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Purpose for Living … at all Ages

July 26, 2019 by  
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Sadly, many people die inside, long before they’re buried. Quoting from that great book, How to Ignite Your Passion for Living, “Make no mistake about it, even young folks can experience this [dying inside long before they’re buried]. There are too many in their 30’s and younger who quit on themselves and never reach their full potential.”

Okay, I was kinda bragging there because that book was written by me, but I sincerely believe there’s a lot of good motivational stuff in that book, that point being just one of them.

There are other people that think they have all the time in the world and they never quite grab a hold of their lives or find direction and true purpose. Hey, I understand that because it can be really tough on most people to figure out their “true purpose” for living. You see evidence of this everywhere among all age groups. You can hear it in the way people talk about their lives and about the future.

You can see it in their eyes when you really pay attention to people. Listen to their unenthusiastic or cynical voices and what they are talking about. What has happened to them? Aren’t we well educated in this country? Isn’t there a lot of wealth and opportunity all around?

Why are so many people beginning to die just when they are in a position to be having the time of their life? I’m not talking about just young, middle-aged people, but also, many times, it’s retired people who now have all the time in the world, but they just can’t seem to figure out their purpose for living.

When we were children, the future looked bright, inviting, and full of possibilities. We could hardly wait to embrace it and we set our young sights on becoming an astronaut or Miss America or a famous soccer or basketball player, or maybe we wanted to drive a race car or get rich or travel the world. But somehow, between then and our midlife years, we lose our way. We lose sight of our dreams. We become more “practical” when it comes to the day to day and we just hope for a better future.

Why is that? And more importantly, how did it happen? Why do so many people just let go of life and let themselves go, physically, mentally, financially, and in so many other ways? When life speeds up, many slow down. What, then is the solution?

It’s right there the in the corner of your mind. It’s all about death. Whose death? Your death and mine! As you get older, it’s all about how your mind begins to think about your own inevitable demise, your checkout time, your adios amigos day. In other words, the end. Your end!

As you and I hit midlife and beyond, we can’t help but begin thinking of our lives in a totally different way than we did when we were 18, 25 or 35. Back then, we intellectually knew that someday we were going to die. But on a real gut level, on an emotional level, we really couldn’t accept or believe this about ourselves. That event was so far in the future that it wasn’t real to us. I remember thinking when I was very young, “By the time I’m 70 or 80 I’m pretty sure science will have figured out how to extend life by maybe even 100 or 200 years!” Wow, what a fool I was, but it certainly helped me not to worry about or fret over my ultimate demise. There are some things we can do to our thinking that can make our remaining years so much more enjoyable and productive. I’ll, address that in next week’s blog.

Just Believe

July 19, 2019 by  
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To live a very long life is a very good thing, at least if you truly enjoy the years along the way. Time is such an interesting thing and it goes on and on, whether you and I are alive or not. I find it very interesting that the older I get the faster time seems to fly by. I’ll never forget when I was 15, counting down the days and months, wanting them to go faster so I could get my driver’s license. Do you remember those slow years when you were a kid, maybe waiting to get your license or counting down the days till Christmas?

In addition to filling our lives as much as we can with good stuff, we should also try to increase our lifespans. And there are ways to do that. Years ago, I read a book by an anthropologist, entitled How to Live to Be 100. In the book the author reported a study of the people who live in the southern Soviet Union the area of Georgia. These people have an average lifespan of over 100 years. How do they do it? The author pointed out that the Georgians diet is somewhat different than ours, but not radically different from other people who don’t live so long. Their level of activity is also not particularly unique. In the end the author concluded that these people lived long healthy lives because they expected to live long healthy lives!

But it doesn’t work just to think or hope you’ll have a long life –you have to expect it and really believe that it will happen. Personally, I would suspect that, with that kind of thinking, but in their they really did watch what they ate and spent their time wisely doing things that didn’t harm their bodies. The other thing that helped extend their lives was the way society there treated older people – with more respect and honor.

No matter how long we expect to live, we should plan to do as much with our time as we can. It is said that time is money, and indeed it is. With extra time you can make extra money. Time is also happiness, if it is well used. Time is also joy and contentment, peace and pleasure and love, but only if we use it wisely.

Many years ago, I drove through East Chicago Heights in Illinois, which is not the most desirable urban area. I was absolutely stunned to see the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who lined the street that warm summer night, doing nothing but just standing there. I learned later that this was a normal practice there. When we do nothing, however, we receive nothing in return.

I’m not suggesting that we not take time out to enjoy ourselves. Enjoyment and recreation are rewards we can give ourselves after we’ve worked hard and done a good job. The law of life says that hard work and struggle must precede the joy and fulfillment of accomplishment. And without that there is not a true enjoyment of life. When we are productive, it almost always lifts our spirits and contentment factor.

Okay, so I am going to work on my own brain, and I do plan on living a very, very long life. 100 years old doesn’t sound like that big of a number now, because I’m 75% of the way there already. How about you? Are you going to set a big number goal and really go after it? If you do, the one big thing you’ll have to then is to just really believe that you’re going to do it.

A Beautiful Life Now

July 12, 2019 by  
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If someone is really rude and totally offends you but then later offers a very sincere apology, most of us would probably forgive that person and move on with our lives. However, when most of us human beings make a mistake or screw something up, in many cases we will not forgive ourselves and so we carry that guilt around for days or years and that can hurt us in so many ways.

Quoting from Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully, a great book that I’ve quoted before, “Over time, as thinking minds begin to settle, we’ll start to see our patterns and habits far more clearly. This can be an experience. I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be. By cultivating nonjudgmental openness to ourselves and to whatever arises, to our surprise and delight we will find ourselves genuinely welcoming the never-pin-downable quality of life, experiencing it as a friend, a teacher and a support and no longer as an enemy.”

Pema talks a lot about acceptance of ourselves and the world as it is and how we should appreciate it as it is now. She talks about what she calls the “third commitment”, which is key to this kind of acceptance and appreciation. (You need to read her book to find out what the first and second commitment are and how they can greatly improve a person’s life.) To quote her again, “The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.” She goes on to add that, “The attitude of the third commitment is that we live in a world that is intrinsically good, intrinsically awake, and our path is to realize this. Simply put, the practice at this stage is to turn toward your experience, all of it, and never turn away.

Pema talks a lot about being kind to others especially to ourselves. She talks about the process of growing-up and working toward feeling totally relaxed and free. She says, “that process, that transition, is one of becoming comfortable with exactly what we’re feeling as we feel it. The key practice to support us in this is mindfulness–being fully present right here, right now. Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few.”

Pema Chodron further explains that we need to pay attention to all the details of our life. “The specific details of our lives will, of course, differ, but for all of us, wakefulness concerns everything from how we make dinner to how we speak to one another to how we take care of our clothes, our floors, our forks and spoons”.

I think the bottom line is, if we pay more attention to the details of our lives it will give us more ways to free ourselves and that can help us free ourselves from suffering. So, we need to accept ourselves, appreciate our life as it is now, and pay attention. And we need to do all that, right now.

Focus Your Energy for Strength and Profit

July 5, 2019 by  
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The quickest route to any objective, be it monetary or otherwise, is to totally focus your attention on a minimum number of things. Thomas Edison was once asked how he was able to get so much done. He said, “It’s very simple. You and I each have about 18 hours a day in which we may do something. You spend that 18 hours doing a number of unrelated things. I spend my time doing one thing, and some of my work is bound to amount to something.” If Edison took time to do dozens of unrelated things, he and his team most likely wouldn’t have come up with some of the great, world changing inventions that he patented.

If you truly want to be outstanding in any field, there’s one important rule you must observe: you must concentrate your energy on that one thing. Get just that one thing in your mind and in your heart.

With blinders on you’ll be able to look straight toward your goal and forget what’s happening on the sidelines. It’s been said that sidelines are “slide lines”. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote two essays on the subject. One is entitled “Power” and the other “Wealth”. He wrote, “Stop all miscellaneous activities. Do away with distraction …,” because, as he put it, “distractions will untune us for the main purpose of our lives.” In another passage, he states that “The one prudence in life is concentration, the one evil is dissipation.”

If you have an intense, unwavering determination to make your objectives and goals a reality, nothing can stop you. Learn to concentrate your efforts by focusing your attention on one thing and keep it focused there. It’s like a magnifying glass—you can take the gentle rays of the sun and bunch them together with that magnifying glass and create a shaft of light that can burn a hole through steel.

To become a great person of accomplishment, financially, artistically, socially, religiously, politically, or any other way, you must concentrate your efforts and attentions through that tiny magnifying glass. You must resolve not to be sidetracked by the hundreds of diversions that will tempt you–diversions that are sometimes very interesting but are, nevertheless, usually meaningless and divert you away from your primary goal.