Book Review – The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys

Many of my friends and followers already know that I am intrigued by the Dalai Lama.  I was privileged to hear him speak in person once and have been very moved by most of his interviews and books.  What I have found most compelling is the apparent congruity between his teachings and his life. The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan describes this congruence beautifully.

The Dalai Lama teaches about emptiness, interdependence, and forgiveness. He speaks specifically about forgiveness for those who have treated you cruelly or unfairly. In his case, he speaks about forgiving the Chinese people who caused his exile.

The concepts in this book are meaningful all of the time, but seem more so during our current political and social upheaval.  Whether you are Buddhist or not, check it out.

Book Review – The Journeys of Socrates

Book cover Journeys of Socrates by Dan MillmanThis book is a prequel of sorts to the Peaceful Warrior books.  I was quite excited when the book was announced and I haven’t been disappointed.  I’ve now read it multiple times.  Beyond his exceptional ability as a storyteller, Dan Millman succinctly captures the essence of our modern yearnings for lives that make sense, embrace sanity, and cultivate warriors.

The book is set in Tsarist Russia and follows the life of Sergei Ivanov from early childhood through his adult years. He is the one who is called Socrates in the other Peaceful Warrior books.  there is a blend of culture, tragedy, violence, mysticism, and martial technology that keeps the reader fully engaged no matter what their preferred genre.

More than just a novel, The Journeys of Socrates can be viewed as a parable or metaphor for living in today’s complex world. Sergei learns many lessons (most of them the hard way) and they have definite application in our current society.

One of his mentors, Serafim, was a monk. Sergei sought him out because he had previously been a great warrior and master of the martial arts. Serafim obviously believed in experiential learning, but occasionally dispensed words of great wisdom such as this, “In an instant a life may turn around; a heart may open in a moment of grace. But preparing for that moment can take a lifetime.”

The following quote is listed as being from Socrates’ Journal:

“When I was young, I believed that life might unfold in an orderly way, according to my hopes and expectations. But now I understand that the Way winds like a river, always changing, ever onward, following God’s gravity toward the Great Sea of Being. My journeys revealed that the way itself creates the warrior; that every path leads to peace, every choice to wisdom. And that life has always been, and will always be, arising in Mystery.”

For more information about Dan Millman’s work check out www.danmillman.com.

 

Confront Your Naked Identity

Large rope implying presence of a docked shipDoes that statement scare you a little bit? It did me. I noticed that statement in Jump Ship, a book by Josh Shipp.  I’ve mentioned this book in a few different posts.  What the author was speaking about was getting real with yourself about who you are. He considers this an essential task for becoming successful in life. The question one must ask is “who am I?” The answer needs to be honest.

The question isn’t very difficult, but the naked answer sure is. When you first consider the question you may have some ready-made answers like “I’m a mom”, “I’m short”, “I’m Caucasian”, or “I’m a doctor.” I would argue that these are just the roles you play. Other people come up with answers that include what other people have said about them like “strong-willed”, “efficient”,  “lazy”, or “beautiful.” That may not be who you really are either.

To help with confronting your naked identity Shipp offers these questions:

  1. What makes you unique?
  2. What do you love?
  3. What are you good at?
  4. What do you believe?

I’d like to offer a few more:

  1. What do you dislike?
  2. What are you most afraid of?
  3. What makes you cry?
  4. What makes you laugh?
  5. What are you afraid to let other people know about you?
  6. What brings you the most pleasure?

You might be wondering why this is so important. Consider this. Suppose that I want to make chocolate cupcakes. I have my ingredients all lined up to make them. Unfortunately the canister labeled sugar actually contains salt. What will happen to the cupcakes? You can be sure that I’ll be unhappy with the end product. In life the same thing can happen. If we do not see ourselves with accuracy – confronting that naked identity – it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get the end result we desire.  We must know what “ingredients” we bring to the table.

So, if you dare, confront your naked identity and get “cooking”!

What Are Limiting Beliefs?

Limiting beliefs are those thoughts, sometimes conscious, sometimes not, that keep us from doing the things we need to do to reach our goals.  For example, when I was growing up I wanted to be an astronaut.  That was at the beginning of the manned space program and whenever I would mention that I wanted to be an astronaut I would hear someone say – girls can’t be astronauts.  That is a limiting belief.  It kept me from trying to become an astronaut.

Not all limiting beliefs come directly from an outside source.  There was a time when I also wanted to become a doctor.  I knew that I had to take physics and calculus in order to go to medical school.  I didn’t believe that I could do well in those subjects in spite of the fact I was a straight A student.  There was no logical reason to assume I couldn’t pass those classes but my belief that I couldn’t kept me from actually trying.

History is full of limiting beliefs.  The world is flat. That belief kept people close to home so that they didn’t fall off the edge. A limiting belief is anything that keeps you stuck right where you are.

The good news — they are just beliefs, not facts.  We can challenge our limiting beliefs.  Tapping is a great way to do that.  Believing that I can’t pass physics is a belief. Deciding that I don’t want to put in the work that physics would require is a choice.  Being in a position of choice is “where it’s at” if you ask me.

Contentment Is A Verb

Contentment is a hot topic in many venues and disciplines. References to contentment can be found in virtually every religion, social group, culture, and philosophy. The word contentment can even be found in economics and psychology. Most of the references I have found seem to refer to contentment as a destination or objective.  While that may be an accurate usage of the word I believe that it lacks the depth and dynamic that is possible when used another way.  It would be more accurate, in my view, if contentment was a verb.  Verbs indicate action.  Contentment is really a process, not a destination.  In that way it defies our typical grammar structure.

Contentment doesn’t mean not wanting, not achieving, or not trying.  You can have contentment while trying to reach goals.  You probably must have contentment to really accomplish anything. My definition of contentment would read like this: the struggle of knowing that all that there ever could be is not enough and all that exists right now is abundant.

Here are some other definitions.

  • from WordNet 1.6 1997 Princeton University: happiness with one’s situation in life
  • from Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary 1996: contained within limit; hence having the desires limited by that which one has, not disposed to repine or grumble; satisfied

At the website www.pausetoponder.org they suggest that we are trained to be dissatisfied. Our economic structure thrives on discontent. Contentment in the Western mind is having enough so that you are happy, can sit back, relax, and have no care in the world.  This can never be achieved.  According to Paster Gerry (Pastor Gerry is Gerald Whetstone, Ordained Elder and teacher in the Church of the Nazarene), in A Pause to Ponder God’s Word there are several actions one can take to find contentment.  Note that I said ACTIONS.

  1. Always rejoice in the Lord
  2. Don’t be anxious, pray
  3. Think on Holy Godly things
  4. Practice Holy living
  5. Always remember that with Christ there is nothing that we cannot handle
  6. Be a vital active member of a community of believers

The Jewish concept of Shabbat is also related to contentment.  Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg defined Shabbat as resting in the eternity of this day when we do not try to change or control our reality.  We are not pushing anything away or longing for anything to be different. Shabbat is completion, acceptance, realization, and fulfillment – all of the qualities that we cultivate when we rest our attention in the present moment.

In my dynamic model you “contentment” (the verb) in each time of prayer, meditation, or practice of Tai Chi.  The more one practices the longer you are able to experience the expanding state of contentment.

Graciousness – A Lost Art?

Does anyone value graciousness anymore?  Can you define it?  Merriam-Webster offers several different definitions including Godly, kind, graceful, and merciful.  The ones that interested me most were marked by tact and delicacy and characterized by charm, good taste, generosity of spirit, and the tasteful leisure of wealth and good breeding.

Lifestyle Lounge offers some lessons on graciousness. They suggest that graciousness is about how you make the other people around you feel.  Here are some of their suggestions.

  1. Take a compliment with a smile
  2. Small acts of understanding lead to greater acts of graciousness
  3. Do not fake
  4. Be forward with your help. Don’t want for anyone to ask you for it.

Consider these 10 Characteristics of a Gracious Person from www.godhungry.org.

  1. A gracious person is slow to take credit and quick to lavish praise
  2. A gracious person never seeks to embarrass another
  3. A gracious person is always thanking others
  4. A gracious person doesn’t monopolize the conversation
  5. A gracious person doesn’t try to play “one up-manship”
  6. A gracious person pays attention to people
  7. A gracious person desires to say what is appropriate
  8. A gracious person looks out for the comfort of others
  9. A gracious person understands that she is not indispensable
  10. A gracious person constantly points out the good that he sees

The question that pops into my mind is “Where has this quality gone and how do we get it back?”  I actually know a few people I would describe as gracious. While it may come naturally to them now, I suspect they had role models who exemplified graciousness and that it was also specifically taught and rewarded. I see examples in our current culture which promote competing values that make graciousness more difficult.

What is the consequence associated with the absence of graciousness?  Francis Bacon said, “If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world.” Gracious individuals attract others to them.  The absence of graciousness would lead to separation and isolation.  Graciousness invites cooperation and compromise. The absence of graciousness leads to argument, division, and conflict.

I suspect that the lack of graciousness is cultivated by fear and anxiety. We, as a society, are so worried about making sure we get “our share” or that we “won’t have enough” that we cannot even see what is happening. What are you modeling for your children? Do your children see you thanking others, even for the small things?  Do they hear you thanking them?  How often do you embarrass your children?  When your children talk, do you give them your undivided attention or do you use it as a time to play on your phone or multitask?  Do you focus on your blessings and all the good things that are all around you or do you focus on problems?

I am really not advocating a society in which we ignore problems, fail to correct errors, or overlook deficits. I do believe that if we are engaging in activities with graciousness as a characteristic of who we are, it can have a positive effect.  Remember, graciousness is the use of tact and awareness of other people’s feelings. It suggests that their feelings are at least as important, if not more important, than our own.

I am concerned that graciousness is becoming a lost art. I’m as guilty as anyone else. I plan to work harder to re-introduce graciousness back into my life.  Are you?

X + Y = Z……..or does it?

That seems like a pretty straight forward algebraic equation. We can plug in two numbers and calculate the third one. Another interesting aspect of such an equation is that there are limitless possibilities for Z.  All you have to do is change either X or Y or both.

A while back I read a book called Jump Ship by Josh Shipp. He uses this equation to illustrate a method for moving toward achieving your dream job.  In his formula X is your present, Y is your past, and Z is your future.  I was quite intrigued.  I would like to rearrange these components based on time.  My formula would be Y + X = Z.  With the change in order we could read this as: take your past, add your present to it, and you get your future.  Why is this change of order important to me? Because you can’t change your past.  You are stuck with it.  BUT – it doesn’t dictate your future.  You still have X, your present, that you can use to either overcome or enhance whatever is in your Y.  Sure mathematically the order doesn’t matter, but in the context of understanding your life it might.

Many people go to therapy and assert that they CAN’T do certain things because of their past or because their past means that they ARE a certain way.  I’ve never believed that. Now I have a way to illustrate why.  Mathematically speaking, assume you have a past with a numerical value of 2.  I gave it a low number because you may have lived in poverty, had a mean stepmother, or grew up with prejudice.  Your desire is to have a future that is a 10.  Perhaps for you a 10 would include financial abundance, great relationships, and good health care.  We can plug it into the equation and solve for X.  In this case,  X=8.  That might mean a lot of work to make your present an 8, but at least you know what it would take and can make a decision about whether or not you are willing to work that hard.  Just because you started out at Z doesn’t mean you have to end up there.

Although scary, the reverse is also true. Perhaps you had a wonderful past and assign it the value 8.  Like most people, you want your future to be a 10, but are putting in -2 in your present. You are just floating along without achieving anything, using drugs, or hanging out with people who are “takers.”  Where are you heading for the future?  Not a 10; you are on track for a 6.

The main point is that your past does not decide your future.  It is your present that decides where you are going.  Not 5 minutes ago. Not 5 hours ago.  Not 5 years ago.  The decisions you make in THIS moment.  No……Wait…….This moment…..Each and every moment are the ones that determine your future.

Tapping Video: Good Things Are For Everyone

Verse 8 of the Tao Te Ching begins this way :

The best way to live is to be like water

For water benefits all things and goes against none of them

It provides for all people and even cleanses those places a man is loath to go

In this way it is just like Tao

(from Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition by Lao Tzu with translation and commentary by Jonathan Star)

This tapping was inspired by that verse.  I interpret this to mean that good things are to be shared by everyone, from the highest to the most lowly.  Gulp! That means that good things are even for people I don’t like.  I have had to tap on that one more than once, and truthfully have a long way to go. This video is to get you started with this difficult life practice.