January 2014 Newsletter – Still Good Advice After All These Years

Attain, achieve, acquire, succeed, challenge, commit are all words we associate with setting goals for ourselves – appropriate to resolutions we intend for ourselves upon each New Year. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you have always gotten” is a phrase that comes to mind. I initiate each New Year with good intentions but often end up with similar circumstances at years’ end. “The only guarantee in life is that there will be constant change” seems ever true this year. I’m reminded that “balance” is required to help us cope with the unpredictable. I reluctantly admit that a couple of weeks after September 11th I went to Jax sporting-goods store to price gas masks. I returned home with a pair of new shoes and a bag of malted milk balls instead; items chosen to seemingly balance my sense of crisis in the wake of events I could do little about. Looking deeper, the root of the issue was fear. Fear is the primary motivator behind many modifications that we seek each year. There is nothing wrong with seeking to improve ones self, but striving for acquiring more money, toys, or homes doesn’t guarantee more safety, happiness, better health, better relationships, or a better outlook on life. In fact, I have come to realize after all these years that the things I wish most can’t be purchased for any amount of hard cash or unlimited credit.

There are many voices over the centuries with similar messages, whether spoken by Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi or current figures of wisdom. The Bible says, “Take no thought for the morrow for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” That’s easier said than done. But in light of the war, economics, politics, price of gas, and cost of health insurance, what price tag would you place on peace of mind? What would you be willing to pay to cut some chaos from your hectic life to make it more meaningful and fulfilling? Where does one begin to create balance? Many suggestions would bring readers to cry, “That’s a sacrifice I can’t make!” or “I can’t find time to meditate,” and so on. Rather than recommend a 12-step plan, let’s begin with three.

First:  “No Judgment.”  I don’t remember how I got started on this a couple of years ago, but when I found myself judging something as “good” or “bad,” I began to stop myself. Example: If I passed someone in a sweater I thought unattractive, I realized I just judged that, stopped, mentally corrected with an internal “I’m sorry” as if to rescind the thought, and dropped it. One important aspect of this practice is that it ceases the use of wasted energy in unnecessary thought processes. We have a compulsion to judge, and often thoughts, especially of worry, dominate our mental space. When we can better manage our thoughts and fears we adopt a better sense of freedom and control. We can internally shout, “stop!” to alter our internal programs, cease judgments and halt negative mental tapes.

Second:  “Prioritize.” In a time when so much seems out of our control, choosing how we spend our time and resources is also something that enables us with some sense of freedom and management in our lives. What matters most? Who in our lives matter to us? Are we spending our hours and days with personal balance? Do we make time to exercise, read, walk, or be with friends? Do we choose activities that nurture us physically and mentally? As a society we have come to equate self-worth with how busy we are. When asked, “How are you?” we reply with a repertoire from our day-timers, activities accomplished or those left to accomplish. Our identity becomes “one” with what we do, what we accomplish, the initials behind our names and a status level. In the movie “Serendipity” my favorite line is by Jeremy Pivin: “The Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question when a man died. ‘Did he live with passion?’” Take your life back. Prioritize what you value. Live it.

Third: “Let Go.” Let go of empty tasks. Put all the “shoulds” in a bag and burn it. Literally! Write down a list of issues you need and want to release and then burn it. The Sunday before New Year’s last year a church service included this message and handed out a piece of magician “flash” paper to each participant. Each attendee was to write one or more issues to release before the New Year. Everyone got in line to approach the front of the sanctuary where a candle was placed to ignite a corner of the paper. Poof! The paper…and the issues disappeared!  Stop being dominated by guilt. Let go of people in your life who are “takers,” and even if that leaves you with some alone time, savor it. Eckhart Tolle says of stillness, “It meets you where you are in the noise, and then takes you by the hand out of the noise.” Use the stillness to decide what the real necessities are in your life. More importantly, use the stillness to figure out who you are. Alan Cohen says, “When we shift our focus from what we are not to what we are, we are well on our way to expressing and enjoying the beauty with which we are created.”

 Happy New Year!

“It matters not what you judge to be one way or another. It matters not how you perceive something to be black or white, for absolutes exist not.

Judge not. The outcome of any given situation depends not on earthly parameters.

Doubt not the Divine order of all. Know simply that all is destined as intended and you need only to acknowledge the flow and be open to changes and opportunities which will present at your feet.

Divine time waits not for your readiness.” — Judith