Just Three Things to Teach

I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion.

Verse #67 from the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Only three things to teach? Lao Tzu is very verbose if he only has three things to teach. Interesting that one of them is simplicity! Patience and compassion are very well known. These things may not be put into practice very often in your life yet it is probably a good bet that you understand what they are. So I will explore simplicity and its lessons and principles. Since I think many of us would agree that the world today is any but simple.

You probably have a good idea of what simplicity is also. So do I and, as always do when I want clear on something. I start with a dictionary definition (those of you who are long time readers know this!). This time is no exception. Simplicity means the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do or the condition of being plain or natural. There, now we are all on the same page about what the definition of simplicity is. I don’t know if that clears up what Lao Tzu meant when he wrote “teach simplicity.” How do you teach simplicity? What does it means to incorporate simplicity into your life?

I know my life always seams to have thousands of things going on within it. There always seems to be something I “must” do or “should” do. If I don’t have enough things on my list, there are other people who are more than willing to add others. How in the world, with all the stuff I have going on and all the stuff I want to do, am I supposed to have simplicity? Well, I believe that simplicity as LaoTzu is referring to is not about the things you do, although that is part of it, so much as the way and mindset of you doing them.

Keep it simple. Have you heard that before? Focus on one thing at a time. Do one thing at a time. Solve problems in the simplest way available. Be concise and purposeful in your conversations. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Simple, right? Then you never have to remember who you told what. Be present in the moment. Accept things as they are and release judgments and preconceived notions. That is called the “natural” aspect of simplicity. Simple in thought – straight to the point, one thing at a time. Simple in action – do one things, do it well and do it for a clear purpose. Simple in life – live this moment now, to the best of your ability and let the rest go. Ahhhh, simplicity! A breath of fresh air.


In Love and Light


How is Living Different From Living?

“Every day was there to be lived or to mark one’s departure from this world.” from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


What does it mean “every day was there to be lived”? What does it mean to live? This is an interesting question. Technically if you are breathing and have a pulse you are living. However, there is so much more to living than having a pulse and breathing. Another thing  is having active brain functions. I would say having active brain functions is part of living also. These things help define a medical definition of living. Still there is more to living than breathing, having a pulse and active brain functions. Those are just the physical manifestations of living. What else is required to be living?

How about feeling and emotions? To be Living (I will use the capital “L” to distinguish this from just the physical living) we should feel the world around us. We should have an emotional response to that world. We have emotions and feelings. They are a part of us that makes us human. So, if we are going to Live this day, we need to embrace all that makes us aware of that Living. That means our emotions and feelings. So any time you have checked out emotionally, you have stopped Living and are now existing.

Is that all to Living? Being physically alive and having emotions and feelings? Is that all? I would argue that to be Living in this world, and not just existing, you must be engaged in the world. You must interact with it. I would go so far as to say, you must have an influence on it and to be truly Living, have a positive influence at that. That impact does not have to be huge, it only has to happen. So, I define Living as feeling the world and interacting with it in some positive manner. So now the question is: “Are you Living in the world or just existing?” I know for me I go in and out of that definition and yet overall, I believe I Live in this world. Someday will mark my departure from this world and, until then, I will Live each day. How about you?


In Love and Light


Do You Have an Overdeveloped Sense of Responsibility?

Jim and I have recently started watching the TV show Smallville. If you are not familiar with this show, it is a retelling of the story of the iconic superhero Superman, when he was young. The series began during his high school years and continued for 10 seasons. The Series finale was this last spring. Jim and I are watching the DVDs and have started from the beginning.

One thing that became clear very quickly is that the character of Clark Kent, Superman’s alter ego (although at this point there is no Superman) has an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. He takes everything on. Anything he has even a remote connection to, he will feel like he is responsible for creating a positive outcome. No matter what anyone else’s choice is or what part they play in the things that are happening, Clark always feels like it is all his responsibility to fix. I suppose that is a good thing in a character that can bench press a tractor. However, it handicaps his character with a lot of guilt and makes him moody and broody. Of course he is also a teenager, so that might have something to do with the moody and broody.

One of the insights that came to me the other day was how by Clark taking on all this responsibility, he negates the choices of the other characters. Since I have a tendency to take on lots responsibility for the things going on around me, this was an important realization for me. Every situation in our life is a result of the choices we and those around us have made. When two or more people meet, that meeting is the intersection of each person choices. So when I, or someone else, take on all the responsibility for something occurring, it is as good as saying “I’m sorry but all your choices are meaningless to me.” Now what impacted me the most was the realization that some of those choice are made in the deepest love and are meant to be a gift to me, or someone else. A gift I was rejecting by taking on all that responsibility and negating the choice!

I realize that responsibility has many non-supportive means out there. It is something I have talked about before. I also realize there are those who aren’t taking on responsibility for their choices. However, don’t own what is not yours. Recognize what your choices are and recognize what the other person’s choices are. When you take on more than your share of the responsibility, you hamstring yourself with guilt and stress. You can’t make someone’s choices for them and therefore you cannot guarantee any outcome or result in which someone else has a choice. This may result in an outcome you may not want, yet they too have their lessons to learn and experience to receive. Allow them the responsibility of their own choices and the gift that this is for you and for them.


In love and light


What Are You Not Seeing?

“Because my eyes are not yet accustomed to the desert” the boy said. “I can see things that eyes habituated to the desert might not see.” from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


In college, and later when I was working as a graphic designer, the hard and fast rule was “Never proof your own stuff.” That was the rule. It was something that people understood instinctively. Most people realized that any work that you created was nearly impossible to look at objectively. You were just too close to the piece. That’s why critics were done in art classes and you always had someone look over your work before submitting. When you look at something enough, you see what you think is there instead of what might really be there. Have you seen something that has been right in front of you for years and said “I never realized that was there”? That’s because you weren’t looking for it. I’m sure that happens to all of us at one point or another.

Many times it takes someone else to show us something new in our lives and maybe it’s something that’s been there all along. Many times when that happens we feel silly or stupid. Don’t feel that way. It is part of being human. Our brain filters information that it thinks is relevant and throws out the rest. If you don’t think it’s important, then it’s not and all information regarding it is disregarded. When I create a piece of art, I have an image in my head of what I think it should be and that factors into what I see. If you don’t have another person to look at it for you, the trick is to look at it in a mirror. The flaws you could not see before become very visible with this new perspective.

The key to seeing what is there and not what you think is there is getting a different view. It is about changing perspective. It’s about allowing the new information to come into your awareness. A great practice to support in this is trying different routes to the places you always go. Another way is to have conversation with new people and listen to their points of view without judging them. Spend the time listening instead of talking. Read books that are not your “type”, try some new food, or go to a movie you would not normally see. These are all great ways to begin a habit of allowing in new perspectives, new views, and new information.


In Love and Light


Gratitude Creates Energy

A tornado touched down in my town last week and then moved through the cities and towns I had known since growing up. It wreaked it’s path of destruction through the neighborhoods that I knew, and neighborhoods that friends knew, and that friends lived in. It destroyed buildings, crushed cars, uprooted trees, and claimed lives. Our area was lucky, for all the tornado voracity, there was very little loss of life. Three people lost their lives in the storm. One mother died as she protected her daughter in the bathtub of their home. A tornado. In New England. The last one was around 50 years ago.

When a friend called later to see if we were alright, she asked what we did when we heard the sirens. There were no sirens. We don’t do sirens. Even if they went off, I don’t think anyone would know what to do or what they meant. Last time I heard the sirens go off  was when I was a kid and they would test the sirens every other Friday in case of a nuclear attack. If they had gone off and I was able to register what they were, that probably would have been my first thought – a nuclear attack. A tornado warning would not occur to me. That the sirens were a tornado warning wouldn’t occur to most people in my area.

It was a surreal occurrence and still seems very unreal to me. Tornadoes are just something I never worried about. Just like I never really worried about earthquakes or hurricanes. They are just not something that happens in my area very often. The impact on my life was minimal, minor annoyances with power and phone. For others, their lives are completely different. For some people, their lives are changed forever. Yet another reminder to me how quickly your world can change. Instantly. In a minute.

There is still so much I take for granted. I take it for granted that I will get up tomorrow, that there will be sunshine and moonlight, that the world will continue pretty much as it always has. I take that for granted. Yet I know that the world is constantly changing. It is different from moment to moment. I know this and am still surprised when a tornado touches down in West Springfield, MA. I know that everything is shifting and changing and I still take so much for granted. When you think about tomorrow, what are you taking for granted? Well, one thing is that there will be a tomorrow.

I am in gratitude for so many things in my life. I’m very grateful that my home was untouched, that my friends and family were OK, and that the cost of life was so low. Being in gratitude is so much more energizing to me than taking things for granted. It creates miracles and wonder where before there was the mundane and normal. When you look with eyes of gratitude you see the truly amazing world we live in with its incredible gifts and beauties. When you look with gratitude you look with eyes that see things that were not there seen before. They were not there because they were normal, mundane and were taken for granted. Gratitude can not stop the world from changing. What it can do is gift you the memory and appreciation as the world does change.


In love and light


Leading and Following

If you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them.

Verse #66 from the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

People understand the value of a great leader. They understand how things can be changed and shifted when a good leader shapes a country, corporation or team. Most people will recognize a leader when they experience one. Great leaders make leading look easy. They make leading people seem like the most natural thing in the world. A great leader makes it seem like anyone could be a leader. Everyone wants to be a leader.

If all you had in this world were leaders, very little would get done. They would be so busy attempting to lead everyone that no one would actually do anything.We always talk about the value of a great leader and what that person will offer. It is rare that we mention the power and value of following. If there are not any followers than there can be nothing to lead. The followers are the ones that execute the plan. They are the ones that make it happen. They are the ones that change the world. The leader can give directions and vision. They can’t get it all done by themselves. Leaders need followers as much as followers need leaders. It is a very symbiotic relationship.

Before anyone can be a great leader they must understand the value of the followers. They themselves must have been, at one time, a follower. Without understanding the whys and the motivation of being a follower, a great leader will never be great. The plans and the vision will go unmade as the leader wonders why they can’t get followers. If you want to be a great leader, find a person who is leading a cause you believe and follow them. Commit to being the best follower you can be. Look at how this person leads and whether their leadership is effective. Is this leader getting the things done that they said they will? Are you, as a follower, invested in the outcome? It is the leader’s job to see that you are. Do you understand the reasons and goals of what you are doing? It is the leader’s job to see that you are. Invest yourself in the value of following to see the power of leading.

In Love and Light