3 May  2016      

Good morning, and welcome to May!  Our newest month is now upon us,
and it will be full of opportunities for us to make our lives something
extraordinary, even if we do so only in the small, seemingly unimportant
ways that make up the bulk of our lives.
Please make your month extraordinary!

On Naming and Awe
Rachel Naomi Remen

 A Little at a Time
John Erskine

Sharing the Wealth
tom walsh

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It is a pity that the words "spiritual life" were ever invented, for they have caused so much confusion.  For, in truth, there is only life--everyday life--which is simply what is at every moment.

Robert Powell

Life is learning which rules to obey,
which rules not to obey, and the wisdom
to tell the difference between the two.


Life is a moment-to-moment happening;
any attempt to possess it, save it,
or store it, is to lose the present moment.

A Spiritual Warrior


On Naming and Awe
Rachel Naomi Remen

A label is a mask life wears.

We put labels on life all the time.  "Right," "wrong," "success," "failure," "lucky," "unlucky," may be as limiting a way of seeing things as "diabetic," "epileptic," "manic-depressive," or even "invalid."  Labeling sets up an expectation of life that is often so compelling we can no longer see things as they really are.  This expectation often gives us a false sense of familiarity toward something that is really new and unprecedented.  We are in relationship with our expectations and not with life itself.

Which brings up the idea that we may become as wounded by the way in which we see an illness as by the illness itself.  Belief traps or frees us.  Labels may become self-fulfilling prophecies.  Studies of voodoo death suggest that in certain circumstances belief may even kill.

We may need to take our labels and even our experts far more lightly.  Some years ago I served on the dissertation committee of a woman in the Midwest, who was studying spontaneous remission of cancer.  Among the people who answered her ad in the paper asking for people who thought they may have had an unusual experience of healing was a farmer who had done exceptionally well despite a dire prognosis.

On the phone one evening, she told me about him.  She felt his outcome was related to his attitude.  "He didn't take it on," she said.

Confused, I asked her if he had denied that he had cancer.  No, she said, he had not.  He had just taken the same attitude toward his physician's prognosis that he took towards the words of the government soil experts who analyzed his fields.  As they were educated men, he respected them and listened carefully as they showed him the findings of their tests and told him that the corn would not grow in this field.  He valued their opinions.  But, as he told my student, "A lot of the time the corn grows anyway."

In my experience, a diagnosis is an opinion and not a prediction.  What would it be like if more people allowed for the presence of the unknown, and accepted the words of their medical experts in this same way?  The diagnosis is cancer.  What that will mean remains to be seen.

Like a diagnosis, a label is an attempt to assert control and manage uncertainty.  It may allow us the security and comfort of a mental closure and encourage us not to think about things again.  But life never comes to a closure; life is process, even mystery.  Life is known only by those who have found a way to be comfortable with change and the unknown.  Given the nature of life, there may be no security, but only adventure.

Rachel Remen has a unique perspective on healing rooted in her background as a physician, a professor of medicine, a therapist, and a long-term survivor of chronic illness. In a deeply moving and down-to-earth collection of true stories, this prominent physician shows us life in all its power and mystery and reminds us that the things we cannot measure may be the things that ultimately sustain and enrich our lives.


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A Little at a Time
John Erskine

I must have been about 14 then, and I dismissed the incident with the easy carelessness of youth.  But the words Carl Walter spoke that day came back to me years later, and ever since have been of inestimable value to me.

Carl Walter was my piano teacher.  During one of my lessons he asked how much practicing I was doing.  I said three or four hours a day.

"Do you practice in long stretches, an hour at a time?"

"I try to."

"Well, don't!" he exclaimed.  "When you grow up, time won't come in long stretches.  Practice in minutes, whenever you can find them--five or ten before school, after lunch, between chores.  Spread the practice through the day, and piano-playing will become a part of your life."

When I was teaching at Columbia, I wanted to write, but recitations, theme-reading and committee meetings filled my days and evenings.  For two years I got practically nothing down on paper, and my excuse was that I had no time.  Then I recalled what Carl Walter had said.

During the next week I conducted an experiment.  Whenever I had five unoccupied minutes, I sat down and wrote a hundred words or so.  To my astonishment, at the end of the week I had a sizable manuscript ready for revision.

Later on I wrote novels by the same piecemeal method.  Though my teaching schedule had become heavier than ever, in every day there were idle moments which could be caught and put to use.  I even took up piano-playing again, finding that the small intervals of the day provided sufficient time for both writing and piano practice.

There is an important trick in thins time-using formula:  you must get into your work quickly.  If you have but five minutes for writing, you can't afford to waste four chewing your pencil.  You must make your mental preparations beforehand, and concentrate on your task almost instantly when the time comes.  Fortunately, rapid concentration is easier than most of us realize.

I confess I have never learned how to let go easily at the end of the five or ten minutes.  But life can be counted on to supply interruptions.  Carl Walter has had a tremendous influence on my life.  To him I owe the discovery that even very short periods of time add up to all the useful hours I need, if I plunge in without delay.



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Why aren't people more successful?  Because most people do not select
and pursue a vision without regard for other objectives.  Most people shift
from one activity to another without any focused or directed purpose,
naively assuming that things will take care of themselves or will be
taken care of by others.  George Bernard Shaw said, "The people who
get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the
circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them."

Ari Kiev



Sharing the Wealth 

It's important that every now and then, we take stock of just what we have in life, just what kinds of benefits and blessings that we have in our lives.  Whether they be material, emotional, spiritual, financial, or based on gifts such as talents and abilities, we all have wealth in our lives.  The wealth that we've been given, of course, is meant for us to share with others--we are here on this planet to benefit other people, to share our love and our blessings with whomever we can while we're here for this very short time.

A half a decade ago, I decided to start teaching in our public school systems because I knew that two of my strongest gifts were knowledge and the ability to teach, and I felt that it was important to use those gifts in the most effective way possible.  While I thought I was doing a pretty good job at the college I was at, the work that I was doing there was benefiting a relative few people, and I knew there was a great need for public school teachers, and not as much of a need for college teachers.

It's not something I would recommend for everyone.  The switch has not come without its share of difficulties and setbacks and frustrations.  But since I consider obstacles to be an important part of life--invaluable learning experiences, actually--those hardships haven't been too hard to get through.  And they've been necessary, actually, for me to be able to share the wealth that I've been given in life.

I wouldn't suggest that anyone purposely take on huge hardships in order to spread their wealth.  I wouldn't suggest that anyone give away their last dollar when they have no food in the house.  But I do know that the benefits of sharing what we have are amazing, and that only when we do give to others can we get that satisfied and fulfilled feeling inside that tells us that we're actually contributing to this world in a positive way.  For many people, a lack of such a feeling is the source of feelings of despair and hopelessness, and banishing such feelings is extremely important if we hope to be happy while we're here.

Sharing the wealth is very easy.  I can share the wealth by volunteering my time to help others fill a need (I do this by teaching free classes to people in our community who need them).  I can share it by sharing the food I have with others who don't have as much.  I can give encouragement, I can drop my change into the jar at the supermarket, I can give a smile, I can go through my closet and pass on the clothes that I don't wear any longer, I can buy a couple extra bags of groceries for the food bank (after finding out what they can use, of course!), I can spend time reading to a young person or a very old person, I can help with the annual cleanup at the river park, I can spend time listening--without giving any advice--to someone who needs to be heard.

Wealth isn't about money or goods.  Those are forms of wealth, of course, but wealth means so much more.  And in order to share our wealth, it's necessary for us to recognize and acknowledge what we have, first of all.  Do we have our health?  Then we can participate in a walk or run for charity.  Do we have lots of money?  Then we can share it with others who are in need.  Do we have great patience?  Then we can take on a task that demands great patience.  Are we good with kids?  Then we can watch the neighbors' kids while they do something they need to do, or we can volunteer time at the local elementary school.

Wealth is useless unless we use it.  Many rich people are incredibly lonely, with deep feelings of isolation and lack of purpose.  Many talented people are frustrated that they haven't "made it big," while ignoring opportunities to share their wealth in more personal venues.  Many writers feel frustrated that they haven't been able to be published, while the vast Internet out there awaits their contributions to other people's lives.  What are your talents, abilities, and possessions?  How can you share the wealth with which you've been blessed, thus making your life much more fulfilling and interesting and uplifting?  You can have a positive effect on others, but you do need to be willing to share to do so.


More on wealth.


One of the most important elements
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There are things that we
never want to let go
of, people we never want
to leave behind.
But keep in mind that
letting go isnít the end
of the world; itís the
beginning of a new life.


The Art of Getting Along
Wilferd A. Peterson

Sooner or later people, if they are wise, discover that life is a mixture of good days and bad, victory and defeat, give and take.

They learn that a person's size is often measured by the size of the thing it takes to get his or her goat. . . . that the conquest of petty irritations is vital to his or her success.

They learn that they who lose their temper usually lose.

They learn that carrying a chip on their shoulder is the quickest way to get into a fight.

They learn that buck-passing acts as a boomerang.

They learn that carrying tales and gossip about others is the easiest way to become unpopular.

They learn that everyone is human and that they can help to make the day happier for others by smiling and saying "Good morning!"

They learn that giving others a mental lift by showing appreciation and praise is the best way to lift their own spirits.

They learn that the world will not end when they fail or make an error; that there is always another day and another chance.

They learn that listening is frequently more important than talking, and that they can often make a friend by letting other people tell their troubles.

They learn that all people have burnt toast for breakfast now and then and that they shouldn't let their grumbling get them down.

They learn that people are not any more difficult to get along with in one place than another and that "getting along" depends about ninety-eight percent on their own behavior.

To let go isn't to forget, not to think about, or ignore.  It doesn't leave feelings of anger, jealousy, or regret.  Letting go isn't about winning or losing.  It's not about pride and it's not about how you appear, and it's not obsessing or dwelling on the past.  Letting go isn't blocking memories or thinking sad thoughts, and it doesn't leave emptiness, hurt, or sadness.  It's not about giving in or giving up.  Letting go isn't about loss and it's not about defeat.  To let go is to cherish the memories, but to overcome and move on.  It is having an open mind and confidence in the future.  Letting go is learning and experiencing and growing.  To let go is to be thankful for the experiences that made you laugh, made you cry, and made you grow.  It's about all that you have, all that you had, and all that you will soon gain.  Letting go is having the courage to accept change, and the strength to keep moving.  Letting go is growing up.  It is realizing that the heart can sometimes be the most potent remedy.  To let go is to open a door, and to clear a path and set yourself free.


Whatever it is probably won't go away, so we might as well live and laugh
through it.  When we double over laughing, we're bending so we won't break.
If you think your particular troubles are too heavy and too traumatic to
laugh about, remember that laughing is like changing a baby's diaper.
It doesn't solve any problems permanently, but it makes
things more acceptable for awhile.

Barbara Johnson


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