Sunday, August 31, 2008

In the Moment

Have you ever noticed how hard it can be to be "in the moment"? Do you realize that while you are in the midst of one experience, you are already mentally preparing for the next? Do you find yourself not really listening to the person speaking to you because you are somewhere else "in your head" rather than present, attentive, engaged "in the moment"?

I think we all fall victim to this, perhaps some more than others or perhaps under some circumstances more than others. It's particularly easy to not want to be in the moment, during unpleasant moments. My focus is, rather on those everyday moments to which we could be more connected. For me, talking on the phone is a huge "not in the moment" time. I allow myself to do things while I'm on the phone, I'd never do if I was talking to you in person; check my email, read the paper, do chores, watch TV. By doing those other things, I'm dividing my attention and really likely to miss some of what you are saying, or giving minimal responses to what you are saying or even worse leaving you feeling like I wasn't really listening or giving you my attention. Because I know how big a pitfall this is for me, I'm trying to be conscious about not engaging in other things when I'm on the phone. I'm trying to bring my subconscious distraction to a more conscious level and not adding to it by doing things that I know take my attention in different directions.

Another reason I think we end up not in the moment is anxiety. We worry. We stress. We distress. We fret. We obsess. We dwell. These aren't positive, life and faith affirming behaviors and they never make things better. No situation ever improved because we worried about it. Action changes things, worry does not. We too often miss the good around us, because we are focused on the fear within us. Fear robs us of joy. Just like I have to make a conscious effort and decision not to check my email while I'm on the phone to be able to be truly present, we must also make a conscious effort and decision to stop our mind from wandering down the path of fear which leads to anxiety/worry/stress...

If something is weighing on your mind, rather than letting yourself get stuck in the vortex of distress, ask yourself, "What am I going to do about it?" Look for action you can take. Can you learn more about something (where you're traveling for the first time, a medical condition someone has been diagnosed with, etc.)? Can you speak to someone who has had a similar experience (join a support group for parents of children who have a similar need as your child, call a friend who has also tried to quit smoking, etc)? When you can come up with no action you could take, prayer is always an option. When you are thinking, "There's nothing I can do..." that should be a prompt to you to think, "I can pray about this, I can pray for them, I can trust God and turn my worries over to Him."
There is so much enjoyment, pleasure, peace, fulfillment, to be gained by really experiencing the world and people around us. We must challenge ourselves to recognize when our mind and body are in different places, and exercise the mental control to get back to the moment. When we are absorbing the good around us, we will then be so much more able to turn around and give it away. We can't do for others when we are worn out or worn down by worry.
Matthew 6:25-34 Do Not Be Anxious
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ah, Camping...

One of the reasons it's been so long since I posted, is that we've been camping at Fish Creek for a week. I have to say, camping is simply one of my favorite things to do. There is nothing that soothes my soul quite like camping. This slide show does a nice job of highlighting some of the best things about camping.

Waking up to the sun spilling across the water is a magical sight. I've searched and searched for an adequate word to describe the sparkling fireworks of diamonds that dance on the water when the light hits the moving water. It is just the most mesmerizing vision, especially for someone who likes "shiny" things. I'm a huge fan of having my coffee sitting at the edge of the water, absorbing the early sun and basking in the morning quiet. It doesn't get any better than this. If the day ended right here, I'd be totally satisfied. But it doesn't.

Another favorite part of camping is living at the water; having your outdoor kitchen in full view of the lake, swimming, kayaking, lazing, playing in the sand. Perhaps I'm more of a sun worshipper than God intended, but I just love soaking up the sun, jumping in the water to cool off, laying back down in the sun and repeating often. (And if a cold beer snuck up on me, I wouldn't send it back where it came from.)

In the absence of TV and computers, there is plenty of time to devour a good book or two. We always bring games to play especially in the evening. Usually games that use cards because they are small and easy to pack. In addition to games played with a deck of cards like hearts and rummy, we played Quiddler, Flinch and the "Bean Game" (Bohnanza). This is a clever and strategic game that is different than anything I've ever played, and I've played a lot of games. If you like games, check it out. The expansion pack of High Bohn is great fun and once you've mastered the original bean game Bohnanza, well worth trying too.

And of course last, but certainly not least is the campfire. Camping life revolves around acquiring wood for the fire, (scouring the woods for downed wood, scavenging empty sites for wood left behind, and waiting for the wood truck to come when you are desperate enough to buy wood) starting the fire, (everyone wants to build the fire, because there is the hope that this time will be the time that I can build the perfect fire and it will take off quickly and easily and everyone will be impressed with my fire building prowess, but in reality, some fires just don't want to light and no matter how much newspaper or kindling you try to add, you end up feeling dejected that the fire held out on you) and keeping the fire stoked and burning until that late night time when you decide to just watch the embers glow and not add any more wood because you have to go to bed soon.

I've loved camping almost as long as I can remember. Our family vacations as kids always involved camping. I had no idea at that age that it was the only vacation we could afford, it was a tradition and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. When you ask my brother or sister or me what our favorite childhood memory(s) is/are we all will say "camping". Camping was a time we could count on all being together. My Dad in particular went camping with us, while the rest of the time he was usually busy working at least two jobs. Playing games was always part of the camping fun as kids too. My siblings and I have all remained family game players with our families and I know that goes back to playing games camping as kids.

The unspoken attraction of camping is that it strips away so many of life's distractions, places us back in the natural world and reminds us of how wonderful it is to live simply. We spent time talking about camping as a retirement lifestyle. We discussed whether we'd ever give up our tent for a camper. We talk about downsizing to one vehicle and a motorcycle and traveling from campground to campground. While retirement seems a long time off, the next camping trip isn't. We remind ourselves of the importance of living in the moment, and not putting off till tomorrow what will bring us joy today, for tomorrow may never come.

What pleasures are you saving for tomorrow that you could be enjoying today? Live everyday like it's a gift and be thankful for what you have right now. And Go Camping! You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Attitude, after all, is everything.

I got this story in an email from my friend Greg. I thought it fit so well with the theme of Be Positive that it was worth sharing. You may have read it before, but that's ok. It's a good reminder about perspective.

"John is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, 'If I were any better, I would be twins!' He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, John was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up and asked him, 'I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?' He replied, 'Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or ... you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or...I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or... I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.'
'Yeah, right, it's not that easy,' I protested. 'Yes, it is,' he said. 'Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live your life.'

I reflected on what he said. Soon thereafter, I left the tower industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that he was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, he was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.

I saw him about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, 'If I were any better, I'd be twins...Wanna see my scars?' I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place. 'The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be born daughter,' he replied. 'Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or...I could choose to die. I chose to live.' 'Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?' I asked.

He continued, '..the paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read 'he's a dead man'. I knew I needed to take action.' 'What did you do?' I asked. 'Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,' said John. 'She asked if I was allergic to anything 'Yes,' I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Gravity'. Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.'

He lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude... I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.

Attitude, after all, is everything.

'Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.' Matthew 6:34."

After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

The Search for Happiness

I'm borrowing this entry from a daily devotional called "Hugs: Daily Inspirations for Women" published by Howard Books. This entry appears for August 9th.

"Happiness depends less on our circumstances than on our thoughts. When we turn our thoughts to things positive - when we thank God for His gifts and revel in His glorious creation, those positive thoughts bring a reward. But when we focus on the negative aspects of life, we invite needless suffering into our own lives and the lives of our loved ones.

The Roman poet Horace noted, 'You traverse the world in search of happiness, which is within reach of every person - a contended mind confers it all.' Happiness is, to a surprising extent, a creation of our own making.

Here are two facts worth considering: first, happiness is a choice; second, no one can choose your happiness but yourself. Happiness is in your own hands - take it!"

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I Believe...

It's all in what you tell yourself.
You can change how you experience your life by changing what you believe is going to happen. When you expect the worst, it's what you'll find. When you expect goodness, it's so much easier to recognize. You can find good or bad depending on what you go looking for. Why would you want to find anything other than good?

Everything happens for a reason.
Sometimes the reason is hard to see, and may take a long time to be understood. But believing that I'll eventually recognize the purpose, makes moving forward much easier.

Praying for your "enemies" makes them your "allies".
When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about someone else, ask God to bless them. I've used this countless times when I am having a problem with someone. If I catch myself grumbling in my head or even out loud, I'll try to stop myself and just simply say, "God Bless ___ (name of person)." I repeat it as often as I catch myself being angry, frustrated, annoyed or whatever. So many times something has changed in those relationships and I no longer think and feel the same way about those people. Other times I've developed deep and meaningful relationships with someone who used to "bug me".

Treat people the way you want to be treated.
I don't think this needs any explanation.

Noone else can make you happy or unhappy.
Happiness comes from a satisfaction with yourself. It can be shared with someone who you enjoy. But if you base your own happiness on what someone else does or doesn't do you are bound to be unhappy. The only person you can control is yourself and therefore your true happiness depends on you. It depends on the choices you make. It depends on the messages you tell yourself when someone else behaves in a different way than you wish they would. You can be happy with someone, in fact I think that is what most of us are looking for. But you are not happy because you are with them. If that were the case then you couldn't be happy without them. The quest isn't someone who will take responsibility for your happiness, the quest is someone who has their own happiness to share with yours.

Laughter is the best medicine.
'nuf said.

You can't look at a sunflower and not be uplifted.
Thank you to all of you who grow sunflowers for the rest of us to enjoy.

You can do something every day to make a positive impact on another human being and on the planet.
Smile, let someone go ahead of you in line, make eye contact, walk, bike, carpool, reduce, reuse, recycle, consume less, donate blood, walk a dog at the animal shelter, call a friend, have tea with an old friend (or an old lady :). In fact comment with your suggestions and I will add a list of free ways to make the world a better place.