Monday, December 12, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

From: It's a Wonderful Life
Quote of the month:

Strange, isn't it?
Each man's life
touches so many other lives.
When he isn't around
he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?
-Clarence, Angel, 2nd class

I just finished watching my favorite movie.... not just my favorite Christmas movie, but my favorite movie! It's a Wonderful Life.

If there is anyone who is not familiar with it, it is a classic movie in which George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart decides everyone would be better off if he had never been born. Clarence the Angel, in an attempt to save George's life, gives him the opportunity to see what it would have been like had he never been born. Suffice it to say that George realizes he has touched far more lives than he could have ever imagined and begs to live again. Seeing how many lives he has touched, and the difference he has made to his town... not to mention helping Clarence earn his wings, George realizes that, despite his problems, he really has "a wonderful life."

No matter which holiday you celebrate, or even if you don't celebrate any of them, the theme in this classic movie can be appreciated by all.  The Simple idea I'd like to leave you with was stated in a Daily OM newsletter.... Everything you do matters! What follows is a reprint, with permission, of that newsletter....

It is easy to believe that the only way to initiate profound transformation is to take extreme action. Each of us, however, carries within us the capacity to change the world in small ways for better or worse. Everything we do affects the people in our lives, and their reactions in turn affect others. As the effect of a seemingly insignificant word passes from person to person, its impact grows and can become a source of great joy, inspiration, anxiety, or pain. Your thoughts and actions are like stones dropped into still waters, causing ripples to spread and expand as they move outward. The impact you have on the world is greater than you could ever imagine, and the choices you make can have far-reaching consequences. You can use the ripple effect to make a positive difference and spread waves of kindness that will wash over the world.

Should the opportunity arise, the recipient of a good deed will likely feel compelled to do a good deed for someone else. Someone feeling the effects of negative energy will be more likely to pass on that negative energy. One act of charity, one thoughtful deed, or even one positive thought can pass from individual to individual, snowballing until it becomes a group movement or the ray of hope that saves someone’s life. Every transformation, just like every ripple, has a point of origin. You must believe in your ability to be that point of origin if you want to use the ripples you create to spread goodness. Consider the effect of your thoughts and actions, and try to act graciously as much as possible. 

A smile directed at a stranger, a compliment given to a friend, an attitude of laughter, or a thoughtful gesture can send ripples that spread among your loved ones and associates, out into your community, and finally throughout the world. You have the power to touch the lives of everyone you come into contact with and everyone those people come into contact with. The momentum of your influence will grow as your ripples moves onward and outward. One of those ripples could become a tidal wave of positivity. 

Just as Clarence says, each man and woman's life really does touch so many others. Do not underestimate your influence on the world! It really is A Wonderful Life!
If you have a few minutes... there is a clip in the post below of the ending of my favorite movie! Enjoy!

I wish each and every one of you a very happy holiday and a safe and peaceful New Year!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Magical Mystery....

Photo of the month:
Full Moon, over Pacific, May 2010

Quotes of the month:
....waiting to take you away
waiting to take you away!
-The Beatles

Each one of us has a unique thing to give.... 
which is who we are!
- Tim Freke

In 1967, the Beatles put out the Magical Mystery Tour album/movie. There are several different interpretations of the words and music that I am not going to get into. My Simple question this month is an invitation to have your own Mystery experience..... see if it takes you away!
  • Have you ever stopped to think about the actual chances that YOU are HERE on the earth?
  • And the chances that YOU are HERE in the FORM and appearance that you are?
  • And let me just add that YOU are HERE, NOW, in the days of electricity and the Internet, rather than in the days of Columbus, Julius Caesar or the cavemen?
I'll skip the biology lesson here, but we know that conception is a numbers game. Recently there was a show on the Discovery Channel called, Life before Birth, that goes over this in much more detail. I suggest it, if you are interested more in the specifics. 

Biologically, we are set up to perpetuate the human race, but in order for that to happen, nature has set it up so that chance is on its side. The possible combinations of genes are endless. But HERE you and I are, NOW! This is amazing to me!

To illustrate this further, I am going to share my first personal experience with this. I was 10 or 11 and my parents were divorced. I want to stress that neither of my parents spoke negatively to me about each other. This was nearly 40 years ago, before there were TV talk shows about these topics, so I applaud them both and am grateful for them somehow knowing that was important. At any rate, there was one particular time, when my mother must have said something somewhat negative about my father. I do not recall specifically what it was, but I remember saying to her, "If you hadn't married him, you would not have me." She replied with what I know was meant to be reassuring at the time, "I would have had you with someone else." I had had enough biology in school by this time to realize that was NOT true. She may have had a child, but even in my 10 or 11 year old brain, I knew that it would NOT have been ME!

Here is the part that really struck me in that moment.... take a moment to think about this in your own life. Had your mother had a child with someone other than your father......
  • Your mother would have had a child and 
  • she would not have known the difference....... 
  • you are the only one who could know the difference, but 
  • that is only because you are here.... you were born. 

You and I can only have this thought because we were born. If our mothers had had a child with someone else, we would not be here and could not be having this thought. Can you think about this in your own life?  What does it make you feel?

Another example, whether you like Oprah or not, one has to admit she has an amazing life. I heard her say that her mother and her father were only together one time. Once! What are the chances that she would be born at all? Let alone in the form and with the drive to succeed that she has? Some of this may be also due to environment and I don't want to turn this into a debate on nature vs. nurture, just Simply another example.

Has either of these examples stirred your own sense of being-ness?

I have one more example for you to watch to think about the mystery of our Universe and our place in it. I encourage you to watch this short video that my son pointed out to me.  I have embedded it here in the post, but if you have trouble viewing it, here is a link.....

The message at the end of the video that you are not the center of the Universe is NOT my message here. My Simple suggestion this month is just to watch the video and then "sit with" the enormity of the Universe. Again, think about the chances that we are here at all, flying through space on a rock, in the vast expanse of the Universe??

It is that time of year... the month when I write about gratitude and ask you to think about what you are grateful for in your own lives. This November, I am Simply going to suggest that as we in United States sit down to eat our turkey this week, consider the fact that YOU ARE HERE, NOW! Consider the chances that you are here at all and consider the idea that YOU matter Simply because you were born!  Each of us is unique and each has their own gifts and talents to bring to the world!  I, for one, am grateful for that!

If you would like to contribute to our community Gratitude list, click here....

To read a previous post on gratitude.... click here

One last suggestion for gratitude will echo something I wrote last month about perfection. Last month I talked about the "glass half full" vs. half empty. Gratitude is similar. If you look at a glass filled half way and picture only the part that you do not have, you will be unhappy. But if you "start from zero" or start from empty and see what you DO have, you will be much more satisfied. 

Again, to echo last month, an important point here is that you will be in physically the same place either way. The only thing that has changed is your perceptionperspective or your point of view. It's your choice!

Until next month,
Happy Thanksgiving!
And keep it Simple!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Photo of the Month:
Horizon, Gulf of Mexico, December 2007

Quote of the Month:
We are victims of the rules we live by.

The quote above was given to me by my good friend, Debbie. This quote suggests something that my mother has said throughout my life..... we tend to place our own limits on ourselves. There are lots of rules we live by... some are useful. We all drive on the same side of the street for example. Can you imagine how chaotic it would be if there wasn't a rule about that?

There are other ideas or beliefs we hold that may not be as useful. They guide our decisions in life and may be limiting us in some way.  Much of what I write on this blog is aimed at looking at things from a different perspective.... or at least considering that there may be more than one way to look at something. During the last several weeks, I've had various conversations with different people about perfection in different areas of their lives.  So that seems an appropriate topic this month.

What is it to be perfect? It is defined in the dictionary as conforming absolutely to an ideal type. It also says entirely without flaws, defects or shortcomings.

Is perfection attainable? It is an ideal. Is it possible to reach an ideal?

Have you ever been by the ocean, as in the photo above?  Or, maybe on a cruise ship? Or driving on a flat area of land? As you move towards the horizon, you get the sense that you are going towards it. In ancient times, when the world was believed to be flat, it was thought one would arrive at the horizon and then fall off. But what really happens? As you approach the horizon, it moves and in reality, one can never reach the horizon. It is somewhat like this with perfection. That as an ideal, it is something that can never be reached.

Some of you who have known me for a long time know that in my former life, my first real job out of college was as an auditor for the IRS... really! I know it doesn't seem to fit, but it's true! It wasn't my favorite job, but I did learn a lot there.

When looking at an issue, say charitable contributions, I would ask to see the taxpayer's receipts to verify the expense claimed on their tax return. Sometimes, the receipts would not exactly match up with the amount claimed, sometimes there wouldn't be enough receipts or sometimes the receipt may not be allowable. (Can you imagine that?) I don't want to turn this into a desertion on tax, but I want to use this example because it applies to what we are going to talk about next.

Most taxpayers wanted me to assume the number on the tax return was accurate and start from there, only subtracting from that a receipt that the taxpayer could not verify.

What my job required me to do was use zero as the starting point and only add to it what the taxpayer could actually verify.

A Simpler way to look at it is the analogy of the glass being half full or the glass being half empty.  One can either choose to see themselves as "half-full" by acknowledging all that they are or "half-empty" compared to some perfect ideal.

So, if one holds a rule or belief that they must be perfect, it is somewhat like starting with the full amount.... or holding the ideal image and then subtracting your "flaws" from it.  That is, comparing yourself to the ideal it and noticing all of the ways where you fall short or considering oneself as "half empty." Generally this type of comparison makes one feel bad about themselves. Feeling bad about oneself often makes people feel less energetic and like they want to do less.

Instead, I suggest that you "start from zero" and add to that all of your positive characteristics. Then look how far you have come. Look at where you are today and compare that to where you were last month, last year or 10 years ago. You may in fact find that you have grown and changed more than you have realized and see the glass as "half full." This type of comparison generally makes one feel good about oneself. Feeling good about oneself often makes people feel more energetic and like they want to do more.

**Important point here - you are in the SAME place no matter which way you decide to look at it. The only thing that changes is your rule.... or your perspective and your state of mind.

If you have trouble looking back or remembering, my Simple suggestion this month would be to write or journal, even if only a few lines once a week or once a month... when you have time. Looking back at this periodically can give you a better perspective on how far you have come. Sometimes even looking back at an old letter or e-mail might do this for you... or even look at your high school yearbook. See what you wrote about then or what you thought was important.

It is important to make a distinction between doing our best and being perfect. As Don Miguel Ruiz suggests in The Four Agreements, "Always do your best." What your best is will change over time and be different under different circumstances. As long as you have done the best that you can, you will have peace of mind.

For another perspective to consider.... in a post called Whole and Complete I suggest that if you can bring yourself Present, here and now, nothing is really missing in this moment.  You may also enjoy, You Can't do it Wrong.

I would love to hear your feedback as well as any comments or questions you may have.  Maybe you have a quote you would like to send for future use! You can do this by clicking the "comments" link below, at the end of each post.  If you prefer, you may also send comments to me directly at

Until next month....
Keep it Simple!

Friday, September 30, 2011

How to Make a Watch Disappear

Times Square, New York City
June 2009

Quote of the month:
The mind craves for formulations and definitions,
always eager to squeeze reality into a verbal shape.
- Nisargadatta Maharaj

By the end of this month's post….. I will make a watch disappear! You will, then, also be able to make a watch disappear, if you want to! I must give credit to Tim Freke, author of "How Long is Now?" He is the one who taught me!

Going back to August of 2009, we talked about the voice and the ego. We talked about how we learned English, but that of course is only if you were born in the US, England or a few other places. Had we been born in China, we would have learned Chinese. This is how the voice started, how it is formed...but it then continues by each experience life brings our way, in school, our family, the media, church.... or our interactions with others. In our struggle to make sense of the world, our brain categorizes…. our ego makes judgments about what is good and bad, and assumptions about why things are the way they are and why things happen.

This is necessary to function in our world. Look at the picture of the month above, taken on a summer day, in June 2009, in Times Square, New York City. Notice how many people, shops, lights, etc. When one is walking through Times Square, it is not possible to go into each store or every shop.  You cannot eat at every restaurant. It is not possible to say, “Hello” to each person you pass. I recall a study from my Sociology days that found people on a crowded city street do not even make eye contact with each other. It is too much input for the brain to process. 

Our brains must categorize and make assumptions in order for us to function. In doing this everything becomes a concept - an idea - something conceived in the mind. This is something that is basically made up that we have all agreed on together. When we see other living beings that look somewhat similar to us, we have all agreed that we will call them “people,” (unless you are in Spain and then you call them “gente” or in China…. “da zhong,” etc….)  In Times Square, I knew that “people” were passing by me on the street, but I did not know that Joe Smith or Nancy Brown passed by. I might have noticed a color of someone’s clothing as I passed by but I did not notice if I saw a pair of Hollister jeans. I saw “people” wearing “clothing” and passing by “shops.” Aside from someone who might have a photographic memory, this may be a somewhat similar experience for many of us.

Here is a different example of a concept we have all agreed on.  I heard that “Staycation” was added to the dictionary. Who had heard of a “staycation” five years ago? We have all agreed that a vacation spent at home or nearby will now be called a “staycation.” Maybe it is simpler to see with this newer concept and how it is basically something we made up and agreed upon!

So, what does this have to do with the watch? Maybe you can guess by now what I am going say. “Watch” is a concept. Most of us know what a watch is and some of you may be wearing one right now. More and more, people depend on their cell phones for time, but I think most of us have grown up knowing what a “watch” is. If I say I am wearing a wrist “watch,” all of you will know what I mean.

So picture me taking off my watch and holding it up in the air. Then I declare, “I am going to make this watch disappear.” Then as Tim Freke explains, “Actually, I’m going to show you how to make the watch disappear using no more than the power of your imagination.”

Can you see the watch in your mind’s eye?

Ok, now I want you to take a moment and imagine that you don’t come from this culture. Imagine that you have been born in the deepest jungles of Borneo and don’t know anything about Western civilization. Then you inexplicably find yourself here with me standing in front of you, holding something up in front of you.

What do you see now? Do you see a watch? 

You only see "watch" when you know the concept “watch.” If you came from the jungles of Borneo, you’d see whatever you could conceptualize. You might see “leather” or “bracelet” or “round metal object,” but you would not see a “watch.”

We are conscious of what we can conceptualize. If you look around you now, as I am, you will see that you have a concept for everything. I can see “computer”…… “keyboard”…… ”mouse”……. ”cat”……… ”paper”……. Look around where you are now.  What do you see?

We experience this moment through a filter of concepts. We’re living in our ideas. This month, I'd like to make the Simple suggestion that we’re telling ourselves a story, nearly all of the time, about who we are and what life is…. [For further reading on this topic, please see "How Long is Now?" By Tim Freke]

Further, I want to suggest that much of what the ego/voice is telling you is basically made up. Much of this is necessary to function in every day life, but this also can prevent us from truly living fully. I would further suggest that you try to take off the ego/voice glasses and see the world through unfiltered eyes. Tim suggests stepping out of the conceptual mind and entering into a state of "not knowing."

You have probably heard the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This applies, but I am suggesting that we try to take it a bit further than books. Think about all the judgments and assumptions you make every day. Think about people you see at work or in a store. Some you don’t know at all others you know a little. Do you make assumptions about their lives? What they do when they aren’t at work? Or who they might be spending their time with? Or if they might be taking a staycation this year?

It really goes much further than this…. The way we then interact with those people is based on our assumptions. We are not really interacting with them so much as interacting with our idea about who they are. And guess what…. They are interacting with their idea of who you are too. Do the two of you ever really meet?

The ego, the judgments, the voice, the assumptions won’t go away. Elizabeth Lesser says that the ego is a part of us. It’s like having an arm. It is part of being a human being. What I want to suggest here is that hanging out in the observer mode (see blog post from September 2009) allows us to notice when we may be making some of these judgments and realize that there is a lot of made up “stuff” out there. If we can recognize it, it gives us the choice if we want to go along with it, or get to know Nancy Brown for real.

I’d like to suggest that it puts the wonder, the magic, the flavor and the mystery back into life. Try it for yourself and see what you think! See if you can make your own watch disappear!

I would love to hear your feedback as well as any comments or questions you may have.  You can do this in by clicking the “comments” link below, at the end of each post. If you prefer, you may also send comments to me directly at . 

Until next month….
Keep it Simple!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Be Here Now

Sunrise, Biscayne Bay, Miami, October, 1999

Quote of the month:

Be here now.

- Ram Dass

Have you ever had the experience when arriving somewhere driving.....  you cannot remember how you got there?

Have you ever read a page of a book, magazine (or even a blog post!).... and at the bottom have to go back and re-read because your mind went somewhere else mid-way through?

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and suddenly realized you didn't hear the last thing they said.... and they are waiting for a response from you?

Or in reverse - have you ever been talking to someone and you can tell that they are not hearing you or just are not "there?"

We have all done these things at times. This isn't a judgment or statement about that in any way. I simply want to suggest an explanation and alternative.  

The reason these things happen is that we are not as Present as we could be in our daily lives. What does that mean? It simply means that our bodies are in one place and our minds are in another. If our minds are not where our bodies are, then where are they?  Usually they are either somewhere in the past or somewhere in the future. Possibly going over a mental to do list or rehashing a conversation you had with someone. If you watch closely, in the second scenario, the mind will often be judging the conversation.... telling you what you said right or wrong. Telling you that the other person was "an idiot," or whatever it is that your mind tells you.

One of the problems with not being Present is that you are missing your life. Life is what is in front of you.... right here.... and right now as the Ram Dass quote suggests above. The way not to miss your life is to bring your full attention to what ever is in front of you. It is not difficult. One of the things I like best about it is that it is Simple! It only seems difficult because we have not been raised this way. Our culture tells us we must "cover all bases," multitask, and be all things to all people. You can still do that if you like.... but my suggestion this month is to once in a while bring your full attention, even if just for a few seconds, to what ever you are doing at this moment. Focus your attention on this word..... THIS WORD.... THIS WORD.... that you are reading.... here and now!

Another suggestion - do not try to force your mind to do anything. It is similar to redirecting a small child. When a two year old wants to do something the parent does not want them to do - you can tell the child, "No!" This will generally create a greater desire on the part of the child to want to do whatever it is NOT supposed to do, even more - OR - you can get the child interested in something else. This second method also helps when your mind is going into overdrive on some issue that is not in front of you at the moment. Use your senses to experience what is here - now! Leonard Jacobson in Journey into Now suggests to, "Bring yourself Present with that which is already here." You can do this by using your senses. According to Leonard, anything that you can see, hear, smell, taste or touch is actually here now. Use your senses to experience it here and now too.

Here are a few suggestions....
  • Look your child in the eye and notice the color of their eyes.
  • On the drive to work, watch the sunrise! (I did back in October of 1999 in the photo above and it has become the photo representing this blog!)
  • Notice the color of sky or shape of clouds when you are outside.
  • Feel the sensation of the soap bubbles when you are washing the dishes.
  • Fold clothing the way my friend does, like you have nothing else to do,
  • Feel the chair under you at this very moment or if you are standing feel what is under your feet.
  • Smell and taste may not be as accessible depending where you are, but use these fully when you can. According to Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Savor, most of us have denied ourselves the many delights present in the simple act of eating an apple... or anything else we may be eating!  
  • Listen for sounds around you - I can hear crickets right now and the fan on my computer.
See how these simple acts make a difference.  Experiment with it in your own life... and then please share your experiences below in the comments!

Until next month,
Keep it simple!


Monday, August 1, 2011

3 Years! Really!?

Happy 3rd Birthday!

Yes!  Really! 

It has been 3 years since the start of this blog and this post marks the beginning of FOURTH year!!!!!

The past couple of months have brought a record amount of comments (more directly and some on the post) as well as new followers, new sign up for notification and a few other "likes" and followers on both blogger and facebook!!!! 

For all of the new people....  WELCOME! 

I am glad you have found something of value for you on the blog!

There are those that have been with me from the start, cheering me on..... and those that have joined along the way.... To ALL of you... I want to take this opportunity to thank you! Your support means a lot to me!  

I started this blog with 2 intentions in mind....

1 - for this to be here for my children... so one day if they wonder what it was their mom was "doing," they may find some answers... and

2 - for those of you who may have an interest in spirituality but either don't know what it is or feel your life may be too busy... I'll restate my intention here again...

To provide simple, concise ways to apply spirituality in your every day life. If something I suggest resonates with you, try it out in your own life... experiment... if not.... that is fine too!  Maybe it will next month!

NOW..... as we move forward into the fourth year...... 

I would like to hear from YOU!
-Do you have any questions about things that have been written in a post?
-What would you like to see addressed in a post?
-Do you have a situation in your life right now that you have a question about that might be addressed by a post?
-Anything else that is on your mind.....

I would love to hear from you either in the comments section below (you may post anonymously if you wish) or you can email me directly at ......

If you receive notification of posts by e-mail, you can also reply to that e-mail!
Thank you!!!!!

And HAPPY 3rd BIRTHDAY Simply Spirituality!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Judgments, Tiger Woods.... and Anthony Weiner... and Rep. David Wu.... and You!

Photo of the Month:
One Human Family, Key West, 2007
Quote of the Month:
Let it run like water off
a duck's back.....
- Kathryn D.

My grandmother may not be the first person to say this quote above, but she is the one who taught it to me. It fits with this month's theme of judgment.

The original title of this post was Judgments, Tiger Woods and You!  Posted in March of 2010.. less than 18 months ago.  At that time, Tiger Woods was the latest in a long line of public figures such as John Edwards, David Letterman and Bill Clinton to fall from Grace because of their actions.  Reading these names today, we have probably forgotten the extent of the hoop-la and media circus surrounding these events because they have been replaced by Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and Rep. David Wu.  

At that time, the collective "we" was judging Tiger's actions.  The media and just about everyone in the world was judging "the apology." Was it sincere? Was it enough? Did it strike the right tone? I find this to be a waste of time... I'll share with you why I feel that way.

In each "judgment" there are two sides. There is the person being judged and the one doing the judging. In this post, I want to suggest that while neither may be a good place to be, the far more detrimental position is to be in the position of judging. Let me be clear here, that the harm I am referring to is the harm it causes to the one doing the judging, not the one being judged.

When someone judges you, it says SOMETHING about them and it says NOTHING about you. I know that this is something people say... but it really is true.

To illustrate this point, let's view this from the position of the person being judged. Think for a minute of a situation where you felt judged. We have all been there, probably repeatedly. Maybe your situation was not as public as Tiger Woods. Maybe you were judged for the clothes you wore to a particular event, the way you handled a situation, not doing "enough" for the PTA or a church event, or the words you used when speaking to someone. These are common, every day judgments that many of us make and many of us are the recipient of. Can you think of a time when you felt judged?

Now the next thing I want you to imagine, seems at first nearly unthinkable..... but there is great freedom if one can do it.

What if you just decided that it was OK for people to judge you and so said to the world, "Go ahead.... judge away!" For example.... I will allow people to judge me for wearing the wrong shoes to an event (as I do this regularly!) : )

Try to stop for a minute and imagine this situation....... What happens?

Has anything REALLY happened to you? Have you been diminished in any way? What is a judgment? It is a thought in someone else's head..... how can a thought in someone else's head REALLY effect you? Even if they verbalize the thought to another person.... and it becomes a thought in a second person's head...... what has happened to you?


Think about it for a minute............ it is very freeing.

So now.... in my example Sue told Carol that my shoes were inappropriate for the situation. How does that effect me? What happens to me?


I can hear some of you saying, "But it feels bad when someone judges you!" I want to suggest that the only way it can feel bad is if you jump on the bandwagon and agree with them. You then become the judger of yourself..... but be clear it is doing the actual judging that feels bad and not because you have been judged.

Follow? If you do not agree with them, you simply go on with your day!

It is the energy of judging that feels bad itself. We have not been taught this. Most of us feel like we need to accept someone else opinion. It is not really even conscious. We just do it.... if they think that about me, it must be true. This is not the case. We do not have to accept anyone else's opinion of ourselves.

Try telling the flower that you do not like its shade of yellow. Does the flower care? If someone says that they like the color blue and don't like the color red, all we know is their opinion. It does not carry any further meaning like "blue is good" or "red is bad." Do you think that "red" really cares what they think? We can be just like "red" in this example and let it "roll, like water off a duck's back," as my grandmother said.

See if you can follow this a step further.... when someone judges, THEY are the ones who have to live in the energy of judgement. This is where it says something about them and NOTHING about you. This is where the "damage" is done. This is where the negative feelings come from. This could be a whole other post, but think about a time when you judged someone else. How did you REALLY feel afterwards? Did it really make you feel good? Maybe for a moment as you felt "better" than them for a second or two, but that is trading a fleeting good feeling for a long term negative feeling.

I feel the need to clarify here that I am in no way giving anyone permission for bad, or even unkind behavior with this post. Additionally, unless someone has a mental or emotional illness (and we are not addressing that in this post) one KNOWS when they have done something "wrong." One does not need to be told by others that it was wrong I would suggest that when someone does exhibit "bad" behavior, it is a statement about how they are feeling about themselves.... for additional reading on this topic... try the post titled The Gift of Compassion!

I'll leave you with one more thought... as the photo above suggests and quoting Albert Einstein, "A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe.....  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures.... "  We are all part of the same one human family.  A related topic for another day!    

As always I would love to hear your feedback as well as any questions you may have, or suggested topics for the future. You can do so by clicking the "comments" link at the end of the post. You can also contact me at

Until next month,
Here's hoping you keep it simple,

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Photo of the month:
Perspective, Key West, unk.

Quote of the month:

We must get right with ourselves. 
 Once, we do, we will have so much to do, 
we will not have time to keep track of who is wrong.
I'm okay, you're okay, let's get to work.
-Iyanla Vanzant

Today I stopped by a Pennsylvania Dutch Market. Being half Pennsylvania Dutch, I find it somewhat difficult to pass by these markets! My family tells me that there were both "plain" and "fancy" Pennsylvania Dutch and we were of the fancy variety, so we used electricity and did not use horse and buggies!

Today, there was a pig roast going on and I decided to try the pork. There was a man standing in line behind me and he ordered a container of pork. When he got to the end to pay, he said that he wanted BBQ sauce. The women working the stand offered him a container of sauce. He said that he wanted the sauce on the pork. The women said that it did not come that way and repeated their offer to provide a container of sauce separately. He started to become angry and loudly said, "Yes! It does come that way!" 
Amish women

At this point I felt a bit compelled to stay behind and defend the women if need be. The women looked a bit stunned, but it turned out that they did not need defending. One of them stepped up to explain, politely, that if he wanted to purchase a pre-made sandwich, they would put the BBQ sauce on if he wanted it that way, but if he bought bulk pork he would have to purchase the sauce separately. She went on to say that they had to buy the sauce and that it was very expensive for them so they had to charge extra for it. He eventually left without the sauce, but he was unwilling to consider that in this particular store, he might not know how they do things. It was his loss as the sauce, as well as the plain pork, was quite tasty!!!!!

Two things caught my attention. First, that the woman had stood up for herself... and did not need anyone else to defend her (I was privately very proud of her!) and secondly, that the man could not see that he had a different frame of reference... point of view... or perspective! Perspective used in the photo of the month above, makes the sun appear small enough to hold in ones hands.  It all depends on how one views things... from what angle or point of reference.  Somewhere, in some store or restaurant he was right. In this particular situation, they had a different method of preparation and a different frame of reference.

I have written about different perspectives in October of 2008 in a post titled, The Whole Elephant, which talks about the story of the blind men and the elephant. This seemed like a good opportunity to address it again.

This month, I want to suggest - - or challenge you - - to try to view things from a different point of view. I have no doubt that there will be opportunities in every day life! I am not suggesting that you change your opinion, simply consider that there may be another way to look at something. Easy examples are seen every day on the news and in politics. Closer to home, you may have a disagreement with a co-worker, boss, spouse, child or friend.

When one of these examples crosses your path -
First - close your eyes and take a deep breath. Go deep inside and silently ask - "Am I right?" You will get a sense of yes or no - right or wrong.

Next, if you feel that your position is "right," next ask yourself if you can consider that there might be another "right" position?

If so, either ask the other person to explain their perspective or research what it might be. For example, the man could have considered that the Pennsylvania Dutch may eat the pork without any sauce at all and simply provide it as a service to those that prefer it that way. Just because he had not previously seen it that way, did not make it wrong. There was the additional issue of cost as explained by the women. I don't know all the details.... but these are all things worth considering. Both positions are probably "right," given the proper context.

If you still feel that you are "right," ask yourself, "What will I accomplish by trying to prove that I am right?" Everyone likes to be "right," but consider that for you to be right you might have to make someone else "wrong." Remember, you do NOT want to feel "wrong." So, is it really in your best interest to prove your spouse, your children, or even you boss or co-workers are "wrong." Do you want them to feel "wrong?" In some situations, it may be warranted, but my suggestion this month is that often, the only thing benefiting from your being "right" is a boost to your ego.... with a corresponding dent to the ego of someone else.  Ask yourself, "Do I really want my children to feel "wrong?" or "Do I really need to be so 'right' that someone else feels "wrong" or "badly?"

Finally, even if you feel you are "right" and you feel you are justified, ask if being "right" will further your cause and really get you what you want. For example, if your overall goal is a peaceful harmonious relationship - even if you are "right" and you are ok with making someone else "wrong" .... in the end, will it really get you what you want?

I cannot answer these questions for you... but they might be questions worth considering.   As always, I would love to hear your comments or questions in the section below.

Until next month,
Keep it simple!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Life as a Marathon

Photo of the Month
March 2001, Calle Ocho 5k, Miami
Quote of the month:
A journey of a thousand miles 
begins with a single step.
- Lao-tzu

Usually I like to use beautiful or inspiring photos as the photo of the month. This one may not be beautiful, but hopefully by the end of this post, it will be inspiring. I am using this photo this month because it is me, crossing the finish of my first run. It wasn't pretty.... but I completed the race. Thank you to my friend, Israel, for taking this photo of me back in 2001! I am just to the left of the orange cone wearing a white t-shirt. After this came other runs and longer runs.... but this was the first!

Although I had done some running when I was younger, it was never more than a few miles at a time. During a difficult and challenging time in my life, I took up long distance running, starting with a few 5k's, then a 7 mile and then a half marathon. The running became a metaphor for my life.... in that I could not always see the finish line, but I could always take one more step. All I needed to focus my attention on, was the step I was taking right here, right now, and trust that the finish line was still out there..... I couldn't see it and certainly did not know what it would look like.... but I knew that it was there.... at about mile 11 of the half marathon... that became really important!! 

I'll share with you what I learned.... see if any of it might apply to challenges you might face in your own life!

Life is like a marathon!

1 - There may come a time that we decide to do, or have to do something we never thought we would do.... or could do.

I never thought I could run 13.1 miles without stopping! That's for sure! I also never thought I would move across the country one time.... let alone 3 times in 5 1/2 years! Now, I've done both!

The lesson here - Don't decide you cannot do something until you at least try!  

2 - You may not be able to see the finish line but you can always take one more step.

As the quote above says, the journey starts with a single step. In a run, it begins with the crack of the gun going off to signal the start of the race. An average person takes 2000 steps/mile - so that would be  at least 6200 steps for a 5k!

With a long distance move, there are a lot of steps - showing the house, selling the house, inspections, repairs, signing papers, packing boxes, saying goodbye to dear friends, driving across country with kids and crying cats, buying a house, signing more papers, more inspections, unpacking boxes, changing the car registration, first day at a new school/job, setting up new doctors..... and on and on.... whew... I am getting tired all over again just thinking about it. Looking at all of these steps together may seem overwhelming. Piled on top of each other, it seems like a mountain. It seem insurmountable. Much as the finish line seems VERY far away in a marathon (or half marathon.) Breaking things down into bite size pieces makes them more manageable.

Once you get started, there may come times when you feel like you may not be able to make it to the end. This happened both in life and in running - but I could always take one more step. At step 5124, all you need to do is take step 5125! Don't think about the distance remaining!

The lesson hereAs the quote above says, even something that seems insurmountable cannot be completed without starting! No matter how long and complicated an endeavor may be, simply start with the first step and keep taking whatever step you are on.... which leads to #3. 

3 - Be Present in the step you are taking - only this step.

I have written before about being Present or Mindful. In Taking Stock/Mindfulness, from July 2009, I wrote, being mindful simply means that we are paying attention. I used the example of a tight rope walker and how when walking on a high wire, one's attention can be no where else. The walker's full attention is on the step they are taking at that moment, the placement of the foot and where the weight is placed in the foot. In running, I focused on my foot hitting the pavement and stretching my leg for the next step. In moving - I knew I was getting too far ahead of myself when I started to get anxious about what teachers the kids might have or would there be a Target nearby? I knew it was time to bring my attention back to where I currently was.

The lesson here - I suggest Presence as often as possible in all aspects of life, challenge or not! 

4 - Even though you can't see the finish line - that is ok - Trust that it is out there.

At the beginning of a 13 mile run, the finish line is no where in sight, nor at the beginning of 1063 mile drive or the packing of the first box. It is natural to want to see it... but accept that you cannot.  Trust! Trust! Trust!  Even if things do not go as planned, Trust that you will find a way to fix it or work it out.  There are very few things in life that cannot be fixed.  

The lesson here - It is ok not to know how everything will turn out! Things usually do work out. I often ask.... "What is the alternative? That they won't work out?"  Usually not!

As always, I would love to hear your comments in the section below.
Until next month....
Keep it simple!