Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

Are You Smart?

September 21, 2022

I picked these ideas up from Seth Godin. He is an acknowledged marketing guru. But his thinking is broader than that. An example follows.

Smart is no longer memorization. It’s not worth much.

Smart is no longer access to information. Everyone has that.

Smart is:

• Situational awareness

• Filtering information

• Troubleshooting

• Clarity of goals

• Good taste

• Empathy and compassion for others

• The ability to make decisions that further your goals

The good news is that smart is a choice, and smart is a skill.

This thinking applies broadly. People memorize great amounts of the Bible. Yet, nothing in their lives reflects any awareness of this knowledge. Jesus confronted the Pharisees of his time on this very point.

The question for us today. Where have we stopped with mere memorization? Where have we acted like someone “smart” putting the knowledge into action?

Content Within Our Own Skin

August 17, 2022

Walking through the Beatitudes in The Message translation. Here is the third one, which is akin to the first two.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

The theme of the first two of these theme points of Jesus’s talk concerned emptying yourself so that there is room for God to enter.

This one talks of emptying yourself of all the delusions you have about yourself. Maybe you think that within you are the seeds of being a gazillionaire technology entrepreneur. Maybe, on the other hand, you think that you are worthless–someone who can’t do anything.

Neither is true.

I was lying on the ground staring up at a circle of faces. Below one face was the body of a boy my age wearing boxing gloves. We were maybe 12. I also had on boxing gloves. I don’t think he hit me that hard, but I was down. At that moment I saw the entire scene as if I were above it. I saw the stupidity and futility of living with anger and fighting. More than likely that was the moment I became a pacifist and sought peace in life. Perhaps I was on the way to being content with who I was.

Jesus said that when we empty out the illusions, when we, as Scottish poet Robert Burns said to “see ourselves as ithers see us,” then, at that moment, we own that which cannot be bought–God.

Waterfall in Iceland

August 15, 2022

I have lots of words running around through my head. But, we grabbed a holiday in Iceland last week. We contemplated ocean waves, geysers, and waterfalls. Here is a waterfall from southwestern Iceland. What can I add?

Waterfall from Thingvellir in Iceland

Debilitating Power of Stress

July 21, 2022

I have lived through many stressful times. For some, the pandemic and economic slowdown may be their first. Some feel stress constantly from just trying to survive.

Check the Christian scriptures. Jesus dealt with daily stresses, but then there was the night before he died when he was sweating blood. He could see what was ahead. That’s stress.

Or Paul having rocks thrown down at him and escaping a city in the dead of night hoisted over the city wall and running away. And other pillars of the faith like James and John and Peter. They all experienced times of great stress.

Yet, the message of them all was founded on the fruit of the spirit that included peace, joy, calm.

Living in the spirit and experiencing that fruit is often not easy. Stresses large and small eat away at our inner balance.

Even so, follow their example of periodic withdrawal to have silence and alone time with God heals. Awareness of God’s surrounding presence helps us through those times.

We must not neglect intentional time to connect. Probably more often than five minutes every morning.

Knowing Your Soul

July 8, 2022

Every time there is an incident it happens. For every politician or executive in the news, there it goes again. For when the crazy neighbor complains again on the community Facebook page. For all of these, we (and the crazy media) love to speculate about the psychology, the inner thoughts and fears, the soul (or lack of) within that person.

I picked up this thought from the writer Virginia Woolf, “We do not know our own souls, let alone the souls of others.”

Yes, hubris pops up everywhere. Hubris, that feeling that we know everything about everything. We can psychoanalyze anyone from a distance. We can know the state of someone’s soul by reading about them on social media.

We assume we’re OK. We assume we’re not OK. Either way we are wrong. And right.

Our actions reflect the state of our heart. If we were to step back from ourselves and look at our actions as though we are outside our bodies, what would we see? Would we look like someone who possesses the heart of Jesus? Would we look deranged? Do we really know enough about ourselves to pass judgement on another?

Probably not. There is where our work lies.

Equanimity

July 7, 2022

I found a new word to learn and apply. Equanimity.

This appeared in a book describing characteristics of the various Enneagram types. Evaluations I’ve taken are somewhat conflicting sometimes typing me as a 4 and sometimes a 5. Reading through this latest book, The Road Back To You, I’ve settled on typing myself as a 4 with a strong 5 wing. That may not mean much, but 4s tend to have more mood swings. You can’t always tell mine from the outside, but sometimes this writing reveals them.

So the author, Ian Morgan Cron, brings out this word for 4s–equanimity. “Fours need to cultivate what’s called equanimity, a sorely ignored virtue in the Christian tradition. Equanimity refers to the ability to remain emotionally composed and steady regardless of what’s going on around us.”

People almost everywhere in the world live on a diet of social media and biased TV news specifically designed to unbalance us emotionally. We too easily get sucked into the vortex of hyped up emotions. Some people thrive (emotionally and financially) on being perpetrators.

We, the recipients, must cultivate this virtue called equanimity. We need a daily (hourly?) reminder.

Motives

June 24, 2022

People who lived prior to 1890 or so described emotional/psychological issues as caused by spirits. Or demons. In “Discernment of the Spirits,” the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing describes someone driven by the spirits of wrath, malice, and wickedness.

“For that wicked accursed wretch will sometimes change his likeness into that of an angel of light, in order that, under the color of virtue, he may do more mischief. He leads them on…always under the pretext of devotion and charity, not because he takes any delight in works of devotion or of charity, but because he loves dissension and scandal.”

Does that describe anyone you know? Church leader? Politician? Neighbor? Yourself?

Discern carefully the spirit of those you meet. Some will be genuinely full of the spirits of love (charity) or devotion. Others may be masking anger, anxiety, fear, or just plain wickedness.

Always be aware.

Put Your Mask On First

June 23, 2022

In case of sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from above your head. Pull to activate. Put your mask on before helping others.

Have you flown in a commercial airliner in the past 30 years? If you’ve flown at least as much as I have, you may have the entire performance memorized. Whether you are trying to or not.

We live in an era of anxiety and fear and anger (one breeds the next breeding the next). Not just in America where it plays out second by second on social media and TV. This is a global phenomenon. Millions, well billions, of people falling into those despairing emotions. Self-serving politicians also globally are always poised to exploit those emotions in order to gain or maintain power.

What can someone trying to live the life that Jesus pointed to (or Buddha, if you are so oriented) do to survive and help.

Put your mask on first.

The next thing you should do after reading and thinking on this is to pause and reflect. Where am I? How can I be assured of connecting to the source of oxygen (to continue the metaphor)? And I take myself out of the circle of anxiety and fear.

Thich Nhat Hahn told the story of Vietnamese refugee boats in troubled waters. If everyone on the boat was filled with anxiety and fear, all was lost. If even just one person remained calm, that calming influence spread and the boat was saved.

Thus only by putting on our own “mask” of calm can we help those around us. Don’t be a perpetrator of fear. Be a spreader of peace.

Pause and Enjoy

January 28, 2022

When you are a young person, you are like a young creek, and you meet many rocks, many obstacles and difficulties on your way. You hurry to get past these obstacles and get to the ocean. But as the creek moves down through the fields, it becomes larges and calmer and it can enjoy the reflection of the sky. It’s wonderful. You will arrive at the sea anyway so enjoy the journey. Enjoy the sunshine, the sunset, the moon, the birds, the trees, and the many beauties along the way. Taste every moment of your daily life.

Thich Nhat Hanh

We had a death in the family this week. There will be grief expressed in many ways.

But for us all, this reminder from Thich Nhat Hanh points those of us still here to meaning. We get so worked up in our opinions or miseries or worries. In the end, it is so meaningless.

Living long can be good. Living well is better. Best, of course, is both. Pause, enjoy, do good, be kind, go with the flow.

Mind Like Water

January 10, 2022

We should develop a mind like water. A pebble drops into a still pond. It causes a splash. Then ripples. Then the ripples smooth out until the surface of the pond is smooth again.

We cannot prevent disturbances from entering our lives. Stuff happens. Sometimes we are prepared. Sometimes not.

The disturbances can cause ripples that gradually smooth out. When we learn to calm our minds, we can deal with the disturbances.

Yoda in Star Wars sensed a disturbance in the Force. Sometimes we sense a disturbance in the Spirit. We breathe. Focus. And allow ourselves to be like the water in the pond letting the ripples gradually smooth.