What lifts your spirit and allows you to overcome difficulties? The answer, in part, is very simple: Encouragement. One key element which nurtures encouragement is to stop being judgmental. Watch a baby learn to crawl. Watch a toddler learn to walk. Watch someone learn to play ball again after surgery for a brain tumor, and you will see how important encouragement is.
The important thing isn't the grade your son got; it's the effort he put out. It isn't whether your daughter hit a home run; it's that she went up to the plate and took a swing. The effort is what matters, because as long as we are trying we are fulfilling our mission. "Examine me, O Lord, and try me," the Psalmist wrote. . . .
Our children are much better than they think. What kind of mirror do we hold up to them? Do we point out all their faults and problems, or do we point out their beauty and successes? What do you say to your kids when they walk out the door? Stand up straight? Fix your pants? Did you forget your lunch or your books? Do you ever say, "You're a beautiful person. God and I are proud of you."
Remember: An overdose of love has no recorded adverse side effects.
~ Bernie Siegel
Fear is everywhere—in our culture, in our institutions, in our students, in ourselves—and it cuts us off from everything. Surrounded and invaded by fear, how can we transcend it and reconnect with reality for the sake of teaching and learning? The only path I know that might take us in that direction is the one marked "spiritual."
Fear is so fundamental to the human condition that all the great spiritual traditions originate in an effort to overcome its effects on our lives. With different words, they all proclaim the same core message: "Be not afraid." Though the traditions vary widely in the ways they propose to take us beyond fear, all hold out the same hope: we can escape fear's paralysis and enter a state of grace where encounters with otherness will not threaten us but will enrich our work and our lives.
It is important to note with care what that core teaching does and does not say. "Be not afraid" does not say that we should not have fears—and if it did, we could dismiss it as an impossible counsel of perfection. Instead, it says that we do not need to be our fears, quite a different proposition.
~ Parker J. Palmer
We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of people to elevate their lives by conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
Every person is tasked to make his or her life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of their most elevated and critical hour. I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quick sands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that people have to live, if we would not founder and go to the bottom and not make our port at all, by dead reckoning, and they must be great calculators indeed who succeed. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion. . . .
Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. People say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches today to save nine tomorrow. Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry—determined to make a day of it.
Why should we knock under and go with the stream? Let us not be upset and overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool called a dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. Weather this danger and you are safe, for the rest of the way is downhill. With unrelaxed nerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for its pains. If the bell rings, why should we run? We will consider what kind of music they are like. Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.
~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Some people do things completely differently from the way you would do them. It does not mean that they are one hundred percent right or that you are one hundred percent wrong. It means that people are different. There are things that people say which you would probably say in a different way, at a different time. It does not mean that people are wrong to speak up, to speak out, or to speak their minds. Nor does it mean that you are totally wrong for choosing not to do so. It means that people are different. Different is a reality. Differences become problems only when we choose to measure ourselves by our difference in an effort to determine who is good and who is bad; who is totally right and who is totally wrong.
It is not loving, healthy or necessary to make people wrong for what they do, what they say, or the way in which they do it or say it. Nor is it self-affirming to feel wrong when you see things differently, do things in a different way or express a difference of opinion. Our different points of view shape our vantage point and our vision. Where we sit is a function of where we have sat. What we can see is a function of what we have seen. Our differences can sometimes make agreement difficult to achieve, but they should never make us feel bad. Nor should they lead us to believe that what others believe is totally wrong.
Until today, you may have questioned, opposed, resisted or even detested differences. Just for today, open your heart. Be willing to embrace different points of view, different points of view, different habits, different responses, different opinions and the differences that exist between yourself and others.
~ Iyanla Vanzant
In the 1964 movie Zorba the Greek, Alexis Zorba describes himself as "the full catastrophe." The truth is, we are all the full catastrophe, only we wish that we weren't. We deny the parts of ourselves that we deem unacceptable rather than accepting the fact that we're all less than perfect.
One of the reasons it's important to accept all aspects of yourself is that it allows you to be easier on yourself, more compassionate. When you act or feel insecure, rather than pretending to be "together," you can open to the truth and say to yourself, "I'm feeling a little frightened and that's okay." If you're feeling a little jealous, greedy, or angry, rather than deny or bury your feelings, you can open up to them, which helps you move through them quickly and grow beyond them. When you no longer think of your negative feelings as a big deal, or as something to fear, you will no longer be as frightened by them. When you open to the totality of your being you no longer have to pretend that your life is perfect, or even hope that it will be. Instead you can accept yourself as you are, right now.
Rather than judging and evaluating yourself harshly, see if you can treat yourself with loving-kindness and acceptance. You may indeed be "the full catastrophe," but you can relax about it. So are the rest of us.
~ Richard Carlson
Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The sacred begins with the integrity of your own mind.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
There is an important factor that causes us to be obsessed with our limitations: the tendency to compare ourselves with others. There is probably no other habit that chips away at our self-confidence so effectively as the habit of scanning the people around us to see how we compare. It is as if we have a radar dish on our foreheads, constantly searching to see if someone else is quicker, tanner, or brighter. And when we find that at times someone is, we are devastated.
The folly of basing our self-estimate on comparisons is that it puts us on a roller-coaster. Perhaps we are feeling fairly good about our appearance one day, and we find ourselves in the company of someone with stunningly good looks. Suddenly we feel ugly and want to disappear. Or perhaps we know we have above-average intelligence, but we happen to be at lunch with people who are even smarter. Then every word that comes out of our mouths sounds like intellectual sludge.
The Bible teaches us that we have worth quite apart from the existence of any other person. We have worth because we are God's unique creation.
~ Alan Loy McGinnis
The more we experience fundamental richness, the more we can loosen our grip. This fundamental richness is available in each moment. The key is to relax: relax to a cloud in the sky, relax to a tiny bird with gray wings, relax to the sound of the telephone ringing. We can see the simplicity in things as they are. We can smell things, taste things, feel emotions, and have memories. When we are able to be there without saying 'I certainly agree with this', or 'I definitely don't agree with that', but just be here very directly, then we find fundamental richness everywhere. It is not ours or theirs but is available always to everyone. In raindrops, in blood drops, in heartache and delight, this wealth is the nature of everything. It is like the sun in that it shines on everyone without discrimination.
It is like a mirror in that it is willing to reflect anything without accepting or rejecting. Generally speaking, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors - people who have a certain hunger to know what is true - feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we're holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we'd rather collapse and back away. They're like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we're stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it's with us wherever we are.
~ Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
It is not hard to stand behind one's successes. But to accept responsibility for one's failures, to accept them unreservedly as failures that are truly one's own, that cannot be shifted somewhere else or onto something else, and actively to accept—without regard for any worldly interests, no matter how well disguised, or for well-meant advice—the price that has to be paid for it: that is devilishly hard. But only then does the road lead—as my experience, I hope, has persuaded me—to a renewal of sovereignty over my own affairs, to a radically new insight into the mysterious gravity of my existence as an uncertain enterprise, and to its transcendental meaning.
And only this kind of inner understanding can ultimately lead to what might be called true "peace of mind," to that highest delight, to genuine meaningfulness, to that endless "joy of Being." if one manages to achieve that, then all one's worldly privations cease to be privations, and become what Christians call grace.
~ Vaclav Havel, Letters to Olga
Strength has a value for spiritual realization, but to say that it can be done by strength only and by no other means is a violent exaggeration. Grace is not an invention, it is a fact of spiritual experience. Many who would be considered as mere nothings by the wise and strong have attained by Grace; illiterate, without mental power or training, without "strength" of character or will, they have yet aspired and suddenly or rapidly grown into spiritual realization, because they had faith or because they were sincere.
I do not see why these facts of spiritual history and of quite ordinary spiritual experience should be discussed and denied and argued as if they were mere matters of speculation. Strength, if spiritual, is a power for spiritual realization; a greater power is sincerity; the greatest power of all is Grace.
~ Sri Aurobindo, Words of Sri Aurobindo, First Series
We use the word "love" but we have no more understanding of love than we do of anger or fear or jealousy or even joy, because we have seldom investigated what that state of mind is. What are the feelings we so quickly label as love? For many what is called love is not lovely at all but is a tangle of needs and desires, of momentary happiness and bewilderment—moments of unity, of intense feelings of closeness, occur in a mind so fragile that the least squint or sideways glance shatters its oneness into a dozen ghostly paranoias.
When we say love we usually mean some emotion, some deep feeling for an object or a person, that momentarily allows us to open to another. But in such emotional love, self-protection is never far away. Still there is "business" to the relationship: clouds of jealousy, possessiveness, guilt, intentional and unintentional manipulation, separateness and the shadow of all previous 'loves' darken the light of oneness. But what I mean by love is not an emotion, it is a state of being.
True love has no object. Many speak of their unconditional love for another. But in truth one does not have unconditional love for another. Unconditional love is the experience of being, there is no "I" and "other" and anyone or anything it touches is experienced in love. You cannot unconditionally love someone. You can only be unconditional love. It is not a dualistic emotion. It is a sense of oneness with all that is. The experience of love arises when we surrender our separateness into the universal. It is a feeling of unity. You don't love another, you are another. There is no fear because there is no separation. It is not so much that "two are as one" so much as it is "the One manifested as two." In such love there can be no unfinished business.
~ Stephen Levine, Who Dies?
My dog does have his failings, of course. He's afraid of firecrackers and hides in the clothes closet whenever we run the vacuum cleaner, but unlike me he's not afraid of what other people think of him or anxious about his public image. He barks at the mail carrier, but in contrast to some people I know he never growls at the children or barks at his wife.
So my dog is a sort of guru. When I become too serious and preoccupied, he reminds me of the importance of frolicking and play. When I get too wrapped up in abstractions and ideas, he reminds me of the importance of exercising and caring for my body. On his own canine level, he shows me that it might be possible to live without inner conflicts or neuroses: uncomplicated, genuine, and glad to be alive.
Mark Twain remarked long ago that human beings have a lot to learn from the Higher Animals. Just because they haven't invented static cling or television evangelists doesn't mean they aren't spiritually evolved.
But what does it mean for an animal (including the human animal) to be spiritually evolved? In my mind, it means many things: the development of a moral sense, the appreciation of beauty, the capacity for creativity, and the awareness of one's self within a larger universe as well as a sense of mystery and wonder about it all. These are the most precious gifts we possess, yet there is nothing obscure or otherworldly about such 'spiritual' capabilities. Indeed, my contention is that spirituality is quite natural, rooted firmly in the biological order and in the ecology shared by all life.
~ Gary A. Kowalski, The Souls of Animals
Over and above personal problems, there is an objective challenge to overcome inequity, injustice, helplessness, suffering, carelessness, oppression. Over and above the din of desires there is a calling, a demanding, a waiting, an expectation. There is a question that follows me wherever I turn. What is expected of me? What is demanded of me?
What we encounter is not only flowers and stars, mountains and walls. Over and above all things is a sublime expectation, a waiting for. With every child born a new expectation enters the world.
This is the most important experience in the life of every human being: something is asked of me. Every human being has had a moment in which he sensed a mysterious waiting for him. Meaning is found in responding to the demand, meaning is found in sensing the demand.
~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, Who Is Man?
It is very important to recognize the basic nature of humanity and the value of human qualities. Whether one is educated or uneducated, rich or poor, or belongs to this nation or that nation, this religion or that religion, this ideology or that ideology, is secondary and doesn't matter. When we return to this basis, all people are the same. Then we can truly say the word sister, brother; then they are not just nice words—they have some meaning. That kind of motivation automatically builds the kindness. This gives us inner strength.
What is my purpose in life, what is my responsibility? Whether I like it or not, I am on this planet, and it is far better to do something for humanity. So you see that compassion is the seed or basis. If we take care to foster compassion, we will see that it brings the other good human qualities. The topic of compassion is not at all religious business; it is very important to know that it is human business, that it is a question of human survival, that is not a question of human luxury. I might say that religion is a kind of luxury. If you have religion, that is good. But it is clear that even without religion we can manage. However, without these basic human qualities we cannot survive. It is a question of our own peace and mental stability.
~ The Dalai Lama, A Policy of Kindness
The true motivation of prayer is not, as it has been said, the sense of being at home in the universe, but rather the sense of not being at home in the universe.
Is there a sensitive heart that could stand indifferent and feel at home in the sight of so much evil and suffering, in the face of countless failures to live up to the will of God? On the contrary, the experience of not being at home in the world is a motivation for prayer.
That experience gains intensity in the amazing awareness that God himself is not at home in the universe. God is not at home in a universe where God's will is defied and where God's kingship is denied. God is in exile; the world is corrupt. The universe itself is not at home.
To pray means to bring God back into the world, to establish God's kingship for a second at least. To pray means to expand God's presence.
~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom
We always look from outside within; from knowledge we proceed to further knowledge, always adding and the very taking away is another addition. And our consciousness is made up of a thousand remembrances and recognition's, conscious of the trembling lead, of the flower, of that man passing by, that child running across the field; conscious of the rock, the stream, the bright red flower, and the bad smell of a pigsty.
From this remembering and recognizing, from the outward responses, we try to become conscious of the inner recesses, of the deeper motives and urges; we probe deeper and deeper into the vast depths of the mind. This whole process of challenges and responses, of the movement of experiencing and recognizing the hidden and the open activities, this whole is consciousness bound to time.
The cup is not only the shape, the color, the design but also the emptiness of the cup. The cup is the emptiness held within a form; without that emptiness there would be no cup nor form. We know consciousness by outer signs, by its limitations of height and depth, of thought and feeling. But all this is the outer form of consciousness; from the outer we try to find the inner. Is this possible? Theories and speculations are not significant; they actually prevent all discover.
From the outer we try to find the inner, from the known we probe hoping to find the unknown. Is it possible to prove from the inner to the outer? The instrument that proves from the outer we know, but is there such an instrument that probes from the unknown to the known? Is there? And how can there be? There cannot be. If there is one, it's recognizable and it it's recognizable, it's within the area of the known. The strange benediction comes when it will, but with each visitation, deep within, there is a transformation; it is never the same.
~ J. Krishnamurti, On God
Deterrence is a parent of paradox. Conflict theorists, notably Thomas Schelling, have pointed out several paradoxes of deterrence: that it may be to the advantage of someone who is trying to deter another to be irrational, to have fewer available options, or to lack relevant information.
Consider a typical situation involving deterrence. A potential wrongdoer is about to commit an offense that would unjustly harm someone. A defender intends, and threatens, to retaliate should the wrongdoer commit the offense. Carrying out retaliation, if the offense is committed, could well be morally wrong. (The wrongdoer could be insane, or the retaliation could be out of proportion with the offense, or could seriously harm others besides the wrongdoer.)
The moral paradoxes of deterrence arise out of the attempt to determine the moral status of the defender's intention to retaliate in such cases. If the defender knows retaliation to be wrong, it would appear that this intention is evil. Yet such "evil" intentions may pave the road to heaven, by preventing serious offenses and by doing so without actually harming anyone.
Scrutiny of such morally ambiguous retaliation intentions reveals paradoxes that call into question certain significant and widely accepted moral doctrines. These principles are what I call bridge principles. They attempt to link together the moral evaluation of actions and the moral evaluation of agents (and their states) in certain simple and apparently natural ways. The general acceptance, and intuitive appeal, of such principles, lends credibility to the project of constructing a consistent moral system that accurately reflects our firmest moral beliefs about both agents and actions.
For a system of morality to reflect our firmest and deepest convictions adequately, it must represent a middle ground between the extremes.
~ Gregory Kavka
For the sake of general coherence, I think that we do have to make the assumption that whatever we know or think about is part of a more fundamental and broader actual reality that is not generated by thought.
We have been saying that thought does not cover everything; it is limited. Therefore we know of the world, there is always more. We find things that we did not know about, and we find things that contradict what we already know. This is a sign of reality that is beyond our knowledge, our will, our intention, and our desire, as well as being beyond what we have created.
The feeling that has arisen from the consideration of all this is that we exist in a vast, illimitable reality out of which we emerged, probably, as suggested by scientific evidence, through a process of evolution. But, of course, religious people say it came from God. Whichever assumption we make, we are here in this reality; we are participating in it.
~ David Bohm and Mark Edwards, Changing Consciousness
There is a general agreement, East and West, that life in a body provides uniquely good opportunities for achieving salvation or deliverance. Catholic and Mahayana Buddhist doctrine is alike in insisting that the soul in its disembodied state after death cannot acquire merit, but merely suffers in purgatory the consequences of its past acts.
But whereas Catholic orthodoxy declares that there is no possibility of progress in the next world, and that the degree of the soul's beatitude is determined solely by what it has done and thought in its earthly life, the eschatologists of the Orient affirm that there are certain posthumous conditions in which meritorious souls are capable of advancing from a heaven of happy personal survival to genuine immortality in union with the timeless, eternal Godhead.
And, of course, there is also the possibility (indeed, for most individuals, the necessity) of returning to some form of embodied life, in which the advance towards complete beatification, or deliverance through enlightenment, can be continued. Meanwhile, the fact that one has been born in a human body is one of the things for which, says Shankara, one should daily give thanks to God.
~ Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy
Justice as fairness begins with one of the most general of all choices which persons might make together, namely, with the choice of the first principles of a conception of justice which is to regulate all subsequent criticism and reform of institutions. Then, having chosen a conception of justice, we can suppose that they are to choose a constitution and a legislature to enact laws, and so on, all in accordance with the principles of justice initially agreed upon. Our social situation is just if it is such that by this sequence of hypothetical agreements we would have contracted into the general system of rules which defines it.
Moreover, assuming that the original position does determine a set of principles (that is, that a particular conception of justice would be chosen), it will then be true that whenever social institutions satisfy these principles these engaged in them can say to one another that they are cooperating on terms to which they would agree if they were free and equal persons whose relations with respect to one another were fair. They could all view their arrangements as meeting the stipulations which they would acknowledge in an initial situation that embodies widely accepted and reasonable constraints on the choice of principles. The general recognition of this fact would provide the basis for a public acceptance of the corresponding principles of justice.
No society can, of course, be a scheme of cooperation which men enter voluntarily in a literal sense; each person finds himself placed at birth in some particular position in some particular society, and the nature of this position materially affects his life prospects. Yet a society satisfying the principles of justice as fairness comes as close as a society can to being a voluntary scheme, for it meets the principles which free and equal persons would assent to under circumstances that are fair. In this sense its members are autonomous and the obligations they recognize self-imposed.
~ John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.