Chasing Dreams

Hurryhurryhurry.   Rushrushrush. NownowNOW.

This is society today.   Everything we read is either doom-and-gloom, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it (great—R.E.M. is going to be echoing in my head all day now) or it’s gimme gimme gimme consumerism gone wild. I have to have it and I have to have it NOW.

Nothing good comes to us in this manner. It is inevitably very easy to fall in to the trap of believing everything must happen soon sooner soonest, especially in the context of a perceived shortage of money. Bills must be paid, after all, and they must be paid on time. The kids need school supplies and I just stained my last good shirt and DAMMIT the car needs tires and everything always happens at once WHY ME?!?!

Deep breath now. Calming breath. Take ten minutes to yourself. Yes, you deserve it. Just ten minutes spent focusing on all the wonder in your life. All the blessings. Look for them, and I promise they’ll be there. More than you realize while you’re fighting for breath and seemingly drowning in the everyday demands and expectations which can seem so overwhelming.

Ten minutes. To be grateful. To wallow in your glory rather than your misery. To connect with your bliss rather than your angst.

Ten minutes to feel and bask in the love that surrounds you. See and absorb the beauty of the clouds. Watch as the grass seems to rejoice in the rain. Revel in the birds as they take joy in their bath. Feel the breeze on your face. Thank the rain for replenishing the flowers for you to enjoy.

Dance in the peace. You owe it to yourself to slow down and reduce the demands you make on yourself and on life in general.

No, ten minutes is not the complete solution to all of your life’s dilemmas. But those precious, quiet, solitary ten minutes, set aside daily, can open countless doors and windows and curtains in your mind. They can bring you clarity. “The muddiest water clears as it is stilled”.*

Life can be very hectic and the demands it makes on us seem constant and relentless. We control our reaction to those demands, though. We can allow them to overwhelm us, to stress us and immobilize us. Or we can remain calm and simply do what we can do, right this moment.

Stress is a bitch. It cripples us. It destroys our bodies and overloads our minds to the point of incapacity. It is panic and ego telling us that we aren’t enough and never will be. It is self-defeating and therefore self-fulfilling prophecy. It shuts out reason and confidence as it takes over and doing becomes so much more important than being.

Peace cannot come to the rushed mind.   Do your daily duty as you see it, fulfilling your responsibilities with gratitude that you are able to do so, or even to get close. Don’t chase life. Like the dog chasing his tail, it will remain forever just out of reach. But when the dog finally tires and lies down, he curls up with his tail beside his face, easily within reach. The dog knows that the chase is just a game; do you? Be still and allow clarity to come.

Allow life to come to you. Just as grasping at water forces it from your hand, attempting to seize and force joy from life merely pushes that joy further away. Allow life to happen. Be grateful for what you have and for what’s flowing to you.

After all, if like attracts like, then gratitude inevitably attracts more to be grateful for.

In The Way Of Life According To Lao Tzu, Witter Bynner’s 1944 poetic translation of the Tao Te Ching, He enlivens the 15th verse like this:

How can a man’s life keep its course

If he will not let it flow?

Those who flow as life flows know

They need no other force:

They feel no wear, they feel no tear,

They need no mending, no repair.

To struggle is a choice. To hurry and rush and stress are choices.   You may not exert control over everything that happens in your world, but you 100% control your reactions to your daily stimuli.

Ten minutes of stillness can make a huge difference, I promise. You don’t need to “clear your mind” and wipe clean your thoughts (I’m not even sure that’s possible). Just sit in silence and breathe. Listen to and feel the air moving in your nose and chest. Feel your pulse slow and the knots in your stomach loosen. When your thoughts drift back to your stressors, just gently redirect them back to your breath.   Don’t judge or curse yourself for it, just calmly return to breathing. If you feel you need something to “think about”, review once more the things you’re grateful for. Smile at each gift in your life. From your children or pets to the dime you picked off the sidewalk today and the total stranger who held the door for you at Starbucks.

Ten minutes. Ten minutes of not chasing and not rushing.

Ten minutes without doing.

Ten minutes of just being.

*–From Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, by Dr, Wayne W. Dyer, 15th Verse of the Tao Te Ching.

The only thing we have to fear is NOT LIVING

Ride life.

Ride life like an out-of-control tricycle down the steepest driveway in the neighborhood.

You are immortal, after all. You are invulnerable and immune to harm. You cannot die.

We all felt that way when we were tricycle-riding age.   What changed? When did fear of harm and death overtake the fear of not living? When did scraped elbows and mercurochrome become scarier than wasting a nice day indoors?

When did we stop living and start avoiding death?

The death of this body is inevitable and inescapable. It will tire and diminish and pass. But I never will. I am spirit having a human experience, and when this particular journey is complete, I’ll still be spirit, beginning my next adventure. I am infinite and eternal, and so are you.   When we realize this, when we truly understand our limitlessness, then fear of death will have no hold on us.   Death is merely a natural, eventual part of every physical existence, and is our opportunity to see what’s next.   What is there to fear in that?

I was afraid of heights. As a child, when my family visited King’s Island amusement park with its 1/3 scale Eiffel Tower, I was positively terrified of looking over the edge.   When dad took us up in the elevator, I clung to the innermost wall of the observation deck like a sailor lashed to the mast during a storm, and I couldn’t move. Completely immobilized by irrational fear. It was several years later when Jeff Lynn and I climbed to the top of the small barn my dad had built in the back yard and jumped off, using umbrellas as parachutes. Fear overcome in the pursuit of joy. Yes, I twisted the hell out of my ankle and missed 2 weeks of summer fun as a result, but those 3 joyous seconds of fearlessness were more than worth it.   Today, I take every opportunity to observe my world from a higher perspective. I go ziplining when finances permit. My sister and I climbed as far up Devil’s Tower in Wyoming as our complete lack of skill and training would permit. I’ve bungee jumped and still climb every tempting tree I encounter. Skydiving is a bucket list item for me that will not go unfulfilled. Fear overcome in the pursuit of joy.

As I broaden my view and explore my spirituality more and more deeply, I come to realize how much fear has held me back my entire life.   Fear of confrontation, fear of disapproval, fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of loneliness. As I look at the life I’ve led, though, I see that every single moment of purest joy, every instant of bliss, every explosive epiphany has occurred as a direct result of ignoring and overcoming my fear and leaping into the unknown. From fighting off my shyness and finally introducing myself to the beautiful woman on the far side of the room to lifting my feet off the platform and letting gravity take me on my first zipline adventure. Or leaping like a fool off the barn with a $2 umbrella the only thing to slow my plunge.

Let that clutch out and feel the power of fearlessness. Twist that throttle to the stop and LIVE.

NEVER let fear make your decisions for you.

Love IS the ONLY answer

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is probably one of Dr, King’s most famous quotes, but it seems also to be his most widely ignored.   The lesson implicit in this line is that violence always begets more violence; force invariably begets counterforce.

To me, this almost-lost lesson has taken on a new relevance in recent days. From violent protests to counter police violence which begets violence to suppress the violence of the protests in a never-ending, ever-escalating cycle to the virulent outrage and deeply hateful rhetoric against trophy hunters in the wake of the highly publicized killing of a much-loved animal.

These are without question heinous and reprehensible acts. Acts which must open our eyes, both as individuals and society as a whole, to the broader role of violence and force in our everyday lives. But to use these acts as a motivation for counter-violence serves only to amplify and intensify the response.

Many such examples pound our senses daily through the news media; far too many for it to be necessary to list them here. The correlation is obvious and undeniable.

Look back for a moment at the most effective and revered leaders over the centuries, the truest leaders of enduring, ever-broadening flocks: Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, Gandhi, Dr. King. These men did not endorse violence or retribution (despite the horrendous things done in some of their names), rather they embraced forgiveness, tolerance, and loving those who hate you. In the 20th Century, both Gandhi and King answered violence and force with peace. Sitting down in peaceful non-violence to protest injustice and inequity. Facing force down with love.

–The enduring symbol of the peace movement of the 1960s is a flower placed into a rifle barrel.   Where has that attitude gone?   Where has the understanding that hate begets hate and love begets love been lost?

I understand your anger.   I shudder in grief with every life lost to senseless brutality, whether it be an unborn child, an inner-city youth, or a majestic symbol of leonine might. But it is essential that we remember that to respond in kind is only to attract more of the same.

If for every black man assassinated by police, three officers are lost in rioting, how many more will die in the heightened tensions that follow?

If for every aborted fetus a clinic is burned to the ground, how many more lives will be lost in desperation when the clinics move underground?

If for every elephant tusk harvested, more poachers are killed, how much more expensive and precious does the ivory become on the black market?

Ever-escalating violence.   Ever-growing tensions. Ever more angry and desperate people.

An ever-deepening hole of a sad and loveless world.

Love and peace are the only viable, sustainable responses.

Matthew 5:44 (KJV) But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

It doesn’t get clearer than that, regardless of your particular religious afffiliation.

 Love IS the answer.

Humility pt 2: I Stay Quiet

I recently saw and commented on a meme of Facebook which stated that “Staying quiet doesn’t mean that I have nothing to say, it means I don’t think you’re ready to hear my thoughts.” This made me think just a bit about what staying quiet really means to me.

The biggest obstacle to living a life of peace and fulfillment is very often ego. This is not to say that we’re all uncontrolled egomaniacs demanding the world watch us every moment of every day (watch Bravo or E Network for a look at people who live that way). Simply that the concept of humility seems largely lost in the internet age when Twitter and Instagram and yes, Facebook encourage us at every point to share, share, share. We post endless “selfies” and weigh in on every issue we scroll past. The ubiquity of the ‘net makes us feel invulnerable and empowered to put ourselves out there in ways we’d never imagine doing in public. We want to be heard and seen; we feel compelled to contribute and offer our opinion as if it were vital that the world know how we feel.

The Tao Te Ching, that 2500 year old owners manual to the human experience, reiterates time and again the necessity of humility: be like water, it tells us. Water is the softest substance on the earth; it stays low, it is so malleable that you cannot grasp it but only allow it to flow to you. But with patience, it can wear away even the densest stone and the strongest steel. Water is the essence of humility., and yet it is completely essential to life; nothing can live without it.

So, when I read “Staying quiet doesn’t mean that I have nothing to say, it means I don’t think you’re ready to hear my thoughts.”, I immediately “liked” it, but then I paused just a moment to give it a thought. To me, staying quiet doesn’t mean that my thoughts are above or beyond you (a purely ego-based idea), but rather it means that I’m not surrendering to my ego’s need to be heard. I’m allowing humility to win; I’m emulating water and staying low, providing my nourishment to the earth by supplying love and spiritual nourishment wherever I can rather than shouting my every thought from the rooftops and assuming everyone wants/needs to hear it.

I do not mean to say that our voices should not be heard.   To even type such an idea would reek of hypocrisy. If I’m passionate about something, as I am about the content of this blog, I can create a platform for it where I  can share my thoughts with like-minded people.   Here, I may have an opportunity, to touch or help even one person, and I cannot forgo that chance. The internet age has assured that we can all do this, which provides a wonderful opportunity for all the world.

But in public, I remain silent. I decline to impose my opinions upon a world which does not request them of me. Rather I listen, I pray, I meditate, and I send love in every direction. I choose to nourish the world in this way, rather than to poison it with opinion and invective.

I stay quiet.