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All the news that’s fit

There is an old saying which tells us “no news is good news.”

The implied meaning of the above saying would indicate not hearing anything at all is actually a positive because you aren’t hearing anything is wrong.  I get that. There is always a good case to avoiding news to not receive information you may not want to hear, (although in most cases it could be said those waiting for this news would obviously prefer hearing something positive.)

And while there is merit to the above line of thinking, where nothing could still mean it’s all good, it is also important to remember how programmed and conditioned we have become as a people to news being something to shock, sensationalize or sell… thus the idea that bad news has become (in the eyes of mass media) very good news for the ratings, the business and the bottom line, it still does not mean we want to hear about it and would not prefer the good over the bad every time.

Of course we want good news.

But not all news has to be bad, right?  I guess that would depend on to whom you are speaking.  News that speaks volumes in the decline of our civilization in my eyes could very well be the very answer another person has been waiting for.  If I were to receive news that a job I’d interviewed for was being offered, I can only imagine there would be one, two or more others learning soon after that the same position was not going to be theirs.  That might not be good news for them.

News is relative.  News is subjective.  News can literally be defined as anything one hears that has not been known already.   If news is simply information, then does it not make sense that it is really not about what that information IS, as much as the way we react to it?  Does it incite? Depress? Anger?  Is it disgusting or does it perpetuate fear?  Will the news change my life or barely go noticed?

When I watch television news I am often stunned by the seemingly unceasing flow of anger, hatred, disease, issues, pointing fingers and senseless suffering.  It never ceases to amaze me how much bad news we can create in our world in the name of religion, greed, politics and fear.   What is wrong is what often leads a newscast, a headline or the top of the page.  We have become conditioned to seeing and feeling the world in a wicked and scary way.  Why, we might ask, do people do these things? can’t everyone think like we do?  What is wrong with those people?

Perhaps the people we are questioning are thinking the same thing of us.

So what is the solution?  It is very easy to turn off the news on my television.  It is vital for me to keep myself informed through different and trusted sources.  It is important to remember not to bury my head in the sand simply to avoid some of the real harsh realities, but it is more advisable to remember I do not have to be the sum or result of the negatives that may (or may not) exist around the world.  To understand that these negatives exist is essential to understanding the world.  Shit happens.  To hold from judgement of others whose lives, backgrounds or beliefs may be somehow associated to what I might see as negatives is a task that is often very difficult to process, and very easy to succumb to.

But to remember I am not required to have an opinion or reaction to every piece of what seems to be a negative in the world is the ultimate goal.  I am not going to ever be sheltered completely from what I will see as “bad” news, but my reaction to it, whether my news or someone else’s… is what is going to help me stay in the best frame of mind possible.

My frame of mind is what helps me to work through each day and all of what that day offers with the most productive and positive outlook and result.  Nothing has to be worse if I do not react to it.  So it may be appropriate to state that no news is good news, but it might be more accurate to remember the news will only be as bad as I allow it to be.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

The vicious Cycle: understanding the need for change

In Alcoholics Anonymous the definition of Insanity is described as repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting different results.  I have often described my own spiritual breakthroughs as being of ‘the brick wall’ variety:  where I will repeatedly hit my head upon a brick wall until it is bloodied enough to finally elicit a psychic change or breakthrough.

No, I am not literally hitting my head on a brick wall.  This is a metaphor.  But the insanity thing could hold merit in some of my behaviors and, most definitely, as examples or instances where I would seem not to be either capable or willing to surrender a particular line of thinking, habit or reaction.  This tends to happen when faced with a person, place or thing I am experiencing some form of resentment with.

Resentment is not always obvious to me.  It can be a blatant disregard for fact, my ego wrapped in an entitlement or retaliation, a conscious wall I have set up to separate myself from the situation or an unconscious fear of whatever it is I believe I am potentially not getting or standing to lose.

Unfortunately resentment is not something I can curtail or stop completely within the way I think.  It happens.  The sooner I accept it is a part of the fabric of my thought-process, the better.  The trick to this understanding is in an awareness of the process and my willingness to stand armed and fight resentment with better, more powerful and productive tools and thoughts.  Combating the negative with the positive and “right-sizing” my thinking will help to achieve a better, healthier, more spiritual end result.

Of course, that is easier said than done.

It sometimes seems the realistic view of my thought process will always set the default to defense.  It can feel I am here on Earth, one could say, to protect myself and make sure that I am going to get the things I deserve and am owed.  Very few people are different by this nature.  It is actually quite natural to want and need to protect one’s best interests.  What tends to be different is how, and to what lengths, this default setting might take people.  In my head it can be dangerous, but in the end that danger is never real to anyone but me.

I am aware that doesn’t necessarily make me sound at all spiritual, but please read on.

Fortunately the “default” I have described no longer has a long shelf life.  Often it doesn’t come up for air at all.  With a created habit of better thinking (a filtering process so to speak) and it’s results from the associated different actions,  I have been able to learn this change in thinking.  It is the result of being around people who want to enjoy life, with no tendency to feel everything and everyone owes them something for simply being who they are, that I am slowly eliminating the vicious cycles of the closed mind and embracing the changes which spark the adventure and growth I seem to always crave.

But the changes must always start with me.

Where I have a tendency to get stuck I might not realize I am actually repeating the wrong behaviors.  It has traditionally been easier for me to blame things around me… be it within the situation, the person in charge, the personality, the rule, the timing, the differences in moral thought or tastes…. it really doesn’t matter.  When I am unhappy it is likely because I am trying to control an outcome.  It is because I feel (often mistakenly) that I possess the best answer to whatever it is I am afraid someone else might be trying to do to or for me (often, if not always, with a different point of view.)  I have the potential to become an antagonist in a situation because forget I don’t have the power to know the future and often don’t completely know what is right for me or the situation at hand.

As a result I have experienced the phenomena of repeating situations over and over and finding myself confused and frustrated that I can’t seem to step out of the lesson with a resolution and continue down whatever path I am on (have you ever felt stuck?)  Repeated behavior means I did not learn what was supposed to have been learned from the experience in the previous time(s) it occurred.  I am doomed to repeat aspects of my life, experiences and relationships until I check myself and change whatever reactions and responses I know don’t work.

The change in me and my thinking is precisely the recipe to allow the results I believe I need in my world.  The fact still remains, however, I will not know what the best thing for me is going to be until it happens.  I can no more control an outcome (completely) than I can predict the future and how any outcome will pan out.

I have learned the key to this is in seizing the moments that are negative and remembering even my thinking is a choice.  If it doesn’t work I can change it and find something more positive that will.  If it doesn’t work I can learn surrender.  As with everything else it has to be about the reaction (or, in many cases, the non-reaction.)  By changing this thought process I am realizing and admitting it is time to end the vicious cycle.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

Picking up the puzzle pieces on the path.

Sometimes it helps me to compare a puzzle piece and how it should fit perfectly to connect to the master puzzle, and my relationship with surrender and the second and third steps in Alcoholics Anonymous.  Although there is a goal to gradually put together the puzzle, obtain the full “picture” or complete the project, it can sometimes be forced or perhaps even rushed out of impatience or by forgetting to experience the full process of what each piece really could mean.

If a puzzle is done correctly each individual piece has a meaning and a purpose.  Each should play a part in the destiny of it’s total and the significance or result of the whole it represents.  Puzzles can be seen as a game (which is often how life is described,) but are very much a tool for practicing patience, intellect, creativity and can even be how we relate or react to situations or others (should the puzzle be worked upon with another soul.)

They can also be equated to the path I often speak of when referring to the many stages, or chapters of the life I live.  Where did it start?  What has happened along the way?  Where is it going?  What does each piece, chapter, lesson or experience mean both to the moment and as a part of the bigger, fuller question or picture?

And in the end:  what does that picture show?   Will I ever really know what the point of my puzzle is?  Does or should there be a point to my puzzle OR my life?

I would like to think so.  I am a thinker (perhaps an over-thinker.)  When I embark on a project, take on challenges, learn lessons, make decisions, and start or finish a part of my life experience, I tend to feel it is a vital part of the bigger picture.  It is, as this blog entry would like to suggest, a piece to the much bigger puzzle that represents me and my path towards fulfillment, answers or, very simply, the end.

Perhaps each piece doesn’t hold a notable “clue” to the life I am living and path I proceed upon.  I do not necessarily prescribe to the idea that everything holds an indicator and there is some grand answer to be solved.  On the other hand I do subscribe to the notion that pieces, people, situations, and places within my world can and often are interconnected.  Meeting this person, taking this job, going on this vacation or selecting this home to live in each offer the results of circumstance and experience that provide flavor and pavement on my path.  If I hadn’t met him I wouldn’t have gone there.  If I hadn’t taken this job I wouldn’t have encountered her and learned this, which lead to my being that.

I will never stop believing that it all happens for a reason.  Perhaps the analogy of the puzzle is my way to begin attempting to understand what those reasons might be.

Sometimes I labor with puzzle pieces.  I look at them and try to fit them into all the different scenarios I can think of in order to achieve the satisfaction of knowing that I have accomplished the goal I am trying to achieve.   Often they will not fit, and as a result there will be frustration, confusion, anxiety or even anger.  When there is impatience to know the answers I am likely to force the issue (take control over the decisions and attempt to blindly fit the puzzle piece somewhere that is not going to work or “fit,” resulting in the need to do whatever it is I am trying to force over again in another, hopefully less self-centered manner.

This is what is known as my will.  Although it is always good to enjoy free will I have learned that often when not in surrender (thinking I need something or someone wholly based on the fears of not having or losing what I’ve got) I am making decisions for the wrong reasons and the puzzle pieces never fit correctly.

My best bet is to take the process all the way through.  I have a challenge and I must be patient and loving towards finding where it takes me.  Like steps two and three my best answers come from surrender, hope, faith, trust and willingness.  If I believe that time will deliver the proper answer and my patience allows me to work through the proper process to locate whatever that answer is, I am going to find the place where the puzzle piece belongs. Once it is safely settled I might be able to find my answer through what it reveals.  It is also very possible that the piece may provide a step towards an eventual answer, only revealing a small amount of help towards the goal at the time it is placed.

Each piece always means something.  As I grow older I can see a larger picture starting to show me what my life may mean.  Is it an answer to all of my questions?  Never (since I remain perpetually looking for more.)  For me the puzzle, like the chapters in the book of my life I often refer to, is large and ever growing.  Just when I believe I see the full picture displayed in front of me I am given a piece that shows me there is more to be revealed.  Fortunately the puzzle I use as an analogy does not come from a box with a display of the full finished puzzle emblazoned upon it.  One of the best parts of working with the puzzle and walking on my path is the thrill of adventure, of learning and of not knowing what could or possibly will be around the next corner or on the next puzzle piece.

It is likely I may never really completely understand what my full puzzle reveals… but the patience I have learned by coming to believe and discover my willingness is one of the best and brightest reveals I have discovered while examining each piece, each moment and each potential meaning.

I have lived with a puzzle piece for a very long time.  Trying to put it here and there and feeling each time I had found the right answer.  Patience has come and gone but the answer will only come when it is supposed to.  While I wait I soak in the experience and remember my best reaction to that process is to remember to be only where I am.  I am here.  It is now.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

Conversations with my ego

It never fails: when ego appears I am invariably disassociated from my best thinking and the necessary humility which results in the best possible end result to any situation.

This isn’t to say ego is always a bad thing.  There are times when I know my ego is important to my evolution in how I both view the world (and the world views me.)  As an example, without the strengthening of my ego I might not have been able to overcome the adversities confronting me as a younger man.  Without a healthy ego I would not have been able to slowly grow towards learning how to love myself, embrace my defects and hone what I would learn were my many assets towards a better understanding for how to navigate this planet successfully.

Without the positive elements of ego I am not likely to believe in myself, the things I am able to do and the person I am learning to be.  It instills confidence and applies my ability to walk through the walls holding me back from being the best man possible.  My ego pushes me through fear, as well as all the little and colossal challenges I confront on a daily basis.

When the conversation with my ego becomes necessary is when my it decides to run the show, telling me what I deserve and what I am not getting.  Fear has the potential to run my world.  Ego is often a defense mechanism or shield there to “protect” me from what would appear (my perception) as a problem, a barrier or a person, place and thing I must prove something to.  Invariably, the correct likelihood will be there is nothing at all which needs proving, my ego created the whole scenario in the first place.  For me this becomes one of the definitions of a vicious cycle. This is where it becomes a danger to dwell, or think too much about the way the world is and how I am “treated” within it.

Last week I wrote about creating my own problems.  Ego is often a culprit when this happens (along with the ever-lurking ISM tied to both my fears and the thought-based ego in-between my ears.)  When I am unhappy in any situation I have undoubtedly started to believe I am not being taken care of or not getting what I deserve.  I have removed myself from the basic tenants of service and selflessness and placed myself in a starring role where the need for validation or reward is highly unnecessary and often unwarranted.  Although I could not possibly speak to every situation (there will be times when thoughts of change or recognition provide a healthy and/or justified means to an end,) it is more probable that whatever is perceived when involved with my ISM is more a product of resentment and fear.

So how does this conversation go?  When I am fortunate enough to become aware my ego is steering me into unhealthy or unproductive pathways, I have found ways to (what’s the name of this blog?) halt the thought processes and prospective behaviors that could result.  This is no easy task even with awareness when you are in the throws of “where is mine” and “what have you done for me lately?”  It is very difficult to sidestep fear when the over-active imagination is tarnished with learned or practiced behavior that can default to the negative (for many this is a comfortable place.)  “What if” tends to be a far easier go to than any positive alternative.  Hope and faith appear to work far better in situations of comfort and safety, as opposed to the places where the threat (real or imagined) of loss or pain (emotional or physical) block the view.

This is where my ego is dangerous.  When I am not in the more powerful spiritual mindsets I have been fortunate enough to learn and understand,  I am in danger of thinking incorrectly without awareness or memory of the tools which have saved me (and helped me grow continuously in the past.)  My ego is good, my ego is bad… but the most important thing I must know is my ego is manageable and better for me when used for the right reasons.  It is all about the awareness and the resulting conversation.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

How to create problems with flair

Note the irony.  Today I am not going to write about creative ways to conceive and perpetuate the issues in my life.  It makes sense our problems tend to be around us without any help from the internal process… but the question I must pose is how many of them are actually something NOT of our own making and, conversely, (and perhaps without even knowing,) how many have I constructed in my head?

Perhaps to the “normal” mind (what exactly is that?) this sort of thinking is out of step and a bit hard to comprehend.  For those of us who entertain an ‘ism’ it is not without merit or reach to speak to the manner of thinking that provides an additional inner dialogue touching on shades of resentment, envy, self-righteous ego, fear and a dollop of paranoia.

Now I have gone and made myself sound a bit off the deep end, haven’t I.  Truth be told there are some who will read this particular entry and understand completely what it is I refer to.  Others, undoubtedly, will wonder if I shouldn’t somehow be medicated.  Personally, I would disagree regarding myself, (but for those who might actually benefit I choose not to hold an opinion on the topic.)

What I do know is I have an extra conversation in my head pretty much at all times.  It is an active sense of self-preservation, dis-comfort, fear of losing something or not getting something else.  It is, in common terms, an easier way to describe or define my dis-ease.  It was this dis-ease (and I spell it as I do for a reason) which brought me to my knees many years ago.  It was this dis-ease that originally showed me my answers and solutions were in dangerous places doing dangerous things.  The core of my dis-ease may not have changed very much at its root over the years, but the solutions have altered and provided me with ways to look at myself and my behavior, thinking and LIFE in healthier, more productive and very positive ways.

It is no longer about the problem for me, it must always be about the solution.

What problem do I speak to specifically (today?)  My thinking.

Without the tools and answers I have been taught and learn over and over again within my program for living I am left with the sort of thinking which drove me to the wrong solutions in the past.  With the tools I live in a peaceful and spiritual surrounding even IF there are moments where I must take my “medication” (which for me is in the form of steps, service, communication, deep breathes and contrary actions.)

The world around me is busy.  It is a hectic mix of messages; social, world or work politics; bad news; change; expectations; traffic; financial demands; work & life challenges and swiftly moving calendars.  Granted, along with life on life’s terms comes the beauty of the world around me (one needs only to really look) including unconditional love, rest & relaxation, creativity, travel, commitments, and success (any way it looks to you.)  It is easy to be hard on yourself in the former list of descriptions and just as difficult to forget the gratitude that must always be attached to the latter.  The tricks are in balancing and, as I always write, acceptance and patience regarding the person you are or have become, the way you breathe and handle each and every thing offered and the ability to grow, learn, keep an open mind and understand ones own intentions.

Intentions can (should?) make all the difference in how we think.

If I am to create a thought about a person, place or thing which can blossom in lightning speed or with hesitance and reluctance, into a full blown blockade of progress, a resentment that impedes communication or growth with a relationship or happiness as a whole… I am screwed.  For me the very idea that I am not being treated correctly or appropriately “liked” for any reason or situation is merely a focal point to zoom in on and make sure I understand the motive towards the thought.

What is my motive?

If the thought is about self and not grounded in the best intention it is likely (in most cases if not all) to be a self-centered egotistic and harmful message being devised by the very dis-ease that has caused me to avoid happiness in so many other cases and periods in my life in the past.  I am constantly learning to “uncover, discover and discard” as my program has taught me.  The very awareness of my dis-ease has allowed me to become suspect of the problems I feel are real and ask myself if they are necessary in the bigger picture.

More than often, they are not.

Each day I must ask myself to keep my mind clear of the clutter and allow myself to move forward in thinking with honesty, love and good intention.  I am not a doormat, nor am I stupid, but I am more inclined to believe my day will be better with the elimination of fabricated issues and the reminder of simple clear motives and thinking.

I would prefer to keep the creativity channeled into writing, art and the strategy of better living.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

Spirituality in the real world

I sometimes think the pursuance of a spiritual life would be so much easier on a peaceful island without the chatter of voices, financial concerns, the politics of countries or corporations and the traffic of the city. My real test of spirituality, however,  is not in environment, but in thought process.  I have slowly learned to understand how I think, react and behave is a clear barometer for my spiritual being and where I am when I am doing so should not be relevant at all.

I tend to wonder if anyone on Earth can actually be spiritual all the time.  It seems, to me, to be a bit of an unrealistic goal to be anything all the time, so I opt, instead, to do the best I can moment by moment.

I continue to learn with the strength of repetition, willingness and acceptance I have my cornerstones for continuing to learn about and attempt to be spiritual.  In the end, I suppose, one could just “be” spiritual, but for many of us the process requires a great deal of practice and, invariably, the practice is a result of conscious choice.  I choose not to react to you when you say something that I am afraid of or hurt by.  I choose not to listen when voices or feelings I have lead me away from solid action or decision.  I choose to make sure I am aware of my behavior enough so I might be able to learn, grow and change as a result of everything I do and am.  These “choices” are not always easy ones, but in practice I have learned them not only to be possible but fruitful on the spiritual path.

In program I have learned that acceptance is the answer to all my problems (page 417 of the Big Book.)  What does that mean?  For me it allows me to put aside the situations, fears, people and rabid thoughts that block me from the “sunlight of the spirit.”  If I am in my dis-ease I am unable to know the moments which are there to be experienced and enjoyed.  If I have made a conscious (or unconscious) choice to be angry, hold a grudge, live in resentment, look for retaliation, pout, act in self-pity or any number of other emotions, I am foregoing the very happiness I tell myself I am striving for.  I am well aware the world is not 100% pretty.  I know there are problems to be solved and issues to be met.  But I have also learned the bulk of what I might consider problematic in my head is usually, if not predominantly created by me.  If I can look objectively at what is taking me off-center and evaluate it honestly, I am likely about to find out this is not worth the time and trouble.  I can (should?) then accept whatever it is and move on towards whatever solution or result I am looking to achieve.

This does not make me a doormat.  I am not suggesting acceptance and walking away from every situation life may bring.  Some days I am riddled with challenge and, with the same amount and manner of thought described above I am better equipped and ready to solve whatever it is and, again, move into the better frame of mind I seek in order to enjoy my day and all it offers.

What is spirituality?  Is it religion?  Is it some etherial, hippy shit?  Does it matter in the end?  I am not a “religious” person (in terms of how those around me might describe religion in this day and age,) but I also don’t have a problem understanding the way I feel about spirituality and MY higher power could be seen as a definition of religion.  Semantics.  In the end it does not matter to me what others think about my program or how I believe.  What matters is my feeling healthy, happy, fulfilled, hopeful, in faith and able to help others to grow, learn and change in their own lives.  The better I feel, the better I am, the better I do.

I don’t dare speak to my daily attempts at spirituality without reminding myself vehemently that I live in a program of action.  Nothing at all is possible without my taking the action to provide the result in the first place.  Actions come in the form of changing thought, getting my ass out of bed (or just self-pity,) making a choice, going to a meeting, helping another human being, taking contrary action, or just applying my better thinking into the things I say and do.  Because that is the bottom line in spirituality.  DOING.  The difference between a human being and a human doing creates a path I am far more suited for.  This path potentially allows me to be comfortable in what can sometimes be a very uncomfortable world.

Today I am spiritual.  Tomorrow I will do my best for same.  The intention is there, the faith in myself is high.  I am equipped and willing, I am positively hopeful about the results.  To get there I must always….

…Stop. Smile. Breathe.

I’m never really silent

This weekend I lost my voice, but only in the physical sense.  It’s rather odd to try to speak and barely utter a whisper.  The strain to be “heard” eventually proves not to be worth it.  The reliance on communication can be an extension of ego and expectation.  Communication is key to my existence and a core to my central belief system, but losing a piece of it only tends to highlight the need to find other ways to speak.

I also find it interesting that I should lose my voice while the planet of Mercury is in a retrograde motion, a period somewhat notorious for effecting communication.

What I often learn when something doesn’t work in my life is how I can find another way to do what that something usually accomplishes.  What I realize, as a result, is communication can be achieved in a host of different ways.  Most important, my voice is not just the physical manifestation of my vocal chords.

I am here on Earth to live, be happy and to reach goals.  It is my opinion we all have a purpose, whether we want to recognize or climb to it is not always relevant.  I can’t always say I understand what the goals for me may be (sometimes they seem clear but I can’t be sure the conclusion is mine to be made.)  I definitely don’t always find myself on the best path towards what I believe the goals might mean.  Being human has provided me with a host of lessons by way of meandering routes offering me hints and light’s at the end of current tunnels.

Trust me, sometimes that light is a fast moving train.

On the quest to understand my voice and my purpose I can often feel as though I don’t matter.  There are days when I feel taken for granted or less than leading to resentment or bitterness.  When ego is in charge and the connection I have with God and service is not crystal clear, my path gets dark and I invariably take a misguided turn down an alley.  Not all the alleys are dangerous, some may only represent a perception of time being wasted (personally I don’t believe there are any coincidences and any turn I make is meant to be there for whatever “purpose” it may hold.)

Will there be an end result?  Is there going to be a clear understanding of the purpose I have been given or a neat way to wrap up my lifetime?  Perhaps not while I am breathing and thinking about such things.  Is this purpose the point?  Some days it may seem as though I am driving myself solely on the need for such knowledge.  The truth, on the better days, is clear:  I am here to enjoy the day, the moment, the instance, the people, the experience and the service I am providing wherever I may be.  When I am in that frame I am happy to be wherever I may be and, in essence, I am succeeding in a solid goal for living.

So why should it matter than if this gets noticed?  In the big picture it doesn’t “matter.”  But the experience I have had with living in the moment is in seeing when I notice the result in myself.   My “voice” is heard through my actions.  My voice is noticed by my intentions.  For me, my voice is there when I write, when I show up for a commitment, when I give 100% to my friends or my job, when I am honest in all of my relationships, and when I give my time to others.

All of this is my voice.  Loud and clear.

So on the days (and there are only a few in the relative scheme of it all) when my physical voice is not working, I have many other tools to share my experience, strength and hope within.  Sometimes it is best to rest the vocal chords anyway.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

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