Author Archive

Do The Work Upfront

June 17, 2022

We so easily take the path of least resistance. Sometimes with intention we can make that work for us. Usually it takes us away from spiritual and personal growth and healing.

This is a sub topic in this Tim Ferriss interview with Jason Portnoy on addiction. Portnoy found himself taking that path with an addiction to porn and sex. He advises 12-step programs. His 10-year work with a life coach was invaluable. “If you can in any way afford it, working with a life coach or therapist will pay you back richly.” Do the work upfront, he said. Climb that mountain.

Seth Godin recently wrote about Carrying Benefits “Pay once, but come out ahead over and over again,” he advises. “There are habits, assets and learnings that seem too expensive right now. And so we simply stick with our status quo.”

That’s why I have risen early and exercised every week day even often while traveling. It’s why I meditate and study and reflect daily. Pay upfront. Do the work upfront.

Benefits follow.

What Fills Your Mind?

June 16, 2022

A recent survey of people in western Europe and the US revealed that a majority of those surveyed have been intentionally reading and listening to less news than before. Perhaps, like me, they have discovered that thinking often about news and opinions leads to feelings of depression, grumpiness, even anger. We become people that other people avoid.

Filling out mind with negativity and letting those thoughts constantly simmer leads to an unhappy life both for us and those we impact.

While we find it useful to know something about what is going on in the world, little of that helps us through today.

Beginning our day with attention to our spiritual life sets leads us to see people and events through a different lens. It is an extension of the apostle Paul’s suggestion to pray without ceasing. That is a form of attention to things that boost us positively.

Full of Fear

June 15, 2022

“My God, the Ukraine is closer to travel to than Spain. What is going on there…” My friend from The Netherlands was discussing his feelings on what’s happening in Europe over coffee at last week’s tech conference.

“Gary, people are full of fear,” an old friend told me as we were discussing my investments.

I could take that approach of the evangelicals and tell them (and you and me) to “just trust Jesus and it’ll all be OK.”

But it doesn’t feel OK. It feels like other people are out to get us. The economy is out to get us. We’re surrounded by evil forces.

That trust part…it doesn’t come easily. It takes work. Persistence. Not daily prayer and meditation. Perhaps even hourly isn’t often enough. Paul told us once to pray without ceasing. The hero of the book The Way of the Pilgrim centered his life on trying that. Perhaps a good model for us.

Like a Tennis Match

June 13, 2022

I like lifting quotes from writers or scriptures to use as thought starters. It works.

Some people enjoy picking a quote often out of context for the sake of argument. Some writers have played off that in novels or plays where two such people bounce quotes back and forth as if it were some sort of verbal tennis match.

I liked the way John Steinbeck in East of Eden goes on a search for meaning about good and evil going to a passage in the Bible. The idea was to think deeply about the idea.

A good quote comes along to meet you. It’s appealing, but you wonder what was the context of the thought. Where does it fit in a longer line of thinking? What do those words and phrases really mean? Perhaps that leads to a search on the words, their etymology, usage in the original language (if a translation).

Reflection. Deep thinking. These bring awareness. And calm.

Anxiety and Curiosity

June 10, 2022

I have a bed that allows many settings. Raise the head. Raise the foot. Adjust firmness. And it reports back on sleep–overall “sleep quality number”, meeting goals of restful sleep, time in bed, regularity of sleeping and rising.

I play with those things. I’m curious about almost everything–sometimes too many things. Did I sleep better at firmness 30 or 90? How about 75? Should the head be raised a little to promote breathing?

Some people can’t take that feedback. If the score comes back low, they worry. They are anxious about tomorrow’s score. How will it measure up. Maybe they have deep needs to be perfect. This is prevalent with many teens. Their parents and teachers have set huge expectations. They are graded constantly. Always compared to classmates. Always compared to ideal.

They are anxious.

Once I was anxious over many things. Now, not so much. Mediation trained my mind to relax and refocus. I learned that I can control (to an extent) what my mind dwells on. If I discover it is dwelling on things that raise my anxiety, I tell it to focus on something more pleasurable. Or on a problem I need to solve. Something else.

And this took time. Not days, not weeks, but months. Perhaps even years.

Curiosity or anxiety? Which way do you go? Where would you like to be?

Energy From People

June 9, 2022

I am just home from several days at a technical conference. For me, this is the second one in a month. Fourth since December. For many, this was the first one back since February 2020 when this conference was last held. This was also my 24th, beginning in 1998.

Are you sensitive to the energy in a room? They held a cocktail / networking reception each early evening. The energy level at each event was high. I’ve seen quiet ones in down economies and high energy in good times. I think in this case the energy was high because everyone was glad to see people again and discuss common issues and problems. Remember, most people here were engineers–the type of human not usually known to be outgoing (how can you tell an extraverted engineer, he looks at your shoes when he talks…).

Most people are actually neither extraverts or introverts, but a blend. But people can draw out energy even from introverts for a while. They just need to go rest afterwards while the extraverts go out for another drink.

American churches have not recovered from the exodus of covid. Attendance is around 50% pre-Covid. I wonder about energy in those churches. Or if there was too much “artificial” energy created by over-enthusiastic musicians that has not carried over?

Are you out and about, yet? I enjoyed the conferences. I enjoy getting back to the quiet of my office or patio.

Reaching Out

June 8, 2022

Yesterday’s post about reaching out to give provoked a memory from the 70s.

Brothers

I said, brothers

Now you got yourself two good hands

And when your brother is troubled, you gotta reach out your one hand for him

‘Cause that’s what it’s there for

And when your heart is troubled, you gotta reach out your other hand

Reach it out to the man up there

‘Cause that’s what He is there for

Neil Diamond, Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show

Shall we sit on these thoughts in meditation for a bit?

Two sides of reaching out. One for me. One for you. Seems to make sense–unless we limit the “you” like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. With the story of the “good Samaritan” he tried to blow up the boundaries of who the “you” is. Shall we do the same?

Stretch Out Your Arms To Give

June 7, 2022

Reading from the Didache (dee-dah-kay) a first-century Christian book of instruction–Do not be one who stretches out the hands to receive but withdraws them when it comes to giving.

Some of us must learn how to receive graciously giving thanks. Many more unfortunately have no problem reaching out to receive. Yet, their arms grow astonishingly short when the opportunity to give presents itself.

Let us be known as the person with a generous heart ready to give to meet another’s needs.

Stupid People and Fools

June 6, 2022

I saw two brief essays yesterday dealing with “stupid people.”

One person talked about having compassion. The other said to work hard not to elect them to the US Congress.

Some other reading caused a reflection on those I believe Wisdom literature would call fools. Many times throughout history of humans people exist who profess belief in God. An all-knowing, all-powerful God.

Yet, when life gets down to acting on those beliefs, how they act belies those beliefs.

How many times have religious people talked of the power of God and yet enact laws or rules designed to force people to behave in the manner these god-fearing people think they should in accordance to their interpretation of God.

Pharisees of Jesus’ time come to mind. Or the medieval laws of Europe. Or the Calvinistic laws of early America (vestiges of which remain). Or the modern Pharisees hell-bent on passing more laws forcing us to behave the way they wish they could behave.

Is their God not powerful enough to change people’s hearts? Is their God not strong enough to protect them?

Some people just don’t know. I can go along with the writer having compassion.

I’d rather not have people who don’t know passing laws.

And I’d rather be around people whose trust in God runs deep and sure. And I’d hope to be one of those.

Accompanying Me On The Way

June 3, 2022
Bullfrog

Today’s walk. Two weeks ago, the accompanying music was the soprano chorus of “peepers”, small frogs. This week I have had the solo bass voices of the bullfrog. Sorry for the photo. Someday I’ll follow through with my threat to myself to carry my good Canon with a long lens rather than just the iPhone.

There is meditation, and then there is meditation. I have heard of people who need everything just right in order to meditate. The correct size and firmness of a pillow. The right scents. Either no sounds or a special white noise sound.

Or.

A walk in nature. Ambient sounds are whatever. Sights are whatever. Movement is in rhythm. Today’s ambient sounds were the basso profundo of the frog and the contralto squawk of the redwing blackbirds that seemed to be monitoring my journey around the pond.

Sun. Movement. Absorbing nature’s sounds. Mind open to hearing God and nature speak to me. What a great way to start the day.