6 February 2018      

Hello, and welcome to a new week in our lives.
We hope that you approach this week in positive and productive
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Dwelling in the Darkness (an excerpt)
Bernie Siegel

Bringing Balance to a Chaotic Life
Chris Widener

Loss
tom walsh

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There is wisdom in knowing how to play, to touch lightly, uninvolved and uncommitted, on what is pleasurable.

Aelred Graham

Perfect happiness is the absence of happiness.

Chuang-tzu

Hope is like a road in the country; there
never was a road, but when many people
walk on it, the road comes into existence.

Lin Yutang

  

Dwelling in the Darkness
The Value of Pain
Bernie Siegel

We often refer to the difficult times in our lives as dark times.  When you lose someone you love or your health deteriorates, when you are abandoned or rejected, or when innumerable difficulties pile up and you sink into depression and hopelessness--in these dark times you may feel you are drowning or being buried alive.  Some hours are so dark that you may barely see a faint light at the end of the tunnel, and it may seem almost futile to keep struggling toward it.

Despite the difficulty, the darkest times of our lives are often the most meaningful.  These are the times when we cannot identify our fears and we are forced to pay attention to what we are feeling inside.  What happens then, when you listen to your feelings and not your intellect?  Your problems become your teacher, healer, and enlightener.  The compost becomes fertilizer.

When you are not afraid to dwell in the darkness, you create fertile ground for change.  It is no different from a gardener preparing the ground for planting.  But it takes courage to face emotional pain and uncertainty.  And it takes wisdom to know that a greater good will come from your willingness to explore what your mind tells you to fear and avoid.

It is tempting to numb the pain or distract ourselves so we won't have to dwell in the darkness and learn from it.

If you give into the temptation to use anesthesia, you lose the guidance your feelings can offer.  We need our pain to protect and direct us.

Self-analysis may seem at first like surgery without anesthesia, and of course no one wants that experience.  Our culture teaches us how to numb and distract ourselves but not how to listen to our pain and learn from our difficulties.  Think what we learn about pain from television.  We learn that pain is to be avoided at all costs and that there are a variety of pain relievers for every conceivable pain.  I would like to see a television commercial that says, "Your pain is a great teacher.  Learn from it and be healed."

Do not be afraid to work in your garden.  Let your innate intelligence direct you out from under the compost heaped upon you.  Your tears will provide the water that softens the soil and leads you to the light.  You will then grow straight, tall, and free of scars.  Now is the right season for growth; be inspired and start toward the light.  It is not as far away as it seems.  Remember that a good seed sees no light, but knows the right direction to grow in.  That knowledge and wisdom is in you, too.

Pain that is buried continues to hurt.  Physicians, firefighters, and nurses all suffer when they bury the pain of their professions deep inside them.  Buried pain needs release.  I would give the same advice to a war veteran or emergency room physician or police officer or anyone who is storing painful memories:  Start to talk and write about the painful event and take the lid off your feelings.  Only then can you begin to heal.  If you do not, the buried pain will take its toll.  You will become a mummy wrapped in pain, blind to life.  When the pain is released it makes room for love to come in.

At seminars I sometimes ask people if they'd like total freedom from pain.  I warn them, though, that while it may seem like a lovely idea at first, freedom from all emotional and physical pain can be a threat to one's well-being.  Stop and think about it:  Without pain, how will you know when you are sick, in need of treatment?  How will you know if you've been burned, pinched, or injured in any way?

There is an important difference between pain and suffering.  Suffering is an emotional response.  Pain is a physical response that protects and defines you so you take care of yourself and avoid further injury.  When you can't avoid injury, pain compels you to get help or treatment.  Why are we afraid of something as useful as pain?  What makes it unbearable?

The intensity of your pain is related to how you feel about it.  Pain is unbearable only when it has no meaning.  Listen to your body and learn from it.  Talk to your pain, define it and ask what it can teach you.  You pain will always have an answer if you are willing to hear it.  When there is a conflict in your life and no meaning to the pain, it is very hard to control.  I see this in people with problems ranging from headaches to life-threatening diseases.  When the discomfort leads them to make the proper life decisions, whether the choice is to live or to die, the pain leaves.  It has done its work.

More on pain.

   

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Bringing Balance to a Chaotic Life
Chris Widener

If I had to make a composite question that gets at the heart of the question that I am asked most frequently, it would be this:

How can I manage my time more effectively and bring balance to my life in regard to work, family, friends and social obligations?

With this in mind, I want to give some thoughts to focus in on the answer to that question.

I am convinced that the most important thing we must do is to be acutely aware of the reasons I should manage my time and bring balance to my life. In fact, most of us really know “how” to do it, don’t we? Then why don’t we? I think it comes to the issue of having a powerful motivating factor or reason. Below are two of mine that keep me motivated:

A life of accomplishment. When I am old and unable to get out with the young folks anymore, I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I accomplished much and that my life benefited others. That is why I do what I do now. It is what drives me to pursue what I pursue with a passion and vigor. It is why I bring my life into balance in many areas so I can achieve much in many areas.

A legacy. Here is a powerful motivating image that I picture with regularity: Picture a family gathering five years after your death. What will it look like? What will the people be talking about? How will they remember you? What will be the quality of their lives and how will you have been instrumental in that? These are questions that we can, for the most part, answer now by how we live our lives (for better or for worse). Our lives make a difference in the lives of others! This is a tremendous reason to bring life into balance!

Once we answer the “Why” question, and root it firmly in our minds and hearts, we come to the “hows.”

First, we sit down and prioritize. Have you ever taken a couple of hours and listed everything that you are involved in or could be involved in and then prioritized it by importance? You may come up with a hundred items but that is okay. You will want to separate them into some categories as well, such as Work, Family, Health, Friends, Hobbies, Spiritual, Financial, Intellectual, Emotional, etc.

Now you have something to look at and see what is important. This will help you in the process of eliminating areas from your life that you are spending time on that you shouldn’t be. And that is an important part. Frustration comes when we get involved in something that isn’t a priority and we kick ourselves the whole time we do it. If we stick to priorities, we eliminate much of that.

The next step is to learn the most powerful word in the human language:  No. Just look in the mirror and practice saying that word with a smile on your face. This may be the most important part, learning to decline opportunity. It all depends on whether or not it fits in with our priorities.

Here is the principle that drives this:  Good is the enemy of the best.

There are lots of good things we can spend our time on. But because they replace those things that would be the best things we could spend our time on, they become our enemy. They become counterproductive to a successful and balanced life.

So ask yourself:  Is this good? Or is it the best? Do the best you can to stick to the best!

Schedule your time. The more we fly by the seat of our pants, the more apt we are to lose control of our time. If we schedule out our time, we can become a bit more objective and bring our lives into balance. For example, you may make it your goal to be home by six o’clock every night. In your schedule book, you write in that you have an appointment at six. You schedule to leave the office at five-thirty. Now when a co-worker comes in with an “opportunity” for you to work on, you say, “Sorry, I have an appointment at six that I can’t break. Let’s get together on it first thing in the morning.” Scheduling your time, coupled with saying “no,” will do wonders for bringing your life into balance!

Another aspect for us to look at is the area of external pressure that causes us to be out of balance. For example, financial obligations may be what keep us working too much. So we should look at those obligations and see if we can eliminate or reduce them.

The last thing I would challenge you with is to give some thought as to what the secret pleasures of being out of balance may be. For example, sometimes we let ourselves over-commit because we don’t like conflict. Peace is our secret pleasure.

Sometimes we allow ourselves to become out of balance because we like it when people say, “Boy, she sure is a dynamo. Look how busy she is.” Admiration from others is our secret pleasure.

In review:
Find the right reasons
Set priorities
Learn to say “no”
Understand that the good is the enemy of the best
Schedule your time
Manage external pressures
Be aware of internal “secret pleasures”

* * * * * *

Reproduced with permission from the Chris Widener Newsletter.  To subscribe to Chris Widener's Newsletter, visit chriswidener.com.
© Chris Widener International. All rights reserved worldwide.

   

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Reality is what I "come up against," what takes me by surprise,
the other-than-myself which pulls me up and obliges me to
reckon with it and adjust myself to it because it will
not consent simply to adjust itself to me.

John Baillie

   

 

Loss

I just finished reading The Little Prince again, a very nice little book that definitely gets one thinking about love and life and friendship and relationships.  The ending of the book in some ways seems sad--after all, the Little Prince dies so that he can return to his planet--but in many other ways is uplifting and optimistic, because the Prince has left the narrator with so many wonderful memories and a completely new perspective on life.

There are two ways to see a loss in our lives--either as a tragedy or as an ending to something good that has contributed a lot to our lives.  Actually, there are probably eight or nine or twenty ways to see such a loss, but let's focus on these two so that we're not trying to exhaust an extremely broad topic.

It's difficult to lose something or someone that is special to us.  Even losing material objects that have a strong emotional meaning to us can be very hard on us.  When we experience loss, there are many ways to explain the feelings that we have:  emptiness, loneliness, hopelessness, painful, tragic, devastated.  Loss is real, of course, and it can't be explained away with simple words or ideas.

What seems to be real, though, is the fact that loss doesn't have to devastate us.  We don't have to pretend that nothing has happened, and we don't have to deny or repress our feelings of grief and loss--but we do have to remember that if we are to move on with our lives and still be happy people, our response to our loss is much more important than the loss itself.

   

Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series
of losses, from beginning to end.  That's the given.
How you respond to those losses, what you make of
what's left, that's the part you have to make up as you go.

Katharine Weber

   
When a person dies, we do lose something very important to us.  That's true.  But I can't think of a single person that I know who would want the people they leave behind to do nothing but mourn, to not move on with their lives, to not continue living fully and happily.  But when we keep mourning too strongly for too long, that's our reaction, and that's our decision to keep doing so.  If our loss debilitates us, it's because we're not accepting that loss and we're continuing to wish that things aren't the way they are--the person or pet who has died is gone, and there's nothing that we can do about it, and continuing to mourn and grieve long past healthy times is a choice that we make to not accept life as it is and to wish it were something else.

When we lose something that's not so important to us, we immediately start to figure out how we're going to deal without it.  If a person we work with moves away, we cope with that loss by learning how to work with someone new.  We can still feel the loss, but we move on.  If we wreck our car, the one that's been faithful to us for a very long time, we end up getting another car to replace it and getting to know that car.  Things may feel uncomfortable at first and the chances are good that we're going to miss the other car dearly, but we do move on.

We know from the many examples like these that loss doesn't have to devastate us.  We know that we are resilient creatures who are able to deal with an awful lot, and that we are fully capable of dealing with any loss in our lives.  We've seen tons of examples of people who have lost limbs but who continue to be productive, loving members of their societies.  We've seen widows, widowers, parents and friends who have moved on with their lives after tragic deaths.  We know we can do it.
    

From separation and loss, I have learned a lot.  I have
become strong and resilient, as is the case of almost
every human being exposed to life and to the world.  We
don't even know how strong we are until we are forced
to bring that hidden strength forward.

Isabel Allende

    
Which brings us to Isabel's words--she completely turns around the concept of loss to count it as a blessing, and I'm inclined to agree with her.  Personally, I'm a pretty strong person, and I know for sure that one of the reasons that I'm strong is because I've faced a lot of adversity and loss in my life.  Isabel's separation and loss have helped her to become strong and resilient because she's seen them for what they are:  a necessary part of life that helps us to grow and become better and stronger people.  Loss can help us to grow stronger than we ever could grow without that loss.  Think of the amazing positive effects of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and think of the origins of that organization.  The world is full of organizations that help millions of people, and that were founded after tragic and senseless losses.

On a smaller scale, when I work with my students one of the things I'm best at is a kind of unofficial, informal counseling.  I'm able to do this very well because I've been through so many of the same difficulties that they're facing in life, and while I certainly can't counsel them in an in-depth way, I can share with them my experiences and observations, and they tend to find them extremely helpful.  I know that not everyone needs in-depth counseling, and being able to help them with a little advice or a few pointed questions is a strength that I've developed by dealing with my own loss and adversity.

How strong can you be?  You'll never know until you face loss and work your way through it in a progressive and positive and productive manner.  But when you do so, and you work your way past debilitating grief, you'll find that you're growing much, much stronger as a person.  And when you do, your ability to help others in many different ways will grow, also.
   

When you lose something in your life, stop thinking it's a loss for
you. . . it is a gift you have been given so you can get on the right
path to where you are meant to go, not to where
you think you should have gone.

Suze Orman

   
As Suze says, sometimes there's a silver lining to a loss.  How many times have you seen a person you love in a relationship with someone who's horribly destructive (or simply a horrible person)?  If that relationship breaks up, the person you love will see it as a loss, and they'll more than likely hurt deeply.  You, though, will probably be relieved because you know that in losing that other person, the one that you love will be able to move on in other directions and make much, much more of his or her life.  That job that you hate going to?  Losing that will force you to look in other places for different directions in which to head, and the loss of that job may be the best thing that ever happens to you.  I've known several people who have lost jobs that they depended on, but who have found other jobs that have been much better for them on professional and personal levels.

No one is saying that loss can't be devastating.  It can be.  And some losses take longer to work through than others.  But we have to approach loss as something that we will work through, and we have to start looking for ways to do so as soon as possible.  If we don't it becomes our choice to be miserable--the misery is no longer caused by the loss, but by our reaction to that loss.  We don't honor the gifts of what we've been given if we allow the loss of those gifts to keep us from living our lives as fully as possible--so it's up to us to do so.

   

   
   

  

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The markets of the world are flowing with goods and services produced by the interplay of sun and earth, air and water, and the inexhaustible imagination and energy of human beings.  Wherever you touch an object made or conveyed by humans, you are touched by all the people who have reached their hands to make this possible for you.  Daily use is daily communion.

Arthur P. Moor

  
I loved the rain as a child.  I loved the sound of it on the leaves of trees and roofs and window panes and umbrellas and the feel of it on my face and bare legs.  I loved the hiss of rubber tires on rainy streets and the flip-flop of windshield wipers.  I loved the smell of wet grass and raincoats and the shaggy coats of dogs.  A rainy day was a special day for me in a sense that no other kind of day was--a day when the ordinariness of things was suspended with ragged skies drifting to the color of pearl and dark streets turning to dark rivers of reflected light and even people transformed somehow as the rain drew them closer by giving them something to think about together, to take common shelter from, to complain of and joke about in ways that made them more like friends than it seemed to me they were on ordinary sunny days.  But more than anything, I think, I loved rain for the power it had to make indoors seem snugger and safer and a place to find refuge in from everything outdoors that was un-home, unsafe.  I loved rain for making home seem home more deeply.

Frederick Buechner
   

  

Never undertake anything for which you wouldn't have
the courage to ask the blessings of heaven.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

    

  

   

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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