Thanksgiving

Since this is the week of Thanksgiving, I thought it would be a good time to talk about gratitude. When I was teaching my mindfulness class, I always included a section on mindfulness because there can be all kinds of benefits to making gratitude into a mindfulness practice. What I mean by that is going through your daily routine with the intent of finding things to feel grateful for.
For example, when my house burned down last year, I would have had a much harder time if I hadn’t been looking for things to feel gratitude for. Surprisingly, I found a lot to be thankful for. Starting when the house was still burning, people came out of the woodwork to be nice to me and help me. It was quite moving actually. It kind of restored my faith in humanity—after it had taken a beating in the presidential election of 2016. (more about this later) Now, I have been living in my new house for almost a year and I wake up every morning with gratitude that I had good insurance.
So, here is a list of things I give thanks for regularly:
1. My life. The older I get, the better I get at finding the joy in everyday things.
2. I am very grateful for my (new) home. Also, that it sits on my 50 acres, so I can wander through the woods and do a little farming.
3. My family and friends. We are all social animals after all.
4. The birds in my back yard. I didn’t realize the number and variety until I started feeding them. They provide endless hours of entertainment.
5. I am grateful that more people voted in this most recent election. Like many people I have been dismayed and embarrassed that the current president was elected. I think that many people thought “it doesn’t matter” or “I don’t like Trump and I’m not so sure about Hillary.” So they didn’t vote. I’m here to tell you that It is OK to vote against something—so long as you vote. This time people voted. Not only that, but they sent a message that as a nation we don’t want what Trump is selling. Thank you.
6. I am grateful for all the stuff I learned in my life.
7. I am grateful that my mother’s piano was not destroyed in the fire and I was able to have it restored so it sounds great again.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. My point is that everyone can find something to feel gratitude for. Do it. It feels good.

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.

 

4 Arguments in Support of Mindfulness

There is so much talk these days about mindfulness these days that I thought I would try to clarify things a bit. You may be wondering what my qualifications are to make these statements about mindfulness. To begin with I have been meditating regularly for about 40 years. I took the Transcendental Meditation course at that time as a way to deal with stress. I have read extensively on the topic since and practiced numerous techniques. Additionally, I taught mindfulness as a therapeutic technique when I was the director of a residential facility for mentally ill adults. While I’m sure there are people out there who know more about the topic than I do, I know there are quite a few who know less.

Having said that I want to address some of the negative things I have heard about mindfulness.

  1. Mindfulness is a secularized Buddhist practice. I have seen people use this statement in two ways. First, people say that by separating mindfulness from its spiritual component you devalue it and limit its effectiveness. I have even seen the word McMindfulness used to derogatorily describe the practice. My answer to that is that we are not secularizing the spiritual, we are spiritualizing the secular. Mindfulness is a spiritual practice no matter how you package it. Second, there are people who think that you shouldn’t practice mindfulness because of its Buddhist origins. The truth is that there are mindfulness practices in every major religion, though they may call it something else.
  2. Mindfulness is a waste of time. People who say this generally have not tried it. There is an increasingly large body of evidence that clearly supports the usefulness of mindfulness.
  3. Mindfulness is dangerous. Generally, people who say that are referring to difficulties that can arise when someone who already has some mental difficulties tries mindfulness without supervision. My suggestion here—and this is a good idea for lots of reasons—is that we all quit being judgmental about people with mental illness and direct more resources as a society to helping them. Mindfulness is not dangerous for the average person.
  4. Mindfulness is confusing. There is a lot of debate about what is and is not mindfulness, or how to classify the different types of mindfulness. I will say this: If something meets the definition of mindfulness then it is mindfulness. Mindfulness is directing your attention to one thing, this present moment, without judgment. I have noticed that people who want to say that their definition is the right one are usually trying to sell something. Mindfulness is simple. Getting good at it requires practice.

My advice at this point is this: in the long run don’t learn all your mindfulness from one source. Practice every day. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When you see positive changes in your life be grateful.

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

News and Violence

I have been working hard all week on my website. This is my first post on the new and improved model. Please feel free to look around. You will find sample chapters from each of my books and if you sign up for my news letter you can download a free PDF of Rebecca’s Initiation. People seem to like it and you can’t beat free.

Also, I am doing another giveaway on Goodreads. So, you can enter to win a signed copy or you can sign up and download a free PDF.

There has been a lot on my mind this week so I thought I would just get it out.

It came to my attention that the cover of “Rebecca’s Initiation” has been featured on a website called something like “Terrible Book Covers”. Apparently there is a group of people who have nothing better to do than post mean comments about book covers. I actually thought it was kind of funny. At least they are talking about it. One of the people commented that it looked like “dino-porn”. Dino-porn? Really? Someone else responded that the guy that did it probably had never heard of dino-porn. That guy is correct.

I’m going to miss John Stewart. His replacement is going to have big shoes to fill, but I wish him well.

There has been a rash of violence in the past month. It has become common place. Everybody wants to carry a gun. Because of the shooting in Chattanooga recruiting offices are going to have armed guards. Violence begets violence. While I agree that a society must protect itself, I think that violence fails in the long run.

I think that the only solution, the final solution, rests with the individual. As for me, I find that it is helpful to expand my view to see my self not as a white man, not as an American, but as a human being. Like all human beings, I am happiest when I feel connected to my group of close friends, when I have work I love and when I am fully present in each moment.

When I look at things the way they really are I know that I owe my very existence and everything in it to others. I feel gratitude for that and that opens me up to the possibilities that each moment presents.

I also know that I am not perfect and sometimes my actions have hurt others. I strive to learn from that and not repeat those actions. I also know that I must forgive those who have harmed me–be it intentionally or not. If I am worthy of forgiveness then so are they. Also, carrying a grudge generally hurts me more than it does anyone else. It is about the past. I am trying to live in the present.

I don’t claim to be perfect. That is the work of a lifetime–perhaps many lifetimes. But I am working on it. Perhaps if each of us worked on ourselves the world would change and violence would be a thing of the past.

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?

News

I am very happy to announce that my first venture into fiction is now live on Amazon. It is called “Rebecca’s Initiation”. It is the story of Rebecca, a twelve year old girl, who loses her mother and has to move halfway across the country to live with her grandmother. She soon learns that her grandmother has a secret that at once frightens and fascinates her.

It is a fantasy that is suitable for young and old alike. Currently, it is only available on Kindle. However, it will soon be available in paperback. When that happens look for a giveaway on Amazon and Goodreads. Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Rebeccas-Initiation-Redemption-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00W2UZ0V0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1429027866&sr=1-1

Some Thoughts on Easter

Today is Easter, probably the most important Christian holiday. While I do not consider myself a Christian, I do advocate numerous Christian ideals such as: compassion, gratitude, unconditional love, non-judgmentalness and redemption. Interestingly enough, every major religion that I can think of advocates these same ideals.

Because I emphasize the importance of mindfulness I have been asked many times if my work is based on Eckhart Tolle, or if I have read his work, etc. I have not read any of his work, but I will say this: If there is an objective reality it is not surprising that many people catch a glimpse of it.

Regarding Easter, I do not think it is a coincidence that it is in the early spring. In ancient times virtually every group had a celebration at this time. Often it was considered the start of the new year because it appeared that life returned to nature after the “death” of winter.

I think that Jesus told us many times that he was our brother—not that he was somehow above us, but we are his equal. When he says “I and the Father are one,” he is really saying “WE and the Father are one.” He is telling us about our own Divinity.

Similarly, I think that when he gave his life in that dramatic and awful way and then rose from the dead, he wasn’t “washing our sins away with his blood,” he was demonstrating in no uncertain terms that “death has no sting”. We ARE a soul with a body and that soul is immortal. Death is not the end, but a transition.

Just as we are a soul or spirit with a body, God is a sprit with a body. It is called the Universe. There is Spirit in all things—including us. We are all children of God, just as Jesus was and the Buddha was and every other religious leader and reformer was. Most of us do not realize this because we are locked in prisons of our own beliefs—religious or otherwise.

So, while I do not consider myself Christian, even though I strongly believe in many of the same things; I am not Hindu; even though I believe in reincarnation; nor am I Buddhist, even though I strongly believe that mindfulness is the key to personal growth and development. I believe we must all step out of the prison of our beliefs and take an objective look at the universe. See what principles work best to promote both individual well-being and joy, and the well-being and joy of all. These are not incompatible. What’s best for one is best for all.

My wish on this most holy of Christian holidays is that everyone look at the prison walls of your own beliefs and strive for a spiritual resurrection–regardless of you religious affiliation. Let’s all look for that objective spiritual reality. When enough people do this, the world will change for the better. It is, after all the season when life returns to the world (at least in the northern hemisphere).

Happy Easter to all.

 

If this post resonates with you, check this out: http://www.amazon.com/Pursuit-Joy-Gary-Green-ebook/dp/B0045Y263G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422895146&sr=8-1&keywords=in+pursuit+of+joy&pebp=1422895147478&peasin=B0045Y263G

More News

I had a few more pieces of news I thought I would share. Last Saturday I was signing books at the Brooklyn Park Community Activity Center. I sold a few books and had some fun. A good day. Also, my book giveaway was a resounding success. Thanks to all who participated.

I will be doing a book signing at Book World at the Kandi Mall in Willmar, MN on April 6 from 1-3. I will have copies of both books available.

Additionally, I will be teaching an intro to mindfulness class on mindfulness on April 20 for the Women of Today. Attendees will receive a copy of “The Mindful Lifestyle. Contact me if interested. Location yet to be determined.