Tuesday’s thoughts…
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Tuesday’s thoughts…

In an attempt to cultivate a profound sense of gratitude

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you?” ~ William Arthur Ward

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” ~ Alphonse Karr

“At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.” ~ Toni Morrison

“True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience.’” ~ Oprah Winfrey

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” ~ Maya Angelou

“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

“My heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love.” ~ George Saunders

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” ~ Pema Chödrön

“The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way.” ~ Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Ajq’ij of the Eagle Clan

A Tuesday Poem

What if you slept?
And what if,
In your sleep
You dreamed?
And what if,
In your dream,
You went to heaven
And there plucked
A strange and
Beautiful flower?
And what if,
When you awoke,
You had the flower
In your hand?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“For true love is inexhaustible, the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant its flow”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

~ Anaïs Nin

Found written on the wall of a Sri Lankan monastery

Come with empty hands, go with empty mind.

Shrouded by darkness, would you not seek a light?

What you see reflects your thinking.

When attachment arises, contemplate impermanence, not the Self

Wherever you go, there you are.

And my favorite…

No way out but in.

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When Life just won’t let you go…let go.

When Life just won’t let you go…let go.

Ever had a couple of those months where Life just wont let you go?

I am embedded on the front lines of a fierce firefight with Life. Explosions are coming unerringly closer, adrenalin is pumping through my system, I have responded decisively and courageously…and yet, behind the deafening narrative of my discursive, chattering mind, is peace and acceptance. It’s a hard place to drop into, but it’s there as I let go and trust that its all going to be as it should, no matter the outcome. Surrender is not defeat.

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Silence is Golden

Silence is Golden

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about noise and silence. Maybe it’s because I live in a city, within a vortex of Sound. Walking within the CBD yesterday it felt
like the world was a bell and I the clapper. By the end of the day, I feel quite jangled. My guess is that you sometimes do too, whether you live in a city or not.

One reason we feel jangled is high-intensity physical noise. There’s a lot of it around, and the cacophony continues to increase. In the city, sirens scream and taxi horns honk, people shout and mumble into their handsets. Sound is everywhere.

But another kind of noise is more pervasive and insidious: the lower-intensity sounds of phones ringing, email arriving, songs playing, and televisions blaring. It’s a continual assault on not only our eardrums, but on our souls as well. Too much noise may deafen you, but it can also demoralize you.

Maybe we should unplug. Some time ago in the technology section of The New York Times, Matt Richtel wrote about several neuroscientists who spent a week on a camping trip in remote southern Utah. The trip was an effort to understand how heavy use of technology and digital devices changes how we think and behave—and how a retreat into nature might reverse the effects. With cell phones silent, email inaccessible, and laptops left behind, it was a week-long journey into the heart of silence.

As background, the article mentions a seminal study at the University of Michigan, which showed that people don’t learn as well after walking down a busy street as they do after a walk in the woods. The neuroscientists on the trip theorized that the difference has to do with the central role that attention plays in memory and learning. If you have several things in your environment that demand your attention, you can’t fully focus on any one of them. And the process of switching from one to the other takes time, further reducing the attention you have available.

And there’s one more factor that is especially relevant to heavy users of technology. If you are in a situation where you could potentially be interrupted by an email, or a text, or a phone call, or a knock at the door, a small but significant portion of your attention will be focused on anticipating what might happen, even if it never does. The upshot is that your attention, already divided among multiple tasks, is further abridged by the costs of switching and anticipating additional switches. In the end, you’re not really paying attention at all. But you are completely exhausted by the experience.

What’s the solution to this state of jangle? In his book In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise, George Prochnik says that we shouldn’t think of the noise surrounding us as only a pollution issue. Rather, he says, we should think of it also as a dietary issue: “Our aural diet is miserable. It’s full of over-rich, non-nutritious sounds served in inflated portions—and we don’t consume nearly enough silence. A poor diet kills; but it kills as much because of what it does not contain as from what it includes.”

Truth be told, we’re not likely to stop using our smart phones and headphones. Instead, our goal should be to consume more silence. It will help keep the noise from deafening us. And it will certainly help keep it from demoralizing us. Besides, silence is what makes sound meaningful in the first place.

The composer Claude Debussy once remarked that music is the stuff between the notes. He seemed to be saying that almost anyone can eventually get the notes right, more or less. The notes only become music, however, when you also get the silences on either side of them right. The margins around the notes matter: the silence is what gives meaning to everything else.

Neuroscientists at Stanford recently corroborated Debussy’s assertion. They have shown that when we listen to music, it’s the silent intervals that trigger the most intense, positive brain activity. As George Prochnik reports, “The peak of positive brain activity actually occurs in the silent pauses between sounds, when the brain is striving to anticipate what the next note will be. The burst of neural firing that takes place in the absence of sound enables the mind to perform some of its most vital work of maintaining attention and encoding memories.”

In other words, in order for the sounds of life to have meaning, we need to consume our minimum daily requirement of Golden Silence.

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Thought for today

Thought for today

The most bitter tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. -Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and novelist (1811-1896)

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Being of Service

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Martin Luther King jr

I watch so many of us wrestling with ourselves, exhausted, brittle, we become hopeless and mired in our own story. I have found that one of the greatest sources of emancipation from my own drama is to be of service to others, whether it be in my various practices, or on the street, or working with NGO’s, being of service in the world gives us a source of Great Meaning. Try it and see how you are without your own story for a while, what it feels like to be of service and the impact it can have on your home, work or community environment.

An invitation to a brief period of reflection.

1: Take a quiet period of meditation to ask yourself about service. Sit and be silent for some time. When you are ready, pose the following questions inwardly to yourself. Pause after each one, allowing a response from a place of compassion and wisdom.
2: imagine yourself five years from now, as you would most like to be, having done all the things you want to have done.
3: what is your greatest source of happiness?
4: what is the thing you have done of which you are most proud?
5: what is the contribution you have made to the world that brings you the greatest satisfaction? If it does not come easily, take some time…
6:to make this contribution to the world, what unworthiness would you have to relinquish?
7: to make this contribution to the world, what strengths and capacities would you have to reconize in yourself and others?
8: what would you have to do in your life today to begin this service, this contribution?

If you need ideas about how to get involved, check out the Be Kind tab above.

Keep truckin’

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Lost and found

My mother was a complex, wounded woman and when I lost her as a young boy the pain robbed me of a part of my internal ‘density’. No longer able to use her for dialysis, to make sense of the world for me, I began to grow apart, diffuse. My legs grew thin, my spine curled to protect my heart and I developed asthma as I literally struggled to catch my breath. The deeper wound was the sense of betrayal I felt in the natural order of the Universe. I swore and cast fury to the heavens and tried to crush faith beneath my heel. But in spite of myself, no matter how betrayed and abandoned I felt, I never lost my capacity to love.

Many of the psychologists I know have been deeply wounded by life. Perhaps that is what has brought us to this work. A pack of hungry, wounded healers. There is no doubt that the ability to relate intimately to the often eviscerating pain of the human condition has forged a deep empathic link within, but it also allows me to appreciate and seek out joy.

Sometimes as I write my ‘mourning’ pages, I reflect wryly on the powerful, hypnotic intensity of my underlying complexes. I have always been attracted to ‘complex’,wounded women (the link does not escape me). At the first hint of attraction, the young boy scout rescuer within perks up and gathers his first aid kit and sets off on yet another doomed escapade to rescue a fragment of his lost mother in another. How cliched, a therapist with mother issues…

As I move into mid-life, my repetitions have become painfully clear and even though the complex plays its flute, I am more able to move my limbs in the direction of healing. Its power is finally waning, now though, it’s a question of courage, for to discover ones truth is one thing but to have the balls to live in alignment with it is quite another.

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The cloud appreciation society.

Bugger…was the word I woke up with at 3am, a rather odd word to wake up with, rather like waking up next to a stranger and wondering what they’re doing in your bed. This sense of dislocation lingers as I sit with you and my warm cup of tea, as if part of me is still dreaming. I wonder who else is awake at this time? Criminals, miscreants, perverts, lovers, coke heads, the broken hearted, the lonely, the jet lagged, emergency room staff, someone sitting holding the hand of a loved one as they slip away, a newborn’s first breath. So many stories being told all the time, even at this time.

As I watch my mind move it seems that I am rediscovering a sense of being marveled by the world, like a young curious boy. It may be linked to my growing practice of the art of not taking it all too seriously and letting things go. Perhaps I then have more space inside of me to wonder at the sheer infinite number of curiosities in this world. I am watching myself shed my absolutes, my certainties, my fear. I’m exploring the space between black and white and its certainly not grey.

Today I’m going to find a beautiful place with lots of trees where I can lie down on soft grass and watch clouds pass overhead. How are you going to spend your precious self today?

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