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Posts Tagged ‘life’

“It is required of every man,” the ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.” ~ Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”

How abundantly has your spirit within you walked abroad among your fellow-man? Are there times where you were more at rest with yourself, more willing to let your spirit “travel far and wide” than others? If so, why? What was different?

Many people have lived their lives running to and fro in the earth, desperately seeking a way to extract joy, pleasure, fulfillment and happiness from the world at large, while many others have lived their lives motivated almost exclusively by a deep-rooted fear of loss. Either approach misses the point of life entirely and both tend to end in the same shallow grave.

One of my favorite aspects of my company’s corporate culture is the idea that my team and I can build a safe place where the spirits within us can find safe harbor. I know of no one who has escaped the jaws of life as it now is without a bruise or two, and letting down the barriers and fronts to reveal one’s inner spirit can be a bit daunting at first. Over time, however, the spirit within shines more and more brightly, illuminating the way for others.

This all sounds a bit airy-fairy as I write this, but it is a very real, tangible and at times visceral process. When someone believes in you more than you believe in yourself, when someone trusts you more than you trust yourself and when someone pushes you more than you push yourself you have an opportunity to let go of self-constructed limitations to the expression of who you really are, The Real You.

It will likely take time, as those walls, defenses and scar tissue took time to build and grow, but given the right nourishment and surround, you can and should blossom. Holding back is the only thing that will stunt your growth or retard your progress.

I believe that people can always change for the better. Scrooge did it late in life in what is perhaps one of the most inspiring pieces of literature ever written, and so can you! It is never too late to give more freely of yourself to the world around you.

The question is: will you do what it takes to let your spirit travel farther and wider than you’ve permitted until now? Life is too short to hold back. Whether or not the ghost’s warning is true, I see no reason why anyone should tempt fate and fail to do his or her part in allowing for the unconditional and unrestricted flow of spirit into expression no matter how big or how small the task at hand might be.

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To Be a Pilgrim by John Bunyan

Who would true Valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will Constant be,
Come Wind, come Weather.
There’s no Discouragement
Shall make him once Relent
His first avowed Intent,
To be a Pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal Storys
Do but themselves Confound;
His Strength the more is.
No Lyon can him fright,
He’l with a Gyant Fight,
But he will have a right
To be a Pilgrim.

Hobgoblin, nor foul Fiend,
Can daunt his spirit:
He knows, he at the end
Shall Life Inherit.
Then Fancies fly away,
He’l fear not what men say,
He’l labour Night and Day
To be a pilgrim.

Life is a pilgrimage for those who chose to live and a slow march to the grave for those who prefer to simply exist. A pilgrimage, or a quest for a great moral purpose, is the aperture through which your significance is established. In fact, each day that you live is an opportunity to give expression to the blessings that surge forth from the fountain of life that you are.

As with any pilgrimage, obstacles and pitfalls must be met and overcome on a daily basis. Some days will be harder than others, but if you keep your heart and mind centered on the desire to reveal the highest and finest expression available to you, progress will be certain.

Do you see your life as purposeful journey filled with circumstances that serve as stepping stones or do you feel that you are wandering aimlessly through random experiences that lead nowhere? Where there is clarity of vision, you will flourish.

Your purpose isn’t something that you can cook up while sitting by a fire on a cool winter night. It isn’t something that you can learn from a book and neither is it something that another can outline for you. Your purpose is yours to discover and reveal.

Purpose is made known as you serve others. It is revealed organically. The more you focus on blessing and complementing those around you, the clearer your vision will become. Clarity of vision leads to clarity of purpose.

Take care that your pilgrimage does not end in mediocrity. Embrace life – both the good things and the bad – and make the most creative use of everything that comes your way. You deserve it and so does the world around you!

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“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Talking somebody down from the wall of worry is not an easy task. To do so you must deftly skirt accusations like “you just don’t understand” and “you’re not hearing me” while reassuring, distracting and refocusing attention on what can be done here and now.

Troubles are fed by the attention you pay to them. Wise is the person who understands the scope of his problems without succumbing to the temptation to fixate on them. Problems are resolved with solutions, not worries.

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” ~ Mark Twain

One of the silliest things you can worry about are those things which you have no control over or any means of influencing. They are what they are and stressing about them will only drain the very battery you will draw upon to handle the challenges that pass through your sphere of influence.

If you have a list of worries, take the time to cross out those about which you can do nothing. Next to those crossed out write something you can handle or influence as things are now. You can either spend time worrying or moving in a productive direction. The choice is yours.

“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.” ~ Pat Schroeder

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Der Jungbrunnen by Lucas Cranach, Image by Wikipedia

 

“A great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Man’s obsession with the discovery of the fountain of youth reaches deep into early history. Whether driven by the desire to overcome his mortality or by the quest to rediscover the key to eternal life, his search spans the written record.

Herodotus, in his “History of Herodotus” written in 440 BCE, tells of Ithyophagi messengers who made their way to Ethiopia to visit the king of the land, where the men were “said to be the tallest and handsomest in the whole world.” Upon their arrival they “questioned the king concerning the term of life” and they were told that most of their people lived to 120 years and some of them well beyond.

Herodotus then added “When the Icthyophagi showed wonder at the number of the years, he led them to a fountain, wherein when they had washed, they found their flesh all glossy and sleek, as if they had bathed in oil- and a scent came from the spring like that of violets.”

Al-Khadir and Alexander the Great, Image by Wikipedia

Islamic tradition also tells an intriguing tale of a prophet named al-Khadir (The Green Man), who was the only person to have discovered the secret to immortality by drinking once from the fabled Ma’ul Hayat (Fountain of Life). Eastern versions of the Alexander Romance describe the tale of Alexander the Great and his servant crossing the Land of Darkness in search of the fountain of life. The servant, incidentally derives from the Arabic tales of al-Khadir!

The archetypal idea that there could be a magical place where restorative waters flow freely is tantalizing, but I have to wonder if we are looking at the record too literally, as children often do when told a story. Could it be instead that the fountain of life is figurative and not literal, a state of being instead of a geographic location or a physical spring?

The stories of great men and women through history who lived phenomenally influential lives are appealing to anyone who has not yet given up on life. They lived life fully and in some cases they found a way to do so without being used up in the process. Was it serendipity, the right combination of genetic material or did they tap into the source of life itself, deep within their bosom?

I imagine that all three of these explanations had some part in it, though good luck and the right genes were likely secondary to the strong sense of self that comes only to those who tap into the wellspring of life within themselves. This connection, I suspect, is not something that can be “gotten” or “possessed,” instead, it is something that manifests as it is given into expression through body, mind and heart.

I am a firm believer in the idea that you cannot give what you do not possess, and I believe in this case that we must add, “…what you do not possess or do not know that you possess.” I believe that the fountain of life is present in each and every person on earth. Whether or not you tap into it is a matter of choice.

Education, religion, spirituality, inspirational and motivational tools that line the self-help shelves and so on are a means to an end in the sense that they provide (in varying degrees) the guidance necessary to reestablish this connection between inner resource and outer expression. When taken as an end, they quickly become a dead end rather than a living one. When viewed as the key to “getting” life rather than giving it, the well-paved road to enlightenment morphs into the road to a hellish life, paved with good intentions.

I would love to hear what lights your fire, what inspires you to push where others crumble and fade away. Don’t be shy…the world needs your vision!

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My wife heard an interesting statement on TV yesterday evening and was thrilled to share it with me this morning, for it was both empowering and revolutionary:

“Pressure is a Privilege”

The statement: “pressure is a privilege” defines a novel way to look at the various pressures you face in your world. Rather than see pressure as a foe, something to avoid or get away from and another reason to hate life, why not recognize it for what it is?

Pressure is a harbinger of change. In fact, change rarely occurs without some form of pressure. Most change occurs within a contained cycle – with a definable beginning and an end – after the application of a stimulus. The stimulus brings pressure on the situation and the pressure rises and then falls, describing a bell curve within the cycle.

The way you handle pressure determines how effectively you handle change. If you are in the habit of reacting to or avoiding pressure either consciously or unconsciously, you will blow the cycle the leads to progressive change. If, conversely, you learn to be at rest under pressure or even better, to shine under pressure, then you will become an agent of change in your world rather than a victim of change.

Pressure is a privilege because it makes change easier. Without pressure, all change is an uphill battle. Pressure – if you’ve contained it properly by not reacting to its building – builds naturally in relation to a process of change and this is the secret behind the reason why it is said that “timing is everything.” Timing is everything because a sensitivity to pressure management allows for the least amount of self-generated force to be applied to get the ball rolling.

If you’ve ever forced something before its time, you’ve recognized how much harder it is to make changes without the necessary background pressure. Some people dislike change for this reason. They’ve pushed and pushed until exhaustion without moving with the pressure. Rather than standing victoriously at the end as an agent of change they’re flattened by the process, exhausted and disheartened by the apparent futility of trying to make change happen.

Be mindful of the pressure in your world, but don’t obsess over it. Watch for signs that you may be unwittingly leaking out valuable pressure, such as:

  1. Heightened reactiveness to the world around you (usually expressed through agitation, anger, panic, etc.)
  2. Physical tension, shallow, rapid breathing, stiff neck or shoudlers and other physiological reactions to stress
  3. The tendency to withdraw or to run away from it all
  4. Quitting, selling out for comfort
  5. Engaging in mindless activities in lieu of digging in and taking care of pressing responsibilities

Learning to handle the privilege of pressure responsibly is a progressive process. It won’t happen all at once. It is a building process much like physical exercise. The good news is that every circumstance contains in it an opportunity to get a little better at handling pressure.

My challenge to you this morning is to prove that you are man or woman enough to take positive steps in the way you handle pressure. Relinquish bad habits as they show themselves to you. Don’t worry too much about those around you and how they deal with pressure…you’ll likely have your hands, head and heart full with your own issues.

The absence of pressure brings an illusion of comfort. I say illusion because a leaky container holds water for only so long. At a certain point you recognize that you, as a container for life and all that is represents – vibrancy, tenacity, resiliency, beauty, potency, etc. – can no longer support its expression. The bottom falls out eventually, sadly though it is typically long before death.

That is no way to live! Life is meant t0 be dynamic, vigorous and virile and the experience of those qualities comes only as you recognize and learn to move gracefully with the ebb and flow of pressure within the various cycles you’re privileged to handle.

Grace under pressure is absolutely within your reach and capabilities. Don’t rush in where angels fear to tread, but instead commit yourself to the long haul. Step by step you will prove that you can – with increasing ease – overcome. Pressure is not your enemy, it is your friend and you are privileged to keep such good company.

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Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.  It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe.  It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished. ~ Michael Strassfeld

My son’s school had its annual “Candlelight” assembly yesterday evening, a ceremony that celebrates the coming holiday season as well as the achievements of the graduating class. The school houses Pre-K to 12th grade and each class performed a song, with video interviews of the seniors interspersed between each act. The evening culminated with the senior class lighting each others’ candles while representatives of the freshman class read quotes about “light.”

The quote above stood out to me as much for its elegance as its timelessness. I wonder at what point humanity began to care more about other things – if it went down that way – than the expression of inner light. I have no doubt that the beauty and joy that shines brightly through babies, for instance, is something that should only be amplified as life goes on. For most, however, it is attenuated by the passage and ravages of time.

Take time this season to let go of those elements in your heart and mind that have clouded the expression of the light in you.

He that has light within his own clear breast
May sit i’ the centre, and enjoy bright day:
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts
Benighted walks under the mid-day sun;
Himself his own dungeon.
~ John Milton

 


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Well, my friends, it’s time to celebrate! We’ve reached 200 consecutive daily posts together and it has been a delight sharing my observations on life with you over the last few months.

I appreciate your readership and comments and I wish you the best for an exceptionally generative day!

~ Gregg

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