WHERE TO SPEND YOUR ENERGY

Last post we spoke about resisting posting or responding to negative content online. We also mentioned using these platforms, whether they be Facebook, Twitter or any other social media, to spread love and appreciation we may be hesitant to voice in person. Today we are going to expand that principle. We are going to ‘take it outside the classroom’ as they say.

As responsible human beings we always want to fix what is wrong. That is a good urge and one I could certainly get behind. The method in which this is often done can be focused incorrectly. We worry about fighting a world in which all people are not treated equal. That in itself is a rather noble pursuit. In my opinion our focus should be on creating a world where everyone is treated equal. This may sound like the same thing, but it is not. Instead of focusing solely on eliminating hate, we should spend the bulk of our time on spreading love.

This may seem difficult to do when we look at issues of things such as racism, spiritual persecution, bullying and other societal behaviors. It would indeed be rather overwhelming to change all of that, but what we do have complete control over is ourselves. Let us focus on creating the new that we desire with our own behavior. Do we desire a world that is more loving and accepting? Let us be more loving and accepting ourselves. Let us join groups and organizations that promote unity and love.

Beginning today, let us focus our energy on growing the new world in which we wish to live. Let us do it by both changing our own actions as well as promoting and joining forces with individuals and groups that do the same. Instead of focusing on fixing what is wrong, let us instead focus on growing what is right.

IT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

Just a quick reminder of what really matters as we head into the weekend. Surround yourself with those people who have good souls. You will find your happiness and inner peace will increase dramatically.

In my own life, I look to include people from as many different cultures, religions, races and beliefs. It not only provides a great deal of variety, it brings a lot of new opportunities for joy. I encourage all of you to do the same. Have a great weekend!

TIME FOR REAL CHANGE

In the wake of recent events the pace of change is accelerating today faster than it has in a long time. In many respects that is good. Giving those who have not had a voice a platform to speak. Addressing issues like racism and inequality that have plagued our nation for far too long. Unfortunately, there are many cases when people searching more for revenge and less for equality dominate the headlines. Violence and vandalism distract from what is a very important message.

I would like to see the world begin to create some real change. Peaceful protests are needed to bring the attention to issues that some may have ignored and others may be ignorant to the fact they have even existed. Now that many of the issues are on the table, we need to move forward in a constructive manner to institute real change. Toppling statues of leaders that were cruel and unjust is one thing. A more powerful route is to topple senators that still are. For the world to see real change, for people of every color, creed and sex be treated fairly we must educate ourselves and take action. What can you do? Learn where your elected officials stand on issues that are important to you. Make sure you are registered to vote and encourage, and assist if needed, others to do the same. Vote out of office those that seek to divide us and vote into office those that are pushing for the world to come together as one. Vote for peace, vote for love, vote for what you believe in, but whatever you do, vote.

Enough of this political banter. There is an even more powerful change that I have witnessed a lot more lately. What is that change? LOVE. Throughout all of the violence and negativity we have seen on the news, I have seen a different sort of change. I have seen many more people displaying a love and respect for others who may be different than them. A great example – The other night I had ventured to my local coffee shop to create some of these blogs. There were two young African-American ladies there studying for what appeared to be some exam. They were hard at work but still sharing some laughter. Shortly after I arrived, an elderly white couple came in and began to play bridge. With the social distancing in the coffee shop, there was not many tables to choose from. This created a rather ‘cozy’ atmosphere among the three tables I mentioned. I was lost in the world of my typing, which happens quite often. The next time I looked up the elderly lady had walked over to ask the young ladies what they were studying and to compliment one of them on their outfit.

This story may not seem like anything to mind-blowing, but it was heart-warming. Why? It is the way the world should be. From what I have seen in the past, people from different worlds do not often communicate with each other. Whether this was out of fear, a perceived lack of things in common (trust me we all have a lot more in common than we think) or some other reason, it prevents us from really getting to know each other. In a world where there needs to be some tough conversations, it is vital that we respectfully communicate with each other. If you think of tough conversations you have had in your personal life, you know how difficult that can be.

One of the most powerful ways that we can foster change is to simply love one another. Not only does this make sense from a social perspective but it has been the theme of almost every spiritual belief system as well. The golden rule. Below you will see how that very axiom is promulgated in nearly every spiritual text. Yet again, something we all have in common. No matter what belief we follow, we should all do our best to love one another.

Let us change the world. Let us change it with love. Let us change it now.

DO YOUR BEST NOT TO

This month is generally a month of love. It includes the holiday of Valentines Day. You can see hearts almost everywhere you look. I am going to ask we do our best to love all of our fellow human beings. (and dogs, bears, monkeys…etc) Do your best this weekend to be free of judgement.

This may sound easy at first. Two days without judging anyone? It is harder than it may seem. Some of our judgements are so ingrained in us we may be unaware we are even doing them. We see and senior and assume they are frail. We may see a person with blue hair, or a mohawk, and assume they are a rebellious rule breaker.

Some judgements may come from social conditioning. We see a person who is overweight and assume they are lazy or do not have any physical stamina. Maybe we have been taught certain beliefs about those of a certain race or religion? How about those of a certain political affiliation? Those who live in a particular area? All of these beliefs are actually judgements.

Some judgments we may feel we have a right to hold. A fellow driver cuts you off, passes you illegally and speed off into the horizon. This person is a rude, dangerous and unsafe individual right? Maybe they are someone who is rushing to the bedside of someone they love who is passing away? Maybe they just have to poop?  Someone snaps at you at the grocery store? They are just rude and impatient? Maybe they just lost their job or had a disagreement with their spouse?

The truth is we really never know what everyone’s story may be. Even the people we know to be mean or insensitive can be so for reasons we may never know. They could have been abused growing up. They could be plagued by feelings of inadequacy and doubt. Most actions we consider mean or rude are veiled cries for help. That certainly does not excuse or justify their behavior, but it may give us pause before we judge.

This weekend, let us do our best to remember everyone has a story including us. Everyone has something they are judged by, including us. Let us do our small part to remove a little bit of judgement from the world starting today.

CELEBRATE EQUALITY

Today we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. A man who pushed for all people to unite. A great man who wanted no man to be above another, who wanted all men to be equal. These are standards most of us can certainly get behind. On a personal level, the only thing that matters to me is how someone treats me and others. It matters little what race, religion or other group of society you belong to.

In an era where division is around every corner, the lessons this man gave his life to establish are more important than ever. There are those who seek to divide us and convince us that it is impossible for the world to unite. I refuse to believe that. Do not listen to the words of division on hate no matter whose mouth they come out of.

There are those who will try to convince you that one group is better than another. Do not believe that. There are others who will try to convince you they should get special based on who they are. Do not believe that. All people should be treated equal. When we treat each other differently based on any quality we decide, it causes resentment and breeds hate.

Let us use the day we honor this great man to reaffirm our commitment to treat everyone the same. Respect, freedom, and the ability to be who we are is not only something we all desire, but something we all deserve. Turn a blind eye to our differences and a deaf ear to words of hate. Instead, let us focus on what brings us together. Our desire to be loved, our yearning to be understood and to be accepted in our communities.

Although our law makers and leaders can put into place rules and laws to assist us in this endeavor, the burden falls on the hearts, minds and actions of each one of us. Not only does that include major events such as standing together when one of us is attacked, but our daily interactions with each other. It is heart-warming to see people come together to protest unfair treatment of groups they are not even affiliated with or join a prayer vigil for the loss of life halfway around the globe. It is just as heart-warming to see people of different faiths enjoying a meal or a cup of coffee together. It is also great to see those in love not allowing the fact they come from different races stop them. Seeing both of their families support that love can make all of the difference.

Today, let us look for ways in which we can unite as one. Let us take a break from promoting our own race, our own religion and our own group and let us find common ground with others. That could be discovering other cultures through cusine. It could involve picking up a book to learn about different spiritual beliefs. Maybe a conversation with someone who has a different outlook than you. Maybe just working on ourselves to overcome any judgemental believes we hold.

I encourage you to share any ideas you may have to bring all of us together working toward a better future for everyone.

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

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.

THE FIRST PLACE TO CREATE PEACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT NOW?

When I decided to be a motivational speaker I thought it would be an easy and natural progression. Taking the material in both my book and website and sharing it with people would be simple and enjoyable. What challenges could come from sharing how to live a more positive and rewarding life with others.

I have discovered being able to appreciate the beauty in others and express that beauty in the written words has bestowed upon me one of the most challenging, yet personally rewarding honors I have faced. In the past 12 months I have spoken at 5 funerals. Being asked to speak about the life of someone who everyone in attendance cared so deeply for is both a tremendous honor, and great responsibility. One that I do not take lightly. It has also taught me to learn and think a great deal about how I approach the subject of death. In doing so, I have discovered what will not only help ease the burden of grief we feel when we lose someone we love but will help them live on every day in our lives. I would like to share what I learned with all of you in hopes it may help you or someone you know who may be experiencing the grief of losing someone you love.

On May 8th our family experienced a great loss in the mother of my lovely lady, Margie. Shortly after her mom’s passing, Margie asked if I would like to speak at the funeral. I must confess to having cringed a little. Being that my love and respect for both of those ladies was quite high, it was an honor, but it would be an emotional challenge to deliver. Certainly, when asked to perform such an important honor, it is hard to say no. As I began to think about what I would say, a new challenge presented itself. I was about to compose words about the woman the lady in my life was lucky enough to call her mom. Nothing but the best would do. The words came to me at 3 o’clock one morning. I grabbed my laptop to capture them.

In all my writing I try to give the reader something they can use to reduce the stress, or in this case grief in their life and add some joy or positivity. Fortunately for me, Margie’s mother, Ruthanne, led life that provided most of what I needed to say.

Most eulogies include memories of the person they honor. I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to answer the question that all of us, in some form or fashion, have in our hearts and minds when we lose someone we love – now what? What do we do now that we have lost a great parent, grandparent, spouse or even dear friend? How do we keep them alive both in our hearts and the world around us? How can we help their legacy live on?

I am going to share what works for me in hopes that it may help you. I have found although honoring someone with a memorial or candle-light vigil is thoughtful, the event is over in a day. For me, the best way to keep someone alive in our hearts and in our daily life is to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I would like to explain this further by using the life of Ruthanne as an example. I must add Ruthanne gave more light in her 79 years than most people could do if given 179 years. Her life could best be summed up by recalling her last few days with us here on earth.

When Ruthanne was told her time on earth was ending, she voiced two desires. It wasn’t a fancy car or an exotic vacation. She wanted to go to the casino and karaoke one more time. She wanted to die as she lived, feeling the joy in her life, surrounded by the people she loved. Ruthanne understood that joy and peace are more important than status or wealth.

When it became clear she was not going to leave the hospital we asked her if she would like us to bring her anything. Her answer spoke volumes. She said quite firmly, “I don’t need things. I need people.” Ruthanne understood the material gifts we are given we cannot take with us, but the lives we touch and the memories we create is what will live on long after we are gone. She knew the most valuable gift we can give someone is our time and our love. That is what she wanted from us.

It was not receiving that gift that most concerned Ruthanne. Every person who visited her in the hospital asked her the same question, “How are you doing?” You might think she would lament the conditions that plagued her or the time she had left. Not once did I hear this. Instead, she asked people how they were doing. She did not do this just for conversation, but with the genuine sincerity of someone who truly cares. She asked to see pictures of babies and how their jobs were going. Ruthanne understood how important it is to let someone know they are loved and significant.

If you attended Ruthanne’s funeral or visited her in the hospital you would notice the people she surrounded herself with came from every race, culture and creed. Ruthanne may joke with you about your look some days, but she would never let how someone looked stop her from loving them. Although a Christian, she would not let believing in a different faith stop her from loving you. Ruthanne gave us the gift of acceptance.

Sometimes, those she loved let her down. They may have been in trouble with the law, developed habits or addictions they shouldn’t have, or even hurt her or the ones she loved. I think at some point all of us that knew her failed to live up to our own standard. What did she do when this happened? She loved us anyway. Ruthanne gave us the gift of forgiveness.

With all the gifts mentioned above that she gave us, it is easy to see why at the 79th birthday party Margie threw her over 100 people showed up. If I were to guess almost three times that many either visited or sent well-wishes when she was in the hospital. With that much love and popularity you could not blame Ruthanne if she would boast with the rest of them. When she was told people had to leave her room because more were waiting to visit her she would tell us, “I don’t know why people love me so much. I am just me.” Ruthanne gave us the gift of humility.

Ruthanne gave me those gifts and I must add giving birth to the most beautiful woman I share my life with. Sadly, she will no longer be here to teach me these gifts in person. It falls upon me and those she knew, in her honor and memory, to share these gifts with those lives we touch. Every time I am accepting, forgiving, every time I make someone laugh or remind them how important and loved they are, I will think of and thank Ruthanne for being a living example of these virtues and many more.

When we lose someone we truly love, let us all work together to replace the light the world has lost with their passing. It will not only help ease our grief, it will keep them with us every day we share the gifts that they gave us.

IT IS REALLY THAT SIMPLE

For most of us, despite our differences, would fit into these categories. Ironically, often we search until we can find something that makes a person different from us. It is almost as if saying, “That person is a lot like me.” Somehow diminishes either one of you. When we understand that we all share the same basic needs and wants, judgment and hatred become all but impossible.

If you are a person who loves others and does not want to harm them, and reading a blog like this it would be a safe assumption you are, then it would serve you well to surround yourself with other like-minded individuals. Does it really matter where on this planet they are from? By writing these posts I have met and befriended many other like-minded souls from over 100 different countries. They have brought not only a unique perspective, but a great deal of joy to my life. Does it really matter what color they are? I am blessed enough to have friends of every race. Not only does it include many great and loving people, but our pictures together are a lot more colorful. Politics? Ooh…that is a good one. Quite often we can almost be at each others throats because of different ways to address the same problem. Instead we should focus on the fact that we are both trying to solve the same problem. Maybe their solution takes into account something we overlooked? Maybe a combination of both solutions would work the best? We will never get to that point if we busy ourselves with such low level minutia such as what political party is the correct one.

Even my wonderful friend Nick who sent me this picture, and by doing so inspired this post, has different opinions than me on a wide array of different subjects. Do you know what? That is great to me. Often when we talk he will bring to my attention a way of looking at things I had not considered. Even on subjects where we just ‘agree to disagree’ we still have the same respect and admiration for each other. Not only is it ok with us that we are different in some regards, but it is quite cool that we are also the same in many ways. It is that similarity that prompted him to share the above picture with me and allowed me to share it with you.

Today, celebrate the fact we are all a little different, and when it comes down to the core of who we are, most of us are really the same. Both of those should be reasons to celebrate with your fellow humans.

SMILE, IT IS TAX DAY!

Today in the United States it is Federal Income Tax day. Generally, a somber day for most. After paying what seems like the bulk of your earnings out of your paycheck, you have the dubious honor of paying some more today. Even if after paying your required amount every check, you get a small portion back, you still face the prospect of filling out time-consuming paperwork that can often be very confusing. At the least, you are going to pay someone to do this for you or face penalties for not doing so. This time of year we are also supplied with many facts of the not so logical way our government chooses to spend our hard earned dollars. Not very inspiring or motivational.

Before I continue, allow me to let you know I do not work for the IRS, nor am I a fan of tax season. That being said, today I stopped and pondered all that our tax dollars give us. Yes, there is lots of waste and mismanagement when it comes to government spending, but let us focus on what does get done. As I write this mid April has brought my city freezing rain and snow. The roads are currently being plowed and salted. I cannot imagine what it would be like if that were left up to the public to do. We can look at the sidewalks for an example. Some people shovel and clean them off, some do not. Imagine if the roads were the same. How would we get around? How long would we have to wait? How about sanitation? Imagine having to deal with your garbage daily. Would you take it to the dump on your own? Would there even be a dump? How about the public library? Free education for anyone regardless of race, religion or social status.

For a lot of us, tax day will always be a painful experience. By focusing on what we do receive from the money that is unceremoniously taken from us each paycheck, we may ease the pain we feel. If we look hard enough, for every story of the government buying a $200 hammer, we will find one of a young woman who studied at the public library and went on to become a doctor who saved many lives.

Could and should the government do a lot better? Absolutely and we can and should keep voting to make sure they do. In the meantime, let us be grateful that we do not have to bury our trash in our own back yard or clear the snow of the street in front of our house. While we are at it let us rent a movie from our public library and enjoy some of the tax day deals that some companies are offering.