Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: self help Page 1 of 2

The Tao of…Me

What is Tao? My understanding comes only from my initial reading of The Tao of Pooh, so it’s pretty limited, but Wikipedia says, “Tao is the natural order of the universe whose character one’s intuition must discern to realize the potential for individual wisdom, as conceived in the context of East Asian philosophy, East Asian religions, or any other philosophy or religion that aligns to this principle. This intuitive knowing of life cannot be grasped as a concept. Rather, it is known through actual living experience of one’s everyday being. Its name, Tao, came from Chinese, where it signifies the way, path, route, road, or sometimes more loosely doctrine, principle, or holistic belief.”

I can be translated as “The Way” and I find it fascinating.

Yesterday’s epic adventure was unexpected, but highly satisfying. It started with a simple breakfast date and Target run but ended up with seeing my boys again, experiencing a bit of engine trouble (no worries, we got this), and getting home FAR later than expected. That last part, the driving home in the dark part, needs to not happen again until I get new glasses. Yikes!

The best part was…

Wait for it…

I have found my purpose!

Let me tell the story. Short version? Sure.

My son needed me, and I was available. That’s it. As we sat there in their kitchen eating burritos we’d picked up across the street, I told them, “I found my purpose.” My oldest chimes in, “Your Tao?”

Hmm…yes! I’ve been wondering for years, maybe my whole life, floating from one thing to the next, not really seeing the big picture. But yesterday, when my son called and I offered to come down and lend moral support, all the pieces fell into place.

I’m the friend that hosts the party. I’m the one that calls and texts to ask what you’re up to and if you’d like to meet for lunch or a hike. I’m the one that picks up the phone when you call and drops everything to make some cookies and visit. I’m here.

My youngest son says, “You’re Pooh, mom. You visit.”

I sighed and smiled. I guess I am. My copy of The Tao of Pooh that they had borrowed was sitting on the table nearby. They’d been reading it.

You’d think that wouldn’t be much of a purpose, but it is. It’s very important. And from now on, instead of grumbling that I have no real mission in this existence when I’m at home alone reading a book or working in the yard, I’ll sit back and realize that I’m resting between projects. At any moment, I may be called into action.

And what about this blog? Is it part of my purpose?

Yes. Listening to The Knowledge Project podcast on the way down to my breakfast date (which is a regular thing I very much look forward to), I heard Sarah Jones Simmer interviewed. I had such a plethora of notes on this podcast, but there were three that stood out to me as somehow connected. Before I went inside, I took a moment to capture the idea with some added commentary.

Note #1 “Just because you question things, doesn’t mean you have the answers or think you know better than others.”

I’ve withheld my thoughts, limited what I write here, because I don’t have the answers, but I question things. Curiosity and questioning (contrary to popular opinion right now) is a good thing. Gender identity, politics, war, public education, Covid…the list goes on and on, I have questions and concerns. Asking out loud things like, “Why are we doing this?” “Is this right?” “What will be the outcome of this kind of thinking?” “Is there some other way?” is not a subversive or malicious activity. The day we all just go along with everything that is happening around us and NOT question it, is the day we begin to lose everything.

New slogan: “Questions and curiosity are not a crime!”

Note #2 “Let’s not let the craziest and loudest of us take over all the conversation in the world. Keep speaking your thoughts and quit hiding your light.”

It’s terrifying to speak your mind (especially online) these days and more of us (including myself) need to start facing our fears. We cannot let the lunatics run this asylum.

Another podcast I was listening to last week mentioned “fringe ideas” and related them to garage bands. 99.99% of garage bands suck, but garage bands are where the great new music comes from. It’s the same with ideas. If we ban them, silence voices because we disagree, shut down people we don’t like, we miss discovering the .01% that results in awesome innovation. We need to allow people to speak their minds, throw ideas around, and be crazy, but we also need to know most of those ideas won’t work, they may even be really bad ideas, but if we ban them, ban books, ban speech, ban blogs, we end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I speak/write from a place of curiosity, empathy for others, and with positive intent to understand and respect others. Yes, sometimes I’ll hurt feelings, make someone mad, or even make a mistake in judgement. I am still a good person, and so are you.

Note #3 “Do I have coaches? Coaches help you arrive at your own decisions and create a safe space to talk thoughts and ideas out.”

If coaches can be books, magazines, blogs, and podcasts, yes, I do. For me, this blog counts as a relatively safe space to talk out some ideas. And I have a few very close friends and family that I can bounce ideas around with face to face and they mean the world to me.

These ideas are in no way fully formed, but they led me closer to understanding my Tao, my own personal way of taking up space in this world. So, even though things did not go as I had expected them to yesterday, it ended up being a very productive day and all because my son needed me.

Before I get the look from people about kids becoming adults… He didn’t call me because he isn’t smart, mature, or capable of taking care of himself, but because together is always better than alone. Interdependence is what works best. Community is more efficient. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Today I’m relaxing in the peaceful quiet of home and reading more of Disneyanity by Douglas Brode. I may even watch a Disney movie!

Valentine’s Day Thoughts

It’s Valentine’s Day so, of course I need to post something about love. Right?

A letter, a poem, what? Reflections? I’m still thinking as I type.

Valentine's Day
I found this expression on a mountain trail.

I woke up this morning feeling full of love and excitement for the day to start, not because it’s Valentine’s Day, but because I am in love with life. Cliché and silly, but exactly how I feel. There are so many people to meet, so much to feel and experience, and so little time. It’s Monday and I had a beautiful weekend. Today, my husband works in his office all morning. There’s nothing I need to do, no place to go, no one to take care of but myself.  

That doesn’t mean that I’ll sit on the couch all day. I’m far too much of a squirrel for that. I’ve already read, done my yoga and meditation practice, posted on Instagram, and read some more. I’m writing now, will probably have breakfast, then share these thoughts with you. The rest of the day will be filled with household chores, conversations and plan making with a few friends and family, and I need to get out and paint the trim on the new shed.

It’s all just as I would wish it to be, for the most part, and nothing like I thought my life would ever be. I’m happy, satisfied, not grasping at a better life, a better feeling, more of anything. It’s a high I’ve chased before and for a moment, I have it. But will I grasp it so tightly in my hands that I smother it? Once it starts to wriggle free, as it inevitably will, will I crush it trying to keep it close? I don’t think I will, not this time.

What’s different?

For the first time I can remember I know that I’m happy and I know why, and I’m aware that things will change. The seasons will change around me, the ground will shift, the sky will cloud up and get dark.

What changed?

I’m not sure. Somewhere along the way it dawned on me that we are all only here for a short time, and every single thing changes, no one escapes alive. People come in and out of our lives. Our hormones and brains change our feelings and thoughts day and day out.

And I’m starting to really love and trust myself. I’m not feeling so insecure about myself, who I am and what I like. My only regret right now is that I didn’t learn earlier that to really love others and feel the security of being loved, I had to love myself. I’ve always had a hard time accepting who I am and how I feel.

Valentine's Day
Enjoying the view from the top of the mountain.

This morning, reading a few pages of Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, I found this:

“The weather of our own lives is not to be ignored or denied. It is to be encountered, honored, felt, known for what it is, and held in high awareness since it can kill us. In holding it this way, we come to know a deeper silence and stillness and wisdom than we may have thought possible, right with the storms. Mountains have this to teach us, and more, if we can listen.”

The weather right now is pleasant, so I’m sowing seeds and growing the crops, taking it all in and experiencing it to the fullest, not in fear of the future but in preparation for change. I love his mountain analogy. I’m being the mountain in some ways. I’m here, doing what I do, and watching the world swirl around me. It will no matter what I do. I may as well enjoy the show.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Love on your fine selves a bit. You’re awesome and you’ve come so far!

Minimalism in Things AND Relationship: Final Thoughts

“They focused less about things and more about our relationship with things and people.” That was my final thought as I closed Love People Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. I was not disappointed by this book about minimalism; it just wasn’t what I had been expecting and I’m glad it wasn’t.

Minimalism

I believe the relationships we have with things reflect our relationship with people. A house crammed with stuff you don’t need or use, collections, castaways, bins of old things you no longer need, but…what if?! Your relationships people are probably similar. Old friends and new, people you’ve outgrown, people you thought were going to be great that turned out to be not so much. We keep them in our lives through social media contacts, email lists, and Christmas cards at the very least.

The opposite is just as unhealthy. The truth is we need some things, and we need some people. Finding out what is needed and what is not and crafting a healthy relationship with those things and people, is the key. And it’s complicated.

Love People Use Things isn’t just a self-help book of how to get rid of your excess stuff, it’s a personal story about how they got where they are. They don’t give a list of rules. They help you find your own principles of minimalism and then actively use them to build a life of intention.

“Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less; they focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more creativity, more experiences, more contribution, more contentment, more freedom.”

I think of it as having space to move.

“…we feel threatened by the freedom of others. So we protect our hoard, we question anyone who approaches life differently, and we cling tightly to the status quo because we’re scared that someone else’s nontraditional lifestyle is an affront to our own. If that person is free, then we are not. But we forget that freedom is not a zero-sum game.”

I’ve experienced this from people since the day we decided not to send our kids to school. And I still experience it every time I explain to someone that my sons never went to school as children and still have jobs, travel the world, and go to college. My choices are mine alone. They are the way I wish to live. They give me the kind of freedom that I feel comfortable with. It is not a condemnation of your choices. We can both be living the “right” way.

“Allowing others’ expectations to shape our desires and behavior and, ultimately, our lives, will always lead to guilt and shame because we’ll never be able to live up to everyone else’s conflicting values.”

Best to decide what’s best for you, what you personally need, and run with it. You’ll never win the “making other people happy” game. I’ve opted out of that game for a long time now. I will admit, though, it’s very hard. I still long to be accepted and validated by others. It’s human nature. But I’d rather be alone than to not be myself. I’m still learning who I am, what I want, and how to present that to the world without the need for approval.

“Fear is the antithesis of freedom; it is, by definition, constricting.”

I’ve lived with my fear meter up on full my whole life. It’s exhausting.

“The pause is just as essential as the action.”

Minimalism can give us the time to pause. That’s where we think. It’s where we take in information, formulate plans, and make decisions. It’s where we look back and take stock, admire what we’ve done, how far we’ve come. Pause and look around.

“We’ll never ‘get there.’ Because there’s no there there.”

We’re born. We grow. We live. We die. There is no finished. There is no complete. There is just life.

“Never-ending growth says we must grow at any cost; intentional growth happens when we grow in accordance with our values.”

That goes for personal growth, gardens, businesses, non-profits, economy, and government. Having one house and keeping it nice for fifty years is fine. Having one child is ok. Doing one thing well for a long time is great. We don’t need to keep growing just to be growing.

“Just like it’s important to make conscious choices as a consumer, it’s equally important to create consciously. Otherwise, you’re just adding to the noise.”

I struggle with minimalism as a blogger. It’s also another reason why I gave up social media and only write here. If what I write is valuable, it will be looked for, found, and shared. Social media is just noise. This chapter on creativity was a bit of downer for me. I got reflective and judgmental on myself. I’d like to re-read and think on it more.

“The Three Relationships: Primary, Secondary, and Peripheral”

Life is a story. Who are your main characters, supporting roles, and walk-ons? And don’t forget all the extras! This made far more sense to me than family, friends, and strangers.

“Many of us navigate different roads toward joy, but even if we travel separate routes, it is important that we appreciate the journey – not only ours, but the journey of everyone we love. When we appreciate others for who they are, not who we want them to be, then, and only then, will we truly understand.”

Every. Single. One of us. (do not sing Devil Inside)

The last chapter on people was my favorite. Yes, minimalism relates to the people in your life. You don’t have to keep everyone you ever meet in your life. It validated a lot of my thinking and made me feel a little less alone in the world. Something I crave beyond anything is to be accepted by others, for someone to see me, the real me without any masks, and love me. This book made me realize, I DO have that from the main characters in my story. And those are the relationships that matter.

So, yes, I enjoyed reading this book. The Minimalists podcast has been a favorite of mine for several years. They inspire me with their peaceful discussions and the feeling of joy I sense between them. Like the few families I met years ago when I started my unschooling journey, I see them and wonder how they got there, listen closely, and adopt the pieces that work for my life, to get where I want to go.

Minimalism: No rules, just principles, self-reflection, and adaptation.

Want to go back and read my first thoughts on this book when I started? Click back to Love People Use Things: A New Read

Shortcuts and Compliance = Lazy

Yes, I said it. Shortcuts and compliance are signs of laziness. Take control of your own life and do the work to do what’s best for you.

“The consequences of every shortcut are greater than its temporary benefit.”

“Compliance is easier than questioning their solutions. And their solutions were much easier than taking ownership of my own life.”

This.

I’m not sure I can add anything to those two quotes from Love People Use Things, but of course I’ll try!

Let’s talk about shortcuts for a second. Shortcuts are for driving and that’s it. (Wait. And computer desktops.) But then…if everyone took the shortcut, it would lose its value, wouldn’t it? It would be crammed with vehicles and make the trip longer than if you had just stayed on the highway.

When we take shortcuts for learning, we lose the value we get from the experience of study. When we take shortcuts on our diet, we lose the weight quickly, but we also lose the experience of learning to live in way that keeps that weight off and makes us healthy instead of just thin. When we take shortcuts within our relationships, sending a gift instead of connecting over lunch, posting to social media instead of calling and relating with individuals, we lose the real meaningful connection with others that we crave.

Shortcut’s suck. Funny…I just heard that same idea on a podcast I was listening to. I wrote about it in my post “Travel Anxiety Ended: Podcast Roundup #3.”

And what about compliance isn’t taking ownership of your life? When we blindly go along with whatever everyone else is doing, whatever the “authority” says you should do, we give the power of our lives to someone else. Don’t get me wrong, there is much good in taking the advice of experts and making informed choices that look much like what others around you are doing. What I’m talking about it is doing what others say you should without thought, even with the feeling that something is not right in your heart and mind, it’s just what one does, so you do.

What kind of things? Everything. Going to college, a career choice, joining the military or a church, getting married, having children, sending those children to school, going on vacation, what you eat, where you live, how you live. The list goes on and on and on.

When we give the power of making choices to others, when the results come in, we can say, “Well, that’s what happens. It’s not my fault.” I call bullshit. It is your fault. Everything we do is a choice, whether we are conscious of it or not. Take back your power.

If you’d like to read some of my other posts about quotes from this book, click back to “Love People Use Things: A New Read” to start at the beginning. At the bottom of that post, you’ll find links to others.

Love People Use Things: A New Read

Podcast marketing convinced me to not only buy “Love People, Use Things” by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, but to pre-order it! I’ve been listening to The Minimalists podcast for a long time and when I heard them start to talk about their new book, I knew I had to have it. I didn’t think it would have anything other than the things they talk about, but I knew it would bring me some joy to read it in print. Besides, how else can I re-pay them for all the greatness I listen to every week? I pre-ordered it so early, that when it came, I didn’t know what the package from Amazon was!

Love People, Use Things
In my defense, this room is in transition.

If you’re interested in them, check out their “Start Here” page. The organization of that page is one of the reasons why I love these guys and I so happy that I stumbled across them completely by accident.

Those who know me would probably laugh hysterically when they heard me say I listen to a podcast about minimalism on a regular basis. If you saw my house, you’d know I’m not what you might define as a minimalist, but I am! Everything is relative, right? Compared to some I’m a hoarder and to others not so much. But the comparison that matters most is mine. I’m more conscious of what I gather into my home, into my body, and into my mind. That’s the mental space these guys have helped me get to.

One of the things I’m minimalizing so that I have more space for other things is social media. Staying connected to people from my past like that is like holding on to childhood toys or that old shirt. You’re not going to use them anymore, that shirt doesn’t fit. There’s no reason to keep them. They take up space and deplete your energy. Send them on their way to bring joy to someone else.

The one thing I miss about it though is having a place to share the articles and books I read, or the interesting podcast and website I found. I don’t want to write a post about, I just want to share that I read it and think it’s awesome…you know, social stuff. I’m not sure what to do about it. It may just be one of those things I have to let go.

I’m looking forward to reading this book over the coming week. I’m about thirty pages in right now, and the introduction makes me love them more. The relate minimalism to everything, not just physical objects, but our relationships with other people. And they aren’t ones to say “THESE are the rules. Follow them and you will be happy like us!” They are more like guidelines, things that have worked for them and may make sense to you.

Are you a minimalist? Have you heard this podcast? If you decide to read Love People Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

The following are links to posts I wrote related to this book.
Letting Go & Making Space
Shortcuts And Compliance = Lazy
Minimalism in Things AND Relationship: Final Thoughts

Listen Like You Mean It: Another New Read

“Listen Like You Mean It – Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection” by Ximena Vengoechea is my next read and I’m very much looking forward to it. It seems to be exactly what I need right now!

"Listen Like You Mean It" book cover on a desert background.

Something I have very hard time doing is listening in a conversation. I’m a talker. I’ll talk all. Day. Long. Non-stop. In fact, just yesterday I spent literally all day talking. I talked on the phone with one person as I drove down to have breakfast with another. I talked on the way to lunch with another friend. And then on the drive home with someone else. Once I got home, I talked about the whole day with my husband and talked with my son about his day as well.

Did I run out of words? Nope.

Can you guess what my biggest complaint is about the world? My immediately family will laugh and tell you, in my voice, without hesitation, “No one is listening to me! I feel so disconnected!”

Enter, “Listen Like You Mean It.”

Will this book help me out? Thirty-five pages in and I’m thinking, yes.

My first note in this book was, “I wonder if I can make reminders for myself, like a tattoo on my hand or a button on my purse.”

Two quotes from the first pages that have shown me that I’m on the right track:

“When we are on autopilot, we hear enough of what the other person is saying to hold a conversation, get our work done, keep in touch with our friends, and stay polite with our neighbors and shopkeepers.

…we tend to react based on how we wish to be treated, rather than respond to what our conversation partner is actually saying or in need of.”

“We may, for instance, assume that others relate to things in the same way we do, our of a desire to bond over a “shared” experience (You had a pet as child? Me too. It was great, right?).”

That’s me. I know I’m doing it and I’m believe that I’m doing it to show you that I’m just like you. We have something in common! But not everyone is telling their story to connect that way. They may feel upstaged or not heard.

Another thing I don’t do well is ask questions and get people to explain what they mean or how they feel. And that is a direct result of my surface listening. I’m only listening enough to connect what you’re saying to something I have done or felt, then getting ready to tell my side.

The very thing that I do to connect with others is the thing that makes most people feel unheard and discouraged from adding to the conversation. I’m creating my own feedback loop!

Listen Like You Mean It is going to be a game-changer for sure…if I can only remember to implement what I’m learning!

If you’d like to read along with me, go get the book at Thriftbooks.com and leave me a comment. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Read more posts about this book!
Patience and Trust: Not Every Thought Is Essential
Listening Skills to Practice
Final Thoughts

Making Space for Ourselves to Better Control Our Emotions

Identifying what we’re feeling is the first step to taking better control of our emotions. If we know what we’re dealing with, it’s easier to find a solution. But what do we do when there are loved ones around us that want to help?

Book quote on desert rocks background.

“There is no worse experience than to have someone shout at you to look out for something you don’t see.”

The Admiral on the Wheel by James Thurber

I’m standing on the stage, coiling cable, minding my own business, when I hear a shout from behind me. “Look out!” I jump up and look around to find what it is I’m supposed to look out for.

I’m walking a hiking trail in the mountains, watching birds, thinking the deeper thoughts that the quiet walk allows to the surface when I hear from behind me, “Look out!” For what? I turn to look and am confronted with a mountain biker.

It happens everywhere, every day. You’re warned by another human to “look out” for something you don’t see. It’s not helpful. All it does is startle you into a “fight or flight” mode, at which point you must quickly look around you to assess the threat, and then decide an action. It takes too long. By the time you’ve turned around to see, the threat is on you and you have no time to react well.

What’s a better thing to shout in an emergency when you need someone to quickly act? A precise direction. “Duck!” “I’m on your left!” Or “Don’t move!” That requires the person giving the warning to be aware of the need and communicative enough to express it quickly and well.

The same principle works well when you are trying to better control your emotions.

When you are angry, jealous, or tired, it is better a better thing for the humans around you to hear what you need them to do, instead of “Look out!”

And that requires that you know what you want or need and be willing to speak it and the work through it. That’s rarely the case for me when I’m having those feelings. It’s something I’m working on, something I get frustrated about too. I’m 48 years old and only just starting to get a handle on dealing with my feelings in a more positive way. Why is that? Why am I so slow? Everyone moves at their own pace, I suppose.

But I have discovered a new trick lately, a way to let those in my inner circle know that I’m dealing with something I’m not sure how to explain and that I don’t yet know what I need them to do to help. I say, “I’m trying to remember that there is no spoon.”

Remember “The Matrix”? There’s a scene with the little boy bending spoons. He says the trick is to remember there is no spoon and then you can do whatever you want with it. In the movie, the reality they are experiencing is only in their heads. They are all in a simulation and the physical world isn’t what they are experiencing in their minds. What they see is just computer code fed to their minds. Once you can understand that you can change the code as you wish. It’s not easy, and few can do it well.

I’m not certain our physical reality is a simulation. I know there is talk of that on the interwebs, but that’s not what I came here to sing about. I’m here to talk about the draft.

No, sorry, an Arlo Guthrie song got into my head there.

I’m a firm believer in the human ability to use their minds in amazing ways. Like being in the matrix and manipulating the code, it isn’t easy. Emotional states are reactions to the code your mind has built through experience, culture, and the world around us.

They are real, yes. I am disappointed that I didn’t get to do the thing. I’m jealous of the attention you are giving someone else. I’m worried that this might happen. But because we created them, we can change them. We can think, “There is no spoon.” And reimagine.

When I tell people, “I’m trying to remember there is no spoon,” I’m saying that I’m feeling something I’m not sure is healthy or useful and I’m attempting to reassess. I’m in need of patience while I try to make adjustments to my thinking. Is this feeling useful to me? Does it get me where I want to go? Can I change how I look at things and adjust? How can those that love me help me get where I want to go, emotionally?

They give me a little extra love, a pet (because my most prominent love-language is touch) and let me figure it out. Then we go for a walk and talk it out. It’s working so far. Mostly. It is still a new skill and I know it will take time to master. I’ve made little reminders to help me not yell, “Look out!”

There will be many days in the future when I will think to myself, “But I like the spoon. It’s so much easier just to accept what I see and not attempt to change the code underneath.” But then I remember those emotions don’t get me where I want to be, and I put my shoulder to the harder work again. This time though, I have the support of those that love me because I’m able to warn them in useful ways that I’m doing the work.

This book was filled was some wonderful short stories and memoir pieces that sparked my creativity and inspired my thinking. Want to read more? Go back to my first post about it, “The Thurber Carnival” by James Thurber.

If you want to read more about him and his work, check out his website James Thurber.org.

Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone

learning to concentrate quote from book on a desert background

“The most important step in learning to concentrate is to learn to be alone with oneself without reading, listening to the radio, smoking or drinking.
Besides such exercises (meditation), one must learn to be concentrated in everything one does, in listening to music, in reading a book, in talking to a person, in seeing a view.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

In writing a blog post.

Learning to concentrate and focus.

That’s my trouble right now as I write this. I have too much to do today and the thought of that list of things to do is keeping me from getting anything done. I’m unfocused, so everything I do is taking longer to get done AND not getting done well.

I’m certainly not very good at being alone with myself. It’s something I have been actively attempting to cultivate. Living in a small house, married with children, and sharing space with my mother-in-law, hasn’t led to much time to practice in the past, that’s for sure. These days, things are different. Life is getting quieter, which has led to some fairly serious panic attacks.

In my search for peace and focus, I’ve learned to meditate and make space for these feelings.

It’s strange, really. All these years of having so much to do with the family, just wanting a few hours of quiet to myself, and here I am panicking the moment I start to gain that time. What happened?

If I could start my life over, I’d learn to be alone with myself, and be happy about it, before I moved in with a partner or got married and had kids. I don’t think that was ever presented as an option when I was growing up. Every fairy tale, book, movie, and song was about finding your person, your people, being part of a whole group. I think it would have been easier if I had built up a better sense of who I was as an individual before I voluntarily became part of a community of any kind.

I think, I hope, I gave that to my children. In choosing to home educate and keep our children outside of any school system as small children, it was my intention to allow them to develop themselves as individuals. The point wasn’t to create self-centered monsters, as many assumed would be the outcome, but to give them the space to know themselves before they voluntarily chose a community. And it seems to be working so far.

For myself, I believe doing that for them also did the same for me. I learned a lot raising them with my husband, and I’m learning even more as I watch them go off into the world to continue to follow their own path.

It’s my turn to focus on myself more, to pursue my passions and interests.

It started with mediation and continues with yoga, walking, reading, and writing here. It grows every day in ways I never expected, in ways that delight and inspire me to do more. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and worried about where the path will lead to. It feels futile and excruciatingly slow paced. “What is the point of any of this?!” I frequently scream to myself and scribble in my notebook.

There is no point. It just is. I refocus on the task at hand, do what I can, and see what happens. I’m learning to enjoy the process itself, not reach for an outcome.

My next project? Learn to listen better and react less. There’s room for everyone.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
Where Did Our Words For Love Go?
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual
Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.


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Why Do I Get Up In The Morning? – Episode Eight

There are days when I wish I had more friends to invite to a party. Wouldn’t it be nice, I think to myself as I sip a glass of whiskey, if this porch and house were filled with people? Maybe.

Then I look around me. There aren’t many of us here every week, but the feelings fill the room. A couple of us are here every weekend, some come occasionally, some stay for an hour, and some stay well into the night.

We are fortunate to live in a place where an “outdoor livingroom” can be a thing, and we’ve used it to our advantage. Just about every week we cook, we drink, laugh, and talk out there. We share stories, listen to music, shoot pool and keep a tally of winners and losers. “You marked that one down, right?!” is often heard yelled across the patio as the winner goes to pull another home brew from the keg and the loser reaches for the rack to set up the next game.

There is only one rule on Friday nights, “No bullshit.” This is the place we leave the outside world’s shit behind. We may talk politics, but we do not fight about it. You may bring your kids, but we don’t share opinions about parenting choices…unless we are asked for them. Fighting with your spouse or girlfriend? Leave it outside. There have been a few flare-ups. Even good friends disagree, but it passes quickly because we are all the type that forgive and forget offenses.

This is the time and place to celebrate simply being alive. Come if you want, or don’t. Bring a friend, or not. Bring food, or not. We’re all here to relax and enjoy each other’s company for a few hours.

The night starts with food, proceeds through games and beer, and then people start trickling out the door. It usually ends with the last of us laying on the couch snoring. It’s a wild bunch.

Would it be more fun to have a larger group of people? Possibly, for a time. But this small group of neighbors is irreplaceable. I can’t imagine the week without them.

Quotes from The Mastery of Love – One

“…the instinct to love is so strong that you pay a high price to have a relationship with others.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

That it is. No matter how many times we’ve been hurt, how many times we’ve lost, the primal urge to connect with others pushes us forward.

We create new and inventive ways to protect ourselves, ways that sometimes don’t seem to make sense or get us anywhere near where we want to be, but we’ll do anything to love and be loved.

Ruiz makes a beautiful analogy about the human condition. He says we all act as though everyone’s skin is covered in painful sores. The longer we live, the more we have. It hurts to touch and be touched, yet we crave it. The worst part is that most of us aren’t even aware the sores are there or that others have them too. We react badly when people touch us, thinking they are deliberately hurting us, and hurt them back.

The solution? Awareness of the pain we carry from our injuries and allowing others to touch us anyway. Awareness that everyone else has that pain and may not yet be aware of it themselves. Touch gently. Love and be loved. Pay the price and you begin to heal and grow strong until loving and reacting in love becomes the new habit.

“We domesticate humans the same way we domesticate a dog or any other animal: with punishment and reward.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

Another quote from the same book that touched me. It reminded me of the way we raised our kids. We tried our best not to use punishments and rewards to control behavior. Instead, we tried not to control behavior at all but learn to communicate and get along with each other, make space and time in the hopes of filling everyone’s needs as much as possible.

When it wasn’t, we attempted to negotiate and make sure everyone had as much input as possible. It didn’t always work. There were times when rewards were handed out and punishment meted, but it was usually when we (the adults) were not at our best.

This is the way that humans are in this world. Your behavior or activity is disrupting. Your needs are too much for those around you to accommodate. You are rewarded for not bothering people and punished when your behavior steps out of the bounds the authority as made for themselves. It sounds so medieval, but it’s not that crazy.

You are hurting me with your behavior, so I hurt you until you stop or go away. You’re not hurting me so  I reward you with my love and attention. Easy, right?

But when I think what one’s behavior means, it starts to sound ugly. Say you’re very tired and you don’t have the communication skills to convey that information, so you decide to pull your parent away from the people they are visiting with. The parent refuses. You are hurting her, so she hurts you to tell you your behavior is unacceptable. She knows no better way.

Is there a better way? I believe so. She could listen to you and attempt to figure out what you are trying to communicate with your behavior and see if you can come up with a solution. But in the world we live in, most people don’t see that as a way at all.

The same goes with all kinds of relationships. Your new boyfriend teases. Why? What is he trying to communicate? I doubt he’s trying to hurt you deliberately. There’s no need to retaliate. Your friend doesn’t answer your texts right away. Your mother insists on telling you how to run your household. All these relationships have been built on punishment and reward.

What if we assumed positive intent, validated everyone’s needs, and attempted to communicate directly instead? We only train animals that way because we can’t communicate with them directly. They don’t speak our language or have the ability to learn it.

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