Thoughts on Thinking

"When somebody persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" John Maynard Keynes

"If you're unhappy with your life, change your thinking." Charles Fillmore

"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it." Eckhart Tolle

"People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them." Epictetus

"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates

"Consciousness is a terrible thing to waste." PunditGeorge

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Comes the Dawn...

(A tale from "Habits, Patterns, and Thoughts That Go Bump in the Night")


Habits, Patterns, and Thoughts That Go Bump in the Night
Dawn fed her cats, the primary ritual of her return to the apartment each evening. She enjoyed giving the cats her full attention when returning from another miserable day at the office. Whatever grief she endured making a living, there was solace at home. It would be nice, of course, to buy a townhouse where the cats could romp up stairs. So when she learned of an open position at another company, she applied.

Not that she expected to get it, but like her weekly purchase of the lottery ticket, one has to play in order to win. The problem was that the telephone rang.

“Hello?” she answered.

“Is this Dawn?” asked the voice on the other end.

“Yes.”

The cats scurried as she gasped in delight upon learning that the company wished to interview her for the new position. Accommodating, they scheduled the interview for Saturday morning.
This was Thursday, so time was short to prepare. A mental list of a hundred things to do raced across her mind. She kissed the cats goodbye and dashed to the Mall—a new outfit was in order for the interview.

Then came Friday. She counted the plants in her cubicle at work— how many would be permitted to make the move? She looked around at her co-workers—each equally miserable. There were no promotions to be had, of that she knew. Now she had an out, a prospect. The glances from others implied that they knew she might escape. And, they didn’t approve. Friday was a long day at the office.


On the way home her car stalled. It wouldn’t start—at least not until the frantic fifth try.

The cats sniffed her rather than race to their food bowls. It wasn’t even dark, yet problems of perception were assembling in Dawn’s world.

Her new outfit, purchased for the interview, hung outside of her closet door—an icon to her hopes and dreams. She settled in bed, for the good night’s sleep. Yet the wardrobe loomed as her thoughts began to race around her anything-but-sleepy mind.

At midnight she calculated the cost of a full wardrobe. Further calculations projected the increase in salary with that cost—a good six months to recoup.
At one a.m. she had to buy a new car.

By two a.m. her co-workers knew of her interview and were insanely jealous. One was married to a policeman. Could he be enticed to stop her on the way to the interview?

At three a.m. she lost her vacation. She could at least count on two weeks vacation each year. It often made the difference in showing up for work. At the new job, she’d surely be at the bottom of the pole—at best a week off to live her life the way she wanted.

By four a.m. she had calculated the loss of taking the new job. The perceived costs and grief mounted with each minute. She would lose the pay increase for at least  year, just to pay off the new clothes she would have to have—and no vacation time to enjoy the benefits, which by now she was sure didn’t exist anyway.

At five a.m. it was time to sleep. But the alarm clock took care of that.

At six a.m. the hair dryer broke. The cats were wailing for a dawn feeding—usually they waited until seven.

Resentment gnawing in her stomach, Dawn left her apartment at eight a.m. for the drive to her nine a.m. interview. The fact that the city had overnight decided to tear up an important intersection was not lost on her as she turned into the parking lot.

A suspiciously pleasant receptionist ushered her into the interviewer’s office. The door closed as Dawn ruminated for a final moment on her agonies. The Interviewer entered the office and went to the coffee pot.

“Thank you for coming. Coffee?”

Dawn rose and glared at the wicked person in front of her. “I wouldn’t take this lousy job if you offered me twice as much!”

With that, she stormed out of the room, out of the building, and back into the crab bucket.*

Chances are, in your own way, you’ve pulled a Dawn—maybe several times. It’s called sabotage, also-known-as negative self-fulfilling prophecy. Your gut feeling said this or that, then somehow your actions made sure that whatever you feared, happened.

Perception = Reality in action. The interviewer may have been prepared to offer Dawn the job. The new job might have been the best place for her. But (an entire book will be written about “BUT...”), Dawn didn’t allow it to happen. Life may have presented her a good thing, but she couldn’t see it, and thus couldn’t take advantage of it. If you’re thinking “been there, done that,” then you’re more likely to think about how you feel and react to situations now than you did in the past. Nobody is doomed to continue making the same mistakes over and over and over.  But they certainly can.

* Another tale in Habits, Patterns, and Thoughts That Go Bump in the Night

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Friday, December 27, 2019

Happy New Year 2020!


Do you mean it?  A happy 2020?  It’s not a wish.  It’s a matter of intent.

One simple declaration could make all the difference.  Attach the declaration to the beginning of every thought and you’ll be astonished.  Okay, ready?

“It is fun to ________________________________.”

Simple.  Uncomplicated.  Heck, it’ll even make pleasant those traditional dreaded New Year’s Resolutions:

“It is fun to plan to lose weight.”  It’s not necessary to “wait” until the weight is lost to have fun.
“It is fun to choose what I eat.”  If a healthier diet is in the plan, then have fun with it now.
“It is fun to de-clutter the office.”  Think about how much better it is without the mess rather than fixating on the mess.
“It is fun to have the car serviced.”  It’s fun to be able to drive where I want to go.”
“It is fun to pay more attention to_____.”  Fill in the blank.
“It is fun to be around healthy, happy people.”  Duh.
“It is fun to pay the bills.”  Well, for each bill you received some service or item.  Enjoy that!

You get the idea.  The more you do it, the easier it becomes.  In fact, if you really intend to have a fun 2020, and you begin using this declaration January 1, by the beginning of March you’ll think this way automatically.  You won’t pay much attention to that fact because you’ll be having so good a time.

Of course, if you don’t really believe that you could/should/ought to have a continuous good time, then you won’t.  It’s the intention that rules, a.k.a. expectation.   If you look for the fun in anything, you’ll find it.  If you look for something else, you’ll find that.  What is consistent is that you will find and experience what you expect, what you look for, what you give your attention to.
 
If you truly want a fun 2020, use the magic word  as well.

How much delight can you have in 2020?  All you want.

Those who get it, get it.  Those who don’t, can’t.

Happy New Year!  (If you want it.)


Saturday, December 07, 2019

Merry Christmas!

(Re-posting for the Christmas Season)


The Winter Solstice continues to be one of the most enduring moments for reverence and celebration.  The darkest day of the year has come and hence forth each day shall be filled with more sunshine.  I'm not aware of any civilization that did not make a big deal of the turning point of the year.

So, of course, this became the season to celebrate the birth of Jesus who became the Christ.  It's likely that Jesus was born not in winter, but in the spring and six years earlier than our calendar suggests.  Since Pisces, the fish, was an early Christian symbol, I'd surmise that the birth occurred under that astrological sign.  This is all irrelevant, of course.  The historical Jesus Christ was one of a handful of master teachers known to us, and his instructions on how to live a more wonderful life have proven themselves repeatedly.

Mischief arose when the teachings of this Master were edited, blended, codified, and otherwise rendered theological and political.  All the latter are man-made.  Some of the recent history of organized Christianity is not pretty - the Albigensian Crusade, Spanish Inquisition, and burning witches come to mind, and of course the modern scourge of ISIS.   But this is man acting against man and not reflective of Jesus' teachings, principle of which is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It is fashionable now to minimize the impact of Jesus or even seriously question his existence.  I distinctly recall through the years the "absence of evidence" of an historical Jesus.  Why, if the teachings and movement were so profound, many ask, does the principle source for historical information in the region shortly after the death of Jesus, mention him in only a brief paragraph? 

The source is Josephus, who wrote a voluminous history of the Jews called "Antiquities."  Recently I purchased the complete works of Josephus, because I like history, and because I was curious to read the rare, fleeting, mention of Jesus in the decades following his death.  It is a brief paragraph.  But what a paragraph! 

3. (63)  Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works - a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.  He was {the} Christ; (64) and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and then thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.

That's an account given when many who knew Jesus were still alive.  He must have made quite an impact to earn that paragraph so quickly.  Note:  It is possible that various translations of the paragraph may have embellished the telling.

The history is irrelevant.  It is the teachings that shifted much of human consciousness and continues to do so.  Jesus taught that thinking (prayer) was the road to a wonderful life.  Thinking is very personal, therefore the relationship to God that Jesus taught, had to be personal as well.  That, of course, didn't go over well with Priests or any positioned person to whom obedience and, well, worship were required.  Radical stuff, actually.

So, to celebrate the Christ Mass, is a good thing.  It is a Merry Christmas.  It is a Happy Holiday.  It is as pagan as it gets, for the celebration is ancient.  Adjacent to Christmas, in our modern calendar, is the New Year!  Really, rejoice that the great Teacher came to teach us joy, then embark on a fresh, new year that uncluttered with the mistakes (and erroneous thinking) of the previous year.

Why, there's even a host of robust celebratory music to accompany the season.  Joy to the World!  Happy New Year!



Friday, November 22, 2019

Something for Thanksgiving - Don't Worry, be Happy!


Here's a re-post of a Thanksgiving essay from Habits, Patterns, and Thoughts That Go Bump in the Night.

“Yeah, riiiight…”  “If you’re not worrying, you don’t understand the situation…”
Okay, we’ve all been there – had some irritatingly cheerful soul spout some nonsense about “don’t worry…think positive” or some such grating platitude, when we’re tangled with a situation that scares us.  What’s wrong with the goody-goody unicorn rainbow person that he/she doesn’t get it!  I’ve got to worry about it, because if I don’t…”

Stop it right there.  “I’ve GOT to worry about it, because if I don’t…”  Then what?  What WILL happen should you STOP worrying about something?

    • Is a loved one suddenly going to wreck their life because you stopped worrying?
    • Is some situation going to crater or explode because you stopped worrying?
    • Is someone going to think less of you if you stop your worry and suffering on account of someone else?

Well, maybe the latter, but that’s a relationship needing a re-set.
           
What IS worry, anyway?  Worry is creating something you do not want.  Worry is the action of focusing your thinking on something that you fear and do not want.  Now, how on earth does that thinking improve anything?  It can’t.  It only increases your awareness of what else is “wrong” or “un-desired.”  It’s very easy to worry about a mole hill - then find yourself with a mountain of grief.

The mental action we call “worry” is an energy launched at something that scares us.  “Oh, gosh, I sure hope Fred doesn’t eat too many sweets for Thanksgiving, it’s bad for his health.”  “The weather is terrible, I’m afraid Jane will have a wreck!”  Of course the mental activity can be more nebulous and manifest as a chronic dis-ease regarding certain people or situations.  I’ve even heard of physical manifestations – warts – in particular.  (Yes, worry-warts...)

Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something!

Calvin Coolidge got it right. “If you see ten troubles coming down the road,” he said, “you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you and you have to battle with only one of them.” With an outlook like that, it’s easy to understand why Silent Cal was seldom anxious. Unfortunately, many people see the ten troubles and leap into action ten different ways. 

Worry has been described as the interest paid on trouble before it falls due or actually arrives. Many people go through the day paying a very high interest rate on their perceived troubles.

Worry is a part of the natural response to fear. Worry is a mental activity that attempts to satisfy an instinct to do something.

You probably know someone who has said, “I’m worried sick about that.” But what did they mean?

·         “I’m worried...” Translation: I’m scared.
·         “...sick...” Translation: My stomach is in knots, I can’t sleep, eat, feel nervous all of the time, I can’t concentrate on anything.
·         “...about that...” Translation: There isn’t a thing that I can
           do about it, the situation is totally beyond my control.

What is the perception in that statement? How is the person reacting mentally and emotionally to “I’m worried sick about that?” The dread and fear are reinforced. Not only are ten troubles about to wreck my life, but they’ve got fifteen more behind them, “heading right for me!” The physical effects of the anxiety are reinforced and the lack of control is confirmed. Yet the worry continues. Something needs to be done about the “bad” things we observe.

Compound worry trumps other thoughts and feelings. The strong statement “I’m worried sick” is heard very clearly by every cell in the body. “Hey,” thinks the little cell, “the boss says I’m supposed to be sick.” What the boss expects, the boss gets.  Ouch!  You’re the BOSS!  Is this what you want?

There is a growing awareness of the connection between attitude, expectation, and health. Certainly some diseases and ailments are influenced by genetic factors, but attitude is very powerful. You’ve read accounts of “the will to live” working miracles in terminal cases. Conversely, gut-wrenching worry and complaining can screw up the heartiest of digestive systems. On the other hand...
Hank’s Curious Math
A lot of people worry about getting older, as if worry will somehow reverse the process. Perception continues to rule. You may know of someone who is “old” at thirty and others who are “young” at eighty. The difference? Perspective. A good example is Hank.
Jovial 60-year-old Hank is smitten with 30-year-old Bonita, who is equally enchanted with Hank. They become engaged. “Goodness,” Hank’s friends remark, in horror, that “she’s half your age!”
“She’ll catch up,” replies Hank calmly. “When I’m 90 she’ll be two-thirds my age.”
In Hank’s perspective, at some point in time, they may very well be the same age. It’s a curious math – but a great attitude!

People are going to do what they are going to do.  You KNOW this, you DO this.  Every two year-old will let you know “you ain’t the boss of me!”

Although we may not always understand WHY we feel anxious, we are very good at observing a situation, condition, or person that we believe is causing the problem.  We then leap into action to “fix” the problem.  Or, if we’re unable to do that, we WORRY.   We worry because we believe in some manner, that our concern ABOUT WHAT WE DO NOT WANT will somehow make it better.

During World War II many parents and families were worried about their loved ones in the military or living in war torn countries.  What to do?  Tossing and turning all night, going through the day envisioning all of the terrible things that COULD happen, and engaging in endless conversation with equally worried people resulted in…

…loved one still in war torn countries.  Poet James Dillet Freeman composed a wonderful prayer for those families.  The idea was to supplant WORRY with an equal attention to what was DESIRED.  It worked very well.  We use it today.  It’s called the Prayer for Protection.

Wouldn’t you rather think, envision a loved one surrounded by the Light of God?  The Love of God?  The Presence of God?  Rather than using the same thought energy to envision a loved one surrounded by car crashes, sickness, crime, misery - whatever the hazard.  Which ever you do, you use the same amount of thought energy.  Which is fueling what you WANT?

What you want is to “follow your bliss” as mythologist Joseph Campbell put it.  Follow your bliss is not a myth, but an eternal and universal instinct that is never fully suppressed – that two year old again.

There’s only one person in the universe who knows what is good for you.  And that’s YOU.  Period.  End of story.  No more searching necessary.  No longer necessary to ask others what you should want or do. 

If one is unsure of their bliss, they may worry – a floating anxiety based on a lack of direction, so to speak.  In this situation a person may WORRY about WORRYING.  Compound worry!

The happiest people are those who delight in their Life and SHARE that delight.  Not everyone understands that of course.  As I wrote earlier…

Don’t Worry, be Happy!  Yeah, riiiiight!

Worried about someone’s health?  What can you do?  Be healthy yourself and envision them as healthy.   In the presence of such powerful vibration the dis-ease aligned with the EASE – and the person had what we consider an instant healing.  It CAN happen that fast.
           
People who are unhappy equally like to share their misery, or, in most instances, are so practiced in worrying and focusing on what they don’t like they lose their awareness of HOW they are thinking.  Adapting an old Russian (USSR) joke:

A Russian, an Englishman, and a Frenchman were walking along the road one day when they spotted a muddy lamp lying in the ditch. The Englishman picked it up and the Frenchman cleaned it. Suddenly, a Genie appeared in a puff of smoke. Greatly relieved to be free of her tiny prison, Genie offered to grant each of her liberators one wish.
            The Englishman thought for a moment. “Genie, I wish that I owned a great estate with a full staff to wait on me and my family.” Poof! It was done.
            The Frenchman thought for a moment. “Genie, I wish to be a famous poet and have hundreds of beautiful women clamoring to make love with me.” Poof! It was done.
            Genie turned to the Russian. “And what wish may I grant for you?”
The Russian thought for a moment. “My neighbor has a new car and I do not. Wreck my neighbor’s car!”

People think like that.  It’s the belief in a finite universe where there is a limited amount of everything including happiness and if someone HAS something, it is at the expense of someone else.  This is nonsense.  But it is an old and very entrenched belief.

If the Universe operated that way you could go to the hospital or wherever, get an injection of some terrible bacteria and become incredibly ill.  Once you became sick, then magically some sick person somewhere in the world would be cured.  You can try it.  In a fashion, many folks do.  But it doesn’t work.

Do I want to be happy?

Tommy liked his job.  Tommy enjoyed his job so much that he actually looked forward to going to work each day.  As the foreman of the shop he had a good crew to work with.  It wasn’t that long ago that Tommy became enamored with Suzette, one of the administration staff at the facility.  They married.  Suzette and Tommy were very happy with themselves, their children, their jobs, and their life.

That was his problem.

Generous by nature, Tommy permitted his brother, separated from his wife and out of work, to live with them while he looked for work.  Tommy’s father was ailing and he also joined the growing household.  Coming over for regular bar-b-que’s and holidays were Tommy’s other siblings and relations.  Their lives were filled with problems, resentments, illness, and legal issues.  Tommy was concerned for all of them.  He and Suzette felt blessed and happy while nobody else in the family did.

Tommy began to feel badly about feeling good.  One day he discussed with his boss how he felt guilty because his relations were having so much trouble and his family had it so good.  The boss understood, and was prepared to help Tommy.  “Tell you what I can do, Tommy,” said the Boss.  You’re fired.”

Tommy was stunned.  His boss continued.  “Feel any better?” he asked.  Tommy was too flummoxed to answer.  “Now, as I understand it, some of your relations are jealous of your happy life and that bothers you.  So, to help out, I’ve fired you.  Now they’ll be happy, right?”
   
By that point Tommy was thinking more clearly.  But it won’t change anything, except now I don’t have a job.”

“You felt guilty about having a good job didn’t you?” asked the Boss.
“Well, yes,” replied Tommy.
“So by losing your job, you’ll feel better?”
“I don’t know about that,” said Tommy.
“Won’t they feel better, now that you’re in the same boat as them?” remarked the Boss.
    “No.”
    “Doesn’t  losing your  job help them?”
    “No,” mumbled Tommy.
    “You mean to tell me that their lives aren’t going to get better just because you got fired?”
    “No.”
   
The Boss smiled.  “Well, if losing your job isn’t going to help them, then you might as well keep it.”  Tommy sighed relief.  “However,” noted the Boss,  “You can’t keep feeling guilty.  Your having a job doesn’t keep them from doing anything.  They’ll be just as miserable regardless of how happy and Suzette may be.  That about right?”

Tommy scratched his head.  “I hadn’t thought about it like that.  My good life doesn’t mean they can’t have a good life.  It’s up to them.”

“Bingo.”

So, don’t worry.  Be happy for this Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 08, 2019

JD!

Jeanette Danette (JD) Lambert sold her soul to marry into the Louisiana political family.  Decades later, divorced and her daughter in college, JD wants her soul back.  She's running for Mayor.  Against her Ex.  What could possibly go right?

You can find out Saturday December 7 or Sunday December 8.  The Company Repertory Theatre and the Bossier Arts Council presents a Readers Theatre production of this new comedy by yours truly at the Eastbank Theatre in Bossier City.

Director Richard Folmer has assembled some of the regions top talent for this production:
Susan Kirton, Mary Zapczynski, Dick King, Logan Jarecki, Brittany Williams, Patrick Kirton, and Shawn Dion.  Ginger Folmer is narrator.  Stage manager is Denise Dion and lighting design by Marissa Brown.

Tickets are available at the door or online:



         




Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Old Soldier explains...

Corporal Julius Franklin Howell, CSA, reflects on his life, the Civil War, and the manner of thinking of a young Virginian.  History direct.  Thoughtful fellow, "General" Howell.