Monday, May 30, 2011

Aaaaand, We're Back

What a crazy week! Little more than a week, actually. Since my last post, I've not been able to access Blogger to write a post, check out comments, or do any administrative sorts of tasks. Truly frustrating. My plan to post three to five times a week has been soundly shot in the foot. But alas, all is not lost and soon, we'll be back on schedule.

I'm going to take this little blip in time to do a bit more housekeeping.

First off, I'd like to invite you to follow the blog on Facebook.  Click here to go to the Facebook page. Once there, you can "like" the page and become a fan. This means you'll receive any updates as they occur on Facebook.

Secondly, please consider subscribing to the blog. You may do this through various links on the sidebar including subscribing through RSS feeds and through email. You can also subscribe through Networked Blogs, an app on Facebook. Subscribing ensures that you will have immediate new posts as they are published.

Twitter is another way to follow me. I tweet with some regularity about random thoughts, daily happenings, and also use Twitter to announce new posts that have been published. It's a fun way to connect and allows for some communication.

Because of the two recent problems with Blogger, I'm considering moving the blog to WordPress. If I do so, I will publish at both addresses simultaneously for a while to get everyone moved over, but it would be a transition. I'm hesitant to do it, but also hate the frequency of issues I'm having with this platform. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the possibility of a transition. I'll keep you updated as changes occur.

Your comments have been amazing and I love reading what you have to say. Thanks for being interactive in this way and I look forward to more of the same as we move along. Your loyalty has been appreciated.

As today is Memorial Day here in the States, I'd like to take a moment to thank all those who have served, or are currently serving in our armed forces. Your dedication to our freedom and safety is appreciated beyond what words can express. Both of my fathers served in the Air Force. I have friends who served, painfully so, in Vietnam and sadly, returned to a country with no appreciation for their efforts. Even now, I have friends who are serving in the Army and have witnessed firsthand the the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan. To each of these, I say "Thank You" a hundred times over. May we all be thankful for the men and women who keep our country safe.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Favorite Game

There aren't many games I'm great at. I love Backgammon, and Scrabble, and a rousing game of Canasta, but I'm not really very good at any of them. There is, however, one game I'm a hands-down champion at; the game of "What If?" Now that is a game I can really sink my teeth into and get some traction at.

Generally a one-player game, the psychic rush of "What If?"  may be ramped up by the inclusion of a close friend who wordlessly adheres to the understood credo that, while it's OK to dispute a little, too much can be akin to friendship heresy. If no friends are around to take on this role, however, a drama-filled game may be played alone.

"What if I get fired from my job?"

"What if I never meet anyone and end up dying alone?"

"What if I don't make enough money this year?"

"What if I get cancer?"

"What if the bank forecloses on the house?"

"What if my daughter is killed in a car accident?"

The game of "What If?" unleashes our imaginations and projects us into a future rife with imagined problems and ills. How many of us ever really play the game with a positive spin? "What if everything goes well for me in the next two weeks?" Be honest. We never play that way.

This game, this view into the future through a distorted lens, isn't a view at all, but a horribly twisted fantasy. It robs us of energy and more importantly, it robs us of the present. So much of our time is spent reliving what has happened in the past, or considering what the future may hold, even as our present is slipping away without so much as the recognition of the gift it offers.

Think for a moment. How do you spend your time in the shower? Doing all the basic tasks of getting clean, I know. But where is your mind while you're scrubbing? Does it visit the past? Does it indulge in fantasies of the future? While processing the past is important, and reminding ourselves of what is to come in our day is equally important, the present should take center stage. I challenge you to be in the moment, to practice being in the moment, the next time you're in the shower. Close your eyes and savor the water on your body. Savor the peace, and safety, and solitude of those few moments alone. Recognize the treasure of the present.

When I feel myself ramping up to a game of "What If?" I bring myself back to the present by reminding myself of a few simple truths. Whatever the future may hold, for this moment, I am safe. For this moment, I have food to eat, shelter over my head, and I am physically safe. For this moment, I am okay.

I challenge you to be present in the present in the coming days. Be open to each moment and resist the urge to borrow unrealized troubles from the future. I'm working on it too, right alongside you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Exceptional Gain through Loss

A little over eight months ago, I did something radical. I got rid of stuff. Doesn't sound so earth-shattering perhaps, but for me, it was more than just filling a few boxes for a garage sale.  Instead, it was renewal and a rebirth of sorts.

Clutter breeds chaos, and chaos breeds inertia. Who can think, or plan, or even just effectively function when a world of goods is virtually tumbling down around our feet? No, I'm not a hoarder. Material goods were not actually cluttering the floors of my home. But the truth is, though my life is simple in many ways, I had collected far too much.

How many cookbooks does one really need? And that stack of old magazines with all those clever suggestions for home organization? Yes, well...we see how far that went. Truth is, I had taken a hard look around my home and was disgusted by the collection of useless items I had accumulated. I mean, really, what is the point?

I suspect the point is diversion. Though we don't admit it to ourselves easily, we often try to find diversion from the empty and cloaked corners of our lives; the dark shadows we'd prefer to ignore. We cover those spaces up, preferring instead to focus on the bright, new, shiny bits we stack up in front of them. Trouble is, the shiny bits lose their luster with time and we work to replace them, faster and faster, to avoid the reality of what lies just behind.

Failing marriage? New piece of jewelry might divert our attention for a while. Eating too much? Perhaps some new drapes for the house before the gigantic T.V. is installed. Lonely? The newest tech gadget lures with the promise of connectedness.

We need things to live in this world, that's true. But we need far less than we imagine we do. The stuff of our lives can come to rule us and nearly stop us in our tracks when it comes to forward movement. Sometimes, we resort to surrounding ourselves with toys just to assure ourselves, and others, that we're okay. Diversion.

Perhaps it's time to cast a few things off and take a peek into those dark corners. When we lose "stuff," we gain focus, and often find energy. Energy to pour into personal growth, into relationships, and into the things that really matter.

It's Spring just now, right before the heat of summer sets in. Maybe it's a good time to test the theory. I challenge you to empty your life of some useless "stuff" and breathe in renewed energy as light floods all the corners once again. Let me know how it works for you!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a closet to sort out...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Meaning of Life

A good friend of mine keeps urging me to write a post on the meaning of life. Let me go back and rephrase that, or at least part of it...MEANING OF LIFE. Doesn't it just feel like those words should be in capital letters? I mean, when I encounter them, I immediately sense their weight and implied significance. Do we ever really feel like we have the meaning of life figured out? Are we even supposed to have it figured out?

If we are, then I suspect I'm totally behind the eight ball on that one. I am simply nowhere close to being able to profess that I know the meaning of life. I do, however, have some thoughts on the subject, as you might expect.

There is meaning to life; of that, I am certain. There is a point and purpose to human existence on this planet. Because of the sheer number of us and our social nature, I'm inclined to believe that meaning is found somewhere in the intricate web of human interaction. Aristotle said, "What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good." Pablo Casals put a further point on it when he stated, "I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance." I think they were on to something.

We were created for meaning and purpose. Another point of which I am certain, and which is slightly different than the first. I believe in God. Higher power, supreme being, the universe; however you wish to state it is OK by me. I'm not here to force feed anyone my spiritual beliefs. But I believe in God. Inherent in that belief is the notion that we were created to be something other than robots or puppets, and that worship of the Creator is part of my meaning and purpose. We were created for meaning and purpose. There is a point to our existence. The craving for "something more" that we each recognize along the way is evidence of it.

At some point or the other, we all contemplate meaning. Some consider it for fleeting moments and then hastily work to bury it beneath the stuff of everyday living in an attempt to ease the vague feeling of uncertainty the pondering can cause. Others spend their whole lives chasing its promise of fulfillment, and in doing so, miss key moments along the way which might contribute to its understanding. There is, surely, a balance to be found.

I think contemplation on the meaning of life, the meaning of our life, can be exceptionally elucidating by spurring us on towards conscious living. That is to say, moving us toward a life lived with purpose, awake, and within the framework of a belief system. When we seek to peek below the surface of the mechanics of daily living, we open ourselves up to fulfillment and peace. We open ourselves to possibility.

I don't have it all wrapped up and I'm still seeking to understand the meaning of life. But I do know, that for me, living consciously is a piece of it. I know, that for me, I find meaning in relationship with God. I know, that for me, I find meaning in caring for my neighbor and relationship with others. My hope is that I remain open to the ever-evolving nature of the meaning of my life. How about you?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Does your Cell Phone Affect What you Think about Others?

A few posts back, I shared a couple of videos by Dr. Bruce Lipton Click Here for the Post. In those videos, he made mention of the fields that we all live in. He specifically mentioned the magnetic and radio fields and how those fields may alter our realities, experiences, and behaviors. His information is based upon his previous work cloning stem cells. Through his work, he discovered that it is the environment of the cell that determines the pattern and purpose of growth, not only the genetics of the cell. His findings disputed the central dogma of molecular biology, but have since contributed to the field of epigenetics.

Today, I'm sharing with you a video in which Rebecca Saxe shares her work at MIT. In the lab, they have learned that the application of magnetic pulses to a particular region of the brain alters the moral judgments that people make regarding the actions of others. It's a fascinating video and well worth the time it takes to watch.

My question is this: If, in fact, we know that focused application of electromagnetic energy can alter brain perception, function, or conclusion, and we know that we live in an environment increasingly flooded by electromagnetic signals, (due to the increase of technology which uses such signals) is there a link between our increasingly electromagnetized environment and our perceived increase in behaviorally manifested disorders of the brain?

Perhaps a stretch, but a question that lingered in my mind after watching both videos and another regarding further work at MIT on the application of magnetic signal to the brain. What are your thoughts?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Power of Proaction

A dear elderly woman I knew once came to me several times, fretting that her family was making noises to the effect that she needed to move out of her home and into a care facility. Her son, and then her daughter, had made multiple visits to see her. At each visit, they had gently, but pointedly, suggested that she was too frail to live alone. They were worried that she could no longer afford to maintain her home, that she wasn't eating, that she wasn't taking her medications properly, and they feared for her safety. On face value, she was indignant that her children would make such "accusations." But she confessed to me that in her heart, she suspected they were right. Though she inwardly recognized that her situation was precarious, she felt that admitting it would somehow diminish her value in the eyes of her family.

She also began to realize that if she didn't make the decision to move, there might soon come a time that the decision would be made for her, either because of declining health or declining financial circumstances. She could see the writing on the wall and knew that at some point, she would be forced to move. Her resistance to moving into a care facility was partly an effort to save face before her children and partly natural human resistance to external control. No one likes to be forced to do anything.

Over and over, we talked about it. Slowly, she began to realize that ultimately, at that moment in time, she had the power to choose her circumstances. That though her children were concerned for her, her decision to move into an assisted living facility was her decision and that, regardless of the fact they had suggested it, making the move was not "giving in" to them. It was in fact, making an informed choice for her future. She was in control.

How often do we give our power away? How often do we see a set of circumstances coming at us like a train speeding toward us on a track, while we wait for the impact, paralyzed by fear. If only we could accept the reality of the impending train and respond on our terms, instead of passively accepting that we'll be left to pick up the pieces long after impact.

We can, in fact, do just that. We can recognize that sometimes, circumstances suggest we must take a different path. We can accept that we have a choice in how we respond. We can own the circumstances, re-frame the situation, and make it our choice. If we do so, we can be re-energized and empowered. Choosing to be proactive is choosing to reclaim our power.

My elderly friend chose it. Instead of feeling forced into new circumstances and reluctantly letting go, she chose to move and she chose where to move. Her decision to accept her new life sooner, rather than later, preserved her options. Once she owned the decision, she even admitted to being excited by the new adventure. She looked forward to meeting new friends, having new activities, and even to making her new space her own with her taste in decorating. She chose to view her choice as an adventure instead of a defeat.

Whether it's the end of a relationship, an impending foreclosure, a change in financial circumstances, or a job that seems to be slipping away from us, we have a choice. We can choose to be reactive or proactive. We can choose to spend our energy screaming, "It isn't FAIR!" or we can choose to invest our energy in our future with the promise of dividends paid in peace.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Books

Reading is one of my very favorite things to do. It's not uncommon for me to have two or three books on the go at once. Usually it's a textbook, a work of fiction, and sometimes a piece of non-fiction. My trick is to stash them in different parts of the house; one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in the bath. That way, wherever I am, a book is within easy reach. It makes reading a much more organic process rather than having to find time to fit it in.

I thought I'd share with you a few books that I find interesting. Down on the lower right bar of this page, you'll see an Amazon carousel of books hand chosen by me. These are books that I have found to be both helpful and particularly thought-provoking. The book by Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your LIfe was introduced to me when I was at a particularly vulnerable time in my life and it made all the difference. The other books mentioned are interesting as well, though certainly very different from each other.

As with any reading, especially non-fiction, it's very important to read with a critical eye. The genre of personal growth is a burgeoning market with new titles and plans for better living birthed every day. The importance of being a savvy and critical consumer cannot be overstated.

When I set out to read a book that is personal-growth oriented, I use a process that really seems to work for me. First, I start by reminding myself to keep an open mind as I read. The hope in reading is to encounter new information that either confirms my choices for how I live my life, or stretches and challenges me to consider new choices and processes. I need to be open to the growth process, so I must remain open to new perspectives as I read.

After I read the book through, I go back to re-read and reconsider any passages I found particularly interesting or challenging. This helps to solidify the information in my mind. As I do this, I pay attention to how I feel as I read. Do the words bring about a sense of calm in my body or do I sense internal dissonance and discord as I process the words? The result of paying attention to how my body feels as I read is a reliable barometer for what this new information means to me and how it stacks up with my value system.

After this step is complete, I take some time to contemplate the information, apart from the book; to see how it "sits" with me. As I go through this process, I revisit how my body felt as I was reading and I particularly pay attention to those bits that caused a sense of dissonance within me. I question if the dissonance is because the information truly clashes with deeply-held values or because it simply stretches me. After a period of some time, I often notice that accepted information is integrated into my actions, thoughts, and beliefs, while information that doesn't manifest some congruency with my values is discarded. This is how I grow.

What I've described is my process. You may have a different process that works for you. My only point is that it's important to critically analyze the reading that we do. So often, I hear people touting that some self-help book is their new salvation only to find that in two months, they've hopped aboard an entirely different and new bandwagon simply because the book promoting it has just hit the bestseller list. New information is always good, because it causes us to examine ourselves, but be discerning in the process.

So there you are, a few of my favorite books. I don't subscribe to all that is within their pages, but it's certainly good food for thought. In the spirit of full disclosure, I do want you to be aware that I am part of Amazon Affiliates, and I do make a bit of a commission on what is purchased. However, I'm careful in what I recommend and opinions appearing within this blog are 100% mine.

Happy reading and please share your thoughts.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Potential of the Unknown

Several years ago, I made the very difficult decision to leave the organization I was working for. The job no longer fit me and it seemed unfair, to both myself and the organization, to continue in a position that no longer felt right. I was scared. My whole identity had become wrapped up in who I was at work and what I did. My time there was spent well, caring for people, learning, and growing in so many ways. Never did I dream that the growth I was experiencing would soon lead me away and down a path to what felt like an uncertain future.

In the end, after agonizing about it to the point of making myself sick, I took the leap. A year of extremely unsettling uncertainty followed, but I knew deep down that if I had any chance of spreading my wings, this was the only way. Starting over wasn't easy.

Starting over is never easy. We long for what we know, even when what we know is binding us. But there is promise in standing on the cusp of the unknown; the promise of possibility. The promise of potential. The opportunity to construct and create the life we want for ourselves, one brick at a time.

There are a lot of stories just now about people having to start over and begin again because of jobs lost in this economy.  What I find inspiring about some of these stories is that people are finding themselves again. Long lost dreams are resurfacing and though finances are tight, the free time is allowing opportunities that simply weren't there before. People are choosing to consciously reconstruct their lives and it's exciting!

Sometimes, we outgrow jobs and relationships, and sometimes they crumble beneath us and we have no control. Either way, potential presents itself and we must choose how we will weave the threads together to create the tapestry of our future.

The following song is one I listened to over, and over, and OVER again as I wrestled with the decision to leave my job. I wept again as I listened to it tonight. I am grateful I had the courage to leap back then, and pray I will have it when it's next needed. Perhaps this will mean something to you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Positive Thinking, EFT, Metaphysics, Quantum Physics, or Just What Works?

The single most life-changing thing anyone ever told me was also one of the most simple things anyone ever told me. After a lifetime of struggling with self-doubt, I happened upon someone who helped me understand how to connect what I knew to be rationally true and how I felt. She said to me, "It's just a thought...and you can change your thoughts." Simple, huh? And yet, pretty profound.

After doing some reading that was recommended, I became keenly interested in this concept. But I'm a critical thinker and was careful to consider what was being suggested and whether it was congruent with the truths I had already come to believe about life, most namely, my belief in God. The journey continues for me.

Recently, I came across these two videos by Dr. Bruce Lipton, and found them fascinating. I thought I'd share them with you because the concepts he's proposing seem to make sense to me, though I'm not quite ready to say that I subscribe to all he suggests. But I'm willing to explore. I look forward to your comments.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Radical Failure

Failure is such a harsh word. Often bathed with a patina of tears, it tends to hit deep in the gut when lobbed at us by others, or even ourselves. Nobody wants to fail. We do nearly anything we can to avoid it, and even just the appearance of it. Though, ironically, we are often the first to affix its taunting label to ourselves.

But in spite of all the anguish it delivers, failure is actually a very constructive state. It doesn't feel so constructive when we're face down in the dirt, having just been thrown off the horse, but it is. Failing at something teaches us what doesn't work and forces us to face the plain truth of it. The interesting thing is, if we follow the advice handed down for generations, and "get right back up on that horse," we lose out on an important opportunity. Success may well be an unpolished gold nugget staring back at us from the dirt, but if we hop up on the horse too quickly, we may miss the shiny bit beckoning to us.

Let's be clear though, shall we? By failure, I don't mean a temporary challenge in what we set out to do. Sure, practice makes perfect and we shouldn't give up the first, second, or even hundredth time we aren't successful at something. But I'm talking about true failure, or more precisely, the failure of a situation to meet our needs. When it becomes obvious that something isn't working, perhaps it's best to take a step back and re-evaluate the environment, and ourselves. Is the universe trying to tell us something? Would it be best for us to take a step back and consider a divergent path? Having the courage to face, and even welcome, failure is the trick.

Life has a way of working out if we heed its quiet messages to us along the way. Failure, success, and crisis; all three of these are signposts that seek to guide our journey. But each takes a mindful spirit to interpret. If we are too busy fighting life and attempting to control it, we create a cacophony of confusion that causes us to  miss the messages. We end up spinning our wheels and circling back around, time and time again.

The failures in my life have not been pleasant affairs and each has left me a bit more raw than the last. Yet, they have guided me and taught me important lessons along the way and in the end, I am thankful for them all.  I don't yet throw parties to welcome them, mind you. But I do hope to develop the courage to experience radical failure, for in each lies a gift.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thank You

Thanks to all of you, this little adventure has gotten off to an excellent start! I've so enjoyed reading your comments and hearing your thoughts, both within this forum and others such as Facebook. We are accomplishing exactly what I intended: thought-provoking conversation that causes us to consider, question, and grow. My hope is that what has begun will continue and flourish.

It seems the right time to do a little housekeeping.  Soon, you'll be able to find a Facebook page for the blog, and I will let you know as soon as that's ready. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter for up-to-date information on posts and other topics. Look for @allthatthenthis on Twitter.

My plan is to post 3 to 5 times a week from this point forward. Keep up the comments and emails so the dialog can continue even between posts. I love hearing what you have to say and will do my best to respond to each comment and email as quickly as possible.

Feel free to pass along a blog link to anyone you think may be interested. A diverse group will only provide us with more perspective as we continue.

Thank you again, and I look forward to the coming days!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Not Likely to Make Me Popular

There are some things you should probably know about me. I'm an American, and I love my country. My Dad, both of them, actually, served in the United States Air Force and they were proud and brave to do so. You should know that I hate what happened on 9/11 on so many levels. That we as a nation lost innocent lives is horrific enough. But that families lost dearly-loved ones in such a violent and heinous manner is beyond pardon. That our security, both as a country and as individual citizens, was snatched from under us as we watched helplessly is unimaginable and yet, true. We were forever changed that day.

You should know that I'm not a political sort of person. You won't find me ranting about politics, politicians, or hear me suggesting that the country is going to hell in a hand basket. My choice is to leave that to those who know more than I. I'm interested in what happens in my country. I'm interested in what happens in the world. I'm not interested in politics.

You should know that I care about people and that I believe human life is precious, regardless of age, ability, or the color of the wrapping. You should know that I believe that a kernel of the supernatural, found in each one of us, necessarily imbues the life that we carry with awe and dignity, and quietly demands reverence and respect.

You should know that I was saddened today.

I was saddened as I listened to the people of my country gleefully celebrate that a man was killed. I was saddened as I read words written by a friend. Words dripping with venom and racist hate as they mocked the fallen man's religion and wished upon him a horrible hell.

Do I believe that the death of Osama bin Laden was good or righteous or holy? It doesn't matter really. This isn't about that. I support my country and our troops 100% as they struggle to keep us safe. I believe it's possible that the families of those tragically lost to the terror that this man wrought may now find comfort and some manner of closure in his death, and I do not begrudge them that. My prayer is that they will find peace. I am in no way defending the man or his acts. Do not misunderstand me.

But I maintain that he was human. I maintain that it is never right to rejoice in a man's death, and I maintain that it is never right to rejoice in what we perceive to be a man's eternal damnation. We lower ourselves to a very base level when we chant and cheer and dance to "Party in the USA" because a man has died.

Let us rejoice that families may now find some sense of closure. Let us rejoice that our world is safer, if we believe that to be so. Let us cheer that our country is strong and successful in its defense against evil acts. Let us cheer if we believe justice has been served. But let us not mock or jeer or pray for a hotter hell. For to do so defiles the very justice that we hoped to mete out.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stepping Outside the Known

Over the course of the last couple of years, I've had occasion to consider some pretty significant decisions, and to talk with friends who were doing the same. You know the feeling; weighing out whether or not you should do something by mentally loading the weight bars on one side and then the other of the scale in your mind's eye, secretly hoping the scale will bottom out on the side of safety. But I'm convinced that safe isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Sure, safe is what we know and on some level, knowing brings comfort. There is a certain measure of security in being able to walk the halls of "safe" blindfolded, no matter how tight those halls are. We know every twist and turn; when to zig and when to zag. But the walls of "safe" can be confining and at times, very difficult to navigate due to the distraction of "what could be."

I'm suggesting that we dare to consider what could be. That we push ourselves to step outside of the confines of safe into the open world of wide halls where we need light to find our way. Oh, it's definitely frightening and truly not easy, but neither is sitting in a rocking chair at an advanced age, reflecting on life and wondering about what could have been. I think I prefer my comfort as I smile at the memory of a long and satisfying life, void of too much second-guessing.

The truth is, it all works out. We find our way, we figure it out as we go, and in the end, it all works out. The energy that we spend wringing our hands in worry is better spent in leaping and enjoying the adventure that life offers. Yeah, I know that sounds simplistic and I'm not suggesting that we go about life in a willy-nilly uncontemplated sort of way. But I am suggesting that we stop being scared. Fear is paralyzing and prevents forward movement. Get over it. Move on. Try something different. The bottom line is, time passes anyway, no matter what we choose. We might as well have something to show for it in the end, rather than a great big bucket of "what ifs."