We’re Not Responsible For Other People’s Happiness

February 23, 2012 by  
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One of the most difficult things to understand is that we’re not responsible for other people’s happiness. Better yet, that we have no control over it.

The reason it is so difficult is that sometimes someone who is close to us chooses time and again to see and experience life in the darkest way possible.  We try to show them there is a different way, but they are stuck in their dark perception.  They are unhappy and unnecessarily so.  It is frustrating and painful. But it is their choice and there is nothing we can do about it.  Insisting in the same methodology of trying to show light points to our incapacity to accept our own limitation.

I’m not suggesting giving up in being present in the lives of people we love who choose to be unhappy.  I’m suggesting we accept the fact that we can’t make anyone change if they don’t want to.  I suggest not adding to the situation by embracing the unhappiness and frustration ourselves.

Getting to a place of acceptance can be difficult because we often think there is one more thing we can try or we think we can change others if we only apply ourselves a little more.  But, the truth is we know it really isn’t up to us.

Accepting that others have the control of their experience is an indicator of our own growth.  We can offer compassion and friendship, but as we are responsible for our happiness so are others for theirs.


A Home Is A Home Is A Home

December 26, 2011 by  
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A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body – Benjamin Franklin

As we approach the end of the year and things are quieting down I too take my days in with less hurry.  As I do, I’m brought back to how much my home is important to me, and how much a home is important to anyone.

In the classic film “Gone With The Wind” Scarlett O’Hara drew her strength from her plantation, Tara.  I’m sure it was not the structure of the house or its riches that made Scarlett endure anything and everything to save her house.  It was because her house was her home.

A home can be a studio apartment or a mansion.

It truly has no relationship with money.  Many feel alone in a mansion while others fulfilled in a simple small apartment.  Feeling home is not physical, it is emotional.  A home comforts, soothes and protects.

Make the time to turn your house into a home.  Without a home one does not have a resting place to energize and let go.

Find what makes you smile and surround yourself with those things.  Find what inspires you.  Make your home be a reflection of you.

From the web:

1)      Home is where the heart is.

2)      Home Sweet Home.

3)      You can travel the world to search for what you need, but when you return home, you’ll find it.

4)      There’s no place like home.

5)      You can buy a house but you have to make it a home.

6)      A home is not defined by its structure but by the people who fill it.

7)      A person who hopes to change the world must begin at home.

8)      It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.

9)      There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.

10)  Home, the spot of earth supremely blest, A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.


Connecting To Love On Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday

January 17, 2011 by  
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Angie Rubin

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it – Martin Luther King Jr.

Today marks the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., an exceptional man who understood violence begets violence.  No one will disagree that MLK had every right to be hateful.  But the pastor knew in hate he would destroy himself and what he was trying to accomplish.  And even though he was murdered what he had set as his life’s goal and mission did come to fruition.   No, we don’t have racial equality today, but we do have laws that protect our ongoing serious discourse. Much has been accomplished and much more needs to happen.

If you think about it, in its essence hate is an emotion of the ego.

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Happy New You

January 1, 2010 by  
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As I write, a large part of the world has already welcomed 2010 into their respective time zones.  My Pacific coast allies and more to our West, are still awaiting what many hope to be the beginning of the end of a not-so- wonderful time.

For each and everyone reading this, there are just as many stories to convey the journey of 2009.  There were, indeed, more hardships endured than most would like to admit to.  Yet, while not as well publicized, there were duly memorable encounters, as well.   My aim is not counter “the bad with the good”; it’s not to take sides with who were the givers or the takers of either.  I simply want to identify the fact, that each and everyone reading this, is here, on this planet, having already sang or will be singing “Auld Lang Syne” … in one form or another.  We survived, some perceivably better (or worse) than others, but we did it.

With beginning of a new decade in a still new millennium, there will be more chances, more ways, more time … to get it right, to make it better, to see it differently, to appreciate it more … to, simply, live better.  We all … young and old, rich and poor, boys and girls, the high & mighty and, yes, the not-so high & mighty …  get another chance.

At the moment and for the last week or so, I have been slightly derailed from my everyday way of doing things.  I’ve been temporarily sidelined due to an inflamed muscle.  Painful is just one description that comes to mind when answering to the curious.  In spite of time spent in this “altered state”, I have successfully convinced myself (a great first step to just about everything) that the condition that has been assigned to me will work for me.   As a matter of fact, I insist that it will.  No, it’s not just because of a new year, but because I chose a new direction.  And so can you, if you haven’t already.

New Year’s doesn’t have a lock on resolutions … you do.  Make up your mind that you are in charge of how you live your life.  The conditions afforded you are what should, in part, be your motivation … to get the job done.  Whether it’s a family matter, a career opportunity, a school choice, a vacation spent at home or on the other side of the world …  you make the choice.  Celebrate life … everyday of the year … this one and all that follow.


Kids And Kollege

December 11, 2009 by  
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I’m not sure; is kids really spelled with a “k” and is Kollege really spelled with a “c”?  I am sure that some parents, like myself, who are preparing to send their “almost grown-ups” to some seemingly far away place for higher learning are scratching their heads in wonderment … about so many things.   Some days, the most elemental of things appears to be the most difficult to discern.

With the closest people to our hearts, we step back and take a long look at what according to most, went by way too fast.  From ballerina lessons to “boy lessons” in the proverbial snap of the finger.  One day you look up and your child informs you that she’ll be spending that Saturday evening at the movies with “the girls” or maybe even with “George” a local basketball star  … and you won’t be with either selection.    It’s all happening so quickly it vaguely makes sense.

This folks is in a large way what life is about.  Paying attention, keeping pace, planning executing, and witnessing our dreams come true; though often times we’re not ready to wake up from them.   How many times have you referenced your daughter or son or nephew or niece with the remark, “It seems like it was just yesterday when …. ?”

There is one pivotal consolation for all of this.   It’s the constant and unconditional love that you give and that you get in return.  With things in this still fairly new millennium happening as rapidly as they do, it’s prudent to take a slow minute, find an unhurried spot and just simply think … think about how lucky we are, in spite of what we think we’re lacking.  To be thankful for the years that have passed, and we’re still here to appreciate them, and the ones we love that have grown through them.

Yep, it gets a little crazy for all of us at one point or another … whether it’s a college or a car, a job or a jerk at the job, a date or a divorce, a promotion or a promise; but it’s up to us to make the most sense of what we have to deal with.  Some days will certainly be better than others.  No matter when or what it is, staying focused and offering respect and love to our loved ones and to those we don’t even know, will always be the right thing to do … no matter how you spell it.


The Only Thing We Have To Fear

November 24, 2009 by  
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Is fear itself .   That quote was made famous by our 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, more than a half century ago.   It still is heralded as one of the monumental statements of modern day politics.  A close look at the state of the world today would serve as a reasonable catalyst to have us use it with more frequency. 

Surely as the Earth’s population grows, so do the complexities of everyday living.  Unfortunately, in many instances, diversity is met with suspicion, distrust and, yes, often times fear.   As our ethnic, religious, political and economic boundaries continuously mesh, we tend to cling more to what we know rather than open ourselves up to learn more.  When we can sensibly conclude that whether we profess to be Christians or Jews, born of Nordic or Sub Saharan parents and are diametrically opposed on every matter that our representatives stand for, we all also have undeniable commonalities.  

The more we attune ourselves to this fact, the less fear will play a part in our growth.  Some of you, depending on what your birth certificate indicates, will recall a telephone company ad campaign that used the memorable slogan, “Reach out and touch someone”.  Well, we need to do more of just that.  Not by using our credit card to place a call, but by using our stored up kindness and offering it to a Republican or a Democrat; a Muslim or a Buddhist; a businessman or a farmer; an Ethiopian or a Korean.   We need to extricate our pent up anxieties and replace them with well- intended assurances. 

Let’s face it, the world is getting smaller as we become more enjoined with others.  There’s no stopping that.  Simply put, adjustments have to be made.  There will always be a few that will want to play dirty and arouse the worst in people.  These are the nay sayers to peace and good will.   They thrive on the maligned concept that what or who you don’t know is bad for you.  Rubbish!  Just as when we were children, the “boogey man” was always in the dark and he was always gone when we turned the light on.


The Human Mind

November 18, 2009 by  
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I had lunch the other day with a fellow who held a rather dim view of the process of psychotherapy. He referred to its methodology as “hideously inefficient”, while granting that it actually served some valid purpose. A severe case of damning with faint praise. My somewhat defensive response ( I am currently in therapy myself, and there was also a friend present who is a therapist herself ) was that the hideous inefficiency of the process lies mostly within the human mind itself. I thought I was just trying to come up a clever response (which I was ), but it also strikes me that there is something to the idea. After all, the problems that plague the mind don’t lend themselves to fixes that are both quick and lasting. The quick ones, such as mind-altering substances, don’t last, whereas the array of options that hold out the possibility for real growth and transformation are invariably arduous and plodding in nature.

We were on a lunch break from a daylong Buddhist meditation retreat and the comment got me thinking about the innumerable lifetimes the Buddhists speak of in describing the journey toward enlightenment. I wonder whether this fellow has gauged the efficiency of a path that measures progress not in years but in lifetimes. Whether one takes this terminology literally or figuratively it does point to the laborious, lengthy and difficult task of reconfiguring the human mind in a way that accords consistently with a happy state.

The persistence of any of these algorithms or systems – the numerous forms of modern psychotherapy, as well as the variety of ancient spiritual disciplines – that are aimed at the problems of the human mind, points to the fact that human existence is plagued by a set of stubborn problems that simply won’t fade quietly away. The mind seems to be very good at solving an almost unlimited array of worldly problems with great efficiency. However, when it comes to resolving the thorny problems that beset its own nature, it keeps falling down on the job. Which isn’t really a problem at all, so long as we keep on getting up.


Are You Kidding Me?

October 26, 2009 by  
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Certainly not.

“You really have a very pleasant disposition and a wonderful way with children.” … “I never realized how much you pay attention to the needs of older people”. … “So who taught you how to fix seemingly anything that needs fixing?  Did you learn it in school or does it just come natural?”  … “You may not think so, but I think you have some of the prettiest feet I’ve ever seen.”

These are the kinds of comments/remarks/questions that someone is making to someone else every single second of every single day … around the world.  And there are lots of kind things being said about us all the time as well.  It’s unfortunate that many of us don’t hear as many of them as we should.  Yeah, there some creepy stuff that’s out there, as well.  But that’s not what we’re addressing at this juncture.

A good lot of us have been blessed with more than what we take time to consider.  A good part of the world is stepping up the pace of life and more times than not, we simply don’t take the time to stop and smell the proverbial roses.  Sure there are loads of stuff we can do without, but so much we can do better with.  I used to have this wonderful aunt who used to repeat often to me, “Don’t wait until somebody dies to tell them that they had pretty shoes”.  As a child, it never made sense to me.  As an adult “I get it“, loudly and clearly.

Many of us need to appreciate ourselves more and do the same for others.  Really, what does it take to thank someone for being courteous or let someone know that her choice of a certain fragrance is quite a breath of fresh air or how flattering a certain color shirt is? 

Lately, we’re hearing more and more about performing random acts of kindness; well, we should simply do more of them.  They’ll not only make the other person feel better, but ourselves, as well.  Offer from your heart and say what you feel in earnest.  Others can sense your sincerity or lack of it.    It’s so simple, we overlook the opportunities extended to us to give and receive everyday.  It’s so little to give … to get so much in return.  Try it, it works … for I kid you not.


The Dark Seed

October 12, 2009 by  
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Where is the dark seed

that grows the forget-you plant?

Searching, now I see

it grows in the frozen heart

of one who has murdered love.

– The Monk Sosei

(D. CA. 909)

What is this thing the Zen monk-poet Sosei calls love, invoking it to anchor his poetic statement? What is the place of love in a tradition as unsentimental and austere as Japanese Zen? In what way does such love serve as the ground of remembrance? And what has been forgotten by the one in whose frozen heart the dark seed has spread its roots? Sosei implies that it is by the loss of connection to living pathways of feeling that we lose our own humanity. The poisonous plant of forgetting in this poem obscures any sense of personal authenticity, leaving its victim unable to recognize his soul within his own skin.

The poet points to the heart, to the body of living, human emotion, as the causeway whose flow must be kept open, in order to attain the wisdom and understanding toward which Zen aspires. The recollection of the true self, he suggests, comes by way of an open, compassionate and tender heart. This, from the most unsentimental of spiritual traditions.

Sosei also confronts us with a thoroughly unsentimental conclusion. No one can “murder love”, or destroy the capacity to feel fully and deeply, from without, but each one of us can allow it to perish from within. While the world may be filled with accomplices to the crime, the ultimate responsibility lies within each human heart.

NPR recently broadcast the news that one of the most wanted war criminals of the Rwandan genocide had just been apprehended. He was number 6 on the most-wanted list; apparently 1-5 are still roaming the African countryside. The coverage of this event included an interview with a man whose family members had been brutally killed by one of the criminals still at large. There has been a “Truth and Reconciliation” movement underway in Rwanda for some time, an endeavor to bring stability and a modicum of justice and closure to the victims and to the society as a whole. The movement unites perpetrators and the survivors of their crimes through a process of acknowledging culpability, and the absolution that such acknowledgement confers. In the report, this man called out to the ones who had committed the killings, asking them to come forth, in order that he might forgive them.

Through his poem Sosei offers his conviction that no one, or thing can extinguish love from without. The Rwandan man’s readiness to forgive strikes me as a living testament to the truth of this idea. Nelson Mandela once said that there was no force in the world that could separate him from his own dignity. It seems that in the case of this man, there was no trauma brutal enough to separate him from his own humanity.

If there is any evidence for God’s existence, it is in the graceful hearts of such people, who have not forgotten their own humanity in the face of such violence and suffering.


Do You Know Yourself?

October 12, 2009 by  
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So often we find ourselves trying to figure out why our neighbors’ are acting the way they are or why our eleven year old seems so unappreciative or how come our boss is so lucky, yet so incompetent?  C’mon, we all do it … in varying degrees, but we all do it.

Seemingly we think we have “the formula”, the one that if everyone else abided by, the world would be such a better place in which to live.  Well, did you ever stop to think that your neighbor or child or boss could be thinking the same thing? 

So the real formula here is to make the most of who we are, the best way we can (hopefully without, or as little as possible, any immorality or illegality) and allow the rest of the planet to do the same.

One of my favorite writers of all time, William Shakespeare, said it best, “To thine own self, be true”.  More times than not, we virtually force our philosophies, our ethics, our family values and yes, our religions on others.  We’re the first to offer ourselves for an intervention of “a loved one” and the last to recognize that sometimes it is “us” that are in need.

It’s important to find out who we are before we make a pilgrimage to someone else’s needs.  Time spent understanding who we are should be our primary concern.  It is only then, that we can be of benefit to those around us … family, children, partners, co-workers and acquaintances.  For every finger we point at someone else, three point back at us.  So maybe we should consider not pointing a finger at all and I have a feeling that once we know and respect ourselves we would extend the same courtesy to others.

Find your faults; do your best to correct them; love yourself all the more for it.  After all, you’re the only you that you’ve got.


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