12 January  2016      

Hello, and welcome to the second week of January!  Our year has
already started, but there's still plenty of time to be thinking of all
the things you hope to accomplish during its twelve months.  Remember
that our goals and dreams that are written down and planned for have
a much better chance of becoming reality!

 Letting Go of "Spiritual" Specialness
Hugh Prather

 from "The God Memorandum"
Og Mandino

Undivided Attention
tom walsh

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If you stop to be kind, you must
swerve often from your path.

Mary Webb

Laughter is the shortest distance
between two people.

Victor Borge

Find joy in simplicity, self-respect, and indifference to what lies between virtue and vice.  Love the human race.  Follow the divine.

Marcus Aurelius

People pay for what they do, and still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become.  And they pay for it simply:  by the lives they lead.

Edith Wharton


Letting Go of "Spiritual" Specialness
Hugh Prather

Within the eternal changeless nature of Truth, we are not our busy, fractured minds.  Yet it is crucial to acknowledge that we believe we are indeed fractured.  Every day we accept our ego thoughts and feelings as our only thoughts and feelings.

Even though our ego represents the conflicted voices and lessons we stockpiled during our formative years, we react to them as our essence, our individuality, how we "feel" about things.  If we are honest, we will admit that this part of us is our primary teacher and guide.  We are not on a spiritual path; we are on an ego path.

Obviously, we can have the concept that we are not our ego (our inner demons, shadow self, mortal self, dreaming mind, busy mind), but in a thousand ways each day, we demonstrate that we live through and for our worldly identity.

You and I do not believe we are "children of God."  We may give lip service to that concept, but we believe we are autonomous, a creation of ourselves.  We think we are pretty much whatever we decide to be and not the creation, the extension, the "image and likeness" of God.  This belief is not "nothing."  It creates almost everything we experience.  It is the source of our fear, misery, and loneliness.  It locks us in a tale that begins with hope and excitement, but ends in disillusionment and destruction.  It doesn't matter if this tale is not the truth of God, because you and I experience it as if it were.

When we are in a restaurant, we look over the menu and select a dish.  We don't think, "Oh, this preference for linguini is coming from my ego and is not my preference."  We order the linguini.  Without any real second thought, we accept almost every reaction we have to the circumstances and people we encounter each day--even though only our ego has a range of emotional responses to aspects of separation.  Surely no one would argue that God likes fried okra over lima beans.  No one would say that the governing Principle of the universe hates "call waiting."  Or suggest that the Host of Heaven "buy American."

From the array of emotions within them, individuals on a spiritual path often single out just a few feelings and call them "ego."  For instance, we can "love" getting a promotion and feel euphoric for a day or two, yet not have an instant's concern that these are ego reactions.  But if we feel jealousy about someone else getting the promotion and we are depressed for a day or two, we say, "These emotions are my ego."  Or if it dawns on us that we dislike the French, or yuppies, or our brother-in-law, we think, "That's just ego."

From thirty years of counseling individuals on a spiritual path, I know that when most people say, "That's just ego," or, "That's my inner parent," or, "That's the devil," or, "That's just the alcohol talking," what they really mean is, it is not me.  And, of course, from the standpoint of absolute Truth, it isn't.  Yet notice that it is them when it comes to the pinions they hold about politics, religion, parenting, or whether they are "good in bed."

In fact, we tend to be proud of most of our patterns of separation:  "I'm a morning person," "I run a tight ship," "I believe in speaking my mind," "I don't tolerate fools," "I'm a spontaneous kind of guy," "When I pay this much, I expect good service."

I can't emphasize too strongly that we run the risk of underestimating the power of our beliefs when we notice a destructive line of thought but say to ourselves, "Oh, that's just ego."  Our beliefs are so powerful that they color our entire world.  We literally see what we believe, but we can--and most of us do--fail to take responsibility for what we see, especially what we see within.  Provided it's not acted out, consciously blaming others for how we feel is a fairly obvious and innocuous mistake compared to the mistake of attributing our feelings to the ego or the devil. . . .

Attributing our harmful tendencies to something that is "not us" tempts us to stop taking the steps needed to render them powerless.  Once any destructive thought is made fully conscious, we still recognize it whenever it surfaces, but it no longer scares, shocks, or controls us.  As a safety precaution, I counsel people to think, "I hate women," "I disdain men," "I feel superior to my best friend," "I can't stand three-wheelers," "I resent mansions," rather than, "My ego is feeling hateful (disdainful, superior, resentful, and the like)."  We purify ourselves by acknowledging how we are now and becoming more aware of it now.

Bestselling author Hugh Prather has a knack for putting his finger on the pulse of America's emotional and spiritual angst. In The Little Book of Letting Go he gives voice to the internal chatter that prevents us from enjoying or pursuing our true desires. "Within our human heart we all feel the call to be simple, to be present, to be real," Prather writes. "Yet throughout the day, the world urges us to be at war with ourselves and each other: 'Be resentful about the past.' 'Be anxious about the future.' 'Be dissatisfied with what you do see.' 'Be guilty.' 'Be important.' 'Be bored.'" Prather compares these thoughts to the stale clutter in the back of our refrigerators. By cleaning out our minds, we allow room for fresher and more nourishing foods for thought.


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from "The God Memorandum"
from The Greatest Miracle in the World
Og Mandino

. . . . Thus we come to the fourth law of success and happiness. . . for I gave you one more power, a power so great that not even my angels possess it.

I gave you. . . the power to choose.

With this gift I placed you even above my angels. . . for angels are not free to choose sin.  I gave you complete control over your destiny.  I told you to determine, for yourself, your own nature in accordance with your own free will.  Neither heavenly nor earthly in nature, you were free to fashion yourself in whatever form you preferred.  You had the power to choose to degenerate into the lowest forms of life, but you also had the power, out of your soul's judgment, to be reborn into the higher forms, which are divine.

I have never withdrawn your great power, the power to choose.

What have you done with this tremendous force?  Look at yourself.  Think of the choices you have made in your life and recall, now, those bitter moments when you would fall to your knees if only you had the opportunity to choose again.

What is past is past. . . and now you know the fourth great law of happiness and success. . . Use wisely, your power of choice.

Choose to love. . . rather than hate.
Choose to laugh. . . rather than cry.
Choose to create. . . rather than destroy.
Choose to persevere. . . rather than quit.
Choose to praise. . . rather than gossip.
Choose to heal. . . rather than wound.
Choose to give. . . rather than steal.
Choose to act. . . rather than procrastinate.
Choose to grow. . . rather than rot.
Choose to pray. . . rather than curse.
Choose to live. . . rather than die.

Now you know that your misfortunes were not my will, for all power was vested in you, and the accumulation of deeds and thoughts which placed you on the refuse of humanity was your doing, not mine.  My gifts of power were too large for your small nature.  Now you have grown tall and wise and the fruits of the land will be yours.

You are more than a human being, you are a human becoming.

You are capable of great wonders.  Your potential is unlimited.  Who else, among my creatures, has mastered fire?  Who else, among my creatures, has conquered gravity, has pierced the heavens, has conquered disease and pestilence and drought?

Never demean yourself again!

Never settle for the crumbs of life!

Never hide your talents, from this day hence!

Remember the child who says, "when I am a big boy."  But what is that?  For the big boy says, "when I grow up."  And then grown up, he says, "when I am wed."  But to be wed, what is that, after all?  The thought then changes to "when I retire."  And then, retirement comes, and he looks back over the landscape traversed; a cold wind sweeps over it and somehow he has missed it all and it is gone.

Enjoy this day, today. . . and tomorrow, tomorrow.

You have performed the greatest miracle in the world.

You have returned from a living death.

You will feel self-pity no more and each new day will be a challenge and a joy.  You have been born again. . . but just as before, you can choose failure and despair or success and happiness.  The choice is yours.  The choice is exclusively yours.  I can only watch, as before. . . in pride. . . or sorrow.

Remember, then, the four laws of happiness and success.

Count your blessings.

Proclaim your rarity.

Go another mile.

Use wisely your power of choice.

And one more, to fulfill the other four.  Do all things with love. . . love for yourself, love for all others, and love for me.

Wipe away your tears.  Reach out, grasp my hand, and stand straight.

Let me cut the grave cloths that have bound you.

This day you have been notified.



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No person can become prosperous while he or she really expects or
half expects to remain poor, for holding the poverty thought, keeping
in touch with poverty-producing conditions, discourages prosperity.
Before we can lift ourselves, we must lift our thoughts. When we shall
have learned to master our thought habits, to keep our minds open to
the great divine inflow of life force, we shall have learned the truths
of human endowment, human possibility.

from the foreword from the publishers of
Orison Swett Marden's Pushing to the Front, 1911



Undivided Attention

I was once looking to buy a new printer, and I went to a store to see what kinds of printers they had to offer.  I had a couple of questions about their wireless capabilities, so when one of the guys who worked there came over and asked if I needed help, I said yes and asked him a question.

I was about halfway through the question when he asked "Which operating system are you using?"

I was a bit taken aback that he had interrupted the question before I had even finished it, and a bit perplexed that he was asking a question that had nothing to do with my question.  It wasn't until I looked back up at him that I realized that he was talking on the phone with someone through the Bluetooth unit perched so prominently on his ear.


Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.

Jose Ortega y Gassett


He had asked me if I needed help, while he was supposedly "helping" someone else on the phone.  It was ridiculous, and I told him that I was fine and that I'd figure out my questions on my own.  He looked at me a bit surprised, and asked, "Are you sure?"  I said yes--after all, what good can he do me when he's not even focused on what he's doing?

I'm constantly amazed at the number of people I see spending "quality" time with their kids, only to pull out the cell phone and have a long and involved conversation with someone who isn't even there.  The poor kid is relegated to the status of ignored companion, unless they do something they shouldn't do, when the adult will take two seconds from the conversation to say "Knock that off!"

It makes me wonder if today's little kids will have to become even more destructive and anti-social in order to gain the attention that they crave.


We've forgotten how to remember, and just as importantly,
we've forgotten how to pay attention. So, instead of using
your smartphone to jot down crucial notes, or Googling an
elusive fact, use every opportunity to practice your memory
skills. Memory is a muscle, to be exercised and improved.

Joshua Foer


In spite of the reams of evidence that cell phone use and other distractions while driving are incredibly dangerous (at least 3000 people DIE every year because of it), many, many people still insist upon carrying on phone conversations while behind the wheel in traffic.  (See http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/
.)  Tens of thousands of people have lost their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. . . . you name it, only because someone thought "It'll never happen to me."  Those people were wrong, and they've killed other people because they weren't willing to give their undivided attention to the task at hand, which was driving.

Why are we so unwilling--and almost unable--to give our undivided attention to the tasks that we do?  All throughout our culture and society, we see declines in the quality of work and the service, and much of this is due to the fact that people seem to think that multi-tasking isn't just a new norm, but a necessity.

In the United States, at least, we used to have a very strong work ethic, and we used to teach our kids to be proud of the results of their work.  We much more often focused on outcomes, and because we wanted it to be positive, we learned to put our undivided attention to the task we had taken on.  When a parent spent time with a child, they spent time together, talking or playing or just going for a long walk.  Nowadays, though, parents seem to resent this distraction that keeps them from watching their TV and spending time on the phone talking about trifles.  So they compromise by being there physically with the kid, but certainly not there emotionally or mentally for  the kid.


It's hard to pay attention these days because of multiple
effects of the information technology nowadays. You
tend to develop a faster, speedier mind, but I don't
think it's necessarily broader or smarter.

Robert Redford


In the classroom, in spite of all the people who unjustifiably glorify the idea of multi-tasking, I find that the students who are able to sit down and focus on the assignment are the ones who succeed in learning the material.  Because of that, I spend a lot of time in class teaching kids how to focus, and believe it or not, these kids appreciate that.  Over and over again, these teenagers thank me for helping them to learn how to study, because no one else ever had tried to do so.  Most teachers are so intent on the assignments that they never pay attention to whether or not their students are even able to focus on the material they're supposed to be learning.

And with the role models that these young people have, is it any surprise that they have a hard time focusing?  Whom have they seen who models the ability to put their undivided attention on a task?  Even many pro athletes don't focus on their sports exclusively any more--during games, watch how many NFL players are just as interested in the crowd and the cameras as they are in the game.  And those are the ones that the networks give the most camera time to. . . .

I know many people who are almost never satisfied with the results that they get in life, whether that be at work, with their hobbies, in their relationships, or in other areas.  Most of these people don't get the results they desire because while they're doing something, they're also focused on something else.  Is a conversation with your wife as valuable when you're also watching a TV show?  Is time spent with your teenager going to be as valuable if you--or her--spend most of your time on the phone with someone else?  Can you really get your work done well if you're also surfing the Internet?  These are questions that most of us never seem to address--and probably because we already know the answer, and we just don't really want to hear it.

More on mindfulness.


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We find by losing.  We hold fast
by letting go.  We become something
new by ceasing to be something old.
This seems to be close to the heart
of that mystery.  I know no more
now than I ever did about the far
side of death as the last letting-go
of all, but now I know that I do not
need to know, and that I do not
need to be afraid of not knowing.
God knows.  That is all that matters.

Frederick Buechner

The circumstances amid which you live determine your reputation; the truth you believe determines your character.

Reputation is what you are supposed to be; character is what you are.

Reputation is the photograph; character is the face.

Reputation comes over one from without; character grows up from within.

Reputation is what you have when you come to a new community; character is what you have when you go away.

Your reputation is learned in an hour; your character does not come to light for a year.

Reputation is made in a moment; character is built in a lifetime.

Reputation grows like a mushroom; character grows like the oak.

A single newspaper report gives you your reputation; a life of toil gives you your character.

Reputation makes you rich or makes you poor; character makes you happy or makes you miserable.

Reputation is what people say about you on your tombstone; character is what angels say about you before the throne of God.

William Hersey Davis


The way in which we think of ourselves
has everything to do with how our world sees us.

Arlene Raven


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