Get Your PhD in Subtlety…


PhD-graduate-007You know, for as much as we focus on the pursuit of our personal happiness, you’d think we would be a lot smarter in the chase. We want and want and want, yet we don’t always think. When we think, it’s sloppy and haphazard. It’s laced with expediency and self interest. We are easy prey. We grab the first offering. We listen to our thoughts as if they were outsiders and adjust ourselves accordingly. Something touches us but we are too numb to feel it. It’s subtle, oh so subtle, and we need some education to perceive it…

If you were orchestrating, even manipulating the minds of people, how would you do it? Would you approach their minds with catastrophe? Would you go for the jugular on the first try? No, you would be smarter than that, wouldn’t you? No hustler accomplishes his hustle if he tips his hand. Instead he exercises caution and leads his unsuspecting vicim along, until the time is ripe; until he’s already appealed to his victim’s selfish tendencies and base greed. Then, and only then is the ‘mark’ ripe for the score.

If life; a happy life, comes about from a contest that takes place in your mind, (your mind is the arena) then the assailant isn’t you, it’s outside of you and shows up in the form of thoughts. However, like the hustler behind it, it’s very quiet and surreptitious. It cannot show all the cards or you would awaken, startled and see the slight. Instead it’s skulks beneath in subtlety just below the surface, perceptible, yet imperceptible. It whispered to you a message and you heard it but you didn’t hear it. You were feeling good. Your were alive and vital. You were on top of the world and something changed. You questioned your sudden, inexplicable temper and your irritation level rose. Subtlety happened…

Like any art done well, we tend to be enamored by the big picture, yet fail to see the detail behind it. And, even if you peer closely, you’ll never see the drafts, the rough attempts, the entries that made it only to the garbage. Indeed, the devil is in the details because the details are where the life resides. Even one day consists of a multitude of thoughts. And amidst the thousands, which one caused you to stumble? What slippery, false prediction of the future took the wind out of your sails? What secret utterance raised your anxiety quotient and robbed you of the joy that is today? Which stealthy reminder of your past failures stole away your confidence and convinced you to settle for a mediocre existence. It’s that minuscule and it’s that grandiose!

In order to win at the game of life, you have to learn to pay attention. The world is fraught with distractions and causes you cannot affect. You spent the evening espousing racial inequality and succeeded in changing no-one. You fought for a cause that is no cause and neglected the only life you could change. In your passionate protest, you volunteered to fight the enemy, but failed to recognize the foreigner within. Your life demands your full attention both in the mundane and in the highlights. Your feelings; your built in receptors are conveying a message and you have to learn to hear it. You must learn to isolate the intruder and challenge its assertions. The peaceful life; the happy life; the exquisite life requires it!

Life itself is a frightfully short proposition. There just isn’t enough time. But, the time that is begs for control. It urges you to maximize the moment and revel in the present reality. Your joy exists right here, it says, fumbling distantly through the fog of your own making. It’s not the money or the successes or the status, it screams, it’s more simple than that. And like the flower that knows it must bud before it blossoms, it asks that you settle yourself patiently in order to master the moment. A happy life doesn’t come about from a single, glorious moment, but instead the mastery of a million moments in between. Master your moments.

Like any artist that has given themselves to their craft, you must, in humble submission, give yourself to your life. The joy of living is not a theory that eludes you but instead a reality that you already possess. And your bank balance would be very obvious to you if ever you tracked down the thieves that attempt to break through and steal…

Control, like discipline isn’t something you have to avoid. Both feel good unless they are motivated by fear. What you fail to control, controls you and the world is already full of sheep.

Cease your whining and feeling bad and complaining. Put a halt to your haphazard pursuit of the good life. Slam the brakes on the fruitless analysis of circumstances and events. Instead, put your hand firmly to the helm of thought and finally see what you never saw before. Anyone who wants to know, will know and you can bet your life on that.

So, how can you move beyond elementary school in discerning the subtlety that besets your life? You can do it by slowing down and paying attention. You achieve it by recognizing and controlling your thoughts. Your victory comes when you’ve earned your PhD in subtlety and the evil that lurks behind it.

You only have this one shot, right? You aren’t getting any younger. Wake up, get up and see what you, deep down, knew was going on all along… PhD folks; get your PhD!

Just some good thoughts…

 

The Cart Before the Horse…


AAEAAQAAAAAAAAK6AAAAJGNiODlmM2Y5LWRhM2YtNGY1YS1iODViLWI0ZDg1YjExODU0YQOne of the great tragedies of life comes from confusing your cart and your horse. The world, which is not confused, has convinced you to put your cart before your proverbial horse. It does so by persuading you that your life just “is” and that you are simply responding to it. So, this is for all of you who feel your life isn’t fair. This is for the unhappy souls. This is for the one that just can’t seem to catch a break. This is the remedy to every unpleasant circumstance and the release from anything that ever held you back!

When you take inventory of your life and I mean get really honest with yourself, there are probably things you “wish” were different. Maybe you don’t have enough money. (*Important side note – it seems the biggest proponents of money not being important are usually people who don’t have enough of it.) Money is very necessary, don’t you kid yourself. Maybe you aren’t experiencing satisfying relationships. Perhaps you don’t have enough friends. You might feel stuck; at a dead-end; purposeless or bored. You’re tired of being sick, facing setbacks, trying to surmount seemingly insurmountable odds! Whatever your issue is it can briefly be summed up in one sentence. Things just aren’t working out!  And with all that comes the shocker of all shockers. It is your fault…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Your life, the one you are presently experiencing, is exactly, unequivocally, precisely the sum of all you have expected it to be. Read that again! Obviously you aren’t responsible for every other person’s outcomes, but know this and never forget it. You are responsible for your own outcomes. You are, you are, you frikkin are! It’s not the world, the environment or your circumstances. It’s not your upbringing, your social status or your bank balance. It just isn’t and if you think it is you have fallen prey to the persuasion and your cart is pretending to pass your horse. Your horse pulls your cart and you are choosing the destination. Oh, you don’t think you are, but you are.

Lest you say I’ve gone mad, I get it. Life isn’t all peaches and roses. Sucky staff happens. Negative circumstances occur. People screw you over and everyone doesn’t start out on equal footing. At times you are an unsuspecting victim and other times you just didn’t see it coming. No-one’s life is exempt from the world’s shenanigans. We all have stuff to overcome. We all find ourselves in fights we don’t want to fight. There are reasons for that, but that is another blog. The point is, we can all get to anyplace we decide to get to once we finally learn how to get our horse before our cart.

The circumstances of your life are shaped by your beliefs. Your beliefs are formed by what you think about the most. What you think about the most is completely within your control and subsequently indirectly shapes the circumstances and events of your life. For example (warning this might piss you off), the amount of money you earn is exactly the amount of money, in that moment of time) you believed you could earn. The amount was determined by you. The limit was defined by you. If it isn’t enough it is your fault. To think that God decides how prosperous you are is to not understand God. The same applies to health and relationships and everything else under the sun. God simply laid out the rules. The rules have no limits, but they do have conditions. The conditions are, what you can believe for is what you will receive. Your believing, in your heart, ultimately a product of your thoughts, determines your results. Your beliefs are the horses and your carts are the results. Ya get it?

The liberation from negative outcomes comes when you decide to your change your thoughts. It happens when you step outside the hamster wheel and say, no more! It happens when you locate and destroy those self-defeating thoughts and (a very important and) you replace them with new thoughts. “It’s always been this way” is just a lack of understanding. It’s always been that way because you have always been that way and you can be any way you decide to be. It doesn’t matter how long you have suffered or under what austere circumstances you began. What matters is whether or nor you accept full responsibility for your life and in so accepting, do something about it.

People get forever stuck in the riddle of looking at what is and believing it is what will be. Today is just a reflection of all of your yesterdays. Tomorrow will be the mirror image of all of your todays. So, for God’s sake (literally), change your todays. Get outside of your well-worn ruts and picture something different; something better! Picture it; see it; live it in your mind today and as sure as the sun is coming up tomorrow, it is going to come to pass. It’s your horse, by God, and it is completely in charge of your cart.

You may think this fanciful; Pollyanna or pie in the sky, but at the end of the day, it is still your life. If you want to make a change, what do you have to lose? if you want to remain in your misery, keep chasing your cart around, foolishly dismissing your horse and the control God gave you over your life.

You can change anything and everything in your life if you can believe it! You can…

Just some good thoughts…

Doing It Right!


869722f0785de9af467bcc8720d2d668Doing things right may bring a lot of things to your mind, most of which probably involve drudgery and compulsive adherence to rules, laws and religious dogma. Since me and rules are fairly incompatible, you can relax because this aint that! This is really about doing your life fully, completely, thoroughly; doing it all the best according to what is needed next. It’s about satisfying the just demands of the moment.

I recently watched the movie, “The Intern.” An interesting movie for sure, but the appeal to me wasn’t the clever story line. It was Robert De Niro’s character, Ben Whittaker. However, it wasn’t Ben’s desire to get a job or be relevant or even his patience in working with a pack of young folks. It was the orderly way he lived his life. It was his care for the little things. It was Ben’s full attention to the moment he was in and the demands of that moment. It was his attention to detail. It was his lack of hurry in favor of what should be next. It was beautiful and clean and crisp in a way I can’t yet put into words, but I’ll try.

The modern day laissezfaire notion of life implies that any desire to keep things clean and maintained is obsessive. Demanding to have things put in the proper place is categorically over the top. Organizing desks, closets or anything presently in a chaotic state stifles your ability to live and breathe.” Just let it go man!” “Why are you so OCD?” All this talk about instituting order is taking away my freedom to “just be.” And, like so many things in this life, you sort of end up with the exact opposite of what you were after. Instead of feeling relaxed and unrestrained you feel anxious, hurried and stressed. Well, there’s a reason…

The One who invented life is supremely organized and orderly. His attention to detail is breathtaking. Everything matters and there is nothing made that does not have an intended purpose or use. The reason that nature has such an appeal to you is because there is a fantastic intricacy behind it. There’s no rigidity or straight lines (because that obviously aint it-get it?), but there is an unparalleled order; a beauty; an exquisite symmetry.  How about your human body? No matter how it looks outwardly, there’s no sloppiness back of it. In fact, it’s so well done you can abuse it for a long time before it starts to break down.

Order not chaos is the dominating principle of the universe. And, the more you put your life in order, the better you will live. Fighting against and resisting order may feel good in the moment, but, as all illusions do, will never last. What you gain in momentary expediency, you’ll lose in sustained happiness. Your relaxing won’t be relaxed and your letting go won’t let anything go. Everything you walked past remains fixed, perpetually occupying your mind as undone. The coat slung on the banister requests action every time you see it and in ignoring it, it beckons the louder. The candy wrapper in the driveway calls out each time you park. The light in the bathroom whispers to be shut off. Your junk drawer in the kitchen serves as an harassing evil, assaulting your thoughts when brought to light. Order is seeking you, not for itself but for you.

Being a Bible fan, I often think of the account when Jesus was raised from the dead. After the incredible miracle of being raised from the dead, there’s another point of interest you may have missed. In the custom of his culture, Jesus was wrapped from head to toe in grave clothes, sort of like a mummy. When they came to see if he was risen, they noted that he wasn’t there and that the the mummified grave clothes were still there untouched with the napkin that covered his face neatly folded on top. Who do you think folded it? Well, Jesus did of course. Compared to the magnanimity of the event apparently folding a napkin mattered as well. Jesus was and is a perfect man. So, you put that together…

There was a time when people sat down together for dinner, with carefully planned place settings and matching dishes. There was a time when people put their work items away carefully in their custom briefcase. They hung up their suits after the office toil or put their boots in the mudroom for later. People took time to make matches in the sock drawer. They dressed with care and nothing was wrinkled or too worn. Dress shoes shined and grooming was impeccable. There was a time when the details mattered and folks took the time to do things right.

The frenetic pace of today has thwarted man’s ability to take care of business; his business. Distractions exist all over and steal away our time. We have so much to do that we don’t have time to do things right. But, I’d guess you have the same time today that the Ben Whittakers of the world had back then, only minus all of the distractions. You might be surprised to learn in the great by and by, that God will reward you just as much for washing your car as He would for recognizing your service and love to your fellow man. Doing things right extends to every category of life and like any behavior that mimics your Father in heaven, has its own blessings that you can enjoy today.

Doing what you know to do; that which is required in the moment, the clarion call to order, will bring you a peace and a satisfaction that is unequaled in this world. The time it takes to do so will multiply back to you in ways you have not yet imagined. There’s no pain in doing things right. The pain ensues from letting things go. Do it right!

God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…

Just some good thoughts…

 

Calm Down!


8431429265_f779ef2065_bI remember a time when my wife and I were talking to some friends and she said something that sparked my happy meter and forever etched itself in my mind. She remarked, “Tony isn’t like me, he has a calm mind…” What a nice thing to say! And I have to admit my mind is generally very calm, despite the occasional times I’m like a duck on the water, appearing serene, but paddling like hell underneath. (smile) So, as you may have already guessed, this blog is about cultivating a calm mind.

Before I highlight some key principles, I think it’s important to understand why. Your mind is the center of your life. It’s not just part of your experience, it is your experience. It’s the largest determining factor in how your life progresses. And, as the central hub from which your life proceeds, it has to be in order. Imagine trying to run a business with a thousand random papers and files all over your desk. Picture your warehouse operation functioning properly with no system in place. Instead of success you would experience chaos which may be an apt description of many people’s lives.  Good things, great ideas, quiet, gentle guidance, self control, and the ability to problem solve all come from a calm mind.

An agitated, upset mind is like your mouth when you leave the dentist’s chair. You’re drooling and biting through your tongue; your face is sagging and you are completely unaware of it. Or said another way, all kinds of crap is happening to you; affecting you; harassing you, but you are too distracted to see what’s going on. It’s similar to trying to find your ring at the bottom of the pool while the water is agitated. You’ve got to wait until the agua settles down before you can see. Ya get it?

You’re not alone in your anxiety because the whole world is in turmoil. People suffer in silence because they think it’s normal. Some have never experienced peace. But, you should know that you were not designed to live that way. You were specifically designed with a mind so that you could direct your life. You’re not an animal with built-in instinctual behavior. You’re a human being who needs a calm mind. Interestingly, letting everything go; being perpetually distracted and overwhelmed, actually reduces your life to the level of the common beast. You sort of sniff around seeking to get your basic needs met with no thought about what you could really accomplish or experience if you got your base of operations in order.

Stop for a moment to consider how many thoughts go through your mind in a day. How many of them are negative, critical or fear inducing? If you are inexperienced in controlling your thinking (and yes you can control your thinking), I would wager many, if not most of your thoughts fall into this category. “You’re an idiot for forgetting that meeting.” “Look how fat you’ve gotten you big slob!” “Why don’t things ever work out for me?” “No-one gives a damn about me.” “My stomach hurts. I hope it’s not cancer.” You can multiply these thoughts out indefinitely. What runs through your mind isn’t the biggest issue. The crucible that separates calm from chaotic is what you do or don’t do about those thoughts. You can’t crap on yourself all day long then wonder why you feel anxious. And trust me, it is occurring even if you don’t recognize it. You don’t recognize it because you are distracted and if you add up enough distraction, you feel overwhelmed! Simplistic? Maybe. True? Likely.

In order to find your way to tranquility, you have to do some work with your mind. The peace is already there for you, but you aren’t experiencing it because of those rogue thoughts you are letting go. Your primary job is to fight back. Challenge that assertion! For God’s sake, don’t just let it go. You may be a pacifist. You might be the most non-confrontational person on Earth. But, if someone keeps punching you in the nose everyday, at some point you’d have to punch back. Not fighting back parallels the distress affecting your nose region. You’ve heard of the calm before the storm right? Well, there’s also a calm after the storm is over. Peace comes at the end of the fight. You can gauge your success rate by how you feel. But make no mistake, like it or not, you have to take it on. It’s like quitting smoking. It feels impossible at first, but day by day it get’s easier. At some point you even forget you ever smoked.

Once you begin to win that battle in your mind each day, your calm returns like that ferrel cat you’ve been feeding. In that space of calmness; of tranquility; at peace, you can finally see. Not the cat silly (smile), the trouble when it shows up. You’re at last in a position to handle the issues on the front end. As you cultivate this habit, you get more and more accustomed to the peace. In your peaceful state you can sort out the issues; recognize your triggers; think through your problems objectively and best of all, hear that still small voice ever able and willing to give you a solution. You’re no longer distracted by the hundred-fold fears that assault your mind. You cannot be overwhelmed because you’ve been handling your business in the only time period you can affect – now!

Tempest-tossed souls, wherever ye may be, under whatsoever conditions ye may live, know this, in the ocean of life the isles of Blessedness are smiling, and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep: wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”   ~ James Allen

Just some good thoughts…