Posted tagged ‘spirituality’

Mindful … or Not

February 25, 2022

meditationI have flirted with meditation for roughly 50 years.   It started with Transcendental Meditation (TM) and the Maharishi in the 70s.   I remember attending classes with a room full of perpetually smiling disciples explaining how easy it was compared to other forms of meditation, and how quickly I could feel the wonderful results if I was just willing to do it for 15-20 minutes twice a day.   I stuck with it religiously (if you’ll pardon the expression) for about a year.   It indeed made me less anxious and easier to get along with, although I never found the amazing changes talked about on the TM website.  After that, my meditation was more sporadic and I tried other techniques, such as guided meditation and meditation to music.  When I started work the 12 Steps, I sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God per the advice of Step 11.  Many people working the steps say prayer is how we talk to God and meditation is how God answers.  I have never heard from God during meditation, but it certainly makes me feel better and probably more receptive to things spiritual.   Still, consistently meditating has been a challenge for me because my too busy mind really hates to lose the thinking time, in spite of the benefits of meditation. (more…)

Tapestry

November 2, 2021

tapestryAs I get older (and older!), I find myself more philosophical, thinking about the nature of things and what, if anything, it all means.  Friends who seem to have found faith, or at least a view of life that works for them, say I am an over-thinker.  I plead guilty.  I am a very lucky man, happily married for over 50 years, living in a beautiful community in Utah, financially secure and ten minutes from my grandkids.  But at seventy-seven, it is impossible to ignore the fact that there are substantially fewer years ahead than behind.  Friends suffer senior maladies and sometimes leave this life.   My maladies are relatively minor but bothersome and its easy to imagine that my latest ache or pain will usher in my turn for something serious.   Friends tell me God’s in Charge.  I believe that … but why does God make life so difficult sometimes and require that we say good bye to those that we love?    Other friends say Nothing is Good or Bad.  It is what we think about it that makes it seem good or bad, a notion borrowed from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Sorry.  I can’t buy that losing a friend … or contracting a nasty illness … is neutral, nor is it Good Appearing Bad. (more…)

Mindfulness

July 4, 2021

meditationThe other day I was taking a shower and I reached for the soap.  To my surprise, I found I was standing on our patio trying to decide what plants would look good in place of the Russian Sage that our builder planted, which I don’t care for.  No, I wasn’t really standing naked on the patio but I might as well have been because that is where my mind was.  If you’ve ever roamed the self-help aisles at Barnes and Noble … or tried to learn meditation … or followed any of an assortment of online gurus, you’ve heard of Mindfuless.  If you Google it, you will find an endless assortment of definitions and promises of its benefits.  Psychology Today says Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. This state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or badMindfuless.com (who, one supposes, should know) says Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.  It is a combination of attention to the present moment and acceptance of whatever is happening in that moment.   And in today’s world of multi-tasking and sensory overload, I think it is a rarity … something that is a contributor to the state of our society these days. (more…)

Coming Around (Again)*

May 6, 2021

music notesRecently, someone posed this question on Facebook:  If you followed your childhood dreams, what would you be doing today?   It is the kind of post that catches my eye for a minute or so (leading me to see what others answered in the comments), then move on.  But it hangs around on the edges of my awareness until my own answer turns up out of my distant memories.   My oldest recollection of What do you want to be when you grow up? is … NUCLEAR PHYSICIST.  Chances are I was just trying to sound smart.  I ended up an electrical engineer.   A more interesting question is as an adult, what professions do I wish I pursued?   I have never been dissatisfied with being an engineer, but having such a left-brained profession has often given my right brain little to do except wonder what might have been.   In high school, several wonderful teachers taught me the love of writing, not just reports and term papers, but composition and fiction … and this combined with my love of reading … led me to wonder if I should have been a writer (more than a technical report writer and blogger with one published short story).  My Mom taught me to draw and paint, a habit I have continued sporadically throughout my life, and naturally, my right-brain has whispered, I bet you could sell this.   I love music and have dabbled with the guitar since high school and whenever I watch a guitarist, whether it be John Williams, Peter White or Carlos Santana, I imagine what it would be like to be able to do that. (more…)

High Maintenance

April 25, 2021

Over the almost 77 years of my life, I have discovered that I am High Maintenance. Like an old car, I need regular care if I am to keep running.  But instead of oil changes, spark plugs and the occasional lube job, I need maintenance to keep me from turning into one of the grouchy old curmudgeons I swore I’d never be.   Fortunately, I am mostly High-Self Maintenance. Unlike our vehicles, I can change my own oil and give myself a tune-up, figuratively thinking (sounds a little dirty, doesn’t it?). As to whether my wife Muri thinks I’m high maintenance, you’ll have to ask her.  But here’s the thing … just because I know I’m High Maintenance doesn’t mean I always do it.   My personality (and my ego) really like to be spontaneous (sometimes known as undisciplined). Therefore, just as the maintenance manual in my car’s glove box reminds me when service is required, I have a self-maintenance manual to remind me to take care of myself. In keeping with being a modern old goat, my maintenance manual is stored in my phone. It is stored in a cool little app known as Daily Checklist in which I can check off each item as it is completed.   Every day at midnight it resets, but keeps track of how regularly I do each item.  No pesty reminders or notifications … just a helpful guide that I can look in on periodically.  So, what is in my maintenance manual, you might ask.  Well there are 5 categories.

The first is what I call Morning Practice, a list of things I try to do every morning: Morning Pages, two pages of stream-of-consciousness journalling;  prayer; a gratitude listreading from several inspiring daily readers; and meditation.  Meditation is my challenge … it lubricates my life like nothing else but doing nothing for 15 minutes challenges my personality. 

The second is Social.  In this year of the COVID, isolation can turn me bitter so I need to:  talk to someone (besides my wife and my cat and more than just hello).   This year that has usually meant phone calls or zoom meetings); and write or text someone (I have several prolific e-mail pals).  

The next is CreativeWrite something (usually, on this blog);  Draw or paint something; Photography (often birds); and the catch all, Create something (some days that is a computer program).  I would subtitle the Creative category Feed My Soul.

Then there’s Spiritual, a tricky category for a spiritual but not religious curmudgeon:  Pray; Read something spiritualdo something that touches your soul (usually involves nature or music); and accept something that’s hard.  I could write a whole post on this category and probably will.

Finally, there’s ServiceChores; Take a Contrary Action (do the opposite of one of your bad habits);  Do something for someone (and preferably don’t get found out);  Contribute to something; and Tell someone you love them.

Do I do it all every day?  Nope.  Every other day?  NO!  Do you think I’m Obsessive-Compulsive?  But if I do some of it each day, it keeps me on the rails.   And that’s what making it through your seventies happily is all about.   Do you have a self-maintenance list, either written down or in your head?

Gratitude Under Pressure

July 1, 2020

Twenty years ago, the Love of My Life was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The tumor was small and could be removed with a lumpectomy (although it took two tries to get it all).  She was treated with radiation and hormone therapy and regular mammograms, and in spite of a few false alarms, she remained cancer-free.   It seemed to be common knowledge that if you made it through 15 years without recurrence you were home free and we began to believe it.  Fortunately my wife, Muri, was conscientious about annual mammograms because last month, she had a callback for something suspicious.  What a shock.  If you have ever been down this road that no one wants to travel, you know it can be a maddening series of hopes and disappointment.  You hope that the ultrasound will show that its nothing to worry about.  Then you hope the biopsy will show it’s not cancer and then that its small and you caught it early.  Then you hope its a good cancer and not a bad cancer, a notion that would be ludicrous if it weren’t so true.   The specific characteristics of the cancer significantly affect the prognosis and course of treatment.  It can be a process that sucks the gratitude right out of you. (more…)

Easter. Passover. Pandemic

April 13, 2020

20200413_005227It is Sunday morning. Easter Sunday Morning.  Easter hasn’t meant much to me personally since I gave up Christianity years, although I will occasionally indulge in a dark chocolate coconut egg or a few licorice jelly beans.  I used to like Peeps, too, but they are too sweet for me these days.  It is also the middle of Passover, which I have more or less celebrated since I married my wife, Muri.  In our house that has meant a nice dinner in lieu of the Passover Seder with which many Jews mark the beginning of the holiday, followed by a week following (more or less, in my case) the dietary restrictions.   Just in case you’ve lived on another planet … or in Utah, where Jews are hard to find … that means only unleavened bread (matzo) and no legumes or grains.  I have never really adopted Judaism even though in many ways it lands closer to my spiritual inclinations.  This year we attended a Seder with the family of some dear friends online using Zoom.  It was good to see the faces of friends in the midst of the Pandemic.  Zoom has become a lifeline for many people as we (more or less) shelter-in-place while experts and politicians scramble to save us, the economy and themselves.  I’m sad to say it is not one of the finest moments of our country.   I remember after 9-11, for an amazing few weeks we stood together, cried together, and prayed together, even though we lapsed back into partisanship after that.  There’s been no such coming together against COVID-19. (more…)

What If ?

March 16, 2020

I was thinking this morning over my first cup of coffee.  What If we viewed this COVID-19 crisis … which is at least 50% of our own making … as a opportunity?   What if we took it as an opportunity to spend some time with ourselves (yes, without our devices) and take stock of who we are, maybe assess if our lives as we are living them now reflect the standards we once set for ourselves?   What if we took the cessation of the ten million distractions that have been taken from us and listened to some beautiful music, read an inspiring book or leafed through some forgotten photo albums?    What if we took this time of social distancing to rediscover something we loved to do but just haven had time for?   Writing.  playing the piano.  Drawing.  Taking a drive to a beautiful place and just soaking in the beauty of nature?  Take some photos that aren’t selfies?   What if we took our extra time at home as an opportunity to reach out to friends by text or letter or phone and talked about good times together instead how awful everything is?  What if we stopped obsessively reading the news and following the stock market and practiced acceptance that this is what life has dealt us at the moment?  Took it as an opportunity to be the people we know we should be?   What if we all looked at the empty shelves in our markets and said, This is nuts, and instead of joining in took only what we needed?  What if whatever this crisis turns out to be, we realized that we will survive it better together than divided into left and right, black and white, rich and poor, boomers and millenials?   What if we learned to agree to disagree and work together in spite of our differences?  What if we actually practiced the Golden Rule?

What if the vast majority of Americans who will survive this crisis came out of it as better people?   Wouldn’t that be something?

Thanksgiving #75

November 28, 2019

thanksgivingMy 75th Thanksgiving finds us living in our daughters house in Utah, waiting for our new house nearby to be finished. It has been a long week. The buyers of our California house were slow in signing certain documents, making us concerned that they’d back out. As a result, escrow is 5 days late and counting. We are assured that the delay is a bank issue but I will feel better when the deal is done. Some $&@#(& in a Honda rear ended me on the 15 Freeway in Vegas then left the scene, leaving me to drive a damaged but drivable vehicle the rest the way to Utah. My daughter will undergo extensive … expensive … surgery after the holidays with a long recovery. So, Thanksgiving at 75. Can I not be in the mood? (more…)

Stones

September 18, 2019

stones

My Dad was a man of few words. He taught us mostly by example, unless you count, Don’t you back-talk to your mother. My Mom, on the other hand, not only set an example, she would verbalize her views of what constituted a good boy. I remember her telling me at some point, probably in my adolescence, that Life is for growing as a person. When you stop growing, you might as well be dead. She probably didn’t say exactly those words but the message was clear. Obviously, she wasn’t talking about growing up or about growing rich. She was talking about becoming a better person spiritually, socially and personally.

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