24 October 2017
are part of the dues one pays for a full life.
the wonders you seek are within yourself.
the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.
Rachel Naomi Remen
Harry discovered he had colon cancer, he was the administrator
of a large insurance company. The first in a family of
farmers to attend college, he had excelled academically almost
from the start. He was known in the industry as a driving,
politically sophisticated, and ambitious man whose career was
his whole life. His cancer had been caught early, and his
prognosis was excellent. Everyone had expected him to be
back in his office as soon as his scars had healed. But
two days after he returned to work, Harry resigned. It had
taken everyone by surprise.
company had suspected that he had received a better offer, but
this was not the case. Harry did not work for about a
year. Then he bought a vineyard and moved his family to
it. He has been growing grapes and making wine for the
past five years.
the moment that I awoke from that surgery, Rachel," he told
me, "I knew beyond a doubt that I was living someone else's
life. There had been so much pressure to succeed from my
family; they were so proud that I had escaped from the hard life
that we had led for generations. I got caught up in the
challenge of it all at first, wondering if I could do it, and
then I just kept pushing it. Somewhere in the process, I
stopped listening to myself.
"My father was a farmer and my
grandfather and my great-grandfather. My father had
hated this work, but I am a different sort of man; I understand
the land and it matters to me. I know this work as I know
myself. I belong here in a way that I never belonged
We sat on
the deck of his home, looking over a vast green sea of
grapevines gently moving in the wind. Pink roses grew
along his fence lines. Double indemnity and corporate life
were another world. As if reading my thoughts, he turned
to me with a rueful smile: "My favorite saying used
to be 'My way or the highway.' I was so proud to be living
personally and professionally on my own terms. It was hard
to see that I had sold myself out so completely that I had not
is an ongoing process, a dynamic happening over time that
requires our ongoing attention. A medical colleague
describing his own experience of staying true to himself told me
that he thinks of his life as an orchestra. Reclaiming his
integrity reminds him of that moment before the concert when the
concertmaster asks the oboist to sound an A. "At
first there is chaos and noise as all the parts of the orchestra
try to align themselves with that note. But as each
instrument moves closer and closer to it, the noise diminishes
and when they all finally sound it together, there is a moment
of rest, of homecoming.
is how it feels to me," he told me. "I am always
tuning my orchestra. Somewhere deep inside there is a
sound that is mine alone, and I struggle daily to hear it and
tune my life to it. Sometimes there are people and
situations that help me to hear my note more clearly; other
times, people and situations make it harder for me to
hear. A lot depends on my commitment to listening and my
intention to stay coherent with this note. It is only when
my life is tuned to my note that I can play life's mysterious
and holy music without tainting it with my own discordance, my
own bitterness, resentment, agendas, and fears."
inside, our integrity sings to us whether we are listening or
not. It is a note that only we can hear. Eventually,
when life makes us ready to listen, it will help us to find our
second wonderful book of short vignettes by Rachel Naomi
Grandfather's Blessings is an exploration of the meanings of life and
uses the heart-rending stories of her patients to teach readers
how to follow in her example, that is, combining a life of
service with a life of receiving and giving blessings (a
combination that avoids common problems such as burnout,
self-sacrifice, and navel gazing).
people behind the words
and excerpts - Daily
Two - Year Three
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to Handle Criticism
no denying it: criticism can (and often does)
hurt. But no matter what you do in life, you expose
yourself to the possibility of being judged
unfavorably. Even if you try to remain in the
background, avoiding all confrontation, you still must make
decisions--minor ones, maybe, like where you eat and what
you wear. And, rest assured, not everyone will agree
with your choices.
since you are going to receive criticism no matter what,
let's take a closer look at how you can best handle (and
even benefit from) it!
next time you are criticized, consider the following points:
Criticism is often nothing more than a reflection of
Again, regardless of what you do, somebody won't like
it. For instance, to get feedback from the audience at
my seminars, I often hand out speaker evaluations.
Without fail, two or three people will say that they wish
there had been more time for audience participation during
my presentation; at the very same program, two or three
others will say that they wish there had been less time
spent on group involvement. Accept that people have
diverse backgrounds, preferences, and interests. You
won't please everyone, so don't even try.
Don't take it personally.
Sure, this is easier said than done. However, the
critic generally isn't trying to prove that you have no
value as a person. Rather, they're revealing
their dislike of your idea or your performance. Let
them have their opinions. In the end, you decide
whether or not to let another person's remarks bother you.
Strive to learn from their words.
Find some truth in their statements--even if only a
shred. Usually, there is some accuracy in critical
comments. The critic may not be tactful, and the remarks may
be greatly exaggerated, but there is often helpful
information which you can glean. It's your job to seek
out this kernel of truth and benefit from it! For
example, let's say your spouse accuses you of
"never" being on time. While this statement
is not entirely accurate, you should still consider in what
ways, if any, you might improve your punctuality.
Don't critique the critic.
It's an equally bad idea to adopt a "consider the
source" attitude. Even if someone is generally
untrustworthy or, for whatever reason, you don't get along
with him or her, it doesn't mean that their comments will
always be completely without merit.
Don't be defensive.
Resist the temptation to argue with the critic. While
it's only natural to try to prove that you are
"right" and that the other person is
"wrong," this generally gets you nowhere.
(Of course, there will be some instances where it's
important to establish that you won't tolerate abusive
remarks and that you deserve to be treated with
respect. Use your best judgment.)
Accept that many people focus only on negatives.
The critic rarely gives a full, accurate assessment.
He or she tends to report only the negatives, even if there
are plenty of positives to mention as well. Recognize
that some people simply think it's unnecessary to tell you
what you've done right. Instead, they focus
only on "helping" you--which, to them, means
Realize that vicious, harsh comments come from people who
are unhappy with themselves.
Here again, there might be a shred of truth or something you
can learn from the criticism. But I've found that
mean, angry, insulting remarks spring from unhappy, insecure
people. They have to vent their anger and frustration
on someone and you've been chosen as today's target!
Don't let these people bring you down. NOTE: If
you repeatedly receive harsh words from others, it's
not a coincidence. You are attracting criticism based
on your beliefs and your level of self-esteem. Take
responsibility and look inward at what you can change to
achieve more harmonious relationships with those around you.
not everyone will like you, your goals, or your
actions. But don't let the fear of criticism stop you
from doing what you want. Accept criticism as a part
of life, and learn from it where possible. And, most
importantly, stay true to your own values and
convictions. If others don't approve, so what?
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photo's from a spring
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x 800 - 1440
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
sweetest lives are those to duty wed,
Whose deeds, both great and small,
Are close-knit strands of unbroken thread
Where love ennobles all.
The world may sound no trumpets, ring no bells;
The book of life the shining record tells.
love shall chant its own beatitudes
After its own life working. A child's kiss
Set on thy sighing lips shall make thee glad;
A sick man helped by thee shall make thee strong;
Thou shalt be served thyself by every sense
Of service which thous renderest.
When the Direction Seems Difficult
It's very easy to talk about going with the flow in life,
allowing life to lead us in directions that life wants to
take us rather than trying to define those directions
ourselves. Almost everything we read from major
religions and philosophies tells us that when we try to
control the directions and flow of our own lives, we set
ourselves up for disappointment and frustration, but that if
we let life take us in the ways that it knows are best for
us, then we'll benefit from the long-term focus that life
has versus the short-term focus that we seem to have.
Part of the problem for us, I believe, is that we don't
allow ourselves to "let go and let God," as it
were, because we think that we know what's best for
us. We think that our logic and rational thinking give
us the power to see how we can flourish in life, and what
the best courses are to follow.
In my case, I know that this happens very often because I
allow the fear to take over my decision-making
processes. It can be the fear of risk-taking, the fear
of failure, the fear of new things, or any other fear out
there, but these fears often don't allow me to move in
certain directions, even when life has cleared the way--even
given me not-so-gentle pushes--for me to move in new
directions in life.
In response to that fear, I usually start to let what I
see as my rational mind take over the decision-making
processes. I start to devise reasons for which I
shouldn't move in a certain direction, for which I should
take another course that would make much more
"sense." Instead of focusing on acceptance
of change and a new path in life, I try to find ways to hold
on to the status quo in the hopes of keeping things the way
they are. If I can do this, I can fool myself into
thinking that I'm pursuing security, that I'm doing what's
"best" for me, when the fact is that by trying to
take control of the situation, I'm probably just losing
opportunities that probably would expose me to new and
beautiful situations in my life.
Right now, for example, an opportunity may be opening up
at a place that's four hours away from where we live
now. My rational mind is fighting strongly to avoid
this opportunity, as taking the chance would mean a few
hardships that I'm not accustomed to, and possibly put a
strain on my marriage. It would mean a lot of time in
my car each week, and it would mean starting completely anew
in a completely different culture where I may or may not be
But when I look at those "rational"
descriptions of the opportunity, I see a lot of fears
reflected there. I see the fear of change, as my
relationship with my wife will most certainly change.
I see the fear of wasting time in my car. I see the
fear of rejection. There are more reasons and more
fears, but these are enough for now.
Relationships should be dynamic, and we should welcome
change into them. Many marriages break up because
people try to keep them the same all the time, and then they
become dull and boring, with little to no fulfillment.
Time in my car is very peaceful and relaxing for me--almost
meditative. My fears of rejection never have come to
pass, no matter where I've lived or what I've done--people
are people, and if I'm good to them, they're good to me.
Of course, sometimes we take risks and things seem to go
bad because of them. But in those cases, it's usually
because we're going against the flow of life and just
convincing ourselves that we're actually letting life lead
us. I've known people who have seen relationships
dissolve, only to find much more fulfilling relationships
later. I've know people who have lost their jobs, only
to find much more fulfilling work somewhere down the road,
after some important time for reflection that wouldn't have
happened if they were still at their old jobs.
Right now in my decision-making process, I must try to be
aware if I'm making decisions to keep myself
"safe," or if I sincerely feel inside that I'm
following the flow that life has prepared for me. Am I
motivated by fear, or am I looking objectively at the
situation and trying to figure out what's truly best for me
and my family? Are we ready and willing to face a few
obstacles--some possibly drastic--if I do make the choice
that seems to be the one that makes the most sense in the
"Let go and let God," or "Let go and let
Life," or "Go with the flow." They're
all simple words, of course, and the advice sounds easy to
follow, but we do have to figure out ways to deal with the
interference that our minds plant in our way, and how to
figure out exactly what is interference and what is truly
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of living does not consist in preserving and clinging to a
mode of happiness, but in allowing happiness to change
its form without being
disappointed by the change; happiness, like a
child, must be allowed to grow up.
Need to Know We Matter
We need to know that we matter in this life. We need
evidence that others are aware of our presence. And thus, we
can be certain that others need the same attention from us.
When we give it, we get it. So the giving of attention to
another searching soul meets our own need for attention as well.
recognition of another's presence blesses him or her, ourselves,
and God. And we help one another grow, in important ways,
each time we pay the compliment of acknowledgement.
sure, on occasion, just what we have to offer our friends,
families, and co-workers. Why we are in certain
circumstances may have us baffled, but it's quite probably that
the people we associate with regularly need something we can give
them; the reverse is just as likely. So we can begin with
close attention to people in our path. It takes careful
listening and close observation to sense the message another soul
may be sending to our own.
are no seven wonders
of the world in the eyes
of a child. There are seven million.