Archive for the ‘Habits’ Category

People Like Us

April 14, 2021

Not that people like us, but people such as us. Seth Godin likes to talk about “People like us do things like this.”

That is a definition of culture. Within your group. Your church. Your business. Your neighborhood, perhaps.

It is worth stepping back mentally and observing: is what we do in our business, our church, our committee on target with our goals and mission; or, is what we do dysfunctional?

If we are starting a business or committee or organization, we must be conscious of this. Or, it will just happen. And the loudest or strongest personalities will determine culture.

If we are joining something already existing, we need to be aware. Do we fit in? Are we the type of person who does what they do?

You can tell. There are hints when you walk in. Do people complain? Are people full of energy and focused on mission?

What do you project when people see you and talk with you? Would they think, I want to join her group. I would like to be like them in order to do things like that.

“People like us do things like this.” Choose the right things to do and join in. If you’re the leader, be aware and make changes as necessary.

Today and Tomorrow

January 26, 2021

Reading from two different thinkers going different directions stretches the mind. Or causes cognitive dissonance. Or something.

Eberhard Arnold writing a thought for the day advised not being burdened by the future. Live your life today.

This is ancient spiritual and mental health teaching. Living in remorse for the past–either things done or left undone–has burdened many people into living less than a full life. Yet, living in fear of the future constricts our growth.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, writing in his last book, Morality, points to the problem of living today ignoring the future. Andy Stanley teaching in last weekend’s Your Move noted much the same thing. One little decision made today can start a new habit, affect your children or grandchildren, or affect the environment. We do need to pause at times and reflect on the potential outcomes.

There was a time when humans thought that given enough data and a starting point they could predict the exact future hundreds of years out.

Along came chaos theory. The classic example is a butterfly beating its wings in Brazil starts an air current that eventually causes a hurricane going up the North American coast. In other words, systems are so complex that we cannot predict tomorrow. Ask any weather scientist with her bank of differential equations who missed last night’s projected snowfall by at least 6 inches (literally last night here in northeast Illinois).

It is important to live in the moment dealing with and then discarding burdens from the past or fears for tomorrow. It is also important to be aware of the potentials involved in the little decisions we make constantly.

Balance is essential to living in the spirit.

Prepping for 2021

January 4, 2021

Welcome to 2021.

What we call things does not affect the thing. It surely affects us, though. Just having a new name for the year benefits our state of mind.

Some thoughts of preparing ourselves for the new year. This will certainly be a year of change from 2020. I don’t predict or prognosticate, but I do think that we’ll see a change in the pandemic for the better. Probably the change will happen before we realize it. Hopefully the vaccine helps.

Maybe we need to change the type of person we are. Or, maybe just reinforce the person we are becoming.

Eating

Did you pick up the dreaded “Covid 15”? That is 15 excess pounds–or more?

Start being the kind of person who naturally and normally eats a little less for each meal. Energy-boosting snacks become almonds, peanuts, apple slices, and the like. I buy little packets of green olives from Thrive Market and keep some around for a snack. Save sweets, salty processed snacks, and colas for “cheat day” if at all. Drop sodas, both sweetened and “diet”, from your shopping list and clean out the refrigerator.

Follow Michael Pollan’s advice from Food Rules: An Eater’s Guide:

  • Eat food;
  • Not too much;
  • Mostly plants.

Exercise

If you haven’t already, start moving. Be the sort of person who walks more or takes up jogging or running. Of course, exercise within the bounds set by your physician. But most of us can walk briskly. Make 30-60 minutes a day part of the daily routine. If your body is up to it, throw in a few sprints a few times per week for a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. That helped me lose a few pounds.

Buy some dumbbells and check out some YouTube instructors. I use 10 pound weights for a couple of shoulder exercises and curls and extensions for the biceps/triceps. I’m using 20 pound for standing rows and squats. Throw in some bench pushups and 30 minutes of Yoga stretches and ab work. 45-minutes to an hour three times a week in your bedroom (assuming the gym is still on limited availability) will work wonders.

Mental

Pick up a good book and read it. Be the type of person who expands and strengthens their mind. Take notes so that you think about it.

Spiritual

Feed your spirit with appropriate reading. I usually suggest January as a time to read the Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible. (Old Testament to most Christians) There are 31 chapters. Do a chapter a day for a month. Or perhaps the Christian book of James (another Wisdom writer). This year, I am reading an ancient Wisdom teacher from a different tradition. It’s good to see how alike we all are in our pursuit of spiritual growth and peace. I mean all cultures and all epochs. From 5,000 years ago to current Wisdom literature, there is a steady current.

Stop, pause your busyness. Meditate and pray at least once per day. Maybe twice–morning and evening. Do this and after several months people will probably comment about how calm you have become. Trust me. That has been true for me.

Blessings to you all for 2021.

Silence

September 3, 2020

On the patio at 6 am. Under the huge observant eye of a full moon. With Venus bright on my left.

In the silence where my mind can wander there is still sound. I can hear the traffic on Interstate 90 several miles away. The occasional car in the neighborhood. The morning birds soothing until the Sandhill Cranes begin flying toward their favorite bird feeder by the golf course across the road.

Out of silence comes creativity, love, wholeness.

Silence is a gift to be cultivated with the regularity of the sun and moon.

Quiet the mind periodically with the rhythm of the week or the day.

Find peace.

Gluttony Is A Spiritual Problem

July 10, 2018

Gluttony is hypocrisy of the stomach, says John Climacus. And he adds this advice applicable as much today as 1,500 years ago–Control your appetites before they control you.

This is a spiritual problem as much as physical. We can practice diets, complain about heredity, have a hormone imbalance, but the problem is a spiritual imbalance. A long time ago, not having today’s words but with the same insights, they called these emotions demons. Demons were spiritual beings.

The problem with gluttony is that it is never satisfied. John talks of eating the entirety of Egypt and drinking the Nile dry and still not be satisfied.

To overcome gluttony one employs the spiritual discipline of fasting. In this we place the primacy of God’s spirit over the demon of the belly.

Speaking as the demon of gluttony, John with great insight discusses its “children”. Today’s psychologists might say something similar using different words.

“My firstborn son is the servant of Fornication, the second is Hardness of Heart, and the third is Sleepiness. From me flow a stream of Dirty Thoughts, waves of Filth, floods of unknown and unspeakable Impurities. My daughters are Laziness, Talkativeness, Breezy Familiarity, Jesting, Facetiousness, Contradiction, Stubbornness, Contempt, Disobedience, Stolidity of Mind, Captivity, Boastfulness, Audacity, Love of Worldly Things, followed by Impure Prayer, Distracted Thoughts, and sudden and often unexpected Catastrophes, with which is linked that most evil of all my daughters, Namely Despair.”

How much of that describes the times in which we live? Look in a mirror, and see the reflection as if for the first time.

A research paper just came my way ascribing the problems of our times to technology. As in much research about human behavior, there is some truth. I think these ancient sources point to much deeper, spiritual roots.

How Is Your Spiritual Stamina

June 25, 2018

The score is tied. The game is in “stoppage time”, that time allotted by the referee to make up for time lost during the half to assure the players get their full 45 minutes of playing time. This is the end of the match. The players and referee have been running intensely for 90 plus minutes.

We are taught as referees many games are decided in the final two minutes. When the players are tired, one side or one player, may kick in a little extra for the win. If the referee is not fit he won’t be in the proper position to see the play and physical exhaustion leads to mental exhaustion and mistakes are made.

Germany attacks. Sweden makes a fatal error and commits a foul about 20 yards from goal. The German kicker bends the ball precisely around the defense, past the diving goal keeper, and the winning goal is scored.

Spiritual life likewise requires training for the long haul so that we do not falter at the end. A society long ago developed Yoga as a way of training the body so that it could withstand the rigors of prayer and meditation.

We need to be careful what we eat and drink to not overindulge lest it turn our brains into befuddled mush. Eat primarily vegetables with some meat and fruit. Drink wine in moderation.

Get some physical exercise every day. Perhaps just walking briskly. Or running. And add strength training and Yoga.

Don’t make fatal mistakes because of lax training. Keep body, mind, and spirit alert and strong.

Sleep and Waking

May 29, 2018

Those who find themselves living the modern life, something that is pretty much global now, most likely are not getting enough sleep.

Sleep is a time when the body and brain repairs and rejuvenates. Depriving yourself of sufficient sleep deprives your body and mind of the nourishment it needs to function well and with health.

When I turn to the ancient spiritual mentors the problem they ascribe to sleep is not getting enough–it is oversleeping. And then upon waking not being in a proper frame of mind and spirit for the day’s first tasks.

John Climacus says that sleep is a natural state, but that sleeping too late or during prayers (he was writing to a monastic audience–readers seeking spiritual enlightenment) is a habit. A bad habit. One to be overcome.

Ancient peoples ascribed things we call emotions or urges to demons–spiritual beings whose task it is to drive us away from the spiritual path.

John talks of the demon that tempts us to stay in bed when the alarm has sounded to get us up. Other demons (in his language) prevent us from focusing on our morning prayers and meditation.

You would find it difficult to find someone who leads a successful life who goes to bed early and rises late. You may be a “morning” person or a “night owl”, but in reality rising early is merely a habit that can be cultivated. What did Benjamin Franklin tell us, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Your work rhythm may be best earlier or later, but the daily habit of rising early to read, pray, and meditate lays the foundation for success.

Strive to be a Person of Value

July 19, 2017

Strive not to be a successful person; Rather strive to be a person of value.

Do you realize we are now 19 days into the second half of the year?

Six months ago we were awash in Resolutions.

Where did those all go?

Unless you listened to me. For years I have advocated changing our focus from the famous specific goals to what sort of person I wish to become.

Rather than saying “I will lose 15 pounds this year”–which sounds specific but it isn’t, really–let’s just picture in our mind a person who is fit and toned. And then we change one habit that will move us toward our picture.

Or perhaps “I will become a person who is calm and at peace” and we develop habits–one at a time–that will move us in that direction. Perhaps meditating 5-10 minutes every morning. Or searching out a mentor.

Or perhaps “I will be a person of value”.

This is actually a by-product. We know that companies that value customers and employees become a company of value.

The same for us. The more we value others and serve others, the more we are valuable. 

So how has our 2017 worked out so far? Stuff happens, right? But we have the last half of the year to change a habit or two and move toward the sort of person Jesus would love to call a disciple.

[This meditation was interrupted at 6:04 am by the ringing of my mobile phone. I don’t know who gave that guy in India the table of time zone differences, but it was off by a few hours. He wanted to confirm who I was so that I could receive a “free” magazine. That isn’t moving that company toward a company of value in my eyes!)