Here’s Your Sign

There is a certain comedian who came up with the catchphrase “Here’s your sign.”  He was pretty funny, actually. However, there is a not so funny application of that phrase.

We live in interesting times. It is true that people have thought that since the beginning of civilization. However, we are now more interconnected and informed about current events than ever before. What I see when I look at current events is the classic struggle between good and evil—or as I like to characterize it: compassion and selfishness.

Of course, the most glaring current example of this is the war between Russia and Ukraine. It has been dubbed “Putin’s war” for good reason. He has long been enamored with the idea of rebuilding the Russian empire and its latest incarnation, the Soviet Union. Toward that end he has manipulated the situation and lied to his people to gain their support for this endeavor. In fact, since his ascension to power he has shown himself to be a typical dictator in the model of Stalin—imprisoning and murdering his political opponents; and without the pesky communist notions of collective ownership, has used his ruthless tactics to (probably) become the richest man in the world.

 Zelensky, on the other hand, was elected as the “anti-corruption” candidate and has shown himself to be a person of integrity and bravery.

It is difficult to watch the images we see every day of the devastation and suffering the Russian attack is causing in Ukraine and not be moved. Compassion means “suffering with”. I can’t watch these images and not get a pain in my gut. This is why we see so many efforts across the world to help. All compassionate people hope for an end to hostilities and pray that the rest of the world doesn’t get sucked into a devastating war.

So—Here’s your sign: When you look deep into your soul do you stand with the lying bully Putin, or with his victims—the valiant people of Ukraine?  And, having made that determination, do you generalize that decision to other lying bullies? Or, to put it a different way: Do you live your life with the notion that all people have the right life liberty and the pursuit of happiness; or do you prefer the selfish life—lying and cheating your way to get what you want?

I’ll give you a hint. A long time ago a very wise man suggested we should all live our life based on the bedrock of truth and reality—and compassion. The decision-making process you use here also applies to every other area of life–for example, how you treat your neighbor, your family, people that are somehow different than you and even (maybe especially) what political candidate you vote for. Is that person a lying, manipulating bully or a person of integrity and compassion?

I don’t care what your religious beliefs are. But I can tell you that ALL bullies like Putin eventually fall. They eventually fall because their “empire” is not based on reality; just on raw, temporary power. Martin Luther King said, “The arc of history is long, but bends toward justice.” I choose to believe he was right.

Happy New Year

Well, 2015 has been quite a year. It seems that things got a little crazier. Violence seems to be on the upswing, not only terrorist attacks but other mass shootings. With increased scrutiny, we learn that some of our police resort to violence when it is not necessary. Speaking of crazy, how about the presidential race? I can’t remember a time when there were so many candidates or when a guy like Donald Trump could be doing so well. Even the weather has gone nuts, with many places enjoying spring-like weather on Christmas day.

There were some good things. The economy continues to improve. Fuel prices are down. I published three books, “The Mindful Lifestyle”, “Rebecca’s Initiation”, and “Rebecca’s Destiny”. I even won an award. “In Pursuit of Joy” won the bronze medal from Readers Favorite. There were about 450 entries in the motivational category and I got third place. I felt pretty good about that.

As we start a new year I wanted to leave you with this thought. In a crazy world it’s not the events that determine how your life will go, but your reaction to them—most of the time. I choose to do what I can to make the world less crazy by not giving in to the fear-mongers or the terrorists. Face each day with acceptance. Advocate for people to use their wise-mind when making decisions. I have found if you live in the present moment as much as you can that most present moments are good. I feel gratitude for that. Most of all, exercise compassion in all your dealings with others. If I can follow these simple ideas I know I will have a happy new year. If you do these things you will have a happy new year too.

 

Compassion Wins

This morning I watched a segment on the morning news about a young woman in Florida who got arrested because she was video streaming her drunk driving. You may have seen it too. The reporters expressed the full array of judgmental thoughts about this person, pointing out how dangerous not only drunk driving is but also the dangers of video streaming while driving. Certainly these things are dangerous.

I just thought that this story was a god example of the wrong way to handle this situation. The comments come off sounding judgmental of the person. Certainly this person exhibited some bonehead behavior. I think we need to be careful to condemn the behavior and not the person.

So, what really happened here? This is an example of the Universe telling that young woman she needs to change her behavior. My guess is that there were hints prior to this event that she ignored. (If the universe is trying to tell you something and you’re not listening, it turns up the volume. –“In Pursuit f Joy”) I think our job here is to support that message.

As a society we want this risky behavior to stop. The message we need to send to this woman (and all others in her situation) is this: “You are a good person, but this behavior is unacceptable and must stop.” Our judgmental thoughts about the person actually mitigate against producing the change we all want.

Compassion wins.

 

6 Ideas to Prevent Mass Murders

Ok, so here we go again. Once again somebody has decided that it is a good idea to kill a whole bunch of people and themselves—going out in a blaze of glory. Our president says this has become routine–and he is right. Clearly he is fed-up with this kind of thing and so am I. So, what do we do about it? I thought I’d do a little brainstorming on the topic and see what I could come up with.

  1. I think we need to take a serious look at our relationship with weapons, particularly hand guns and assault rifles. It is true that our founding fathers put the right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights. It is also that at the time the height of firearm technology was the muzzle-loading rifle. Of course there were also cannons at the time but most people couldn’t afford them. The intent was to prevent tyranny. It has long been the habit of tyrants everywhere to forbid conquered people from bearing arms—even before the invention of firearms. But times have changed. The variety and power of our weapons has increased exponentially. We don’t let people own nuclear weapons or battleships. Clearly there is a line beyond which we will not allow private citizens to go regards weapon ownership. We just have to decide where that line belongs.
  2. Everyone needs to vote. You may think this is not related but it is. Your vote is the BEST defense against tyranny. In a true, working democracy assault weapons are not needed. So, my message to all you people that advocate unregulated gun ownership is this: Accept that times have changed and as a society we can no longer afford to have such firepower unregulated. Put away the guns and pick up the vote.
  3. MENTAL HEALTH IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS!!! Clearly at this point we all realize that everyone is at risk from attacks such as this. They occur with disturbing regularity and lethality. Every single time lip service is given to the mental health issue. A sane person does not commit mass murder. We live in the wealthiest country the world has ever known and yet the people who provide direct care to the mentally ill are often paid the lowest wages in a given community. I know that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not dangerous. I also know that people who commit mass murder are sick.
  4. We need to look at stigma, what it really is and how to eliminate it—not just regards mental illness but all stigmatized segments of our society. Stigma is judgmental thinking, plain and simple. It is judgmental thinking that is so imbedded in our society that we often don’t know we’re doing it until it is pointed out or we decide to examine our own actions and thoughts. Yet it is this stigma that prevents people from voluntarily going for treatment. It is also stigma that prevents us as a society from allocating the resources needed to prevent good kids from growing up to be mass murderers. We can only purge our own individual stigmatizing thoughts. You can’t change how others think.
  5. Every single one of us must work on becoming more compassionate and spiritual people. As individuals we tend to get so wrapped up in attending to our own needs that we let our fear push others away. I believe that if any of these mass murderers had enough compassionate and spiritual people in their life as they grew up they would not become murderers. This is not about saying “What is wrong with you?” It is about saying “What is wrong with me?”
  6. We must modify our sense of group to include everyone. People who feel a sense of belonging to a group generally do not attack that group. We are all human beings after all.

I know these are long-term fixes, but I don’t think there are any quick ones. It seems to me that these terrible events are symptoms of deeper problems with our society. Fixing a society takes a lot of effort from everybody. Do your part.

What to do?

I have noted recently there has been an up-tick in the number of people following my blog. So, I thought I would ask my followers a couple of questions.

I have written posts on various topics, including my writing, mental health, addiction, alcoholism, recovery, personal growth, mindfulness, farming, and current events. My question to you is what would you like me to write about now?

It could be something I have already written about or a new topic.

You can answer by commenting  on this post or contacting me by email or other means.

Thanks

No Time for Mindfulness

A complaint I have heard many times over the years I have been teaching mindfulness is: “I am far too busy to practice mindfulness.” I thought I would say a few words about that.

When I first started meditating my main job was working for my parents on their dairy farm. While we were quite busy (as any dairy farmer can attest), I made a point of following my instructor’s instructions to meditate twice daily for twenty minutes each time. There were times when my parents were not pleased about this. The reason I was so dedicated is that at the time I was severely depressed, though I didn’t recognize my condition as such. I was convinced that my problem was stress and that meditating would help with that—and it did.

I was drowning and meditation was my life preserver. However, as I started recovering I sometimes got so busy I forgot to meditate. One missed session led to another. Soon weeks passed, then months, then–I’m sorry to report—years. However, as more time passed since my last meditation some of my old symptoms returned.

In my youth I suffered migraine headaches. Regular meditation kept them at bay. After some years of not meditating they returned. Insomnia returned. I found time to start again.

When I worked in manufacturing I would meditate on my breaks. When I was the director of the mental health facility I sometimes meditated on breaks, but generally saved it for after work. As my understanding of mindfulness grew I found that I could do many tasks placed before me in a mindful way and I became more efficient and effective.

What I tell people now is this: Most people, if they really want to, can find even five or ten minutes at some point to do a deep relaxation type of mindfulness practice. For example: counting your breath or using a mantra. This will get you practiced in gently directing your attention to one thing; and it will give you experience with the “Relaxation Response”.

I think most people have heard of the “fight or flight” response to stress. The relaxation response is the opposite of that. Things that go up during fight or flight, like heart rate and blood pressure, go down during the relaxation response—and for a while afterward.

So, start with deep relaxation. Then, as you go through your day see if you can use the same skill of directing your attention to one thing to direct your attention to the tasks that present themselves. Most people find that as they do that they become more effective and can finish tasks in less time. So they end up with more time.

Additionally, as they incorporate other principles of mindfulness like acceptance and compassion things just don’t bother them so much. With less on their mind they become more efficient and have more time.

So, people who say they don’t have time for mindfulness are on a treadmill of their own choosing. They can get off if they choose. They can find five or ten minutes a day to start a new life.

If you want to learn more about meditation check out the sample chapter of The Mindful Lifestyle on this website: https://authorgarygreen.wordpress.com/my-books/the-mindful-lifestyle/the-mindful-lifestyle-sample-chapter/

More Free Books

I am running 2 giveaways on Goodreads. The first one is my YA fantasy “Rebecca’s Initiation”. People seem to like it so far. Here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/144506-rebecca-s-initiation

The second giveaway is my first book “In Pursuit of Joy”. It was rated 4.3 stars on Goodreads. Here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/144841-in-pursuit-of-joy

There are 5 copies of each available. Enter early and enter often.

Death and Forgiveness

I am sure we are all aware of recent events in South Carolina. A sad little boy with a gun murdered 9 people in a church. I was so disgusted by it that I was going to not respond in this blog because I did not want to give any more publicity to this most recent tragedy. Already they seem to be happening with increasing frequency.

However, I was moved by the reaction of the families of the victims. Many of them spoke up at his first hearing to say they forgave him. What a powerful message. In many communities there would have been rioting in the streets, as we have seen too many times lately. However, in Charleston we see a community coming together for support. There is a lesson here for us all.

I imagine that most of us in a similar situation would be angry. That would be our first reaction. I imagine that it was the same for these families. However, they held the ideals of compassion and forgiveness and moved past their anger. I am sure that there are still moments when the anger returns—at least that is how it would be for me. But they keep returning to forgiveness and compassion.

It is a mindfulness practice, really. They direct their attention to forgiveness and let go of their anger—again and again. I think it is similar to “radicle acceptance”, where a person learns to accept the “unacceptable” by releasing the judgmental thoughts that arise. The terrible events happened. Nothing can change that, but life must go on.

I think the most notable quote from this is, “We won’t let the hate win.”

I see this as similar to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They were able to prevent a bloodbath when the Black majority took over the government by acknowledging that the terrible events occurred and giving the victims and/or their families a chance to be heard. They were able to move past the terror and build a society.

On a related issue, I personally think it is terrible to fly the Confederate flag in any capacity. It is a symbol of a horrific time in our history. As the battle flag of a government and society that was built on racism it serves as a rallying point for people who hold to the ideal that people of European origin are inherently superior in every way to people of African origin. (The irony here is that most African-Americans also have European ancestors.)

However, if we are to live in a free society we must allow people to hold and advocate a wide variety of opinions. So, it falls to each of us as individuals to examine our ideals with a critical eye. If you find that your ideals, like the perpetrator on this tragedy, mean someone must die I suggest you re-think your ideals. Hate begets hate and retribution without end. The only solution is forgiveness and reconciliation.

Think about it.

On another matter, today is the last day of my Goodreads giveaway of “The Mindful Lifestyle”. Here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/143060-the-mindful-lifestyle

Book Giveaway

I am running another book giveaway on Goodreads. I am giving away 5 copies of “The Mindful Lifestyle”.

Here is the Amazon description: The self-help and inspirational book The Mindful Lifestyle describes mindfulness practices in detail, with the idea that everyone can benefit by learning and practicing mindfulness meditation. Many examples and exercises are provided. While it is a small and concise book, it covers all aspects of mindfulness in an easy to understand way, and suggests that meditation can be more than a practice one does a few minutes a day. It can be a lifestyle choice.

If you want to enter click here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/143060-the-mindful-lifestyle?utm_medium=email&utm_source=giveaway_approved

Turning 60

I haven’t blogged for a while. I have been busy with spring work here on the farm. I planted over 500 trees, oats, corn and soybeans. And then there is trying to promote my writing. I started by knowing nothing about marketing. Now I know next to nothing. But that is an improvement and it all takes time.

Enough of my flimsy excuses. I have things to say.

A little over a week ago I had my 60th birthday. While 60 isn’t the milestone it used to be, I had to admit that I am not a kid anymore. So that got me thinking. Like most of us, I seem to be a creature of habit. For many years I was in the habit of getting up each morning and going to work. Then I would go home, watch a little TV and go to bed. Sound familiar?

A couple of years ago I quit going to work. That was OK. I still keep pretty busy. I find I don’t have nearly as much time to go fishing as I had hoped when thinking about retirement.

But, I still have TV. Being a creature of habit I kept watching the same stuff I did when I was working: John Stewart, Steven Colbert, David letterman, Craig Ferguson, and on Sunday I’d watch Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer. Well, all those guys are retiring or just moving on.

I guess I’ll have to change my habits. That is a good thing I guess. At 60 I can see that my life will have an end one day. I’m shooting for another 30 years. I can remember more than 30 years past. It doesn’t seem like such a long time. In fact, it seems like a lot of it was wasted.

So, I have decided that in the next 30 years I will direct my attention to those activities that bring me joy. I will make a conscious effort to forgive any who have harmed me. I will cultivate a sense of gratitude for the many good things I have been given. I will exercise compassion in my dealings with my fellow human beings.

Also, I won’t waste my time clinging to negative thoughts and ideas. Maybe I’ll watch less TV. Who knows?

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