leader.  A Change-Maker is always humble and wholeheartedly accepts and respects the role of a leader, but they are never hungry for the power that comes with it.

#1.  A Change-Maker Believes in Themselves

A Change-Maker does what they do not for attention or accolade.  A Change-Maker is inspired to the work they do because they are fueled by helping others and making the world a more vibrant and positive place.  A Change-Maker would do what they do if no one paid them for it or if no one saw them doing it.  A Change-Maker believes in Following Their Bliss and inspiring others to do the same. They recognize that to get others to believe in themselves that they must be a worthy role model.  A Change-Maker is always generous with their spirit — they often care about others much more than they care about themselves.

 

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If you think you know or are a Change-Maker than I want to know why.  Email us at changemakers@cweducation.com or visit our Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/cweducation) and share your story.

The Best Revenge

•March 7, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Note:  This post was written for the Chase Wilson Education blog as an anti-bullying / teen empowerment piece but I thought it might have some nice applications here in terms of personal development.  

Have you ever been hurt by someone? Wronged by someone in some serious way?  Maybe it wasn’t that long ago…maybe it was…maybe the time doesn’t make any difference in how fresh the pain feels to you.  And that pain; what is it?  There are so many emotions.  Is it anger, torment, disgust, embarrassment, heartbreak, humiliation, degradation?  Maybe the anguish was physical or perhaps it was emotional…Maybe all of them at once.  Do you blame the inflicter of that pain?  Do you see their face, feel their fist, wince and squirm at the sound of their voice or taunting laughter? Do you hold them responsible for what you now see and feel?  Do you wish they were stripped of their pleasure and it were replaced instantaneously with the very same hatred you feel?

Do You want vengeance?

If so…You’re not alone.

Nothing changes the mechanics of our human nature.  It’s natural to seek revenge upon the one that inflicted pain upon you, it’s normal to want to fight back…and it’s unfortunately common to dwell on ways to manifest that vengeance and to wish it upon a new enemy.  If you are to suffer, then so should they.

With all of the attention we’re bringing to modern bullying right now we’re learning more every day about not just how but why bullies operate the way they do.  What stands out for me, is that bullies often view themselves as being bullied.  In fact, their self-esteem is often lower than those they bully, their anxiety levels higher, their potential for depression greater.   Their need to attack and lash out at those they perceive as threats is almost preemptive.  You see, the lower someone’s self-esteem is, the less they are capable of actually understanding the motivations of those around them.  They can’t empathize as well, and thus their frame for how others act is limited purely to their own personal experience of life.

The worst kind of bully thinks that everyone thinks the way they do.

This makes them the most dangerous, because it means that bullying equals self-preservation — it makes them completely distrustful of others, paranoid, delusional, erratic and unstable.

So while we’re taught “don’t get mad, get even,” or that “an eye for an eye,” is the right way to fight back…

…The older I get, the less surprises me — mostly good, but even the bad.  The harder I have to look to find inspiration, when it used to wait for me within every day.  But with time comes experience, and we can choose to use the alchemy within us to transform that experience into wisdom.  When I apply whatever wisdom I have to this subject…to the idea of anger, the concept of using violence to bring balance and restore order…the more I recognize it does nothing to enact peace.  Pain, anguish, violence, war — whether we wish it upon another or physically exact it — we only bring those things upon ourselves at the same time.  Sure there may be an immediate satisfaction that comes with “getting even.”  And in a world becoming precariously more and more preoccupied with instant gratification — this is something we should be worried about.

But after that immediate gratification fades away, what is the aftermath?  Where do we go from there?  Well, I believe that anger and hate are diseases like any other…infections that can spread so easily.  What was so easily inflicted upon one person is easily spread to the next, and then to the next.  Usually those that are weaker, or those that trust us and pose no threat become the easiest target.  And once we’ve done something once, it’s easier to do it twice.  The third time is seamless, the fourth almost unconscious, and the fifth time is reflex.

And what for the bully now that we’ve taken our revenge upon them?  Well in a weird but very true way…they’ve now won twice.  How?  Because we’ve shown them that their paranoia, pessimism, distrust in the world and those they share it with is in fact true.  We’ve shown them that others are in fact just as hateful as they are — we’ve made their world complete and inescapable.  And oh yeah…after they heal their wounds, they’ll probably be coming back stronger and angrier…and they’ll want that one thing that will bring them that momentary and fleeting peace, that’ll restore balance and power to them…

…they’ll want revenge.

So, am I saying that you shouldn’t seek revenge?  Am I suggesting you should let yourself be walked all over, pushed around, and beaten down; threatened, harassed, intimidated and slandered?  No, I think you should have your revenge — but not in the way you might easily imagine it…

I suppose my way of describing it starts first with a simple quote…

“The Best Revenge is to Live a Good Life.”

Show that your inner strength is greater than anything they have to throw at you.  Absorb it, struggle with it, then channel it — and plot out the happy, fulfilling life you are going to lead from there forward.  Happiness is a choice, and courage is the greatest might one can show — the courage to be bright with your life.

Really think about it…these are the people that are the most successful in the long-run, they’re the most popular, the most enjoyable to be around.  They are the ones led by their spirit and they leave behind them a trail of optimism for others to follow…but they don’t care whether they’re being followed or not, a good leader does what they do not because they seek followers, but because they seek a better way for them self.

See life as the great adventure that always lies ahead. When you’re in the middle of an adventure, there’s no time to plot any kind of revenge.

Remember…that’s what the villains do.

The 5 Regrets

•December 27, 2011 • 1 Comment

I read this the other night on Paulo Coelho’s blog and thought it really needed to be shared.  Apparently he received this list from a friend of his that has worked as an end-of-life nurse for many years.  Upon reflection at the end of their lives, it seemed that there was a certain synchronicity in the regrets he most often heard from his patients.  Here they are…

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.  From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

Today is my grandmother Amelia’s birthday.  She would have been 96 years old.  Growing up, I was very close with both her and my grandfather.  They taught me many lessons that I still carry with me to this very day – as I carry their spirits with me.  The greatest lesson I learned from her though was that a life of true happiness is a personal choice, and it’s one that requires a great deal of deep, personal courage.  I’m reminded of her as I read this list, and comforted by the knowledge that when she passed 8 years ago these regrets did not travel with her.

I’d like to say that I’d be lucky to live life the same way…but as she taught me it’s not a matter of luck, it’s one of choice.

The Art of Forgiveness

•December 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

forgive: (v) to cease to feel resentment against.

Today is Christmas Day.  And this year — in the days leading up to today I’ve been thinking a great deal of the importance of finding, giving, and receiving PEACE.  A stillness within oneself – a reassurance and support we can give to another so hopefully they can find it for themself, or the acceptance of it’s offering from one that has wronged us in the past.

But the road to peace begins with the search for forgiveness.

I just finished Paulo Coelho’s “Aleph,” a few weeks ago.  The book was an incredible journey that dealt with the unresolved karma we carry with us from lifetime to lifetime, and how we are given the opportunity — within each life we live, to understand and resolve this conflict.  The most poignant moment in the story takes place within an old Russian Church, between Coelho and a much younger woman, a musician named Hilal — a woman he comes to realize he knew and greatly wronged in a life lived over 500 years ago.  He asks for her forgiveness — but only aware of her present life, which has only been tortured and difficult.  She looks inward, and delivers her forgiveness with these powerful words…

“I forgive the tears I was made to shed,

I forgive the pain and the disappointments,

I forgive the betrayals and lies,

I forgive the slanders and intrigues,

I forgive the hatred and the persecution,

I forgive the blows that hurt me,

I forgive the wrecked dreams,

I forgive the stillborn hopes,

I forgive the hostility and jealousy,

I forgive the indifference and ill will,

I forgive the injustices carried out by others in the name of justice,

I forgive the anger and the cruetly,

I forgive the neglect and contempt,

I forgive the world and all its evils.”

She goes on to add…

“I forgive myself.  May the misfortunes of the past no longer way on my heart.  Instead of pain and resentment, I CHOOSE understanding and compassion.  Instead of rebellion, I CHOOSE the music from my violin.  Instead of grief, I CHOOSE forgetting.  Instead of vengenace, I CHOOSE victory.

I will be capable of loving, regardless of whether I am loved in return,

of giving, even when I have nothing,

of working happily, even in the  midst of difficulties,

Of holding out my hand, even when I feel utterly alone and abandoned,

Of drying my tears, even while I weep,

Of believing, even when no one believes in me.

So it is.  So it will be.”

This moment in the story sent chills through me — maybe and hopefully you felt something similar as you read this.  I put the book down for awhile, closed it’s cover, and thought about these words.  Not what it meant to the characters in the story, but what it meant to me and then more importantly how it could be useful to others I know (or don’t know) who are struggling in one way or another.   I realize that forgiveness in itself is an art-form — a grace found in one’s way, how they view, appreciate, accept, and lead their life. But beyond this, I realize that forgiveness all too often is something we seek from or give to another.  It’s an external act.  This passage reminded me of the amazing courage it takes to forgive oneself.

Life brings with it it’s burdens – whether real or more often imagined — feelings of guilt, resentment, frustration, desperation and failure in our past or hopelessness when we look at a future far from the one we imagined for ourselves.  If not understood and dealt with, these wounds we inflict upon ourselves will only continue to eat away at us.  This time of year causes most of us to look back at not just the past year — but the depth of our lived life and…judge.  This year, or even today, look back not with judgement but forgiveness – let something or someone go.

Our happiness is the greatest gift we can not only give to ourselves…but to others as well.

 

Scientific Materialism vs. Natural Law

•December 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Whether we recognize it or not — we all live our lives according to a certain “code” or set of rules.  Very quickly in our development these rules become engrained and the motivational driving forces that shape “who we are.”

Specifically as Americans — for the last 150 years or so we follow a Darwinian code.  This could otherwise be labeled as SCIENTIFIC MATERIALISM.  The subject itself is pretty complex but briefly stated — S.M. has four basic “rules.”

1.)  Only Matter Matters — the physical world we see is all there is.

2.)  Survival of the Fittest — Nature favors the strongest individuals, and the Law of the Jungle.  According to Darwinism — this is the Natural Law.

3.)  It’s in Your Genes — we are victims of our biologically inherited genes and the best we can even hope for is that science finds a way to compensate for our flaws and deficiencies.

4.)  Evolution is Random — life is random, un-controllable, and purposeless.  We got here by chance, and what we do with our “potential” is completely a condition of our genes, environment, and random chance.

Scientific materialism promotes several guiding reactions, subconsciously in my opinion — but they drive our conscious actions without us ever recognizing the motivating factors.  First is FEAR — fear of the unknown and what or who is different, fear of falling behind, failing, getting sick or being attacked by external forces.  Second is OBJECTIFICATION — this is a strong form of materialism, where we not only think we need money, material possessions to survive, but we literally treat people in the very same manner.  We look at them for what “value” they have to us — as if they’re stocks, we’re constantly grading, analyzing and objectifying them.  When we don’t get what we want from them or see no value to us in their presence we either discard our relationship to them or at its worst — we attack them.  This is survival of the fittest in living action.  Third is COMPETITION — now competition can be very healthy, as can conflict, it can make our circumstances better because it challenges us greatly and forces us to grow.  But competition in the modern world, driven by fear and objectification means that we don’t find other like-minded individuals to work in coordination with to realize our goals and dreams, but instead find the ways in which we can keep others down as we succeed — we go into an attack mode. The Fourth reaction is APATHY — the first three  make us erratic, suspicious, fervent, and in the end to get what we think we want in this manner — we are left utterly alone and incapable of changing our circumstances, environment, or relationships.  We’re only here by chance and we have no control over the cards we’ve been dealt, so why bother?  This is hopelessness and despair. And in my opinion, this is the only place that Scientific Materialism can lead us to.

Use these four precepts, and the four guiding reactions as an explanation for modern bullying.  It’s not enough to fear what or who is different, but it is the practice of the modern bully to outwardly attack and drive away that perceived threat.  What a bully craves is status, acceptance, popularity.  That is their currency.  To achieve this in a materialistic world, one must show social dominance to get to the top of the hierarchical food chain.  So they will keep hurting others to get to the top, their natural empathy eroding more and more as they go there.  But then at the top, when they’ve achieved their goals — ironically enough what are they?  ALONE.  And they’re now paranoid, hateful, distrustful.  Why?  Studies show that bullies are actually more insecure than those they bully — because subconsciously they recognize “if I had to do this to get here, that means it can be done to me.”  They understand how it works, and also know that others will be looking for revenge.  Those they have managed to collect as “friends” as their status climbed are constantly looking for their weaknesses – a point or position where they can be attacked.

A bully’s greatest fear is being bullied.

So here’s my counterpoint — an opposition to Scientific Materialism.  The best way to come into it is to use Age of Enlightenment philosopher Thomas Hobbes nine precepts of NATURAL LAW:

1.)  Seek peace first, use war only as a last resort.

2.)  Be willing to offer the same freedom to others as you wish for oneself.

3.)  Keep your agreements.

4.)  Practice gratitude – of others, the Earth, and your own spirit (I added these for clarity)

5.)  Accomodate your own needs to the laws of the community.

6.)  As appropriate, forgive those who repent.

7.)  In the case of revenge, focus not on the great evil of the past, but the greater good to follow.

8.)  Never declare hatred of another.

9.)  Acknowledge the equality of others.

Clearly Hobbes’ definition of Natural Law is very different from Darwin’s.  These 9 precepts lead the individual to live in harmony with nature and others, instead of opposition.  It is a re-establishment of some kind of personal control over the psyche, spirit, and the surrounding environment and whatever circumstances it may create or place in one’s way.  It is an offering of internal peace by means of external understanding, compassion, and patience.

Living life by these precepts turn the four guiding reactions of above upside down.  Fear is removed from every situation, because you realize that the manufacturer of that fear is yourself.  If you can create it, you can also remove it.  Objectification is now eradicated for instead of seeing others as THINGS you see them as mirrors of yourself.  You naturally find the ways that you are like them instead of how you are different.  You find it easy to talk, connect with, empathize and share with others because they are like you and you are like them.  Competition is now healthy and natural.  You find others that have similar goals and you band together selflessly for a mission that is greater than the wants or perceived needs of any of you as individuals.  Instead of you vs. someone else, it’s now you and many others working together for a cause – the betterment of the world at large.  And last but not least – apathy.  It no longer exists.  There is never despair or hopelessness because you know you’re never alone, you’ve created your own resource of unending inner strength always to be fed and harnessed when needed.  You realize that YOU can change your circumstances or environment anytime you want to, all you have to do is have the courage to do it — it’s all yours, whoever you want to be and whatever you want to do — service to others is the greatest service to oneself.

So now equipped with this information — which do you choose?  How do you want to live your life?  Despite what you may have been told, or may have told yourself — that question CAN BE answered by you, it’s in your control.  We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we react to it.

Again, what do you choose…?

The Stillness of Water

•December 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

We ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I’ve spent the last few days traveling along the Gulf Coast of Florida – driving to the nearby islands and along the coast, and walking along the beaches full of coarse white sand.  These beaches and the water of the Gulf Coast work in perfect harmony with each other – they’re still…peaceful.  Even when there are other people on the beach with you, it’s not like at home where they distract you with loud conversation or ferverent activity — it’s as if they’re part of the whole place, collecting sea shells or wading in the calm water — they are as interconnected as the tiny birds running in the surf.

What is it about the ocean that brings us peace?  I’ve wondered about this since I was a child even, and like all of us must be reminded of my innocent curiosity back then as I navigate my way through “now.”  Why does looking out onto a great body of water fill us with awe, a feeling of deeper meaning? In many cultures, water and the sea are symbolic of re-birth, of transformation.  If you read Jung, he’ll talk about what water symbolizes to the subconscious mind – what is within us, unseen, and hidden “beneath.”  Water reminds us of our dreams, the depth of our soul, and our true self – separate from the false ego we carry with us day-to-day.  The very act of seeing water reminds us to shed “the ego,” in order to get in touch with the true self.  It’s why the ocean offers a solace for us — the source of purification and renewal — baptism.  It is the feeling of returning “home.”

And then to close your eyes and listen to it…the unmistakable hissing rhythm of lapping water easing in to the shore and back out to the sea – it sounds and feels like “breathing,” it reminds us how alive the planet is.  It reminded me this week of something learned not long ago but pushed aside and almost forgotten in recent months — the interconnectivity of all things, including us — now matter how separate we may feel at one given point in our lives or another.

Maybe all of these reasons are what draws us to the sea — to stare out upon it, wade within it, it is the subconscious motivation to build our homes and cities around it, and to travel to it when we need to replenish our souls or repair the psyche.  All I know now is that I wanted to find peace…and I found it in the sea.

 
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