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Better Thoughts -> Better Results January 31, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Life Balance, Mindfulness.

TimonOn more than a few occasions, I’ve observed how easily people get carried away and “de-railed” by negative habitual patterns of thinking.

Someone says something they don’t like and off they go ~ characterizing a mild comment as a vicious attack, jumping into the role of victim, choosing to hang on to anger, hurt or sadness for far too long.

If we are not mindful, we fall into the trap of dealing with the world in an habitual way.

Instead of mindfully acting based on specific facts, we re-act based on past experiences.  We see ourselves not as an actor but as someone who is acted upon.  We assume the role of “victim” and relinquish our role as “architect.”

Sometimes, we actually enjoy playing the role of victim.

We cart around our wheelbarrow of woe, and resurrect and recount stale painful memories to ourselves and others, because (1) throwing “pity parties” gets us lots of attention, and (2) we don’t have to accept responsibility for changing a thing.

Moment by moment, we have a choice.  We can choose to reenact and replay the same scenarios over and over, or we can mindfully set them aside and use our time and energy to entertain more productive thoughts.

We can think, “SHE made me mad,” and step into the role of a victim being acted upon while allowing our angry thoughts to spiral out of control.

Or we can think, “I choose not to be angry,” and refuse to relinquish our peace of mind as a result of the intentional and unintentional actions of others.

When we become more aware of our thoughts, we see that we become sad, angry, hurt, and upset by thinking unsettling thoughts.

We realize that if we want to have a more peaceful and balanced life . . . WE must CHOOSE  better thoughts.

We must monitor our thoughts and always be asking, “Will this thought bring me inner peace and contentment?”  If not, we must consciously and mindfully change the channel.

Simple in concept, but challenging in application.  Like any other skill (writing, singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument), if we wish to become proficient, we must practice, practice, practice.

It is in the doing that we become.

Once we recognize that we are not the thoughts we think, we learn to choose the “right” thought for the “right” situation with increasing frequency.

And we start getting better results.

Quote:  Master your thoughts, master your life.

No rules.  Just write!

What about you?  How do you mindfully respond to the situations and challenges you face?

Related posts:  Committing to Drive Yourself (T4D) * OMPM:  Hanging On To Anger * Don’t Bring Me Down * Your Wheelbarrow of Woe * Pollyanna’s Perfect Life * What Do You Think You Deserve? (Healing4Tomorrow) * 10 Ways To Attract Positive Energy * 5 Easy Ways To Make Yourself Miserable * Grateful  (Kate Shrewsday) * Much of the Heaviness (Blue Lotus Cafe) * Deal With It, Princess (Raptitude) *  You Are NOT Your Brain (Always Well Within)

Volunteers of America January 31, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Happiness, Life Balance.

220px-Lightning_striking_the_Eiffel_Tower_-_NOAAVolunteerism works best when we work from a place of passion ~ the intersection between what we love doing and what needs doing.

Volunteering shouldn’t feel like a sacrifice; it should feel like a reward.

If it doesn’t, further evaluation is needed to find a better “fit” for our unique talents and interests.

First ask, “What do I love doing?” Then, find someone who needs help doing it.

Hmm . . . what do I love doing?

Reading.  Writing.  Playing with words.  Leafing through books.  Hanging out in bookstores.  Visiting the library.

The library!  That’s it!

To create a meaningful volunteer experience based on my interests, I joined the Friends of the Island Library.  The Friends make the Island Library special by offering lecture and travel series, children and teen programs, a monthly book club, and rotating art exhibits in the display cases.

This week, I’m helping set up and price books for the Annual Book Sale ~ the Friends’ main fundraiser for the year.

I’m excited!

Quote:  Don’t worry about what the world wants from you, worry about what makes you come more alive.  Because what the world really needs are people who are more alive.  ~ Lawrence Le Shan

No rules.  Just write!

Over the years, I’ve volunteered in other capacities that suited me to a “T” as well ~  coordinating the Moot Court Competition in NC, serving the NC Bar Association on its Ethics committee,  fundraising for the United Way, acting as a judge for CANStruction in Salisbury, organizing a Bowl-A-Thon for a sick child, teaching Yoga to middle schoolers, gleaning fields in Western MD, boxing food donations for the hungry, mentoring and speaking on career panels, serving on Reunion committees, etc.

What about you?  What volunteer positions have been a perfect (or not-so-perfect) fit for your time and talents?

Related posts:  Volunteers Seem To Thrive (AgriGirl) * We Can’t All Be Mother Teresa * What The World Really Needs * Generosity of Spirit * Live Your Life

Art Show @ St. Armand’s Circle January 30, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Life Balance, Mindfulness.

We’re heading south to St. Armand’s Circle this afternoon for the annual Art Show.

The weather is perfect for wandering and wondering.

Art Shows give us a chance to ponder the amazing creativity that artists offer to the world.

We attended this Art Show two years ago and loved the metal sculptures capturing our animal friends.

“Why, Al E. Gator, what big teeth you have!”

While we enjoyed the Rhino, the Giraffe, the Alligator, and the Rooster . . . this year, I hope to see a Zebra!

I asked the zebra, Are you black with white strips? Or white with black strips? 
And the zebra asked me:
Are you good with bad habits? Or are you bad with good habits?
Are you noisy with quiet times? Or are you quiet with noisy times? 
Are you happy with sad days? Or are you sad with happy days? 
Are you neat with some sloppy ways?  Or are you sloppy with some neat ways?
And on and on and on and on
And on and on he went.
I’ll never ask a zebra about stripes again.
~ Shel Silverstein
 A Light in the Attic

Have a spectacular Sunday!

* * * * *

Artwork by Prescott Sculpture ~ Wild Animal Sculptures move in the wind.

To Lie, Or Not To Lie January 30, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Mindfulness.

Amy (Soul Dipper) sent me a link to a philosophy quiz which allows players to match their moral compass against a few of the great philosophers ~ Kant, Bentham, and Aristotle.

It’s called . . . To Lie, Or Not To Lie

After each of 4 scenarios, players compare their moral philosophy against that of Kant, Aristotle, and Bentham.

My results?

Kant and I matched 4 out of 4 answers.
Aristotle and I matched 2 out of 4 answers.

Bentham and I?  Let’s just say we don’t see eye to eye on issues of honesty and integrity.

So, how’d you do?

Once you’re finished taking the quiz, share your results below and on Zen & The Art of Tightrope Walking (where Amy discovered the quiz).

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts:  You Can’t Handle The Truth * Ignorance, Apathy, and Dishonesty * To Thine Own Self Be True * Kindly Be Honest * Are You OK Right Now?  * Bending the Rules . . . And the Truth * Toughen Up!

Life is Short . . . Eat Dessert First January 29, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Happiness, Life Balance.

We rarely go out to eat these days.  And, if we do go out to eat, we almost never order dessert . . . too many calories, we’re too full, pressing time commitments, not healthy, etc.

Today, we decided to eat dessert first!

We went to Stonewood Grill mid-afternoon for dessert and coffee.

We ordered Chocolate Bread Pudding “cradled by a warm bourbon sauce then topped with Häagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream and a homemade chocolate crisp.”

But wait!  There’s more . . .

We also ordered chocolate fudge cake,  topped with vanilla bean ice cream, a fresh sliced strawberry, and a drizzle of chocolate.

We savored these two decadent desserts until, halfway done,  we decided to finish the ice cream and take the rest of the chocolate home.

Was it worth it?

Yes!  We enjoyed every delectable moment (and bite) of this rare-to-us  special occasion.  Life is good, but life is short.  Bad things happen . . .

Eat dessert first!

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts:  Laugh When You Can * Ordinary Miracles * Celebrate Life

Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies January 29, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Mindfulness, Spirit & Ego.

Our Egos love it when people praise us and recognize our accomplishments ~ even if they are not entirely sincere in that praise.  

We start to believe the good press we are receiving, causing our Egos to inflate ever faster ~ seeking more respect, more praise, and more admiration from those around us.     

Egos are greedy.  Less is never more.

What happens when someone tells us that we are not as terrific, wonderful and talented as we’ve been led to believe? 

What happens when someone tells us that we have room to grow?

If we’ve absorbed all the accolades and attention, however insincere, POP Goes The Ego!:

Each time we internalize and absorb an insincere compliment (by accepting it as true), Ego starts preening and blowing itself up in self-importance. 

Enough vacuous comments absorbed, and Ego is stretched to the breaking  point, leaving it vulnerable to HONEST criticism and critique. 

One harsh word (or look!) and POP Goes The Ego!

When we learn to use an internal compass, we don’t get caught up in the praise game.  We know when we are putting our best foot forward, whether or not anyone else notices.  We know when we have fallen short of the bar, even if our mistakes are invisible to those around us.

At the Kadampa Meditation Center in Florida, Gen Kelsang Demo, an American Buddhist nun, teaches classes, such as Finding Freedom through Inner Balance:

It is easy to develop an exaggerated concern for the comforts of this life, such as possessions, respect, pleasure, praise and a good reputation.  Often our pursuit of respect, praise, and admiration  creates anxiety, stress and frustration.  We feel over excited when we have them and dejected or discouraged when we lose them.

To our disappointment, we also discover that in and of themselves these things do not have the power to provide the lasting happiness we wish for.

In this series we will discover inner sources of the happiness we wish for and learn how to develop a stable and balanced approach to the things of this life.

On the website, the Center also identifies a few key texts for home study.  One of my favorite synopses is from the book, Transform Your Life: A Blissful Journey:

If we are skillful, friends can be like treasure chests, from whom we can obtain the precious wealth of love, compassion, patience, and so forth. For our friends to function in this way, however, our love for them must be free from attachment.

If our love for our friends is mixed with strong attachment it will be conditional upon their behaving in ways that please us, and, as soon as they do something we disapprove of, our liking for them may turn to anger.

In fact, the most common objects of our anger are often our friends, not our enemies or strangers!

That has certainly been my experience.  How about you? 

Has anyone ever told you that they loved and admired you . . . only to push you away the minute you failed to meet their expectations?

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts:  The 2011 Sexiest Blog Award * WTF: Watch That Feedback *  Let Go, EGO! * A Change Would Do You Good * Why Write? * No Jivin’

Laugh When You Can January 28, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Mindfulness, Spirit & Ego.

In a friend’s Christmas newsletter one year, she summed up the year with the following statement:

Life is good, but life is short.  Bad things happen.  Laugh when you can. 

She’s a writer and may have penned those lines herself.  Or she may have been sharing a quote that struck her as profound.

Either way, the message stuck with me, and I shared it with others.

Life is good, but life is short. 

People die unexpectedly.  Several of my childhood playmates died young.  One was electrocuted in a farm accident before he turned twenty.  The other died of a brain aneurism before she reached thirty.

Neither knew they were going to die on the day they did.  They no doubt expected to see at least a few more sunrises before cashing in their chips.

I wonder whether they wasted precious time in their last few days dwelling on hurts of the past, or worrying about the future, instead of enjoying the present moment.

If they had known of their impending demise, they would have had no reason to hang on to anything that had caused them pain in the past.  They would have had no reason to worry about what might or might not happen five days, five weeks, or five years down the road.

Instead, they could have existed solely in the present moment, enjoying  their last days on Earth, with smiles on their faces and laughter ringing from their lips.

Life unfolds moment by moment.

Each moment is a new beginning.  Another chance to “get it right.”  Another opportunity to focus on all that is being offered ~ right here, right now.

My childhood playmates had no idea that they were going to die when they did.  In truth, none of us know how long we will be here ~ how much time we have left.  Someone dying of a terminal illness may suspect that the end is drawing near, but most of us remain entirely in the dark about how many sunsets and sunrises we have left to witness.

If we want to enjoy our remaining time on Earth, we must treat each day as if it were going to be our last.

We must let go of the past and embrace the present.

Quotes to ponder:

The eyes of my eyes are opened. ~ e.e.cummings

It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up – that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had. ~ Elizabeth Kobler-Ross

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.  By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

We do not laugh because we are happy.  We are happy because we laugh.

The notes I handle no better than many pianists.  But the pauses between the notes ~ ah, that is where the art resides.  ~ Arthur Schnabel

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related posts:  Choice (Kate Shrewsday) * Celebrate Life * Mindfulness: A Miracle Drug * Your Brain On Bliss10 Happiness Boosters * 13 Tips to Stay Healthy & Happy * Meditation 101 The ABC’s of Happiness * More ABC’s of Happiness * Living Without Regret (Think Simple Now) * Be Here Now

Youth Art Contest: Endangered Species January 27, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Art & Photography.

2010 Grand Prize: Polar Bear & Beluga Whale, Carter Schroeder, Anchorage, AK

Endangered Species Day, started by the US Congress in 2006, celebrates our nation’s imperiled wildlife, plants, and wild spaces.

The event features a Youth Art Contest, organized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,  Endangered Species Coalition, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and Ogden Museum of Southern Art/ University of New Orleans.

Teachers can include the Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest as a featured activity for Youth Art Month in March. 

Entries are due March 15.

For more information on how to enter: National Audubon Society Advisory

If You Are Going To Tell MY Story . . . January 27, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Blogging, Writing & Writers.

150px-Carlo_Crivelli_052Yesterday, someone in the blogosphere used “my story” to support his view that writers can be writers even if they don’t write.

Here are his words:

Then, finally, there are people like my writer friend Nancy, who for years had worked as a lawyer and had made a great living, but who, despite all this, felt incredibly unhappy.

Inside, Nancy knew that she was a writer, but because of her life circumstances she just couldn’t write. Life had gotten in her way.

Since then, Nancy took the big leap, left her law career and is now pursuing her passion: writing.

I am very happy for her, and admire her for the guts it took to take that big step, but I know that many of my writer friends are not as lucky, and maybe not as brave. And you know what? I don’t blame them for not having the courage–or the luck.

You see, for many writers, life doesn’t unfold magically and perfectly as they would wish. No, for many of us, life tends to do the EXACT opposite of what we want it to do. In fact, it seems that life will do it’s [sic] best to GET IN THE WAY of your successful writing career.

When I first read his overview of “my life,” it bothered me.  I felt violated by his off-kilter summary.

I tried to brush it off, reminding myself that we have as many reputations as we have acquaintances . . . and none is accurate.

But I woke up this morning still dismayed by how he had characterized my life for his readers.  I returned to his blog and left the following comment:

I’ve thought about this post a bit more, and feel that I do need to clarify “my story” for your readers:

(1)  You say that I felt “incredibly unhappy.” That is NOT correct.  I felt quite happy, except in my choice of career.  That made it easy to determine the source of my unhappiness and eliminate it from my life by transitioning from law to non-profit work and eventually to writing as a full time occupation.

(2)  You say “Nancy knew that she was a writer, but because of her life circumstances she just couldn’t write. Life had gotten in her way.”  Also, incorrect.  I never stopped writing.  I never allowed life to get in the way of my passion.

Cooks cook.  Dancers dance.  Writers write.

(3)  You say, “Since then, Nancy took the big leap, left her law career and is now pursuing her passion: writing.”  Not entirely incorrect.  But you left out a span of 10 years where I ran first a domestic violence program and then an AmeriCorps program.

(4)  You attribute my transition to “luck.”  I attribute it to a mindful evaluation of my life to determine whether my focus was on my priorities.  I attribute it to a series of choices that I made over time to move away from what wasn’t working and move toward a life that would be a better fit for me.

Thanks for allowing me to clarify my story for your readers.  If I ever decide to share your story, I’ll run my thoughts by you first.

I am not writing this post to make him look bad for what I  hope were a series of innocent misrepresentations on his part.

Rather, I am writing this post to remind writers of non-fiction that they should be careful when using the stories of others to advance their own agendas.

Sharing specific anecdotes we have observed first hand is one thing.

Attempting to summarize someone else’s life based on second hand evidence and hearsay is another ~ especially when we are using the summary to support a theory with which they disagree.

Cooks cook.  Dancers dance.  Writers write.

What I found most unsettling is that he seems to understand me so little, and yet he called me “friend.”

Quote:  Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point. ~ C.S. Lewis

Related posts:  Cooks Cook.  Dancers Dance.  Writers Write * Brief Bio * Other Stuff * Whose Shoes Are They Anyway? * “I Know What YOU Should Do”

Cooks Cook. Dancers Dance. Writers Write. January 27, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Mindfulness, Word Play, Writing & Writers.

For me, writing has always been about the journey, not the destination.  It’s not about going somewhere or achieving something . . . it’s about enjoying myself along the way.

I never decided to become a writer ~ I just wrote.  It is in the doing that we become.

Cooks cook.  Dancers dance.  Writers write.

From the time I entered school, I enjoyed playing with words.  I wrote silly poems, and sillier stories.  I wrote letters to friends and family members, and kept a journal with entries intended for my eyes only ~ my younger brother, a budding Private Eye, searched for that journal on a regular basis.  

Sometimes, I shared my writing with others; generally, I did not.  I wrote for the sheer sake of writing, and read for the sheer pleasure of enjoying words penned by other more experienced writers.

Cooks cook.  Dancers dance.  Writers write.

In high school, college, and law school, all that practice with reading and writing assisted me, especially on essay examinations and required papers on esoteric subjects.  Since I knew how to write a concise sentence, when other students apparently did not, professors gave me “bonus points.”  My grades reflected not only mastery of the subject matter under discussion, but  understanding of the English language as well.  

As an attorney, my communication skills stood me in good stead on a daily basis, allowing me to convey to judge and jury why my client deserved a verdict in his or her favor. 

In the non-profit arena, I found that good communication skills made my life that much easier, especially when writing grants to request money.  Being able to convey what we had done with money in the past enabled us to get more money, and continue our efforts to make the world a better place. 

Writing has eased my personal and professional life from the time I entered school until the present.  Writing enhances my life in almost the same way as knowing how to breathe  enhances my continued daily existence.

I breathe to stay alive.  I write to feel alive.

Cooks cook.  Dancers dance.  Writers write.

How about you?  Do you make time to enjoy your passions on a regular basis?  If not, why not?

Quote:  Do not delay; the golden moments fly!  ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts:  To Share . . . Or Not To ShareLife . . . A Journey, Not A DestinationOur Field Of Dreams * Our Internal Compass * Blogging:  A Waggish Waste of Time? * Writers Who Don’t Write (Courage2Create) * What Did You Want To Be . . . When You Grew Up (Footprints in the Sand)