Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Copernican Flip...

Shortly after my post on "The Meaning of Life...", I went to see some of my dancer friends perform in a concert that was based on the Walt Whitman poem, A child said, What is the grass?

Ironically this poem is about death...

To prepare for this show, the dancers went away together on a retreat weekend in western Massachusetts.

The bond that was woven on that weekend (working) retreat clearly carried over into their performance.

Small sections of dance were artfully stitched together to create one larger dance piece. The flow was seamless.

In most dance concerts, each dance has it's own music. You hear a song, watch the dance, the lights fade and you clap when it's over... Then repeat this process throughout the show.

But in this show, as in life... the transitions were almost too subtle to notice. Each of the smaller pieces of dance were connected by the natural flow of movement. Sometimes there is music, sometimes not. Music fades in and out. At one point a recording of Whitman's poem is heard and the dancers continue to move through it.

As a member of the audience, there were times when I really wanted to clap for the dancers to show my appreciation for their work. But the flow of movement didn't leave an obvious space for that.

Just as in real life we don't take the time to applaud each decision to transition our life down one path or another.

Of course there are a few obvious times in life that we try to celebrate or acknowledge those transitions, like a graduation or a wedding, for example.

Well one audience member did find such an opening to start a round of applause. If I had to guess, I would say it was the mother of a dancer who just exited the stage.

One mother's applause was contagious... eventually everyone else (unsure at first) did join in with their enthusiastic approval.

Leave it to a parent to go out of the way to help motivate their child. But that was the only spontaneous outburst. The audience became too caught up in the performance to be concerned with such trivial things as clapping... until the end.

And when the end came, there was plenty of appreciation! The performance was thought provoking and profound -- much like Whitman's poem.

If you have never read the poem, here it is:

-------------------

A child said What is the grass?
By Walt Whitman

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon
out of their mothers' laps,
And here you are the mothers' laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it lead forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

--W.W.

------------------------------


One of the great things about Whitman is that, for the most part, he speaks his mind and states the obvious without being too flowery about it. Sort of a "manly man's poet."

On the other hand, he tends to write epic poems. Almost short stories, really. So you don't necessarily leave Whitman on the night stand. Although I suppose you could. He is thoughtful enough to break down his epic poems into parts for us.

'A child said What is the grass?' for example is part of a much larger piece of work. In his book Leaves of Grass, there is a poem called, 'Song of Myself.' This poem goes on for over 50 pages. Thankfully it is broken down into 52 sections. 'A child said...' is Part 6 of 'Song of Myself.'

Anyway I thought it was interesting that almost directly after my post about "The Meaning of Life...", that I was invited to re-explore Death.

Yes, I did say re-explore. In my many nature walks, wondering about the meaning of life, it is a natural progression to consider what happens "after life" as well as "before life."

Everyone has their own ideas about what happens when we die. If you haven't really ever thought about it, and are interested in doing a little research, a good place to start is by reading a book called "On Death and Dying" by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. This book is essentially about the 5 stages of grief. In short, it's about how the living cope with death, whether it's their own impending death or the death of a loved one.

Most of what we "know" about death is based on what we learn as a child in religion classes. Or it may be based on what our parents taught us as children to explain the loss of a grandparent or pet or someone else close to us.

And then we spend the bulk of our life finding ways to avoid thinking about our inevitable mortality. Intellectually we know that eventually we all die, but no one wants to face that fact. Some even fear it.

In my opinion, fearing death is like fearing the sunset. No need to fear... in a few short hours there will be another sunrise.

There are many analogies of life and death. Try this: At the end of the dance concert the lights go dark, the music stops, the theater is sent into pitch black with no sound. But suddenly there is thunderous applause and the lights come up on stage. Magically, the dancers are there to take a bow. Then the house lights come back on. There is a Q&A about the performance and then everyone is free to wander around to meet and congratulate the dancers on a job well done! There is even discussion about future performances... and then everyone goes back to their real lives as teachers, parents, students, etc.

Yes?

Essentially I am agreeing with Mr. Whitman when he says, "There is really no death, and if ever there was... it led forward life."

Almost all religions agree that there is some sort of "After Life." And to go along with that belief, they have given us a way to get there. The Soul.

We are told that when we die our soul goes toward the light to the Pearly Gates where we are met by St. Peter or a swath of virgins, or whoever... depending on your religion.

Whitman even takes into account those who are not religious and who think that when you die, you die... That's it. End of story. He says, "All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses. And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier."

In other words, from a purely scientific point of view, energy cannot be destroyed. If you paid attention in science class, you know this to be true.

So from this perspective, when we die, our body decomposes into the ground. But the energy or essence of our being, much like the leaves that fall from the trees, becomes fertilizer for the grass, flowers, etc.

We have all heard the expression, "pushing up daisies." And now that I am writing this and thinking about it... it gives new meaning to the title of Whitman's book, "Leaves of Grass."

Either way, soul or energy, it is the cycle of life. The essence of ourselves continues on.

Those of you who know me, know that I tend to look at things differently. And now I am going to ask you to look at this concept of death from a different perspective.

But in order to do that you will need to temporarily suspend your current beliefs. Keep in mind that this will be a temporary suspension and that you are free to go back to your own concept of death afterward. I promise I won't be offended! You may even find that my concept of death fits nicely into your current belief patterns.

Ready?

We have been taught that we are living this life... and then when we die, a part of us, our soul, continues on into the "after life."

But what if we make, what I like to call the "Copernican Flip"?

Remember Copernicus? He was ridiculed by the masses of people. Outcast by the Church for suggesting that the Earth rotates around the sun, when obviously the sun rotated around the Earth.

I mean come on, you can see the sun rise in the east, and move across the sky until it sets in the west! How could it not be true?

Of course now we know the truth, but old habits die hard. We still say, "The sun rises in the east" hundreds of years later.

Anyway, let's make the "Copernican Flip."

What if... instead of being a body that has a soul that breaks away to move into the "after life" -- we look at it the other way around.

What if we are a Soul that right now just happens to be in this flesh and bones body? I think that would make "death" a little easier to accept. Because from this perspective, death (as we know it) is not an Ultimate Death. It may be the end of my body... but it is not the end of me. The real me lives on.

We see this many different ways in nature: chicks break out from their egg shells, snakes shed their skin, caterpillars break out of their cocoons, etc.

Richard Bach said (and I am paraphrasing here because I couldn't find the exact quote) that death is just another transition, "a bit more radical that puberty."

There is another great quote attributed to Chuang Tzu: "I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?"

And what happens to this Soul? This true us? Where does it go when we shed this temporary home (this body) that we inhabit?

Years ago, I used to work with a choreographer who had a small but beautiful garden. Occasionally I would help tend the garden, pulling weeds or trimming the edges. One day I was just finishing up, getting ready to leave when I saw her husband spraying out the large garbage cans.

I walked by just as he was pouring all the water out of the large can into the driveway.

We both stood there watching the water create a pattern as it flowed down the driveway making several twists and turns. Some water going off on different paths, some wide some narrow, until it came to the road. When the water reached the street, it banked to the left and again created multiple pathways until it disappeared out of sight.

I will never forget what he said.

"Isn't it funny how the water always seems to know where to go?"

That was it. Nothing else. At first I thought he was just being funny, but for days after that I realized how profound his question was.

Of course gravity pulls the water downward. But if it hits an obstacle with enough force it might go upward to get around it. And what of the breaking away and joining back together? The water travels many paths but eventually it always ends up where it belongs.

Let me try to be a little more clear about this. Maybe give you a better image of my theory.

Imagine the most beautiful waterfall you have ever seen.

For the purposes of this analogy let's imagine a large waterfall from a mountainside.



High up on the mountain top is an ice capped peak. Ice of course is just another form of water (H2O). The ice eventually melts, and little droplets of water drip down and join together forming a little stream.

Now imagine that more and more droplets join the stream until eventually they become a powerful river carving its way down the side of the mountain, flowing back and forth around all the little obstacles that it finds.

At some point the river reaches the edge of the mountain. When the river hits the cliff, it becomes a waterfall.

As the river bursts over the edge of the cliff, something very interesting happens. The water explodes into separate entities.

Maybe it becomes a big white frothy stream or a small clear stream of water. It might become small droplets again or maybe even a "spray" of water. And some of the water may even just trickle down the edge of the cliff, not jumping out with the reckless abandon of the other water.

No matter what form it takes, the water all still goes in the same direction. It "seems to know where to go."

Whether the water trickles down the side of the mountain, or jumps out a little only to hit rocks or plateaus and bounce again, or it makes a daring burst out away from the cliff-- all the water ends up in the same place.

It reunites with the river at the foot of the mountain, where it calmly continues to go where it's supposed to go.


At the risk of overstating the obvious, or babbling (water pun intended), I would like to explain the analogy a little more.

Earlier we talked about the Soul. Our essence or the true us. Let's say this is the water. Better yet, we should call it H2O because when our analogy begins it is ice.

So we apply a little heat and the ice becomes a trickle of water that eventually grows. And again for the sake of this analogy... let's say this trickle continues to grow for 9 months (give or take).

Then when it bursts out (often with a scream) it travels its own individual path (or life) until it reunites with the stream at the other end.

Still with me?

All of these individual lives are different. Some trickle down the mountainside taking their time, exploring every nook and cranny along the way. Some may take a more roundabout, troubled path, violently bouncing off the rocks and plateaus all the way down, until it reaches the stream.

Some may take that bold leap out away from the edge of the mountain, enjoying the free fall, possibly getting to the stream a little quicker.

And it is also possible that some of the "spray" may dissolve into the atmosphere before it has a chance travel with the rest of the water on the way to the stream below. But that's OK because we know that all that moisture builds up... and eventually it rains!

Don't worry, "the water always knows where to go."



On the way down, some drops may join other drops to make little "families" or "friends" and then break away to meet up with other drops along the way, until they eventually come to the end of their journey.

Also keep in mind that the way the water reunites with the stream below is as varied as the path it took to get there. Some crash hard, some trickle in...

But very soon after reuniting, you can't even tell which drops were which. They are all the same.

No. Not all the same, as in similar. I mean really all the same. They are one. Right? You can't distinguish individual drops or streams of water once it reunites. (Just as it couldn't be distinguished on the ice capped peak.)

Just one big water. The Ultimate Stream of Cosmic Consciousness (water pun intended again)!

video

So really, in the Big Picture, I am you. And you are me. We inter-are.

Somehow we forget that along the way. And that's too bad. Because it seems to me, that if we all knew this or realized it or even believed it to be true... the world would be a very different place.

You are welcome to adopt my theory if you want. And yes, it is just a theory. A theory that feels right for me (for now). I'm not stuck on it though. I'm open to other ideas or theories.

So if it doesn't work for you, you are now free to go back to your old thoughts on life and death. Or make up a theory of your own!

Nobody really KNOWS for sure, after all... until it is time to KNOW.

I will leave you with one last quote from Richard Bach that is appropriate to this discussion:

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world,
the Master calls...
a Butterfly."

Peace and Love,
--------Nick


Monday, January 18, 2010

Think For Yourself...

Here in Massachusetts we are getting ready to hold a "special election" to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy. I will be happy to see Wednesday January 20th arrive. All the signs, and ads on the radio and TV are just a little too annoying.

I like to think of myself as someone who makes an informed decision. But it's very difficult to see through all the mud slinging. It's hard to tell who is lying or exaggerating. The ads could not be more contradictory in this election. It's ridiculous.

Part of the problem is that half of the ads are making accusations about their opponent while the other half of the ads are saying that their opponent's ads are lies or exaggerations. The only issue that they are clear about is whether or not they will vote to pass the new pending health care bill. Or I should say the new "Insurance Reform" bill which really has very little to do with "health care."

I am a little concerned about the mentality of the voters here when I listen to the Talk Radio shows. People call in and say, "I believe we should be out of Afghanistan." Or, "I think the new insurance reform is a bad idea." Or weigh in on a number of other topics, but then when the host asks them who they will be voting for on January 19th, more often than not, the caller will say they are voting for the candidate who is not in alignment with their thinking! What are they thinking about? How are they coming to these decisions?

And another problem is that the Independent candidate is too poor to run competing ads (which in a way is good, because I don't think I could handle any more). But he is also being written off by the media. Occasionally they do mention that there is "another guy" running. That is about the extent of his campaign.

The poor Independent candidate probably feels like Carson Daly in the NBC late night talk show "scandal." They are both casualties of war.

Some of the callers who sound like they have done some research, say that they like the "other guy's" politics, but they think that voting for him would be throwing away their vote.

Now that makes me a little crazy. If everybody who thought that voted for this guy... well maybe he still wouldn't win. But it might be enough of a dent to show lack of confidence in the other two candidates. Who knows, in the next election... a third party candidate might even win!

The important thing is not to vote for someone because of their party affiliation or even because they agree with one "special interest issue." We should try to learn as much as we can about them so that we know that they will make the right choices for the people of our state and our country.

There will always be "hot" topic issues (pro life, pro choice, gun laws, involvement in wars, etc.) but we can't base our decision on just one issue. We need to know that our Congressmen and Senators can make decisions that are good for everyone, not just for people in unions or people with money or whoever else the lobbyists tell them to favor.

You have to wonder what our Founding Fathers would think about the state of our politics today. These were people who took great pains in writing things in our Constitution that were not popular, but were for the benefit of everyone.

The media is saying that there will be a very low turnout for this election. Lower than the national election last November? Wow.

How embarrassing is it for us as a nation that we are more likely to vote someone "off the island" or vote for our favorite American Idol, or some dancer on one of the other TV shows, than to vote for our next President, Senator or even our local politicians?!

I would love to know the numbers on that statistic.... Is it true that more people have voted for some TV Show Pop Icon than have voted in elections that effect our country (and the rest of the world)?

One of the decisions that will most certainly be effected by this election is the fate of the "health care" bill. One of the candidates promises to be the passing vote and the other two promise to be the 41st vote to reject it.

Well I have a solution for the whole "health care" issue! I think that they should just scrap the whole bill that is pending right now. What they should do... is pass a bill that gives us the same exact "health care" benefits as the people in the Congress and Senate. Any politician that denies us that should be voted out of office. Hey, we are paying for their health care... why shouldn't we be paying for our own, too?

Do us all a favor... find out everything you can about all three candidates. Then go to the polls and vote. I don't care who you vote for, as long as you vote for the one that you truly think will best represent us all.

Don't just listen to the sound bites... Think For Yourself.

Peace and Love,
-------Nick



Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Meaning of Life...

When I am out hiking in the woods, I often ponder life's many mysteries. There are those who say I think too much, and even though I try to stay in the moment and just enjoy the nature around me, I will admit that my mind does wonder about the meaning of it all.

As a kid in school, and throughout my time spent in theater and dance, the teachers, directors and choreographers would often ask the inevitable question near the end of class or rehearsal: "Are there any questions?" Now maybe it's just the wise guy in me, or maybe I have always had a desire to know the truth, so I would raise my hand and ask my question. "What is the meaning of life?"

Well I have to say that I never got a good answer to that question, so I have spent the better part of my life trying to figure it out for myself.

I think our search really does start at a young age. We begin by trying to figure out all of our toys and games and books. We even try to figure out our friends and family. And what to do with all of our "stuff."

You can pick anything... a toy or a game or anything, the process is always the same.

The more we learn about it, and practice it, the better we get at it. The better we take care of it... the longer it lasts (and therefore the longer we get to enjoy it)!

Conversely, if we are careless with it break it, abuse it, etc., it will fall apart, break down, not work to it's full potential and so we won't be able to enjoy it the way we could have or would have, had we done things differently.

As with all things in life, it starts off being about Me, Me, Me... When you are a baby you are not concerned at all about world peace or who is president. You don't worry yourself with how to pay for bills. You don't care if you are running late to see your pediatrician.

All you care about is getting someone to feed you when you are hungry, change you when you are wet (or worse), and there is a distinct baby cry that means something like "is it too much to ask to get a little attention? Can you just hold me for a minute? I miss hearing that heartbeat up close!"

As we get older we move to another level of awareness. There is more to life than just Me. Maybe our parents read books to us or teach us to play games.

So we hear fun, interesting stories from Dr. Seuss. When we learn to play baseball or Monopoly we learn that there are rules that must be followed. And we learn the concept of winning and losing.

And as we grow up a little more we become intellectually aware of the concepts of teamwork and strategy. We no longer leave winning and losing to chance. We also learn to read for ourselves. At this point we can start to take control over what we learn.

And the more we mature, the more responsibility is involved in our decision making. Hopefully by the time we are old enough to get a driver's license, we have learned right from wrong. And that it's good to have fun... but not at the expense of others.

Hopefully at this point we realize that our decisions have a "ripple effect" and touch the lives of others, not just ourselves. Speeding and drunk driving can have fatal consequences. These are lessons to be learned from watching the news--- not to be experienced first hand.

We also know that driving gives us freedom. Freedom to explore. Freedom to share new experiences with friends. But again that freedom comes with a price. If you stop adding gas to the tank, the car will stop running. If you don't change the oil, it will get gunky and sluggish, and eventually the engine will seize and the car will become a worthless hunk of metal.

And so we learn the lesson of preventive maintenance. Now we start to focus on the art of thinking ahead. Not just making decisions that are reactive... but really thinking ahead to anticipate the future. Weighing pro's and con's.

This is a most valuable lesson on many levels. Learning to play chess is a great way to practice this skill.

When playing games like chess or monopoly, sports such as football, or even in the military, it is important to learn strategy. It is the art of anticipating the needs and desires of others.

Notice I didn't say, "anticipating the needs and desires of your opponent." That is because a truly successful strategist will anticipate the needs and desires of everyone; their teammates, friends, customers and even themselves.

Anyone who has ever waited tables knows that when you bring the customer's burger and fries to the table-- you always bring the ketchup. If you don't, they will just send you back to get it, so you may as well be prepared.

If you work in sales, anticipating the needs and desires of your customers and potential customers can help you overcome objections and help you sell your product.

Even in your relationships... the better you know your friends, family, spouse, neighbors, co-workers, etc., the easier it will be to get along with them. Chances are, if you don't get along with someone, you probably don't understand them very well.

This is very likely why world affairs are in the state that they are. The internet has made the world much smaller than it once was. And we get our news in "sound bites" from the TV and radio. It is very difficult to understand a whole culture from a "sound bite" without doing a little more research.

In the "old days" everyone was too concerned with their own lives to be thinking about what is going on "over there." Now everyone wants to be in everyone else's business. And to make matters worse they want "over there" to change. And to make it worse still, they want to force change.

Anyone who has ever worked in sales can tell you that you can't force someone to buy something. OK, yes you can... but then they get buyer's remorse and cancel within three days. And if they miss the three day deadline, they resent you and do everything they can to make your life miserable and make you wish you never tried to force them to buy.

No, the better way to do it, is to learn as much as you can about the potential customer or the people "over there." Try to understand what they want. And then with all the skills you have acquired since childhood, finesse the situation through reason and education (and yes, maybe a little flair) to help them understand why your product, service or way of doing things is better. But the decision to buy your product or to buy into your way of doing things has to be their own choice.

I once saw a ten year old convince her mother to buy a magazine in a grocery checkout line. After 3 or 4 versions of "no, put it back" this sweet, innocent (persistent) little girl finally tried a different approach. She reminded her mother that she still hadn't found a story for the current events board in her classroom, and that one of the articles in the magazine would be appropriate. It's called "Art of Presentation." Looking at things from a different perspective.

And speaking of looking at things from a different point of view...

That is our next level of awareness. When we become parents we begin to see things differently. Being the parent of a new born we are on the other side of the Me, Me, Me situation. We try to anticipate the needs and desires of the baby, often at the risk of neglecting our own needs.

We try to decipher the meaning of each cry. Is the baby hungry? Need a diaper change? Need to be held?

As we sit and read to our children we find out that Dr. Seuss doesn't just write fun children's books. There is a deeper meaning for the grown up reader as well.

Some books need to be read more than once. This is true of most Dr. Seuss books. It is also true of "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" by Dan Millman and "Illusions" by Richard Bach. Books like these are multi-layered but specifically written to be easy to read, so that we will read them again. And with each reading, and each new understanding we will learn new lessons.

And when we give children a game and teach them to play, we make sure they understand that, yes there are rules, but the point of the game is to have fun. Enjoy it. And who knows, maybe even learn something from it.

And so this brings us to the point...

We give our children toys and games. Why?
--To play. To enjoy them. Maybe even to learn from them.

And books? What is the point of this?
--To read them. To enjoy them. Maybe even to learn from them. To read new books, old books and even previously read books over and over until we understand them, and absorb the many lessons within.

When we think they are ready, we give our kids access to cars. What is the meaning of this?
--To drive them. To enjoy them. Maybe even to learn responsibility and preventive maintenance. To take personal responsibility not just for our "things" but also for ourselves, our actions, our choices, and to be aware of the "ripple effect" that is made by the actions we take.

This line of questioning can of course go on forever... but ultimately it brings us to this question:

What is the meaning of life?
--To live it. To enjoy it. Maybe even to learn from it. To share it with others. Not just to teach others, but really to lead by example. Let others see how you live your life. You won't need to "force" anyone to change their ways.

No, when they see a life well lived they will likely want to live that way as well! If I remember correctly, there is even a bible story touting this lesson. "Don't hide your light under a bushel." Yes, the bible is another one of those books with layers of lessons to learn...

I think it is important to set goals for yourself. They may be small, medium or large tasks to accomplish. A "bucket list" of sorts. And I think it's good to set short-term, medium range and long-term goals. It gives us direction and motivation.

But keep in mind that these are goals-- not ultimatums. They are guidelines. They keep us on the track of what is true for us. But things change. We learn new things and adjust our goals accordingly.

Just as in a good game of chess or football, if we come to an obstacle or if our strategy isn't working... it's OK to change it.

In life there is no Ultimate Goal to achieve, just a bunch of goals and accomplishments that make life worth living.

Can you imagine if there was an Ultimate Goal? In chess, the ultimate goal is to capture your opponents king. When you capture your opponents king--game over. How ridiculous would that be in real life? Who would want to "capture the king"? To what end? To die?

I believe it is more important to enjoy the journey of life, rather than to meet some Ultimate Goal.

In fact, it makes me sad that most people are like gerbils on the running wheel. Just doing the same thing over and over and over again. Clearly not enjoying what they do. They are born like everyone else and eventually they die (as we all eventually do), but in between they run on the gerbil wheel. Sadly, they have not LIVED at all.

"What is the trick to enjoying life?" you ask. That's the best part... There is no trick. Just be happy. You don't need a reason to be happy, you just do it.

I remember an old Peanuts comic strip where Charlie Brown is standing hunched over with his head hung down. Linus asks, "What's wrong Charlie Brown?" And Charlie Brown's response is something like, "This is my depressed stance. I'm just practicing, because it's hard to feel bad about yourself if you stand up straight with your head held high."

And I always loved that song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" We may not have control over the things that happen to us in life, but we certainly have control over how we react to what happens to us in life. Never let anyone take that control away from you.

And yes, sometimes we make mistakes. We do stupid things. We make bad choices. Give yourself a break. Get over it. Move on.

Yes, sometimes we actually bring misery on ourselves. Well if it makes you feel any better, you are not the first... and won't be the last.

There is an old Buddhist saying: Whenever you sit, sit. Whenever you stand, stand. Whatever you do, don't wobble.

This is a reminder to us that it is better to make a mistake with the full force of your whole being, than to be half-assed about anything.

Of course, you will use the same gusto in your corrective action after you realize the error of your ways.

The important thing is that you learn the lesson and move on. What is the point of wallowing in sadness or despair? Does it help your situation? Of course not.

So, what is it that we are supposed to do between the time that we are born and the time that we die?

LIVE. Live the fullest life you can. Be happy. Enjoy the journey. Carve out some time in your life for yourself, but also time to share with others.

Live. Laugh. Learn. Enjoy. Experience. Share.

But above all: love, Love, LOVE! Love your family. Love your friends. Love your enemies if you still have any (in which case they won't be enemies for much longer). But most importantly love yourself.

Until you learn to love yourself, I don't think it is truly possible to love anyone else.

Somewhere along the line, I think the "Golden Rule" got misinterpreted. "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Really? I know too many people in this world who don't love themselves at all. In fact, some of them barely even like themselves. I don't think I want them to love me the way they love themselves!

If you haven't made a New Year's Resolution, I encourage you to do a little self reflection. Ask yourself some important questions. What do I really want out of life? Am I doing what I love to do? Does all my "stuff" make me happy?

Then set some goals for yourself. Both large and small. Make them attainable and set a deadline. Be sure to write them down. And just to make sure you don't give up too easily, tell someone close to you who will help keep you accountable and keep you motivated to accomplish your goals.

This year make it a point to learn something new. Read more. Watch TV less. Enjoy experiences more. Acquire less "stuff."

Set a goal to do something new once a month (or every other month... it doesn't matter). Read poetry, learn a foreign language, learn a musical instrument, travel to another country (or even another state), go camping in the great outdoors, volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, volunteer to work an event with the Boys or Girls Club of America, participate in your local community theater (on stage or backstage building sets), join a book club....

There are a million opportunities. Find some that have meaning for you. If you like it, continue on. If not, move on to something else. Either way, you will have learned something. Enjoy it for the experience that it was. Even if it was a bad experience for you... you can take great pleasure in telling the story about the time you...

I think the folks who run the "Life is Good" product line got it right with their tag line: "Do what you like, like what you do." I would even take it one step further. "Do what you love, love what you do!"

That pretty much sums it up.

I hope you all have a safe, fun and interesting 2010.

Peace and Love,
------Nick