Monday, March 29, 2010

The Living, the Dead, and the Dreams that Unite

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."
~Henry David Thoreau

"So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key."

~The Eagles

"Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly."
~Lanston Hughes

"A skillful man reads his dreams for self-knowledge, yet not the details but the quality."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson


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I’m dying…

But so are you…

We all die.

Those three monosyllabic words are hard to accept, aren’t they? But make no mistake, there will come a day when the hands of time fall from out vigilant wall clocks and take us by OUR hands as they lead us into the great unknown.

So it’s agreed; we all see the same destiny. But what we do in the waiting room, which is so lovingly called life, is what separates our paths and determines how we will be remembered and how we will spend eternity.

I’ve often wondered what I would think about if I was staring down the barrel of a gun. Would I be fearful? You bet! Wouldn’t we all?

But, what else?

I am sure I’d be concerned with how my family would take the news. But I think I’d be most consumed by what there “would be” after the dust settles. What would be my legacy? What would be written below the years on my tombstone? How would my family tell my stories?

It’s a lot of questions; I know. But why not ask them now? Why not be mindful of the fact that we will all stare down the barrel of a gun.

I’ve heard from several ill family members that a lot of people don’t start living until they learn they’re dying. How strange... Aren’t we all dying? And yet in that knowledge, may I ask, are we all really living? Perhaps not.

Why must we be told “you’re dying” by a stranger in a white lab coat to believe that we are?

So, I’ve got to start planning things a little better. I’ve got to get busy living! I’ve got to figure what I want to leave behind in the hearts and minds of others. Because, friends, I am dying...

But don’t feel bad for me… You’re dying too!

On a serious note now, I’m thinking about my legacy again. What’s going to be the way I am remembered? What great parts of me do I want to be passed down and perhaps imbedded into the beautiful stories of my family’s history, or the beautiful dispositions of my future children? If I can only pick just a few things, I know I better make them great. So in the long run I’ve got to work on living out what I want my children and their children to take pride in. I want to be a woman who loved hard, forgave easily, and LIVED HER DREAMS...

Dreams are so precious.

Dreams breathe life into our darkest moments.

Dreams allow us to have the hope that we can climb out of the pit of despair.

Dreams allow us to see our better selves.

Dreams allow us to breathe a little easier.

Dreams push us to do extraordinary things.

Dreams give other the permission to think the impossible is indeed possible.

And sometimes, DREAMS are all we really have.

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Now, you may be wondering what's got me so focused on dreams lately...

Well, not too long ago, a man by the name of Randy Pausch—you may have heard of him—was given the terrible news that he was dying of pancreatic cancer. He was a young man. A husband. A father to small children. A college professor at the height of his career. He had every reason to LIVE.

But, as it often is in life, there is no fairness.

But instead of burying his head in the sand, instead of crying out a “poor me,” instead of throwing in the towel, Dr. Pausch did the extraordinary. He made his cancer and journey to understanding life about other people. Randy knew he had a great deal of knowledge to impart, with very little time to do it in.

So Randy started sharing...

His BIG thing, as he faced certain death, was to share his message to LIVE YOUR DREAMS! He could have said anything else: get an education, live a healthy lifestyle, get regular examinations… But instead, he wanted to leave one undying message to his loved ones and students as he stood before them dying: You must REALLY live your childhood dreams.

And from this sharing came his life’s work: a book by the name of The Last Lecture. It’s a powerful read, and I promise you will not be able to put it down. His words will transform your mind so that you can see the world differently.

Sadly, in July of 2008, Randy Pausch passed away. But his message resonates even stronger today and continues to touch millions of lives.

THAT is his legacy!

So in close, I must admit that to recap the length of his message would be a huge disservice to a wonderfully charismatic man. Instead, I will leave you with the “last lecture” that inspired his best-selling book… because—in life and in dreams—seeing is believing:






P.S. THANKS, Randy, for changing so many lives and for leaving your beautiful “ripple effect” on this world now that you are gone. I will always remember to live my legacy and to dream BIG because of you!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The "Landslide" of Change


"Landslide"

Took my love and I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around.
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I've been afraid of changin'
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes bolder children get older
I'm getting older too, well...

Well, I've been afraid of changin'
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes bolder children get older
I'm getting older too, well, I'm getting older too

So take this love and take it down
Yeah, and if you climb a mountain and you turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide brought down

And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well maybe, well maybe, well maybe
The landslide will bring you down

~Fleetwood Mac


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I must admit; I really dislike change. I’ve always been too comfortable with what is predictable, safe, and familiar in my life. New places? New people? New job? A new chapter in my life? Yep, you guessed it… It totally freaks me out! How I wish I was a woman of whim and jet-setting. How I wish I was the one to roll with the punches or to be the one who simply packs up one day and move to a brand new place. There’s freedom in that disposition.

Even in relationships, I often hold on to “what was,” rather than accepting “what is.” And this dwelling really causes a great deal of misery for me. When a friendship has expired, I fret over what I did or what they did rather than embracing the memories and lessons and then graciously moving on. I know this about myself, and therefore I must begin to push for change in my life. I must embrace the change that comes and trust in its arrival instead of living in the past or hiding in my room when “change” is knocking on my door.

So in embracing “change” in my life, I wrote this note to myself, and it goes like this:

Life is about change, and change is about life. Too many times you refuse to let go for the sake of holding on, for the sake of latching onto the verisimilitude of power. As the minutes tick by and the days fade into the sunset, you are in fact changing. The person you were morphs into the person you will be, and only the wise are willing to go there. If you allow the natural progression of the Universe to become transformative in your life, you will be able to embrace the evolution whether it brings you joy or pain. For in both (joy and pain), you are able to collect lessons and priceless experiences. And in those bittersweet moments you can gain perspective and bask in gratitude. So why wouldn’t you?

As a child, you were bold. As a teen, you were prideful. But as an adult, you now have the divine opportunity to learn that both boldness and pride can be dangerous and even hurtful. You must embrace change so that you may grow. Change is a challenge; life is a challenge, and it softens you. And that's okay. You must let go of what was so you can grab onto what you will be.

So, what are you waiting for? Dive into the spring of change, and make no excuses as you swim around in it.

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The following excerpt was shared by Karen Ann Matthews on our Facebook community, and it speaks quite eloquently to allowing change to work miracles in our lives, and it warns that if we hold onto our past selves too tightly that we will lose out on the beauty of what is new:

"How many times have you heard someone say, "That's just the way I am," or "I can't change," How about, "This is me, take it or leave it!" Oh, how we fight to hold onto what limits us. Don't we realize, if our way worked, it would be working. Can't we see that holding on to what "I am" keeps us from realizing, who we... are? It is natural to resist change. It is insane to fight against it. For some reason we believe if we have to change, there must be something wrong with the way we are. The issue is not right or wrong. The issue is working or not working. Everything must change. The best can always be better. The fast becomes fastest. The great becomes the greatest. When we make minor adjustments as we see they are needed, we save time and the expense of a major overhaul. Behold, I do a new thing."

Acts of Faith by Iyanla Vanzant

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Letter from Another Place

I’ve been reading The Time Traveler’s Wife, and I just watched the movie for the first time last night. I thought it was an amazing story and a novel idea (pun intended). And, yes, I cried…

The basic premise, if you aren’t familiar with it, is that a man can time travel from his real self to the self of the future and the past. While he isn’t able to change the course of events in his life, he is able to interact with people that populated his life (even the younger and older versions of himself).

Of course, my mind started to spin... Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could somehow give your past self advice from your future self on how to live? What would that be like? Would you listen? When I woke up this morning, this story about doing just that popped into my head. Please enjoy...



"From Another Place"
K.A. Phinney

I am an old man, and tonight, I am on my deathbed. How I got here, and how the time flew away on the backs of eagles, I do not know. But it happened. And as I lay on this bed, for perhaps my last night in this world, I have but two lofty hopes, both of which I pray carry me past the life of my body. First, I entreat that when I close my eyes tonight, I will be sent to Heaven. Who wants to believe there’s any other way in the end? And secondly, dear friend, I have a letter.

This letter, please take no offense, is not for you. It’s not for my friends, my love, or my children. It’s not for the world, my enemies, or strangers. This letter is a collection of words addressed to myself, the “me” of 50 years past, the young man I once was. I wish for a miracle tonight. For I know I cannot shake death, but I aim to change the living I did between my birth and now. When I leave for this new journey between Earth and the great unknown, I can only wish that this letter finds its way back to me, and that it can save the person I was and cultivate the person I will become. I have so much to tell him of life and love and the things he would not know because he could not know.

From what I can tell, as I look back on the path that led me to this moment, one cannot control the things the world brings into one’s life. But what I can surmise is that one does have say over how one reacts to their destinies and circumstance. So in writing to my younger self, my purpose is not to dramatically change my past (as I embrace what happened), but rather to improve upon the person I was in the moments I lived the very most.

So here is my letter, dear friend. Please keep it close and lay your hopes upon in so that by some otherworldly means, the words may rise up from the page after my death and find the young man that preceded me.

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Dear Henry,

I write you to tell you all the things you should know about living your life and loving others while you are upon this planet. It’s really a shame, as George Bernard Shaw once penned, that youth is wasted on the young. In youth, you have a robust life ahead of you, yet you lack the sacred wisdom to realize it. So in that neophyte stage of life there are minutes, and days, and years that are up for the squandering. Yet in your eldest state (when living life becomes but a memory) one finally possesses the skills and insight to embrace the minutes, the quotidian, and the smallest kernels of beauty in humanity and nature as an irrevocable gift from the Universe, from God himself.

Henry, I urge you to embrace whatever life brings you: whether it is a dream deferred, a death of a loved one, or a broken promise. I pray you accept these occurrences as part of a bigger picture. Accept them as you would a child, an accomplishment, or a widow in need. At birth we are but lumps of coal, but with the pressures of life and our proper care of it, the coals we once were can be transformed into diamonds.

Please do not let your pride and anger get in the way of forgiveness and moving forward. If you do, like this old man writing to you, you will have a great, great deal of regret (and continued pain, I might add). Though in the moment (by way of rejection or deceit), you may not see the virtue of blamelessness or even believe you possess the strength to forgive, you will see as the years glide that you should have dug deep enough to find those things within yourself. You could have forgiven and let go. People are far more precious than being right. Love is far more priceless than the comfort of your ego.

So with each day, when you arise, dear Henry, please listen to your wise elders and seek out their ways of erudition. The simple ignorance in youth convinces us that we are different or that we are the exception to the rules of the Universe. I can tell you, as an old man who has seen many years, that we are not. The sooner you accept that your soul is connected to every other soul that walks the plains and mountains and valleys of this Earth, you will be sure to be just as tender with each of them as you would your own soul. Because at the end of life, Henry, you aren’t caught up in your material wealth or the power you once wielded. You will only be concerned for your soul and the voyage you sent it on.

Please, take my words to heart. Rise up tomorrow as a new man, one with a young body and an old soul. To have both is a priceless miracle. In closing, I leave you with much care and affections. I leave you with the knowledge that you will live to see many years in this place. Be sure that you're spending them wisely, more wisely than I spent them, my dear self.

From another place,
Henry

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Things We Cannot Say

I must admit; I love to randomly surf the web looking for inspiration… Welcome to the modern world, right? Anyway, as I was falling down the rabbit hole called Google, I came across a little story about the importance of telling people exactly what you think and feel no matter how hard that revelation may be.

And it got me to thinking… I pray tonight that none of us will live with the nagging regret of
shoulda-coulda-wouldas because of the things we could not say: “I should have told her what I was thinking before she left,” “I should have apologized to my teen when I was angry, but now she’s not talking to me,” “I should have forgiven my father, but now it’s too late.” The list of regrets can go on and on if we aren’t willing to put love and humbleness and bravery before our pride or fear.

So here’s my version of the little story (of course, I had to spice it up a bit for you) that got me thinking about saying the things that I think I can’t say because of fear or pride…
After all, when is pride and fear ever worth more than love?


“The Things We Could Not Say”
Retold by K.A. Phinney


In tenth grade, I loved this girl in my English class beyond the words I had to articulate it. People saw us as “best friends;” at least, I know she did. In class, I couldn’t concentrate on dangling modifiers because I was studying her dewy skin. I couldn’t crack Othello; I was wishing I could reach out and touch her fragrant, silky hair with my fingertips. She was that kind of beautiful.

After class one day, she walked up to me and asked me for the notes she had missed the day before. Of course, I gave them to her. She smiled that enchanting grin and said, “Gee, thanks,” leaned into me, and kissed me lightly on my cheek. Right then and there I wanted to tell her. I wanted her to know that I didn’t just want to be “friends” anymore, and that I loved her in every way. But I was just too shy, and I don’t really know why.

So a year passed, and one day, the phone rang. And on the other line was her sweet, sweet voice. Her boyfriend broke up with her, and she was in tears over her broken heart. She asked me to come over because she couldn’t stand to be alone. Of course, I did. As I sat next to her on the loveseat, I stared into her eyes, and I wished openly that she was mine and mine alone.

After talking for three hours, eating a gallon of ice cream, and watching When Harry Met Sally, she was caught somewhere between wakefulness and sleep. But before she tried to close her velvet eyes, she looked up at me, and she said, “Thanks for everything,” leaned in, and gave me an airy kiss on my cheek. Right then and there I wanted to tell her. I wanted her to know that I didn’t just want to be “friends” anymore, and that I loved her in everyway. But I was just too nervous, and I don’t really know why.

Before we knew it, it was senior year and the day before prom. She walked up to my locker to lament that her date was sick. She then reminded me of a promise we once made to one another in seventh grade: If neither of us had dates, we would go together, just as "best friends." And so we did.

On prom night, after all the eating, dancing, and festivities, I was left standing before her on her front door step. I stared at her as she smiled at me, waiting awkwardly for her to grant me a good night. But deep inside, I wanted her to be mine; I longed to be close to her and to know her secrets. But I knew she didn’t think of me like that. Then she said, "I had the best time. Thanks!" And in her perfect way, she leaned in and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Right then and there I wanted to tell her. I wanted her to know that I didn’t just want to be “friends” anymore, and that I loved her in every way. But I was just too scared, and I don’t really know why.

Days passed; then weeks passed, and before we knew it, it was graduation. I vividly remember watching her perfect form float across the stage to receive her diploma; it was as if she was an angel. But in that moment, all I could think was that I wanted her for all she was, but she didn't notice me like that; I knew it. Before everyone piled into their cars and drove off into a brand new life, she came up to me in her cap and golden gown with her arms wide open. She even cried as I hugged her, and then she lifted her cheek from off my shoulder and said this: "You're my best friend; thank you for everything." And like so many times before, she kissed me on the cheek. Right then and there I wanted to tell her. I wanted her to know that I didn’t just want to be “friends” anymore, and that I loved her in every way. But it was just too late, though I don’t really know why.

And like life so often does, it flew. The pages from my calendar fell off the kitchen wall, and on one of those nameless day, I received a phone call. Over the static-ridden phone line she told me, “This girl is getting married!” And soon, I was there to witness her say “I do” and cruise off into a colorful forever with another man, a man who surely wasn’t me. And though time had passed, and the years had changed us both, I still wanted her to be mine. But before she drove into her sunset, she came up to me and said, “Oh, you came! Thank you for being here for me.” And then, as if no time stood in the divide between us, she leaned in, stunning in her pure white gown, and kissed me sweetly on the cheek. And like so many times before, I wanted to tell her how I felt, but of course I didn’t. It was now clearer than ever that she didn’t feel that way about me.


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Now, here I am. I am sitting in the pews of an empty church again, but this time there’s a coffin beneath the cross, and there are enough tears left behind by the fresh mourners that they could set Noah’s ark afloat. The girl? Well she was mightily loved, and she was once my “best friend.” And as if saying goodbye from afar to a woman who didn’t get the chance to live a full life was hard enough, her older brother just handed me an old diary of hers. All he said before he walked away was, “She’d want you to have this. Thank you for everything you were to her.”

Sitting here alone now, I am flipping through its contents, broken. But I’ve stopped shuffling the pages because one page in particular stands out to me. Its smudged date reads the night of prom, way back when we were in high school, and this is what it says:

“I stare at him, wishing he was mine, but he doesn't notice me like that, and I know it. I want him to know that I don’t just want to be his friend anymore. I love him in every way. But I am just too shy, too nervous, and too scared to tell him. I don’t really know why. I just wish he’d tell me he loved me!”

I close the book and hang my head because I wish I did too.


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Source of Inspiration: http://www.boardofwisdom.com/

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In the World of Dogs

"The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's." ~Mark Twain

"You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us." ~Robert Louis Stevenson

"To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace." ~Milan Kundera


In case you didn’t know, I write to you from Florida, and yesterday was one of the most beautiful days I’ve seen in a long while. The air was a crisp 69 degrees, the cloudy wisps were an ethereal white, and the sky was the kind of blue that was so bold it makes your eyes squint when you look at it. Days like this call your name, and they beg of you to go outside and experience the love of an early spring afternoon.

So after drinking our coffee and having our breakfast outside, my hubby had the wonderful idea that we’d make an impromptu visit to the beach (yes, Florida does have its perks), but where he was taking us wasn’t just any old beach…

It was Honeymoon Island, one of the prettiest and most happy beaches there is, and that’s because it’s a DOG beach! So, within minutes we were packing the truck and loading in the dogs... Swimsuits? Check! PB&J? Check! Copious techno-colored beach towels? Check! A good book and camera? Check! Leashes and water? Check!


Caesar and Grace (our rescued APBTs) danced and ran haphazard, puppy laps around the house, all the while barking at an uncomfortable decibel. They didn’t know where they were going, but they were ecstatic for the ride all the same. There’s nothing they love more.

So, after a great deal of waiting and pacing (the dogs, anyway), we were finally there! All types of dog of every size and shape ran about, chasing balls, digging holes, greeting strangers, splashing in the waves, and rolling in the sand. Caesar and Grace were in nirvana, and I thought, if this isn’t what doggy heaven looks like, then I don’t know what is. It’s amazing to see the natural joy that comes from a dog and how easy it is for them to find delight and entertainment. And because of these endearing antics, the humans were equally as happy and relaxed as the dogs were. They were smiling, laughing, running, splashing, and greeting one another too. Dogs seem to have that effect on us, don’t they?

But in all of this fanfare, one of the day’s experiences touched me most. It happened as we were walking Caesar and Grace down the beach, where the waves meet the sand. And there she was.



She was a Doberman, lean, sleek, and jet black. Large and majestic, this breed can be quite intimidating, but intimidating, she was not. And from where I walked, I saw that there was something attached to the trunk of her body. It was a mechanical extension on two light-weight wheels, which allowed her to glide across the sand dunes with ease. But as I looked closer, I realized that her hind legs were gone entirely. This contraption wasn’t a toy; it was a necessity. In that very moment of realization, I was overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. Part of me was clumsily surprised, while the other part of me felt a sort of pity. I felt bad for her, for her clearly loving owners, and her four-legged partner (another majestic Doberman). Poor thing, I thought, as I discreetly watched her wheel across the beach. I wondered if she felt badly for herself.

But then I realized a few things as I continued to observe her down the beach. Her owners were smiling and chattering and calling to her. He four-legged mate leapt about and teased her just as any dog would. And she was panting with that broad, toothy smile every dog owner can spot from a thousand steps away. She was happy. In fact, they were all happy; no one felt bad for anybody except me. And the most amazing thing was that all the other dogs on the beach didn’t care or didn’t realize the foreign apparatus belted to her trunk one bit. It’s as if they didn’t have the capacity to have pity or judgment for that little Doberman with no hind legs. She was just as much dog as the rest of them.

So yet again, our four-legged friends have something worthy to teach us... In the world of dogs, there is no pity or judgment. In the world of dogs, come as you are! And in the world of dogs, what you are is enough. Now if only we could translate those puppy proverbs into the human world… If only life was a dog beach, and we were the dogs.

But until that fanciful day, you should know where you’ll find me...



...THE DOG BEACH!!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Most Precious of Things

“The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. . . The ordinary objects of human endeavor -- property, outward success, luxury -- have always seemed to me contemptible.” ~Albert Einstein

Okay. So I’ve been thinking about life a lot lately (as if that’s something new), and I’ve been trying to rank the different ideals and characteristics we all search for and sometimes encounter in one another on a value scale. Forget about material possessions… I’m talking about the stuff of life here! And after much thought, I’ve sort of come to a conclusion, and I’d like to know what you think…

Studying the book of Proverbs, I noticed a trend. So I started poking around other religions (Buddhism and Judaism) and great thinkers and saw a pattern there too… I think that it’s safe to say that the two most important things we can seek out in ourselves and in others is truth and wisdom. These precious human commodities are worth more than gold. They cannot be bought; they cannot be gained in mere degrees, offices, or rank. They can’t be bartered for, feigned, or ill-constructed because they will fall like a house of cards.

TRUTH

Truth is a silver bullet, isn’t it? Like the Eightfold of Buddhism and the teachings of Christ, honest and right acts by way of our mouths and our doings leave us blameless and enlightened. The truth makes for a good pillow at night. The truth always rises, and it will set you free. You will be known by your truth (or lack there of), and it’s as pure and simple as that. If someone wrongfully accuses you, you can stand behind the armor of truth. And when someone tries to deceive you, if you look hard enough, the truth will always be found somewhere, waiting for you. That is the power of truth.

So, if we can manage to live truth and speak truth from our lips and in our actions, we can be at ease. But truth requires a full-on commitment. We can’t dabble in the truth or merely put it on when it suits us best. The truth is an unyielding shield, but it also invites arrows. Truth is sublime, and it can be a jagged pill to swallow. But in the end, it’s always better to be on the right side of the truth, isn’t it?

"The truth is heavy; therefore few care to carry it." ~The Talmud

"Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth… and there are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting." ~Buddha

"God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please; you can never have both." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." ~Henry David Thoreau
"Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying." ~Vincent de Paul

WISDOM

And wisdom? It seems like an illusive commodity in this day and age, but it just might be the worthiest attribute to chase after. It is more than knowledge and intellect, which is the thing of books. Wisdom is the thing of life. Its ways and insights can only be earned by living life with eyes wide open. And sadly, many men live full lives without ever finding it. It’s as if they are groping in the dark for a destination that eludes them.

Wisdom requires reflection and solitude, but when we are able to find even a kernel of wisdom we are able to buy some peace or piece of mind. We are able to see things in a different light, and in the enlightenment, we are kinder, softer people. We are able to forgive our enemies because they are people first. We are able to put others first because we know everyone is in a struggle with someone or something too. We smile at strangers, and we learn to let the little things go so that we can be blessed by what’s important in this temporary journey.

You want to know what might be the best thing about wisdom? We can put it on in layers, just like warm winter clothes that protect us from the frigid snowy nights. Wisdom can be gathered up as we go about our lives. And if we are smart, if we are paying attention, then we will know to put it on in preparation for the next storm.

"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

"How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!" ~Proverbs 16:16

"Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life." ~Sandra Carey

"The highest form of wisdom is kindness" ~The Talmud

"Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue." ~Buddha

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DISCLAIMER

Now some of you might be shocked... Why not love, you may ask. Love is the most precious thing! All you need is love (to quote the Fab Four), you might say. But isn’t it true that if a relationship with another human being is founded on truth and wisdom that then, and only then, can real love be grown? How can a bold, forever love last on anything else? Perhaps love is the result of truth and wisdom shared.
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What do think? What are some other precious human commodities?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Emerson on Friendship

"But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life; and thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine." ~ Thomas Jefferson

Friendship. What a beautiful gift from God. Do you have a friend in your life that has changed you? Pushed you? Saved you? Or taught you about life? There's no doubt about it, friendship—whether a lifelong bond or temporary encounter—is a relationship that is both powerful and transformative for those who are involved. Looking back, I can truly say that several of my friends have changed my life for the better, whether they’re still in my life now or not.

In his beautifully poetic essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the poet behind the inspiration for this blog, wrote on the topic of friendship in one of the most eloquent ways I've encountered. Please read his words and enjoy his spiritual message.


Emerson on Friendship

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new. Shall I not call God the Beautiful, who daily showeth himself so to me in his gifts? I chide society, I embrace solitude, and yet I am not so ungrateful as not to see the wise, the lovely, and the noble-minded, as from time to time they pass my gate. Who hears me, who understands me, becomes mine, — a possession for all time. Nor is nature so poor but she gives me this joy several times, and thus we weave social threads of our own, a new web of relations; and, as many thoughts in succession substantiate themselves, we shall by and by stand in a new world of our own creation, and no longer strangers and pilgrims in a traditionary globe.

My friends have come to me unsought. The great God gave them to me. By oldest right, by the divine affinity of virtue with itself, I find them, or rather not I, but the Deity in me and in them derides and cancels the thick walls of individual character, relation, age, sex, circumstance, at which he usually connives, and now makes many one. High thanks I owe you, excellent lovers, who carry out the world for me to new and noble depths, and enlarge the meaning of all my thoughts. These are new poetry of the first Bard, — poetry without stop, — hymn, ode, and epic, poetry still flowing, Apollo and the Muses chanting still. Will these, too, separate themselves from me again, or some of them? I know not, but I fear it not; for my relation to them is so pure, that we hold by simple affinity, and the Genius of my life being thus social, the same affinity will exert its energy on whomsoever is as noble as these men and women, wherever I may be.

Want more? Click here: http://www.emersoncentral.com/friendship.htm

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Have a Little Faith (the Dog)

There are very few things I love more than dogs, especially my two rescued American Pit Bull Terriers, Caesar and Grace. And most of you dog lovers out there would agree with me that dogs aren’t just pets; they’re family members that teach us how to live.

So when I saw Faith (the Dog) several years back on my television set, her story touched me, and it’s stayed with me until this very day. I am not exaggerating when I say this: When I feel down, I look up her story and videos on the web, and she picks me right back up again.

If you don’t know about Faith (the Dog), she’s got an amazing story to share. You see, Faith was born with two highly deformed front legs. They were so badly misshaped that the vet recommended Faith be put down. Luckily, the family that rescued this little pup had a little faith and decided to save her instead. They were determined, that somehow, they’d teach her to walk upright on her hind legs.


What happened next was surely a miracle:



So, you might be wondering just how this little miracle of a dog relates to us? Well, she does in most every way. Faith’s story and dogged spirit reminds us of “what it looks like to persevere,” as her owner put it so eloquently. And isn’t it amazing that God blessed even his four-legged creatures with the ability to persevere in the face of adversity? If Faith can walk on her hind legs and be joyful in the process, then why can’t we?

There are so many times in life when I’ve felt like I’ve lost my two front legs (metaphorically speaking, of course). Maybe it’s been an illness or death in the family, a struggle at my job, a fight with my friend or husband, or even a financial setback. Maybe it’s the loss of a dream or dealing with the fact that I let someone down. Or maybe I’ve been doubted or counted out by others, just like Faith. We’ve all been through it. But with an attitude and spirit like Faith, we can overcome our challenges whether they turn out just the way we want them to or not. And we can even be bold enough to trust that there will be a way to live better and be better in the aftermath.

But do you know what the most amazing thing about Faith is? Her struggle to overcome has gone on to bless millions of people, whether it’s been while she was visiting nursing homes, helping her community, or reaching us through the television set. If she had been an everyday-four-legged-pup, we wouldn’t be talking about her. If she had given up or if her owners didn’t have a little faith, we wouldn’t know about her struggles. It’s almost as if more good and blessings came out of her hardships than would have ever come if she had never struggled at all. And maybe that’s the single most important message we should take away from Faith.

I hope she’s as memorable and touching to you as she is to me... because Faith is here to tell us all something: No matter how hard it gets, no matter how overwhelming the hardship, we’ve got to have a little faith, and it will be alright.
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Find Faith (the Dog) here:
http://faiththedog.info/
http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Faith-the-Walking-Dog-Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSB9aBMayxU

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Random Act of Kindness

Just when you think you’re alone in your journey and the negativity in the world seems too much, God sends a little messenger to tell you it's not so. As cliché as it is, timing is truly everything, isn’t it?

Just now, at about 1:00 this Saturday afternoon, I walked out my front door after a morning of house cleaning and strong coffee to get the mail. Much to my surprise there was a man on my front lawn. Who was he and what was he doing? I wondered both. And then (yes, laugh) I was embarrassed because I was still in my pajamas (who needs couture when you’re scrubbing the floor)! But then I realized just exactly what it was he was doing, and my embarrassment turned into gratitude…

Crouched down on his hands and knees in the grass, he was picking up the garbage that the wind blew into my yard that very morning from the trash pick up. It wasn’t my garbage. It wasn’t his garbage. It wasn’t even his lawn. And in his mind, I am sure he knew there probably wasn’t going to be some sort of acknowledgement or reward. But here he was doing it anyway, and he was just fine with that. My neighbor from down the street was picking up other people’s trash because it was the right thing to do… the kind thing to do. He was paying it forward.

I think he was just as surprised as I was by the fact that I saw him. Who knows how many times I’ve come home to a perfect lawn after trash day because of him? I am sure it wasn’t his first random act of kindness.

So straight away, I called out to him, “Oh, wow... Thank you so much!”

He looked up from his perch on the grass and smiled. “You’re welcome,” he replied. And then he finished his good deed, nodded at me, and walked back toward his home. A large pile of garbage heaped in his arms.

It was as simple and straight forward as that.

Afterward, I was left smiling from ear to ear and felt incredibly humbled by his kindness. I could hardly make it down my driveway to get my mail. I was smiling that hard. I felt sort of unworthy of his quiet kindness, but I felt blessed by it just the same.

When I got inside, I was left wondering, how do I thank him beyond my words? How do I show that I am truly grateful for his simple act? Of course, the answer came to me quite quickly. I’d share it with you all, and then I’d be sure to "pay it forward" for a stranger this weekend. It will be part of my “adding something.”

Right now, as I am typing, I am also realizing that what he did really is a beautiful metaphor for all of us. We’ve all got garbage, don’t we? Sometimes it’s because of our doing, and sometimes the world blows it into our lives without our knowledge. But as people of substance, we can do something great. As we are picking up our own garbage, we are given a wonderful opportunity to pick up the garbage of others, whether they know it or not. We can walk into their lives, see what needs picking up, and do it because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the kind thing to do, whether they see us doing it or not.

So, two things more before I leave you to your weekend…

First, to my neighbor, thank you for what you did. It was small, but it was big. You don’t know it, but your random act of kindness inspired me and blessed me. And now, hopefully, it’s blessing others.

And finally, I have to know, readers... What random acts of kindness have you experienced or done for others? Please share! Your comments mean so much, especially on a topic like this.

Friday, March 5, 2010

POETography: Man and Woman


POETography is when you post what you're thinking in words, phrases, stories, or poetry about the photograph above. It can be whatever comes to your mind. It can be a personal memory...

So what do you think? Comment here or at our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Universal-Soul/175779326361?ref=nf) with your thoughts, words, or poetry.
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As before, I've posted my response in the comments section to get the ball rolling. Check it out and post your own... Don't be a stranger! ;)
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Last month's POETography:

January's POETography:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Let Your Light Shine: Add Something!

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”

~The wise words of Mahatma Gandhi

It’s the season of Lent. For those of you who are Catholic or Christian, it’s a time of personal sacrifice. Until Easter, there is to be daily meditation on the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made for us when he died on the cross. Every year when Lent comes around, it’s custom to give up something in our lives. My mom gives up all sweets, snacks, and desserts. My dad gives up one meal a day. Over the past couple of years, I’ve given up my potty mouth (yes, laugh) and speeding (feel free to laugh again). I’ve even known others to give up TV during the week or eating out…

So, to be honest, this year was a bit tough for me… I was racking my brain, trying to think of some sort of vice to give up for Lent. I wanted it to be something new that I hadn’t done before, and being a pretty “boring” person (yes, I am a pesky rule-follower, a goody-goody, you might say), I couldn’t come up with something meaningful that would truly be a sacrifice for me in the way others had been. I wanted it to be something that would stick or change me as a person, you know what I mean?

Well, my friend from work, yet another wise woman, said, “Kim, don’t take something away for Lent. Add something.” Wow! That advice lit me up. I got excited about the idea of adding something to my life on a daily basis that would be mindful of God and the season of Lent. So I started to think about the idea of “adding something.”

Then I started to apply it on a larger scale…

Adding something… hmmmm…

The ideas started flowing in my mind. What could I add to my life for Lent? And what if every month after Lent, I continued to add something to my life? What if everyday I added something to improve my treatment of others? What if everyday I added something to make my lesson plans that much better for my students? What if everyday I added something to my marriage by going that extra mile? What if everyday I added something to someone else’s life by giving them a part of mine or something I had that they needed? Even better, what if I shared this awesome idea of “adding something” with my friends? My family? My lovely readers at The Universal Soul? What if we all add something? What if we share this message with others? You know, pay it forward?

So here I am, sharing the idea that was given to me by way of a good friend. In this season of Lent… this season of your life… what will you add? Whether you’re Catholic or Christian or Buddhist or Nondenominational or Muslim, you can surely find something beautiful to add to your life and the life of others. Isn’t that powerful? These little choices we make are infinitely powerful and have a ripple effect we’ll never see or truly understand. By adding something, we make our lives better, we make the lives of our friends and family better, and in that we make the world a better place. I think one of my favorite Chinese proverbs explains it best. It goes like this:

"If there is light in the soul,
There will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person,
There will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house,
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
There will be peace in the world."

So, I bet you’re still wondering, what did I add, right? Well I added two things in my God-life: nightly devotionals to quiet my mind and a close study of the book of Proverbs (a wisdom-filled book for really anybody). In my daily life, I am going the extra mile for those who deserve it and those who don’t. I am trying to turn the other cheek and keep my head held high at the same time. Matthew 5:16 says, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Who knows what I’ll add tomorrow or next week or next month, but it’s exciting to know those choices are to come and will undoubtedly make me a better person. Besides, it’s all about the journey, and isn’t it always?

So, I’m dying to know, what will you “add” to your life and the lives of others? What ideas do you have to share? Any good stories about how adding something made a difference? Please share here or at our Facebook community.

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If you have a longer story, feel free to e-mail me at TheUniversalSoul@hotmail.com. I’d love to share it here on the blog, with all the credit to you of course!

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