Wisdom

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” ~ Saint Augustine

I have tried to imagine the face of wisdom.  The image I see is a person of enormous calm and reserve, taking in everything, yet slow to offer comment.  Storing knowledge and experience for later use with caution and proper timing, the wise being of my imagination uses their experience to facilitate foresight and takes time to carefully consider consequences.  Taking mindfulness out of time and space and placing oneself in the past, the present and the future to see most clearly.

This is a patient person, waiting watchfully for events to unfold; unhurried by the immediate demands with an eye to the overarching impact of an action.  Words chosen with consideration and mindful of their impact, my imagined sage sees time as its companion and equal, not driving the moment but walking in unison. With measured thoughts and words, comes insight.  Learning from each experience, the knowing among us carefully build understanding and exercise a judicious habit of action.

Developing a way about us that allows wisdom to evolve requires slowing in all things.  Observing and listening, contemplating and considering, holding a thought until it can be examined with care before acting; all change the pace and the results.  Practice editing by speaking little and absorbing more.  Build up patience to give an idea chance to mature.

Wisdom comes not with age, but from a way of being.  Stillness and silence gives wisdom a garden in which to grow, whether you are 18 or 81.  Quiet your heart, quiet your mind and let the wisdom around you take root and flourish.

Deciding

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he told me. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.” ~ Steve Jobs to Walter Isaacson

And I believe it is true for people as well.  In this graduation season many graduates  face the next step in their lives with uncertainty.  If they have not already committed to a job or further education, the possibilities seem endless and it is overwhelming to think about the choices.  This is one of the times when thinking in the negative is helpful.  To eliminate the things one knows for sure are not options is the first step in  the narrowing process.  Each of us can use this technique to help refine our decision-making.

My home and the nine acres surrounding it always have a list of things that need doing that would strike fear in the heart of my former suburban self.  On any given day, it is easier to start with deciding what not to do.  Mother Nature is the guiding force more often than not in the process of elimination.  Choosing a task compatible with the weather often cuts the outdoor list in half.  The wear and tear on my less than youthful body is another consideration.  If the day before was extremely physical, I immediately set aside heavy work projects the following day.

Deciding what not to do falls into two categories, what not to do right now, and what will never be done.  Just because the option presents itself does not mean that it is worthy of further consideration.  Allowing oneself to toss out the unworthy and unworkable, clears out the mental clutter a bit.  If it is simply a question of not doing it right now, assigning the task a priority ranking and placing any related items that must happen first in front, the action list begins to emerge.  Use this for anything from making large life choices to planning the spring yard cleanup, the idea and process is the same.

The point is to refine one’s focus to a manageable list of options and be able to weigh the relative value of the particular choice.  Thinking of our lives as a product development project allows us to step back and to leave behind consideration of options that do nothing to further that development.  When faced with open-ended questions, starting with what not to do can in fact point us directly at the answer of what to do.

What Inspires You?

Inspiration, a tricky thing.  That little spark that can jump into flame with timing, effort and enthusiasm and just as easily slip away.  Looking for topics to comment upon on a daily basis has caused me to wonder what happens that allows a quote or a side note in another blog to cause my mind to kick into gear and the words to begin flowing.  I certainly do not wake up every morning with some brilliant piece already formed in my head just waiting to be typed!  For the most part when I hit the publish button, I am satisfied; thoroughly pleased on occasion and really excited once or twice.

So how do I inspire myself to keep writing day after day?  As I surf for quotes or pull out the bookmarks from passages previously read, I let my subconscious do the wander-ing and make some of the connections behind the scenes.  Even though my personal ah-ha moments are few, I find the “likes” and” follows” and especially the comments written by my readers motivating.  To read that a particular phrase resonated with another person creating a connection with them is thrilling.

I have read so many “About Me’ stories across the blogosphere and they are truly inspiring. I look to each writer for ideas, topics and famous quotes they have discovered and have moved them in some way.  Each person has something unique that touches them, a photograph, a bit of humor; something that tugs at their sleeve for attention.  Some are passionate about a cause that is close to them or an all-consuming life event that begs to be shared.  Others see the mundane and add a perspective that makes it sparkle.  The inspiration behind each story, behind each life, is as distinctive as it is original.

So what inspires you?  What causes you to becomes animated and excited, eager to share and create?  Looking inward and drawing out the best of your inspired self allows you to greet the day with enthusiasm and joy.  And when you can’t find it inside, just look around.  It seems when one begins to look for something it pops up everywhere.  Keep your eyes and heart open, be inspired!

Milestone ~ 100 Posts

This marks my one hundredth post since beginning my challenge to write every day.  While for many it is important to take a day off to refresh and rejuvenate, for some reason I tend to just drift away.  This has been the case for so many things that I enjoyed and looked forward to; morning walks, going to the gym, eating healthfully, watching the nightly news; the list is endless.

I suspect this results from a lack of self-discipline and a somewhat drifty personality.  I lose interest easily, or rather I gain interest in something else easily and leave all of my best laid plans behind.  As part if my personal Happiness Project and overall growth, I realized this was one thing that lead to much unhappiness in my life.  Not only was I not doing something I deeply love, writing, but I had a long list of unfinished projects, unmet goals, unestablished habits.  This blog became my first step in the process of finding a way to make something I value stick.  Taking a day off from it has seemed like falling back into my pattern of drifting away, never to return.  As my regular followers know, I lost a day to a technology glitch, but I am happy to say I picked up the very next day.

Writing daily has other hazards as well.  Repetition being the first and a huge one at that.  I am not offering timely diet tips, a log of my struggles with weight or parenting or learning to dance.  This has become daily philosophical musings, and the topics are often interrelated and have been examined for centuries by great minds and even in my case discussed more than once.  In considering this I began to worry that this blog and its direction have grown stale.  I reminded myself that sometimes I must hear the same thing several times and from several angles before it really takes.  I also reminded myself that every day new readers find me and may only read a couple of entries, which then are new to them.  With that consolation I will continue looking at life, truth, the senses, reading, writing, happiness and the rest.  I look forward to the next one hundred posts and hope that you will as well.

Expect Less, Find More

“As I know more of mankind I expect less of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man, upon easier terms than I was formerly.” ~Samuel Johnson

As I know more of myself, I expect less, and am ready now to call a man a good man, upon easier terms than I was formerly.  Holding oneself and humankind  to a standard of perfection will lead to disappointment and sorrow.  Finding room for the imperfections, the failings, the sheer humanness in the self and humanity is to not only see the world as it is, but to become open to the hidden good within.

As a recovering perfectionist I find that as I have learned to be easier and more forgiving of myself I am easier and more forgiving of the others in my life and the world at large.  It is a burden that weighs heavily to believe one should be able to achieve that which is unachievable, and doubly heavy to believe that about others.  Never finding satisfaction in “good enough”, striving, pushing for just a little more, all sounded like the keys to success to me and perhaps they are.  But when nothing is ever quite right, that more could always have been done, steals away the precious moments of rest and gratification.  To court such disappointment and failing is the expressway to unhappiness.

Viewing oneself and others with a forgiving mind and heart allows the focus to shift from the negative to the positive.  Looking at imperfections as a clue to the hidden value of another, actively searching for the best in each, while embracing the lack of perfection, offers insight and access to the good.  With the focus on the flaws we only see a man, focusing on the merit behind the flaws allows us to see the good man.  The art of turning one’s focus is one of the key secrets to a happy and contented life.  Like a houseplant stretching toward the light we too can grow towards the sun.

Lowering expectations from the unrealistic to the realistic brings the self into alignment with the world as it is.  From there we can look to the good in the man, choose to search for the best in what is, and ease the burden of seeking that which cannot be.

We Are Not Alone

That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
~F. Scott Fitzgerald

As I continue to write this blog I have come to discover so many like-minded people out there who are doing the same.  As my followers grow, I look to their writing to see what might have resonated for them.  Some are a mystery, in others I find kindred spirits. The longing for connection is universal; the ability to connect with such a diverse and far-flung audience is one of the great gifts of technology against which I sometimes rail.

Literature takes the connection into the realm of flight.  Words knitted together with golden needles; emotions laid bare, stripped naked; portraits of places visited only in dreams; all found lashed together, placed in a pocket or bag and carried about for quiet moments of reflection and joy.  Peopled with characters familiar as a friend; struggling, celebrating, tackling the fearsome and mundane with grace or collapse; relatable all.  Literature, the craft, the inspiration and the gift do not come to most who write. It is rarified air those few breathe, as they take what is known and recognizable and build around it a stone castle of enchantment and wonder, a cave of terror and pain, turning the people and problems on end to tell the tale.

In the end though, the thing that captures us is the ah-ha moment when we see ourselves and know that we are not in this alone.  That another must have felt the same sorrow or despair to be able to so clearly describe it, to feel as though they were peering into one’s mind at the very moment of grief, gives us a small dose of hope in the darkness.  Be transported, uplifted, informed, inspired; great authors connect your world with theirs.

Comparisons

“If God had not made brown honey, men would think figs far sweeter than they do.”   ~Xenophanes

It is in our nature to compare, we use the technique often to make judgements and decisions.  We compare prices when we shop, we compare the features of a car or appliance to decide which one will be the best for our use.  Because it is an habitual way of thinking, it is often applied to people as well.  The problem lies in the myriad of “features” that come with each person, and to weigh one against another is opening oneself to the risk of overlooking traits absent in one or another.

The measure of comparing a human is against one’s own moral beliefs, tastes, interests and peccadilloes.  To hold one person up against the other we may develop mis-information, but to evaluate  whether a person is an asset to our lives we must observe how they fit one’s way of being.  It demands of us that we look more deeply and carefully than we would if we were to say, “he is kinder, she is more generous”.  It is the whole and not the sum of the parts of a person that we must come to know.

Being judgemental has the connotation of being unfair, yet relying on judgement to make choices and to discern the value and importance of each factor is vital in making good choices for one’s best interest.  Weighing instead against life experience rather than another person, we gain the essence of someone, and the way they might fit with us or that in fact, there are critical elements missing that we recognize we cannot do without.

Remaining mindful that comparisons have their place, and taking care to use them only when necessary, we avoid the distressing and happiness stripping habit of holding up unlike things against each other.  To be fully in the moment requires letting go of the past moments and choosing to savor whatever this one has to offer.  Developing the ability to stay present, using judgement to make good choices, and comparison for buying a new washing machine, gives us the tools to be kind to ourselves and find our way to the people and moments that will enrich our lives.

Wonder-ful!

“Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders.”―L. Frank Baum author of the “Oz” series

A sense of wonder has such a child-like characteristic to it, the very word evokes a vision of wide eyes, large smiles, standing on tip-toe, holding one’s breath.  How often as adults do we tap into our sense of wonder?  Wonder is magical and we become too jaded to experience that sense with any regularity.  Caught up in the adult sense of “knowing” we begin to lose the openness and sheer joy that comes from experiencing wonder.

I recently read an article about extremophiles.  Upon seeing the word I assumed it was about people who love the extreme; ones who would be good at reality television shows jumping off tall buildings onto a pile of pillows.  But no, it is a class of organisms that live in the extremes of heat, cold and pressure where it was previously thought no life forms could exist.  Digging deeper into the story, it describes an organism that has lived in a gas bubble in a crystal, and the crystal was fifty MILLION years old!  The organism apparently had not developed any way to divide or reproduce because it did not need to.  I continued to read filled with wonder.  The upshot of the article was we are discovering an entire new classification of life here on this planet; the obvious usefulness of which is to guide us to look for life in places we believed it could not exist here or on any other planet.

To understand how and why these creatures came into existence is far beyond my grasp, but I do not deny the truth of their being.  I am filled with awe and wonder at the things that are in our very midst and we are ignorant of their presence until someone with imagination and courage finds them.  The world outside and within is teeming with the undiscovered and when we allow ourselves the freedom of the wonder of it all, we become open to the great mysteries and excitement of life.

Opening up to that which strikes us as unlikely if not impossible with an inquiring mind and a receptive heart creates an entirely new space to grow oneself.  Tapping back into the sense of amazement at the world around us with a joyful sense of discovery feeds one’s creativity, imagination and freshens the perceptions of all that one believes and knows.

Let yourself believe for a moment in the magical, reclaim your sense of wonder, rediscover delight.

What Remains?

“All natural goods perish. Riches take wings; fame is a breath; love is a cheat; youth and health and pleasure vanish.”  William James

These words could be construed as the mutterings of a bitter old man, with a purely naturalistic view of life.  They are, when taken in the context of “The Varieties of Religious Experience”, presented as an example of the “sick soul”, a soul that cannot find the ease of living, forever searching and striving to discover some value, some greater worth than that which one possesses.  In the same piece James quotes Edward Everett Hale, “I can remember perfectly that when I was coming to manhood, the half-philosophical novels of the time had a deal to say about the young men and maidens who were facing ‘the problem of life.’ I had no idea whatever what the problem of life was. To live with all my might seemed to me easy; to learn where there was so much to learn seemed pleasant and almost of course; to lend a hand, if one had a chance, natural; and if one did this, why, he enjoyed life because he could not help it, and without proving to himself that he ought to enjoy it…”, as an example of what James calls the healthy-minded.  He acknowledges that there are degrees of healthy-mindedness and sickness of soul; and concludes that the sick soul has the more overlapping perceptions of reality.

Does this mean then that we should turn away from greater happiness, that we give up on the hope for a joyful existence to live a “real” life?  There is room in the mix for a respectful acknowledgement of evil, sadness, fear, loss, and all the elements the “sick soul” tends to dwell upon, without becoming consumed with the “problem of life”.  When it seems that all in life has the potential to eventually fade away, what is it that we might hold on to in the face of the inevitable loss?

When indeed all the material is gone, youth and health have fled, we are left with memories.  The memories of a lifetime of choices and chances taken; of seizing the moment to run free, making time for the joyous bounding adventures.  Memories of the people we have known, those we have helped and who have helped us; memories of tenderness, kindness and expressions of love.  Our fully integrated self has stored these and more in our bodies as well as our minds, and until both completely fail we retain the ability to remember, not just thoughts, but emotions and the physical sensations of those cherished moments.

As we are mindful today, we are filling the storehouse of our bodies and souls with the thing that lingers; that which holds far greater value than the car driven, the title or letters following names, the balance in the bank.  Let the thing that lingers fill our vessel with the sweetness and the treasures of a celebratory life.

Technology….it giveth and it taketh!

This blog comes to the Internet via the wi-fi hotspot on my cell phone from my home on the upslope of the Bitterroot Mountains.  It is the sole source of Internet connectivity here.  Yesterday as I was getting ready to write, my phone shut down completely.  It would not even react to trying to restart…so frustrating!  I fiddled for a few minutes, wrote some notes for the blog that wasn’t, and went about my day, which was one of heavy physical outdoor labor.  By the time I was done and I came back to my home office to see if my phone had repaired itself, it had, I was too exhausted to do anything more than shut everything down and hope for a better start today.

One of the blogs I follow, Health Demystified, comments in part on our striving to be more efficient.  I have used the concept of efficiency in my daily activities to try to do more in the same amount of time.  Never go upstairs without taking something that needs to go up and vice versa.  When I started to wear the FitBit tracker I realized that I was saving time and saving steps but to the detriment of my overall health and fitness.  Keeping those trips up and down the stairs to a minimum, trying to do every task with the fewest trips to gather supplies, seemed the best way to accomplish the task related goals I had set.  Suddenly, aided by the awareness the FitBit gave me, I was looking at not bringing a tool I needed to the location I was working as an opportunity to add more steps to my daily total instead of berating myself for forgetfulness.  I have not become obsessed with my step count and activity level, but it has added a layer of mindfulness that I did not have before.

There can be amazing benefits from technology used wisely and with restraint.  It is like so many other things in life; just because “some” is good does not make “a lot” better.  I can read about the thoughts and ideas of people in places I may never visit, I can share my ideas with strangers I will never meet.  I have more information than I could ever process at my fingertips.  The trick is balance; to keep the technology and the devices as tools to learn, to grow, to stay in touch over distances.  One must guard against the over-reliance, the anxiety of being disconnected, the use of technology to replace human exchange.  Used as a tool for awareness, as my FitBit lesson taught me, it is useful in achieving other goals.  Spending hours surfing mindlessly, or feeling compelled to check every connectivity account constantly, moves our devices from the category of tools to that of unhealthy habit.

Even though I was frustrated with my lack of connection yesterday, I was able to set it aside, work hard and accomplish the goals for the day outdoors without giving my temperamental phone another thought.  And missing my first daily post but coming back today to continue where I left off gives me hope that I can stick with this for the long haul even when life and technology get in the way.