TIME TO ESCAPE

This was my view at about 7:30 this morning as I prepared to go for a bicycle ride. Only a small journey from where this picture is taken is a small clearing I like to go to and think, read or just relax. It not only provides me a nice walk in the park, but it gives me a place to recharge my soul.

In today’s busy world where we are constantly surrounded by people and technology, it can be hard to escape. That is why this weekend I recommend you have an escape. If you don’t have a special spot like mine, it may be a good time to start pondering where a good place for you might be. Ideally, this place should be a spot in nature. Losing all of the urban sounds that we experience daily will give you more peace than you can imagine. Even if you live in the heart of the city, find a park like I did where you may not be able to escape the sounds of the modern world entirely, but you can lose yourself by focusing on the sounds of nature. The wind blowing through the trees, birds singing, maybe even a small brook or creek near by.

The other caveat about selecting a spot is it should be somewhere you can be alone. As you can see in the photo above, you might have some visitors from time to time. In a world filled with constant interaction, whether it be in person, or now even on social media when we are by ourselves, finding time to spend with the person in the mirror is far and few between. Isn’t it great to spend time with others? Of course it is, but without spending time alone with our thoughts we can end up feeling lost. What do I mean by this? That is a great question. Let me ask you something and you tell me if it rings true for you. Have you ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed? Have you ever walked into a room and forgot if you were coming or going?

A lot of us are so focused on giving to others we forget to stop and think of what we may need or what our goals for our life is. We are focused on giving to our families, our job and our friends. There is nothing wrong with helping others and being a productive member of society. If we do that at the expense of ourselves we can end up feeling burnt out and unable to give anything to anyone.

Take time to escape this weekend. Spend at least 30 minutes alone and preferably in nature. If you are anything like me you will leave not only recharged, but with a sense of joy and inner peace you did not have when you arrived. Begin to think of your spot today and escape with yourself this weekend. I would love to hear how it affected you. Feel free to come back to this post on Monday and share in the comments below. Even though you will be by yourself, you never know who you will meet.

ONE CHANGE THAT COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING

It is always entertaining to discover the ways that some of the most life-changing knowledge comes to our attention. What is even more amusing is that often these moments stem from what can initially be defined as a negative experience. Another example of modern day alchemy. We all have the power to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Before I lose everyone completely, allow me to share with you the exact experience I had and the realization that came out of it.

The other afternoon I was riding my bike in the park. It was a rather hot day and I was taking my time enjoying nature in all its glory. Ahead of me was a young man around the age of 6 I would guess. As we rounded the curve in the trail there were a few birds sitting on the grass. As the young man approached them he yelled “Get out of here stupid birds! You are ugly! Goodbye stupid ugly birds!” It appeared the young man had really no malice in his words or towards the birds, but hearing that made my heart sink. My first reaction was to feel bad for the birds. I know this may sound silly as birds to not speak the same language as humans, but sending out that negative energy towards another living thing cannot be constructive. A little while later down the path, when asked his opinion of a certain tree, the child replied using the same descriptions of ‘stupid’ and ‘ugly’. Again, it is my opinion this was more a product of environment and not any malice as the young man seemed rather happy at the time.

As I found my own spirit a little brought down by the young man’s words it got me thinking. In the past I would have felt a little foolish, or even weak for allowing another person’s words and actions affect me. Now I realize it is just part of my gift as an empath and spiritual person. The event stuck in the back of my mind as I went about my day.

3 a.m. found me awake and reading on the couch when the experience popped back into the front of my mind. I began thinking how someone should tell the young man about the law of energy. It may sound silly to do so to someone at such a young age, but if we wait often habits and language patterns can become set and harder to change. What is the big deal about what words we use? Imagine several random people coming up to you and informing you that you are ugly or stupid. Can you imagine how you would feel after that? Even if you give their opinion much weight, it still would not be a good feeling. Now, imagine several random people coming up with wonder in their eyes and informing you how beautiful or inspiring you are. Can you think about how that would feel?

Words do not only affect others. When we, like the young man in the story, go around calling everything stupid or ugly. When we look for things to criticize about people, places and things. Our world becomes filled with things that we see as ugly, stupid or some other negative description. Can you imagine how it would feel to be surrounded by ugliness and stupidity every day, all day? By speaking in such a manner and seeking out the faults in everything we chose to do that to ourselves.

With my feelings working their way downward as I was thinking about all of the people who do this to themselves as well as how often I still find myself doing the same thing, a great realization came to me. If we can make our lives a living hell by the words we chose to use, could we use that same power to transform our lives to one of beauty and joy? Of course we can. There is always two sides to every story.

Immediately my mind began to work on how this could be put into use. The answer was simple. To create joy and positivity all we have to do is the opposite of what brought us the pain and negativity. In this case, what if that young man was taught to find the beauty and magnificence in everything he saw? What if we all learned how to see everything as a miracle. It was Albert Einstein who said, “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as thought everything is a miracle.” If one of the smartest minds on the planet lived by this concept, I felt it might be wise for me to as well.

Today I am going to begin to look at the beauty in everything I see. In addition, I am going to use words like ‘wonderful’ and ‘beautiful’. If we find the beauty in everything we see, no matter how hard it may be, our lives will be filled with a great amount of beauty and joy. Can you imagine how different it would feel if we were surrounded daily by everything we thought was beautiful? Our lives, in turn, would become beautiful.

One great key to finding the beauty in even the toughest situations was supplied to me by a quote from Mr. Rogers. This quote was sent to me by a neighbor who knew I was a fan of the children’s television show host. The quote was “Frankly there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” Perhaps if the young man in our story know that birds he was calling stupid could navigate 2000 miles without the use of a map he may not think they were so stupid after all. The greatest irony of all. After all the knowledge that came out of the afternoon in the park, the young  man’s words became a thing of beauty for all they taught me and all I could share with you.

TAKE YOUR TIME

I recall a cousin of mine when I was young who was always frustrated at not being able to ride a bike. It seemed they had taken longer than the normal child would to master the skills of balance and coordination needed to go forward without the assistance of training wheels. Eventually, they learned and were able to harness the freedom a bicycle affords you when you are a child.

This would not have been able to happen without their parents there to refuse to allow them to give up and quit, which was a desire my cousin expressed many times. When we are children, if we are in a healthy family situation, there is always somebody encouraging and refusing to allow us to accept no for an answer. It could be a parent, a caring teacher or even an older sibling.

When we are adults this is often not the case. If an adult expresses the desire to give up because the results they are seeking seem just out of grasp who is to tell them no? If you need an example, look no further than me trying to operate with any sort of skill on the dance floor. Another thing we seem unwilling to do as adults is to move outside our comfort zones. Quite often we stay with just what we are good at. There is some wisdom to this. If there is something you enjoy and are naturally talented at, it would serve the world best if you were to focus on that.

If, however, like most adults, you have a yearning to master a skill you are not quite proficient at don’t let the speed of which those skills seem to be coming to you discourage you. It seems the fear of looking foolish, or even not talented in front of others is a fear most of us are unable to leave in childhood. Comparing yourself to others around you will rarely serve you. As a quick reminder, the harder you have to work at something, the greater the victory when you finally accomplish it. Keep going my friend.

WHAT DO THE SIGNS MEAN?

While going through some of my childhood items my mother found cleaning out a closet in her house, I came across this little item. I found the irony in this because I could not have been very old, I am guessing 6 or so, when I wrote in this notebook. The thought bubble above Snoopy’s head could have very well been a warning from the universe. It could have been I was just a big fan of Peanuts and Charlie Brown. Although personally I think I am more like the character of Linus.

What this made me think of is how perhaps talents we have may be innate. If you would have asked me what I wanted to be at the age of 6, I highly doubt my answer would have been best-selling author and blog writer, but that is what I am on my way to becoming. Did I somehow already know that is what I was destined to do?

To add to the feelings of irony, found with this notebook was a collection of stories I had composed back in third grade. Other than noting my grammar has not improved a great deal since then, my writing style was oddly the same. The fact that these two items were found at this point in my life seems interesting to me. Sometime after receiving an A+ for my writing in third grade, I had transitioned to being warned by my teacher my senior year in high school never to pursue a career in writing. Had I come across these items at that time they would have totally meant something different.

Does timing and current life situations dictate what things mean or are we destined to find and become certain things in life? I guess that falls to a matter of opinion. As for me and my little Snoopy notebook, there are several ways in which I could view this. I could say that perhaps my grammar will never be good if it hasn’t improved in thirty  years. I could say that my writing was better received in third grade than it is now. That may very well be true, but there is another way to look at it. A more positive way. I will  just take it as a sign from the universe that being an author is really something that has always been a part of who I was. Also a sign and reminder that I am pursuing the write life path.

I think we have a choice as to how we interpret the things that happen to us in life. Whether we view them as positive and inspirational, or negative and foreboding is up to us and has a great deal of influence on the quality of our life.

THESE GIFTS ARE THE BEST

Look at this fun and amazing item! It is a candle that my dear sweet Margie bought for me with our picture on it. When it is burning our picture will be backlit and look even more impressive. When the candle is gone, I can use this as a memory jar or and other fun, romantic idea that will come to mind.

Adding the extra touch of personalizing a gift makes things oh so special. I am so grateful that the lady in my life is not only beautiful, but thoughtful as well. I enjoy having special reminders around of the times and love we share. If you are looking to increase the love in your relationship, or just leave your significant other a pleasant reminder of how much you care for them I would recommend a personalized gift. It doesn’t have to even be something extravagant. It can just be something that lets them know you care and are thinking about them.

The great thing about this is it does not only have to be for romantic relationships. It works great for parents reminding their children how much they love them whether they are away at school, or even living in another country. It also works great for friends and other family members.

It doesn’t even have to be a picture. It can be a keychain engraved with a saying that means something to both of you. Maybe something with an inspirational message just for them. I enjoying giving copies of my book with a person message written on the inner cover. Pick someone special today and find a fun personalized gift you can give them to let them know how special and loved they are. Take it from me, it will make them feel on top of the world. I know mine did.

FREEDOM TO BE LOCAL

Here is a picture of the local July 4th celebration in West Allis Wisconsin, where I live. I believe the group is called ‘The dancing Grannies’. I think it is awesome that seniors continue to be active and it was even better to hear people applaud and cheer for them as they went by. In this country July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day, or the day in which this country began its self-rule.

Here is me enjoying the parade with my mother and her husband. I had such a good time and do not remember enjoying a parade that much since I was a child. It got me thinking about individual freedoms we either take for granted or choose not to take advantage of. Such as who we share our time with. Ideally, this picture would have included my lovely Margie, not only would that have added to the joy I was feeling, it would have added beauty to the picture as well. Alas, she was not able to join us due to prior obligations. I could have watched the parade by myself, or even with any of the great friends I ran into. I chose to watch it with my mother because lately we have been going for walks in nature and sharing some great conversation and fun times. The freedom of who to spend your time with is a very important one to exercise.

Here are pictures of the food truck and the tasty treats that I enjoyed from it. Do you realize how many more options we have when it comes to what we eat? Only 100 years ago small local grocery stores carried a handful of options. Now, we have stores that have thousands of items to choose from. Some from halfway around the world! We can choose to eat healthy or we can choose to eat…well…pizza. Even when cooking at home recipes and even videos guiding us through how to make exotic dishes are at our fingertips.

These are pictures of the party they held at a local park after the parade. There were things to eat as you saw in the above paragraph, as well as a band, children’s games and beverages. This brought up one of the most important freedoms of all. In a world that has headlines dominated by terrorism, racism, hate and violence, a lot of people are afraid to walk the street. Sadly, that is exactly what those committing violent crimes wish for. It is my belief that one of the best ways to combat a world that seems filled with division is to get out and meet your neighbors. Holiday celebrations are a perfect place to do so. On this day I met great neighbors such as Kristin, the mayor of our fine city, my neighbor Dan and lots of others. Do yourself a favor. As you are enjoying that hamburger, sweet corn or even that frosty beverage, take a second to introduce yourself to neighbors. If you happen to see Margie and me out enjoying the holidays, feel free to introduce yourself to us.

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.