Archive for December, 2007

Cheerful Givers at the Walk for Justice 2006 by Mykl Roventine


Thanks to Alex Blackwell for sending his email about the Spread the Love NOW writing project. What a wonderful topic and idea! The joint effort by the Three Monks – Wade of The Middle Way, Kenton of Zen-Inspired Self Development, and Albert of Urban Monk.Net to add more compassion to our daily lives. (To join the fun, click here for details.)

I love Christmas. Even in the midst of crowded stores and snarled traffic, I love to sing a fun Christmas song along with the radio. I notice how more people stop to hold open a door, help to reach an item on a high shelf, or just return your smile. What a fantastic feeling one gets from kindness. Whether you give it or receive it, it always makes you feel good.

So I’d like to make my goal this; to try to spread the same happy, kindhearted attitude every day of the year. For me to say “I’m spreading Christmas cheer,” I know exactly what that means. It means taking time for people who need a boost or a friendly face. It means forgiving the small grievances and problems that crop up in relationships with family and friends. It means being willing to start each day believing that you can fill it full of fun, adventure and lots of love.

On the surface it seems sort of “Pollyanna,” like we are ignoring our troubles or “the realities of life.” Far from it. To me, it simply means have a more open-minded attitude. Spreading Christmas Cheer means to be more conscious of the opportunities to spread happiness and joy to other people, whether we’re at work, running errands or even at home.

Let me give you some examples. I have an elderly neighbor who doesn’t get many visitors. For me to take a few minutes out of my day to say hello, stop by or give him a call, makes him feel appreciated and loved. Or if I send a letter or card to my mother or father, I will sometimes include a cartoon that I think they’ll enjoy. I also send emails of encouragement to friends who are sad or depressed to let them know I’m thinking about them.

There are other little things we can do, like slowing down to allow the car ahead of us to make a left turn, or holding open the door for the elderly lady with the cane. Smiling at the crying child, snapping it out of its tantrum so a busy mother can finish shopping. The nice thing about compassion is that it is so easy to give. Most people only want to feel noticed, and appreciated. They don’t need gifts or lots of money. All they need is someone to listen to their story, to talk them through their fears or a hand to hold when they feel alone.

Christmas is special because people make time for each other. They plan on being with friends and family and put their work away for awhile. We spend extra time to cook a special family meal, or finding the perfect gift. We talk, and we listen. We let other people be as important, or even more important than ourselves. That is true compassion.

As a last little note – why not add a little jolt of creativity to your task? Every time to do a random act of kindness, say a mental “Merry Christmas,” when you do. Or say it out loud if you like. Make a list of the gifts of time, attention, friendship and love you give to people at Christmas and try to do those things during the entire year.

Even if you “fail” to keep your Christmas spirit every day, I’m sure you’ll find yourself thinking about it much more often and being more tolerant and optimistic too. None of us is perfect, even at Christmas, but it sure is fun to try. If you have a better way to extend the Christmas season, I’d love to hear it! Let me know how your own goals and projects go. Above all, have fun with it! Merry Christmas everyone!



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Crawling Baby by Carey Evans


As the glow of holiday fun slowly starts to fade and a new year is about to begin, I have been reflecting on my past.  Of the many plans I made, some goals succeeded, while others didn’t work out as I expected.  Many of my aspirations were fluid, flexible things such as being more generous with my compliments, time and forgiveness.  I am trying to complain less, exercise more and striving to maintain my inner peace at all times.

With all the fun and excitement of the holidays, I was on an emotional high.  As I look back on things I said and did, I realize there were so many opportunities to do more.  Chances to smile more, help with the dishes, do a random act of kindness, or simply eat and act in a more healthful way.

But while in past years I would feel guilty for my mistakes or even want to give up because I complained too often, or wasn’t as nice as I could have been, now I’m happy that I see the opportunities for next time.  I’m proud of the good things I did do.  While I didn’t eat healthy every day, I ate better overall than previous years.  If I didn’t help as much as I felt I should have, I did smile more, laugh more and enjoyed the holidays instead of stressing over things that didn’t go right.

Writing this blog and giving advice to all of you, helps me to recognize both the progress I’ve made and the many things I still want to achieve.  It helps to compare my development to a baby learning to walk.  You start by crawling.  And falling.  And crawling some more.  That small success makes you hunger for more adventures and new places to explore.  Next you learn to balance yourself and stand.  Then a few teetering steps, and suddenly you’re walking!  In your final stage you learn to walk faster and faster until you gain strength and speed and evade your parents with glee as you investigate everything around you.

That’s what I’m doing.  I’m learning to run.  Each time I learn a step in the process of becoming a better person (or at least more like the person I want to be), I am finding my balance and my rhythm.  And though it may take many more years until I can run, I’m finding the journey to be one hell of a fun ride!

Happy holidays to all of you.  May your next year be filled with excitement, mystery, discovery, adventure, and lots of joy!


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Time by Pardesi*

While reading Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” I was impressed by his insight into the mental suffering of human beings. After having himself suffered through some of the most torturous conditions known to mankind, he not only survived, but shared his newfound knowledge with the rest of the world. His greatest legacy is his impressive understanding of human nature and the valuable lessons he passed on.

While people often recommend this book, they rarely put into words what it is that so impressed them. I’d like to share some of what gave me those “Aha!” moments, where the light bulb went off in my head and I recognized the value of the lesson. One particular passage was related to the transitory nature of life and how his therapy “logotherapy,” is an active technique, rather than reactive. What struck me however, was how he points out a fundamentally sound view of old age that I believe is one we would all wish to emulate:

“To express this point figuratively we might say: The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is the like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after having first jotted down a few diary notes on the back.

He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down I these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that young person has, the future which is in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think. “Instead of possibilities I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of suffering bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy.”

What a joyous and wonderful way to live! To live fully each day, so that you can end your days without regret, envy or loss. In his book, he repeatedly speaks of finding the meaning of life and meaning in suffering. The two are irrevocably intertwined. Suffering occurs in every human life. The ability to transform tragedy into a personal triumph is as unique to each person as it is necessary. Here is a great example from his book:

“Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now, how could I help him? What should I tell him? Well, I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?”

“Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering – to be sure, at the price that now you have to mourn her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left my office. In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice.”

Of course, Frankl himself found such meaning with memories of his wife’s love while enduring the torments of the Nazi camps in hopes of eventually reuniting with her. Since we cannot always avoid suffering in life, the idea of finding a meaning in it is immensely sound. Although I thoroughly support and believe in happiness and an optimistic view, I find great healing in the idea that if we suffer, we suffer for a reason.

I’ve know friends and family members who suffer in harsh, chaotic home situations, or work jobs they dislike. Far from wanting unhappiness, many of them simply suffer these problems for a greater good, or a greater meaning. They may be trying to pay for their children’s college funds, or they are working to heal an addicted person in their family.

Finding the meaning in our suffering helps us endure our pain with dignity and grace. It is the gives us endurance far beyond our usual capacity and fills us with hope and love. It is an inner freedom that not even the worst circumstances can remove from us. May we all be blessed to know the meaning that gives purpose to our lives.

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Creativity is a skill, like dribbling a basketball or cooking a gourmet meal.  Sure, there are some people who are born with these abilities, but with some expert help, the rest of us can usually learn enough to do a passable job.  Those of us with an enthusiasm for it, can learn to be great. 


One of creativity’s easiest lessons to learn is passion.  All of us have a passion, something we love to do and will pursue regardless of any obstacles in our path.  When you are passionate about something, you make time for it.  You put aside other not-so-important issues and tasks and focus on attaining your goals.


My understanding of creativity may differ from the usual form.  I think of creativity as more of a flexibility.  It is the ability to flow with the many changes of life and to maintain a positive outlook while still reaching my goals.  If you switch your showers from morning to the night so that you can get up early to run a few miles and stay in shape, that is creativity.  If you are learning to cook and you fix three new recipes on the weekend because you don’t have time during the week, that’s creativity.


One of my favorite books is “The Creative Spirit,” by Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman, and Michael Ray.  They have explore several examples of creative people, creative living and creative success.  One of my favorite passages was about having a creative mind: 


“One of the goals of Zen Buddhism is to go beyond the senses and beyond thinking,” says Professor Kraft.  “Intuition – the source of insight – sneaks up on your from somewhere else when you’re not thinking about it.”


“One of the images used metaphorically in Asia for creativity is water.  Water conforms to whatever circumstances it’s in.  Water in a river rushes along, but if it comes to a rock, it flows around it.  If you take a cup to the river and fill it, the water will suddenly and perfectly conform to the container.”


A mind as clear and reflective as water is central to the oriental martial arts tradition, which places a high value on responding to and even anticipating events.  Enormous discipline is required to attain this state of mind, in which one is capable of receiving information without distortion.  For it is accurate information – whether it is the detection of an opponent’s next move in judo, or the anticipation of a subtle shift in consumer taste in automobiles- that forms the basis for creative action.”


Don’t believe that you are not a creative person.  Each time you find an easier way to do your chores, or a quicker route to work you are being creative.  When you reward your kids for reading with a trip to the zoo you are being creative.  Creativity is a flowing, fluid state of being where ideas flow and change is natural and beneficial.  You don’t have to be into crafts or an advertising executive to be creative.  It is a skill that can be learned and applied in almost any situation.


Here are a few sites to get you started:

Why Every Person Should Develop Creative Thinking Skills.

Creativity For Life

This is a great article which I have printed for myself – 10 Steps for Boosting Creativity.

Michael Michalko’s Creative Thinking site.  Check out the “Bright Ideas – 16 ways to jump start your company’s creativity.” 



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These are cute little videos, hope they cheer you up and add a little Christmas fun to your day!

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.

Disney -12 Pains of Christmas.

Rudolph – A Holly Jolly Christmas

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Rubber duckies. . .one last image by Gaetan Lee

Each time I want to avoid something like negative thinking, a hard phone call, or a cleaning chore I don’t enjoy, I find my mind exaggerates the importance of it until I’m forced to deal with it.

I used to think this was just some silly cliché people liked to give in lieu of a heartfelt answer.  Now I’m forced to admit that this is one cliché that’s true.  Whatever you try to avoid returns again and again until you deal with it.  Whether it’s a money matter, a troublesome coworker or a cluttered closet, trying to avoid a problem will only make you focus on it more.

Take anger for instance.  At times I get angry at people in my life for various reasons.  Sometimes I will feel “forced” to put up with their bad manners, selfishness or laziness.  I decide to “bite my tongue,” and not say anything, hoping the situation will resolve or some magical solution will arrive.  Then during a meditation session, I will suddenly think, “I am so angry at so-and-so, she did “xyz,” and I deserve to be mad.”

Once I admit to myself that I feel angry, the pain associated with it fades away.  I begin to recognize that the other person was tired, stressed, or otherwise not themselves, or I will come up with a plan of action to address the situation.  Then magically the harshness and poison of anger will leave and I’ll feel calm and peaceful.

It’s amazing how simply honestly acknowledging those “bad” emotions takes the fever from my mind.  It’s like my brain says “Oh, you’re jealous,” and just files that away.  No longer am I consumed by thoughts swirling around in my head.  Once I give them my attention, they go away.

Usually after I’ve done this, some wonderful idea for dealing with my fear or an understanding of why I feel lonely will pop into my head.  This works for happy emotions as well.  When I feel excited, joyful, energetic and healthy, and I concentrate on that feeling, it seems to amplify it.  I may notice that I feel healthy because I exercised that day, or joyful because I’m doing an activity I enjoy.  This allows me to distinguish this from other emotions and helps me to repeat them again later.

By realizing that what I resist will keep returning to me, I can benefit from both my happy and unhappy emotions.  Then I can decide to correct my mistakes and move on, or to repeat what I’m doing for more of the same.  It’s a win-win situation!

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Link Love.

Here is a list of recent blog carnivals I’ve posted to. They are very good and full of interesting articles. Check them out for yourself.


Engineer Your Own Happiness at the Lemonade Stand.

Personal Development and Happiness Carnival at The Next 45 Years.

Carnival of Observations on Life by Anja Merret.

Doing it Differently at Today is That Day.

Positive Thinking at Widows Quest.

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