08 Jul

My Beloved…

my_beloved

Today, I said a final good bye to my beloved…well, I don’t exactly know what to call her. For the past 20 years, she was my father’s closest friend, confidant and companion. Both widowed after long, loving marriages, neither wanted to get married but yet, they spent every day together. They took vacations together and loved each others company. She accepted and loved my wife and I as son and daughter. My children as her grandchildren, indeed, they are the only grandma they have ever really known. She was in every sense that mattered, a mother to me. To say that she was my dad’s “girlfriend” seemed to minimize the immense role she played in our lives. They weren’t married but they spent more time together and shared more with each other than many “official” marriages I’ve seen. So, in this, the time of her passing, I struggle to name the role of a person who’s place was vital in my life but undefined in our culture. Why do I find a need to name her place at all?

Names, containers, boundaries and limitations. It’s seems to be human nature to classify everything and it’s a good practice for objects but, as time goes on, I find it rather limiting when it comes to people. As I look back on the beginnings of our relationship, I waisted time closing my feelings off to her because I placed her in the role of intruder. I simply didn’t know where she would fit in my life so, I went with my default love setting: off. Of course, this didn’t stop her from loving me. Eventually, her love proved to be stronger than my resistance and I was freed to experience one of the most wonderful relationships of my life.

So, Virgia Currin, as I say good bye to your vessel and you live on in my heart, what title should you hold? Since there is no familial designation that fits everything you are to me, I shall simply remember you as my beloved.

Rest in peace and love, Virgia. You will be missed.

22 Jun

Changing Spaces: The Loathing and the Loving, Part 1

ChangingSpaces

A simple office move turns into a battle between loathing and loving. Which side will emerge victorious? I suppose it’s up to me.

The Loathing:

After several years in the same place, my department at work is moving from the first floor to the second floor. In keeping with the intent of this blog and the intent of my life view, I’m generally an upbeat person but, in this case, I’ve found a sense of dread creeping upon me. Quietly and completely. It started when our new cube configuration was posted on the wall this week. To be honest, I hate my new location. It’s not just that I hate moving, which I do, but I have several valid reasons for hating this new location. It’s just outside my boss’ office just off a main walkway. Now, I love my boss but she’s got a lot of traffic going in and out of her office and people love to stand and talk in main walkways. I’m as social as anybody but I do enjoy quiet especially when I’m working on a tough project. I don’t want to have to listen to the endless conference calls and meetings and all the other hubbub. Soon, I noticed another feeling creeping up on me to accompany my dread: envy! I started to look at the cubes of my friends who were “better situated” than I. Cubes in low-traffic locations next to windows and the gentle breeze of perfectly positioned and regulated air conditioning vents. I began to calculate how they might have acquired such prime real estate. Perhaps they are more valued than I. Maybe they were secretly given a choice of the best spots. The negativity spread in my mind like wildfire and soon, I not only suspected I would hate where I was sitting, I knew I would. Also, my envy would progress into resentment of my workmates and potentially sour my relationships. The funny thing is that this would all occur in my mind before moving even a shred of paper.

The Loving:

Life is good. I choose to believe that this is true with no exceptions. Life is change. You can’t have one without the other. So, if life is good and life is change then, change is good.

No matter how things appear to me and my limited view, there is an overarching goodness to life that can be enjoyed at all times. There have been countless occasions where an event that I originally judged as bad transformed over time to something I would not only consider to be good but would be grateful for. What lies in that space between that original judgment and eventual gratitude? Misery, discord and confusion. Is it possible to cut out the middle-man of misery and go straight to “Thank you!” for everything that happens in my life knowing that it is all for my good? Knowing that each change in my life only affirms life itself.

The Experiment:

I’m changing my thoughts about this move. Contrary to all the evidence I have previously detailed, I choose to see and experience this move as a blessing that is only occurring to bring me more good. When I have thoughts to the contrary, I will remind myself that this is simply not true based on what I know about the nature of life. I expect the Universe rise and support my beliefs. I will feel this support in a decrease and eventual disappearance of my dread, hatred, envy and resentment. These feelings will be replaced by love and gratitude of the present moment. That’s my theory, anyway.

As this is Part 1 of this topic, I plan to check in with periodic updates and let you know how this is going and what feelings are coming up. In the meantime, feel free to experiment along with me and choose a seemingly negative event in your own life and cut out your middle-man of misery.

08 May

The Great Forgiveness Experiment

forgive_one_a_day

Peace is cherished by all living beings. It is the appreciation of stillness. The freedom from conflict or obligation. Peace is the playground of creativity and the birthplace of love. World peace is a concept that is prayed and hoped for but, in actuality, we really don’t think it’s possible. It seems there are far too many conflicts going on and the rifts are too deep for people to just lay down their arms and strive for the greater ideal of peace. I mean, how can we really expect 2 factions to resolve a conflict that has lasted hundreds of years and taken countless lives when we can’t forgive the guy that just cut us off in traffic? As trivial as it seems, this is where world peace begins. Peace in the world starts with peace in the individual. The practice of forgiveness is our gateway to peace. So, with that in mind, let’s try an experiment!

Forgive one person a day for a week. That’s it. It doesn’t matter who it is or what they’ve done. Just pick one person that has offended you for any reason and forgive them. Here are a few possibilities:

* The guy or gal that cut you off in traffic.
* That person you saw on TV that said something you didn’t like.
* A loved one who betrayed your trust.
* The stranger who rushed past you in the store without saying “excuse me”

It doesn’t matter who it is or how large or small the offense or conflict but it should be a situation that you would not normally forgive. Many believe that the act of forgiveness involves some magnanimous declaration to the offender like “I forgive you!” That’s not exactly what I’m talking about here. Forgiveness is a state of mind that only matters to the forgiver. As such, forgiveness doesn’t require ANY physical or outward action. You don’t have to talk to anyone about it at all for it to be real and lasting. This takes a bit of the pressure off, yes? If bad feelings continue to come up around the person or situation you have chosen to forgive, simply remind yourself that this is no longer a problem and allow yourself to let it go. The beauty of this practice is that it gets easier every time you do it.

I encourage you to journal about your experiences as you seek out the lucky recipients of your forgiveness. Feel free to return to this post and comment on how it’s going for you. Don’t worry, after a week, you can go back to regular activities but you may find that you don’t want to.

17 Apr

Defiance!

defiance

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Boston, united and courageous Bostonians declared the terrorists will not win. I applaud and support this defiant stance. Terrorism must not be allowed to achieve it’s goals but, to ensure it’s defeat, we must know exactly what those goals are and how we might counteract them.

The ultimate target of terrorism is the mind. Terrorism is a dark dialog spoken in the language of pain and suffering to convey the message of fear. This feeling of fear for our very survival brings with it fear’s close companions: hatred, confusion, hopelessness, vengeance and blood-lust. It is an attempt to disfigure the soul by committing acts against the body.

Throughout the history of the world, fear and grief have been used as tools to control and manipulate the heart of mankind. It works because it plays on our natural survival instinct. It’s natural to fear for our lives and grieve for our lost loved ones. It’s natural to want to strike out against that which as made us fearful and threatens our survival. This is exactly what the terrorist wants us to feel.

We are also quick to call the terrorist a monster or some other inhuman distinction. This too, is a goal of the terrorist. Calling someone a monster makes them different from being a person. It makes them an instrument of evil with no redeeming value and separates them from our shared human spirit. Seeing another person in this way helps us make sense of their actions as simply an evil monster doing evil things. This also elevates the terrorist by transforming him or her from a mere person making choices, like the rest of us, to a mythical creature of pure evil. Dehumanization is a reward to the terrorist and sends a message that a simple choice can elevate a person to god-like or devil-like status. It plays into the “beyond human” persona that the terrorist has of himself.

All of these effects seem to be natural and unavoidable outcomes to horrific acts but are they? Must we submit ourselves to the prison of fear and hatred that the terrorist wish to create for us? The answer is a resounding, resolute and defiant NO.

Make no mistake, the perpetrators of these acts must be pursued and prosecuted but this alone will not signify victory over the goals and objectives terrorism. We must refuse to give over our freedom to dictates of our fears. We must not allow our capacity of love to diminish while stoking the fires of hatred and retribution. We must resist the urge to classify the terrorist as anything more or less than human. We must defiantly proclaim the truth that there is no force on earth capable of extinguishing our spirit, corrupting our souls or limiting our love and enjoyment of life.

15 Apr

Great or the Greatest?

America_Greatest

“America is the greatest country in the world.”

I’m hearing this phrase more and more these days. So much so, I’d even go as far to say that it’s now a political talking point. It’s no longer good enough that I love my country, I must now proclaim that it is the greatest among all others. I don’t think love and greatness are necessarily linked. I love burritos but I still wouldn’t say that it’s the world’s greatest food.  Even when the “greatest” designation can be substantiated with statistical facts, we are still unable to reach consensus. You would think that the person that hit the most homeruns would be considered the greatest homerun hitter but we know it’s not that simple.

The “greatest” designation carries with it a pretty strict definition. When something is declared the “greatest”, it means that all others are lesser. It also means that if you don’t agree that we are the greatest, you are either ignorant or lying. So, what does it mean to be the greatest, anyway? If we declare that the entire country is the greatest, does that also mean that its citizens are greater than the citizens of all other countries? Deserving of more consideration?  More resources?  Grading the worth of a person based on where they are born creates separation and justifies discrimination.  Is it possible to work for the betterment of all humanity when we regard ourselves and our interests as more important than all others? Am I making a big deal about this simple declaration? Perhaps, but I feel that it’s important to know what our words mean and the underlying feelings they generate.

I love America. My country was created based on the strong principles of freedom and equality that we boldly strive to live up to every day. I feel that America represents not only a place but a journey to toward a greater realization of these principles. Our foundation is the idea that ALL men are created equal not just all Americans. Of all American ideals, I hold this one most sacred. This is a belief in the oneness and value of all people regardless of any condition including place of birth. What makes America great is that it embraces the idea that no person is greater than any another.

05 Apr

Dragonflies

dragonfly

I was attending a graduation ceremony with my wife, Heather, recently. It was a perfect summer day and I noticed there was an abundance of dragonflies floating around the crowd. “Look at all the dragonflies, babe.” I said in amazement. “They’re good luck, you know.” she replied.

This was the first time I had heard that dragonflies were good luck and a funny thing happened after that. I changed the way I looked at dragonflies. They were no longer simply cool looking insects with big heads and a wide wingspan. For no other reason than just hearing that they were regarded as lucky, I started to see them as lucky, too. I started making note of when I saw them and began to expect good luck to come my way. Invariably, it always did. I would get into an interesting conversation or I’d find the perfect parking spot or I could get stuck in traffic and realize that I narrowly missed an accident because I was delayed. It could be just about anything. It helps that my idea of good becomes more flexible the more I’m expecting it.

I eventually noticed that seeing a dragonfly caused me to have a heightened sense of my impending blessing. By this, I mean that I knew that when I saw a dragonfly, or anything else that I deemed lucky, good things would happen and so, that is what I saw. Even the things that I might initially see as bad, required closer scrutiny to find the good that was surely there. I started to ponder the very nature of luck and my own role in it’s interpretation. Like many, I’ve gone through my life labeling objects, conditions and even other people as lucky or unlucky. I thought it was perceptive of me to notice certain qualities, recognize their nature and categorize them properly. Of course, this was bolstered by the fact that I was rarely wrong. Little did I know, I was loading the deck. Unconsciously rigging the game.

The truth is that when I peered in to the random soup of conditions that surround me, I find what I believe. If I believe all signs point to misfortune, I will surely find it. When I know good is present, I see it all around me. I have the power to infuse even more totems as lucky to enhance my feeling of good. With practice, could I even view my very existence as luck itself? Am I the recipient of a constant barrage of blessings? I suppose it’s up to me to believe it and find it to be true.

27 Mar

Don’t Judge Me!

dont_judge_me

I’ve always said that I didn’t want to be judged. I don’t want to be pre-judged, post-judged or anything in between. Conversely, I do seem to seek approval of others and that would mean that judgment of some kind needs to take place. In looking deeper into this paradox, I have to admit that I actually do want to be judged in all the ways I claimed that I did not. The thing is that I want to control the judgment. I want to be judged as attractive, friendly, honest, strong, wise and to have many of the other qualities that I have striven to exemplify. I feel that if I’m seen this way, I’m doing a good job as a person because these are qualities that everyone strives for. I found that I worked very hard to appear to be this “flawless” person at the expense of being a “real” person. I would hide or ignore my “undesirable” traits and chide myself for having them. The problem with that approach is that I always felt as if I had a darkness in me that would always be there and always deny me peace. Lazy, fearful, hateful, selfish… If someone saw one of these traits, I would proclaim “Don’t judge me!” with a passion driven from the horror of being seen as the opposite of who I was trying be. Seeing the part of me that I hated. An interesting side effect of this way of thinking was that I was VERY quick to condemn people whom I judged to have these “negative” traits.

I’ve come to realize that I am the sum of my parts and that sum is good. Through my laziness, I learned to appreciate the results of hard work and a job well done. Through my fear, I learned there was nothing to be afraid of. Through my hate, I found the value and limitlessness of love. Through my selfishness, I learned the joy of giving. I could go on and on but my point is that every single experience that I’ve had, good or bad, has made me what I am today. I found that the practice of loving 100% of myself has brought peace and joy to my life. I still have bouts of judgment but my rule for myself and all people now is to love first, judge second.

22 Mar

Step-Child

step_child Alysse is my step-daughter. In recent years, I have started to choke on the word “step”. To me, its a word that separates a person from the “normal” family situation. If I say someone is my daughter, that comes with certain expectations of love, loyalty and support. Now, when I say that a person is my step-daughter, those expectations are somewhat diminished. It’s understood that I won’t love her quite as much as my biological children. It’s also expected that she shouldn’t love me as much as her biological dad. There will always be a line of love and devotion there that, everyone seems to agree, will never be crossed. At the very least, difficult to cross. I have to admit that personally, it was very hard to let anyone into my heart as much as my biological children. I felt that, if I loved anyone as much as them, I would be betraying them somehow. So, I kept my distance. Alysse, on the other hand, didn’t have these hang ups. She was around 7 years old when her mom and I got married and, like many children, had no barriers to the free flow of love. She accepted me into her heart quickly and also accepted the clunkiness that was my balancing act of carefully measured love that I was trying to give. I knew she was allowing herself to love more than I was but I just wrote that off to the ignorance of children. She just didn’t know that she SHOULD love me less.

Over the years, I have learned that there is no official rule book that defines how much you can or should love someone. Parents get this much. Children get that much. Love is infinite and is therefore immeasurable. The ONLY limitation to the amount of love we share exists in our own minds. To test this theory, I simply started to let myself love. Love by choice, not by the random circumstance of relationship. On the contrary, I can love people I haven’t even met. I can love who I want, as much as I want. Interestingly, the side effect is the experience of more love in my life.

The uncommon love of a young lady that I now simply refer to as my daughter helped me to realize that. Thank you, Alysse. I love you, too.

16 Mar

Animal Instinct

animal_instinctHuman beings are animals. As such, there are certain traits that we have by nature that we must follow. When we look at other animals in nature, we observe that they are ruled by instinct. They must eat, mate, seek safety, and, above all, survive. No matter what the animal is, this seems to be the prime directive. For many animals, battle and conflict is an important part of achieving these objectives. Males often battle with other males of the species to gain the right to mate. This battle also serves the group as a whole because it ensures future generations will derive from only the strongest stock.

As human beings, we too need to eat, mate, seek safety and survive. We also have instincts that drive us to do these things but does that mean that conflict and fear are simply natural instincts needed for the betterment of the group as a whole? If this is the case, is the human race destined to fight war after war without end? Are we doomed to an eternity of fear, hatred and separation with only fleeting glimpses of joy and a limited experience of love? Yes, perhaps, if all we are is the animal but we are so much more.

What we have that is unique in the animal kingdom is the ability to make meaning and to choose what we do based on that meaning. Yes, we are driven to survive but we have the power to choose what survival means. For example, we must eat to survive but , if I decide to fast for a few days, I can choose not to eat. Not eating goes against all of my primary, animal instincts and yet, for whatever reason I choose, I can go against those instincts and take a different path. No other animal on the planet has a power quite like this. Sure, in our humble beginnings we were much closer to our animal selves, just doing what we could to survive. But, as time passed and we started to obtain a greater sense of nature and of ourselves, choice and meaning started to override our simple animal instincts.

It is a common argument that man will always be just the way he is today: warlike, selfish, fearful and self-loathing. That’s why we still have all the problems we experience around the world today like poverty, slavery and war, just to name a few.  Some say that it is simply our nature to be exactly how we are today but I don’t believe that’s true. I think all our past suffering has shown us the way to end all suffering. Through choice. Through love.

Each passing moment brings with it an opportunity to make a new choice. We are not bound by our instincts. We are not bound by our past. We are not bound by our future. Each moment, the slate is wiped clean and you are beckoned to fill it with new visions of joy and love. How much can we have? All that we choose to have.