Saturday, February 27, 2010

CORRECTED: Mistakes Make Us More

** I'm reposting this, because I posted an incomplete version of it the other day. Oops! How appropriate that I made a MISTAKE when posting an article about... making mistakes!!

I wrote yesterday about how bad judgment can sometimes result in huge learning in our lives. I talked about the attitude that we hold to our mistakes. That, to me, is the key to whether mistakes become a source of misery in our lives… or a source of glory!

I think one of the most important things we can do for our kids and the young people in our lives, is to let them see us make mistakes and address them properly. If we put on an act for our kids, and pretend that we never make mistakes, or make bad decisions – we give them a totally unrealistic idea of what life is all about.

If a kid grows up thinking their parents are perfect, they will never feel that they measure up. Furthermore, they won’t develop the skills needed to clean up after themselves when they make a mess of something!

I’ve worked with many adults, and teenagers who feel that anything less than perfection is failure, or who feel that they have to hide their struggles and mistakes or they will no longer be valued and loved. It’s a tough, painful way to live. And… it’s totally unnecessary.

Good friend of mine years ago was working with her kids at the dinner table from a book I had given them. It was a book that detailed many good ‘virtues’ or ‘qualities’ that people can have and cultivate within themselves. They had a ritual of reading one of the topics each night at the dinner table, and then having a family discussion about that quality… and what it would look like to practice it in their lives/situations. My friend told me that in the course of a conversation one night, on ‘compassion’ they were talking about how you treat mistakes – yours as well as the mistakes of other people. My name came up, and one of the kids said, “NOLA? Nola never makes mistakes!” When my friend told me this, I knew the kid was coming from a place of love and admiration for me. That part tickled me. I was absolutely MORTIFIED, however, to think of this amazing little girl believing for one single nanosecond that I never made mistakes! I never, ever, want anyone to look at me and think I don’t do stupid things… just like everyone else!

I immediately sat down at the computer and typed up a LONG list of mistakes that I’ve made in my life. Granted, I didn’t include everything – this list needed to be age appropriate. I included things like being really mean to a friend of mine as a little girl, and physically restraining her from leaving my house to go say goodbye to her father (who lived in another town and was leaving after a weekend visit). I wanted her to help me clean up the mess we’d made playing. She was devastated that I made her miss saying goodbye to her daddy. I have regretted it to this very day, even though that occurred almost 40 years ago. That girl is dead now. She was in a horrible car accident when she was 18. I never did apologize to her for what I did that day. That was a pretty icky mistake.

Another mistake I shared with them on that list, was getting on a freeway in Arizona, going the exact opposite way that I needed to be driving. I consider myself to be a pretty seasoned traveler, and I was going to attend a week long workshop there. I didn’t figure out I was heading the wrong direction for well over an hour!

The list was long and included many many small things, and several that I considered ‘whoppers.’

I sent it off to my friend, and at their next ‘dinner table discussion’ they pulled out my list and went over my laundry list of ‘errors.’ Some were chuckle worthy. Some were shocking to the kids (especially me being mean to that little girl). I wanted them to see all of this, and know that we are all human, and we all make mistakes. It was important to me that they realized that you can go on after mistakes – sometimes you can set them right and sometimes you can’t. Each one, however, is an opportunity to learn something, become a better person and do things differently the next time.

If you have kids, don’t hide your imperfections and your mistakes from them. In age appropriate ways, let them witness you navigating the waters of ‘mess clean up’ after you’ve made mistakes. It teaches them valuable life skills that they need in order to be healthy, functional adults.

The same goes for those around us. While I don’t believe we have to walk around wearing a sandwich board of all our errors and omissions in life, we should demonstrate a level of humility and humanity towards ourselves, and others, with regards to the human foibles we all share.

Having a right attitude towards our mistakes can free us from self imposed tyranny and give us all a chance to appreciate a good clean up act!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Loving the Diversity

I’m in one of my favorite places in the world right now – New York City! I’m here to visit some friends and soak up the energy and the buzz of the bright lights and the big city.

One of the things I’ve cultivated in myself over the course of my life is the ability to enjoy all sorts of environments and move pretty seamlessly from one to the other. I’ve had experiences before where I’ve been in a mountain lodge in Vermont one day, and sitting on a kitchen floor making cookies in an Arab village the next. I’ve been driving through the Sinai desert marveling at the immense, majestic desert and before I knew it was walking down the street in New York City. I love the fact that I can feel so ‘at home’ with wherever I am.

This wasn’t always the case. By nature, I’m a creature of habit. I really like my routines and my ‘stuff.’ It didn’t come naturally to go galavanting and traveling around. In fact, I can remember a time in my early twenties where I thought, “Who would ever want to leave the US? There is so much to see and do here… and everyone speaks English!” Oh… how times have changed. (Thank goodness!)

Now I embrace new places, cultures, people and food with an unquenchable appetite for more. I love learning about new places and peoples.

Being in New York City is like a microcosm of the greater world. Walking down a street in New York City you can hear a dozen different languages, and see people of every color, religion, ethnicity… it is phenomenal!

Learning how to adapt to one’s surroundings and to enjoy being in radically different environments not only makes life more enjoyable (and less stressful) it can turn it into a grand adventure.

You don’t have to travel to incorporate this attitude into your daily life. Trying new foods, watching shows on TV about different places and people, reading good books that open your mind and broaden your perspectives… all of these activities cultivate an ‘open and curious’ attitude towards life.

Open your mind… allow new ideas and experiences to creep in around the edges. It will open you in ways you can’t even imagine!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Learning by Experience

I've been thinking a lot these days about the mistakes we human beings make and how we cope with and handle them. Many of us are extremely hard on ourselves when it comes to making mistakes. We are sometimes taught that it is not acceptable to make mistakes. We judge ourselves harshly when we fall short of our own expectations.

I'm definitely included in this phenomenon. When I make mistakes of any kind, it takes a lot of work to keep from letting it tear down my feelings of self worth. I've spent many years learning how to have a little compassion for myself in the face of my own failings and imperfections.

I couldn't track down an exact source for this quote, but wanted to share it with you.

"Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement."

I firmly believe that this is true. It has certainly proven true in my own experience. Many of the valuable life lessons that I have learned have come from situations I would have given anything not to have been in!

I once shipped a beta version of a software product to literally thousands of people with a major 'bug' in it. It was a bug that was my responsibility, and I didn't realize it before the product was out the door. That day, I came closer to having a full blown panic attack than ever before in my life! I can assure you that I learned some valuable things that day about clarifying expectations, roles and responsibilities on any projects I was involved in from that moment on.

I have had major 'life lessons' in other contexts as well, as the result of poor judgement and decisions. I had debt problems when I was younger - and prone to living beyond my means. I also made a lot of mistakes in personal relationships and was taught by lots and lots of deep pain as a result.

After all is said and done, however, all of these various experiences cultivated a wisdom and maturity level I would have otherwise not obtained. That's the way life works.

Kids make lots of mistakes as they grow up. That is part of learning. Guess what? Learning is a life long process, which means we will all screw up along the way. It's part of the deal!!

The important thing is not that we never make mistakes, bad decisions or use bad judgment now and then. What's important is what we do once we realize it wasn't the best idea! From that moment on, we have the opportunity to add to our wisdom and knowledge base.

All of this can become part of a firm foundation from which we base our lives.

Don't go deliberately to try to gain wisdom from poor judgement, but when you find you've done something foolish or unwise... let it be a 'lesson' and head off in a new direction... stronger and wiser for the detour!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Worry is Worthless

Worry can look so virtuous. When we stress over the big meeting that's coming up, we look 'dedicated.' When we obsess and overprotect our kids, we can appear to be 'good parents.' When we can't stop thinking about our problems (or the problems of those we love) we look concerned and conscientious. All of this is an illusion! Worrying about tomorrow is actually a giant waste of time!

I saw this quote on a friend's facebook status today:

"Worrying about the future is like trying to eat the hole in a doughnut. It's munching on what isn't." ~ Barry Neil Kaufman

I love that!

Yes, we need to plan for the future. Yes, we ought to think things through and make sound decisions. Of course we need to provide sound guidance and direction for our kids. None of that has anything to do with worry.

How many hours of your life have you spent worrying about things that never came to pass? I don't even know if I can count that high if I'm honest with myself! It's especially frustrating to worry about things we absolutely cannot control!

We need to do all we can to address any situation in our life... and then release the outcome. Once we've done all we can do, we need to relax and allow.

Stress and worry takes an enormous toll on our physical and emotional well being. We can learn to handle stress differently, and we can learn to release worry from our habitual patterns of reacting to life.

It is futile to ruminate over what has yet to come. It wastes energy and it diverts our attention away from actions that actually make a difference!

Place worry where it belongs - in the trash can! Worry not!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

With Each Step a Letting Go

I was just blessed with a 4 day trip to the Washington coast with a good friend. We took a couple days off and headed to the beach to relax and rejuvenate.

It has been an unbelievably beautiful week here in the Seattle area, and the weather at the beach was the same. We were treated to 4 days of almost completely cloud free weather!

This was the view from our room:

When the time came to head to the beach, I was a bit stressed out, and a little down. My low back had started to really hurt me during the week, and I worried that it would impair my ability to walk on the beach and enjoy my trip. On top of that, it had been a generally busy week, and the responsibilities and 'people issues' I'd had to deal with had me a bit frazzled.

I worried a bit that maybe I'd have trouble 'letting go' and relaxing - even with the gorgeous weather, a good friend and the entire Pacific Ocean to soothe me!

Arriving in the late afternoon, there was just enough time to take our first walk on the beach. The place we were staying sits high on a cliff. You walk an old wooden staircase down the side of the cliff, through a wooded ravine to get to the beach. As we descended down those stairs, I noticed that I was already starting to feel a bit different.

I had set a strong intention to 'be fully present' to my time at the beach. When my mind wandered to problems or my back pain, I focused on the present moment and took a deep breath.

We hit the beach and it was absolute perfection. Perfect sunshine. Very little wind (which is also rare for the Washington coast). We headed to the waters edge (the only place to walk on the beach, as far as I'm concerned) and started to walk. Step, by step, I found myself gently reigning in my mind, returning my focus to the step at hand and taking one deep breath after another. I started to feel calmer. With each and every step, I looked at the ocean, listened to the soothing sound of the surf, and thought about the enduring nature of this magnificent creation. The ocean was there long before I was born, certainly before any of my current 'problems' or 'challenges' existed, and guess what? It will be there long after my challenges and very life are no more. How much do our 'so called problems' really matter in the grand scheme of life? How many things do we spend our energy worrying about and wrestling with... that really just... don't matter!?

I swear, that with each step, I felt a little lighter. With each deep breath, and each 'refocusing' of my mind, I became a little more present and a little more content. The restlessness subsided. My problems started to fade in significance. All that mattered was making the most of the moment in which I found myself.

Being fully present to each moment of life is a powerful and compelling way to live life. We can 'harvest' the value out of our experiences to a much greater degree if we are in the present... and not reliving the past or fantasizing (or catastrophizing) about the future.

The beach certainly offered it's full support to my process, and I emerged from my little journey feeling 100% better! You don't need a trip to the ocean, however, to focus on your breath, the present moment, and the step that you are taking at this exact point in time.

Be here now. Let go of all that came before with each step you take and pay attention to where your feet are landing right now!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Practice Praise and Lift Others Up

Too often in this world of ours, people are all too willing to complain about bad service, but are less willing to sing the praises of someone who does a good job.

I received a phone call a few days ago from someone who was asking me about an online endorsement I gave for the fellow who washes my windows and cleans my gutters. I'm not in the habit of answering phone calls from numbers I don't know, so I let the call go to voicemail. I immediately listened to the message, and returned the call.

We had a short conversation, but I wanted to take the time to let him know that this man, who has done my windows and gutters for 10 years, is indeed a great guy who does wonderful work. The man who called was grateful for my time. I was happy to give the recommendation for my window guy.

In another recent experience, I wrote a letter to thank a professional I worked with in the past, for something they had done for me a long time ago that has only recently paid off and helped me resolve a serious problem. My relationship with this person ended very badly, on a serious sour note, due to some incompetence and poor performance on their part. You can believe that I had let him know, in no uncertain terms, that I didn't appreciate that part of our experience. That, however, had been communicated in the past, when that situation unfolded. This recent happening, however, was a direct result of something positive that this person had done for me. I believe in letting people know when their behavior is sub-standard or unacceptable, but I also believe in letting people know when they have done something well. Sometimes the same person can do some things really well, and handle other things really poorly. I don't throw the baby out with the bath water. I chose to express my gratitude to this person for the good they did, even though the other aspects of their performance had caused me to sever our relationship in the past.

It is important to tell people when they are doing a good job. I think expressing our appreciation and gratitude to those around us who go above and beyond the call of duty is something we should all do more of.

It always feels good when someone acknowledges us for our efforts and contribution. If we enjoy that, we have to know that others enjoy it too!

Whether it's a waiter or waitress that performs their job with enthusiasm and efficiency, a friend who helped you out, a service provider who handle their responsibilities in a way that made your life a little easier, a teacher who went out of their way to help your child, or a checkout person who lets you use a coupon they have behind the counter... take a moment to express your gratitude and appreciation. Write a note, and if possible, send a copy to their boss. It is a way to focus on what is good and right in our world. Guess what? What we focus on grows and expands in our life, so when you acknowledge people who treat you well and do good work for you, you will attract more of the same!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fanning a Spark into a Flame

I was feeling kind of down over the past weekend. I just couldn't seem to snap out of my funk. I'd had a busy, productive week, but on the weekend I sort of 'crashed' and found that my motivation and energy level plummeted. I just couldn't seem to get myself going.

Saturday afternoon, I thought about going to a movie, but that just didn't seem to be what I wanted to do. I didn't feel like doing much of anything.

As I pondered my options, the only thing that sounded even remotely appealing to me was to drive into downtown Seattle to eat at one of my very favorite Mexican Food Restaurants, Mama's Mexican Kitchen. I absolutely love their crisp chicken tacos! They even have a burrito on their menu called the "NOLAsco" burrito!

This didn't make a lot of sense to me. It's 30 - 40 minute drive from where I live. I usually only go there when I have another reason to be in downtown Seattle. Making a trip all the way into town, just to have lunch seemed kind of silly and self indulgent.

I decided, given I had zero motivation to do anything else, and the fact that I had worked hard all week long, I would go ahead and follow that glimmer of energy and interest. I drove to Mama's.

What happened as a result, was quite amazing. As I sat there, eating my chips and salsa, sipping my iced tea, I started to feel a little better. A favorite waiter of mine was there, and we chatted a bit. They brought me my own carafe of iced tea, with lots of ice... just the way I like it.

I felt better and I started to feel inspired to go home and tackle a couple little organizational projects that I'd been putting off. I had been completely 'down' when I got the impulse to go to Mama's. Now, less than two hours later, I felt uplifted, motivated and ready to do some things - both productive and just for fun.

The rest of my day was wonderful. I got some chores done, took a long walk in the sunshine, and did some things just for fun. None of that would have happened if I hadn't gone to Mama's. I probably would have moped around all day feeling sorry for myself - aimless and without energy.

I really believe that when we have lost our motivation, or are feeling down, one way 'out of the tunnel' is to look for ANY glimmer of interest or motivation and indulge it. I'm not talking about doing something unhealthy or destructive, just to be clear. But if something seems a bit frivolous (like driving 40 minutes for a chicken taco) or like a 'waste of time' (like working on a jigsaw puzzle - one of my other activities that I sometimes do when I'm feeling down) I say GO FOR IT! Very often, when we follow a desire of our heart, we rekindle our enthusiasm for life in general. We can fan the spark of motivation and energy until it becomes a fire!

Next time you are feeling low or unmotivated, see if there is anything at all that calls to your heart... and go for it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's Tempting to Work in Someone Else's Garden

I have a really big yard. I spend a lot of time working in it every spring and summer. There is an endless stream of tasks that I need to be working on in my garden. It simply never ends!

I was taking a walk in my neighborhood the other day and I walked past a landscaped entry to a neighboring housing development. I noticed that there were 7 day lilly plants that had old, dead stalks from last summer's flowers sticking out of them. I looked at those plants and had an overwhelming urge to pull out those dead flower stalks.

"It would take me 5 minutes to take care of that," I thought to myself. I knew that it would feel super satisfying to take that little section of this garden and 'whip it in to shape!' I was really tempted to step in and handle it.

Then, I started smiling to myself. I thought about all the garden chores that were waiting for me, at home, in my very own garden. I have plenty of '5 minute tasks' but none of those seem to be calling out to me the way that small section of someone else's garden did.

The task in someone else's garden somehow seemed less overwhelming. It seemed easier, and therefore more appealing than my own garden's chores.


That sums up some of my most tenacious personality traits! I love 'fixing' other people's problems for them. I'm pretty much always ready and willing to jump in and help someone else with their problems and circumstances. It seems I always have some relevant experience or knowledge than can make their way easier. In some cases, I spend so much time helping those other folks, that I have little time and energy left over for my own work!

It is so easy and so tempting to jump into other people's business! Our problems or responsibilities always seem more daunting, or more boring than someone else's! We just know we can swoop in and get someone else's problems "handled" whereas we sometimes hesitate to dig in to our own stuff. It's fascinating really.

Along a similar line of thinking, I used to truly hate cleaning my own house. I wouldn't say I hate it anymore, but I certainly don't enjoy it. The interesting point here is that I used to clean other people's houses (for money) when I was in college. It was one of the many jobs I had that enabled me to put myself through school. I actually enjoyed cleaning other people's houses. It was fun for me to transform the chaos and the mess into calm, clean order. I didn't get the same satisfaction from doing my own housework that I received from doing other peoples'! Interesting.

Many of us struggle with this issue. It is sometimes called co-dependency: Being overly involved in the lives of those around us, and not paying full attention to our own responsibilities, challenges and issues as a result.

Being too involved in other people's "gardens" is a way of distracting ourselves from our own uncomfortable situations and issues. It is a way to refocus ourselves and ignore things that somehow trouble or scare us. It's a defense mechanism.

In our culture, unfortunately, this is very socially acceptable behavior. We can look like great wives, husbands, mothers or fathers by focusing solely on the needs and responsibilities of those around us. Other people might praise and value us for the 'over involvement' that we exercise in the lives of people we care about. Positive accolades does not necessarily make it healthy.

In many cases, it is decidedly unhealthy. When we do things for others that they can, and should, be doing for themselves, we cripple them. We cripple ourselves at the same time because we exhaust our inner and outer resources in the service of handling things for others, when we should be facing ourselves squarely and doing our own work!

I'm not saying we should never help others, or practice healthy giving. Of course, these are positive and desirable traits that we should all aspire to have. It only becomes a problem, when we feel 'compelled' to be involved in other people's business, and neglect our own. This can be tricky. As I said, this is a 'tactic' or a defense mechanism that we utilize to protect ourselves from facing hard truths in our own selves and lives. We can be pretty tricky about making that look virtuous to ourselves and to those around us.

If you are someone who feels drawn to 'working in someone else's garden' even though you have plenty of weeds of your own... put the brakes on that behavior, and see what's lurking underneath it. Something needs your attention and your energy. Everyone will be better off if you focus your resources there first!

Stay focused and rooted in your own garden!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Release Control to Open Channels

I really enjoy taking walks near my home. I have a route I walk that takes me up a hill and along a ridge through the woods. I generally listen to music, or some sort of educational or inspirational talk as I take my walks.

This past Sunday, we had an unexpected little burst of sunshine and I decided to take one of my walks. With my MP3 player in hand, I set out.

As I started to peruse my player to choose what I wanted to listen to I accidentally selected the option to play randomized shuffled tracks. This is not my usual practice. I usually allow my mood to dictate what I listen to. On this particular day, I decided to go with my 'accidental' selection of randomized tracks and see what showed up for me to listen to.

It is important to this story to mention that I have almost 2,000 tracks on my MP3 player! The variety of music and audio/talk products that I have is immense. I have all genres of music including rap, pop, rock, country, Christian, classical, inspirational, soundtracks, musicals... you name it... it's there. I probably have 30 CDs worth of inspirational/motivational talks as well. Lots and lots of variety!

I found it amazing to see what was presented to me in my random list of tracks.

Here were the tracks that I heard:

1. The first track that played was one of my own voice! It was me doing the benediction at the memorial service of my spiritual teacher, Dr. Charles Bruni several years ago. I performed his memorial service, which was one of the great honors of my life.

2. The second track was of a minister thanking me for the talk I'd just given at his church.

3. The third track was a song by Paul Carrack, called "Inspire Me."

4. Next up was a track from a talk product I have about becoming a writer and a speaker - this particular track was on various options for how to best publish a book, depending on your goals.

5. After that, a 'talk' track on the power of feminine presence and how to allow that presence to shine forth more fully. (Something I've been working on).

6. An inspirational song was up next - In the Blink of an Eye by MercyMe

7. A blues song about someone lying to someone (an experience I've had more than once in the past few years)

8. Another inspirational song - Holy, by Nicole Nordiman

9. "Where I belong" by Bryan Adams (from the movie "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron")

10. Another blues song about leaving behind people who don't treat you right. (Something I've had to do a LOT in the last few years).

11. Ocean, by 10-Shekel Shirt (another really uplifting and inspirational song).

12. A favorite instrumental by Third Force called, "Bridge of Dreams."

I was simply blown away by the 'program' that the universe presented to me on my walk!

As an aspiring author and speaker, the fact that several of the selections somehow related to this was astonishing to me!

With the exception of the two blues songs (which I'll get to in a minute) all the other songs were especially uplifting and relevant to me at this particular moment in time.

The blues songs each addressed unpleasant situations that I've gone through in the past few years. These situations have troubled me and been difficult on my heart. I found it amazing that they were represented in the universe's 'playlist' for me this particular day.

Again, I have almost 2,000 songs on this player! I didn't hear any of my hard rock songs, or other tracks from genres that are heavily represented in my collection.

It's like the universe knew exactly what message I needed to receive and queued it up just for me. All because I relinquished control and allowed the experience to unfold.

I really like to control and direct things. It is my nature to do so. Yet, I'm well aware that as I've learned to relax my need to control... miracles have happened in my life.

This 'universal playlist' is just one such example.

Great things can happen to us if we learn to relax our need to control, and allow Spirit to guide and direct us.

I don't take lightly the messages I received during my 'out of control' walk. I truly believe I was meant to be encouraged in exactly this way!

Surrender your need to control... and see what comes to you!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Real Love

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. The 'day of love.' Many people love this day. Many people despise it.

Some of our notions of love are really quite dysfunctional. We call a lot of things love that have nothing to do with love at all. A lot of relationships contain elements of control, obligation, manipulation, sacrifice, suffering and unhealthy dependency (emotional and physical). Our movies and books help to perpetuate the idea that all this junk is love. None of this has anything to do with healthy, mature love.

I love this quote by Mary Anne Radmacher:

"While I do not always understand - I value you. Preferring not to act simply on need - I want you. I do not love you of obligation or habit - I choose you. I accept you. I rejoice in your life, your life lived freely right beside me."

What a beautiful (partial) description of mature, healthy love and partnering.

As we pass yet another Valentine's day, it behooves us to reflect a little bit on our understanding of love itself. Letting go of our image of romanticized dysfunction as the definition of love and learning about and embracing authentic, mature love sets us free.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Beauty of Breathing

Did you ever stop to think about how amazing it is to breathe? Really, I'm serious. Just stop for a moment and think about it. It's really a miracle... and we take it for granted pretty much all the time.

Take a deep breath right now. Hold it for a second, and then let it out normally.

Take another deep breath, hold it for a couple seconds and let it out very slowly.

Take yet another deep breath, hold it for a couple seconds and let it out forcefully with a deep sigh.

Just becoming aware of our breath and engaging in the process consciously has a very soothing and calming affect.

When we get scared, nervous or upset, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid. We can alter those feelings by slowing down our breathing, and increasing the depth of the breaths we take.

Something so essential to our existence, is a powerful tool at our disposal. We can work with our breathing to alter the feelings we are having, the tension in our muscles, and the general well being of our bodies.

Breathing is a gift. It gives us life. We can also use it to enhance our experience of life.

Practice slow deep breathing several times a day. Select a cue for yourself. Something like the telephone ringing, or waiting at a stoplight. Each time you encounter your cue, take 3 slow, deep breaths.

See how much calmer you feel, and how much more present you become to your precious moments!

Happy breathing!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Moving On

"No one can go back and make a brand new start; Anyone can start now and make a brand new ending..." ~ Carl Bard

I saw this quote on a friend's Facebook post today. How very true it is!

It really isn't possible to unring bells and go back to any point in our past. What's done... is done.

We can't change how we've been treated. We can't change how we've acted. We can't change the fact that our actions and the actions of others have produced consequences in our lives. It is what it is.

We do, however, have the power to choose our reactions and actions in any moment in time. We can't undo what's been done, but we can greatly alter what happens from this moment on.

Many people spend a lot of their life energy bemoaning what they have done wrong, or what has been done (wrong) to them. This is a waste of our life energy!

Start now. Start this moment. Live from this moment forward, instead of looking over your shoulder to what has gone before. It does no good. It simply siphons energy away from the possibilities of the future.

Build the experience from this moment on - taking into account all that has come before, without getting stuck there!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tough Stuff is Part of the Deal

We all go through ups and downs in life. The "downs" can be very frustrating and troublesome. Yet, it is all part of life. There is no way around it.

I believe that our tough experiences grow and develop us - both psychologically and spiritually. They are the lessons we go through that turn us into the people we were born to be.

Many times our challenges and trials tap into our faith and strength in a way that we could simply not do any other way. It's like weight lifting. Lifting weights strengthens our muscles and cultivates strength in us. We are able to do more with the newly developed strength than we did before.

It's the same with the character and inner strength that we develop when we go through trials and tribulations. We cultivate resilience and wisdom as we learn to endure the difficult parts of life. We are then able to handle things with more confidence and less struggle in the future.

Fighting the fact that 'tough stuff' exists is futile. It's unavoidable for all of us. We can learn to 'lean in' to our challenges, face them squarely and build inner capabilities that will serve us well, all the days of our life.

When tough times hit us, we're not being picked on. We are being grown and cultivated to be more of who we were born to be.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Counting on the Right Things

"No one can build security upon the nobleness of another person. ~ Willa Cather

Not a person alive has escaped being hurt or disappointed by someone they trusted. It is a universal experience on planet earth. It hurts to be betrayed or mistreated. It is painful and it requires energy and attention to skillfully move through such an experience. It does not, however, need to devastate us.

I love this quote by Willa Cather because it reveals the secret to dealing with people who mistreat you, let you down or betray your trust. The key is to not build our security, our sense of self, or our self worth on how other people treat us.

What people do to us is a reflection of THEM... it doesn't say anything at all about US. We get into trouble when we take the misguided actions of other people personally - as though they somehow tell us something about our worth.

When we make other people's opinions of us, or how they treat us, a causative factor in determining our feelings about ourselves, we are putting ourselves in a perilous place.

There will always be people in our lives who treat us poorly from time to time. It's a fact of life. Some will be close to us, others will be just passing through. None of it feels good, but it doesn't mean anything about us.

We cannot place our security or our self image in the hands of another person, just because we want to believe in their goodness. We can think the best of people, treat them well, and even when they don't treat us well, we can still feel fine about ourselves and our future!

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Simplest Sensation

I had a really busy week last week. Each day was filled with a lot of productive and fruitful labor. When the weekend came, I worked and played even harder than I had during the week!

I drove quite a ways to visit my mother. I helped her buy a new computer and spent many, many hours setting up and configuring the new machine, moving her data over to it, etc. I stayed up into the wee hours of the night working on it, and got up to start again early in the morning.

After all the busy-ness of the week, and the marathon sessions to get this new computer up and running, I met up with some of my cousins to watch the superbowl and do a little fun gambling at a local casino. We enjoyed the game and then about 7 hours of gambling afterwards.

At the end of all this activity, I was truly exhausted. It came time for us all to say goodnight, and we made our plans to meet up for breakfast in the morning.

All i really wanted to do was go to bed, but something appealed to me even more. I decided to take a nice, hot shower. I felt a little keyed up after all the frenzied activity of the week, but especially the past two days. I figured the shower might help me relax, unwind and get to sleep a little easier.

How can such a simple thing... such a basic sensation be so amazing! The fatigue and exertion of the past week just melted off of me in that late night indulgence. I don't do that very often. Usually I shower in the morning, or earlier in the day. i don't usually shower super late at night (well actually it was very early the next morning!) Something about showing at that late hour made it seem super self indulgent!

It was very relaxing, and refreshing. It made a huge difference in how I felt.

Sometimes we think we need to do something grandiose in order to feel better, or reward ourselves for a job well done or a day well lived.

Simple acts can have profound beneficial impact. Even something like a shower at the end of a long, hard day or week. It doesn't have to be a huge act to soothe and uplift us!

Friday, February 05, 2010

You Never Know How You're Helping

I believe that life is all about learning and growing. Each person that we encounter on our life's path is there for a reason. We might teach them something. We might learn something from them. Sometimes we are both a teacher and a student with a person we encounter.

I don't believe in accidents. I believe that everyone we cross paths with is a sort of divine appointment for us. No matter how 'insignificant' the meeting might seem - it is happening for a reason. This is true of our closest relationships, and the casual encounters in the street.

Never underestimate the value of the touches that we give and receive in the living of our lives. Gifts of learning, and gifts of teaching come at unexpected times and in unexpected ways.

Know that you are having a far greater influence than you know! Also... receive fully the gifts you receive from others! This is one of the great mysteries and blessings of life!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Think it Through

I had an unhappy encounter with a plumber today.

I don't have enough hot water in my house. This is a new condition, and obviously something is wrong.

I have two hot water heaters in my house. Both are about 10 years old.

The plumber arrived, didn't even ask me about the symptoms and said, "oh, these are 10 years old. You should just replace them." The bid he gave me was around $3,200 to either replace both of the water heaters, or remove them both and put in one new super-duper water heater instead.

The truth is, the water heaters may indeed need to be replaced. The point I want to make, however, is that the plumber didn't make me feel that he was sincere, because he didn't even TRY to diagnose my problem. He provided a solution before even looking at the actual problem. This is not a good strategy.

When we attempt to solve a problem, we need to make sure we look squarely at the problem and understand it completely before we propose a solution. We'll have more credibility, even with ourselves, if we actually analyze the problem, rather than just propose a solution without proper consideration.

Do I really need new water heaters? I don't know. The troubleshooting done by this guy... was not adequate, so I will investigate further. His approach did not inspire confidence.

I firmly believe we should listen to each other (and ourselves) and give due diligence to a situation before we leap to any conclusion. It's a sound approach to water heaters... and life!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Do Nothing...

Sometimes, the best action we can take in a situation is to DO NOTHING.

We humans, so often, want to make something happen. We find something about our current situation intolerable, and we want to change it... right NOW!

Sometimes, we write stories about what other people are thinking or doing. We just KNOW what their actions (or lack thereof) mean. We make these assumptions, and we act on them as though we know they are fact. Often (most often) we are wrong.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is to take NO ACTION. Just take a deep breath and relax. Sometimes we need to just let things be... and settle... before we say or do anything.

It is difficult,when we feel a sense of urgency, to wait. Often, however, that is exactly what we need to do.

All of us see through filters. These filters are constructed by some of our 'wounds' from our past, as well as through the experiences we have lived through. Our filters are not always accurate.

A pause, to reflect and make a good decision as to our next action, is in order.

Pausing is a difficult thing when we feel a lot of emotion. It is essential to do so, however, if we want to make a solid choice.

Learning to take NO action, is sometimes the most important thing we can do.

If you are making assumptions about another person's motives or feelings, I encourage you to STOP. Do nothing, and allow some time to pass to reveal the truth to you.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Facing Fear... Finding Freedom

This past weekend, I spoke at Celebration Church in Wilsonville Oregon.

Fear is something that affects all of us in some way. We call fear by many names. It has many faces. Here are some of the words we use to refer to fear:


I'm sure there are more. Fear shows up in many ways from the subtle to the extreme, but in some ways it affects us all!

In this talk I discussed fear... what it is, how it gets in our way and what we can do to move beyond it and experience the freedom that is available to us all!

Listen to the talk, Facing Fear... Finding Freedom and others I've given, through your default audio player by visiting my Audio Archive.

Monday, February 01, 2010

In Celebration of my Mother

Yesterday was my mother's 75th birthday!! It's hard for me to believe, actually. She certainly doesn't look... or act 75!

My mom spent her birthday supporting me, as she always has, while I was giving a talk at a church near her home.

We did have the opportunity to go out for dinner the night before to celebrate her big day!

My mom's willingness to support me, even on a day that should have been 'all about her' was yet another example of the many times in my life that she put me (and my brothers) first, before herself.

She has always wanted us all to be happy and healthy and she's done all she could to help us towards that goal.

I have a great mom! I'm filled with gratitude that I have her... and that she's still with me - strong as ever!

Sometimes she teases me that she's going to come back and haunt me when I'm 75... because I expect her to keep up with me and don't cut her a lot of slack! We always chuckle when she says that, but the truth is... she keeps up just fine!

Thanks mom... for all that you have given me. Happy Happy Birthday!

My mom and I - a few years ago