A THOUGHT TO CARRY WITH YOU

Another reason to subscribe to positive pages on your social media. I saw this quote and couldn’t help but share it with all of you. Stop and think about this for a moment. A stranger somewhere is remembering your kindness. How does that make you feel? For me, it makes my heart feel warm and happy knowing that I positively affected someone. Not to turn this into an altruistic post, but one of the benefits of helping others with no expectation in return is the fact that it does help us…feel better.

As a matter of practice, I do my best to be as nice as I can to everyone I meet. There are people who are fighting silent battles that we are often unaware of. It is important to help these wonderful folks especially. How, you might ask, are we to help people who are fighting battles we are unaware of if we are, well…unaware of them? The simple answer? Be kind to everyone. This is easy when it comes to those who serve us. This can be the person who takes our order at the coffee shop (this is where this piece is currently being written) to the person helping us find something we are looking for at the store. There are also jobs that we should be thankful for that either get overlooked or looked down on. Have you ever had to pass through security at the airport or going into a sporting event or concert? Is it a pain in the butt? Sure. Are they doing their job and also keeping us safe? The answer is also yes. These folks often get told less than pleasant things. Imagine how much it would mean if someone showed them an act of kindness? What jobs do you think fit this category?

What about those people who seemingly do not deserve our kindness? The people who are quick to anger or just sunshine-challenged to begin with? Should we be nice to them? Absolutely! This can be one of the hardest things to do, but I am going to share two things to keep in mind that might make that easier. The first may sound cliché, but I am going to share a story that really drove the point home for me. Let us do our best to remember that we never know what someone is going through. They could be in the midst of a break up or divorce. Maybe they just lost their job? In the case of Stephen Covey, the author and educator, maybe it would be best to keep this in mind before we open our mouths. There is a story where Stephen was on the subway and there was a father who was letting his kids run around, yell and just cause trouble. At first, Mr. Covey did his best to ignore the children, but as time went on the father seemed to be doing a better job of being oblivious to the children’s actions than he was, Stephen found himself becoming more and more annoyed. Not wanting to spend his entire subway journey this way, he finally spoke up. “Do you think maybe you should do something about those kids?” he asked the father. He did not get the reply he expected. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Truth is they just lost their mother and I am not sure they know how to deal with it. As a matter of fact, neither do I.” Can you imagine how terrible Stephen felt? He learned a valuable lesson that day. We never completely know why people act the way that they do.

What about those folks who act that way because they are unpleasant human beings? Those people who act miserably for the simple fact that they like others to be miserable? We really shouldn’t be nice to those people should we? Yep! It is my belief that nobody is mean or unkind to others without some story behind it. For the sake of argument, let us just pretend we couldn’t know or find it. This is often the case when the person who is being unkind is a total stranger.

There are a few reasons I keep in mind when I am doing my best impersonation of a sorcerer and trying to conjure up a spell of kindness. It is fun to imagine what happens hours later when these folks are not in our presence. Often, they can end up feeling guilty they were so unpleasant to someone who was still kind to them. Kind of hard to justify being a jerk to someone who is nice. I imagine that their guilt may help them change their behavior in the future. It may also destroy one of the main reasons people try to excuse themselves for treating people unkindly. They believe, or at least say it to justify their actions, that the world is mean, out to get them or self-serving. How can they say that when someone they were cruel to was nice to them? Sometimes they will just be mad that they could not accomplish their goal of making someone upset. I am not going to lie, that does make me smile. Knowing I ruined someone’s plans of trying to make the world a little more miserable makes me a little more happy. Here is a bonus thought. The abuse you took at the hands of this person could have been bestowed on someone who would have been less able to handle. it. Like the father in the story above. Can you imagine being screamed at after you have just lost someone you love? So, if we can absorb that so someone else doesn’t have to, we are doing a most unique public service.

Do what the Dalai Lama advises is to do – always be kind. I think we have outlined several reasons to do so above. If you have other reasons you can think of to be kind, or a story of when you were kind to a stranger, or even when a stranger was kind to you, please share them in the comments below.

GROWING SPIRITUALLY, CHANGING PHYSICALLY


This post comes courtesy of a conversation I had with a friend I had not seen in a long time. After exchanging the usual “Hello how are you?” I informed the gentleman he looked healthy and good. It was an honest assertation. There seemed to be more of a content look about him. It was his response that inspired this post.
“I’m good.” the young man replied. “I’m going through some stuff and when you change spiritually, you change physically.” That quote is what we are going to discuss today. If you look at the picture above it will give you a good analogy as to what spiritual growth is like. When a snake reaches a point of growth that its current skin can no longer contain, that skin is shed. For a while during this process the snake looks as if it is literally falling apart. As it is making its transition bits of skin will cling to its body until they are rubbed off revealing a shining ‘new’ snake. After sometime the snake’s skin becomes dull and the process is repeated. Another interesting fact I discovered while doing research for this post is that this process occurs six or seven times the first year and then can slow down to once a year or less.
This process is not much different than human spiritual development. When we are beginning to grow spiritually, or shed the skin of our old beliefs, we can appear as if we are coming undone. Often, there is a lack of sleep, a look of uncertainty and a general physical dishevelment. Until, at last, you achieve a look of inner peace and balance such as this man had. That is not to say everything is perfect in your life, but that you have come to peace with who you are and how that impacts your life. There are many who may not appreciate the look of the shiny new snake, especially those who have not grown to the same state you are at, or those who consider your growth a threat to themselves or your relationship with them. Sometimes it is necessary to leave them behind much like the skin the snake sheds.
Another interesting parallel was the rate of change. Much like the snakes who shed several times in the beginning of life and then do so at a reduced rate as their life progresses, we humans grow the same spiritually. As young children we absorb knowledge like a sponge. learning and taking in new ideas and beliefs at a rate that is surprising. As we grow older our learning is balanced with responsibilities and our attachment to our beliefs. Our willingness to change them slows. This is not always a bad thing, but that means our spiritual growth can take a lot longer, but it is also a lot more dramatic.
It would be great if all of us as adults could take a few weeks off of work, travel to India and meditate and study with the Dalai Lama, or whatever other spiritual adventure calls us. We could spend a few weeks shedding the skin of our outdated beliefs and emerge with a fresh and healthy new perspective. Instead, most of us have to balance spiritual growth with work, social and family obligations and a general lack of time to pursue them. This can lead us looking like we, and our lives, are totally falling apart as we feel that everything inside is beginning to fall in place.
Remember this snake analogy when you are either witnessing someone going through their spiritual rebirth, and especially when you are going through your own. As you develop new and empowering beliefs they may not fit into your current modalities. This can seem like your life is forever trying to put a round peg in a square hole. This is not only because you have changed, but because there may be things in your life that no longer serve who you are as a person. This is also life’s way of initially testing your commitment to your new beliefs. Hang in there as soon you will too reveal the shiny new more empowered you underneath the skin of the beliefs you have outgrown.

LEARN ENOUGH TO UNLEARN

Continuing on our theme of looking at the world in an entirely different way, I present to you the quote in the picture above. To be educated just enough to believe what they have been taught but not enough to question it. I suggest you read that line a few times and really let it soak in. Most of what we have been taught has come from those who were around us when we were growing up. This group could include our family, friends, teachers and others. Let me ask you this question. As well meaning as these folks were in teaching us, could it be that perhaps they had a certain prejudice? Maybe they were just passing down beliefs they had been taught unquestioned? Do you think what may have been correct say 50 years ago, may not be correct anymore? Cigarettes and soda used to be considered ‘health tonics’ in the not so distant past.

Doing things because “That’s the way they have always been done” makes as much sense as riding a horse to work instead of your car.

I suggest questioning a lot of what you believe. That is not to say it is incorrect. Quite to the contrary. Questioning what you believe can lead to a greater understanding and strengthen your faith in it. I turn to the Dalai Lama for an example. One of the leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, he could have easily just followed tradition and did things the way they had been done for centuries. Instead, he has challenged convention and opened up dialogue with other faiths. He also has questioned his own faith. Instead of accepting the power of his form of meditation, he encouraged scientific study of it. He challenged neuroscientist Dr. Richie Davidson to switch his focus of study from anxiety, depression and fear to study qualities like kindness, compassion and equanimity. He even gave permission to have Buddhist monks studied while they meditated. What he discovered only strengthened his faith.

I encourage all of us, myself included, to take a look inside at some of our long-held beliefs and ask why it is we believe them. Perhaps they could use a little tweaking? Perhaps they are totally invalid in light of our own personal experiences. Perhaps, like in the case of the Dalai Lama, by questioning them we will gain an even deeper understanding and appreciation of them.

SPEAK THROUGH THE 3 GATES

This is a great litmus test to put our words through. How many times a day do we let something escape our lips that we shouldn’t? Having these 3 questions in mind would help prevent that from happening. Remember you cannot unsay something.

How do we keep these questions front and center? Use this picture as your screensaver, pertain jot them down on an index card you carry with you. Then, put it into practice. Try doing this just for a conversation here and there. Eventually, it well become a way of not only speaking, but thinking as well.

So you don’t feel too down on yourself when you first try this, allow me to share my experience. I tried this at work and all I can say is “wow!” I never realized how many useless negative things I say there! Even someone who writes positivity for a living! Although a bit taken aback, I was excited. There is so much room for me to improve my conversation skills.

Try this yourself. I’m about to meet a friend for coffee and am going to try again. I think you will notice different people bring out different conversations. I would love to hear your experience as well!

WHO YOU SHOULD TALK TO

Desmond Tutu has always been a person I admire. Although strong in his faith, he, along with the Dalai Lama, have put differences aside to work together for the greater good. In this single quote I think the reason they do so is summed up rather nicely.

When facing a conflict, the first thing many of us do is run to our friends to vent. Whether that venting is in person, on social media or in some other medium it generally degenerates to gossip and leads to both parties growing further apart on the issue at hand. It also reduces the amount of trust between the two parties. We see examples of this on the world stage between governments. The end result, all too often, results in war. This not only leads to the loss of countless, often innocent, lives, but decades of trust between nations and their people.

This also happens on a personal level. Working as a DJ, and as a bartender for years before that, I have seen this happen far too often. These adults have issues with each other, sometimes legitimate, sometimes petty. Rather than act in a solution oriented manner by approaching the person in a non-confrontational manner to discuss their differences, they begin complaining to others, or worse put things out there on social media. This usually results in name calling, and even others joining in and fueling the anger and hate.

This also happens on an intimate level. At my day job I have overheard men complain about their wives and girlfriends nagging them, or driving them crazy. I have heard ladies complain their husbands are inattentive and ignorant. What happens? The other party usually agrees with them, maybe even adds a story of their own and both parties leave with an even greater angst for their spouse. When they get home a loving resolution is further away then when they left that morning.

Enemies do not always have to be those we are against. As mentioned in the above examples they can be our friends, our coworkers or even those closest to us. No matter how we define those we are in conflict to, it is important to realize the only way to reach a peaceful solution is to confront them in a peaceful manner, while expressing the desire to reach a solution beneficial to all parties.

I am not foolish enough to think that this will be easy, solving conflict generally never is. The reward, if we do pursue this path, will be peace. That peace will not only benefit us, but those around us. We cannot control the actions of the governing bodies of the world, but we can set an example for them and for others by rising above the negative and petty. By doing so we will begin to foster a world full of peace and love.

ON THE POSITIVE SIDE

“The fact that there is always a positive side to life is the one thing that gives me a lot of Happiness.  This world is not perfect.  There are problems.  But things like happiness and unhappiness are relative.  Realizing this gives you hope.”

The Dalai Lama

I really like this quote. How many times in life have we looked back at an incident that at the time seemed terrible only to realize how much good had come of it?  The secret here is to try to shorten the time it takes to see the good in a given situation.  Here is something to carry around with you and try when we encounter one of life’s unavoidable challenges.  Ask yourself, “What is good about this situation” Spend no more than five minutes pondering that.  Then move on and do your best to forget about what is troubling you.  Your subconscious mind will still be focused on that very question.  Then later that day sit down and ask yourself the same question.  Although it may not seem you have given it any more effort you mind will have been working behind the scenes to come up with several ideas.  It may even help to sit down with pen and paper and work on creating a list.  The more you do this, the more you work on training your brain to be positive and this same formula works for solving problems.  This week, let us all try to see and focus on the positive side to everything!