BECOME LIKE GOD


I must confess to making today’s headline a little click bait. Looking at the quote above by one Fred Rogers (whom most of you know is one of my favorite philosophers) it might not be that far from the truth. Whatever your spiritual belief might be, I think we can all agree that seeing the best in our ‘neighbor’ is something very special. In a world that seems to focus on our differences and who we think is to blame for what, it becomes even more special. I am sure Mr. Rogers would agree.
There is a positive flipside to seeing the best in everyone and everything. Your world looks a lot brighter. When your world looks a lot brighter, you feel a lot better. When you feel a lot better you treat others better and your world becomes…well…better.
This is where a lot of you may come in and tell me that would be ‘looking at the world through rose colored glasses’. You may be right. Looking for what is right with the world can seem like a delusion of sorts, especially to those who have never done it. Looking for and appreciating, especially out loud, what is right in others and the world around us does not mean ignoring what is wrong. In fact, knowing what is wrong can be very helpful to note ways in which things can be better. What is advocated here is to not focus on what is wrong.
It is here that pessimists and even realists may say I am being willfully ignorant. Maybe so, but it feels good and leads me to have a better life. I know there are lots of things wrong with people and the world they live in. I chose to focus on what is wonderful about both and solutions for what is not. There are plenty who fill the role of spreading gossip about others and their faults. I choose to do the opposite. My world is not any less real.
Here is a third bonus to this behavior. You will become a lot more popular. After all, who would not want to be around someone who sees the best in everything? Be like God and notice and grow what is right with each other and the world.

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.

HOW CAN I LIVE WITHOUT YOU?

HOW DO I LIVE WITHOUT YOU? For those of us who have lived an appreciable amount of time this is a question we have asked. Maybe to ourselves, maybe to God, maybe to the universe or maybe to those who have passed away. We are left with words we wish we would have said, or things we wish we would have done with those we have lost. Even more often we see things that remind us of those who have passed on and we wish we could share those things with them.

What do we do with all of these thoughts? What do we do with all of this love? Let me begin by saying there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Whatever helps you get through is what you must do, as long is it does not bring harm to yourself or others. What I am about to share with you is what I feel not only helps me deal with loss, but helps others and honors those I am missing. If it doesn’t work for you that is ok. If you are looking for something to help you, it might be worth giving a try.

Why I am sharing this with you today? Last week I attended the Wisconsin State Fair, one of my favorite places to be. I even was fortunate enough to write several articles about the fair, including one for chow down in Milwaukee in which I mentioned going to the State Fair with my grandfather at least once a year. That sure made me miss that. It started to bring to mind people I have lost and what I always do to honor them.

In addition a few of the days I had parked a few blocks away next to a lady I had known for years in the neighborhood. This wonderful lady had lost her son a few years ago and was really having a tough time coming to terms with it. I cannot imagine the pain a parent would feel losing a child. It is something I wish no parent ever had to feel or go through. On a few occasions she stopped me to share stories about her son and how much she was still missing him. These moments often resulted in tears shared as well. She also shared stories with me from support groups she attended and what others in situations similar to hers were going through. Some of them were so painful I am not even going to share them here.

Needless to say, there are far too many parents going through this pain. With the rise of the opioid crisis, sadly the numbers look to be climbing. What solace can we offer anyone who has experienced a loss? That is the question that kept bouncing around in my head as I was hoping to offer something to this lady that would bring her even a measure of peace. What I told her is simply two things that I find work. Again, I am not sure they will help her, although I hope they do.

First, I mentioned keeping a journal in which she could write to her son. When she was having an especially hard night she could sit down and have a ‘conversation’ with her son. Sure, it is really a one-sided conversation, but it can be quite rewarding. From a practical standpoint it can help us get a better handle on what exactly we are feeling. The act of writing something down can bring a great amount of clarity. Especially it such an emotionally charged situation as death and grief.

It can also be a safe and healthy place to share our feelings. Sharing our feelings of sadness and grief each and every second can leave us wondering if we are being emotionally draining to others. Even if we have to most wonderful people in our lives who are extremely supportive, there are things we may not be comfortable sharing with others that we would want to say to our loved one who has left us.

The other idea I shared with her is an idea I began to put into practice when I lost my Grandmother. It has seen me through several moments of loss. That is doing what the picture above advocates. Taking the love that you have for that person you have lost and spreading it around. How do we manage to do this? Make sure you share what you feel with others. Never let a day go by without bringing light to another’s life.

The best way that I have found to honor others while healing myself is to do my best to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I recall my Grandmother being welcoming and hospitable. So now I do my best to be that way. Whether it is when I DJ shows with Margie or even having people over for dinner, I do my best to get them what they need and be a gracious host. Certainly, you will not be able to do everything the person who has passed away could do. That is part of what makes each person in this world such a special gift. My Grandmother made a great cheesecake. I simply do not share her talent for that.

I humbly offered to this lady there might be a way to share some of the light her son shared while he was alive. She thought and mentioned how at his funeral people in a wrestling chat room he belonged to told her how much he always cheered them up. She said, “Maybe I could join that chat room and cheer up those young men.” I told her that was one great idea and she could always come up with more as time went on.

Nothing will ever replace the loss of a loved one, nor should it. We feel sadness and pain because we loved and loved a great soul. If there are ways we can honor our loved ones and bring a measure of joy and happiness to our souls and the world around us I believe it is worth a shot. Again, I put this forth to you with humble suggestion. There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief, this is merely what works for me and I share it with you in hopes it may help you as well.

If there is another way you use that helps you with the pain and sense of loss you feel, please share it in the comments below. There are a lot of others who are hurting and by coming together we may be able to bring a measure of peace to them. At the very least we can let them know they are not alone.

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.

IT WORKED!!!

A few posts ago I informed everyone of my current medical challenges. The amount of thoughts, prayers and well wishes I received were amazing! I was overcome with emotion. I felt so grateful and so loved.

Another thing that amazes me is the expression of determination and confidence in faith expressed by many people who follow this website. This website honors people of any and every faith. As long as you honor and love each other, what faith you do so doesn’t matter here.

Interestingly enough, I experienced my own miracle while in the hospital. The aorta coming out of my heart was enlarged you 5cm, the size in which the do open heart surgery.

While pondering what this meant for me and my life, I continued to read how friends, family and even people I have never met continued to pray for me. I did my best to relax and feel their love.

For clarity the doctors decided to conduct another test. After what seemed like an eternity, they came back to tell me they now had a measurement of 4.5 cm, where I can just remain on medicine and go for observation. While not ideal, it certainly beats open heart surgery.

Was this just an inaccurate measurement by the first procedure or was it something miraculous? That would depend on your beliefs. All I know is that hearing the strong faith spoken by my friends Julie, Kelly, Mimi and others gave me was invaluable.

You add that to my mother and of course my beautiful Margie staying by my side giving me love and support, and it turned a very trying experience into a miraculous one.

Thank you to each and every one of you who prayed, sent well wished and kept me in your thoughts. I’m certainly not out of the woods yet, but at least more informed and confident going forward. To me, it helped demonstrate and prove the existence of miracles.

WHY I DO WHAT I DO

Early in my writing career, and every so often to this day, I ask myself the ever important question, “Why do I do what I do?” This may seem like an odd question to be asking yourself, but knowing yourself and why you do things is important to developing a strong why. Having a strong why is what will keep you doing what you are called to do long after the urge to do it has passed.

My answer is really twofold. The first part is a spiritual one. I believe this is what the creator has called me to do. I was given a gift to be able to find the light in even the darkest situation. This didn’t happen overnight and on occasion takes longer than on others, but eventually I see the positive in everything. I was also bestowed with other gifts as well. When I was a small child riding the city bus with my mom she quizzed me on vocabulary and now I have a rather large vernacular. In what can be viewed as either a blessing or a curse, I am very empathetic. I feel the pain others go through and as such, have a strong desire to make this world a better place.

On the more secular side of things, I have a very strong desire to share what I learn. Why? Why not just keep that knowledge to myself and use it to create a life I love? I certainly have done the second half of that. I do indeed love the life I live. It is not without its challenges, but I love it. My life is in a constant state of improvement. That in itself is exciting to me. I know that no matter how good or bad of a day I am having, I will learn something in the future that will allow me to reduce my stress and increase me joy even more.

Back to the question at hand, “that’s all great, but why feel compelled to share it with others?” Those of you who know my story will have some idea why. My life as a writer and seeker of light began in the darkest of situations. My job was being downsized, my health was in serious trouble and my relationship was in the dumpster. It was out of this despair that a determination to learn how to transform the life I was living to a life I would be loving was born.

As I began to learn and apply things my life began to transform. I noticed the people that were in my life had a lot of the same struggles I had faced. Wanting to see everyone experiencing the joy I was, I began to share everything I was learning. In return, some amazing things happened. First, people shared with me things they had learned and we compounded our knowledge. My friends Amelia and Sharon come to mind. Second, I found myself surrounded by people who were not only grateful, but becoming more joyful and positive, just like I was. This was not only more pleasant to be around, but helped make my journey that much easier and more enjoyable as well. Truly proof you receive that which you give away.

These are the main reasons I do what it is that I do. It is also reasons that all of you should do what it is you have been called to do as well. When we share our gifts and knowledge with each other, we not only brighten each other’s lives, but begin to create a shift in the world at large. We create a ripple effect and the gift and knowledge we share can touch the hearts and lives more people than we will ever know. I can’t think of a stronger why to share the gift of you with the world.

PRAYERS TO THE DEVIL

Oddly, having a blog post titled prayers to the devil seems rather fitting on a Monday. Before you fear this has anything to do with evoking the dark lord, let me reassure you that is not what we are speaking about here today. What we are going to talk about is complaints which Bob Marley referred to as ‘prayers to the devil’. Which I must confess I find a fairly accurate description.

Are complaints really that bad? Let us stop and take a look. Frist, so we are all on the same page, let us define what a complaint is. To me a complaint is a negative observation about a person, place or thing with no intent on finding a solution or remedy. This is different from merely observing a situation that needs improving and voicing that while pondering what can be done to make the situation better. Forms of complaining can range from mood-killing banter to gossip. Yes, gossip is a form of complaining. I don’t recall every hearing negative gossip about someone that included a plan to assist them in getting better.

Are they really so bad we should compare them to the devil? What do complaints do? By voicing their negative opinions out loud it increases the focus on the person sharing them. We all know where focus goes, energy flows. Therefore, the persons negative mood will only increase as they share this negativity with others. What about the others? Hearing what is wrong in the lives of people they know can at the very least kill the good vibe buzz one might be feeling. If the person receiving the complaint is already in a bad mood it will only serve to sink them further. As you can see complaining will only serve to foster a negative atmosphere. If you think of something that can poison the souls of most it is shared with and bring the one sharing even lower, I can’t imagine many things worse.

Understand I am not saying if you see something you do not like, or have a bad experience that you have to keep it to yourself. Not at all. What I am saying is when you tell someone about it, think about why you are. Let’s say someone is asking your opinion on an Italian restaurant you don’t care for. Instead of saying, “That place sucks!” or worse beginning to list everything you dislike about it, try following it with a solution. Wouldn’t you rather hear this? “I didn’t really like that place, but the bistro down the street is really good.”

We all know people that when asked, “How is it going?” will proceed to offer a list of every social and medical malady they have faced since the age of five. How do you feel after even a brief conversation with someone like that? On occasions when I have the unfortunate circumstance to converse with someone who is determined to find the cloud in a blue sky there are two things I do. First, I turn it into a game to avoid their feelings rubbing off on me. I ask them what is good in their life at the moment. Sometimes I point out things that they have to be grateful they may have overlooked. If the situation seems right I may even share one of my corny jokes with them. Then, I go directly home and take a shower. Now I am keenly aware that the shower does not actually wash the emotions from my being, but as the water flows over my skin I close my eyes and imagine the negativity flowing off me. Some days that is enough, some days I have to exfoliate.

We all have times we need to vent and get things out of our system. I am as guilty as the next person. When you are done, however, consider what can be done to change what you are lamenting. If you can’t think of anything ask for a solution and focus on something to be grateful for while you are awaiting an answer. Think of how listening to complaints make you feel before you share them with others. Remember where your focus goes, your energy flows.

LIFE-CHANGING THOUGHT 

I have been involved in the field of self-improvement for over two decades. What I tend to notice is a lot of the great ideas are shared by many different people. The more i study, the more common truths are revealed. Sometimes hearing something one more time, or perhaps in a different wording can bring a whole new level of wisdom. Such is the quote above.

I happen to be a person who loves  knowledge. If there is something that interests me i love to learn all about it. This is overall a trait about myself of which i am very fond. It does, however, come with a few ‘side effects’. One of which is I strongly dislike looking foolish or ignorant. This used to keep me from trying new things. After all when learning anything new there is a period of looking awkward and foolish. Recently with the help of friends and the support of the lady in my life i have been learning to get past that. After all this blog would not exist if I had not started and learned as i went. 

Another trait I am working on is control. We all like to have control over many aspects of our lives and be given what is generally a false sense of security. Inevitably, life will show us how foolish that is by introducing us to things we have no hope of controlling such as the weather and the actions of others. Still many of us, myself included, tend to just find ways to “do better next time” or find ways to limit the effect of outside stimulus.

What all of this can lead to is a lot of stress and disappointment. Trying to “know it all”or “do it all perfectly” is insanity. As I mentioned earlier accepting that has been one of this year’s greatest accomplishments. It has reduced my stress considerably. 

Still, upon hearing this quote from Rumi I believe there is more to it. Approaching life as a willing student wanting to learn, can  teach me far more than trying to know it all. Looking for the miracle in everything I witness will not only eliminate the stress, but full me with a kind of bliss I have not experienced since i was a child.

So I invite you to join me on selling our cleverness for bewilderment, or wonder as I would prefer to say. Look for the divine and the miracle in everything you see. feel free to leave your experience in the comments below.

SUNSHINE WARRIOR 


After learning and teaching ways to be more positive in life I have come to a important conclusion – it is a constant struggle – for anyone who has embarked on this journey this is not too shocking. When you make the decision to live a more positive, loving and passionate life something strange happens. At first people pat you on the back and say things like “good luck” and “that’s great”. It all starts off well and good. Fast forward at most a week or so and things change. People begin to get less comfortable with your decision. I’m not sure why this is.  I have a theory or two. Perhaps they realize how much their own lives are not full of joy and fulfillment. Perhaps in some strange way they feel if you succeed it somehow means they fail.  Another interesting thing people tend to do, even well-meaning people, is they begin to show you examples of how dark the world can be. You begin to hear things like “How can you be positive when ___ happens?” or look how bad the world is getting and they sight some recent negative event the media is feeding off of. The truth is there is good and bad in the world. Light and dark. Positive and negative. Whether you are spiritual, or not that is easy to see. You meet nice people and experience nice things and you also face challenges and meet people so unpleasant conversations with them leave you wanting a shower.

So what side are you going to be on? Make no mistake, what you choose to focus on decides a great deal of your life. What meaning you assign to things decides how they make you feel. This is the most important decision you can make in your life. Why? It determines how you feel. There will always be wins and loses what they mean to you will determine how they affect you. If you believe the world is out to get you and always to expect the worst you will feel one way. We all know some people who actually do not allow themselves to be happy even when something good happens. They always look for what could go wrong. I knew a man who won an all-inclusive vacation. I was happy for him, but he did not seem so happy. “Yeah, but I have to pay the taxes” he informed me. The taxes amounted to $100. He, and his wife, were going to Jamaica airfare, hotel, meals and cocktails for a week for $100 and he was sad. These are the people who fall victim to the world around us. The negative mind programing we see on TV, online and in the papers everyday. Still, we all know people who remain happy no matter what. If they get a flat tire they muse that it may have prevented them from being in an accident further down the road. Some people call this naïve, but it is no more fanciful than focusing on the negative.

So what side do you find yourself on? Daily in the news we hear of tragedy, hateful speech, how the environment is falling apart, how morals are decaying and a host of other dark and negative events. Seldom to we hear about the people that come together to help the victims of violence, a new inspiring speech that was given, or how some high school students are coming together to clean up a river. These things are not ‘good news material’ they do not sell.

So what do I believe? What does the man who brings these words to you think? Here is what I believe. Make no mistake, your joy, your well-being, your very spirit is under attack. We are in the eye of a hurricane of hate and negativity. The world has become darker in many ways. I think a lot of that is owed to the focus on what is wrong in the world. It has dimmed the light of hope in the hearts of many. Which is why my motivation for writing only grows stronger. We need more people to spread joy, to focus on what is just, good and right. We need more healers of all kind. We need people to bring us together to stand against those trying to tear us apart. Before you jump to sign up let me assure you of one thing, this is not for the faint of heart. In order to be a source of light in a dark world you must be brave. You will find yourself ridiculed. You may often find yourself being attacked by those closest to you and on occasion even standing alone. Many souls find themselves negative and uninspired because today that is the easy way. To be an inspired soul and even greater to inspire others takes courage, takes inner strength and not everyone is up for that.

If you find yourself disgusted with both what you read and see in the news as well as on the streets I urge you to become a sunshine warrior. Put on the armor of positivity. Be warned, however, we are out numbered and the fight will be both long and difficult. You will not come out unscathed. The reward for this fight is your life, and the lives of those you care about and come in contact with. Whether we live in a world of darkness or a world of light depends greatly on whether we choose to join this fight. There will be many who will complain about the world as is, but there will be very few who are brave enough to do their part to change it.

If you find yourself tagged in this post you are a sunshine warrior. Do your part and share and tag those you feel show the courage to bring light to our world.