An Interesting Perspective…

I found the above illustration a short while ago and it spoke to me. I like how the illustrations shows the giant carrying everything material on his back and is attempting to scoop up pieces of nature to keep “feeding the machine.” At least, that how I’M interpreting it… And if you look closely enough, you’ll see a person, presumably human, stand beneath the giant firing an arrow up at it, suggesting that not all people are the same as what this short message indicates.

I don’t believe myself to be perfect in any way, shape or form and I can honestly say that I see myself in some of the things I write about. But i see some of the truth in this illustration with how one need only to step out their front doors to see everyone who isn’t actively behind the wheel of a car (and a few who are) with their faces firmly buried in the screen of a smart device. People associate success with the accumulation of things, instead of the accumulation of memories and experiences, which is a shame since life has far more to contribute than how big your house is, or how expensive your car is. Food for thought… ☯️

It’s Not Me, It’s You…

People can be cruel. I don’t think that’s a grand revelation, by any means but there’s definitely something to be said for how we, as a people, treat each other on a daily basis. Matters have been aggravated in recent decades with the inclusion of social media and the internet. As I’ve often voiced before, having the world’s information at one’s fingertips has some potential negative connotations.

I spent SOME time wandering the realm of social media as it often provides me with ideas on what i can blog about and I notice that people will often comment on things negatively, rather than simply scroll on by. This is perplexing to me, as I’ve always been taught that if you have nothing nice to say, you should say nothing at all. It boggles the mind how some folks will reach out and complain about even the most insignificant of things, often for the sole purpose of inciting hate or anger.

The kind of energy you put out into the world is contagious. One might almost say it’s insidious… working it’s way into other people that you direct said energy at. If you put out negative energy, it will incite negativity. And if you put out positive energy, it’ll likely have a positive effect. To moist, this concept makes sense, despite the fact that they will sometimes go on a rant or tirade that will adversely affect others.

The other side of the coin in this situation, is the fact that people will react in different ways to different things and that positive/negative energy will be absorbed as such. one good example is within the workplace. If one gets a “good job” from someone, most people will be motivated and feel positive from it. But if one is given corrective feedback or correction on something they’ve worked on or done, they’ll be inclined to feel slighted, belittled or insulted for being corrected on something they’ve done.

This brings about the concept that one can only control what one says and not how the other party reacts to it. however, it’s important to recognize that you’re ultimately responsible for the TYPE of energy you release into the world and whether or not you choose to make it positive. It’s easy to admit that there’s enough negativity and suffering in the world without intentionally adding to it. Maybe your don’t need to name-call that person online. Maybe you don’t need to comment on every little thing you don’t agree with. It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay not to agree. But it’s also okay to let things go. You’ll be happier for it. Food for thought. ☯️

Where’s The Quiet Place?

Something that a lot of people seem to sell short is the occasional need for good ol’ peace and quiet. And this can be an extremely difficult thing to obtain, especially in modern society. I recognized this issue last summer, when I was sitting outside in my garage on a warm, sunny day. Some birds were chirping, a light breeze was making the beaches of nearby trees sway and I was peacefully puffing away on a cigar (Yes, yes, I know! Bad habit! One problem at a time, people!)

As I settled into my moment of serenity, I began to notice an audible hum in the air. It was almost unnoticeable at first, like something fleeting at the very edge of my hearing. I slipped into a light meditative state and allowed myself to open up to what I was hearing. I came to realize that among the chirping birds and summer breeze was the background noise of hundreds of cars on the highway about a kilometre away, the rumble of a passenger plane passing overhead and various sounds of society and industry.

It took away some of the magic of my afternoon, especially since once I recognized it was there, I couldn’t “I hear” it. We live in a pretty quiet, suburban neighbourhood of our city and I usually pride myself on being able to get the aforementioned peace and quiet during the warmer seasons by sitting outside. But this post isn’t about noisy neighbourhoods, it’s about the need for quiet as a part of your life.

Surprisingly, many people are uncomfortable with the quiet, preferring a constant barrage of background noise and something to fill the auditory void, whether they’re watching television, reading a book or even trying to sleep. I, myself, use some white noise or Netflix to fall asleep at night. Although the white noise is perfectly fine and in some cases recommended, using a lit screen with a streaming service isn’t the best for a variety of reasons, but that’s one for another post.

The point is, occasional quiet is a good thing. It allows you to simply BE with yourself, something not a lot of people indulge in. The person who should you best is you and without being alone with your thoughts, it’s pretty hard to take that particular step of self-discovery. But even if you’re comfortable being alone with your thoughts, modern life doesn’t always allow for it. After all, as I always say, life doesn’t care about one’s plan…

I noticed how badly I missed having periods of silence when my wife and I recently put the baby down for a nap and our oldest was in the basement entertaining himself. The tv was off, she was reading a book and I was searching for something online through my phone. At some point, I realized that my breathing had slowed, I felt calm and the house seemed peaceful. I commented about it to my wife and I recognized that this is the kind of benefit that silence can bring.

There are some who may argue that once you are adept at meditation that you can do it anywhere, regardless of the distractions. While this is an arguable point (try properly meditating while your 7-year old is running circles around and screaming), some quiet will make it easier for you to do most things. Meditation will be easier, practicing karate is easier and simply letting your head cool while you contemplate the matters of the day will be easier.

Whether you enjoy the quiet or not, don’t sell it short. It can provide unspoken mental and physical health benefits and make the rigours of the day easier to get through. And if you’re in a situation where finding a moment of silence is difficult, there are ways you can still get a moment, whether it involves taking a drive to grab coffee or even staying up a bit later so you can have some quite time once the kids are asleep. Trust me, peace and quiet can be worth the effort. ☯️

Motivation Or The Egg? Or Is It Chicken Or The Motivation…?

It’s important to recognize that motivation doesn’t happen on its own. Like a dynamo, it needs to be worked up to the point where it will make a difference in how you view things. Unfortunately, when one does not HAVE motivational energies within them, making, reaching and achieving goals can be difficult, if not altogether impossible.

What one needs to remember is that motivation won’t necessarily come first. Hell, if it did, I probably wouldn’t bother getting up in the morning. No, in order to build the motivation to accomplish any task or goal, you need to push yourself. You need to exercise your own strength of will and recognize your own self worth and acknowledge that it’s worth it, even if laying back down and closing your eyes feels like such a better option.

But if you can push yourself enough, just enough, to hit the ground running in the morning, you’ll discover that motivation comes on its own. If you’ve never run a mile before, making it across that first finish line may feel like hell and your lungs are on fire and your legs are about to give out. But if you have the fortitude to do it again… and again… and keep pushing yourself, you’ll notice that you’ll get stronger and faster. You’ll shave time off. That mile will feel less exhausting and eventually your body will start telling you that you can go farther and faster. And believe me when I tell you, very little motivates a person like getting stronger and faster, as well as reaching your goals.

Motivation can also come from outside sources. perhaps family or loved ones will have encouraging words or thoughts to push you through the hard parts of life. This can be a God-send but one needs to ensure that one does not become dependent on this type of motivation. It has a tendency of disappearing when one needs it most. Motivation can also be found in the lives of strangers. Perhaps you’ve seen someone go through hell and it pushes you to do better and be better. Maybe a celebrity or an athlete inspires you to go farther. But ultimately, these sources of motivation come and go.

At the end of the day, it will always be up to you to be your own primary source of motivation. you have an untapped well of energy and strength. you simply need to allow yourself to see it. Once you do, you may even surprise yourself at how far you can. And that, in and of itself, is the best kind of motivation there is. Food for thought… ☯️

2022 May Get To You, Too…

Well, here we are! It’s 2022, a year that would have sounded like science fiction lore if brought up during my childhood. By the LIGHT, am I ever old… It’s been a hell of a year, with a number fo life-changing things that have taken place. Let’s take a tally, shall we? 2021 saw me retire from the Force and accept a new job that has made life better in scores. My oldest son turned 7, my youngest son turned 2 and my wife and I celebrated 7 years of wonderful marriage. Our basement got renovated, making it liveable once again and doubling our living space. We have effectively cleared most of our disposable debt and have built on the prospect of preparing for retirement, which is not as far as away as one might think.

As with all things in life, for every positive there is a negative. And 2021 certainly had no shortage of those. At some point during the height of the pandemic, my father was rushed to the hospital by ambulance for what appeared to be some sort of respiratory issue. given the lockdowns and restrictions in place at the time, not only was I unable to fly back to New Brunswick to support my family but my mother was even restricted from entering the hospital to see him, in the event that he had contracted COVID-19. Doctors didn’t expect him to survive the night and my mother could do nothing more than say goodbye over the telephone and I was stuck, 3,400 kilometres away. That definitely hammered the pandemic home, for me. Luckily, my father survived and they determined that it was only pneumonia.

I never imagined I would ever think “just a pneumonia,” but here we are. The point is, the last year has seen some good, some bad and some ugly. Such is life. And today is the day when most people are starting to establish resolutions for themselves with the hopes of accomplishing them throughout 2022. That’s great and all, and I admit to being on that bandwagon on more occasions than I can recall. Also as usual, we have the typical denomination of the population who enjoy using the slogan “this year’s gonna be my year.” Entertaining. Slightly naive, albeit it a little positive. But I think that this year, I’m going to try to do things a little different. And I’ll challenge all who are reading this, to do the same.

I won’t be trying to make any New Year’s resolutions, this year. Instead, I’m going to focus my efforts on simply being a better person and improving upon myself a little at a time, day after day. this will mean ensuring a healthier lifestyle, eating and sleeping better and getting back into a fitness routine that actually, well… a routine! I’m going to return to the martial arts, having found a karate school that is closely related to my original style. My goal will be to slim down, regain some lost skill and reflexes and hopefully get my children interested in the martial arts, as well. As I’ve written in some previous posts, my youngest son has shown some affinity to striking and using a punching bag. Maybe I can build on that.

Instead of trying to make 2022 “my year,” I’m going to work towards making every day “my day,” focusing on being present in the here and now. Not only is this far easier than claiming the entire year, it makes it all the easier to recover in the event that something goes wrong or poorly. After all, the loss of a single day is better than the loss of an entire year, wouldn’t you agree? And since we can agree that life doesn’t care about one’s plan and that the positive can’t exist without the negative, it’s far better to be prepared for some of that negative than to expect to expel it from one’s life completely.

I would challenge all of my readers to try and do the same. If there’s one thing that the past two years have taught us, it’s that it may be nice to make a resolution to lose weight, travel more, read X-number of books, learn a new skill or whatever else you may have in mind. But it’s even better (and easier) to make your overall life better in all areas, and work towards improving yourself FOR yourself, in all aspects. You’ll be happier and better for it. Happy New Year. Glad I started it with some food for thought… ☯️

Perceptions…

I’ve seen this on the odd occasion, as I navigate the murky waters of what we know as the internet. Despite the fact that I’m not that familiar with Thich Nhat Hanh (I haven’t actually read any of his stuff besides what I’ve found incidentally), I love this quote. I know that there are sources that denounce it and tend to belittle the message he’s trying to relay. But I think there’s some depth to what he’s expressing. For years, I’ve made a point of telling people that studying the Buddha Dharma is a practice. It’s a way of life more than an organized religion. Just wanted to share this as some food for thought… ☯

A Little Patience And Kindness Pays For Itself…

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that it’s been almost two years since the pandemic started and changed the face of the world forever. in some ways, many ways, the pandemic has allowed people’s true colours to rear their ugly heads. People allowing their sense of entitlement and their perceived rights to interfere with doing “what’s right,” and as a result, this whole thing has lingered for far longer than it should have.

I’m not here to advocate for vaccination. Not am I saying a person shouldn’t. But what i am saying is that it’s 2021 9soon to be 2022) and the population should be far more enlightened by this point than what they are. Society has divided itself in ways that haven’t been seen in recent memory, at least here in Canada. So on the eve of one of the most widely recognized holidays on the Gregoria’s calendar, allow me the indulgence of moment’s reflection and advice.

Be kinder to each and have some understanding. Everyone is scared. Everyone is worried. And everyone is mostly trying to do what they feel is best for themselves and their families. I’ve yet to encounter a person who is intentionally taking a stance on one side or the other for the intentional purpose of sowing dissension. Oh, I’m sure they’re out there. I’m simply saying that it’s wrong to assume that the neighbour who chooses NOT to be vaccinated is intentionally trying to bring harm to others, or the retail store employee requiring you to put on a mask is trying to ruin your day.

Everyone is trying to do their best, even if sometimes misguided or misinformed. And for those still braving the wilds of the outside world, the challenges are greater still. So, on the eve of the second Christmas where the world is at a standstill and many of us are far from our families and loved ones, take this opportunity to reflect and appreciate the most important aspect about this whole debacle: YOU are still here. Life is still taking place and there’s still so much to do, so show some empathy. Show some sympathy. Follow the rules and avoid causing suffering in yourself and others. only with those concepts in mind can the world begin to move forward. Food for thought…☯️

It’s Hard To Be Humble…

These days, it seems that the difference between being humble and being confident has been muddied to an extreme point. Many if not most seem to believe that being too confident means you can’t be humble and/or vice-versa. I’m not entirely sure that’s true. But in a world of attendance trophies and no-person-left-behind scenarios, it makes sense that people can forget the importance of being humble; albeit while allowing themselves to know their own self-worth.

Depending on what religious text you’re reading, humility (or the act of being humble) is defined as recognizing your place in relation to a grander design or deity. That is to say, acknowledging and knowing that you are bit one spec on a very big marble. Humbling, indeed. Most traditional dictionary definitions are no better, associating being humble with a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance. I rather like to think that humility is the ability to see beyond oneself and recognize that it isn’t all about me. There’s a great, big world out there and although my wants, needs and expectations are important, it would ignorant of me to assume that the world will grind to a halt to accommodate them.

I also recognize that I sometimes need to show respect and deference to those who are in a position of authority, even when they may not be correct; a task that is most difficult and sometimes impossible for most, especially if they’re hidden behind the protective veil of a keyboard. But to be clear, being humble doesn’t mean one needs to grovel before others or lower their eyes in someone else’s presence. The big problem is that the average person never seems to realize that one can be humble but still be confident.

Confidence can be easily described as knowing the worth of one’s own accomplishments and skills. Not to be mistaken with bragging, confidence becomes a negative thing when it dominates a personality, meaning that one will put too much stock in those accomplishments and ultimately face a potential downfall because of it. But confidence on its face is something everyone should have and everyone should acknowledge.

Where humility and confidence meet is in being able to acknowledge one’s accomplishments and trust one’s knowledge and skills WHILE being humble enough to exercise those aspects under the radar. You really can’t have one without the other. To have no confidence but still be humble means that you’ll prostrate yourself to others ad nauseam, which is never a good look for anyone.

To have confidence, or too much thereof, without humility means it may potentially be your downfall. You’ll be one of those jerks who walks around with their chest puffed out, bragging about you or prowess in one thing or another… In my experience and in martial arts circles, it’s usually the ones who brag how well they can fight that are the most easily defeated. This concept applies to life in general. Be confident in yourself and what you can do but be humble enough not to brag about it or assume you’re better than others. After all, no matter how strong, fast or smart you are, there’s always a bigger fish. Food for thought…☯️

The Silent Partner…

Last June, my wife decided to gift me a small succulent plant for our anniversary. I could have sworn I wrote a post about this but now I can’t find it. Either I didn’t, which is possible considering the number of posts I’ve written, or I did and my WordPress is glitching. In any event, my wife gave me this lovely little succulent to place in my office, which is likely the best gift that one could provide for a Buddhist. In essence, she gave me a touch of life to brighten up my work environment.

This is important, because most people associate the workplace with a full day of negativity. It’s great in concept to suggest to people to “do what you love,” but not everyone has that option. Granted, I’m absolutely enamoured with my job and love going into work, but there’s always room for more positivity in life, right? The bottom line is that I spent my first couple of months putting a personal touch on my office space. This can be important as work becomes so much smoother once your work space has a “homey” feeling to it. This shouldn’t be confused preventing the association of work within the actual home.

“Herb” during his first day in my office…

I decided to post the succulent on my personal FaceBook page, which is something I typically don’t do, and received some great name suggestions. I landed on naming the plant, “Herb.” I’ve never had much of a green thumb and I was a bit concerned with taking care of a living thing within my workspace. But a succulent is likely the best type of plant to give someone in this context, as it requires minimal watering and only needs passive sunlight. While I don’t subscribe to the concept of talking to one’s plants, I make a habit of playing some meditative music in the office, which I think likely benefits Herb. I couldn’t necessarily find definitive articles showing the benefits of music to plants, but I’ve heard a lot about it in previous years.

Herb is the first thing I see when I walk into my office. He gets a touch of water, every Monday morning and he gets a couple hours of passive sunlight with the rising sun, every morning. It’s been a nice addition and a positive presence within my office. Certainly not my most comprehensive or informative post I’ve ever written but sometimes it’s nice to share something simple. And this happens to be one of those things.

“Herb’s” selfie, almost nine months later…

It’s subtle, because succulents don’t grow quite as rampantly as many other plants would but you can definitely tell from the two photos I’ve shared that Herb has started to grow outwards beyond the rim of his pot. The slight added weight of his “branches” has caused a bit of a flattened look for his lower stalks, but his centre is still proudly sprouting upwards and these photos certainly help me to see that growth is definitely happening.

Plants are certainly a positive way to brighten one’s environment, whether at home or at the office. The important thing to remember is that a plant is a living thing, no different from a household pet. It requires attention, watering and care. Many people get plants and then let them sit there and all but forget about them. You still need to give them some attention and care, otherwise you’re better off simply NOT getting a plant. For me, given the growth Herb has shown in recent months, I can’t wait to see what progress he’ll show in the year to follow. ☯️

Sprinkle That Negativity Elsewhere…

All life is a game of balance. By that statement, it would make sense that the negative needs to exist in order to complement the positive. While most of us live our lives within the confines of this balance, most would agree that it’s more pleasing and typically one’s goal to live within the positive, as negativity tends to bring suffering. And suffering is not good. At all.

So what can one do to simply and effectively eliminate negativity from one’s life? Following the Eightfold Path is certainly a good way to start. Right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration and right mindfulness are good practices to have in order to eliminate the negative aspects of one’s life. But not everyone prescribes to these aspects, and society has a funny way of associating happiness with material belongings and tangible pleasures.

Unfortunately, some people experience the most negativity in their lives from other people. Have you ever had a toxic individual in your life? Someone that always seems to go against the grain and make things difficult? But you continue to keep them in your life because they may be a long-time friend, associate or even a family member. Occasionally, you won’t even have the choice. It can be someone brought into your life by virtue of someone ELSE’s choice, like a sibling or friend marrying someone toxic.

Sometimes it isn’t even so much that the person is TOXIC, per se. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of the person unfortunately living within their own negativity. And when someone is always negative, it just kind of seems to suck the air and energy out of the room. It’s important to note as well, that a person may not inherently be negative but their perspectives and life views may simply not be in line with yours. This can be even worse, since it means that even if they’re not negative themselves, it’s causing negativity within your own life by virtue of those differences.

So, should one cut such people out of their lives? This can be a difficult decision, especially if there’s a personal connection spanning years and possibly decades. I’ve faced that very situation, myself. Having someone who’s always difficult, negative and argumentative can be draining on a person’s soul, and common sense would dictate that knowing such a person for an extended period of time doesn’t make it worth it to have them linger in one’s life if all they do is spread negative energy into your existence.

There’s no easy answer. In fact, there’s no answer I can provide here. Each and every situation is different and subjective but it’s important to remember that one’s overall happiness will come as a result of their own actions; even if those actions mean cutting ties with someone you’ve associated with for years. Careful contemplation and consideration needs to be included but at the end of the day, like all things in life, one must do what’s in the best interest of one’s overall health and wellbeing. Food for thought…☯️