Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween 2016

It's that time of year again when the ghosts and goblins are wandering the night in search of treats. There will also be children. I kid, of course, but it's a time for kids and a time for kidding.

It can also be a time for serious reflection, though. In some of the oldest traditions, this was the time of the New Year, a time to remember and honor the past while looking toward the mysterious future. A seat was saved at table for the departed loved ones. Goods were sought and set aside for the coming winter. It was very much an Anything Is Possible kind of time.

Let this be your Anything Is Possible kind of time. Honor your past and respect what it has taught you, look forward and prepare for what is to come, but live today. Never forget to live today.

And never forget to have fun! Look around you. Do you see all of those spectacular costumes? Do you hear all of that laughter? Can you feel the excitement? Join the children, laugh with the children, and remember, sometimes they understand better than we do. They haven't forgotten the important stuff.

If you're out and about, please be careful and pay attention. Children may still remember some important stuff, but Watch Where You're Going when excited often isn't on the list. Let's keep it fun and safe for everyone, and have a very Happy Halloween.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

TGIF 10-21-16

Something to consider as we go into the weekend. Take care of each other.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Three Aims To The Future

I have collected and edited triads for nearly as long as I can remember. One of the things I have always found interesting is the vast number of subjects covered by these sayings. Even without considering the more modern variations (and likely additions), if you go back to the oldest examples we have, you’ll easily find triads covering everything from spirituality and philosophy, to manners and etiquette, to planting methods and home management. When the ancient Celtic people found a system that worked, they used it.

The old Irish believed in the magic of language. Words had a binding effect that went beyond mere labels. This is why place names are so important to the Gaelic culture, and why the giving of such place names plays such a large role usually in the opening of most of the old stories. Through this same magic, things of importance were taught to the next generation by memorization. You couldn’t just look something up when you wanted to know it. It had to be known, and someone was responsible for knowing it through and through. Triads were used to facilitate this knowing, and they can still be used to help with this task today.

Three aims to the future: planting trees, improving handicraft, and rearing lawful children.

Three things which will not benefit heirs: a miser's wealth, the praise of tavern companions, and feats of sport.

Three things which prolong the lifetime of a person: the soil which rears a child, the food which nourishes a child, and play which diverts a child.

Three gifts of charity : food, sanctuary, and instruction.

There are three things proper from one who has received kindness: their thanks, their remembrance, and their requital.

Three things for which thanks are due: an invitation, a gift, and a warning.

Three things which cause one loss of invitations: eating to much, speaking to much, and asking to much.

Three things never to bring one who has been your host: harm, contention, ill repute.

Three reasons for keeping silent: against saying the thing one ought not, against speaking in the way one ought not, and against speaking in the place one ought not.

Three reasons for speaking, come what may: for instruction against ignorance, counsel against strife, and truth against harmful falsehood.

There are three things which one should give freely to guests: gracious accommodation, friendly conversation, and insured safety.

Three things a guest should never bring to another's house: ill tidings; presumptuous license; and treachery.

Three treasures of the child in a good home: truth, love, and growth.

Three things which bring dignity to a person: discretion in speech, contentment in the life they lead, and being peaceful among their neighbors.

There are three things necessary for a contract to be made: mutual agreement, mutual understanding, and mutual consent.

There are three foundations to mutual agreement: that there be nothing hidden, that there be no malicious intent, that there be no coercion.

The three highest causes of the true human are: Truth, honor, and duty.

The three manifestations of the true human are: civility, generosity, and compassion.

The three foundations of Spirituality: Hearth as altar, work as worship, and service as sacrament.

Three types of profit: from producing , from investing , from a good reputation.

There are three things most precious to human kind: health, liberty, and virtue.

Three things which keep a person in good health: moderate food, well-apportioned labor, and natural warmth.

Three things good as servants, bad as masters: water, fire, and wind.

Three more things worse yet as masters than as servants: labor, money, and kings.

Three things which should be chiefly considered in everything: nature, form, and work.

Three things on which every person should reflect: whence they come, where they are, and whither they shall go.

Three kinds of knowledge : the nature of each thing , the cause of each thing , the influence of each thing.

There are three things which strengthen the mind and reason: seeing much, reflecting much, and enduring much.

Three marks of wisdom: simplicity, endeavor, and long-suffering.

Three things which obstruct wisdom: pride, covetousness, and timorousness.

Three operations of wisdom : taming savagery, spreading peace, and improving laws.

Three things which may not be opposed: nature, necessity, and decay.

Three foundations of success: a silent mouth, a careful ear, and a fitting action.

The three foundations of happiness: contentment; hope, and belief.

By remembering the past, we can help to learn the future. Sometimes in this modern world we get in too much of a hurry, and it would do us good to slow down and remember that some thoughts are timeless, some lessons endure. Newer isn’t always better, and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we want to move forward. There are things we can learn from those who came before us, and there are tools they left us to help make the learning go more smoothly. The triads are among those tools, and their ideas are among those lessons.

I hope you have enjoyed this sampling, and that you can take something from it that you may find beneficial to your life.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Happy Hump Day 10-19-16

Two of the things we need most in our lives are often the most neglected.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Three Things Excellent for Anyone

I have always made it a point to learn as much as I can from as many sources as I can but, like everyone, I do have my favorites. There are some sources that speak to me more deeply than others, and these I have returned to time and time again throughout my life. The nature of this blog has made my fascination with such subjects as Zen koans fairly obvious, but I have not gotten to spend quite as much time with some of my other favorite teachers. My family tree traces most of it roots to Celtic countries, and my love of that heritage has always led through some wonderful resources, not least of which being the Triads.

While triads are not uniquely Celtic - similar themes and formats can be found in many ancient cultures and relies largely on the usefulness of mnemonic patterns - the association is common, and one of the most famous collections of triads is Trecheng Breth Féne, "A Triad of Judgments of the Irish", more widely known as "The Triads of Ireland", which contains about 214 triads and is dated to about the ninth century. These triads were used as a handy way to impart lessons on life, belief, and philosophy in a culture that taught most of these lessons by way of memorization. The old Irish were not illiterate, as is commonly assumed, and made extensive use of written language in record keeping and accounting, but they had a robust oral tradition that was the heart of their educational system.

This week, I want to present some of my favorite triads, and I hope you enjoy both the history and the ideas inherent in them. Let me know what you think.

Three things excellent for anyone: valor, learning, and discretion.

Three things which strengthen a person to stand against the whole world: Seeing the quality and beauty of truth; seeing beneath the cloak of falsehood; and seeing to what ends truth and falsehood come.

Three manifestations of humanity: Affectionate bounty; loving manner; and praiseworthy knowledge.

Three things without which there can be nothing good: truth; peace; and generosity.

Three beautiful beings of the world: the upright, the skillful, and the reasonable.

Three things by nature cause their possessor to err: youth, prosperity, and ignorance.

Three things must be united before good can come of them: thinking well, speaking well, and acting well.

Three things it is everyone's duty to do: listen humbly, answer discreetly, and judge kindly.

Three antagonists of goodness: arrogance, passion, and covetousness.

Three rewards of those who learn to temper their emotions: experience, strength, and introspection.

Three manifestations of excellence : the honoring of parents, the respecting of the aged, and instructing the young.

Three candles that illume every darkness: truth, nature, and knowledge.

There are three companions of lawlessness: pride, envy, and rapine.

Three roots of every evil: covetousness, falsehood, and arrogance.

Three things which end ill: falsehood, envy, and guile.

Three chief things which deceive people: fair words, desire of gain, and ignorance.

Three things it is no worse to lose than to keep: wealth, youth, and love of the world.

Three things of which only the happy and wise beware: the breaking of oaths, drunkenness, and vanity.

Three chief attributes of a person likely to do wrong: an angry countenance, an arrogant spirit, and an insatiable covetousness.

Three things needful to one who has done wrong: to acknowledge their wrong, to seek to be upright, and to make restitution.

From three people keep yourself: the joyless, the mocker, and the one who laughs at lawless doings.

Three rude ones in the world: a youngster mocking an old person; a robust person mocking an invalid; a wise man mocking a fool.

Three things better than riches: health, freedom, and discretion.

Three things as good to lose as to gain: extreme prosperity, extreme praise, and extreme dignity.

Three littles which do much harm: a little of bad disposition, a little of injustice, a little of negligence.

Three things , little of which shows much wisdom: little conceit, little covetousness, and little gossip.

There are three falsehoods: a falsehood of speech, falsehood of silence, and falsehood of demeanor.

There are three foundations of law and custom: order, justice, and peace.

Three things which come from peace: increase of possessions, improvement of manners, and enlargement of knowledge.

There are three things which lay waste the world: a king without counsel, a judge without conscience, and a son without reverence.

Three things which bring a person the love of their neighbors: to be a peacemaker, to be a helper, and to be a guide.

Three things which bring a person respect among their neighbors: supporting themselves , being wise in their counsel, and being kind.

Three things which the good poet preserves for posterity: memory of the praiseworthy, delight in thought, and instruction in knowledge.

Triads are a popular and useful method for expressing teaching moments. Before anyone asks, they don’t all come from one source and they are not all historically accurate. Wherever possible, the people who collect these usually do try to be as accurate as possible when dealing with statements that were passed down orally for many generations before they were ever first written down, but there is an obvious limitation to that goal. In many cases, the first people to write them down were not even from the same culture, so some inaccuracies were bound to slip in right from the beginning. Triads are not Holy Writ, by any means, but they are good thoughts, and are good to think about. I hope you enjoy.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

TGIF 10-14-16

When you get to the top, look inward.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

The True Path

It should be noted that the usual method for contemplating koans is not to take them in large chunks like we are doing here. The more common practice is to spend days on a single koan, exploring the possibilities contained within and discovering the thoughts behind the thoughts behind the thoughts. We tend to get hung up on certain patterns of thinking, and react to things based on that expected pattern rather than on the thing in question. The idea with a koan is the recognize this pattern thinking, strip away the pattern, and get to the true thought at the center.

The lessons are not always clear, but life is not always clear. It’s murky and unsure, and the way is often obscured by rocks or weeds or fog or some other obstacle, but then you get a break in the clouds, the sun shines through, and everything is suddenly obvious. It may be for just a moment, but that is a moment you will remember and carry with you for the rest of your life. Once you learn how to see, you’ll always have the memory of sight.

Just before Ninakawa passed away the Zen master Ikkyu visited him. "Shall I lead you on?" Ikkyu asked.
Ninakawa replied: "I came here alone and I go alone. What help could you be to me?"
Ikkyu answered: "If you think you really come and go, that is your delusion. Let me show you the path on which there is no coming and no going."
With his words, Ikkyu had revealed the path so clearly that Ninakawa smiled and passed away.

When Bankei was preaching at Ryumon temple, a Shinshu priest, who believed in salvation through the repetition of the name of the Buddha of Love, was jealous of his large audience and wanted to debate with him.
Bankei was in the midst of a talk when the priest appeared, but the fellow made such a disturbance that bankei stopped his discourse and asked about the noise.
"The founder of our sect," boasted the priest, "had such miraculous powers that he held a brush in his hand on one bank of the river, his attendant held up a paper on the other bank, and the teacher wrote the holy name of Amida through the air. Can you do such a wonderful thing?"
Bankei replied lightly: "Perhaps your fox can perform that trick, but that is not the manner of Zen. My miracle is that when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel thirsty I drink."

A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: "Is there really a paradise and a hell?"
"Who are you?" inquired Hakuin.
"I am a samurai," the warrior replied.
"You, a soldier!" exclaimed Hakuin. "What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar."
Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: "So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head."
As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: "Here open the gates of hell!"
At these words the samurai, perceiving the master's discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.
"Here open the gates of paradise," said Hakuin.

A Zen student came to Bankei and complained: "Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?"
"You have something very strange," replied Bankei. "Let me see what you have."
"Just now I cannot show it to you," replied the other.
"When can you show it to me?" asked Bankei.
"It arises unexpectedly," replied the student.
"Then," concluded Bankei, "it must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born you did not have it, and your parents did not give it to you. Think that over."

A rich man asked Sengai to write something for the continued prosperity of his family so that it might be treasured from generation to generation.
Sengai obtained a large sheet of paper and wrote: "Father dies, son dies, grandson dies."
The rich man became angry. "I asked you to write something for the happiness of my family! Why do you make such a joke as this?"
"No joke is intended," explained Sengai. "If before you yourself die you son should die, this would grieve you greatly. If your grandson should pass away before your son, both of you would be broken-hearted. If your family, generation after generation, passes away in the order I have named, it will be the natural course of life. I call this real prosperity."

Once a monk made a request of Joshu.
“I have just entered the monastery,” he said. “Please give me instructions, Master.”
Joshu said, “Have you had your breakfast?”
“Yes, I have,” replied the monk.
“Then,” said Joshu, “wash your bowls.”
The monk had an insight.

When asked why he practiced zen, the student said, “Because I intend to become a Buddha.”
His teacher picked up a brick and started polishing it. The student asked “What are you doing?” The teacher replied, “I am trying to make a mirror.” “How can you make a mirror by polishing a brick?”
“How can you become Buddha by doing zazen? If you understand sitting Zen, you will know that Zen is not about sitting or lying down. If you want to learn sitting Buddha, know that sitting Buddha is without any fixed form. Do not use discrimination in the non-abiding dharma. If you practice sitting as Buddha, you must kill Buddha. If you are attached to the sitting form, you are not yet mastering the essential principle.”
The student heard this admonition and felt as if he had tasted sweet nectar.

A philosopher asked Buddha: `Without words, without the wordless, will you you tell me truth?'
The Buddha kept silence.
The philosopher bowed and thanked the Buddha, saying: `With your loving kindness I have cleared away my delusions and entered the true path.'
After the philosopher had gone, Ananda asked the Buddha what he had attained.
The Buddha replied, `A good horse runs even at the shadow of the whip.'

A monk said to Kempo, “The Bhagavat of the ten directions have one road to Nirvana. Where, may I ask, does that road begin?”
Kempo lifted up his stick, drew a line, and said, “Here”.

One pupil asked, “What is satori?”
The master said, “It is the original Mind.”
The pupil asked, “What is the original Mind?”
The master responded, “Not one thing.”
The pupil asked again, “What is this ‘not one thing’?”
The master closed his mouth and said nothing.

Let me know what you think of this exercise. Do you have a favorite koan? Do you have a thought on one of these? I look forward to sharing thoughts with you, and, as always, namaste.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Happy Hump Day 10-12-16

All you need is less.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Sound Of One Hand Clapping

A koan is a statement, riddle, or story used in the practice of Zen to illustrate a point or contemplate an idea. They rarely make a direct connection from A to B because that is not really the point. One does not consider a koan in order to reach an answer. The idea is not to say that two plus two equals four, nor is it to give instructions on any particular task. In fact, the specific words of a koan are often secondary to the meaning of a koan. The goal is not in the answer but in the asking. The primary objective is to look at something familiar from a new perspective, or even to learn that a new perspective is possible.

With this in mind, I would like to present some of my favorite koans. I will do so without comment, because my thoughts can only be my own. I have enough of those and do not need the echo. Many of these have been extensively dissected over the many, many years since they were first written down, but I’m not presenting anyone else’s notes here either. Explore them in your own context, and let me know what you think. I would love to discuss them later.

Suiwo, the disciple of Hakuin, was a good teacher. During one summer seclusion period, a pupil came to him from a southern island of Japan.
Suiwo gave him the problem: "Hear the sound of one hand clapping."
The pupil remained three years but could not pass this test. One night he came in tears to Suiwo. "I must return south in shame and embarrassment," he said, "for I cannot solve my problem."
"Wait one week more and meditate constantly," advised Suiwo. Still no enlightenment came to the pupil. "Try for another week," said Suiwo. The pupil obeyed, but in vain.
"Still another week." Yet this was of no avail. In despair the student begged to be released, but Suiwo requested another meditation of five days. They were without result. Then he said: "Meditate for three days longer, then if you fail to attain enlightenment, you had better kill yourself."
On the second day the pupil was enlightened.

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.
"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.
"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best."
At these words Banzan became enlightened.

Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras, which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.
Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.
It happened that at that time the Uji River overflowed. Famine followed. Tetsugen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation. Then he began again his work of collecting.
Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people. For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto.
The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.

During the Kamakura period, Shinkan studied Tendai six years and then studied Zen seven years; then he went to China and contemplated Zen for thirteen years more.
When he returned to Japan many desired to interview him and asked questions. But when Shinkan received visitors, which was infrequently, he seldom answered their questions.
One day a fifty-year-old student of enlightenment said to Shinkan: "I have studied the Tendai school of thought since I was a little boy, but one thing in it I cannot understand. Tendai claims that even the grass and trees will become enlightened. To me this seems very strange."
"Of what use is it to discuss how grass and trees become enlightened?" asked Shinkan. "The question is how you yourself can become so. Did you ever consider that?" "I never thought of it in that way," marveled the old man.
"Then go home and think it over," finished Shinkan.

Sozan, a Chinese Zen master, was asked by a student: "What is the most valuable thing in the world?"
The master replied: "The head of a dead cat."
"Why is the head of a dead cat the most valuable thing in the world?" inquired the student.
Sozan replied: "Because no one can name its price."

Hogen, a Chinese Zen teacher, lived alone in a small temple in the country. One day four traveling monks appeared and asked if they might make a fire in his yard to warm themselves.
While they were building the fire, Hogen heard them arguing about subjectivity and objectivity. He joined them and said: "There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be inside or outside your mind?"
One of the monks replied: "From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the stone is inside my mind."
"Your head must feel very heavy," observed Hogen, "if you are carrying around a stone like that in your mind."

Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.
Desiring to show his attainment, he said: "The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received."
Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.
"If nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did this anger come from?"

In early times in Japan, bamboo-and-paper lanterns were used with candles inside. A blind man, visiting a friend one night, was offered a lantern to carry home with him.
"I do not need a lantern," he said. "Darkness or light is all the same to me."
"I know you do not need a lantern to find your way," his friend replied, "but if you don't have one, someone else may run into you. So you must take it."
The blind man started off with the lantern and before he had walked very far someone ran squarely into him.
"Look out where you are going!" he exclaimed to the stranger. "Can't you see this lantern?"
"Your candle has burned out, brother," replied the stranger.

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.
Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.
"Come on, girl" said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"
"I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"

I will leave you with these for now, and we will come back for more later in the week. I hope you enjoy the exercise, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. That is, after all, the point - to think, and to share thoughts. Until next time.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

TGIF 10-7-16

Don't let fear stand in your way.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Just Do It

You don’t need me to tell you that some days are harder than others. It’s just a fact of life. Sometimes things go smoothly, and sometimes life beats you about the head and shoulders with a truck. A really big truck. For most people, there is a mix of the two along with everything in between, and, if you’re somewhat lucky, your collection leans more toward the former than the latter. Some days, though, it’s a really big truck.

On those days when it seems to be raining auto parts and your only umbrella is already torn to shreds, the only thing you want to do is hide in your room and wait for it to go away. If you can do that, it might be your best bet, or at least your safest bet. Those are not the best days for decision making, and it’s easy to do something you’ll later regret when everything already seems to be at its worst. Most of us don’t have that option, though, or don’t have that option as often as we might like. Bills have to be paid, jobs have to get done, and life has to be lived. Like it or not, we have to go out and do the things. We don’t have a choice.

So you do them. It’s as simple and as difficult as that. When your only choice is to do it, just do it. “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead,” so to speak. Just do it.

This was a trick I … I don’t want to say “mastered,” because I don’t think you can ever truly master this particular trick. You don’t master it, per se, you just get ahead of the averages. You get very good at making it work knowing that it either works correctly or everything explodes. There is usually no middle ground in this situation. So this was a trick I learned to use as carefully as possible back during the time when a stoic automaton was my default answer to everything. You shut down as many of the sensory input channels as you can get away with and just put one foot in front of the other, step by rigid step, until you get through.

It requires a conscious decision. I may not be hungry but I have to eat, so I eat. I may not want to get out of bed but I have to go to work, so I get out of bed. I have to recognize that these are steps I must take, so take them. Don’t stop and think about it. Don’t make excuses. Definitely don’t make excuses because once you make one, the second one becomes easier. Before you know it, you’ve lost count of the excuses and you’re still in bed. Things that needed to get done haven’t been done, and you still haven’t made it through whatever was causing the interference in the first place.

As Robert Frost said, “The best way out is always through.” I don’t know if I would actually go so far as to say “always,” but I do know it’s pretty common. Once you’re in the thick of things, you’re going to have to work your way out no matter which direction you go, so you may as well go forward and not lose the ground you already made. If that means gritting your teeth and pushing through then you grit your teeth and push through. Sometimes there is no other way.

There is a risk involved, obviously. If you’re pushing through just to push through, you’re almost certainly not going to be at your best. You won’t do your best work, you won’t give your best answers, and you probably won’t be your best you. Understand that and make allowances for it. If at all possible, try to limit your “just pushing through” actions to physically mechanical tasks that don’t require your best effort. Eat a sandwich instead of cooking dinner. Do your laundry instead of planning your budget. Work on solo tasks instead of chairing a committee. Know yourself and know your limits. Try to tell the difference between things that can wait and things that can, and don’t set yourself up to fail. Do what you have to do but, if you’re in that situation, limit it to what you actually have to do. Come back to the rest when you’re doing better.

Let me be clear here. I’m not saying you don’t ask for help. I am not saying you can’t take a break. I’m not saying you never back up and try a different direction. I have definitely said the opposite of each of those things many times, so this is not intended to contradict that. There is no One Size Fits All package for life. It’s a mix-and-match grab bag with just about as many tricks as it has treats, and you’re going to have to learn to recognize the different situations in order to best address those situations. If the situation requires help, or a break, or a new direction, or a bridge burned, or bug spray, or whatever that situation requires, face it with the best tools you can get to hand. What I am saying is, when a situation requires you to tuck your head down and step, tuck your head down and step. Just do it.

There are days when the alarm goes off and it takes everything I have to not throw it across the room. There are days when it’s just me in the truck and it requires an active decision to turn on the right blinker instead of the left. I’ve been there too often. I know all about that moment when you’re standing on the edge, less than half-a-breath from giving in and giving up. I have been learning to take corrective measures against those moments for more than thirty years now. I can’t tell you it gets easier, but I can tell you it gets better. That is so hard to believe when you hit the wall, but it’s true. It gets better.

When you’ve lost all hope, when you’ve hit the wall, when you’re about to give up, remember, it gets better. You don’t have to believe. You just have to take a step forward, then take another step forward, then one more. It’s always just one step. That’s all you have to do, from moment to moment, is take one step. Focus on that step and just do it. Look at the next step only in its turn. Do what you have to do then, and only then, do the next thing you have to do.

Some days there is no trick. Some days are going to be horrible, no matter what you do, regardless of therapy or medicine, with no remedy but time. Don’t forget, they’re only some days, not all. When nothing will fix it and you have to do the thing anyway, just do it. Take a break when you have to, but keep moving and you’ll get through.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Happy Hump Day 10-5-16

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear."

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

This Is Halloween

And so it begins. For the next few months, the holidays will be coming - bam, bam, bam - one after another. Almost too many to count. Maybe too many to keep track of. Certainly too many for one person to observe. I’m pretty sure no one person would observe all of them anyway. I think some of them conflict, or maybe almost conflict. At any rate, there are quite a few holidays, and quite a few opportunities to celebrate life, living, and the people you love. Do try to keep in mind that different holidays have different impacts for different people. Some of them are fun, some of them are bittersweet, and some of them are just downright difficult. Keep an eye on your loved ones and help them celebrate. Be there when you need to be there for someone who isn’t feeling quite so celebratory. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and, if we work together, we can all be better for it. We can balance each other, and fill in each other’s gaps. It all works out, if we do the work.

Of course, the first holiday coming up in this long list of pending holidays is one of my favorites, and one that is at least on the radar for most of the people who might be reading this. We may not all celebrate the same way, or with quite as much … ahem … celebration (Yes, I have fun with it!), but Halloween is easily one of the most recognized holidays on the calendar. Here in the Frequently Interrupted household, we will be spending the next few weeks setting up our decorations and getting our costumes together, and I’ll be sure to show you some of the work when it’s ready to be seen. We will be having a good time and, yes, celebrating life because, believe it or not, that’s what this holiday is really all about. It was, after all, originally a harvest festival, and there is not much for life-affirming than saying, “Yes, we have enough to eat to go through the Winter.”

Rather than a big think piece, we’re going to open the season up with a musical review. I hope you enjoy it. All music and videos are, of course, copyright to their original artists.

Released in 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas quickly became a holiday favorite. With an uplifting message wrapped up in quirky characters and catchy tunes, Jack Skellington is a holiday hero, and “This is Halloween” is one of the season’s required songs.

In 1987, the Halloween cult favorite was The Lost Boys, with its teenage look at vampires, peer pressure, and California beach parties. The soundtrack was an 80’s bonanza, but the one song that seems to have held up the best and the longest was Gerard McMahon’s “Cry Little Sister”.

Before questionable sequels and remakes, Ghostbusters brought us a giant marshmallow man, the Keymaster, and a woman who slept four feet above her covers. Ray Parker Jr.’s 1984 theme song is still a Halloween party favorite today. Who you gonna call?

The early 90’s was a resurgent time for the Romantic Vampire, with gothic imagery, Victorian fashion, and morbid fascination. Lestat was the hero of the day, and few songs embodied this particular era quite like Concrete Blonde’s 1990 hit, “Bloodletting”.

Halloween celebrations are not new of course. Even the modern versions go back decades, and there may be no better example of this than Bobby Pickett’s 1962 classic “Monster Mash”. If there is one Golden Oldie virtually guaranteed to be featured in a modern party, this one is it.

And speaking of Golden Oldies, we have to go all the way back to 1815 for one of my favorites, 1782, even, if you want to count the age of the Goethe poem that forms the basis of Schubert’s masterpiece “Erlkonig”. While not exactly a Halloween song, the theme of riding through a haunted forest only to end in tragedy is certainly spooky enough, and this particular shadow puppet video is brilliant.

I hope you have a fantastic holiday season, and I look forward to sharing our Halloween spirit with you as the month goes on. While we’re at it, feel free to share with us. We would love to see your decorations and ideas. Drop us a line or leave a comment.

Happy Halloween!

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Monday, October 3, 2016