Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gratitude


The thing I don’t want to do right now is to write.  It’s not that I don’t love to write, but I’d rather sort through comic books or read comic books and eat popcorn.   I wouldn’t even mind reading or going to sleep.  What this tells me is that I need to write.  I literally need to write.  My mind needs it in order for me to stay calm.  My spirit needs it so I can be in God’s presence.  Even my body needs it so that my stress is reduced.  I know what I want in life and though I have no evidence of this, writing is the key to getting what I want.
             Though this seems unrelated –  better writers connect one sentence to the next and transition smoothly from one paragraph to the next, neither of which I’m doing – I need to express my appreciation to my Muse for allowing this self-expression.  As I said, it keeps me calm.  My mind tends to move very quickly, sometimes too quickly.  I often consider several ideas or options at the same time and this can be overwhelming.  In addition, my mind is good at imagining worst-case scenarios, and this often leads to fear.  Writing calms me down and gives me peace.  When I feel this peace, I also feel joyful and loving.  I want to love people for who they are, not for what they can do for me (which is not really love at all).  When I start writing, I feel happy.
Sometimes, however, I can’t write.  I don’t mean I’m procrastinating; I’m simply not able to write.  I might be working or driving, but my mind is still going to unhappy places.  What do I do then?
Today I tried something that I’ve done before, and it was incredibly effective.  Now, again, if I were a better writer, I wouldn’t use the adverb “incredibly.”  I would just say it was effective.  But it was incredibly effective, because my mood went from one of negativity and fear to peace and joy.  What did I do?
I practiced gratitude.
I know I’ve written about gratitude before, but all good things are always new.  That’s part of what makes them good.  So today, when I was feeling fear, I started giving thanks.
I said, “Thank you.”
For my health.
For my body and that it could move freely.
For my children.
For my car.
For my job.
For the weather.
For the green lights.
For the banana I was eating.
For my life.
For my writing.
For pens to write with.
For books.
For the money in my pocket.
And most of all, most of all, for my Muse who inspires me to Get Started and Keep Going every day.  In her book The Magic, Rhonda Byrne says, “Gratitude is the answer.”
What is it the answer to?  Everything?   Perhaps.  Or perhaps there are several answers including diligence, action, worship, waiting, self-care, and others.  But I know this.  After spending several minutes listing things I was grateful, I began to experience a deep peace.  With peace, came joy and love.  My mind starting being creative again because it wasn’t blocked by fear. 
Interestingly, some happy circumstances occurred later in the evening.  Were they coincidental or directly related to my gratitude?  I don’t know.  I just know I felt good.  When I feel good, the circumstances usually don’t matter. 
This is not, as I said, a new lesson, but a much-needed reminder.  Without wanting to seem dramatic, I think most of us are involved in a powerful struggle for our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls and we need all the weapons we can get.  Gratitude is one of those weapons, and I’m grateful to have it.

Being in Love


“First thing I remember is
When you came into my life,
I said, ‘I’m gonna get that girl no matter what I do.’”

Paul Simon – Late in the Evening



Being in Purpose is like being in love.  We suddenly realize what’s important.  We move Heaven and Earth to get to the one we love.  Everything else takes a back seat, as it should.  “I’m gonna get that girl, no matter what I do.”
Of course, when we say “no matter what,” events conspire to test that resolve.  I’ve had several delays and annoyances in the last hour and I’m sure I would be justified in using any of them as excuses for not writing, but that’s how it works, isn’t it?   We let something annoy us or distract us or bother us and suddenly we aren’t doing our work, we aren’t in our Purpose, and then we wonder why we are so irritable, tired, or afraid.  We wonder why nothing feels right.
Why is this so hard then?  If I know that writing, that being with my Muse every day, as long as possible, as often as possible, is what heals me and makes me whole, then why do I still struggle with this?  Why don’t I just head straight for the keyboard or the journal as quickly as possible?  Actually, I do…most of the time.  But things happen. 
Sometimes I get too busy.  Sometimes the unexpected occurs.  Sometimes I choose to do something else.  Eventually though I get to my writing.  When I do, life makes sense.  Is writing, then, the most important priority for me?  No, but it reminds me of what my priorities are.  Writing clears my mind so I can focus on my priorities.  Yesterday, for example, I was feeling stressed.  When I started writing the stress quickly vanished and my priorities quickly re-emerged into focus.  I remembered my goal and I wrote that as my greatest priority.  When I finished writing in my journal, I started taking some practical steps to move towards my goal.  In less than an hour I got a phone call that got me just a little closer.  Then shortly after that I got an e-mail that moved me a little closer yet. 
Was this accidental?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps God was saying, “I just want to remind you that I’m here and eventually I’ll reward all your efforts eventually as long as you don’t give up.”
Here’s the thing.  I just have to keep working.  I have to keep writing.  Even now when I don’t feel like there’s anything new to say, or anything at all to say, I just need to keep the fingers moving.  No one has to read it.
Everyone who has a Purpose needs to remember this.  There may be little or no audience.  There may be little or no notice.  It doesn’t matter.  The joy is in the doing.  The reward comes in the work.  If any rewards come beyond that, great.  I know I want them.  But I know what I really want.  I want peace.  I want to fulfill my destiny.  I want a life with my Muse most of all.  Nothing is more important.
By the way, as I do my work, here are some distractions I am dealing with or have dealt with since I started today:
·      Loud music
·      Loud people
·      This guy who is talking so loudly I can hear him over the music I’m listening to… with my headphones!
·      Fear that this work is no good
·      Fatigue
·      Running out of time
·      Finding a place to work
·      Back and neck pain
·      Hunger
·      Guilt that I should be doing something else
·      Stopping
The last one is the trickiest.  Many writers say to keep writing and don’t stop for anything.  I’m still working on becoming a writer who does that.  But I think all forms of Purpose have to be treated the same.  We can’t stop.  We can’t let doubt or distractions, fear or fatigue keep us from why we’re here.   
This is why when I wake up I start writing almost immediately.  It’s my way of expressing gratitude to God and my Muse.  I give back what’s been given to me.  I Get Started and I Keep Going…because I’m in love.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Because It's Healing


 Today I was distressed about something so I started writing.  Within a few minutes my distress was gone.  So was the fear I was needlessly feeling.  They just went away.  This is one of the reasons I write every day.  It’s also one of the reasons I encourage others to be in their Purpose as well.  It’s healing.  Here’s how the process worked:
First I felt irritable and frustrated (in this case, mostly with myself).  Then I got out my pen and journal and began writing.  I don’t remember if I wrote about the things that were bothering me.  I probably did, but I may have written about something else.  The trick with writing is that it doesn’t matter what I write, especially in private journals.  I just have to engage in the act of writing. 
As I am writing, some things are happening:  First, I am using physical energy.  The act of writing is a physical act.  My arm and hand is moving.  The physicality of writing relieves stress.  This is why I recommend writing by hand at least once a day.  The number of words doesn’t matter, or at least there are different opinions on that, but I prefer to write at least three pages a day, as suggested by Julie Cameron in The Artist’s Way.  (My blogs are not part of that exercise.)
Writing is more physical than mental.  In fact, when I’m truly focused on my writing, I’m barely thinking at all.  All I’m doing most of the time is writing the words as they come to me as quickly as I can.  My Muse gives me one word, idea, or sentence at a time and I write.  I find a similar process when writing blogs.  The faster I work, and the less I allow distractions, the more powerful the process is.  With regard to the blogs, if I do any editing, it is usually after I write the first draft.
As the writing continues, my mind loses the stress and I’m filled with hope, enthusiasm, clarity, and ideas.  It is at this point, when I am feeling the deepest peace, love, and joy, that I know what I really want, and what is really important.  My mind also becomes clear and able to accept new ideas.  Again, I know what is really important.
I don’t know if all expressions of Purpose feel like this, but this is what writing feels like for me.  This is the experience I want everyone to have – a way to feel love, joy, and peace within moments.   This is why I write about Purpose so often.  If the only thing everyone in the world did was commit to their Purpose and they too experienced the peace and healing I experience, all wars would end, all therapists would be out of work, and God would be manifest on Earth.  This is why I tell everyone to Get Started and Keep Going…because it’s healing.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Freedom of Commitment


“The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.”

Anne Morris




Sometimes people hurt us.  Sometimes they do it intentionally.  Most of the time they don’t.  The Catholic Church teaches that there are sins of omission and commission.  Sins of omission are the unintentional ones, like forgetting a commitment to someone or neglecting someone close to you because you got too busy.  Again, these things aren’t intentional, but they hurt others just the same.  Then there are the sins of commission, such as lying or being lazy (yes, I consider laziness a sin, a huge sin).  While we may not mean to hurt others with them, we do.
            What do we do if we are the injured party?  We have a few options. 
            First, we can strike back.  We can hurt the person who hurt us.  The results of this are seen on all levels, from children to street gangs to nations fighting.  I’ve never seen it work.  Even if one party “wins,” there is still the residue of bad feelings on both sides.  I remember getting in a fight with my little brother once, when we were both kids.  I won and I felt terrible about it all day. 
            In addition, when revenge or retaliation are used, the fighting never really stops.  In the Middle East, in Ireland, and in some ways, in an equally horrific level, between family members, the fighting just goes on and on interminably.  Revenge never satisfies and it never solves.
            A second option is to end the relationship.  Sometimes this works, but only if it’s done from a place of inner peace.  There are times in which a relationship, whether personal or professional, is not healthy and will never become healthy.  Sometimes it’s simply a matter of being a bad fit.  In the past, I’ve left jobs, not because they were terrible jobs, but because they just weren’t right for me.  I’ve also left jobs because of abusive conditions or employers.  And I’ve also been fired from jobs because I wasn’t a good fit for the employer.  In all three cases, leaving was a relief. 
Personal relationships are similar.  Some we leave because they aren’t a good fit.  Others are abusive and should be left for safety’s sake.  And some leave us.  Again, in all three cases, the ending of these relationships is ultimately, if not immediately, a relief.
Difficulties are not always a reason to leave, because they can usually be resolved, given time, patience, and communication.  Once I had a job that I absolutely loved.  But then things started going badly.  Inevitable difficulties arose, one after the other.  I felt humiliated, unwanted, and disappointed.  I found that I didn’t like going to work any longer.  But I gave it time and I worked on what I could fix in myself and in my work habits.  Soon, though not immediately, I saw a shift in my attitude.  The job got better.  It wasn’t the same, but it was better.  Though difficulties are inevitable, they don’t have to be debilitating. Instead they can be stepping-stones to a greater level of intimacy and trust.
A third option is to do or say nothing but surrender inwardly to resentment, bitterness, or despair.  Like revenge, this rarely works.  If I’m not being honest about my feelings, it will come out one way or another.  It might affect my health.  I might find myself less motivated.  I might unintentionally say hurtful things to others or lose my temper over small incidents.  There’s not much more to say about this than to recommend dealing honestly, thoroughly, and quickly with the problem.  A former employer once said to me, “The truth is the shortest story.”  It’s also the shortest path to freedom and healing.
A fourth option is to take a break from the problem.  This might mean a day off, a vacation, or a nap.  Time away from the problem can give us perspective.  This works best if it’s seen as a genuine break and not a running away from the problems.
Finally, and this is the option I’ve chosen for what I’m dealing with, there’s commitment.  Commitment is liberating.  Commitment says, “I am actively choosing to stay this course, to make things improve, to never quit, no matter what because I love and believe in you/Purpose/my work/God or whatever it is I am committed to.”
I’ve had disappointments and setbacks lately.  I’ve wanted to quit.  Recently, I struggled with my commitment to writing, because I felt it wasn’t going anywhere.  I felt stuck and confused and I produced less.  It was a difficult time.  But then I realized that I love my Muse and that I can’t live without her.  Even if I spend my life alone and unread by most of the world, even if I have to wait to see the results I’d like, even if my Muse herself seems to be testing me, I am committed to staying the course.  I’ve also realized that there have been more good times than bad times and that I can’t let a setback or two divert me from my course.
What does commitment do for us? 
First, it is, as I said, liberating.  We are free, not to choose an impossible multitude of things, but one thing, and one thing well.  I can improve, study, work hard, discard what doesn’t work, experiment, and have fun.  Commitment is not only liberating; it’s focusing and it’s fun.  Writing is fun. Being with my Muse is fun.  When it isn’t, I keep working anyway and soon it becomes fun again.
Commitment is about the present and so it allows me to let go of the past.  If someone hurt me and I’m committed to that person, then commitment enables me to forgive and recognize that the hurt wasn’t intentional.  Forgiveness is not the goal of commitment; it’s the happy by-product of it.  I feel compassion and love and…well…a greater sense of commitment.  
Because commitment is about the present, it causes me to focus on my work.  All I want to do is be in my Purpose.  Things outside of my Purpose hold little or no interest for me.  That doesn’t mean I don’t fight distractions or procrastination, but the fact that I fight them means I haven’t given up; I am still in my Purpose.  I am still moving forward.  I am continuing to Get Started and Keep Going.  I am free.  I am committed.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Am I An Angel?


There are many things I like about writing.  One of them is that I can imagine anything and write about it.  That’s the whole basis of fiction.  Someone makes something up and then writes about it.  So no idea is too fantastic, too outlandish, or too impossible.  The interesting thing about fiction is that some of it can be based on fact.  Another interesting thing is that things written as fiction could possibly occur one day.  H.G. Wells predicted things in his fictional accounts that came true a century or more later.   So what if I was given an idea, and though it seemed crazy, could possibly be true?  Here’s the idea:
            What if I were an angel? 
Now before you laugh or stop reading this blog, or before you think I’m crazy, let’s just consider the idea, even if only as fiction. 
What if I were an angel sent here by God and unbeknownst by everyone (including me) to accomplish a specific assignment or set of assignments?   And what if I didn’t know this for most of my life?  What if, during that life, I made many wrong twists and turns?  What if I failed everyone, including myself, for years?  What if I got to a place where my life seemed hopeless and pointless and worthless…and then…and then…something happened to awaken me to my Purpose? 
What is that something?  It could be anything.  It could be an accidental discovery of a need I see or a talent I have.  It could be a kind word from someone or from many people along the way.  It could be another angel in disguise helping me to see my mission.   Maybe it was the desperate culmination of all my pain and failures and disappointments welling up and spilling over into something productive and powerful, rather than destructive and hateful.   Maybe I just grew tired of not using my wings.  Maybe I needed to stop crawling and start flying.  Maybe it was a combination of all of the above.
These aren’t necessarily original ideas. They come from many books including some I have yet to read, like The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain or The Hero of a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.  It’s in thousands of movies and books.  An ordinary person wakes up one day to find he or she is a hero, something special, an angel with a mission from God, a hero with a task set before him or her. 
But here’s the thing:  that discovery is not the end of the story – it’s only the beginning.  There’s still the mission, the Purpose, the deed or deeds that need doing.  There’s still the quest, the journey, the battle, the setbacks, the defeats, and finally, the victory. 
This is not fiction.  This is life.
And maybe, just maybe, there are many other angels, too, and they just don’t realize they also have a mission.  Maybe they haven’t been woken to their own possibilities.   Maybe the mission of every angel on the planet is to wake up all the sleeping angels, while doing his or her own work. 
Is this fiction?  Fantasy?  Maybe.
Or maybe I need to Get Started and Keep Going and find out how far my wings will take me.

Five Aspects of Purpose


Though I’d like to take a night off, I can’t.  More accurately, I won’t.  As long as I know my work blesses at least one person, I plan to remain in my Purpose for the rest of my life.  I also need to remind myself about my house on the beach with my Muse.  Have I made any big strides today?  Maybe not, but I’ve taken a few small steps, and that’s good.
Once, when I was younger, I found myself spending a lot of time alone.  I didn’t mind this; in fact I even preferred it.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends.  I did.  It wasn’t that I was anti-social.  I wasn’t.  I just enjoyed spending time alone.  When I was 13- 15, I would go to downtown Monterey and go to bookstores and look for comic books.   I’d walk for hours some days.  Sometimes I’d find some real treasures.  I’m still very grateful for those times. 
Now I have all the comics I could need or want.  I still buy some occasionally, but I rarely buy any from comic book stores anymore.  If there’s a comic convention, then I like to go, but I don’t need comics like I used to need them.   I enjoy them, but I don’t need them.  What I need to do is write and be with my Muse.  I need to do this every day.  One of the reasons I write is because it brings healing.  Another reason I write is because it blesses others.  So I write every day even if some of my writing, such as what I’m doing now, seems like I’m rambling. 
This is part of the writing process, by the way.  I write until I find my message.  Often I delete a lot of what I’ve written because it was just part of the warm up.  The real message comes eventually if I just keep working.  This is how Purpose works too.  We just keep working until we find our “groove,” our message.  Sometimes, often even, I have no idea what the message is when I start.  I just have to keep working.  As I said, this is how Purpose works sometimes.  You just keep working.
Purpose can be expressed in an infinite number of ways, but are there aspects of Purpose that all these different expressions have in common?  I have found five.
First, (and I’m going to use the generic pronoun “you” rather than “I” or “one.”) you have to show up every day and sometimes more than once a day.  I’m not saying never take a break or a day off, but I recommend every day as a guideline and let each person decide for him or herself.  For me, at least, I need to write every day and, as I’ve said, usually two or more times.
Second, you will love your purpose.  It will make you happy.  You will sometimes (often) wish that you could do it all day, every day.  You will think it is one of the most wonderful things in the world.  You will be right.  So will everyone else who is engaging in his or her purpose, even though everyone expresses it differently.  Each person’s Purpose is wonderful, life-giving, and joyful.  Today I saw a friend’s face light up in an arts-and-craft store because she loves decorating and being artistic.   Her joy was contagious and though I am not the most artistic man in the world, her joy made me want to decorate my own place.  It woke up my own love of beauty and order.
Third, though you make love your Purpose and though you may be good at it (great, really), you recognize that some greater Force is working through you.  This may be why you feel so powerful, yet at the same time, surprised.   You never knew you were that talented, that gifted.  But you are.  As I’ve said before, “gifted” means you were given a gift.  But it’s not for you alone.  Your responsibility is to share that gift with the world.  I also remember that this gift comes from a higher source and I use it with humility and care.  It’s as if someone lent me his Porsche indefinitely.  I’d want to be very careful with it.
Fourth, you may see your life change. It may change in large or small ways, but none of the changes will be insignificant.  They will all be part of your personal and spiritual growth.  You will experience inner healing and you will feel the presence of God.  Does this sound dramatic or overstated?  Perhaps it is, but it is also what I have consistently experienced every time I commit to my Purpose.
The final common factor is that you may see miracles happen.  Beside the miracle of inner healing that I just mentioned, you may feel in awe of the freshness and newness of your Purpose every time you work.  As an example, though it always surprises me, I somehow manage to write something new every time I sit down to write.  It’s as if the source of my Purpose is infinite.  It is.
So Get Started and Keep Going.  Enjoy the miracle of Purpose.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Negativity


Negativity
Is like the breaking of wind
Only, from the mouth

Original haiku



I feel it is important to, first, establish that I am quite imperfect.  It isn’t that I think I’ve left any impression otherwise, but I want to establish the fact all the same.  In this case, my imperfect nature expresses itself in a multitude of ways.  The way it’s been expressing itself lately is through negativity – negativity of the spirit, the mind, and inevitably the mouth.  Put plainly, I’ve been complaining lately…a lot. 
By nature I am a positive and happy person, but over the last few months, in one particular area of my life, things have not gone well.  I’ve suffered disappointments, setbacks, and humiliations.  And I haven’t handled it well.  I’ve seen my suffering as extraordinary circumstances that warrant complaints, criticism, and gossip.  After all, if you knew what I’ve suffered, you would realize that I am completely justified in my errant behavior.  Right?
Okay, maybe not. 
What I wish now, at this moment, is that as soon as things started going badly, I would have immediately chosen a different response.  I wish I had seen my troubles as a normal part of life, perhaps even lessons, or ways to make me a better man.  Instead, I allowed my thoughts to direct my life.  I gave circumstances control, thus making them, by default, negative.   Then I began complaining about the negativity that I myself allowed to enter and to control my life.
Interestingly enough, I want to complain now.  I want to give into negativity and fear.  In fact, this blog that I’m writing now, I started a couple of days ago, along with a few others.  I was going to start a new one tonight, but I felt like I had to go back and look at the other blogs, including this one, and finish one.  So instead of writing negatively, I’m going to write about negativity.
The truth is that most of us choose our own situations.  We like to say that we have no choice.  That is what I said for many years.  I was bound by society, or lack of money, or rules, or other people.  That’s what I said anyway.  But the truth is I bound myself, or let myself be bound.  Then I complained about it.  Does this mean that all troubles that come our way are our fault?  Of course not.  But we do get to choose our responses.
This is easier said than done.  We may need to deal with sadness or anger or regret – but we don’t have to stay with those feelings indefinitely.  In Flourish, John Smith recommends exactly that – to deal with our negative sides, our fears, depressions, or anxieties.  To deal with something doesn’t mean to ignore it.  Nor does it mean to allow it to take over.  To deal with something, especially negative emotions, is to acknowledge them, and then to decide the most appropriate response. 
With regard to my own negativity, it wasn’t until I acknowledged how unhappy I really was AND began responding differently, that I could start being truly productive again.  In addition, I found the things I had been resisting, were actually quite beneficial, for me and for those around me.   All my negativity did was delay some good things.  Maybe that’s what fear and negativity and resentment and hatred do.  They delay the good things in life.
At this point then, all I want to do is be happy.  I don’t want to be angry, afraid, or negative.  I want to be grateful for all that God and my Muse have given me, especially in the last two years.  I am extremely grateful for all the good in my life.
As for the bad?   Maybe, just maybe, there aren’t as many bad things as we think.  Maybe there are just a whole lot of transitions and opportunities… to Get Started and to Keep Going.