27 February 2018      

Good day!  Thanks much for dropping by--we hope that you find something
here that gets you to thinking in positive ways that you can help others to
live their lives fully, and help yourself to do the same!

Practice Makes Perfect
Mira Kirshenbaum

Why Is Awareness of the
Natural World Important?
Claire Thompson

Making Fun
tom walsh

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We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand. . . and melting like a snowflake.  Let us use it before it is too late.

Marie Edith Beynon

I have always grown from my problems and challenges, from the things that don't work out. That's when I've really learned.

Carol Burnett

Why do some people always see beautiful skies and grass and lovely flowers and incredible human beings, while others are hard-pressed to find anything or any place that is beautiful?

Leo Buscaglia


Practice Makes Perfect
an excerpt
Mira Kirshenbaum

It's a funny thing about the lessons we learn in life.  No matter how much it costs us to learn them, no matter how deeply they're etched into our hearts, sometimes we forget them anyway.  We need a way to put them into practice when we've forgotten a little of what we've learned.  So in this case, how do we remember to accept ourselves when we start sliding back into old patterns?

If change happens when you see something big and new and meaningful, the key to maintaining that change is continuing to see.  So we have to see when we're sliding back into old patterns.  This requires vigilance.  Too often self-rejection comes in the guise of "constructive criticism" or "a much-needed kick in the ass."  But if you can see that you're getting on your case for stuff you know has been very hard for you to change, then this is just self-rejection.  See it for what it is.

A simple way to get rid of self-rejection is to ask, "Is this helpful?"  Be honest.  You've just said, "God, I'm so fat."  Okay, so tell me:  does that help?  I can't imagine it does.  So get in the habit of answering back to yourself, "That's not helpful," every time you say something self-rejecting.

Another way to put an end to self-rejection is ask yourself whether what you're telling yourself is what a friend would say or what an enemy would.  Friends are supportive.  Enemies put us down and undermine our confidence.  So if you say something that an enemy would say, stop.

Answer back, "I'm going to be supportive of myself.  As a friend, what I have to say to myself is. . ."  Then say something supportive.

Another good way to maintain self-acceptance is to remind yourself, "I'm not Superman.  All I can do is try my best."  When people struggle with self-acceptance, I've noticed that they judge themselves from too many angles.  If you're a new mom, for example, that's tough enough all by itself.  It can be hard to accept that you're a plenty-good-enough mom.  But to think that you'll be able to look like a million bucks at the same time is just not fair.  Most of us can barely do one thing well in life.  And to do that one thing well, we have to let most other things go.

Finally, if you've been getting down on yourself, maybe this thing you're struggling with isn't you.  You want it to be you, but it isn't.  Maybe you've come up with some great idea for a piece you want to write for your local newspaper.  But then when you sit alone you can't bring yourself to put words down on paper.  So why torture yourself?  Maybe it's you to have good ideas, but it's not you to sit alone in a room for hours at a time and produce something out of nothing.  Remember, self-acceptance begins and ends with being able to say, "This is who I really am, and it's okay."

And what's made all this growth into self-acceptance possible for you is that something happened in your life, and the meaning of what happened was so you could look at it and say, "I'm not going to do to myself what was done to me."

more on self


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Why Is Awareness of the Natural World Important?
an excerpt
Claire Thompson

Losing awareness of our natural world is having deep consequences for our own well-being, as well as for the well-being of other species we share the planet with.  However, our own well-being is interlinked with that of the rest of life on the earth.  There is no separation between us.  So what is happening to nature is also happening to us.

To lose awareness of the natural world is to deny an inherent and vital part of being alive and human.  We have replaced our natural home with comfortable and secure lifestyles.  Many of us spend much of our time in cities, in front of televisions and computers, on our cellphones and communicating electronically.  When we began to seek protection from the life-threatening dangers of the natural world, we were trying to avoid death.  Now, however, by locking ourselves up indoors and in our minds, it seems we are beginning to avoid life.  Technology and more comfortable lives are part of our world and we can't deny this.  And personally, I do not intend to return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.  However, we also need to maintain the experience of nature in our lives.

This disconnection with the natural world has led to what Richard Louv called "nature deficit disorder," whereby many of us--and especially our children--are experiencing anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorders, obesity, and type-2 diabetes.  There is evidence also that excessive stimulation from technological or artificial means can cause mental fatigue and loss of vitality and general health.  In a world where living in the realms of our minds can take over to the extent where mental-health problems are a global epidemic, our loss of awareness of the natural world is not something we can continue to ignore.  We need the rest of the natural world for our own well-being.

Creating an Unnatural World

Our loss of awareness of the natural world is also at the heart of infinite decline, destruction, and suffering for all living beings.  By creating the concept of nature being separate from ourselves, we have proceeded to exploit it in order to satisfy our every desire.  We are cutting down the world's forests, destroying other natural habitats, polluting the air, land, and sea, fishing life out of the oceans, displacing plants and animals across the globe, and exhausting natural resources.  Meanwhile, human activities are also accelerating the rate of global climate change, which could cause more loss of plants and animals, more frequent natural disasters, disease, sea-level rise, and acidification of the oceans.  These are all leading to the extinction of animals and plants at an unprecedented rate since the dinosaurs disappeared sixty million years ago.

Are these consequences surprising?  Not really.  The processes that sustain life in the natural world follow some basic laws and our controlling minds have convinced us that we may be able to override them.  If we continue to believe this, and live by the story "nature belongs to us," we will probably cause the collapse of all life on the earth as we know it.  We won't be exempt from this, because we don't exist without the rest of the natural world.  The products of the human mind, our abstract ideals, our beliefs, our political systems, our economic systems will never persist if we continue to assume that we are separate from nature.  Think about the natural law of gravity.  We all have direct experience of this.  Would you ever try to defy gravity?  Would you ever go and jump off a cliff and hope to stay alive?  Almost certainly not.

It is the same with the other rules that govern the natural world.  When we bring our awareness to nature, we soon understand that one of the essential natural laws is interconnectedness.  Life is fundamentally one.  We are life.  What we do to one part of life, we do to the rest of life, including ourselves.  The eventual consequence of denying that nature is sustaining our life on this planet could be the end of humanity itself.  Buddha saw this from beneath the Bodhi tree.  Ecologists see this from their scientific research.  However we look at it, this is an undeniable reality.  Reconnecting with nature through mindfulness is consequently vital if we are to reverse this extremely concerning trend.  Bringing our awareness back to nature lies at the heart of our happiness and of the well-being of all life on the earth.

more on oneness - more on nature


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Learn to get excited like a child.  There is nothing that has more magic
than childish excitement.  So excited you hate to go to bed at night.
Can’t wait to get up in the morning.  So excited that you’re about to
explode. How can anyone resist that kind of childish magic?  Now,
once in awhile I meet someone who says, “Well, I’m a little too mature
for all that childish excitement.”  Isn’t that pitiful?  You’ve got to weep
for these kinds of people.  All I’ve got to say is, “If you’re too
old to get excited, you’re old.”  Don’t get that old.

Jim Rohn



Making Fun

Growing up in the culture I did, here in the States, I learned quite early on that making fun of others was normal.  I learned that we see doing so as funny, and that we should do our best to make jokes at the expense of others, especially when they make mistakes.  After all, "making fun" of someone is just good-natured ribbing, right?  Looking for someone else's flaws and mistakes and then making jokes at the expense of that person is funny, and anyone who doesn't think so should "lighten up."

Well, to be quite honest, I don't think that making fun of other people is funny at all, and I have no plans in my life to lighten up.  The people telling me that I need to develop a sense of humor are telling me that I should condone a practice that is very often quite cruel and vicious, and that contributes absolutely nothing to the world while making the victims feel self-conscious, embarrassed, unconfident, and overall simply bad about themselves.

I've watched students make fun of each other, and I've seen the results in the eyes of those who have been made fun of.  It's there in the eyes even of those who say it's okay, and that it's just a joke--that hurt that says that someone else has seen a weakness of mine and used that weakness to get a little laugh.  Now they have to hide that weakness--and so often what the other person is mocking is actually a strength that now is going to be ignored or repressed in order to avoid any future "jokes."


When is a small bit of laughter ever worth damaging someone else's sense of self-worth?  When is it ever okay to make someone else feel bad about a trait of theirs, something that they were born with and over which they often have little or no control?  When do we ever contribute something positive to the world by trying to get a laugh at someone else's expense?

Of course, the answer to all three questions is simple:  never.

Usually, people who make fun of others are dealing with their own sense of inadequacy, and it makes them feel a little better to put someone else down.  Even the words that describe what we do are pretty insidious--put down.  Make them feel smaller.  Take them from feeling up to feeling down.  Keep them from the heights and keep them in the gutter.  We also call it "cutting down," a term which brings up quite a bit of negative imagery.  "Making fun" of someone is simply some people's way of making themselves feel a little superior to the other person because of their own feelings of inferiority, and it's a very harmful habit.

I get most angry when I see parents do this to their children.  Children are very easy targets, for they make a lot of mistakes, and very often they're willing to share their feelings more than adults are.  It's easy for a parent to pick up on something that their child did or said and make a joke about it so that other people will laugh--and so that the child being mocked feels awful about him or herself.  Children trust their parents, so the putting down is even more damaging--it harms the children's trust in their parents, and it makes the children more likely to feel that what the parent says really is something wrong.  After all, why would they say it if they didn't mean it?

Putting people down does not make you
a powerful and strong person.  It makes you
a bully, a coward, and eventually alone in life.


In my family the cut-down was a norm, and all of us paid the price for it as we were growing up.  Every little mistake was a cause for a joke, not compassion or understanding or even--God forbid--encouraging words to help us avoid the mistake again.  And as we grew up, we started to cut each other down, as that was our norm.  Over time we got pretty good at it, so in our household it was pretty common to hear someone cutting someone else down--and to hear someone else laughing about it or adding their own put-down.

It wasn't until years later that I realized what I had been trained to do, and that I was able to make the decision that I wasn't going to keep on doing it, that I wasn't going to try to use other people's words or actions as fodder for a joke that was more damaging than it was funny.  And when I made that decision and started practicing it, my life improved rather significantly.  Not immediately, because people don't notice changes like that very quickly, but soon enough.

People started enjoying talking to me, because I was a good listener and I wasn't listening for something to give me ammunition for a "joke."  People trusted me more because when I replied to them, I was either asking for more information or sharing my own feelings or trying to encourage them if something went wrong.

People who are secure in themselves
don't put others down.  They lift them up.


I also found that I got much more out of talking to other people.  The conversations that I had were much more rewarding and fulfilling when there was no risk of hurting someone else by saying something that I considered to be a joke, but that would actually hurt the other person.

I've been lucky.  While I developed the skill of recognizing other people's weaknesses in order to make jokes about them, that skill now helps me to find ways to offer encouragement and advice, not jokes.  And I wasn't one that kept up the cut-downs constantly, ever, like some people I know.  I know some fathers who are merciless when it comes to talking to their children, exposing and mocking every weakness or mistake that they perceive on their children's part--and their children are suffering dearly for it.

Our goal in conversations never should be to perceive weaknesses in order to make jokes about them.  If someone does make a mistake, it's fine to laugh along with them as long as they're laughing, too, but it's not fine to make them pay for it with an insult masquerading as a joke.  After all, our goal in life should always be to help and encourage and build up other people, not to cut down and discourage them, and not to get laughs at their expense.  That's one expense that is far too high for anyone.





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You can kiss your family and
friends good-bye and put miles
between you, but at the same
time you carry them with you in
your heart, your mind, your stomach,
because you do not just live in
a world but a world lives in you.

Frederick Buechner

It's nice that we grow up.  As pleasant as the idea of holding on to our childhood is, there are so many nice things about maturing and gaining a strong sense of perspective on the world.  Our perceived wants and needs change, and the things that used to seem so important to us, the things that we allowed to cause us so much pain, later seem to be completely unimportant.  All of the time that we spent worrying or agonizing over them now seems to be wasted time.  And hopefully, we mature enough not to repeat that kind of mistake.

One of the greatest joys of growing up and maturing is the strengthening of our ability to let go.  When we let go of our desire for things, our desire to have other people do and act as we wish them to, our desire to "take care" of things no matter what they are, we grow stronger, more peaceful, more aware, and more able to spread our peace to others.  We're able to pull away from competition for things that don't truly matter, saving our energy and our focus for things that do.

Today's desires one day will seem small and insignificant, but that doesn't diminish their importance for us today.  But we don't have to diminish something's importance to be able to face it with a clear mind and a readiness to take care of it.  If we can back off and look at it from a perspective of seeing a bigger picture, though, and realize that it won't be the end of the world if this desire goes unfulfilled, then we'll be able to put this desire in its proper place.

From our Daily Meditations
A few years ago, on a liner bound for Europe, I was browsing in the library when I came across a puzzling line by Robert Louis Stevenson:  "Extreme busyness, whether at school, kirk, or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality."  Surely, I thought, "deficient" is a mistake--he must have meant "abundant."  But R.L.S. went merrily on, "It is no good speaking to such folk:  they can not be idle, their nature is not generous enough."

Was it possible that a bustling display of energy might only be a camouflage for a spiritual vacuum?  The thought so impressed me that I mentioned it next day to the French purser, at whose table I was sitting.  He nodded his agreement.  "Stevenson is right," he said.  "Indeed, if you will pardon my saying so, the idea applies particularly to you Americans.  A lot of your countrymen keep so busy getting things done that they reach the end of their lives without ever having lived at all."

Arthur Gordon


We do not succeed in changing things according to our desire,
but gradually our desire changes.  The situation that we hoped to
change because it was intolerable becomes unimportant.  We have
not managed to surmount the obstacle, as we were absolutely
determined to do, but life has taken us around it, led us past it,
and then if we turn around to gaze at the remote past, we can
barely catch sight of it, so imperceptible has it become.

Marcel Proust




A new way of reading has been here for a while now.  And while we still love our books, if you're like many people, you get tired of lugging around the books that sometimes weigh more than anything else we carry.  Imagine carrying hundreds of books--novels, self-help, history, travel, you name it--and reading them comfortably on a no-glare screen, setting things like text size to your own preferences.  It's a great experience, and it's available to us now for less than the cost of ten books.  And there are plenty of free books to download, especially timeless classics--you can easily get enough free books to pay for the Kindle.  Give yourself the gift of wonderful literature that you can easily bring with you, wherever you go!

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