WWJD? MORE TO THE POINT, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

Chances are you have seen a version of this bracelet somewhere. The letters on the bracelet stand for the words “What would Jesus Do?”. For Christians it helps remind them to act as their savior would. In that particular case, it would include love and acceptance for all. It would include preaching faith by actions and not mere words and it would include living life with a great deal of love.

This principle will work for anyone, Christian or not. While reading Napoleon Hill’s legendary book Think and Grow Rich, I came across and idea he used that we can all adapt into our lives. Mr. Hill would relax and get into a meditative state. In this state he would imagine walking into a board room full of the people he admired. The list included people like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and others. In these ‘meetings of the mind’ he would pose questions to these figures he so admired.

He claimed he would receive advice and words of wisdom from these individuals. Whether this was just his mind using the aggregate of knowledge he already had on these people to compose what their answers might be, or whether it was something far more esoteric he would not say. Even from the more logical previous option, this can help us. Is there people that you admire? Qualities they embody that you wish you had? I would suggest having this ‘meetings of the mind’ could really be helpful.

This may not be for everyone but you do not have to go to such extremes. Having a picture somewhere you can see to remind you of the qualities that you are aspiring to could be helpful. I admire how Walt Disney was told ‘No’ by over 300 banks but still pursued the idea of Disneyland. Thomas Edison had well over 1000 failures before finding what worked to create the light bulb. If you were to have a mental meeting with these wonderful gents, I would assume they would encourage you to push on and persist when it comes to your dreams. Simply having a picture of that person by the coffee maker say, could remind you daily to chase your dreams with a fiery passion.

In short, whether you wear a bracelet that reminds you to live and not just speak your faith, whether you have mental meetings with figures you admire or even just have a picture of someone whose qualities you admire posted to admire, using these reminders can help us emulate positive qualities while remaining true to ourselves. I would love to hear about who inspires you and why.

LET US NOT CONFUSE THE TWO

Much like last post, I must begin by saying in no way am I saying any religion, or religion in general is not good. Religion gives many people structure and guidelines that often help them to grow. As Haile Selassie pointed out in the statement above, it helps them grow spiritually. It is the goal of religion to help people grow and mature in a spiritual fashion.

Many of the practices include some of the same elements although they may be used in different ways. These include, but are not limited to, prayer, fasting, meditation and study. Whether you fast for Ramadan or for Lent you fast to mature and confirm your spiritual beliefs. It is your religious beliefs that are helping you to grow spiritually. Once again, this is a similarity to remember we all have in common. The same with prayer and meditation. The exact methods may differ but the reason and result is the same – to help us grow spiritually.

If you happen to observe someone engaged in a religious practice different than your own, please keep in mind they are doing what helps them grow spiritually. Just as people may use different exercise to improve their physical bodies or different types of learning to mature intellectually, we also use different practices to grow spiritually. Let us work toward and look forward to a day when everyone can become spiritually mature no matter what their belief. It will be then that we can accept each other in a spirit of love and understanding.

WHAT WAS THEIR RELIGION?


This is one of those quotes I really love. When you think about religion it is often, if not always created after the death of its most important figures. That being the case, as it is in the three examples above, it would be impossible for the individuals to be a member of a religion they inspired. That does not make these religions any less valid or take anything away from their beliefs or practices.
What it does is allow us to step back and take a good hard look at what is the common thread that was woven through all of these great leaders, and by consequence, through all great spiritual beliefs – Love. These individuals did not preach a certain religion, but rather a set of moral principles predicated on love. Love is the common thread that flows through most spiritual beliefs. It is a force that drives many of the other principles and tenets of whatever faith you may practice. It is the driving force behind a spiritual practice. Love, combined with faith and hope make up the basis for most of the world’s religions.
Which brings me to my point, if the founder of the faith you follow based their teachings on love, how can you not do the same? Interacting with those of different faiths should we not all come with a spirit of compassion, acceptance and understanding? Those are all aspects of love. The individuals mentioned above were strong in their beliefs and certainly strong in their love. When you are filled with faith, hope and love you do not judge another. You do not say evil words towards another because they are following a different path of love than you.
Let us all belong to the religion of love no matter what organized faith we may follow.

THE OPPORTUNITY OF TRAGEDY


On March 15th at 1:40 pm a shooting began at the Al Noor Mosque and continued at the Linwood Islamic Centre at 1:55 pm. In this shooting in New Zealand 50 people died and 50 more were injured. Most of them were Muslim people doing nothing but practicing their faith. The suspect considered himself a Christian from the far right political movements. In the wake of these shootings many well-meaning Muslims lived in fear and with a feeling of persecution.
On April 21st in Sri Lanka 3 Christian churches were bombed along with luxury hotels. In this terrible attack 253 people were killed and another 500 injured. Most of them were Christians celebrating one of their holiest days. After the bombings curfews were in effect and even Muslims that wanted to help were told to stay home for fear of retaliation. The perpetrators were members of Islamic State of Iraq, a terrorist group.
On April 25th there was a shooting at a California synagogue that left one person dead and several more injured. The shooting happened on the last day of Passover, an important Jewish celebration. The shooter was a 19 year old student who was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His own pastor said of the events, “It’s a deplorable act of wickedness.”
Reading these events in your local newspaper, online or whatever source you get your news from could leave you thinking how sad, angry and frightening this world has become. To some extent that would be a correct statement. What these events also show is that no belief is safe, and further, no belief is completely innocent. Victims and attackers cross lines of faith, color, race and creed. In a world where tragedy seems to highlight the agendas that seem to tear apart at the very fabric of our humanity, there also lies the seed of opportunity.
What you may miss in the news coverage, and if you do you are not to blame as it is usually buried, if mentioned at all, is the help that also crosses those same lines. One of the greatest challenges is to accept help from the very same group that staged the attacks. With such strong feelings of grief, sadness, loss, pain and even hate these events often have the effect that those responsible desire. They increase the divide among different groups of people.
In looking at the three events listed above, which sadly are only a few examples of hate crimes that are becoming all to common, you can see that the group that was attacked on one occasion can be the very group doing the attacking the next. This does present us a chance to stand up not only as a strong and noble representation of our faith, but of humanity as a whole. This takes courage.
What takes just as much, if not more courage, is accepting help from members of the same group that just attacked you. In the example of Sri Lanka, Muslims were told not to go to their houses of worship for fear of retaliation from angered Christians. One could understand that thinking. When you see so many loved one’s lives innocently taken from them you want to lash out. As one observer noted, “When you are bitten by a bug, you want to kill all of the bugs like that.”
As we can see in the above examples, every faith has its devils. Every faith also has it’s angels. In each one of these cases prayers, tears and help came forth from true members of every faith. It is these moments of hate and tragedy that have the potential to either tear us a part, or bring us together. It takes courage on both sides to do so. It also requires a realization that every group contains both the guilty as well as the innocent victims. It is only as individuals we can reach out to our neighbors of different faiths to increase communication and understanding.
Just as every faith contains both the innocent and the guilty, every faith also contains brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. Pain, fear, anger, sadness and frustration are also something that is shared by everyone. So is hope, peace, joy and love. Let us do our part to help heal and understand the former while sharing the latter with everyone regardless of faith.

LESSONS FROM THE CIVIL WAR WE HAVE FORGOTTEN

The American Civil War (never really did understand that term) was about far more than just slavery. It represented rural verses city life. It pitted national governing against local governing. In broad terms, the southern way of living against the northern way of living. Of all of these issues the basis was the same, different people with strong ideological beliefs on both sides.

It can still be argued as to whether rural or city planning is better and healthier. I am sure there are benefits to both national and local governing. What I felt was really a no-brainer was dismissing the human rights of someone based on either the color of their skin or their ethnic upbringing. In today’s world of division, this can, and often does, include political and religious differences as well. While it is certainly ok and quite natural to disagree with each other on these issues, what is not acceptable is to vilify or dehumanize others who are or believe different than we.

As I tend to surround myself with people who are as accepting and open-minded as myself, these issues are not always front and center in my mind. In my own way I think of things like prejudice and racism as not only arcane, but ludicrous. Would you really deny yourself a blood transfusion because Dr. Charles Richard Drew, who invented a way to process and preserve blood plasma was African-American? Would you do without such inventions as paper, printing and umbrellas because they come from Chinese inventors? Would you do without all of Albert Einstein’s contribution to science because you are anti-Semitic? The fountain pen, windmill and one of the most important inventions to my writing – coffee are all of a Muslim origin.

To do without any of these inventions because you believe this or that group of people are less than you would not only be foolish, it would be ignorant and stupid. Every culture has its heroes and its villains. To condemn an entire race or group of people based on the actions of one, or some of its people is not only irresponsible, but asinine. Do I hate all of my German friends because back in the 30’s and 40’s there was a neurotic freak named Hitler who killed millions of people? Of course not. Do I hold a grudge against all of my Christian friends because many of them lead to the death of over 100 million Native Americans? That would be senseless.

If we are to hate someone based solely on the racial/religious or political differences we have with them, then we should be prepared to do without all of the amazing contributions brought on by that group. As I look around my group of friends and notice the vast difference in color, culture and creed, I look forward to learning from and working with all of them to make our world a better place. As the Dalai Lama said, we are all brothers and sisters.

WORSHIP WITH YOUR FRIENDS

Last week we looked at different places that serve as great locations to meet new friends. That was scheduled to be a one week theme, but due to all of the wonderful feedback and suggestions I received we are going to highlight a few more this week as well. I am grateful for each of you who shared with me your favorite places to meet new friends. Keep them coming for the benefit of all our readers.

Today’s post is about houses of worship. As I write this, Hanukkah is beginning. When I shared this idea with people around me, they seemed to fall on two extreme sides of the equation. Some would say that is the only place to meet true genuine friends. Others would say the place is full of people who are judgmental and condescending to different beliefs. I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think houses of worship are a great place to meet friends. Why? What about the two extreme arguments? Let us take a look at each one.

First, the fact that houses of worship are the only place to meet true friends. I find this argument to be ridiculous for several reasons. Even in the same faith there are many different houses of worship and you can run into fellow believers at many different locations. Personally, I have met some of the most spiritual people in some of the most unique places. Whether they were there to enlighten others or just enjoying their lives, it was only after getting to know them that I learned their spirituality. Great people of faith can be found anywhere.

How about the cynics view that everyone there is judgmental and condescending? Sadly, this is where a few bad apples tend to spoil the whole bunch. I find there are people like that in every faith and in every house of worship. In fact, there are people like that almost everywhere. Yet, houses of worship are a great place to meet people devoted to not only their faith, but their love for their fellow humans. Just like anywhere else, it is a matter of finding those that walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Houses of worship can be a great place to find those who share the same values as we do and care about others. Whether your faith is Christianity, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other religion, you can find caring devoted people who love and accept others, even if their faith is different. If you can’t find such a person, be one and make as many friends as you can to be a shinning example.

I highly suggest using your place of worship as a place to make new friends. Attend a social function outside of the regular service. Volunteer for projects that not only promote your faith but help the community. You will not only make great friends within your faith, but within your community.

 

WORRY ABOUT THE ROOT AND NOT THE FRUIT

On a site dedicated to living a positive rewarding life, it is sad we must address issues like the shooting that happened at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Living a rewarding life does not mean blinding ourselves to the harsh realities of the world around us. It means finding constructive ways to address and positively affect that world. It is easy to grow weary with each new report of these crimes of hate. It is easy to believe that things will keep getting worse.

To me, it creates a sense of urgency. Time to take actions to bring the people of the world together is more important than it ever has been. With people in places of power that propagate hate and division, it is up to all of us to not only make sure we put people in power who have an agenda of peace and understanding, but live by such a creed ourselves. It may seem like an individual person has very little power in changing the world, but that could not be further from the truth. It is only through individual change that we will bring about global change.

There is a lot of debate when it comes to gun control, placing armed guards in our schools and places of worship. There are also studies on the effect video games and the media that may desensitize us to violence. What are the answers from a legal and political standpoint I do not confess to know. What I do know is that is treating the fruit. What we as spiritual warriors need to do is treat the root. What causes this behavior in the first place. That can range from the disintegration of families, the forums we give those who preach hate, continuing hateful beliefs that have been passed down from generation to generation, and the way we carry ourselves. No matter who you are, no matter what gender, what belief, what nationality or any other category you belong to, there is someone who harbors feelings of hate towards you. They only way to prove those individuals wrong, and to bring a better sense of understanding is to be a positive example of the groups we belong to. It is very hard to maintain of feeling of hate for any group, when every person belonging to that group is a positive example.

Another great thing that we as individuals can do to create global change is to change focus. Begin to talk about and promote positives, especially in those that are different from us. In the wake of the Tree of Life shooting, I have seen pictures of many interfaith vigils. This is great and should be spoken of with equal measure to that of the violence. It does bring to mind why there are not more interfaith activities before tragedy strikes. It is up to those as religious leaders to make that happen, but also to us as individuals. What is to stop a group of people from different faiths from coming together to pray, meditate or just to socialize and better understand each other? There is nothing. It can be extremely difficult for some to cultivate a sense of understanding for those who believe different from us. That in the end is what will change the world.

I encourage all of us to reach out to others and begin to speak peace and togetherness starting today. Focus on all the joy and greatness we share on this planet. If you disagree with someone, do so with tact and compassion. We are the peacemakers and the agents of change. It is time to put into practice the power we have.

TRADITIONS

The Holiday season is almost upon us. At local stores decorations are starting to go up, I even heard a Christmas song on the radio the other day. With the holidays coming up we can find our minds turning toward traditions. There are many different kinds of traditions. There are traditions based on our different faiths. This can encompass many different things from fasting, praying, style of dress and many more. These traditions are very important for cultural reasons. The connect us as a faith-based community and refresh our spiritual nature. There are also different family traditions. These can include shopping for holiday gifts together, creating a holiday meal together or just gathering at a certain family members house for great times. The traditions here can be as unique as the family itself.

The tradition I would like to discuss today is more individual. It can be between spouses, brother and sister, friends or even an individual tradition. The picture I used for this blog post is one of Margie and me at one of our favorite breakfast places. We have been going there since shortly after we met. Sadly, this day we missed another tradition of ours which was an event called ‘Cider Sunday’ in which a local nature preserve celebrates all things apple. We also have other traditions that we have began. Most of them both add love to our life, as well as keeping that love fresh and fun. Do you have something like this with the love of your life? Maybe a special place you go on a birthday? Maybe an event you look forward to attending every year? Do you celebrate the first day of spring by having a picnic in the park for example?

If you do not have a romantic tradition, or would like to include more, why not get together with your love today and discuss that? This also works with brother and sisters, friends, coworkers and anyone else you would like to include. My suggestion is this, create traditions that help that relationship grow. Maybe something that fosters a feeling of gratitude and appreciation in the relationship, or perhaps a way to grow and learn together? In the case of romantic partners, use Margie and me as an example. Create traditions that feed love and keep it fresh and growing.

Personal traditions may be something that is not as familiar with a lot of you, but I think they can have a great impact on our lives. Perhaps start a tradition of keeping a gratitude journal every night or at the very least once a week. A daily or weekly meditation practice could serve you as well. They can be traditions that add joy to your life. I do things to celebrate the first day of spring and summer each year. I also attend a bicycle expo every year as it helps me look forward to spring and being able to get out and ride.

Feel free to share any traditions you have with us in the comments below. Whether they are Faith, family, romantic or personal. This way we can all inspire each other with great ideas!

 

MY FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR!!!

As you are reading this post I will be at the Wisconsin State fair. Today is the first day of the 11 day long festival. It is by far my favorite thing to look forward to all year. In the past I have stressed how important it is to have events to look forward to throughout the year. This is by far the one I look forward to the most. There is also a winter vacation, the bike expo, the first day of spring and many others, but the state fair is the biggest.

If I were someone who sat back and let life happen to them I would enjoy  this festival to the fullest for 11 days straight and them be sad when it is over. To some extent that is what happens, but I advocate and practice getting every last drop of joy out of life you possibly can. How do I apply this to the Wisconsin State Fair and how can you apply it to activities you look forward to in life? Let us take a look and start coming up with a few ideas.

First, as you can see by the photo above, spend the activity you love with the people you love the most. This is a picture of my lovely Margie and I on the sky glider last year. Margie and I have a wonderful relationship and both work hard to keep it that way and improve it all year long. We are always on the way to increase the amazing love we already share with each other. Being with her at one of my favorite places where I am extremely excited and happy provides a great opportunity to create life-long memories that will keep us smiling for a long time. It also increases the love and connection I feel with her. Having happy and joyous memories at my favorite place with my lady just leaves me with a feeling of love and gratitude for who I share my life with. In addition to Margie, I plan to enjoy days at the State Fair with my mom, and many of our friends. Together we will all create happy and joyous memories.

Then there is the planning. There is so much fun in just exploring and seeing what we discover. Making sure there are a few things we know we will enjoy is important as well. To that end we always look at the preview guide that comes out a few weeks ahead of the fair. There we discover bands we may like to see, food we may like to try and many other fun things to look forward to. This year we are even planning on an art walk they have to see many artistic displays featured in the park. There is also a garden walk in which you are shown different displays of greenery and how they are cultivated. Both walks feature a prize upon completion and are completely free.

Pictures. This may sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes those are the easiest to forget. Taking pictures of the fun activities you experience and the great, and sometimes no so great, food we try will give us something to look back on for years to come. This keeps the great memories alive after the event, and sadly sometimes after the people have passed. In the past year with all of the loss Margie and I experienced, videos and pictures have proved to be a invaluable link to the past and those we care about. This has brought to our attention the importance of capturing all the joy as it occurs.

Being present. In contrast to being behind a camera or cell phone to capture the joy that is occurring, there is the act of being present. Noticing the taste of what you are eating, the people you are sharing the moment with, or in my case the smile on the face of the beautiful blonde lady next to you. There is so much beauty to behold in life that we must remain alert to soak it all in.

These are just some of the ways I will enjoy the Wisconsin State Fair this year. Add to that my new career as a food critic and I will have plenty of chances to practice that. I welcome you to share your ideas on how I, and all of our readers can make their special moments even more special in the comments below.

THE FIRST PLACE TO CREATE PEACE

How often have you heard that we live in a crazy, chaotic world? If you don’t hear it daily from someone you know, you can read it splashed across the television screen, on the front page of the daily newspaper and on every social media site you go on. Reading and absorbing all of this negative news can leave us feeling scared, overwhelmed or exhausted. Sometimes we can feel all three with a host of other unpleasant emotions thrown on top! What are we left to do when we have a day feeling this way?

What many of fail to lose sight of is the fact that if we have inner peace, the outside world has little, if any, impact on our life. Sounds great, but if having inner peace was so easy, how come everyone is not sitting in the park in a state of bliss. To some extent it is not our fault…exactly. We have been lied to by the media, politicians and others. We have been told that we should worry if hypothetically we have a world leader that seems determined to make enemies of friends, create a world filled with division and hate. We have been told to worry if others different than us seem to be receiving some sort of advantage. Countries are about to go to war. The price of oil is going to go through the roof. The stock market is going to fall through the floor.

The truth of all of this is that while some of it may have an impact in our life to a greater or lesser degree, it is mostly beyond our control. We can do what is in our power such as voting against that politician or writing our congressman. We can plan trips and do our best to make the most of the fuel we purchase. If we spend countless hours being upset and discussing or even worse disagreeing with our friends and coworkers about it, that will do us no good.

I have spoken at length about worrying about what you cannot control. The benefits to such actions simply are not there and the negatives abound. First of all it will create stress. Stress has been noted to be a factor in over 80% of medical conditions. In addition, stress causes you to age prematurely. In other words, you will look older and possibly experience health problems sooner. Sounding good so far? I didn’t think so.

As if compromising your health and physical appearance were not enough, lacking inner peace and worrying about and complaining about things outside of our control can affect our social life in a negative way. Almost nobody likes to be around someone who is stressed out and complaining all of the time. I said almost because the only people who seem not to mind are those who complain themselves. Not exactly the people you would want to surround yourself with.

Lastly, and in my mind most important, dwelling on what is wrong does little if anything to create solutions. It is important to note what is wrong in order to define what we would like to be happening, but dwelling on how wrong or terrible it is does us no good. Instead, it would be better to focus on how wonderful the solution would be and what steps we could take to make it happen.

To foster inner peace starting today let us focus and discuss what is beautiful and right with the world and how we can grow that. When we come across something that is not right, let us do what we can in our control to change it and focus on what would like to see. When we see someone who could use some inner peace, share with them what we learned in this article.