YOUR 3RD STEP TO HAPPINESS

Welcome to day 3 of our happiness journey! As a quick reminder we are starting from the bottom of staircase and climbing our way to a happier and more amazing life. A quick review of day 2. Watch less, do more was our guide. As we discussed, watching can have a great deal of benefits but nothing compares to being out in the arena taking action!

Now let us get to today, day 3! This day may be one of the hardest days for a lot of people. Judge less, accept more. It can be hard for many of us to accept those who live their lives in a different manner than we feel is right. The one fact we must keep in the front of our mind is that it is their life to live. We may disagree with how they are spending their days, but it is their time they are spending. Often, some of our most passionate beliefs such as spiritual, sexual and political can be the hardest to accept someone that is different than us. One of my main goals as a writer is to help the world be more unified and accepting.

One fact that people often confuse is they feel one way can only exist in humanity. I have friends who have different sexual preferences than I do. Never, have I felt that either one of us would have to change how we are in order to be friends. Never have I thought less of them because they do. I have friends of many different spiritual beliefs. I feel their differences often show me ways to enhance and deepen my own beliefs. Politics…I seldom see the benefit to judging or trying to change anyone in this arena. As long as there exists love, I feel any other difference can be overcome. Which leads me to conclude that to limit our judgement, we do not need to work on increasing our acceptance, but on increasing our love.

One area in which I struggle with is watching others live a life that is far less than I know they are capable of. I see people act and speak in ways that often bring chaos and unhappiness into their lives. All I see is the beautiful person inside that has so much to offer the world. It can be tempting to relieve some of this frustration by offering to help them by sharing things I have learned that allowed me to turn my own life around. I must remember that this path is not for everyone and that some people are more content to live their lives in the manner in which they do. As an odd twist of fate, I found that loving and accepting those people can help them even more than the words and ideas I can share. Like I said, it is something I am working on.

If you feel comfortable sharing some of your struggles in turning judgement into acceptance in your own life, I think we all would love to hear them. Sometimes that might give others the strength and inspiration to do the same.

30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE (DAY #18)

Welcome back to our celebration of 30 days of gratitude. Each day we will focus on one area of our life to be grateful for. If this is your first day doing this I invite you to go back and do the days before this. You can do them in your head, write them down and home, but it is my hope you decide to share what you are grateful for with our community here on Secret2anamazinglife.com. There are no rules. Do one day or do all 30. Let us now look at today’s area of gratitude.

This question could be tricky. As with most of these items of gratitude, I find that I am grateful for a good many pieces of art. Also, much like the other questions in this series, I do not often stop and think of art and what I am grateful for. This has been the most pleasant surprise in all of this. Something I do not take time to think of, when I do I realize how much art there is that I am grateful for. The word art can be defined in so many different ways. Recently, I heard there was some work of art that amounted to a banana taped to a wall valued at $120,000. I also heard a comedian ate said banana…it is a strange world we live in. 

What art am I grateful for? I am a really big fan of music. I think it is one of the art forms that has the strongest emotional connection for me. There are certain movies I enjoy as well. Recently, I have been watching biographies of famous classic entertainers. Everyone from the Marx Brothers, George Burns to Liberace. I am interested in people who put their heart and soul into their creations. Being an author I would be remiss if I did not mention some of my favorite books. I am a big fan of A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. (side note, I sent Mr. Bryson a copy of my book as a thank you for creating such a great work of art…no response thus far)

Art often defines moments in history as well. I recall hearing of stories from World War II in which the Nazi government made a bid to gather all of the art in the countries they invaded. A good portion of that was recovered. Sadly, a good deal of it was lost or stolen. Art can be used as propaganda. Jim Morrison, lead singer of the band The Doors, is quoted as saying, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” He was right. We can get a jingle stuck in our head from the latest television commercial.

Art can also be used to inspire. The paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel has inspired believers of Christianity for as long as it has been there. Houses of worship of all beliefs are adorned with art to induce a feeling of reverence and to tell a story of that faith.

Art can be local. I am fortunate enough to know many artists of all different kinds. I have a friend Travis who uses his ability to put lyrics together to entertain. My friend Nicole does drawings that are amazing. She invited Margie and I to a party she had at her house where other artists displayed crafts, pottery and many other amazing creations. Of course, no discussion of art would be complete without discussing the love of my life. Margie creates so many different kinds of art it is almost impossible to list them all. She creates cakes that leave people’s hearts soaring and their jaws dropping. She made me a great necklace. (she took it back to adjust, I am hoping to have it back soon) She makes flower arrangements for weddings, funerals and because she likes to. She draws, she paints, she makes scarfs and a million other things. I heard rumors she even writes forewords to amazing self-improvement books, but I cannot confirm that at this time.

What art are you grateful for? In my life I have learned that there are so many things that are art. When I order a Chai latte at the local coffee shop, my friends Curtis and Danie create a masterpiece. When I visit West Allis Cheese and Sausage shop owned by my friend Mark, the dishes I am served are works of art. I have friends who cut hair that are great artists. I am grateful for all of these! Is there an artist you know that has created something you are grateful for?

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING!!

IT CAN BE A GLORIOUS TIME… IT CAN BE A DIFFICULT TIME

Halloween has just past and the seasons are beginning to change. Here in the city I live it they have not only begun to change, it would seem we went right from summer into winter. What this points to is the holiday season fast approaching. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or any other holiday this season is a time to gather with friends and family to celebrate. It does not matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other faith. It doesn’t even matter if you do not follow any particular faith at all. Usually you will be attending some gathering.

These times can recharge our spirit and sense of belonging. It can, however, do the opposite for many. If you find yourself living away from family and friends you can experience a feeling of longing and being left out. Those who have lost love ones can often be reminded of the pain of that lost most around the holidays. While partaking in long-held traditions the feeling of emptiness can be magnified. Maybe you have recently went through the heartache of ending a relationship. Not having that certain someone to celebrate with can cause your heart to break again. Watching one of those fabulous Hallmark movies, or groups of other enjoying their holiday season can leave you feeling down, even though we think it should have us feeling joyous.

There are two points I would like to make with this point. The first is to not only understand, but be compassionate these feelings are what some of those closest to you may be feeling. They may be doing their best to ‘put on a happy face’ and make it through the holiday festivities. They may be worried about bringing everyone else down because of their sadness. There may even be feelings of guilt because they do not feel as happy as they should. We must treat each other with a special kind of compassion and respect during this holiday season. Just because someone is wearing a holiday smile or a silly holiday sweater doesn’t mean there is not some pain and sadness behind that. We must also remember that many times there is nothing we can do to help them, but just be there to listen and even offer a hug.

The second point, what we can do if we find ourselves to be the ones with sadness this holiday season? We can also practice compassion…with ourselves. We must give ourselves permission to experience our feelings. We must be brave enough to reach out to others for help. That could be a friend, a family member or even a grief counseling group. It is a gift we can give ourselves this holiday season. The grief and sadness you feel may never go away, but it is important to know that you are not alone in feeling this way. There are those who can listen. There are those who can help you cope and be with you throughout the process. I encourage everyone to keep these things in mind during this season.

As I write this, it is the final day of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This is a holiday celebrated in Mexico. It is the celebration of our loved ones who have passed on. It is not a solomn holiday but one filled with joy and a feeling their relatives are still with them in spirit. This is little consolation to some, but may be a helpful way of looking at it for others. Memories, although they can be bittersweet, are gifts from those who have passed on. There are many ways to connect to others. If your sadness stems from having to be away from your family this holiday, try reaching out with a phone call, skype, text, email or even an old-fashioned letter. As you write you are with those you miss. (as a side note this can also work if someone has passed on) Just healing over the end of a relationship? Honor those feelings and discover new and wonderful traditions you can begin. It is a fresh start and the birth of a whole new way to celebrate.

In closing, this holiday season remember to be kind and compassionate to everyone…including yourself. 

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING!

DON’T JUST SEE THE MIRACLE… BE THE MIRACLE

I heard this verse while listening to a video by Les Brown and it really struck as something I needed to share. I think for a lot of us, and certainly those of you who have been following this blog for any length of time, we know what we put out in the universe comes back to us. Put another way, what we give is what we get.
Not long ago I posted a blog featuring the “Golden Rule” in all of the different religions. The message is the same although the wording may be slightly different. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Looking at this logically we can certainly understand it to be true. If you are a person who is generally nice and caring towards people, they tend to be generally nice and caring to you. Yes, there are exceptions but for the most part this is how it goes. Wherever Margie and I go we are treated to warm and wonderful words and actions. Why? When we go places we do our best to treat others with warmth and compassion.
It also is one of the keys to success for all of our businesses. Whether it is me writing, her making a cake or both of us when we DJ, rather than just ‘going through the motions’ we want everyone to feel loved and bring something special into their lives. In return, most people enjoy coming to our shows, her cake business has been exploding and my writing continues to impact lives. We use the gifts that we have been blessed with to serve and bring joy to our brothers and sisters on this planet. We approach everything we do with a genuine desire to make someone’s life better. It reminds me of this great quote from Zig Ziglar.


What about those people who don’t eat cake? Maybe they don’t sing karaoke or have a desire to read. How can we positively impact their lives? The first biblical quote can answer that question – we pray for them. Whatever method you employ for supplication, sending out love and positivity to those you share life with can only come back to bless and serve you. We should all be cheering for each other in life and doing what we can to make each other’s lives better.
This inspired one more passing thought. If we are so familiar with the benefits of giving to others to the benefit of ourselves why is there not more of that done in the world? My only answer to this question is to offer you my solution, start yourself, start today. Offer up prayers for others, throw out all the positive vibes you can to as many people as you can. In return, your life will surely be blessed.
One prayer we might really wish to make is to those who are practicing this law in reverse. Those who spread lies and gossip. Whether through ignorance or malice, they are bringing about not the ruin of those they are speaking about but the ruin of their own lives. Soon they will find themselves on the receiving end of their own negativity. They will find themselves living a lonely and sad existence. If only they had desired what was best for others, than they too would receive what is best for themselves.
Today do yourself a favor and put this law to work for you. Look for ways in which you can bless and bring joy to the lives of others. Let the words that come off your tongue be positive and full of blessings for others. Soon your life will be nothing short of a miracle.

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.