YOUR PRAYERS ON WATER

On June 8th my lovely lady and her daughter took me to the Water Lantern Festival. The idea behind this was a simple one. A sort of communal memorial where one would draw or write their thoughts on a paper lantern and then float them out on the river. What actually transpired was so much more on many levels I wanted to share it with all of you on here.
To begin with the three of us took a ride share down to the festival to forgo the stress of finding parking. The lady who picked us up not only had the same name as my lovely Margie, but was pleasant and a great conversationalist. This by itself helped a great deal to start the evening off right. When we arrived it was much larger than I expected. There were blocks of people by the edge of the river on blankets and lawn chairs.
In addition to the throngs of people participating in the festival there were lots of different stands. Plenty selling food and drink, some selling art and even a stage where musicians performed and later a DJ. The music was soft and thought-provoking. We purchased some delicious steak sandwiches from a place called the Hidden Kitchen and I also got a cup of coffee from a nearby stand as the temperature was very brisk for a June evening.
As we went to the stand to pick up our lanterns and packets and even as we waited in line for our food and beverages, one thing stood out above all else. Everyone involved in this festival was pleasant and courteous of each other. That may not sound like such a big deal, but in today’s world I found it to not only be a redeeming quality, but one that was rather touching.
The three of us put together our lanterns with various degrees of competence. Although my artistic skill fell well behind the two ladies, all of our thoughts and sentiments were proudly displayed. We all had our own unique thoughts displayed in our best artistic fashion. We all worked together but in our own little worlds. I decided to honor all of the people in my life. Those who came before me, those who are sharing this path with me now and those I have yet to meet. As we worked on our lanterns, there was an opportunity for people to come on the stage and share their stories with everyone present. The stories of loss were heartbreaking but at the same time healing. There was a young man who was mentally challenged and did his best to convey his story. When he was done the heartfelt applause he received could soften the hardest of hearts.
Soon it was time to launch our lanterns. Everyone approached the water with what seemed a very humble and supplicatory fashion. You placed your lantern at the top of a slide and down it went into the river. At the end of the evening all of the lanterns were collected and any environmental impact was minimal. To see all of those lit up lanterns floating in the river with prayers and thoughts on them was something really special. I really want to thank my lady Margie for including me in this idea she discovered. It was a example of someone in your life knowing what you need even more than you do.
I would recommend this festival for anyone who has lost someone close, enjoys honoring those who have passed or even just really enjoys a positive experience with a great sense of community. It should be noted after this very emotional experience the three of us had a nice walk to a coffee shop by the lake to diffuse our emotions and enjoy some great beverages and conversation. I hope to do this again next year.

THE DIFFERENCE A SPACE MAKES

I enjoy the reminder is this picture. As we begin the week are we mindful or is our mind full? Taking time to focus on filling our minds with specific things we desire such as relaxed visions of our goals and dreams or things we are grateful for is perfectly wonderful, but that is not what our minds are usually full of is it? No, usually we have passwords, a code to our ATM card, everything on our ‘to do list’ and we can throw in doing our best to remember to pick up toilet paper from the store before we find ourselves in a most unfortunate situation.

Being mindful has an entirely different meaning. Being able to keep in mind the feelings of those around you is important. Being able to keep yourself in the present will help us realize how much beauty surrounds us every day. I use the example of taking your car to the grocery store by yourself. Upon arriving looking around and wondering who drove. I have been guilty of this myself a time or several. Our thoughts can be so busy with the next thing we never appreciate the current thing. Is was John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” 

With most of us walking around with our faces buried in our cell phones, we may miss the beautiful sites of nature. As we drive to work worried about all we have to do once we get there, we may miss the fabulous new coffee shop that just opened, or even just the beautiful weather outside. As we wait impatiently for our specialty coffee drink to be created, we fail to notice how hard the employees are working, the wonderful smells in the café or all of the interesting people who are enjoying their day there as well.

Life is full of moments. We owe it to ourselves to enjoy each and every one of them to the fullest. We do not want to arrive at the end of life wondering where it all went. We want to go peacefully filled with the blissful and loving memories of a life well lived. Today, don’t just have a mind full take a moment to be mindful.

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.

AN INJECTION WE ALL NEED

In my book A Happy Life for Busy People, I advocate creating a ‘happy playlist’ for when life throws you a challenge. This also works well when your inspiration seems to be lacking. When Margie and I are about to DJ a show and I am just not feeling it I usually make some of the first few songs we play ones that get me fired up so I can do a good job for the people that are there for the show. Sometimes you just need a little injection of inspiration, and often times music is a quick and easy fix.

There is another element that I rely on to give me an extra boost of inspiration and that is people. Before we all bust out into a rendition of Use Somebody by Kings of Leon, let me explain what I am saying. After a tough day at my job in the US Post Office, or even after a long seminar or book signing I cannot wait to get back to the loving arms of my beautiful Margie. She can be so good at providing a sense of peace and repose. She also can provide love, encouragement and humor. I am grateful for her each and every day.

Just the other evening I had the pleasure of getting together for coffee with my good friend Nick. Both of us share with each other our thoughts on spirituality, motivation and all things metaphysical. When I leave the company of my good friend I not only am fired up to share some of the great conclusions we discussed, but also have learned a great deal by sharing a hot cup of coffee and a great conversation with my friend. I am also very grateful for Nick and the conversations we share.

Think about your life, do you have certain people who bring out the best in you? Maybe you have others that inspire you to be your best? It might serve you well to make a list of those people and what joy they bring into your life. Then, make a conscious effort to spend more time around them. Your life will automatically become one filled with passion and inspiration.

AM I YOUR BROTHER?

I cannot claim complete credit for this blog. Then again, that can be said for most of my blogs. This one was specifically inspired by my coworker Jon. We were driving back from helping a different coworker who had gotten a flat tire. At this point, let me give you a brief description of Jon. He is a mild-mannered man who has spent time living abroad. Jon does not yell and when he speaks you can tell a lot of thought goes into what he says. In short, Jon is a good man who you would want to spend some time around.

Back to our conversation. We were discussing his time living in Korea and he mentioned the respect people have for each other there. He also noted something I found to be of great interest. He told me it was his experience that people around the same age referred to each other as brother and sister and those older than you are spoken to with a greater degree of respect. I shared with him my knowledge of Native American culture and how others are often referred to as brother and sister as well. I also told him how elders are called grandmother and grandfather. They are also held in high regard because of all they have lived and been through. I wrote about the importance of older people and the wisdom and experience they contain in an earlier post, but it bears repeating. Those wonderful souls are living treasures that will be lost with their passing. To treat them with anything less than respect is a disgrace.

As we continued to muse and discuss the subject, we both came to the conclusion that there is a correlation with how you view and address people and the amount of respect you have for them. After all, unless your name happens to be Cain, you would not likely wish to kill your brother. If we go back far enough we are more than likely related in some form or fashion. Even if not related genetically, we can be brothers and sisters ideologically. Even if we differ slightly in some regards we are all striving for the best life we can have for ourselves and for the ones we love.

Keeping this knowledge in mind, let us look for what we have in common instead of what divides us and we will find we are all brothers and sisters in some way. Jon, for example, is my brother in that we both have the same struggles and experiences working for the United States Postal Service. That can be said of my friends Chris, Laura, Christine, John, Don, Raul, Beth, Julie and many others I know. I have brothers and sisters who have the unique understanding of the bartending arena. Lisa, Matty, Dylan, Ashley, Jenny, Autumn, Emily, Rebecca, Audra, Alysa and more. Then there are my brothers and sisters in the literary field. Ursula, Aura, Stefanie, Cari, Andrada, Kelly and more. Margie is even my sister in that she is a creative entrepreneur. Although calling each other brother and sister would be a bit awkward. I have a brother in my friend Russ as we have been through so much and have a lot of love and respect for each other. Which brings me to my sister Michelle, an amazing lady who is the best sister a guy could have!

You see all of these people, with one exception, are not actually related to me. I do view them all with a feeling of Kinship beyond what I would refer to a friend. Next time you find yourself walking into a coffee shop or fast food place think of the person behind the counter as your brother or sister in working with the public. We all know the struggles that can be. When someone cuts you off in traffic, know they are your brother and sister in trying to get home to their family or maybe to work on time. That is not to say that brothers and sisters won’t make you angry or you may not agree sometimes, but that does not make them any less your brother or sister.

Feel free to recognize people you would be proud to call brother and sister in the comments below.


YOU NEED TIME FOR THIS

All of us have things in life that we don’t like to do. Cleaning the bathroom, doing the dishes, waking up early on our day off. Life is full of things that drain our happiness as well as our energy. The crazy thing is we really drag these items out. I am not necessarily talking about the actual act of doing them, although in some cases that might happen too. What I mean is we start dreading them long before we actually begin them. In the course of doing them often we can spend as much time complaining as we do acting. If we don’t do so out loud, we often spend countless moments cursing under our breath.

What I am suggesting? Certainly not whistling and dancing with one hand, toilet brush in the other? Not exactly, but if you can find a way to do that let me know. What I am advocating is striving for a little balance. We can do this in two ways. First, spend time every day on something you enjoy. Whether that is eating a Kit Kat or a taco. Maybe it is sitting down to a nice relaxing cup of coffee or tea. Perhaps listening to your favorite music? Whatever your moment of bliss is, make sure to schedule it. When you do, spend a few minutes getting excited about it before you actually begin. Think about how good that Kit Kat will taste, or imagine what toppings you will get on your taco. Hard shell, soft shell or both? Think about the scent of the coffee brewing or the feel of the warm liquid as you sip it. Then pay attention as you prepare the activity. Get excited as you brew the coffee. Smell the tea bag as you open it.

Lastly, be present while you are engaged in the activity. I can’t recall the times I have been looking forward to a particular dinner and I am half way through before I really slow down to enjoy the taste. With the delicious meals Margie creates that is about as close to a sin as you can get. Slow down and pay close attention to every detail of happiness. Why not? Enjoy it to the fullest. Use as many of your senses as you can. Feel the chocolate melt in your mouth as you eat the Kit Kat. Hear the crunch as you bite into it. Smell the chocolate. Enjoy the look of the perfectly formed wafers. Taste all the mix of flavors with each bite.

Second, try if you can, to incorporate some things that make you happy into some of the activities you dread. Of course you shouldn’t have a Kit Kat in hand and a toilet brush in the other. The potential for disaster certainly looms in that one. If you can however turn up some great music while you work, why not? Maybe treat yourself to a Kit Kat or taco after you finish cleaning the bathroom. I would, however, recommend washing your hands. It may even give you a little joy in what otherwise would be an arduous task.

Let us all schedule some bliss in our day. When we do let us make full use of it. Drink every last drop of joy and happiness out of the situation. Be totally present and treat it as a sort of mini vacation if you can. I would be elated to learn some of your moments of bliss. What activities bring joy into your life? Share them in the comments below!

BE THAT PERSON

Be that kind of person. What kind of person am I talking about? The one who always has something good to say about someone. The person who always has a smile to share. It may not seem to make a difference, but it does. As I write this I am sitting at a local coffee shop a few blocks from my day job at the United States Postal Service. I am reflecting on the countless times I have been in this exact situation. The service I receive from the person behind the counter can really help, or maybe distract from my writing. To the person helping me behind the counter I might be just another face in a sea of people wanting some kind of beverage and that is understandable. Even if they knew that their service may add a little extra step to a author doing his best to inspire the world to become the best versions of themselves it may or may not make a difference.

The truth is we all have this power. We do not know what the person we run into in the grocery store is up to. It could be a surgeon worried about performing open-heart surgery on an infant the next day. It could be a person struggling with personal loss that could use a bright spot in their lives. It could be a person struggling with depression and thinking about taking their own life. It could even be someone full of rage and thinking about taking the lives of others. The cases do not have to be this extreme and may not be, but we may never know. It could simply be a former bartender and current postal worker looking to better themselves and the world around them.

This is all about the power of a smile, of a simple ‘hello’. In all of us there lies a great power. It is a generally untapped power for the most part. That is the power of kindness. It makes a difference. It may be a big difference, it may just be that added inspiration the person needs. Chances are we will never know the effect that it has. Trust me when I tell you it has an effect on every single person you use it on. They probably will not even know you are using it. The more you practice this random acts of kindness the bigger effect you will have on the world.

I warn you that there is one side-effect you must be aware of. This kindness will come back to you. It may not come from those you have shared it with, but it will and must come back to you. That is a universal law. As you sow, so shall you reap. Before long you will notice those smiles and ‘hellos’ coming your way. You may find yourself with new friends and connections you never would have met. In addition, some people report a second side-effect. That is an increased sense of well-being. Seeing the positive way you affect others can only serve to put a smile on your face.

I would love to hear ways that you use the power of kindness. It would be great for all of us to learn simple ways that we can positively affect the lives of those around us. Share your ideas in the comments below!

A DAILY PICK-ME-UP

How many times do we find ourselves grasping to hit the snooze button one more time in hopes for a few more minutes of blissful slumber? I can’t count the cold Wisconsin winter days I ask myself why I am leaving a warm bed and a hot lady to face the prospect of another day at work. Even while typing these words and reflecting upon these events I felt my energy start to drain.

How can we make sure we wake up ready to face the day? Two words – passion and purpose. Being involved in something that stirs your heart and engages your mind will give you much more motivation than even your favorite cup of Jamaican blue mountain coffee. If you don’t want to shell out the money for such amazing coffee then you are going to have to take my word for this.

If you find yourself about to tell me via your computer or cell phone screen that your job is not what your passionate about, let me assure you I understand. Working for the United States postal service does not exactly give me butterflies.

So what then? Pursue your passion on the side. In today’s busy and stressful world this may seem like another thing you don’t have time for. The ironic thing is that adding a hobby or side business that speaks to our passions will reduce the stress of our day job and give us something to look forward to every day.

A great law of physics that i make use of is as follows

Your mind and body do not have to occupy the same space at the same time.

Certainly there are exceptions. If you are a surgeon about to operate on me I would appreciate if all parties were working together. For most of us, however our minds are free to roam as our bodies are busy ‘working for the man ‘. While giving my best physical effort at the post office my mind is often looking for or pondering material for this website, my next book or my next YouTube video. Ok, sometimes my mind is also on a beach drinking out of a coconut, but I digress.

Whether your passion is creating material to help individuals become the best versions of themselves or it is drawing pictures of your dog, begin exploring that passion today. It will provide you a positive reason to get out of bed, fill you with more energy than caffeine and make the stress of the workday easier to handle.

I would love to hear some of your passions and how you work them into your daily routine to stay inspired.

1 WAY TO MEDITATE EVERYDAY

Last post we spoke of the importance of spending time by yourself just being. This is often what people think of when they think of meditation. It is a fabulous way to get in touch with yourself and certainly something you could do while you escape to your spot in nature as we discussed last post.

This is not the only way to meditate. Quite often for people like myself who have a million thoughts running through their head at any given time it can be very difficult to just sit down and stop all the voices in their head. I must confess to a little bit of envy when I ask somebody what they are thinking and they genuinely reply, “Nothing.” With all of the benefits of meditation how can people like us still reap the benefits?

One way is to practice active meditation. It was a process developed by a man named Osho. I highly recommend looking up both the man and the researching the topic of active meditation. For those of you who like myself, never really enjoyed homework I will give you a brief look into the world of active meditation and how you can use the benefits in your own life. Originally, it was defined as a period of chaotic movement followed by a period of silence. It its simplest form this is what it is. It means you dance, yell, jump up and down and whatever else you can think of. Then, you just stand perfectly still and notice what happens with your body.

A more expanded definition of active meditation is really being totally mentally present while involved in a physical activity. I mentioned I was going for a bike ride While I was bike riding I was totally present in the experience. I noticed the feel of the wind as I biked. I enjoyed the view of the sun on the trees and the birds flying and singing all around me. I even enjoyed and stopped to talk to a deer along the way. I did not think about having to go to the post office later in the morning, what I was going to wear, or any other daily minutia we can get caught up in.

Even something as simple as walking can become a meditation. If you slow down and notice how you place your foot, the change in balance, the transfer of weight and every aspect of walking it can be a great way to actively meditate. Try doing this for just a minute. Then, as you get used to it, try to speed up while still remaining aware of everything. This takes some time but can be quite a fun experience once you get the hang of it. Try it with other activities as well. Drinking coffee, eating your breakfast. You can turn almost anything into a meditation.

Losing yourself in active meditation can be a great first step towards gaining control of your thoughts and emotions. I don’t know about you, but that is something I believe most of us could use a little more of. I would be interested to hear what activities you choose for your active meditation and what results you experience. Please feel free to share.

SITTING ON A BENCH WITH JESUS

Years ago I used to ponder why the world was as it is. Why, if there is a supreme being, is the world filled with hate, jealousy, racism and the like? Why did I find a lot of those things in my life as well? It was on one of my darkest days in which I finally received the answer. I wasn’t sitting on a park bench like the man in the picture above. I was in a library trying to find a book that would give me some advice on turning my life around. Some books were way to metaphysical for me at the time. Some were very complex and involved psychological phrases you would need a degree to decipher. While getting frustrated at the lack of a book for the average Joe to turn their life around, a voice in my head spoke to me. “If you can’t find one, write one.” From that day forward I have continued to find tools to help the average individual live a more positive and rewarding life.

What led me to this dark and dreary day in the life of Neil was a lot of circumstances. Professional, personal and my surroundings. By surroundings I mean things such as some of the music I was hearing, shows on television I saw, what I read in the newspaper and what I witnessed people doing to each other around me. Again, I began to wonder how the spiritual powers that be would allow such things.

The answer to that question was very similar to the first question I asked, except this one was a riddle of sorts. (yes, even my own head doesn’t always give me a straight answer) “How do you change a dark room?” This may sound foolish until you look at it in the terms of the world as a whole. If you want to lighten up a dark room you do not work on ‘removing the darkness’ you simply add light. If your glass is half-full you do not try to remove the air you just add more water, or rum, or iced coffee, but I digress. If we all remained focused on removing the negativity from the world we would create a vacuum that could very well be filled with…well…more negative things. The only way to decrease the negativity in the world is to add more positivity and love.

Another shocking revelation is that either one of these situations, love or hate, mankind does to itself. We make the choices. If we sit back and do nothing to counter the troubles we see in the world we are allowing it to happen. If you see someone hungry give them food. If you still watch the news and hear about some group being discriminated against, do something to make someone feel more loved and accepted. As the saying goes, “God helps them who helps themselves.” This is not just true for one person, but for all of us everywhere and the world as a whole.