Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

When Love Meets

January 19, 2023

When love meets pain, it becomes compassion.

When love meets happiness, it becomes joy.

Joy is an expression of the awakened heart, a quality of enlightenment. When we live in the present, joy often arises for no reason.

Jack Kornfield

When I came across these thoughts, I was compelled by the spirit to pause and consider. I love that thought of “when love meets…” What a powerful picture.

And I thought about how joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit according to the Apostle Paul.

Then I remembered this little folk song from the time when I sold my electric guitar and bought a nylon-stringed acoustic one and sang folk songs. Many from Catholics in the mid-to-late 60s. Like this one written by Sister Miriam Therese Winter, Joy Is Like The Rain.

I saw raindrops on the river, Joy is like the rain.

Bit by bit the river grows, till all at once it overflows.

Joy is like the rain.

Perhaps today I can rest in joy. Care to join me?

Offering An Opinion Lacking Understanding

January 18, 2023

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing personal opinion.”

Proverbs 18

Sometimes I wonder if Solomon had the power to look 3,000 years into the future and view today’s society. We often hear “I’m entitled to my opinion” but never “I’m in need of understanding.”

But, no, obviously this condition of mindlessly spouting off unfounded opinion is as old as human civilization. Maybe older.

What do we admire about some people?

Is it not that they have deep understanding and yet they do not metaphorically bludgeon us with it.

Wise people share their insights derived from their understanding at a time and place where we can effectively apply it to our situation.

We admire them, perhaps even while also disliking them for the uncomfortable feeling of our own need to change. For, we hate to change–our minds, our lifestyle, our habits.

I think of people who met Jesus and understood the wisdom of his words and yet walked away sadly knowing that they had not the courage or energy to change.

And I wonder, where do we need to change beginning today? And what? And how?

The rest of Chapter 18 talks of problems we cause through our talking. Similar to cautions found in the letter of James in the New Testament. Perhaps that would be a useful change for us beginning today–how and what we communicate?

I’ve made progress and yet much work remains. How about you?

Relate With People By How They Are Not What They Look Like

January 16, 2023

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream

I was a student when Martin Luther King delivered that speech. I don’t know the degree to which this comment inspired me or if I was just always this way. I have always tried to treat people individually where they are. If they are poor or rich or powerful and they have more stuffing than a Christmas goose, I deal one way. Most people are just hard-working individuals trying to do their jobs. I don’t care if they are CEO or junior assistant account executive. They deserve to be treated with honesty and respect. And I try.

Today in the US is an official holiday observing the birth and work of Martin Luther King. It is good to remember the good he did, what he stood for.

The movement did some good. Laws were passed. Barriers were broken.

Today I believe that there is broader acceptance of people of varying skin colors, races, languages. Yet, still much work remains. Some prejudices are hard to overcome. They require a change of heart in each individual.

If you read the gospels carefully, you’ll see that Jesus was doing just that. He met with people of different ethnic groups at their level of need. He healed regardless of being Jewish or not. He was forever concerned with the status of one’s heart.

How do you change hearts? We have certain Christians who think that passing more laws will suffice. That didn’t work out so well in the end for the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

Unfortunately, you don’t change hearts with laws or with one magnificent speech. Ann Lamont wrote a wonderful little book Bird by Bird, where she tells the story of her brother. He procrastinated over writing a report on birds for school. Now it’s the night before it’s due. (Sound familiar?) He whines to his father about how he’ll ever get it done. “Just write bird by bird and you’ll get it done.”

Just like a good bread requires time to rise, so a changed heart requires time for the change to root and grow. And it happens one heart at a time.

Dr. King set out a vision. Much good did happen. But the hard work remains for each of us. What is the condition of our own heart? Where can we nurture another’s heart?

The Beginner’s Mind

January 9, 2023

Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

All the spiritual traditions of which I’m aware contain a form of the concept of the beginner’s mind.

The quote from Jesus popped up in my current reading. I paused to contemplate.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

I remembered a joke from a boy’s magazine from my early adolescent period. Two farmers were talking one day. One says, “My son went off to university and got a BS and then an MS and now he is getting a Ph.D.” The other replied, “What’s that?” “Well,” said the first farmer, “I guess it’s like this. You know what BS is. MS is More of the Same. And PhD is Piled Higher and Deeper.”

Now, I don’t want to disparage all people who have earned a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) degree. I have friends who earned that degree and are brilliant and useful in their fields. I’m currently listening to the podcasts of Dr. Andrew Huberman who has a PhD in neuroscience yet retains insatiable curiosity about many things.

Yet, I’ve known countless people with advanced degrees without the sense to come in from the rain. Their heads got so choked with what they know that there is no room for learning.

There are many whose heads are so full of what they know that there is no room for learning, no curiosity, they know it all–and they have no degrees. It works in many ways.

Like a child, like a beginner, our minds need to be open and curious ready to take in new experiences and new understanding. I loved taking walks with my grandson when he was a toddler. He would stop and explore many things–bugs, worms, leaves, whatever was there. I hoped he would never lose that attitude toward life.

Keeping Busy With Joy

January 6, 2023

How often it occurs that my eclectic reading and listening habits bring different ideas together. Many (most?) people experience this. It’s so common that the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung had a word for it—synchronicity. 

It happened to me now. We should be busy. Not mindlessly busy (another podcast about mindfulness I heard yesterday, but that’s another topic). But a reason to be busy. And be happy doing it. When you are older.  It may be looking after family. Or gardening. Or writing. Or hopefully your job. Or hobby. 

The Japanese have a word for it—Ikigai (ick—ee—guy). It can be translated as the reason you get up in the morning.

How many men (it seems to occur more often with men) have you known who retire from work in order to do nothing. And they die way too soon. Forty years ago I decided that wouldn’t happen to me. It got me through the pandemic—a reason to get up and do something every day.

In the Proverbs we read (Chapter 6, today’s reading)

“6 Go to the ant, you lazybones;

consider its ways, and be wise.

7 Without having any chief

or officer or ruler,

8 it prepares its food in summer,

and gathers its sustenance in harvest.

9 How long will you lie there, O lazybones?”

Proverbs 6th Chapter

Yesterday I listened to a conversation (called a podcast) with Guy Kawasaki and Héctor García, who wrote Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life with Francesc Miralles. Héctor moved from Spain to Japan as a software engineer and became a best selling writer. They interviewed people in a small village in Okinawa known for its concentration of people over 100 years old. They universally had an ickigai. I have just ordered the book. Just listening to a guy born in Spain, living in Japan, who is also articulate in English was enough to sell me the book.

The Spiritual Disciplines can help us here. Get up, read (study), meditate, and then perform some work of service (small or large). Repeat.

Find your ickigai.

Light and Dark

January 4, 2023

I’ve wandered so aimless, life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear Savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord, I saw the light

From the David Crowder Band

The gospel writers each had an individual motif. Matthew’s sub theme dealt with fulfilling Jewish prophecy. Mark emphasized action. Look under the covers of Luke’s gospel and you see the working of the Spirit and the importance of women. But John, ah, John, he is the writer of the contrast of light and dark.

I thought of him as I read this pair of thoughts from the Proverbs this week

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,

which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”

“The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;

they do not know what they stumble over.”

Some of us stumble around until we see the light. For some of us it’s like the phrase “it suddenly dawned on me”, wisdom came gradually as the dawn until the brilliance of the sun of full day illuminated everything.

In my case, there were glimpses of light when I was yet a teen. But the light dawning with some bit of maturity didn’t hit until my late 20s. Psychologists would say, “Duh.” That is about when a male human’s brain finally develops. (Females a bit earlier so they say.)

I still have lapses of maturity in some social situations, but glimpses of the light became more frequent and even blinding as years and seeking rolled on.

Wisdom, personified as a woman standing in the place with most people walking by in the city, gives us the light for our way so that we can avoid stumbling. It’s never too late to bring that light of Wisdom into our hearts and see the way. I can hear the echoes of Crowder, “Praise the Lord, I saw the light!”

Fear Not

January 3, 2023

“My child, do not let these escape from your sight:

keep sound wisdom and prudence,

and they will be life for your soul

and adornment for your neck.

Then you will walk on your way securely

and your foot will not stumble.

If you sit down, you will not be afraid;

when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Do not be afraid of sudden panic,

or of the storm that strikes the wicked;

for the LORD will be your confidence

and will keep your foot from being caught.”

Do not fear—one of the most common God-responses in the Bible. These words from the Proverbs point us toward an antidote for fear. The writer earlier talks about carrying these words in your heart—meaning that we should make them part of our life. 

Proverbs are not to be memorized—they are to be lived.

Did you make a New Years’ Resolution about getting away from social media? More than 3,000 years ago ancient Hebrew thinkers had this to say:

“Do not quarrel with anyone without cause, when no harm has been done to you.”

Quotes are from The Life with God Bible NRSV–Old Testament, Renovare, Richard J. Foster, Dallas Willard, Walter Brueggemann, Eugene H. Peterson, Bruce Demarest, Evan Howard, James Earl Massey & Catherine Taylor

What If You Cannot Start Your Day Perfectly

December 20, 2022

My bed has sensors and a microcontroller and networking. When I get up for the day, I can open the app and learn about my night. How much restful sleep, how much restless. How long it took me to fall asleep. Whether I met my proper circadian rhythm, spent enough time in bed, got enough restful sleep. The little computer runs through a calculation and gives me a “Sleep IQ” number.

My daughter is a therapist who numbers among her clients many people–especially teenagers–with anxiety problems often driven by the need to succeed. This number would push them even further along their spectrum. OMG, I didn’t get a 90. I’m a failure at sleep, too!

Yesterday I wrote about a way to orient yourself to a new day. It is good to have a discipline to help orient yourself to the new day.

But life happens. Sometimes you cannot hit the mark. Maybe you slept late because people came over to visit. Or there was a party. Or that chili you had for dinner talked to you all night.

Or, you have an early appointment. Or, you just feel like crap.

It’s like my Sleep IQ number. Yesterday I was 87; today I’m 60. But I still feel OK. If I look at the numbers one day at a time, I can feel good or let that low number ruin my day.

Or, I can look at a long term, say over a month or two, and realize that if I plotted those points on a graph they are actually pretty consistent.

I can get all worked up over missing a part of my morning routine and let it ruin my day.

Or, I can shrug and say “life happens” and make the best of the rest of the day. We learn to just go with the flow.

The goal is consistency over time. It is not being perfect every day. They tell me that Jesus was perfect every day (but he also lost his temper a few times). No one else has ever been recorded as being perfect every day. It certainly isn’t going to be me that breaks that string.

What has helped me learn this? One is consistent, but far from perfect, meditation practice. Another is Yoga. Another is this rural country boy learning to drive in Chicago rush hour traffic that screams along at about 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour). You learn to slow your body rhythm and go with the flow. Your are better off at the end.

Prepare for the Day

December 19, 2022

Begin your day by finding proper orientation. I find these steps to prepare for a good day an essential daily discipline.

Get full, restful sleep

Awaken without a loud alarm, best is to train yourself to awaken naturally

Rise gently, make bed

(I make a cup of coffee, some say to postpone coffee for an hour)

Find your chair, pillow, sit and meditate / pray

Read something short and positive

Eat breakfast

And, if things happen that you have a bad day–you can return to where you started and at least have a well made bed to return to or your chair to remind you of the morning meditation to help refocus.

We Are All God’s Children

December 16, 2022

During my meditation many years ago, I found myself walking past an old, empty house. I walked up the path through the overgrown weeds to the front door. It was unlocked. I entered. I had previously explored the house and entered the basement. (If you are Jungian, go for it.)

That day’s meditation took me down the steps into the basement with some fearfulness of what I would find.

Well, there was a huge party going on down there. I was shown people of every race and nationality and tribe. They were all partying together. There was no rancor. No small groups over in the corner peering suspiciously at the others. It was all one family of humanity. I was told we are all God’s children.

Either in business or on holiday I’ve interacted with people from most of the areas of the globe. I’ve shared meals and conversations. I’ve tried every day to live up to that vision treating everyone like I learned from that party experience (well, maybe except for the idiot that cut me off driving in traffic–no one is perfect!).

Today’s meditation returned me to that time. We are in Advent and also Christmas season. We hear a lot about “peace on earth and goodwill toward man”. Beyond hearing that, perhaps we need to practice it during our everyday lives.