Christmas Peace 2014

Christmas is a great time to re-reflect on the need for peace in our families, tribes and planet. We often hear about the need to reduce personal violence or eliminate war, or better yet, to embrace peace. Making peace with people is the right thing to do, but perhaps there is an even better plan than some amorphous peace.
What if, instead of identifying with a fuzzy kind of peace and brotherly love, we focused on the two specific things I so often blog about: acting with Gratitude and enabling Understanding with those connections we have now?
Peace is a good choice and a civilized principle that helps us to avoid anger and violence. As grownups we know that there is a better path that includes the benefits of finding joint solutions. And beyond using political diplomacy is the will to understand those people and situations that bother us. This allows us to live without fear of those troublesome aspects of connection.
Fear, the Great Barrier to Peace
All of us are badgered by fears of multiple sorts, crippling our efforts at peaceful coexistence. And typically we believe that it is other people that are responsible for our discomfort. But what makes us truly afraid is the fear lurking within ourselves. Too often we don’t Understand that others are sorting out and reacting to their fears, living in fear of their unknown. In other words, afraid of what they do not yet Understand.
Yes, others are very much like us and it may just be their fears that show us the truth about fear itself. But how will we come to grips with that if we don’t reach out to Understand others? And when we reach out to find Understanding beyond ourselves, we learn that our problem was not where we thought it was. It was simply within ourselves doing to us what fear does….or tries to do: shut us off from others.
Enter Gratitude, the Next Step Toward Peace
At this point we can let the fears be known and assigned a smaller role. This allows us to entertain Gratitude where fear used to live. I have learned to be Grateful for Understanding, for fear, for brains that learn and then move forward. All of us can begin to have Gratitude that others are different, that we can work together, and for the freshness that each connection allows us to feel. We can give a place in our hearts to what is known as common respect, not out of principle but out of appreciation.
Gratitude for one another is the antidote to fear within, both imagined and real. This grows into Gratitude that the unfounded fears have no place to grow.
Thank you for reading my Christmas message of peace and I wish each reader as much Understanding and Gratitude as they can hold. Not just a comfortable peace, but a knowing that can never be taken away.
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PS. I just found a week after making this post a quote from Albert Einstein that speaks directly to the above Christmas message:

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

Here’s back at ya, Albert! Einstein_laughing

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Jessica Loves Her Life

This adorable video strikes home! (Apologies if you already saw it, but, I have seen it several times and still find it inspirational.)

My wife and I often repeat, hopefully, with as much enthusiasm as Jessica, the things we love about our life… each other, our dog, our house, our jobs… you get the idea.

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Living the Future in the Present

I have this strange belief about the future. I think some, probably a majority, of us, are here in the present, but from the future. We retain a memory of what the future is like. It is amazing, full of love, gratitude and understanding of all that is. In the future, we know that the love we share is more than in the present moment, it is throughout all time. But something in our spirits has compassion on those in the past that don’t have such an abundance of love, understanding and gratitude. So, we come to this century (and the last) to bring more of that love, joy and connection of the future that we know there. flocculent spiral NGC 2841

You don’t have to believe this odd concept to understand that when we love others in the present, particularly those that don’t know much of it, we are acting in the interests of a better future. When we appreciate something before it comes to pass, we are acknowledging a positive and beautiful future. When we listen to facts and feelings to understand, without rushing to judgment, we make more room for everybody’s future.

This we all know when we slow down and think about it. (Well, most of us.)

With this in mind, it’s simple to think of ourselves creating a beautiful future in the present moments. Living this way will assuredly move us toward the future we know we want: a future some of us have described as “heaven” or “utopia.” It’s heaven on earth when we have peace, loving service, trust and patience with the process of becoming better human beings.

The more we have gratitude for Life and life’s circumstances, the easier the tasks of life become, giving us more time to act in love and sharing.

The more we understand others, our environment and the wonderful balance in our own bodies, the healthier we feel and the better choices we make for the future.

The more we love others, ourselves and Life itself, the more like heaven it is.

Let’s promote living like heaven. Today’s present has a way of becoming the future.

Galaxy photo credit: Hubble

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You Are Life

you are life
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Bonding with Life

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of bonding with my new dog Molly.

Molly's profile photo

Molly’s profile photo

It began with having to discipline her for her “fear biting.” Of course, I recognized that she had been abused a couple years back in a puppy mill, and she had reasons to be fearful. But she had to get beyond it because of young children in the family that could be needlessly bitten. She had nipped and threatened to bite.
As my wife and I began training her and attempting to convince the rest of the family that Molly was less of a threat, we brought in a second dog whisperer. Gina had a different approach than the first dog whisperer. She talked to Molly, and after a few minutes exclaimed, “I’ve talked to Molly and she’s okay. She’s totally okay. It’s you two that are neurotic. Not her.” We had a big laugh at ourselves and asked Gina for some insights.
As we talked, I realized that Molly’s intuition and precognition of what was about to happen was a big part of the problem. For example, when I had “simply decided” that I was going to give her a bath, she promptly hid under the bed. Later, when I came to enforce her bath time, she bit me.
But worse than the bite, I was frustrated that she hid before I could bring her the bad news. She smartly pre-empted me. Gina’s response was very much from the canine perspective. “Since she knows beforehand, just tell her, ‘Molly, you’re freaking me out!’ She’ll understand and respond.”
The time my wife and I spent with Gina was not about getting the dog to understand that we are “Alpha.” It was realizing that Molly is as smart as we are and she deserves to be treated like that.
Since then, things with Molly are much improved. For example, I bought the kind of leash that extends, allowing her to run and be a dog, instead of the short leash that requires her to march to my tune. Our walks are not a tussle for who will do the leader, but a pleasure walk; me at my speed and her at hers. Bonding is so much easier when there is more pleasure and mutual respect.
And now that my wife and I are less neurotic about being “Alpha,” the grandchildren have warmed to Molly and play with her not as a doll but as a family member.
Bonding to Life can be much like bonding to Life’s creatures. Human beings in the Western, industrialized world come to Life with an eye to mastering it. The whole idea makes me laugh. How can we, the creations of Life delude ourselves into thinking that we can master Life?
Within the above time frame of bonding to Molly, my wife picked out a book while browsing the local Barnes and Noble bookstore. The book is “Animal Wisdom.” Written by Veterinarian Linda Bender, she speaks about the wisdom animals bring to us if we will listen. She is respectful of and humbled by the evidence of intelligent and capable creatures, beings that can make our lives more meaningful, connected, healthy, joyful and responsive to Life.
Of course, dog and cat owners can readily understand this kind of mutual care and broader sense of belonging. And the joy brought by animals may be easily witnessed on Facebook, with the many postings of cute dogs and wise cats, protecting us during a time of decreased human to human contact.
I’m not suggesting we all get a pet, but to realize that Life reaches out to us in so many ways and requests our humility, respect and full engagement. When you get a chance, gratefully eyeball a goldfish, stroke a friendly dog or cat wandering outside. Read more about these amazing creatures or read some snippets of “Animal Wisdom” using the “Look inside” feature at Or go to Barnes and Noble.
Peruse cat or dog books. Share pictures of pets. Celebrate Life by listening to the love, playfulness, wisdom, intelligence, persistence, healing kindness and ability to relate between species that animals bring to our vision of Life’s possibilities.
There is no denying that animals help us heal, take joy in Life and lower blood pressure. Do yourself a Life-giving favor. Don’t waste a minute more. “Reach out” and learn about animals. There is nothing more important than connecting with Life.
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I love my dog, but I had a problem

About six weeks ago, my wife brought home a rescue dog. Cute to the bone. I hadn’t planned on adding a dog to my life at this time, but… I was open to what lessons it might bring me that couldn’t come any other way. The poodle took to me immediately and we bonded. Besides the bond, I loved that her needs to walk enforced a walking program on me. 2014-05-19 11.10.25
The problem first raised its head when my cute, cute dog decided to be vicious to a passing neighborhood dog. Not wanting this to happen again, I made sure she was kept away from other dogs.
In the meantime, every walk we bonded more. But less than a week ago, she bit me when I tried to take her into the bathtub. I was dumbfounded, but was reminded that she was a rescue and had previously been abused. My bite wound had almost healed when I came home from work, tired and not fully attentive; she slipped out the door and spied another dog in the yard, doing some business.
I wasn’t fast enough. I blame myself, but soon resigned myself to the sad conclusion that the partnership was doomed. It hurt me tremendously, but I had a “biter.” Biters cannot be tolerated, I told myself, not under any conditions. As my wife and I discussed what we would do, I told her I would not send the dog to a new home, lest she bite again. Unless a miracle happened, we had to put her down.
My wife talked the problem over with her friends and the next morning we got a call about a “dog whisperer” that had recently landed in our circle. She started the miracle of healing the next day.
There are lots of techniques and teachings when it comes to dog training, and I already knew some techniques that were effective, but helpless in the face of a “biter.” My dog whisperer, and now friend, Ildi, would take no credit, but within 24 hours, we had a new dog.
What does this have to do with my theme, “Love, Understanding and Gratitude?” A lot. I went from angry at the dog and myself to a commitment to this dog because she is, like me, an expression of Life. I went from being scared of being sued if my dog bit someone, to being recommitted to Life. I went from sadness and regret to Gratitude that this dog came into my life and challenged my commitment to Life. I went from ignorance about biting dogs to knowing and Understanding what to do.
Ildi gives all the credit to Cesar Millan, a dog whisperer anyone can find on YouTube. My wife and I watched episodes where he took dog owners that had decided, short of a miracle, their dog would be put down, to an unbelievably loving reunion in the matter of a few lessons. These were people that loved their dog, but were at the end of their leash. I thank Ildi, Cesar, Life and Gloria (my wife) from the bottom of my dog-loving heart. Without them, I could have made a terrible, life-long, regretful decision.
I invite you to Cesar’s YouTube channel and Ildi’s House and Pet Sitting. Ildi can be reached at 760-574-6520 and I vouch for her 100%.
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Stay Younger for Longer

Ben Fletcher blogs in Psychology Today about staying younger for longer. It’s the simple things we can do to avoid succumbing to age.
Ben regularly reminds himself that habits have a tendency to stop growth and interaction. He says it more succinctly, “Habits steal your life.” And while it’s important to remind ourselves that habits can be deadly, it’s more important to do things differently as a matter of course. Children love doing things differently. It’s fun. And that is one of the best things about being a grandparent, being with the young ones who are testing things and ideas as if the rules are flexible.
To stay younger for longer, try some difference in your life.
Question: What have you got to lose?

Answer: The sense of being old.
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Suffering pains

I remember being 14 years old and having strange, intense pains in my legs. Yet, there was no visible cause. So, my parents took me to the family doctor who couldn’t find anything. He told my parents to “Relax. It’s probably just growing pains.”
“Growing pains?” I thought. “I’ve been growing for 14 years and growing pains were not present before. He must be wrong.” But he wasn’t. It was just growing pains.
Suffering emotional pain is a lot like growing pains. I’m not saying it’s just growing pains, but there are similarities. Often, our suffering is caused (or worsened) by our misunderstanding of a situation or clashing with an expectation we think we know is true.
Additionally, suffering comes from a grudge we won’t let go of, a lapse into victimization, a bad habit or lack of will to change. Like growing pains, these things may pass without any effort on our part. But it is more likely that these suffering pains will pass when we make effort and do at least two things:
1. Recognize our part in it and
2. Have willingness to let it go and live life differently.
 stressed legs
I found that during my grief over the loss of my father, that committing anew to the entire scheme of life (including the loss of my father), was the tonic I needed for my emotional pain. Committing to life, all of life, proved that I had done at least two things: I admitted my part in the suffering and I used willingness to let go of the pain and live life differently.
It’s okay to take these two steps without assurance that you will have the inner strength to do it. That’s like going to a dance lesson with two left feet. (Two steps, two feet.) You strongly doubt you can be taught to dance, but you go to class and give it a good try. In a few weeks you can move in ways you didn’t think possible.
Suffering and grief call us to the dance of life. We can stay “home” and miss out, wondering if people are having a good time at the dance. Or we can go to life’s dance and be willing to let go of our grief to live life differently.
Thanks to for the legs image.

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International Day of Happiness!

international day of happinessDid you miss the announcement that March 20th was the International Day of Happiness? I caught it on a blog that day. I’m not sure I needed to know it was designated so by the UN two years ago, because I was already committed.
Before I saw the blog post, I had been to the County Courthouse finishing up some “nasty” business. The clerk who had helped me before was unpleasant. “Do you have a copy,” she demanded? “Then give it to me! I need to stamp it.”
I handed her the copy. I thanked her for her help. “You’re done,” she uttered as she handed me the stamped copy. Then I wished her a good weekend.
Afterward, my personal agenda was interrupted by a phone caller who began issuing a prepared statement about his identity and purpose of his call. Just then my wife texted me, concerned that the dinner was burning. I politely stopped the caller and went to the stove to find dinner had started burning. I went back to the caller and told him that I had to interrupt because dinner was burning. We hung up and I gave him a pleasant goodbye.
Did I do that to imitate Dora Doormat? No. I did it because I wanted to add happiness to my life. I remade the rice without grumbling about the loss of food and my wife rescued the main course.
That dinner was delicious! It’s wonderful how choosing happiness boomerangs back and might land in your dinner.
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Marketing, like life, is a funny thing

red targetI recently conferred with a marketing guru about readership of this blog. His advice: narrow down your focus.

I agree that the multiple foci of this blog, namely of “the meaning of life,” “commitment to the twelve essences of life,” and “Love, Understanding and Gratitude Energies,” is broad. Even love is too broad for some marketing professionals.

Is it love for animals? Love for IT? Because if it is, good marketing means narrowing it further to cats or cats of a particular breed. And instead of Microsoft or Linux, narrow it down to one program that runs on your favorite operating system. That’s the kind of narrow target that finds readers/ customers, they say.

This blog started as a focus on dealing with grief following the loss of my father. But the grief led me to insights about the meaning of life, how we are energies of Love, Understanding and Gratitude. I wrote a book on how commitment to life on its terms is the way to live fully. But I refuse to try to stick to one narrow topic, such as gratitude, even as powerful as gratitude is.

Have you ever noticed how closely Gratitude, Love and Understanding are connected? If we want to have full Gratitude, we need Love and Understanding for that object of our Gratitude. If we want to know Love, Gratitude and Understanding of the loved object are part of the whole picture. To follow Understanding, we must Love the thing we want to understand and have Gratitude for it.

So, no. Marketing principles notwithstanding, this blog will be about the whole enchilada, not just the sauce, cheese, meat, or tortilla.

Come to think of it, Life and its Meaning are funny things, too. We can’t lose sight of the big picture or our life will be lived with partial meaning, partial involvement and partial results. I want more. I want the whole picture. I want to know how Life fits together into a meaningful concept. I hope you readers do, too.
Target: all of life’s best.
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Got Life?

Life is the very best experience we could possibly dream of or experience. Particularly, life as a human being.
 Got Life? oval
I remember when I was a young adult and “Life” was pretty much a struggle. I felt that I “had life” but, really, “Is that all there is? Work? Stress? Jockeying for better pay? Marriage trouble? Avoiding disaster? An occasional escape on vacation, only to return to the same hamster wheel? There’s just got to be more here.”
The truth is that that is all there is if all you have going for you is your ego, and you’re not connected with Life. All the ego-self can provide is that kind of striving against other egos, and often against the forces of Life.
What the ego doesn’t understand is that the point of Life is to be connected and in sync with Life. That’s when Life gets amazing, appreciated, precious and unbelievably good.
In my book, The Twelve Commitments to Life, I discuss how our experience with Life can be enhanced by listening to Life and its essential elements. These are beautifully simple concepts. Anybody can do them because they are built into our bodies and souls: love, awareness, consciousness, health, kindness…
A lot of people think they are not experiencing Life at its best unless they are conquering some mountain, falling out of a plane or doing something never accomplished before. Those are perfect examples of the ego-self in control, not knowing Life and how it works for us. Being in contest with Life’s forces, conquering or overcoming Life’s parameters is not being in synchrony with Life or having commitment to Life.
The difference between the “normal,” ego-centric view of Life and living from Life’s agenda is huge. The “normal view” is ego vs. Life and living creatures, the other is appreciation of and harmonizing with the best experience we can possibly dream of or know, Life as a human person… breath, relief, learning, arousal, balance, rest.
Got Life? Yes you do if you are committed to Life as it really is.
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Moving Forward Faster

Have you ever wanted to move forward more quickly? mindsight book I ask that because some people don’t want to move forward at all. They want to stay secure or move at a comfortable pace while the world goes by. You might even hear them say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But we have a compelling need to move forward because Life is taking us into what used to be “the future” in a way that seems faster and faster.

I think moving forward quickly can be rather scary, but I still want to remove the blocks that keep me resistant to moving at the speed of Life. I’ve been thinking about three such blocks because I have noticed them in myself and others and they come from a part of us that is immature and reactionary. Identifying them is the first step to removing them.

Motion blocker 1 is the feeling that because I just got turned down or got bad news that this means everything is at stake. Getting rejected in any form feels terrible, I know. But allowing the feeling of rejection to color the rest of our perception of Life and relationships is a surest way to sour them. But if we can observe ourselves coloring outside the lines, so to speak, we can start the clean up sooner.

Motion blocker 2 is the feeling (yes, another feeling) that what I don’t know will be forever difficult to learn or figure out. This is similar to writer’s block, eyeing a new skill or responsibility, test anxiety, et cetera. Here’s how life looks at it. “I hear you don’t know how to raise children. Ok. Here’s one (or two). You’ll get the hang of it.” Yes, it can sound that ridiculous, but that is how Life works. Later, you might look back, like my parents did, and wonder, “How did we ever do that?” So, don’t ever fear going forward without knowing all that will be required of you to know. Life trusts you, your parents, and even very poorly equipped parents. Trust yourself as much as Life does.

Motion blocker 3 is “thinking” that forward progress is highly unlikely given the players. This is where we look at our situation (or people in a situation we know about) and “decide” that it’s not going to get much better, if at all. This is a total lack of observation concerning how things change, improve or move forward. Life elements do not always move forward because we will it so, try hard to change it or even “let go and let God.”

Things do not require us to be willing to move forward because moving forward is not about human will. It is mostly about the unseen energies of Life. To understand how to move forward, we must drop expectations of our part, our understanding and our effort. We must just observe, knowing that observing has more influence than we could ever measure.

Observe all your forward movement, voluntary and involuntary. That is really the key. Otherwise, we are probably moving forward without trust or understanding. To observe is to grow in understanding (which is forward movement in itself), and in better harmony with those forces that make things happen.

Check out the disciplines of mindfulness or as Daniel Siegel calls it “mindsight.” It’s not that hard and the benefits are thrilling.

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Resolution 2014 Post Script

post script I realize that in my last post, I used some self-deprecating comments like “I am only boringly normal.” But lest you think that I’m starting the new year on a depressive note, I am very grateful to be normal!

Firstly, I knew since I was young that my mental processes were slower than other kids. I was like my dad in that respect, a slow plodding thinker. I knew that I’d have to work harder than those with faster minds, so I made up my mind to work harder and longer. That way I’d be able to keep up with the normal ones.

I can see now that I did keep up in spite of my slower, more thorough pace. I may even be ever-so-slightly better than average. My health is very good. My skin looks several years younger than I am. My mind is sharp. (The A+ grades at school prove this.) I am not alone. (Better yet, I live with a wonderful, caring and somewhat indulgent, loving partner.)

Secondly, I stayed true to my values. Knowing I was slower, I still never tried to cover up for my pace with lies about my progress. Nor did I try to become someone that I am not in order to gain success. I am very much like the normal boy I was in grade school. But he was an even-tempered boy, creative and he liked to help.

Thirdly, my slowness got me into some accidents as a pedestrian/ bicyclist. I was hit by cars four times, with at least one concussion. As a result, I may be slower than I might be without the concussion, but I am not destroyed.

So I’m normal. Thank heaven!

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Resolution 2014

Last December (2013), I realized that my watchword for 2014 was to be “more joy.” Happy New Year ResolutionThis wasn’t about the Christmas spirit but a realization that as committed as I am to the 12 Commitments to Life (as explained in my book of that name) and being true to my core self (which I call energies of Love, Understanding and Gratitude), Life has a primary way of fueling and reinforcing human behavior: joy.

So, in December I resolved to add more joy to my commitment to Life. Life is serious- it needs joy!

But the laws of physics dictate that two things cannot occupy the same space. If I add something, like a new practice to a life that is already pretty full, something must be withdrawn. Otherwise, physics will demand an overflow, an imbalance or some sort of loss. What should I reduce for my life to make room for joy, I asked myself?

The answer came on December 31st, the day a package arrived with several mementos from my childhood and adolescence. The box contents gave rise to reflections about my life. And to put it simply, I felt deep regrets. In my case, the regrets weren’t for things I’d done to others, but things that I didn’t do for myself. I felt like I had spent way too much energy talking about and trying to be exceptional instead of acceptance of being normal. The box had no evidence of me being exceptional. It was all evidence of normal phases we go through as we grow up.

Having looked at the evidence, I could only conclude that I was (and still am) boringly normal. As much as I have tried since then to create something new and better, I just ended up being normal. And if I accept the evidence and that I am pretty normal, I see that I spent too much time talking about things I could not do or produce.

And there you have it: what I can reduce to make way for more joy: less talk. Now the new resolution for 2014 is complete- less talk, more joy.

With this resolution in mind today, January 1, I immediately started finding joy in my marriage, our house, the birds in our backyard, and the treasures we’d collected over the years. Lovely vintage brass candle holders we had found on our last vacation. A collection of Christmas nutcrackers. (I heard tunes of the Nutcracker Suite in my head, my favorite classical music since childhood.) Pictures of my wife and me in our Renaissance costuming adventures. My antique rocking chair. A cotton throw draped over the couch sporting a Celtic dragon pattern. Etc.

These bring me pleasure and joy. The joy they give helps me soldier on through life and be grateful for being alive. They are better than the constant talking, questioning, doubting and analyzing that typically fill my consciousness. Yes, “less talk, more joy” seems like a reasonable and do-able resolution for 2014, even for a normal old guy.

PS. There’s a follow up tomorrow.

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Why Most Self-Help Is Useless

Are you one of those that has laughed at self-help books and courses? You have good reason to doubt.Start self help movement

Are you one of those that have tried self-help books or courses and found your life didn’t change at the core level?

Theories on why self-help doesn’t work are plentiful, but the theory I prefer is that most of these approaches are completely unable to help you think differently once you have finished the course/ book. Self-improvement usually is about finding your passion, your “true self” or ultimate meaning and having the courage to make that the priority of each day. It is my opinion that self-help products actually reduce your ability to fix your life.

Please understand that I am not high and mighty about reading self-help books. I have spent way too much on these books and courses because I believed their promises and I felt like I had no other recourse. So I am speaking here from experience with self-help.

After at least three decades of trying self-help, I can’t say that my life is better because I read How to Win Friends and Influence People, Think and Grow Rich, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind or any other of the major or minor players that told me my income and self-esteem would blossom once I have understood the material. And because I have been (and now am) an “A student” (at California College San Diego), I know the problem is not my intellect. (As a side note, after just a year of applying the teachings in The Twelve Commitments To Life, I noticed being happier with my life than I ever have been.)

Self-help instructors/coaches/preachers specialize in speaking our worst fears and telling us that we are not good enough as we are. They lay out a system that promises to make our life easier, more meaningful and productive in our areas of choice. But that doesn’t work because it starts by emphasizing our fears and makes that the basis of moving forward. And if we fail to get the results promised, our fears escalate and we are told to retry because the instructor “knows” and “has proven” that it works.

The Twelve Commitments to Life is not a system. It is listening to Life as you receive it and learning from Life’s most basic twelve ingredients. In my book, you become both student and teacher of your life. You don’t need anyone to tell you how to live. You are the best observer of your life and you are smart enough to read Life’s forces, hints and feedback. The only real requirement in this approach is to focus long enough and regularly enough to hear Life talk to you, guide you and grow you. That’s the wisdom that Life offers and The Twelve Commitments to Life is an inexpensive guide that helps you hear.

Check out the free introduction, table of contents and first chapter. (link) Or buy it on our shopping cart.

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Overpopulation Myth

It’s crazy when you think about it, but not in the way we’ve been told to think. overcrowded planet
We’ve been told, with statistical “proof” that human beings are becoming too populous for the planet. And while people of various political, religious, educational and cultural backgrounds have debated over the issue for many years, they have reached no resolution. Dan Brown’s bestselling book The Inferno posits a “mad scientist’s” scheme to reduce and limit our growth, adding more fuel to the debate. But the debate is bogus.

I will get to the flaw in this debate right after this note: one of the main arguments against improving human longevity is the impact humans living longer would have on an already overburdened planet. I have stated on this blog (several posts including A Conspiracy Against Wisdom?) that human longevity will bring us much needed wisdom, and likely, the wisdom to solve knotty problems like the myth of overpopulation.

The overpopulation debate is bogus because it is like the medieval jailer blaming the prisoner for the prison conditions. Human beings, the prisoner living on earth (the prison) in this analogy, is not to blame for the prison conditions. The prisoner does not have the means to populate, clean, or depopulate the whole prison, only his/her own cell.

Who is the jailer? The overly self-important ego. It’s the exalted ego that finds everyone else to blame for the current situation, never taking into account the part it has played in the creation of the problem.

Yes, I agree, there is no other species on the planet that creates as much garbage as human beings do, or allow their dwellings to get so uninhabitable, moving on to the next environment, only to leave that one uninhabitable. There is no other organism that grows so far beyond its sustainability. But the reason humans are like that isn’t due to our sheer numbers, our lack of intelligence or concern for our environment. It’s not even our ego. It’s the over-inflated ego that puts us in this position- that preference for and idolization of the big-egoed leader, conqueror, multi-millionaire performer and/or business. The exalted ego jailed us and then told us that the prison crowding is our problem.

When the imprisoned finds the jailer’s weakness, or discovers that the jailer is really in the prisoner’s own mind, finding freedom becomes a matter of choosing it. If we are to survive and live long, fruitful lives that our bodies can sustain, we only have to identify and get rid of the over-extended ego, wherever it exists- including within our selves and our beliefs.

For many of us, that wisdom comes later than sooner. Years of frustration with ego-based problems forces us to realize the flaws and the ridiculousness of repeating the behavior. But anyone at any age who frees him or herself is freed from exalted ego for as long as he or she chooses it. Come “overpopulation” or under. Come dictator or democracy. Come corporate egotism or cooperative exchange. It’s up to each of us.

There is no overpopulation that will kill us. Only ego-preoccupation.

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Criticism, a Failure to Understand

A dream series last night had me as guest and contributor to a group of very rich people in both home and elegant hotel settings. They were all, at least socially, pleasant and welcoming of me. They assumed I was as good as they and that I was able to take care of myself (they weren’t going to treat me to lunch just because they had more money).

Money cant buy poverty sticker
Waking up, I combined elements of this dream sequence with last night’s falling asleep mantra (which was “no criticism, only understanding”), I can see that the rich were all very interested in their lives and in understanding more about their lives; they were wasting no time being critical of my lower status. So, I learn that rich people, whether they have money or not, are focused on learning more, not on criticism.

We may think that rich people can indulge themselves to learn anything they want because they don’t have to work a nine-to-five job, but that thought is not really wise or understanding; it is critical of rich people. It is being jealous and envious of those that have more choices, more time, more access, more connections, more education, etc.

The truth is that we can all spend more time on understanding and less on being critical; this will enrich our lives. And where we nine-to-fivers learn isn’t where the resource-rich learn. So we have an opportunity here the rich do not have. It’s kind of like the humorous bumper sticker that proclaims “I have something money can’t buy: poverty.”

I want to make it clear that when I am talking about being critical, I don’t mean a well-thought out or researched critique. I mean being critical of others in a general and in knee-jerk fashion, thoughtless of others and ignorant of the details.

For example, I see a lot of older people get very critical of the younger set and wishing for more of the simple pleasures, less stressful times, etc. But this just being thoughtlessly and egoically critical for the sake of one-sided complaining; it’s not for the improvement of or a good outcome for all involved.

Here’s a personal and current example: Recently, I became quite critical of one of my school instructors. I got so wrapped up in it that I talked to the Dean and had serious thoughts of quitting school. By being critical without understanding the details, my bad feelings extended to other people at school, including other students. The Dean’s counsel didn’t help much. I started a list of things wrong with the school so I could justify my decision to be critical and angry. Within a few weeks, I was talking and complaining to a different instructor who heard me out, but also explained a school policy that the “dreaded” instructor was limited by and that had embarrassed him. I had a choice then to let my “nemesis” off the hook and to look at the level of criticism I was embracing. It’s so easy to criticize when we don’t know all the nuances of the situation.

Being critical like this is not unlike a spreading disease. But this disease is one I can stop. I can nip it in the bud because I can choose understanding over being critical. And if I don’t understand the specific situation, at least I understand the cure.

Tonight I will again do my mantra as I go to sleep: phrase one with inhale, phrase two with exhale. “No criticism. Only Understanding.” “No criticism. Only Understanding.” “No criticism. Only Understanding.”

Then, if I can wipe the grin off my face that comes from being committed to understanding, and thus discovering a truer reality, I will be able to sleep.

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Dan Brown’s Inferno

What a delightful read! The Inferno blends the worlds of Art, Historical Inquiry, Travel, Architecture and Literature with the sciences of computerized tracking systems and Genetics.the-inferno-cover What it raised for me, particularly for this blog, is the issue of overpopulation. A lot of people are resistant to the idea of life extension due to the associated fears of overpopulation. They wonder how can we continue to feed, house and medically attend to the needs of exponentially rising numbers of people on the planet, especially seniors that are already overburdening the medical system? Wouldn’t increased human longevity just enhance the likelihood of Nature creating a plague in its own defense?

Well, in my opinion, here’s the best way to control population growth: education. People in democratic countries with easy access to higher education have fewer births; countries that give women the opportunities to get a graduate education (and therefore, land important careers) have fewer births, and people with adequate education to avoid disease are less of a burden on any medical system. It’s all about education, particularly the kind that raises consciousness and awareness, encourages intellectual curiosity and demonstrates how love and cooperation improve the mental, emotional and physical health of all concerned.

I have often chuckled at the bumper sticker that says, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” education vs ignoranceIgnorance is really what keeps people in the dark about whether or not to have children. Ignorance also keeps societies stuck on the idea that life extension (longevity) is going to hurt the planet. Really, isn’t one of the main reasons we have children is so we can vicariously enjoy them doing what we could not do? But with education, good health, fair economics and political freedom, we can do for ourselves what we would want for our children.

The Inferno isn’t a plague of disease; it’s a plague of dark emotions and a closed mind. I have referred earlier in this blog to the HIND factor that keeps us stuck in a hurting place: Hate, Ignorance, Neediness and Denial. HIND keeps us beHIND. It is dark and, like a proverbial Hell, almost impossible from which to extricate ourselves on our own strength. But with public education and free college level courses on the Internet, education is spreading. (Coursera, Khan Academy and elsewhere.)

I see that the darkness is slipping away due to increased availability of education and information. Traditions that kept people mentally blind are being exposed and tossed aside. And false education (government propaganda, big business media, religious myths, superstitions, etc.) is giving way to the light of truth. With computers virtually everywhere, we are learning to think beyond the confines of our own safety zones by using logic, comparison, and broad-scope intelligence.

We don’t really have to worry about overpopulation as much as we need to worry about losing the educated and wise ones that can help us see our future (like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) and let go of our dark past. We need our educated old ones; and we, ourselves, need to live long enough to become wise. Then, with us as a more intelligent species, Nature’s course and our course don’t have to go to war.

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Serious or Curious about Life

I am curious about some of the responses I get to my July 17th post that there is no hard evidence that life is serious. “In fact, not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the argument that life is serious…”

Living COLA

Living COLA

*“Well, isn’t illness serious?” (The response of a nurse.)
*“Finding out that a loved one cheated on you is serious.” (I am betting this person experienced the pain of infidelity.)
*“Losing a job is real serious.” (Perhaps a politician’s response, but it could be a hard-working person, living hand-to-mouth.)
*“I’d say death is serious,” say the masses. (There’s pun possibilities there.)

Why do we find these things serious? Perhaps because we treat all relationships as serious. Or because we made vows to a lover. Or we made promises to pay our bills. Or because sickness compromises our ability to make good… But except for actual death, all of these issues that seem serious (illness, infidelity, unemployment) are not life-serious; they are “game-changers” or “life-changers” or “difficult challenges,” but they usually don’t bring us to the end of life. End of life is serious on many levels.

What makes me curious is the way that we quickly reach for reasons, supported by the most dire examples, of why life is serious, as if to say that if there is no hard evidence that life is serious, then life, our job, our relationship, or our health has no meaning.

What? Life must be serious to be meaningful? I challenge that idea because what happens in real life is we take tremendously small challenges and make them out as if they are serious life-changing episodes in order for our lives (jobs, relationships, health) to have “meaning.”

Meaning doesn’t really come from seriousness. Meaning comes from knowing who we are and where we are going. In order to know who we are, we must be curious, open, loving and aware. I call those living COLA. Curiosity allows us to get more information before we deem something serious. Openness allows us to accept what we do not otherwise consider. (Such as this blog post.) Love brings a situation close to our breast. Awareness allows us to see and hear more than we sensed before.

Living COLA will get rid of the syndrome of excessive seriousness. Living COLA feels good, too. And because one ingredient is curiosity, it is slow to label passing circumstances as serious; first, it’s curious.

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Perfect Love Came First

When it first occurred to me how important to Life Love, Understanding and Gratitude are, I determined that those three energies were not just the place we are meant to go and to be, but that Love, Understanding and Gratitude were also where we came from. I still think that’s rose petals Image © Joao Estevao Andrade De Freitas

I think that we will make tremendous progress toward living in an enlightened society if we all know, or act as if, we belong first to Love, Understanding and Gratitude.

But here’s slightly different perspective that doesn’t require us to believe we came from a place where we are all perfected as Love, Understanding and Gratitude.

Let’s say that we all believed we came from the heart of Perfect Love. Let’s say that Perfect Love made us so that we could appreciate Perfect Love and grow in understanding of Love.

That’s not a stretch. Any major faith could agree to that. Just take the words “Perfect Love” and insert the name of the worshipped Deity.

I believe that if we were to believe that we came from such Love and made it our purpose to grow in understanding of it over our lifetime and simultaneously grow in gratitude/ appreciation of this life, and this love, one more thing would happen: we would all blossom into our own version of loveliness, as it were, covering the world with lilacs, bluebells, poppies, roses, carnations, orchids…

Let’s dream of this; it is our future if we will so claim it.

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3 Rules of Life

Elephant Journal published a great quote I’d like to share. It has to do with what really matters. Knowing what matters makes it easier to stay focused and to make a difference.
Written on a headstone: In fact, not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the argument that life is serious, though it is often hard and even terrible. And saying that, I am prompted to add what follows out of it: that since everything ends badly for us, in the inescapable catastrophe of death, it seems obvious that the first rule of life is to have a good time; and that the second rule of life is to hurt as few people as possible in the course of doing so. There is not third rule.  Brendan Gill

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Relief of Suffering

Relief of suffering is an essential element of life in my book (literally and figuratively). It was a tough chapter to write, and a tough chapter to keep short because there is so much suffering in this world. Suffering creates deep emotional blindness for many of us and sometimes, even rage against it.Cover image "Comfort Remedies"

As children, we watch our parents suffer and often we can do nothing to change what they are going through. They teach us at that formative age about dealing with it by their actions and words. And for me as an adult, the toughest thing to re-learn about suffering, was that suffering is NOT necessary… nor honorable. I was reminded of this recently watching the movie “Thor.”

The plot involves Thor being sent to Earth by his father Odin with the hope that the suffering Thor will encounter will redeem him. Yes, our culture continues to harp on and worship the idea of the redemptive power of suffering. For instance, we use the suffering and death of our soldiers to remind us that freedom costs us dearly. And those of us that were raised Christian are taught countless times that it took the sacrificial death of Jesus to redeem our lives from sin. Judaism also teaches about blood sacrifice especially in the incident wherein God blesses Abraham for his willingness to kill his son Isaac in order to meet God’s demand for a blood sacrifice.

“But we no longer ritualistically slaughter animals or humans to appease our Deity,” you say. But Christians of all varieties are committed to recalling the blood sacrifice of Christ in “Communion” (call it “Mass,” “Eucharist,” or “Holy” whatever) because his blood is central to Christian doctrine. And we still make memorials of our war dead. It’s very hard not to believe that suffering and sacrifice are honorable. They are not. They never were.

What is honorable is pushing through suffering when suffering is inevitable. But clinging to suffering or making up stories about its deep significance is a form of madness. Life does not honor suffering. Life abhors suffering and will sacrifice sometimes to remove or reduce suffering. Yet sacrifice is like pain: it is not to be taken lightly or just pushed through. Sacrifice and pain are warning signs to slow down, take stock and to creatively resolve the suffering as lovers, adults, and keepers of Life.

My wife has been called a Comfort Queen. She has taught me a lot and she is perhaps my best instructor in letting go of the idea of “the honor in suffering.” She is an RN and a wise woman. She excels in the relief of suffering and even wrote the book on comfort remedies. Just reading the words of her book communicates comfort. Get a copy, please. (Link below.) Use her suggestions, especially her 25 Positives. You may discover a love for Life that was missing.

Life without suffering is Paradise. We lose our need to strike out in Paradise. We lose our resistance to other viewpoints/ cultures/ gender differences, et cetera in Paradise. And we leave behind any idea that suffering was necessary or made our journey more meaningful.

When does relief of suffering become your partner in Life? To get you started, read a free chapter of Comfort Remedies (For Life on an Uncomfortable Planet) at, by Gloria Clarke, RN, my fabulous partner, adviser and best friend. Then make an investment in the relief of suffering by purchasing this book. It is full of remedies you can use to relieve the suffering of others: children and pets, with food, during travel or doctor visits, with gifts, meditation and all your senses.

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Commitment to Life or Commitment to Self?

Twelve Commitments To Life front cover

A respected friend (and endorser of my book The Twelve Commitments To Life) offered an idea the other day. “Why not change the title to “The Twelve Commitments To Self,” he suggested. I understood immediately where he was going. People buy and read millions of books about self-improvement. Perhaps a different title could attract that crowd of buyers.

My answer was decisive. Changing the title may help sales, but a change of title to include “self” would betray the theme of the book.

The Twelve Commitments To Life is not about building a better self. Yes, committing to Life will probably make you happier and more successful, but that isn’t the point to this book. The point is that without committing to Life, Life gets missed and finding the meaning of Life gets missed. And that often happens when people commit to a path of success in their field, their relationships, or their personal economy.

My lucid dream, as explained in the Forward, was a dialogue between me and Life. Not me and myself. Life said, “If you want to know the meaning of Life, you have to commit to it.” And when I asked for particulars, Life gave a description of Life at its basic level, not a description of myself at my basic level.

Life (and to some degree my experience of Life) at its basic level includes health of that particular being, an environment that is suitable for Life and awareness of Life. (I think all living beings on some level are self-aware; scientific studies have proven that even plants are self-aware.) As I explained in the book, basic Life also includes things like breath (exchange of energies), arousal through tactile senses, balance and more. These elements of Life aren’t just about me or my survival. It’s about the survival and thriving of the “big L,” Life.

My friend agreed that my book is a different approach from most other books on self-improvement. He specifically likes that it doesn’t talk about the Law of Attraction or success, or get snarled in God-talk.

I know this approach is unique. And it isn’t easy. It may not attract the seekers of success. But the reward, dear reader, is discovering the meaning of Life. That is no small achievement. And that is no small reward.

P.S. After concentrating on practicing the book’s material for over a year, I am working on a new book that takes this partnership with Life and its purposes to a new level. Using this paradigm, the experience of Life gets easier and more rewarding. I think you’re going to love it, understand more about Life and live in more gratitude as a result.

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New Year, New Life, New Mind

New Year, New Life, New MindCalifornia College San Diego trademarked image


Three Reasons Why I Am Going Back to School

What does your new year look like? Mine looks amazingly different. It started last December 11th, when I began going to school full time. I’ve committed to getting degrees in Computer Science, first an Associate’s, then a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s.

The decision to return to school was not a hard one. Not at all. My freelance writing jobs had me spending more time chasing down leads than getting paid. (Money is in short supply where I market my services.) Sales of my book “The Twelve Commitments To Life” are too little. (I didn’t really expect sales to jump off the page anyway. I mean, how many people in stressful economic times want to look at “more” or “better” ways to commit themselves?) And a full time job offer fell through. (I am so grateful that fell through. Do I really want another “job” if I could have a career instead?) So, the first reason is my personal economic prospects.

Another reason going back to school is an easy decision is due to my high interest in brain exercises. (See posts on Brain Fitness.) Having a brain that is actively learning and delving into challenges is fun. It keeps me interested in life, how life works and helps me connect with how other people make their life work. Learning is a life-long activity and longevity requires us to have something to look forward to (link to looking forward). Going to class may be worth looking forward, but even more compelling is building the logical framework that comes from an extended course of study.

The third reason going back to school was an easy decision is related to the school I chose. I looked at five local options, two of which are done mostly online. I looked at tuition and related costs, graduation rates, the courses offered and student reviews. My choice, California College San Diego, was heads and shoulders above the rest. Besides having exactly the courses I wanted to take (Computer Science with an emphasis on Networking Systems), the staff was exceptionally friendly and confident. I believe they were confident because their graduation rate was above the rest, student complaints are low, they know how to help students get financing, their student/teacher ratio is exceptional and their learning system is efficient. California College San Diego is a for-profit university and, set up on a business model, they have really dialed in on what makes learning efficient. Here’s a link if you are interested in learning more about California College San Diego.

As I begin the new year, I am excited to actually be doing what I advocate for: mental clarity, commitment, health, understanding, longevity and living fully. I hope to give further posts about the ways my mind opens and develops in school. I also hope this plants seeds of encouragement to others to consider starting a new career or to support the educational community.

In particular, I will be studying a line of thinking that is almost entirely a left-brain, logic-based approach. I, however, am primarily right-brained. I love creating, pulling things together into a whole. I love the process of creation more than the arrival. To me, deadlines are fuzzy and feeling trumps logic. Now, all of that will be challenged, helping me to develop a more balanced right and left-brained mind, or as Daniel Pink calls it in his book, “A Whole New Mind.”

P.S. Thank you, Daniel for your inspiration. I love your book.Book cover, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

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Good Grief. It’s Christmas

I am troubled by the many people I know that are suffering today, Christmas Day. Many are grieving recent deaths. Others are grieving deaths that get revisited every Christmas.
Almost a week ago, my friend Martha posted on Facebook something to the effect that “Holidays may be nice for other people, but not for me. This is probably the worst holiday season of my entire life.” She suffered the recent loss of her father and was also dealing with other job related losses.
Her comment reminded me of a neighbor (I will call her “K”) I was checking in on two days ago. K. lost her mother no more than four weeks ago. They didn’t get along that well, she confessed, so there was some relief that that struggle was over, but her sense of loss was profound. This Sunday she reflected that for at least two weeks she had been in a mental fog. Nothing was making sense. It was almost as if K. had lost a part of herself.
While we were talking, something new came to me about grief. This came to me while I was empathizing with K.’s mental fog while she appeared perfectly normal. She was not missing an arm or leg. K. hadn’t fallen down a staircase. No one had put petroleum jelly in her eyes or stuffed her mouth with cotton. The mental fog was, as physical cause and effect go, inexplicable.
But there was an explanation for K.’s sense of physical loss. Her energy was sapped so much that she couldn’t think normally, act normally or respond as she was accustomed.
It must have been an angel that helped me see where the energy had gone because it was clear as a bell. Her mother had borrowed it to transition to her new home. K. looked at me and smiled. “Yes,” she agreed. Her mother had needed her energy. And K. was happy to loan it.
Christmas Eve I sent some of K’s story to Martha on Facebook. Not only had she predicted that it would be the worst holiday season of her entire life, Martha’s dog died on Christmas Eve. She was in shambles. But hearing this story and my confirmation that she gladly gave her pet the energy he needed to pass on, she wrote, “That produced a cleansing flood of tears… Thank you for your wise words.” Perhaps my checking in on K. was of greater value than just to her and her mother. Another pet goes forward with the conscious gift of loving energy only her life partner could give.
Good grief, Charlie Brown. It’s Christmas!

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Age Is Just a Number

Thanks to my Facebook friend Bernardo Mendez, (Host of, I have an inspiring short interview to share with you. Bern brought my attention to an amazing 82 year-old, Sister Madonna Buder. She doesn’t let her age stop her from running triathlons and Iron Man competitions. Why do we think we have to slow down and be age-appropriate? I think that is limiting and self-fulfilling prophesy.

What do you want to do in your advanced age?
I suggest you do something big.
I host conversations and videos on living fully in spite of our age at Life Forever

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Brain Health with Dr Andrew Weil

Dr. Andrew Weil, MD is well-recognized for his willingness to go beyond the medicine that US physicians are taught. He tells in his book Breathing, the Master Key to Self Healing, that he had to discover on his own the power of breath to heal and inspire shifts in mood (essential to healing).

Thanks to a reader of this blog, I was directed to a short yet helpful interview with Dr. Weil in which he discusses depression, brain chemistry, the power of thought to change the brain, anti-inflammatory diets and supplements. He also talks about one of my favorite subjects: gratitude. He considers gratitude both a discipline and medicine.

Thanks, Jim, for the tip.

Here’s the link

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This is your brain on fire

Recent health studies are of interest to more than health experts: they are important for those of us that want to forever maintain our mental clarity.
Chronic inflammation may be the leading cause of brain damage, say scientists. It causes damage to the brain’s blood vessels and may cause strokes. Of note: a diet high in Omega-6 fats triggers an inflammatory reaction when they are metabolized. The good news is that we can lower our consumption of Omega-6 and easily increase Omega-3’s. Read the article for more details.
Smoking is now linked with brain deterioration. We have long known how smoking affects the lungs, but this confirms my suspicions that smoking changes our behavior and mental wiring. I hope you like the article.
Mental decline is common with kidney deterioration, says a new study across three US universities. Faltering kidney functions can be slowed with diet and other lifestyle changes. Read more here.
The future is a choice we make today. Mental deterioration is something we choose now, before our present clarity slips away. Then, making a commitment to mental health is easy and rewarding.

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Pioneering the Future or Repeating the Past

Trapped by habitual patterns is our surest guarantee that our future will be a repeat.

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The Purpose of Gratitude

In the midst of loss, the thought of it having any purpose is beyond comprehension. Yet the holidays can be particularly difficult times if memories of loved ones steal your holiday peace, joy or sense of belonging.
On the other hand, maybe you have moved beyond this hopelessness and you want to hear that all of life, including partings, have a purpose. Because, if partings have a purpose, then you can leave the past behind and find more joy in your future prospects.
I’d like to share from a blog post that touched me about the purpose of gratitude. Tabitha Jayne is no stranger to grief. She helps people work through it. And an attitude of gratitude is one of her most powerful tools.
In this post, she points out that gratitude is a state of being, not just a helpful practice. It transforms us because it leads us to love; and love leads to action, which leads to change, which creates transformation.
You can read more on her blog site:
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Mastery of Life

He’s a self-described oddball. He follows his curiosity with a vengeance no matter what others tell him is right. Yet, Robert Greene has created another book sensation, Mastery, following his books “The Art of Seduction,” “The 48 Laws of Power,” “The 50th Law,” and “The 33 Strategies of War.”
What I love about the book is how it shows the pathway great leaders have taken. No, what I really love, is that we learn that the path to greatness is ours to take, just as those before us. All it takes is flexibility, commitment and awareness of our unique contribution to humanity. I also love that we can all do this. Even if we are over 50, there is time.
Take action. Send me a receipt of your book purchase from Amazon, either “Mastery” or “The Twelve Commitments To Life,” and I will send you an inspiring story that came to me in a dream two weeks ago. I named it, “How to Become An Expert at Life.” You can email me your proof of purchase: and I will email you the details of this amazing dream.
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The Future In Our Present

Mr. Gandhi has a very cool and inspired point here… and I am in no position to try and one-up Mr. Gandhi, but this view seems kind of dated now. The future/ present interchange actually runs both directions. So, as much as our present affects our future, our future affects our present. In other words, we are not only the present, creating a better future, we are the future, blessing the present (but only to the degree that we are present with our future self).

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We don’t see things as they are

This quote is so well articulated that I am tempted to leave it “as is.” It’s profound.
At the same time, I feel a corollary coming on. Here I go:
“We see separation because we are not whole within.”

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Are You Happy?

Finally, medical science is beginning to look at how happiness affects our ability to stay healthy, heal and age.
I was listening to the YouTube video of the First Annual Healthy and Active Aging Conference at UCSD, October 2012.  and I was happy to hear the first speaker (Colin A. Depp, Ph.D.) discuss how wellness studies are trying to catch up with studies of illness.
Later speakers talked about hip/knee replacements and Alzheimer’s, completely different approaches to healthy aging. (Were they not able to find more doctors willing to talk about wellness?) But the first speaker had some great information about what activities and circumstances enhance happiness across the age spectrum, as well as some differences between ages. For instance, young people are not so happy to work. Older people tend to enjoy work. Younger people tend to have the most happiness with their spouse and older people tend to find happiness with anyone but their spouse. (Great audience response there!)
Of note: exercise and antidepressant medication seem to have the same amount of effect on our ability to be happy; positive moods help increase longevity; TV watching is not good for happiness; paying attention to what activities make us happy has the ability to make us happy for longer periods; getting older is good for happiness.
Here’s what’s funny: we often spend a lot of time doing what is not in the interest of our own happiness. This “disconnect” surprises researchers because happiness is a strong motivator for humans. Why would we choose illness over wellness? Sadness over happiness? No rewards over satisfaction?
Happiness is a key element of wellbeing and general health. Happiness is infectious; it improves our vital social connections. “Happiness,” according to Aristotle “is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
Recently, I recorded a video for YouTube called “Healing the Rift,” and it talks about healing the rift between our spiritual and physical selves. And before we can actually heal the rift, we must get rid of what’s holding us back. I called it the “BARF” in our lives. BARF is an acronym for “Bitterness, Anger, Resentment and Fear. These forces reside strongly in our physical chemistry and have a habit of arising without our awareness and, on occasion, spiraling out of control. I would suggest in this post that it’s the BARF that is in our way of choosing wellbeing, happiness and satisfaction.
Do you want wellness, happiness and satisfaction? It’s not that hard, but we must choose it and choose to become aware of what is holding us back. Are we telling ourselves that we are happy as we deserve to be? Are we settling for money, convenience or safety? Are we aware that these diversions to happiness are feeding depression, anxiety and illness?
Please take stock of your happiness level. To find out more about improving your wellbeing, without any hype about products or motivational techniques, watch the video from the UCSD linked above. See if my “Healing the Rift” video series (Videos 1a, 1b, 2 and 3) helps get the BARF out of your life. (Link is above.) Alternatively, we can get to happiness right now by getting some additional oxygen to our head with exercise, some belly laughs or deep breathing. Wellness and happiness are not hard, we just have to choose them consistently.

See “Optimism Rewires Our Brains” post.

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The Election Is Over. Not

I, for one, am glad to see the presidential campaigning over for at least a couple of years. Because now we can vote on what matters.
In my view, we vote every day, not just on election day. We vote every day by what we purchase, how we raise (and support) our children and how much we act in behalf of our future. This is where the rubber meets the pavement. This is not voting rights or electoral college mathematics. It is the future we are creating each moment.

I am also done with the prophets who insist that whoever sits in the White House determines the direction this country will take. They want us to think (and maybe they think so, too) that a democratically elected government is how things get done. A popularly elected government is actually one of the worst places to get things done. The kind of governments that get things done are dictatorships. Yet, a country run by democratic principles can get things done IF “the governed” are consistently choosing their future via their daily actions.

Democracies often get hung up on legislation and enforcement. We also get hung up in our daily lives: when we are inconsistent with our children; we confuse them about what is relevant and what matters. If we change our parenting decisions regularly, our children will react unreliably.

Just so, when we choose to purchase erratically or always buy the latest improved mass produced products or commit to buying first from local vendors, the economy develops in that direction.

When we react negatively to our circumstances, instead of responding based on what we know to be true- that our basic nature is to be loving, understanding and with gratitude- our future becomes more reactive.

Let’s take this quieting of the political rhetoric to reflect on how moment by moment we make our own futures and how we set up our children’s futures. Let’s mind the vote for what works on a daily basis.

We do not need to be limited to a role of being “the governed.” We can be the president of the future by voting (choosing) what works and what matters consistently each day. Vote for life. Vote for commitment. Vote for who you really are.

Posted in Commitment, Enlightened Action, Our Shared Future | Leave a comment

Twelve Commitments To Life book reviewed

Recently, the author of “Massive Abundance,” Christopher Stafford, recorded a video book review of (my book) The Twelve Commitments To Life. Christopher is a successful coach and entrepreneur, so he knows what works.
The Twelve Commitments To Life is one of those things that works!

“Rich has distilled the essence of what we should all be thinking about… Everybody of all ages would really enjoy this book. What I love about it is that it isn’t an airy-fairy, fluffy bunny kind of thing. He breaks it down into practical language and then into action steps…to have an amazing life.”


Your comments are welcome. Use the “leave a comment” link or comment box below.

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Thank you Dr. Gordon Livingston, author of “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart” for a wise book about lessons learned in life. I have always been grateful to learn from others’ mistakes. Why should I go through the pain if I can learn the lesson without it?

Many chapters of Gordon’s book have inspired ideas for this blog, and this one is, so far, the best. The idea came from the chapter titled, “Nobody likes to be told what to do.” Though I do not have people to boss around, such as children or employees, I still wanted to see what Doctor Livingston (I presume) had to say. (Sorry, I had to throw in that historic line.)

Very briefly, he starts with the supposition that we all tend to be oppositional. We can’t help it from age 2 and on. But parents can take their desire to protect the child too far by imagining the opposition is going to ruin the child’s life. Typically, the parents impose rules, punishments and consequences that end up supporting the child’s fears that the parents do not understand and so they must be opposed.

Dr. Livingston suggests a better model for handling life’s instability than fear: commitment, determination and optimism. That’s what we can model. What we can do to foster those life relationships is giving them appreciation.

Appreciation is another face of the kind of gratitude that I have delineated as one aspect of our true nature. (Remember, our true, eternal nature is essentially made up of four “things”: Love, Understanding, Gratitude and Energy.) Appreciation and approval help fill out the dimensions of gratitude. I can have gratitude for situations, even when they are difficult. I can give approval to some plan or task well done. Appreciation is how I can connect with people that I live or work with.

What I am loving about appreciation right now is that it is the best way to focus my energies when I am relating to others. I am often guilty of what Dr. Livingston wrote about: fear and the resulting “need” to control others lest they disappoint me, hurt me, embarrass me or try to gain control over me. But fear cannot exist in the same space as appreciation.

I believe appreciation can do wonders for any working or family relationship. Appreciation for others around me will help me focus on the positive. It will help the receiver open up to me and to flourish in the shared space. With appreciation in the air, children and co-workers can put their energies on solutions rather than protections and preemptive maneuvers.

Try a little more appreciation and if the results are as I suspect, I’d love to hear back in the comment section.

Dr. Gordon Livingston’s book is available on Amazon.

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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 26

Brain Fitness Blog, Day 26, September 5, 2012

“Tell Us Apart” continued with “dah/gah,” “doe/toe” and “bu/du.” Today I spent even more time in the practice areas. For “doe/ toe” it paid off. And though some of my answers were more intuitive than “heard” with my ears, I surprised myself. I advanced through levels 11, 12 and 13. I was in level 14, almost at the last “heat” when the training ran out of time! My points were not stellar, but they were up from yesterday and according to the Brain Fitness summary, the most difficult so far. (Score: 828.)

My “Match It” score (854) suffered a bit today with average difficulty. I felt my concentration wasn’t as sharp as yesterday.

“Sound Replay” again, was the highest difficulty so far. (Oddly enough, Brain Fitness doesn’t increase the difficulty each session. It’s like life that way. The folks at Posit Science give the participants some slack, presumably to further establish the progress and to avoid discouraging them.) My score was just over 1000 at 1055. And even though the difficulty has been worse, some days even moderate difficulty can stress me when I hear 4 or 5 “konks” on the head for wrong answers. Yes, the sound you get when making a wrong answer sounds more like a “konk” than a soft “try again.” And if I could change one thing in this program, I think this should be considered.

“Listen and Do” was at a fairly high difficulty level today. My score (749) was higher than last time but not any achievement.

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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 25

In light of the pedantic results, I will keep this post short.

“Tell Us Apart” continued with dah/ gah, doe/ toe and bu/ du. Only bu/du made any progress.

“Match It” challenged me to match the pairs in fewer than 63 clicks. I did. And I noticed slightly better concentration. Points were 1454, a new high.

“Sound Replay” gave me a decent score, my third highest. 1216.

“Story Teller” was finished today. There will be no more of these stories with challenges to my re-collective abilities. These were not really that hard, so I am sad to see it “go” without more of a challenge.

Now, two of the six programs are done. What’s left are: “Tell Us Apart,” “Match It,” “Sound Replay” and “Listen and Do.” Except for “Match It,” these are the ones that challenge me the most.

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Twelve Commitments To Life Reviewed

We are happy to announce a recent review of “The Twelve Commitments To Life,” published in the September 2012 issue of Life Connection magazine, here in San Diego, North County.

Christy Johnson, a local editor, connector and friend, wrote the review. I loved her dedication to exploring the book and the theme. Thanks, Christy!

“The Twelve Commitments To Life” is available at Amazon and through our webstore page at Wicked Coffees. Amazon sells both the paperback and the Kindle versions.

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Brain Fitness Blog Day 24

“High or Low,” the game/ training that opened all previous sessions was finished today. This announcement came after 9 minutes into the session, so the session was 6 minutes shorter than usual. The difficulty scale showed that I had encountered the hardest so far and I am sorry to see it “go.” It was such an easy way to get started, even if it got challenging to tell the difference as the program got into its last few days. “Congratulations!” It chirped.

“Match It” continued on the 30-place grid. I don’t seem to be improving much with my concentration, but the program keeps giving me kudos for finishing the grids with clicks to spare. My score was 1352. A new high.

“Sound Replay” began where I left of, replaying five sounds. I don’t seem to be able to start off that way, I need four sounds to get me established first. The five sounds that employ like sounding words still is a challenge for me, the “but, tub, buck, tag, tuck” variety. The 1210 score was okay and better than my average, but I would like to master these similar sounding words.

“Story Teller” continued with a story about Martin, Lucas, and Jeremy’s amazing catches of fish. I missed today’s scoring, but the difficulty was rated as harder than all previous. It appears that I have good recollection of a majority of the story’s details as I consistently miss none or only one or two of the questions. Maybe being a journalist accounts for some of that. I listen to people’s stories a lot and find them fascinating.

I must apologize to my readers for such uninteresting reports. Sometimes these reports are more for my accountability than for interesting content…unless you are evaluating brain fitness software, which would be great.

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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 23

Brain Fitness Blog, Day 23, August 30, 2012

“High or Low” reached a pretty high score (4614) today, through a few pitch changes and rated as difficult as I have had before. I get a better score if I am more prompt at pressing the “Start”. Another thing I noticed: the visual rewards come more quickly in “High or Low” than the rest of the “games.” That gives the entire session a more positive start.

“Tell Us Apart” continued to challenge me with telling the difference between some “d,” “b,” and “g” sounds. For dee/ gee, I found it impossible (so far) to get past level 8. For dah/ gah I can’t get past level 6 (half way). For doe/ toe, I am stuck in level 11. I have been taking more time in the practice area playing the sounds over and over to find a difference. For dah/ gah, I had the weird experience of hearing both as “bah” today. After practicing for a few minutes, I started to hear “dah” as “dah.” Then I went to practicing of  “gah” over and over. After ten or so practices, I heard the sound shift from “bah” to “gah.” Then I went back to “dah” and heard “bah.” I listened to “dah” until I heard “dah” and not “bah.” I then went back to “gah” and heard “bah.” I listened to “gah” until I heard “gah,” not “bah.” Back and forth. I may have to spend hours learning to hear the difference. I know it is possible to hear the difference, I just don’t hear it on the first play. All I hear is “bah.”

I didn’t notice points for “Tell Us Apart” today, but at the session summary, I noticed that it is at the highest difficulty I have had so far, though equal to one other session.

For “Match It,” I moved from the 24-place grid to the 30-place grid and seemed to do well there as well. (I passed through this before when I was doing the “easier” speech level. My points were 1278, my highest yet for “Match It.”

“Story Teller” was faster, with lots of details to pay attention to. There were three story segments and for two of them, I answered 100% correct. Points were 908, another high at what the graph shows as the highest difficulty so far in the program.

I am encouraged to recall that experts in brain plasticity (found in the SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness) say they can foresee no limits to brain development. And while some age factors may slow progress, we can always learn more if we apply ourselves with interest and combine this focus with periods of reward and rest.

(photo credit

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Optimism Rewires Our Brain

This link is to a review of “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain” by the psychologist and neuroscientist Elaine Fox. The review (by Deborah Kotz) is short and the information is good. She makes “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain” a promising read. And while every activity we engage in affects our brain in some way, optimism is particularly pleasurable. But if it seems out of your reach, this review may give you some hope.

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Our Brains Are Plastic

“Our brains are plastic. Every experience alters our brain’s organization on some level.” The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness

Neuroscience is no longer just for scientists. It’s for anyone at any age that wants to stay engaged and have meaningful experiences. Seniors (babyboomers and older) are particularly at risk for mental incapacitation- and they often don’t even know they are at risk or “losing it.”

Please read my recent post on using the brain’s plasticity for a more mentally engaged life span… You know you don’t want to go down the road of dementia. Now is the time to take action.


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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 22

Day 22, August 29, 2012

“High or Low” started getting noticeably hard today. It wasn’t so hard as to be an unpleasant exercise. I know it’s harder because I got a few more wrong and not because I wasn’t paying attention. According to the summary, the 150 millisecond, 500 Hz tones got harder by 4 steps, the 100 millisecond, 500 Hz tones were harder by one step and the 100 millisecond, 1000 Hz tones became more difficult by 3 steps. The daily summary at the end of the session indicated that it was the third most challenging session of “High or Low” that I have completed. Points were 3122. Down from yesterday’s 3426, but better than two sessions ago.

“Tell Us Apart” was also difficult. I worked on deh/ geh, baa/ paa and dee/ gee. I am at a standstill for the most part, spending my time just trying to hear the differences and unconcerned about score, because I can’t hear what I need to hear to move forward. The daily summary indicated that it was the most difficult I have completed. Points were 800, a slightly lower than average score for me.

“Match It” changed from sound level 2 to level 3. I didn’t seem to have any trouble with this sound level (less emphasized and faster) though the challenge started with simple grids of eight sounds to match. I got through those easily enough, proceeded to the 16 grid and was working on the 24 grid when we ran out of time. Difficulty showed as medium, but it gave me my second highest score.

“Listen and Do” started where I left off last time, recalling an order of 6 commands. I saw that 6 is the toughest level the program assigns, but I am still not up to it. After a couple of wrong answers, the instructions switched to a different sort of activity. The points dropped as well and I earned only 587.

Again, I felt like my head was full of instructions and it wasn’t ready to let go of the last set when the next set was given. The new instructions seemed to drop right out. Not “in one ear, out the other.” It was more like I actually heard the instructions, but they wouldn’t fit, or had no place to grab onto, so they were as quickly lost. The Brain Fitness score was low, but the summary indicated that I had been dealing with the most difficult level so far.

This second half is proving to be a tough one. But now that I am into this for over four weeks, I feel just as determined to see it through. I like having a challenge to exercise and stimulate my brain. And though I seem to be operating at my maximum, the games are not a stressful sort of exercise; and there is just enough play included to let me smile my way through the tough spots.

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Day 21, Brain Fitness blog

Day 21, August 27, 2012

“High or Low” was more interesting today because I played it much faster. As soon as one score was made, I clicked “Start” sooner. I think this made me more alert. Today I scored 3426 points, up from yesterday’s 2828.

“Tell Us Apart” worked on level 10 of shee/ chee, which felt too tough for me to master. Though I passed through levels 10 and 11, I got kicked back down and really, made no progress.  Deh/ geh made no progress either. I wandered through levels 6 and 7. For baa/ paa, I went up 4 levels. My points were just average at 875.

“Sound Replay” earned me 1004 points. I struggled mostly with the replays of “uck” and “ug” combinations. (Buck, bug, puck, tug…) It was an average score for me, down from last session’s 1390. “Sound Replay” was the second hardest session so far.

“Listen and Do” felt pretty good today. I handled 5 instructions, then into 6, I was bumped back to 4, then I sailed into and through 5 and into 6 again. My score (966) was the third highest of 9 sessions I have completed. Not bad. Feeling good. I can do this.

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Brain Fitness, Day 20

Day 20 August 24, 2012

“High or Low” was completely different today, launching an evaluative game to compare and measure performance so far. “High or Low” has never been very hard, so I was interested to see if any improvement was visible. According to the program, yes.  I had a 33% improvement, moving to the ability to distinguish 32 millisecond sweeps, whereas I had started with 48 millisecond sweeps.

After that performance review, the program moved on to “Tell Us Apart,” where I am usually given the task of telling apart similar sounding parts of speech, like “baa” from “daa” and “gee” from “kee.” Apparently, I have reached my max at this level and speech version of “sheh/ cheh.” I know they don’t sound this similar in regular speech. There, I can tell the difference between “sherry” and “cherry.” But here, at level 11 (there are 14 levels), I cannot tell the difference. They both sound like sheh. I got through level 11 going on intuition, then quickly failed level 12. So I knew I’d be sent back to 11 (where I am shaky) and back to 10, like usual. At 10, I can barely tell the difference.

Next, at level 6 of deh/ geh, it was tough for me. Also, I heard noises in the next room and I felt anxious that I wouldn’t be able to hear the sound when it was presented. I wondered why the program doesn’t let you ask to hear that again before you answer. The only option is to go to the practice mode and hear the two sounds for practice, which isn’t the same as asking to hear the presented sound once again before answering. So, I got sent back to level 5 of deh/ geh. It is much, much easier for me on this level, whereas on level 6, I just try to let my gut answer instead of my ears.

After time ran out on “deh/ geh,” I started on level 1 of “baa/ paa.” In the time allotted, I worked up through level 7 and into level 8. As it turns out, the grid of difficulty shows that though it’s not a lot, this session was the hardest I have ever experienced in “Tell Us Apart.”

“Sound Replay” started with the explanation that the program was moving to a new speech level, from level 2 to 3. It is part of the scientific approach behind this set of training. The session was really hard for me. (I expected the new level to be easier to hear, but I wasn’t used to the faster pace.) I worked into replaying 5 sounds and then 6. I got my highest score yet, 1390, way up from last time I played, 984.

“Listen and Do” also increased the sound level from 2 to 3, which is less emphasized and faster. The speed, at first, sounded more like normal speech. But five minutes into the game, I felt my brain was too full. Instructions started falling out of my head, like an overstuffed piñata and it became hard to see/ find the characters or buildings I was supposed to identify in order. But I moved through level 5 and onto level 6! I got the first correct, then two wrong, and then I was moved back to level 5. I tore through level 5 and then, on level 6, I again got the first one right and the next two wrong.

Once finished, the difficulty graph indicated that I was only working at moderate difficulty. (I don’t get that!) My points were at 1006, my second highest and less than one set from my highest score, 1020.

All in all, my results were very good. Thank you, very much.

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New Brain Training

I just found two more brain training programs for you to check out.

I have not tried them, so I am not making any recommendations. I just want to add to the list of options. (I won’t be adding any games to my training now, to better evaluate the Posit Science “Brain Fitness” training I am taking now.)

Any reviews about brain games you have tried out are welcome in the response box (or link) below.

The new links are:

See the first list. (Scroll down to the page bottom, please.)

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Life honors purposeful living

The National Institute of Aging’s Dr. Robert Butler found that older people who could articulate their sense of purpose lived 8 years longer than those who can’t. In Okinawa, the word “Ikigai” means “the reason for which I wake up in the morning.”

This Karate teacher can still buckle young men to their knees. His dedication to passing down a Marshall Art is his life purpose and seems to be paying off. He’s 102 years old.

Image and description courtesy of Blue Zones

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Brain Fitness, Day 19

Brain Fitness Blog, Day 19, August 23, 2012

High or Low” opened with a continuation of the previous high and low sounds, but they were much harder today. I advanced through two more levels of difficulty without stress. Points today were 2828, up from yesterday.

My “Match It” score today was a bit lower, but not too much. “Match It” was tougher today due to the similarity of sounds, like it increases difficulty in “Sound Replay.” Now, there is a 30-place grid of mostly similar sounds, like “tip, bid, pit, big, tig, pig…”

“Sound Replay” was tough again for the same reasons as before. I have been practicing a little, trying to recall the order of sounds like, “buck, guck, pup, tug,” and “tip, big, bid, pit.” I did better on four sounds today, and I struggled with five sounds in a row, as before. BTW, Posit Science, the tips that are available before the session were not much help.

“Story Teller” used the new, faster voice again today, bringing the difficulty level to its highest so far. My score of 650 was slightly higher than yesterday. I could have done better, it seems, if the answers that were offered to choose from were not so subject to interpretation.

The best thing about today was that I didn’t have as much brain freeze as I had yesterday in level 5 of “Sound Replay.”

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Brain Gamers Wanted

AARP is asking for folks to try out some brain games. The link may dry up soon, as the deadline is Wednesday, August 23. Just in case you can get involved, click the story link.

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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 18

Day 18, August 22, 2012

“High or Low” kicked off another day of brain training. I noticed that I went through 3 levels, with each level not only using shorter tones with less time between them, they seem to also be coming closer to each other on the musical scale. So, that is where this is going? I can see the benefit of that. The score was 2484 today, growing higher each day.

“Match It” continued from yesterday’s unfinished grid  when the time ran out.  I continued to finish the 30-place grids with clicks to spare. My score was similar to yesterday, too: 1122, which is third best of twelve. The strategy I figured out several sessions ago has continued to work for me. I start with a single row and work down to the next. Before I go to the third, I replay several in those first two rows so the sounds are better fixed in my mind. I quickly start finding matches and the rewards that come from the matches are not only personally rewarding; they eliminate the number of grid pieces so other matches get easier to find.

“Sound Replay” was a replay of earlier days, moving forward, then getting a string of wrong answers, which create a sort of “brain freeze,” so as I get moved back down to easier sets. Once there, I still can’t put the sounds in order until several plays later.

I see the metaphor between my brain and a computer when it freezes up. Or my brain and the brain of a person under incredible stress, like I have been reading about in “The Unthinkable,” by Amanda Ripley. The author explores the thinking processes of people during disasters like 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina. Under unplanned stress, even for survivors of building emergencies and previous hurricanes, our brains can easily stall for several minutes (or days) in denial and disbelief before they move to decision and decisive action. Firefighters, police and pilots are usually given special training to overcome the normal stress-induced brain freeze, as explained by this very observant author and journalist for Time Magazine.

“Story Teller” was next and I finished the assignment for “Urban Jungle” with a “superb” rating. In the last few minutes of the 15-minute session, the speaker was changed and her pace nearly doubled for a new story called “Dahlias.” I missed a couple of questions in the faster reading gait and finished with an average (for me) score of 634.

The daily summary shows that “Match It” is at a level almost as difficult as I have encountered previously and “Story Teller” was harder than all previous sessions.

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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 17

Day 17, August 21, 2012

“High or Low” was, again, a very good session. It gets me on board attention-wise without stress. I particularly feel good when I see the occasional rewards of animal pictures: up-close reptiles, wild cats, apes, horses and birds etc. Today’s points were similar to last session: 1975.

“Tell Us Apart” returned to baa/daa, where I got through most of level 14 when time for the round ended. We went on to sheh/che and deh/geh. I just started paa/ gaa when the fifteen minute session closed. Points today were 877, slightly up from last session last week.

“Match It” continued with the 30-grid scheme. With additional concentration, it wasn’t that much harder than the 24-place grid. I think I’m getting the hang of this!

“Story Teller” continued with the zoo story from last week. I aced the first set of questions (15 out of 15), then for the second heat, I missed two out of 20. (I admit to being distracted.) My points held up from last time and even became a high score for me on this exercise. Story Teller is supposed to help me “keep more information in mind at a time.”

I had to skip yesterday’s daily exercise. Sometimes, I feel too distracted and don’t want to suffer a bad score. I hope this isn’t an indication of poor discipline on my part. Today’s results didn’t indicate that the rest had caused any slip in progress.

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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 16

Day 16, August 17, 2012

Today was not an exciting day on the Brain Fitness Blog front. There, I said it.

“High or Low” continued with the new sound pattern. It’s still not very hard and I wondered where it is leading. My score of 1980 was up from 1462 yesterday. That’s a pretty nice improvement, but it’s not been that hard with the new sound. I am just proceeding with shorter and shorter sound bursts. The best part here is starting the hour-long session with an activity that doesn’t stress me out.

“Tell Us Apart,” the listening game to distinguish sounds. Baa/daa got harder by four steps. I think I got to level 13.  13 is a tough nut to crack. Sheh/ cheh got harder by seven steps.  (But progress started at a low level.) Just a personal note: if you’re haven’t done these exercises, my guess is that you would be surprised how difficult it is to tell these sounds apart when re-sampled this way. Then  the practice for deh/ geh got underway.

Points for “Tell Us Apart” today were 839. It didn’t feel like it was harder or that I made fewer correct answers than yesterday, but the score was lower.  It’s #4 in 7. According to the graph chart, difficulty was up from yesterday.

“Match It” (Concentration) was a good day. I was advanced from grids of 24 to grids of 30. I mean, I thought I was doing well, not that the program decided I needed a change. My points were up to 1062, by second best. I am taking more time to remember and recall is improving.

“Listen and Do” indicated during the exercise that I wasn’t making any progress, just repeating my established level, so it was time for something different. It went from “click the yellow dog, then click the girl in the yellow dress, then click the Sunrise Bakery” (et cetera), to “Move the short boy to the man in the yellow hat, then move the tall postal worker to the hospital, then move the tall doctor to the bakery.” I did that almost flawlessly about 12 times. Then time ran out. Points today were up from yesterday slightly: 688 from 657. I must be at a plateau for now.

The daily summary tells me that there are 24 sessions left; at my pace (5 per week), that’s about five more weeks. After which, I plan on starting the visual enhancement training.

At this point, I am just glad that the stressful week is over. Tomorrow I will get out of the house and sell Wicked Coffees at the Farmer’s Markets, see some new people and give my “logic brain” a rest.

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Heat, Stress and Living to 100

I don’t now about you, but the heat seems to be producing more stress. And when the heat seems unrelenting, the stress builds and we can feel so stressed that we are less able to connect our thoughts, complete tasks, stabilize or maintain composure. We think that if we can get out of the heat, things will return to normal. But the heat is just showing us that our stress response needs some attention. A heat wave is not our house burning down or our being caught in a forest fire.
Scientists and researchers know that stress affects a number of bodily functions and systems. It was great for saving our ancestors by the immediate production of energy to fight or flee for their lives. But the kind of chronic stress we experience as modern, computer-literate multi-taskers in a failing economy, can disrupt the functioning of the our organs, particularly the liver, brain, pancreas and immune response.

Being an advocate of longevity, I am committed to reducing chronic stress and I recommend this strategy for anyone who wants to live fully into their nineties and beyond. The above referenced article makes several great suggestions: laugh more, meditate, eat healthy food, spend time with family and friends, think positive thoughts, get plenty of rest and relaxation time.

Living Long with Stress

One thing I’d like to add to the list is listening to the advice of centenarians. They are not scientists, but they have actually lived long lives. They have seen many stressful times, including the passing of their loved ones. As a result, everybody from young reporters to old friends has been asking them for at least twenty years, “What’s your secret to living so long?” And the centenarians have had many opportunities to consider what they did that fostered their success at living. This inquiry has helped them develop wisdom about aging, coping, letting go and determining what really matters.

The beauty of their wisdom is more than being proven beyond a doubt. This proof was established long before they reached the age of 100. They were young once! They tried many things, were exposed to many things and made a lot of mistakes, yet they didn’t get overly stressed about it. It isn’t the proof you need, but I love the example of George Burns, who died at age 100  and the recently passed Phyllis Diller, who died at 95.  Did they have stressful lives? Yes. But they didn’t let the stress run their lives.
If you’d like to explore the experiences and advice of more centenarians, here’s a couple of my favorite sources.
The Centenarian
The National Centenarian Awareness Project blog
The Georgia Centenarian Study Documentary from the UGA Institute of Gerontology

Hugh Downs covered this angle of the Georgia Centenarian Study for  20/20

If this doesn’t inspire you, perhaps living to 100 isn’t your cup of tea.

Use this shortlink to share this with others:

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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 15

Day 15, August 16, 2012

Today, the program started with “High or Low” again, but with a much easier assignment, indicating if the sound was high or now, not if it was sliding up or down. The points for identifying this were commensurate with the difficulty. Most of the time I received, 2,3,4’s. For a brief time, I was awarded 10’s, but I was soon sent to a new level (shorter sounds) with points of 2, 3 and such. Easy. Not many points. Only 1462. I tried to speed things up to help my score today, but this was all I could manage.

“Tell Us Apart” was almost a replay of yesterday, as I struggled with level 14 (the highest) for “boe/doe.” I went back and forth from level 13 to 14 for five minutes and then was sent on to repeat “gee/kee.” There I advanced one level, from 12 to 13, but could not master 14, even spending plenty of time in practice level. Next was a simpler exercise of “baa/daa” working on harder levels. I worked up to level 10. Today’s points were down from yesterday’s (a personal best) at 912. Yesterday’s was 1018.

I think I understand more about being sent back to a previous, already established level. It’s not like being sent back to 1st  grade when you were in 2nd. Or like being held back in 1st. It’s more like being sent to a place where you had excelled so you can get back the confidence you lost when playing at your threshold.

“Sound Replay” started at level 5. Recalling five unrelated sounds in order is my present threshold. I couldn’t pass it. After a few perfect replays, I started missing. Then, I missed four or five and was sent back to replaying four in a row. I felt sad and my brain was swirling with overload. On level 4 again, I did not even do as well as yesterday. I noticed that I seem to do okay with replaying words that are “ips” and “igs” or “aps” and “ats.” I have the most trouble with “ups” and “ucks.” Like “duck” “tug,” “bug,” “guck.” I wondered if practicing off the program would help. I know this: I won’t push myself as far as the program does. Today’s points were 1033, down from yesterdays 1288.

“Listen and Do” started good at level 5 with me recalling the list of instructions. Then after missing a couple, I was sent back to 4. (But I figured out a way to master level 5!) I think at the start, I was still stressed from the beating I took in “Sound Replay.” I then completed level 4, then level 5. I was advanced to level 6, but I knew I was going to have trouble! So, being sent back to 5 was alright because I felt like I needed to perfect 5 first. Then I experienced more brain overload and started missing instructions. I didn’t hear them, couldn’t remember them or thought I remembered them, but the program didn’t agree. Time ran out before I could redeem myself. Points were down to 657, which isn’t bad; it’s my second best score.

The daily summary showed that only “Tell Us Apart” was more difficult than before. “Sound Replay” was almost as difficult, but Listen and Do” and “High or Low” were not.

I need a break! Good thing there is only one more day of this this week. My brain needs a recess over the weekend to rebuild.

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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 14

Day 14, Brain Fitness Blog, August 15, 2012

“High or Low” got tougher today. So, I tried a new strategy: smiling at each animal picture (reward) I earned. To further impress my brain with its engaged response, I tried to imagine really being there, like the photographer, in its habitat, intent on a connection and awed by the animal’s striking features and unique intelligence. Then I tried smiling at every correct answer I made, which was often. I think it helped my concentration. (I wonder if consciously smiling while I am doing my work would help in a similar way?)

My score for High or Low” was up again! 6496. Yes!!

The last “heat” was intense because I started scoring 40 for each correct answer, up from 30, 24 and 18 per correct answer. But an incorrect answer would take my scores back down. As I approached my last high score, the 40’s really helped me to boost past my best.

“Tell Us Apart” began with the goal of finishing 2 more “emphasis levels” to complete the “boe/ doe” exercise. Sadly, I was unable to complete “boe/doe.” About 5 times I finished level 13, but could not finish level 14, the highest and last level. Then I was sent back to level 13. I tried turning up the volume and using the noise reduction feature on my headphones. But on level 14, I still could not tell the difference between these significantly altered sounds.

So, it was with relief that I went on to the next sound, “gee/ kee.” I got through levels 10, 11 and 12. I tried smiling more, too. It wasn’t easy, but I smiled nonetheless.

Next up was “baa/daa,” which is another version of the “b” and “d” sounds. This series started at level 1 and I quickly and easily got to level 7 before the time ran out for this exercise.

At the end, I was instructed that “In ‘Tell Us Apart,’ the pairs of sounds were chosen to help your brain improve its reception of even the subtle differences in sound. This can help understanding, thinking and memory.” This made me reflect that perhaps the most perfect use of computers is how they can repeat exact sounds to help us think more clearly. On a computer, this can happen without human interference, such as pressure to do better or to influence the result.

My points for “Tell Us Apart” today were 1018, my best yet.

For “Sound Replay,” I did much better in level 4 than before. Then I entered level 5, where 5 sounds are given, where I was asked to identify them in the original order. I did better than previous attempts to complete level 5, though I didn’t quite get there. My mind felt clearer this time and my points showed the improved response: 1288, a new high. The daily summary indicated that the difficulty today was higher than ever.

For “Listen and Do,” I was moved from level 1 to level 2, where the speech is faster and less emphasized. (Thank heavens!) Level 2 has its own set of levels of difficulty starting with listening to one instruction on up to 5 and more using this new level of altered speech. I got to level 5. At one point, however, I made an incorrect response that I was sure was right. Then I made another and another incorrect answer. I got so frustrated! I was sent back to level 4, following four instructions. At that point, my stress response was still firing and I  chose incorrect answers on level 4, a level that was previously easy.

I saw how this is how it goes with me when I try to learn a new piece of software. I get going, but then I might make five or six attempts to finish a project and it doesn’t work like I expected it to. My frustration level escalates and I can’t think my way out. Perhaps my choices to make it work were not approached as clearly as I imagined. Also, I could think of it as a game, where “not working” isn’t anything like ruining a shirt I was wearing or missing an appointment with a client. Additionally, it would help to take time off to settle down, center and/or call for help before proceeding with the stress response still active.

My points for “Listen and Do” today amazed me: 1020, almost two times my last score of 556.

Now for the “Brain Fitness Breakthrough” that I promised in Day 12. It happened today and in more than one way. It was a real-life experience (not just in game results) that proved to me that this program is making a difference.

The first breakthrough was in doing my recording of receipts. I do this about every two weeks; I record in my excel file the charges that are printed on the register receipts. Every two weeks since the beginning of the year, I try to look at the receipt and remember five things: the date, the amount, the card used, the place of business and the category of expense (business, food, gas, etc.). I usually remember two or three, but not five.  Today, for the first time, I was able to do that for about thirty receipts. I took one look to find the information, then focused on the laptop to record it in that set order. I amazed myself.

The second breakthrough incident was going to the grocery store. I consulted some other family members for their requests, compiled a list and went to the store. Once I was in, I imagined where everything was and planned a route. Then I did my shopping without looking at the list. I remembered 10 of the 11 items. Ok, one other item might have been forgotten, but I remembered it when I was in the correct aisle, but that’s not consulting the list, is it? This makes shopping less stressful and less stress means less aging. I am in!

Thank you, Posit Science. You have helped me cross barriers I had not been able to cross on my own!

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Brain Training Resources

Recently, I did quite a bit of research to find interesting blogs, reviews and digests about brain training and brain fitness with an emphasis on improving the mental resources we have. I have been blogging about a particular favorite that I am participating in (Brain Fitness by Posit Science) and it excited me that there are many such programs out there, some free and available 24/7.

Here’s a list of some great resources I found. Look at the bottom of the page.

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A Sculpted Brain Guarantees a Healthy Future

Imagine a world in which the activities we engage in make us dumber. Perhaps you have seen the social commentary cum comedy called “Idiocracy.” And if you look around, you know it is coming true now; people just aren’t as smart. Our role models are particularly hilarious. For instance, news anchors repeat inane commentary night after night. Politicians regularly make misstatements and develop incoherent strategies. Celebrities and sports heroes make headlines with their emotional ignorance. Best selling self-help authors repeat the same old formulas that were popular 40 years ago.

And now, according to a recent article based on the June 2012 SharpBrains Summit, our health care system is beleaguered by epidemic growth of neurological disabilities, not just in the aged. But brain health is exactly what is needed to drive innovation and prosperity.

Our information-based and data-driven economy is showing up our lack of healthy brains. The demand is out pacing supply. Healthy brains are not only valuable to employers; they are beneficial to society and individual thinkers. Once all employers understand this, we will have reached a point at which mental function will mean the difference between being on the street and living well due to regular employment and competitive salaries for your smarts. A healthy brain will also contribute to your financial savvy and avoidance of common health problems.

We are not left to our own to develop healthy brains. We live in an age where computers have found their perfect niche- doing repetitive tasks that are programmed to make us exercise our brains. Computer-based brain fitness programs abound (online and on disc) and advancement of neurological health is well funded. Thousands of  retirement-age people have been proving the value of these programs, turning back their cognitive functions 10 to 20 years in a matter of a few months!

Besides brain fitness programs, we have confirmation that aerobic exercise also builds the brain and that meditation, as it builds attention span and awareness, improves brain flexibility and stress modulation. This means we can start brain improvement today. We don’t have to wait until we have surfed the internet for the best brain fitness program and lowest price.

Brain fitness blogs on the internet also offer “data-tons” of free content that excite the mind about knowing how it works. My mind really gets engaged with the process of learning about my brain, how it relates to the nervous system, hormones, organs and sensory input. It’s an incredibly complex puzzle that gives me injections of dopamine for identifying how it works and for being present to moment-by-moment states of being. It promises the ability to meet real challenges, find insights and be my own master.

Check out a few of the hundreds of brain blogs  I have found on the internet. (See them at the lower end of the page.) Use your iPad or laptop to build your brain instead of watching TV, reading escapist novels, re-reading the same literary styles or worrying. After just a couple of weeks of regular brain building, meditation or aerobic exercise, you will notice that your brain is more creative and flexible, clearer and more hopeful. Your economic future will also thank you.

I’m off to the Brain Gym! Will I see you there?


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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 13

Day 13, August 14, 2012

“High or Low” started the Brain Fitness program again today. It felt at one point that the sounds were coming much faster and closer to each other. At another point I felt some brain overload, then not too much later, I was messaged that I’d mastered all the sweeps in the 1000 Hz range.

Right afterward, the different assignment was noticeably more difficult. Perhaps I was feeling over-confident, but I got 6 or 7 wrong in a row. Perhaps it was some amount of fatigue, too.

My 6362 points reflect the harder work I’d done, but perhaps it also reflects a new strategy, not using the “Try Again” option. Now that I think of it, being prompted to “Try Again” makes me feel frustrated.

“Match It” was introduced with information about going to a new level. This time the speech will be less stretched and less emphasized than level 1, where it is very stretched and emphasized. There are a total of five levels, I was told, with level 4 being the closest to conversational speech. For this new level, I was “sent back” to an 8 button grid, but it didn’t last long. Soon I was sailing into the 16 and 24 button grids. Points were up, too. 1238, up from 754. This is my best yet. I felt good during the entire exercise.

“Sound Replay” also was bumped up one level. Now I am at level 2. This was definitely more challenging for me, but replaying 3 or 4 sounds has never been easy for me in “Brain Fitness.” I realized this time that trying to remember the first two sounds while the third, fourth or fifth sounds are introduced is like trying to think when there is noise going on in the background. (The “extra” sounds are “noisy” to me.) I always thought that wanting a quiet space to concentrate was a preference or style. Now I am seeing that it is a brain pattern that can be challenged and changed.

I also saw that I must change strategies when the sounds become different. For instance, sometimes the sounds to replay are nonsense, like, “ze” “vaa” “coo.” I can recall those easily by making it a non-sense phrase, like baby-talk. But when the sounds are words, such as “but” “pan” “tea”, these sounds have meaning that are hard for me to relate in order to one another. Even harder to recall are word-sounds that are similar like, “but” “put’ “tub.” For these, concentrating on the first two seems to help, but I can find myself repeating back to myself a word my mind just chose, like “cup.” (This new word was influenced by the “noise” of the third or fourth word.)  Then, when the words are shown for me to identify, and I don’t see “cup,” my entire memory of the word order fades.

Oddly enough, today’s points are at a new high. How did I do that? The points are a 60% improvement over yesterday’s. 1110, up from 695.

“Story Teller” began with a new story. And trying to remember details when my brain was stressed from “Sound Replay” felt like a struggle.

But the first round, second and third rounds produced wonderful results. I didn’t miss one question. Points were down slightly from yesterday, but they are nowhere as bad as I thought they’d be. 760, down from 786. All in all, a good day.

I passed on the Reflective Journal opportunity and instead prepped my pad for this blog.

Thanks for reading!

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Brain Fitness Blog, Day 12

Day 12. August 13, 2012

Thanks again, dear Reader, for watching my brain progress. I had some real-time progress to report that happened on the 15th and I will share that on the post for the 15th.

Back to day 13… High or Low went swimmingly with a new high score of 5150.

For Match It, I felt less able to focus and the points tell the tale, down from from 1063 at 754.

Sound Replay was also hard for me today. On level 4, I felt lost. After a time the program showed this message, “Don’t worry too much if you feel like you’re having a hard time.” [It obviously could tell I was!] “Just take a deep breath, concentrate and try again.” Right. As the timer clock ticks away! :0(

So, I was sent back to level 3. I worked my way back up to 4 and doing so, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before: if I answer incorrectly, I am given a choice- to “try again” or to “start” (a new set of sounds). Normally, I try again. I want to get it right. But when I do, I noticed that there are no points for getting it right on the second try. So when I get it wrong now, I am going to “Start” not “Try Again.” That way I will earn points and leave the error in the dust.

And I do get frustrated when I am trying again because I can’t get what seems to be simple “correct.”

Here’s a sample. You hear “pick” “pig” “tip” and “bit.” You don’t see these words, only hear them. Then there’s a pause. Complicated by this is that the words are not voiced like real time speech. They are emphasized and elongated. I didn’t think that would make my brain work harder, but it does! I can identify it now as my brain really struggling. Then, the task is to pick these four sounds out from a list and pick them out in order.

Surprisingly, my points were up today! 695, up from 528, but this is nowhere near my best.

Story Teller was supposed to start a new story but, then, there was a message from the programmer: “Congratulations! You have passed the threshold you set in previous stories. That suggests that your memory is getting better.” Today my points in Story Teller were up to 786.

Good and bad, but it’s all progress.

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Brain Fitness, Day 11

Posit Science, Brain Fitness program

“High or Low” went very well today. I like this exercise so much. It reminds me of some training I had in grade school when I was being tutored for a lisp. I had to listen to correct ways of saying words and was supposed to repeat them. I enjoyed that exercise so much that I consciously delayed my results. I didn’t progress like I should have. I wish we had more exercises on sounds back then. I think it would have helped my learning. Many times I went to the doctor to have my ears cleaned out or tested, because I just wasn’t hearing as well as other kids. I think that hearing deficiencies delay progress in school.

My score for “High or Low” was impressive: 4653. The message displayed that “You have mastered this exercise for sweeps that are 30 milliseconds long.”

“Tell Us Apart” challenged me at the start, “If you can advance by 2 emphasis levels, you will reach the highest emphasis level in sah/stah yet.”

On boe/doe, I got up to level 13, finished it and went to 14, the highest I saw on the challenge meter. For gee/kee, I advanced to level 10, then 11. But 11 was too hard for me to distinguish.

According to the chart summary, the difficulty in gee/kee didn’t change. Sah/stah went up two steps of difficulty. Boe/doe did not get any harder, either. However, points for “Tell Us Apart” today was 888, my best ever.

“Match It” was next, matching the sounds laid out on the grid of 24 spots. It didn’t seem much (or any) harder. Points were 1063, slightly up from 1017 the session before.

Story Teller continued the story of the obstacle driving course and I missed a couple of the details, as discovered by the questions at the end. My score was only slightly down. 640, down from 656.

Next came an introduction to “Reflective Journals.” This option seems to mirror what I have been doing in this blog, only these entries aren’t published online like my thoughts are here. Posit Science provides a screen on which to record the participant’s reflections (not reported to Posit Science) because after two weeks of this program, mental improvements and changes start to become perceptible. These may be experienced in their brain fitness program, some improvements in daily living or even their attitude. Recording these improvements helps to solidify them and influence further brain growth. Although I am not surprised about this information, it is a nice confirmation that I am taking care of my brain by doing the program and recording my experience

Today’s summary showed that H/L, Tell Us Apart, and Story Teller all went up in difficulty. Match It stayed the same.

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Brain Fitness, Day 10

“For High or Low,” I scored another new high, 3650. The 40-second millisweeps became harder by 1 step. The 35-second millisweeps by 2 steps and the 30-second millisweeps by 7 steps.

“Tell Us Apart” continued with “sah” vs. “stah.” At first, I couldn’t tell any difference, as the “t” sound in “stah” seemed inaudible. So, I just guessed. And I advanced to level 10. But my success did not last long. I couldn’t shine at level 10 and got kicked back to level 8. That’s when my time for “sah” vs. “gah” ended.

The exercise continued with “doe” vs. “boe.” I got up to level 12, though to me, the “b” in “boe” was inaudible. My progress was possible because I could tell the “oe” that I heard from the contrasted “doe.” Next was “gee” vs. “kee.” It was harder than last time, but I got to level 11. The summary showed that I made no progress in “sah/ stah,” improved by 5 steps in “boe/ doe,” and improved by 2 steps in “gee/ key.” My total points in “Tell Us Apart” was only 756, down from 821, but still better than all previous sessions.

I did today’s session at the end of the day, rather than at the first, as I have been doing, and only half a session. That’s because today when we woke up, we discovered that my stepdaughter’s car had been vandalized with a bucket of paint and we spent most of the day rushing to clean the paint off before it got drier or baked on by the sun. It exhausted us; so I think I did okay today, considering the level of physical exhaustion I faced. I was glad that I kept the ball rolling.

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Brain Fitness, Day 9

“High or Low”: Today’s goal is to “lower the gap between sounds by 17 milliseconds.” Today’s session of “High or Low” was much harder, and instead of speeding up to get as many points as possible (like I did yesterday) I focused on the goal, distinguishing between the shorter sounds with shorter gaps between them. My point total came down a bit to 3210, down from 3592. The summary reads that the 30 second millisweeps became harder by 4 steps and the 25 millisweeps by 6 steps.

The second game was “Tell Us Apart,” a game where I try to tell the difference between phonemes, “the smallest parts of words that carry meaning.” It might be the sound of “shi” or “gee.” As the game progresses, I hear less and less of the “hard” sound and equal amounts of the vowel sound.

What this exercise triggers is a part of the brain beyond the auditory cortex, the instructional video explained. And the fact that there is a similar sound structure to “d” and “t” or “d” and “b” makes it easier for the brain to confuse the sounds.

Today, I am challenged to get to level 7 of “sah” vs. “stah.”

After “sah” vs. “stah” I worked on “kee” vs. “gee” up to level 7. For this, I received 821 points, up from 683.

“Sound Replay” had the goal of adding a sound by completing two more groups, each group consisting of four sounds.

“Threshold,” I was reminded, “is the ‘sweet spot’ where your brain works hardest to improve itself.” My points today were 528, up from 461. I really struggled with recalling five nonsensical sounds in a row and was moved back to four.

“Listen and Do” followed. That is where I hear instructions to click on a “random” character or building and then after a pause, click one after the other. Today’s score was 685, down from 796 and 700 on previous sessions. I am not sure the score reflects the level of difficulty, as I was able to graduate to a higher level and complete several in that set.

Daily Summary: “High or Low” was up and “Tell Us Apart” was up. “Sound Replay” was down slightly and “Listen and Do” was slightly up. I am pleased with the progress, all in all.

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Brain Fitness, Day 8

Day 8, August 6, 2012

Today began with a video explanation about exercise difficulty. That is what the program was designed to create. It was almost on cue. I had been noticing a lack of progress!

According to the video, the brain only learns when it is challenged. This was likened to a musician who starts out with simple scales. Competency is established there and then more challenging pieces are assigned, long before the most difficult of arrangements that prove mastery. There is even a name for this, “Training at Threshold.” The science behind it involves using the difficulties and rewards for improvement to improve the production of brain neuromodulators. Specific neuromodulators targeted are dopamine, norepinephrine and acetylcholine. When the production of these neuromodulators is up, the brain learns more easily.

High or Low began with a daily goal and then the usual warm up exercises. I was supposed to try to identify the sounds even when the gap between the sounds was reduced to 20 milliseconds. The challenge was built, set after set, getting me closer to the 20 millisecond gap. I had to pass through a few thresholds first. At one point, the challenge shortened the high and low sounds, and to compensate for the greater difficulty in hearing them, made the gap between the sounds larger. This simultaneously lowered the point rewards to 5. I wanted to beat my previous score, so I tried speeding up my answers. My score was too low to get to my point goal if I didn’t move along more quickly. After a couple minutes, the points started responding with 12, 15 and 16, then 20 and finally 30, allowing me to shoot past the previous point high. I reached 3592 this time, a nice improvement over 3337. The summary at the end explained, “This exercise aims to improve your focus and extend your attention span.” That’s perfect!

“Tell Us Apart” was difficult again today. It seems that I reached a threshold that I was unable to penetrate (for now) between level 7 and 8. Four or five times I was unable to break through level 8 and was sent back to level 7.

The improvement I did make was to finally understand the challenge meter for this exercise. (Incidentally, it helped me understand it for the following exercises as well.) The meter tracks correct and incorrect answers (that are identified as “correct” or “wrong,” which could be a bad word choice). To advance, I need 9 correct answers. If I get 4 incorrect before I get 9 correct, I will digress to the previous level to establish competence on a lower level.

I will add that the recordings of these sounds of “boo” and “due” do not sound like real speech to me. So I have to adapt to hearing the “boo” and “due” that they present them as accurate “boo” and “due” for now.

I did not advance my “boo” and “due” score today. Nor did I advance in “dah” and “gah.” But “doe” and “toe” increased in difficulty by two steps.

“Sound Replay” added the assignment of completing five more groups to move up to six in a row. (This must have meant more sounds in a row, rather than correct answers in a row.) The sounds are tricky to recall in order because they are so rarely heard on their own, much less put into any order. They aren’t like a five or six syllable word or a five or six-word sentence. The assignment is similar to hearing these sounds and then being asked to repeat their sequence: te, foe, vaa, low vaa.

Today the score was only 461. Previously, I had earned 538 and 936. This is not a great score and I earned no animations. Boo-hoo! (Or perhaps, “boo-due.”)

For “Listen and Do,” I remembered to look at the “Tips” before launching into the exercise. They helped, so I was grateful. I reached level 5, which I believe was better than my previous day, and I was advanced to level 6. But at 6, I got confused. I didn’t follow the tips and my brain started getting rattled. So I was sent back to level 4. At level 4, it was not all fun and ease. I was still suffering from the setback of confusion and I had more trouble than I expected. But my score did show improvement: 796, up from 700. I earned several animations, but skipped three so I could advance, if possible.

My daily summary graph showed improvement in “High or Low” and “Tell Us Apart.” There was no progress in “Match It” or “Sound Replay.” (I don’t understand this: I didn’t play “Match It,” so the lack of progress there is a no-brainer. But I did “play” “Listen and Do” yet there was no mention of it in the daily summary.)

Thanks for following this blog. I hope that it encourages others to blog for brain fitness, too. I have no doubts that recording my progress is more than self-revelation to many who do not know me. It helps my progress as well.

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Brain Fitness, Day 7

Day 7, August 2, 2012

“High or Low” went easy again today. I noticed that at one point, I had been enjoying such a long winning streak that the points per “hand” were way up. My score today was 3337, way up from last session’s 2406. That felt good.

The benefits of this game are explained this way, “You can’t tell by listening, but every sound in English is made up of several sub-sounds, some of which are similar to the sounds in ‘High and Low.’ Mastering the art of telling sounds apart may help you understand people better, even when they are mumbling or speaking quickly.” I think that mastering the sounds could also help you hear yourself so you can improve your elocution.

The goal today of “Match It” (the game similar to “Concentration”) was to clear the next grid in less than 77 clicks. This grid was cut short yesterday due to the end of the fifteen-minute time period. I had to reacquaint myself with all of the sounds left over. But I did achieve the goal, anyway. I got the message “Your have completed the largest grid with clicks to spare, an impressive achievement!”

The next set was another grid of 30, but this time harder because all of the thirty sounds had the same sound in the middle of the word/sound. Like tap, bad, back, tad, pad… My score went down a bit from yesterday (676, down from 744 and 961 before that.) It seems remembering 30 very similar sounds made this one difficult. On the last set, I was unable to pair up all the sounds in the assigned 150 tries.

“Sound Replay.” The assigned goal was to move up to five sounds in a row. I struggled with this one, too, but my score was up, so that’s good!

The newest and final of the Brain Fitness games is called “Story Teller.” This is supposed to be the culmination of all the skills developed in the previous exercises. The task is to listen to a story and answer questions related to details of the story. It sounds easy, I know, but the voice was (by design) unclear, so listening focus was required to even understand it, besides the effort of storing the details for recall.

My first score was 458. It did not seem like a very high score, but I’m not working real hard…yet.

After today’s session, my program sent me to a community page online that announced, “We are here to help you succeed. We look forward [to] your participating, questions, answers and stories.” It is an interesting page of resources that includes “Frequently Asked Questions” (as written by the participants), “Ideas” that have been submitted, “Common Problems” people are expressing as well as additional support links. These additional pages include the Posit Science home page, product guides, the Brain Science podcast, Facebook page and another that interested me, “Margaret’s Brain Fitness Blog.” I wonder if she is blogging her results like I am.

Finally, I see a “Join the Community” link. I am going to do that and leave some positive feedback.

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Brain Fitness, Day 6

Day 6 August 1, 2012

Today I went on to finish yesterday’s abbreviated session, so it was only 45 minutes. The session started with “Tell Us Apart,” the game that has you listen to sounds that sound similar, but are made more similar by audio technology. I had been struggling with the difference between the “b” and “d” (boo and due). Today was no different. Well, yes it was different; it was worse.

I also had no improvement between the “dah” and “gah.” Only a little difficulty between doe and toe, because there I only went down one level! Today’s score for “Tell Us Apart” was 613, up from 569 the last session (July 30.)

“Match It” is the game like “Concentration” and continued to rise in difficulty. The score 744 was a little better than the first day I tried it, and quite a bit lower than last session, when it was 961. I like this game. Today I was assigned a grid of 30 sounds to match, up from 24. So it was definitely more challenging. This will help me recall sounds after I have heard others, similar sounds like gap, cap, tap and fat.

This was my first day of “Listen and Do.” I think I indicated on my first post that directions are hard for me to remember. It happens all the time with software one is trying to learn. For example, learning a program (or solving some technical glitch), we can be instructed to “go to ‘my digit box,’ then scroll down until you see the “settings” menu. Right click on that to open a new window showing your personal preferences, where you will find your color options. Be sure to…” I try to visualize the instructions beforehand using images of what I know and have done before. But not knowing what those boxes and options look like, I get confused when I encounter the real thing, which looks nothing like what I have seen before.

“Listen and Do” is designed to strengthen memory storage for recall on demand. It starts with directions like “click on the boy, then click on the girl.” It should be easy, but it challenges me because I don’t understand the reasoning behind the sequence. If it were to make the boy ask the girl out for a date, that would be different! Then the sequences got longer and, for me, harder to see any reason to the order. I did okay the first day and increased by four steps. But I missed a couple of times when the frame included a dozen items and I was instructed to click on some and move others in a sequence of five or six.

My score was 700

I didn’t do Sound Replay today because it was not presented. The score remains at 1704.

The end of the program  showed something new today, a record of how many sessions I had completed and how many were left. Only 35 are left, and I think I will need every one of them the way it’s going.

My scores today looked down, but I’m not discouraged. For one thing, we all have days when we aren’t at our peak. For another, and maybe there’s a bit of justification there, but it seem true: experience is always a win. (The totals went up, even if the daily scores were less impressive.) Trying is always a win when the goal is to get better. Thirdly, goals are what matter, not barriers. Low scores may seem like a barrier. The best antidote to low scores that I know of is to see the goal, shining bright and knowing that the only thing in my way is me, not some immoveable force (or uncooperative computer program).

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Brain Fitness, Day 5

Day 5 was an abbreviated session, as other issues pressed me for attention. But I did not dare break the trend, doing no brain training at all. I got in one fifteen-minute session of High or Low and did quite well. It was good to use the focus to not only do well, but put aside other stressors.

Today, I noticed more of the frame surrounding the high and low buttons. I noticed that the points I was getting for my efforts were not always the same; they raised and lowered according to the difficulty. And I could pay more attention to what I think is called the “Challenge Meter” across the top.  It has bars and arrows that seem to indicate when a certain threshold has been engaged or surpassed. And there was the time clock. I saw it before, because it gives a running record of how much time is left in the exercise, starting at 15 and working down to 1 and 0. But I felt more aware of the passing of time and its limits.

Half of the frame was a developing picture of the reward type I had chosen as in previous days. Today I chose animals. In this frame, a fairly large block of space started out as blotches of color and with each right answer, the blotches got more defined, other blotches were added and a picture developed. In this case the pictures went from cute puppies, to wild cats, to a lizard’s eye, a saddled horse, etc. It became a side guessing game as I listened to the whistles and clicked the arrow if the whistle went up or down.

I also noticed that at certain thresholds, the whistles would become shorter. And to compensate for the added difficulty, at first there would be more space between the two whistles. This helps the brain to process the shorter sounds, it was explained. Then the gap between the sounds shortened and the brain was challenged to process the sounds more quickly. And simultaneously, the difficulty grew and the points increased. So, my higher score today was a sign of improved hearing, or rather, processing. Today’s score for High or Low was 2406. Yeah!

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Brain Fitness, Day 4

Day 4 of Posit Science Brain Fitness training took place on July 30th. (I skipped Saturday and Sunday.) Today’s session was one hour, with four exercises of 15 minutes each. High or Low, Tell Us Apart, Match It and a new one: Sound Replay.

High or Low opened with a stated goal: to lower the gap between the sounds by 200 milliseconds. Technically, this is day three of exercising for brain fitness. When I finished matching the high or low chirps, I saw a score of 1616, up from yesterday’s 1373 and the first day’s 1104. I moved through High or Low with almost no mistakes. And I definitely was able to tell when the gap between the sounds was lessened. I think the earlier sessions well prepared me for the faster sound delivery.

“Tell Us Apart” was more difficult today. I spent more time going to the optional “Practice” time, where the exercise is paused and I can hit the “d” sound and the “t” sound as many times as I want. The “g” was a bit frustrating today. Sometimes it sounded to me like a “d”, sometimes like a soft “b” and rarely like a hard “g.” But somehow the computer program picked up on this and both rewarded me with easier sounds to answer and challenged me to correctly identify more often the ones I missed. It angered me a bit that I can usually tell the difference like it is in real life, but in real life, I have an advantage, I have context from which to understand the sounds. When hearing my mother say, “I sent you a picture of a dog today,” I don’t hear her say “I sent you a picture of a god today.”  I focused on the training as it is and let go of distracting thoughts. I missed looking at the score for Tell Us Apart today. I can see it tomorrow. (If I remember! HA!)

Match It was a bit harder than yesterday, but the concentration and the joy of making a match made it fun. My score for “Match It” was better than yesterday. It is 961, up from 705. I earned four animations, but passed it up a couple of times to get more testing time in.

Sound Replay is a different challenge. I was told that it engages working memory by remembering sound sequences, which is also good for remembering number sequences. Its goal is to help working memory to function accurately even when sound is rapid. I was forewarned that the sounds may sound strange but they had been developed and modified for greatest effectiveness. My first score for Sound Replay was 852. It was almost hard and I could tell where the program was repeating and steering me toward success. I earned more animations, all different from the previous ones. They give me a short mental break and were funny in the way that cartoons exaggerate and help us laugh at ourselves.

This exercise became difficult when it used nonsensical sounds. The assignment is to identify the sounds in order. But being nonsensical, like “kam,” “fu,” and “dit,” it challenged me in a way that I am not used to. Then it got harder, asking me to remember and identify the sequence of sounds like “tub” “but,” and “putt”  each using an “uh” sound in the middle.

I can easily see why I want to succeed at this. It will help me hear and see without judgment or expectation and recall what it was I saw or heard, even when it doesn’t make any sense or I can’t see how it fits together.  My Sound Replay score was 1704.

Up soon: “Listen and Do” for working memory and “Story Teller” for narrative memory. Sounds good to me!

The past two sessions, I saw that after the program ends, my results are being sent to Posit Science Corporation. The request for my permission came at the end of the last session. I think the people involved at Posit Science are still testing the material for further improvement.

Speaking of people involved, I took a stroll though the “Guide.”

It included a long list of credits including over 50 scientists, a Science Advisory Board, Researcher Collaborators, a Special Advisory Board, more consultants, the Quality Assurance department (including the Department of Customer Delight), Voice talent, Learning Services, Testers, IT and Operations personnel, and more.

I was impressed to see that listed in the group of the Special Advisory Board was Lloyd Morrisett, the co-founder or Sesame Street Workshop and Creator of Sesame Street. Talk about learning success! Sesame Street has been at the forefront of teaching via the use of colorful imagery, rewards, repetition and the fun that comes from establishing trust while introducing rapid program changes and variety. Unlike Sesame Street TV, this entire program may take some stick-to-it-ness, but the fun along the way could be reason enough to sit down and give it another day.

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Brain Fitness, Day 3

Third Day, Second Exercise session

Today the program began with asking me what kind of visual rewards I wanted to choose when I progress. I gather that these visual rewards are for two purposes. The first is to give the brain a rest from the repetitive learning environment with something interesting.  The second is to help produce the endorphins that help reinforce new neuronal pathways. The program offered me the choice of seeing travel photos, animals, pets, color, music and one other choice. It think one choice should be a “surprise me” reward. I chose pets.

Yesterday’s session was two fifteen-minute sessions; today’s is three fifteen-minute sessions, including a new exercise called “Match It.”

The High & Low session began with a warm up. I am glad that the program did not assume that I recall all of the progress I made yesterday. It was good, but a challenge at the end. The warm up helped, and I even earned points for them. The first exercises were not that hard, building up my confidence and desire. Soon, I saw something new. It was a message that I “earned an animation.” The animations were of cute animals engaged in surprising and stupid antics. They did make me smile and laugh. And knowing that laughing raises the endorphins and improves my ability to remember what I’ve learned, I laughed easily and aloud. I like this program.

Today, I earned 1373 points in High & Low. I felt certain that I committed less errors and the score gave my feeling a confirmation. I really did get better at differentiating between the up chirps and the down chirps.

“Tell Us Apart” is the second exercise, just like yesterday. After finishing the fifteen-minute segment, I was surprised that I was having so much trouble distinguishing between the “g” & “d” and the “t” & “d.” I know that it is not this bad in real life, so I didn’t take the exercise personally. It’s just a way to improve my ability to hear better and thus, out-hear my baby boomer peers! (Evil laughing in the background: HA HA HA HA!)

At the end of this session, I found myself pressing over and over the recording of the progress, “d” “d” “d” “d” “t” “d” “t” “d” “d” “d” “t”… By contrast, I haven’t had as much trouble hearing the difference between the d’s and b’s.

The new exercise is called “Match It.” It’s like the game of “Concentration.” I felt a bit nervous. It required more concentration that just listening to sounds. For this exercise, I listened to sounds that correspond to positions on a grid. The sounds play when clicked, and my task was to remember where they are and find the pairs. At first, the sounds were easily distinguishable, like “cat” and “chow.” Later, it gets more difficult by making me remember sounds that sound more alike, like “cat” “bat’ and “hat.” For one short section, I heard sounds that aren’t even words, making me focus on the pure sound without meaning, like “chey” and “laa.” The requirement of focus is just what is intended however, because it is through intense focus that the brain can learn new patterns in spite of the old ones.

The human brain is a “use it or lose it” brain. What we use gets reinforced and we begin to lose whatever faculty was using that part of the brain before. So, old patterns can be “lost” by using that area of the brain for a different pattern that is interesting and more rewarding.

I did pretty good with the first two stages of “Match It.” First, it meant matching sounds on a grid of 8, then 16, then 24 places. Like “Concentration” some pairings are purely coincidental, others are found by concentrating and recalling, others are not a conscious memory, but a correct one if the hunch is acted upon.

Today’s score summary:

  • High & Low score of 2477. It’s primarily for improving processing speed.
  • Tell us Apart is 1239. It’s for discriminating sounds.
  • My “Match It” was only 705, even though I had no major screwups. Match It is for sound precision.

My second day was good! I am looking forward to sharing this progress with my friends.

P.S. I get a newsletter from Posit Science. This July they announced a new program called Brain HQ and there is a reduced price for subscribers. (It’s easy to subscribe. Use this link and look for the sign up in the left column.) Brain HQ right now is only $10 per month or $99.00 per year and it includes all the online time you want for brain training! Get more details here. These brain training games are now sociable, so you can compete with members of your family and the brain training community. (As I understand it.) If I get my mom to sign up, its a reduced rate for her and we can help encourage each other’s mental fitness.

To see more days of progress, click the category “Posit Brain Fitness” in the right column.

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Brain Fitness, Day 2

Second day, first exercise session, July 26, 2012

We began with a replay of the set up exercise from yesterday, called High and Low. I was told that this exercise works to improve, through the hearing of sounds, the auditory cortex. I had read in The Brain that Changes Itself that much of brain development is dependent on a well-developed auditory cortex. It is through hearing at first, later from clear vision, that an infant determines what is safe and good. The auditory cortex at this point has very little discrimination and so is open 100% to all sounds. There is no filtering done here, kind of like being an open mike, picking up all sounds in the room, without the hearing filter that we have as adults. The auditory cortex will later develop more discriminatory properties and its “open period” will no longer be necessary.

Yet hearing is where some of the first signs of aging appear as well. The usual assumption has been that the hearing apparatus is decaying; when what Dr. Merzenich and others have discovered is that the auditory cortex just needs renewed stimulation. They have observed that for a good forty or fifty years, it has not been challenged. Over and over, it processes the same language (heard and unheard); daily it processes the same noises of travel, similar music and speech patterns in the sphere of family and friends. But by stimulating it and with mental focus, new patterns can be recognized and old patterns can be re-established as newer and more interesting.

My first day of High & Low earned me 1104 points.

I did pretty good with the first session of High & Low but I was amazed at the end of the session to listen to the progress, hearing the first sounds I distinguished compared to the last sounds I was distinguishing. They almost sounded the same due to the speed and amount of time given to the consonant’s verbalization (as determined by precision audio equipment).

It’s not that easy for me to understand the progress report: “The 60 second millisweep became harder by 6 steps. The 40 second millisweep became harder by 1 step.”

Further review of the day can be accessed by six buttons: History, Analysis, Details, Points, Benefits, and Videos. The explanation for the “Challenge Meter” reads: “When you pass a milestone in gap length and turn an arrow green, the challenge meter closes that section and opens the next one. That means you’ve taken one step forward in progress.”
For High & Low, the goal is to strengthen the auditory cortex’s ability to interpret sound details accurately, even when speech is very rapid.

Its “Benefits” are: Processing Speed

More explanations can be read according to the inquiry: Pitch, Distinction, Discrimination, Sounds.

Videos available include: Introduction, Science of High & Low. Science Overview: The Exercises, Science Overview” Design Features.

The next exercise is called “Tell Us Apart,” which is designed to process sounds more accurately. More explanation: “With age, sounds get fuzzier.” It’s how the brain processes sound, not an ear function.

One of the exercises is to distinguish the difference between the sounds of “d” and “g,” such as in “doe” and “go.” Another exercise worked on the difference between “d” and “t,” like “dah” and “tah.” The third portion challenged the auditory cortex to distinguish between “b” and “d,” like “boo” and “do.”

That’s a wrap for Day 2, the first day of brain training.

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Brain Fitness, Day 1

Brain Fitness Blog

July 25, 2012, the day I opened the software to install. I see it is by Posit Science as ordered and it is version 2.0.1.

After installation, the introductory video began. Here I was reminded that in the future, I could  watch for improvements in “better remembering, sharper focus, quicker thinking and increased alertness.” Later, I was told, and thought it worthy to remember, “The goal is to apply focus to achieve your best. Not to win.”

The first session wasn’t really an exercise. It was probably less than ten minutes, very easy, presumably for familiarity with the basic design. To begin, the program handed me the task of distinguishing between two sliding notes, like bird whistles. Do they go up? Or down? The program indicated that the first session is designed for calibration and that it is designed to adapt to my learning process.

Starting easy is a great learning tool as it builds trust and confidence. Not too long into this short calibrating session, it became more challenging as the whistles became shorter and faster. (Oddly, one of my first reactions to the program, writing just a couple of minutes later, is that I am noticing that I am making more spelling mistakes than usual. Is it due to brain stress?!)

The task was simple enough. Two whistle sounds were presented, and my task was to respond, via the mouse, indicating if the notes were both upward, sliding downward, or first up then down or vise versa. I think it is important to start here. Some people considering a brain fitness program may want something immediately more challenging. But I think we should start with the basics. Especially if it is fun and promising. If it gets boring, I will re-evaluate.

I am glad that the set up was easy on my Windows XP. They must have anticipated that many users are not all that computer savvy and so they put extra effort to make this program user-friendly.  The introduction used a kind male voice (though it is possible this is not always the chosen voice-over). My experience of the voice was that it was friendly and inviting, though it told me to expect some challenges ahead. (“Good,” I thought. “I got this to be challenging!”)

The voice-over shared some basic information about the structure of the brain and identified which parts would be strengthened from the program. Further trust was established by listing several universities from the US and abroad that were included in the design and testing of “Brain Fitness.” I got the feeling that the high quality of the program did not raise the profit margin, just the expenses of creating it.

Tomorrow, I will begin the first training session. I am excited about stopping (or slowing) the usual symptoms of an aging brain.

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Posit Science Brain Fitness

I have been reading about brain fitness and very much needing to keep my brain in shape. There are too many indicators that my mind is slipping from its once exalted <g> state. Firstly, I am forgetting little things more. Yeah, I can still write a book, but noise distracts me too much and I have to keep a lot on my mind to create these things. So it is time for brain fitness!

I have been eyeing one of the top brain training programs available today. It is way over my budget… but can anyone put a price on his ability to mentally leap the requirements of life satisfaction and accomplishment? This program is highly respected and has been tested by major universities. I thought about blogging about my progress for hire, measure my progress and blog about it for trade. But, then, honest people may doubt my blog’s objectivity. Then, a miracle happened. I found it on eBay “Buy it now” for one third the price! My bank account had just the amount needed. Bingo.

Please visit the blog on Brain Fitness. I am on my third day now and I love this program! Follow along. You may find that it could help you maintain your edge. Remember, our ability to think clearly is even more important than our mobility! (Another reference to The Princess Bride movie.)

Here’s the page:  Brain Fitness

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Loss and Love

Daniel Siegel, author of one of my favorite books to listen to and read, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, is a wise man. His empathy makes his work approachable and his insights make him endlessly interesting.

Recently I connected with him on Twitter and discovered more resources of his, including a TED talk and an interview about loss and love. I think you will find his manner calming and inspiring at the same time.

Daniel J. Siegel on Twitter: @DrDanSiegel

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Princess Bride Guide to Never Giving Up

I speak a lot about commitment. There is no substitute to it if we are to discover the best life has to offer.

A recent post on Elephant Journal made me laugh and cry because it is an insightful look at commitment to true love, as told in the book and movie “The Princess Bride.”

Commitment to our ideals makes us see life differently, see beyond life’s challenges (like going through the “Fireswamp” or climbing the “Cliffs of Insanity”) and binds us to unlikely cohorts. Commitment might even require us to lose our old identity. But for true love, or any other ideal, the path is not only worth it, the path is our strength and partner.

If you are fond of love stories, see (or see again) “The Princess Bride” and reflect on the salient points. Author Eka Joti has gotten us started here. Thank you, Eka.

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What’s first? What’s next? HMM

If you want to get your life in order, wonder no more. The order is started with wondering “HMM.”

HMM is my acronym that stands for Health, Mental Clarity and Motivation. It’s these three general categories that must get attention if we desire to life fully each day.

Health is obviously vital to a good life, but if mental clarity and motivation are missing, there is little chance that life will add up to much.

If one has mental clarity but no health, they’re in for real challenges to maintain that clarity. And without health, our motivation quickly evaporates.

Perhaps you tried something like this before and it didn’t work. Why not? Perhaps because you didn’t observe what your established priorities were.  Practically, we can only have one priority. “No man can serve two masters.” If it isn’t our health and mental focus, it is something less. What is your operating first priority? We may not want to look at it because it is comfortable, useful, or safe. Or maybe we don’t want to look at it because it’s ugly.

Mine functioning first priority has been getting things done. I see this from observing my behavior patterns. I spent a lot of mental focus on making lists to be sure things got done. I examined various options to see that what needed to be done was done efficiently and merged with other, related activities. I examined trip routes to make sure I went the most efficient way and then optimized it by aggressive driving. Getting things off the “to do” list was a priority.

Why I spent so much energy on this is probably due to being told as a child that I was “slower than molasses in January,” and that “You only have a one track mind.” So, I have spent decades trying to disprove that. And that was also probably my motivation for trying to learn to juggle and multitask. But if I get a lot of things done and my health gets ignored, what good did that priority do? And how many of those things accomplished were truly purposeful? My main intent was to say I’d done it. And that is just plain ignorant.

What are your priorities? What do you spend most of your energy on? What do you worry most about? How do you manage your life tasks?

HMM can get to the meat of life, feeling energized every day. Better days, better nights. Better loving. Better awareness. More rewards. It all goes better when first things are put first. No more wondering. No more hmm. It’s HMM. Now I see it.

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Committing to life “as it is”

Yesterday I was explaining what it means to commit to life “as it is.” And it occurred to me that perhaps I had not written this for the blog. It is an important point. I speak about “committing to life as it is” in my book, and there I only went over it briefly.

“Committing to life as it is” means to commit to life as we experience it, not committing to life if it gives me what I want, committing to my expectations of life, committing to how others tell me it should be, according to what is good, according to God’s law, according to what is fair, or committing to life as it needs to be for me to fit into my group.

“Committing to life as I experience it” means that I must spend some significant time observing it “as it is.” We all have the ability to observe, outside of our ego attachments, and even if we have not practiced that much, it is available to us. Observing is so important to loving, understanding and having gratitude for life, that one could almost come to the conclusion that our work on earth is to be observers. Even science has discovered that our ability to observe is as critical to reality as material facts.

One of the best tools I use for observation I call “Living COLA,” which is living with conscious Curiosity, Openness, Love and Acceptance. Living COLA helps the observer to see life as it is without attachments to what we want or expect it to be.

Commitment to life does not include committing to the daily bullshit we are used to, or things that don’t make sense to us, no matter how much those values make sense to others. The commitment I am talking about is not a commitment to idly observing life. It is not saying “I commit.” Committing requires spending time and resources to the twelve essences of life including Health, Rest, Arousal, Love, Energy, etc. (Read more from the book about the twelve essences of life.)

Without commitment, life (like shit) happens. With commitment, we understand and experience the commitment that the life-force has to us. It’s the partnership in commitment that gives life its fullest meaning.

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A Little More Gratitude, Please

Many writers and gratitude advocates (like moms) do their best to encourage us to have more gratitude.

I also believe in gratitude. I believe gratitude is one of the main elements of who we really are.

But with my devil’s advocate mind I wonder, “Is that all there is? Does gratitude only mean that we gain a healthier emotion? Or that gratitude just gives us a healthier perspective? Or that gratitude is the preferred way to start a day, a career or a relationship? Is that all there is to it?”

Gratitude does all that. But maybe there’s more. Maybe the crowning achievement of gratitude is that it paves the way for us to commit to life.

In my new book, The Twelve Commitments To Life, I offer lessons on twelve life essences that make life meaningFULL. When we commit to each, our personal life connects with Life/ God/ Pure Essence. Gratitude is great because it is what gives us the green light to commit. Gratitude says, “Life is good. It’s okay to commit to it just as it is.”

It’s my position that committing to life (all of it, not just our own experience of it), as obvious as it may seem, is what we have missed in modern society.

Instead of committing to life, we’re on the sidelines analyzing, explaining or wondering, complaining or grousing, money stressing or hoarding, consuming, multi-tasking… almost everything but committing. Our commitments seem to be limited to our personal goals and needs.

What Life/ God/ Pure Essence does for us is commit to our health and healing, balance and maintenance, now and into the future. When we commit in response, the energetic cycle is completed. Particularly, when we commit to Love, commit to Understanding and commit to Gratitude for life as it is, we honor who we are. We honor who we can be. And we honor God.

Failing to commit short-circuits the energy committed to us. To help you commit, may I suggest that you look right now at The Twelve Commitments To Life? Inside the book, I hope you will learn what Life/ God/ Pure Essence has committed to each of us, and you may see the brilliance of responding in gratitude.

This gratitude will make it easier and easier to commit to life. Gratitude will melt away your grip on annoyances, bitterness and the flaws that limit you. Whether you buy the book or not, try more gratitude; but no longer imagine that gratitude is just a happier way to live. It is the path to a committed life, a fulfilling life, and an undisturbable peace that I wish for you.

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Digital Legacy

How does the digital age change the meaning of a personal legacy? Certainly our legacy includes a digital longevity that never existed before. For instance, I can find my father’s obituary online just by typing his name. I can find copies his books online, too, and eventually, those could be digitized by Google or Amazon. As well as photos and audio.

If you are interested in this topic, I found an interesting article on the World Future Society site where Thomas Frey offers some insights. (I loved the graphic, too!)

(Photo courtesy of World Future Society)

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Personal Magnetism

Have you ever noticed how much personal magnetism you have? Yeah. You are magnetic. Whatever it is you collect, more comes to you in kind. For instance, if you are into computer technology, you probably have quite an extensive collection of monitors, wires, modems and printers as well as a supply of old software. Your personal style also tends to collect more of the same…as when people notice your style and buy you more of the same or you get sent magazines and offers related to your style. The collection validates who you are.

It’s also true about thoughts. The more positive thoughts we have, the more room we have for our positive thought collection. The more successes we have, the more successes collect at our feet. Some old, some new. Friends of like notions also tend to congregate (collect) by a similar magnetism. We have to work for some of the things that we collect, and other times, these things get drawn to us, but they collect nevertheless.

Like attracts like. The same is true with negatives and uncertainties. Uncertain minds collect more uncertain decisions and consequences. As for negatives, lots of them gather significantly more negatives than just a few negatives collect.

In my book The Twelve Commitments To Life, I show readers how to collect what is really valuable. Is not love valuable? Balance? Energy? Health? Our tribe? Rest? Of course they are. The twelve essences are so important that we will suffocate without them. They are what make it possible for us to survive, grow and thrive. And if we collect more of them, more life essences come to support our lives. Thus, life becomes easier, fuller and deeper.

You can start your collection now. All it takes is commitment to what is the best life offers. Read more at
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Declare Freedom to Be Balanced

Do you focus on what is wrong “out there?” Then you have taken a lot of hits recently. Maybe life circumstances knocked you off balance and you feel like life is unpredictable, uncaring and continuously problematic.

There is a way to get back to balance.

As a sometimes juggler and unicyclist, I know that it doesn’t take much to get thrown off balance. Even when you have both feet on the ground. All it takes is hearing bad news, discovering a personal oversight or a sudden sense of doom. We are all susceptible. But what the balanced know and practice, that those off-balance don’t, is that balance comes from the center of the wheel, the center of the soul or the center of our physical energy.

This usually requires practice, focus and patience. I like the practice of Mindsight as recommended by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel in his book, “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation.” His approach to education and child psychiatry has helped hundreds to regain their balance by spending time developing awareness of their inner sight.

Another book to help readers regain balance is Rich Guy Miller’s “The Twelve Commitments To Life.” It’s a short and easy book that helps readers focus on the twelve essentials for surviving, growing and thriving through life. Miller has a chapter devoted to balance and then weaves it into all the other life essences.

Balance is essential to life. Without it, we can’t move forward. Without balance, we can’t see. Without balance, we get side-swiped by our own energies. Without balance, fear rises to our first consciousness. Balance is necessary for growth and for thriving. Yes, it requires some practice and effort, but without it, what becomes of us? Not much.

This July 4th, declare freedom from imbalance and insist on the freedom to be balanced. The choice is yours. It not only helps you, your balance makes the world a better place.

Read an introductory chapter to The Twelve Commitments To Life.

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Last day for pre-launch discount price

Want to get a great book at a reduced price? It’s brand new. It’s a refreshing and original approach to the self-help book market.

Go to the shopping cart location here and pay only $10.00 (plus tax and shipping). Scroll to the third page to order.

The sample chapter is still located on the top of the right column of our site.

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Declare Freedom from Patriarchy

Patriarchy (and the hierarchical structures brought to us by patriarchy) is old thinking. For eons, humans thought it was the best we could do. It was so good that it got included in the major religions around the world. It was so good that it got included in the concepts of manufacturing and trade. It was so good, or so we thought, that we included it in our politics and the exercise of law. And it is all over the face of our money.

And yet it is easy to see in the light of recent events how this power corrupts. And it has no intention of stepping aside because it can’t imagine a better way.

One of the unique aspects of our present age is this recognition and that we need different models of meeting human needs. Author Rich Guy Miller is providing a refreshingly unique viewpoint in his recently released book, The Twelve Commitments To Life. Part of what makes his approach different is how he listens to what life itself (not human culture) wants, protects and promotes.

After the death of his father in 2011, Rich started questioning everything about the meaning of life. Up to that time, he thought he knew what it was, but in the face of death, the meaning of life was blank. So he started blogging on His examinations of how we think and believe, what inspired writers think about the meaning of life, the purpose of death rites and how we recover from tragedy became inspiring and short blog articles about finding life’s meaning.

Then he had a lucid dream in which a voice told him the meaning of life. In spite of his personal struggles, he devoted himself to explaining how to find the meaning of life in this and forthcoming books. The book is a fresh breakaway from patriarchy. It discusses in short chapters the twelve essences of life- those basic life elements that we must have to survive, grow and thrive.

  • Health
  • A hospitable environment
  • Awareness
  • Relief
  • Our tribe
  • Consciousness
  • Understanding
  • Rest
  • Arousal
  • Balance
  • Love and
  • Energy/breath.

Check out this freedom on where sample readings are available before you buy. The easy-to-read chapters are short and written for busy people. It’s time to rethink everything we have believed in and this is one great way to do it. Kindle version available, too.

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A Beautiful Study in Gratitude

I love that people are making videos and Facebook pages based on the act and sense of gratitude. I know we hear a lot about having more gratitude and it is almost becoming overused. But I don’t think we can ever have too much gratitude.

If you have checked out my other posts on who we really are (LUGE, Love, Understanding and Gratitude Energies), you know how important I think it is to be in gratitude. And yet, this video by Louie Schwartzberg is exceptional in spreading the gospel of gratitude. It’s just ten minutes and it could change your day, or maybe your week. It has changed his life.

Check out the other outstanding TED speakers available online on YouTube or

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Video Introduction of The Twelve Commitments To Life

Rich gives a book overview for The Twelve Commitments To Life, a short and easy to read book that can help improve love, sense of purpose, health, concentration, growth, relationships and more.

Rich’s book is available at

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Coffee Inspired Book

I am a coffee lover. I have to admit it. And I admit that coffee fuels a lot of my inspiration. Did you know that coffee’s first application was to help inspire African monks to stay awake during their late night vigils? So, coffee and inspired writing go together.

Twelve Commitments To Life front cover

First copies will be available this weekend. Limited quantities.

This weekend at the Wicked Coffees booth in the Vista Farmers Market (Saturday) and the Leucadia Farmers Market (Sunday), the first copies of my book will be available for purchase. Limited quantities!

Click the links above for more location information.


Also, now available on


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Declare your freedom July 4th

Announcing the book I promised, The Twelve Commitments to Life. I am having it released on July 4th as a declaration of freedom for all readers that want to live life fully.

Link to Amazon

But you don’t have to wait till then to see the plan, the twelve commitments and start committing to life. Read the forward, table of contents and first chapter.

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The Meaning of Life Is …

What is the meaning of life? Does it have meaning? If life had meaning, why would it be so difficult to find and understand? Doesn’t death, injustice and unbalanced social structures obliterate any meaning we might have been able to discover?

Recently I was introducing my book The Twelve Commitments to Life to my friend John. He wanted to understand what I meant. To him, “life has no meaning. It just is.” Perhaps he was saying that there is nobody named “Life” who tells us what the meaning is. But he was arguing his point using words that have meaning. “This is all we have,” he went on. “We’re just supposed to do our best and enjoy life.”

I quickly pointed out that he was using words that had meaning… and that doing his best gave him meaning… and that enjoyment gave value and meaning to his life. “John, what I am saying in the book is about engaging with life. We won’t know any enjoyment or be able to do our best if we don’t fully engage. That engagement gives us meaning.”

The Twelve Commitments to Life is not this author trying to tell his readers what the real meaning of life is. But I am excited to share with you a simple truth about finding your meaning. I tell you what I discovered about the meaning of life on the first page. It’s simple, profound and repeatable.

If you think it will be a difficult philosophical read, you’d be wrong. Neither is it religious or New Age. It’s closer to a practical philosophy, something I show you, in a few pages per chapter, how to get working in your life THIS week.

I kept in mind that you have a lot of things on your plate, and unlike John, you may not have even fifteen minutes to argue philosophy. So the book is short and the style is conversational. And if you only have fifteen minutes in the next month, you can read the chapter summaries I provided in less time than that.

This material took a year to write as I went through very challenging financial, personal and physical challenges. Each lesson came to me at the right time. And now that the twelve essences of life have been identified, your path will be much easier.

Amazon has a page dedicated to my books, where we can discuss your ideas about the meaning of life, you can access my blog feed and more.  I hope to see you there.

Here’s the link to the paperback version at

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Be healthy, be sexy

In my book “Twelve Commitments to Life,” I focus on the aspects of life that are essential to thriving and being fully alive. One chapter is on arousal and sex because sex is not just essential to creating a new generation. Sex is a multi-faceted benefit of being alive.

The health benefits of arousal and being sexual are still being documented, even though our species have been curious and involved for hundreds of thousands of years. Here’s a great article on the Huffington Post by Dr. Veronica Anderson. Her article focuses on just some of the joys that come from sex in a committed relationship. But mostly, notice that those with a healthy sex life live longer. Probably, being happy and more connected to life equals longevity.


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Freedom, the Final Frontier

Americans celebrate their freedom in many ways. After all, aren’t they the inventors of freedom? Not really. And we Americans have much to learn about freedom yet.

Freedom is often perceived as freedom from dictators, freedom to voice one’s opinions, freedom to select the best leaders and freedom from economic, racial, religious and gender bias.

Thich Nhat Hanh relates in his book The Art of Power that the ultimate form of power is freedom to choose peace, no matter the circumstances. He achieved this freedom during a time of war, when his country was at war with France and he observed war atrocities in his own village and family.

I think it is instructive to observe that he also learned freedom from bitterness, ignorance and hate.

Through my practice of commitment to life (book link), I have discovered and been blessed by these kind of freedoms. I am amazed to witness my own freedom of spirit. I stress less and breathe easier, like I have been let out of a cage. I am free of bitterness over what people do or have done to me. I am freeing myself from the ignorance that comes from denial. The hate, too, is gone.The Twelve Commitments to Life Book Cover

In gratitude for this freedom, my commitment to life is strengthened and because of this new feeling, I recommend it to you.

We are overwhelmed with messages from our government and authority figures that our freedom depends on sacrifice, that it always has and always will. But the kind of freedom I’m talking about depends on commitment, commitment to life and only life.

Check out my plan for your freedom on Amazon. The Twelve Commitments to Life. The release date is July 4, 2012. Free sample chapters are available here at and

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Are We Aware that Living Fully Is Our Most Important Job?

When did you first become aware that living fully is the most important thing you could do?

Sometimes we only realize that we have not been living fully when we encounter a tragedy, such as the death of a loved one. Then we wake up and realize, “what have I been doing with my life?” Well. What have you been doing with it?

While living fully is clearly more than words, it does start with the mind, being aware of life, using the mind to discern what has the most meaning, and to evaluate what barriers are in the way. Not that the mind knows all that much about living fully. The mind is a tool for living fully, not where living fully happens.

Let’s start with awareness. Awareness, or mindfulness, is the first requirement of living fully. Awareness  is an observer function that shows us, by our thoughts, choices, decisions, longings, repetitions and feelings what is important. And this observer function also gives us the information we need to make the choice to change those thoughts, longings, repetitions, etc.

Awareness, of course, is more than observing thoughts. It is also awareness of one’s body, one’s connections and one’s weaknesses. It takes quite a bit of commitment to awareness to get to the point of non-judgmental awareness that is consistently operating.

Awareness will also bring to mind those values that enhance our lives. Particularly I like to return to the values of Love, Understanding and Gratitude. I try to do all I can to incorporate those and be motivated solely by those enlightened qualities. But there is more. It’s Enlightened Action. Awareness sees that we can’t live fully without taking action that leads us in the life-enhancing direction.

These four qualities of Gratitude, Love, Understanding and Enlightened action make for a nice couple of anagrams. The first is GLUE, because these attributes hold us together as a human community. GLUE supports the best in all of us. And although GLUE is perceived as sticky, we can’t stop there. These four attributes are not just gluey. They also move us forward; they move us forward to our home (the Future where Gratitude, Love and Understanding are in such abundance that they aren’t attributes as much as they are who we are). These four qualities of a full life unstick us from the past, and unbind us from our present attachments. They set us free. It’s almost as if they were super slick grease or ice on a slope toward our home; they are a metaphorical LUGE ride.

The LUGE is our ticket home, really fast. (A six-minute YouTube Video I made on Riding the LUGE.)

What we often choose instead of the LUGE is the SAFARI. A LUGE rider has no thoughts of or delights in going on SAFARI because the SAFARI is the trip that is nothing more than Self Absorption, Fear, Anger and Repeated Injuries. We may say the SAFARI (our life) was great or we may layer it with trappings of accumulation, prestige and accomplishment, but it is still a SAFARI: Self Absorption, Fear, Anger and Repeated Injuries.

Living fully isn’t fast. It’s full. It isn’t glamorous. It’s glorious. It isn’t saving the world. The world is already saved. It isn’t even right or good. It’s who we are, living into what we came to do: spreading GLUE on our community for the trip down the LUGE of life.

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Loving Learning

Do you love learning? I do. Learning is part of living fully. Most of what I have learned, however, was not from an accredited institution of higher learning. Like many others, what is most valuable to me is what I learned from life, through achievement as well as from failure and going on from there. Once in a while though, I have had the advantage of learning from others’ mistakes. Those lessons are sweet.

I am newly interested in learning now that I have been reading about brain plasticity, neuroscience and learning processes. Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour Body is releasing a new book on accelerated learning and living the good life, The 4-Hour Chef.

As we wait for his book, I wrote down a few simple enhancements to learning that you can put to use immediately. Tuition free.

One. Be aware of and drop your assumptions. Any professor worth his/her salt will remind the students that assumptions tell us that we already know something when we really don’t. Particularly troublesome for me are assumptions that identify a person, group or situation as a recognizable type. The truth is that each person, group and situation are unique. If we can’t see the differences, we haven’t used the lab equipment. Typing may be efficient but it closes the door to uniqueness and learning.

Two. Look for patterns of your own behavior. This helps you learn about your own blind spots, your projections on others, your dead ends and avoidances. This course of study is rarely attended in spite of the great advantages and its minimal tuition.

Three. Examine generalizations you hear or make for their distortions and inconsistencies. Also examine the same generalizations for the seeds of truth that make them popular and easily believed. I play goalie when someone tries to kick one in.  Sometimes it feels the entire team is helping the opponents score on me!

Learning is one of life’s best rewards. It keeps us growing and engaged. Learning is so vital that I often remark, “The day I don’t learn something is the day I begin to die.”

BTW, learning and training are not the same. Training is good for achieving results quickly and efficiently and for repetitive tasks, like sports. Mental training is also effective for dodging evidence and logic.

But this is important: we are not here to get results or to be hamsters on a wheel of routine. We are here to commit to life and learning about life improves when we commit to it as it is.

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Death of Guilt

Guilt makes death a little harder. Or a lot harder. We feel guilty because we didn’t do this for “him” before he died. He died feeling guilty that he didn’t do what he said he would do for you.

Or you want to blame her, that is, make her guilty, for leaving you. She may even want, before she dies, to make you feel the pain she went through bringing you into this world and keeping you clean.

Guilt often fills the air around death and may be a primary reason we try so hard to look away and not get involved.

But death, of course, is not the only time we struggle with guilt in our lives. The struggle with guilt comes early when we don’t yet know the rules, or literally trip over our own feet and bring the prized vase to its demise, the bouncing ball gets out of our control, we pee-pee when we should have held it… We experience shame and guilt without even trying.

But we insist on maintaining our innocence. “It wasn’t me!” “He made me do it!” “You always blame ME!” And my personal best at innocence was, “I didn’t try to!” To which my mother replied, “You didn’t try not to!” She had me there.

Then all sorts of authority figures move in to make sure we get blamed: babysitters, older friends and siblings, teachers, neighbors, preachers… All but the stuffed animals and family dog want to blame us, make us wrong, take our good intentions and turn them into mush. Later, it’s professors, bosses, and spouses. And then our own children blame us. We just can’t get past the guilt.

But here’s the good news. Life isn’t about how guilty or innocent we are. (Reread that.) Life is about commitment to life, come what may, just as it is. Life wants us to commit to it, to understanding it, to loving, to expressing gratitude, to taking action instead of feeling guilty and paralyzed or guilty and reacting with the “fuck-its” because we just can’t win our innocence back.

We can never win the battle for innocence. We are guilty. We are guilty for the things we did, for the things we didn’t do, for the lies we told to make others guilty instead of us, for the anger that rose when we were caught with our pants down, for the way we perpetrated the lie about life’s purposes.

But we can be responsible. We may not be responsible for the death of our beloved, but we are responsible for our own lack of commitment to our own life. And we can finally commit when we stop spending the energy to be innocent or to blame others and just commit to life.

What freedom there is within that commitment! What joy there is within that release! There is no more need to suffer or make others suffer for our sins when we commit to life. Now and forever. Life Forever Now.

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Grief Recess

Grieving is a long process. No one can say how long it will take or what we must endure in the process. During it, we can be of two states of mind. On one hand, we crave normalcy. On the other, we need to be apart so we can grieve in our own way.

In the meantime, and before we begin to feel “half-normal,” we may want to venture into some release of emotions that feel normal, such as laughter or ease with life. Feeling like a child without a care in the world would also help us relax. It may help us to venture into these feelings and maintain our commitment to the grieving process if we give ourselves a specified amount of time in which we can let go of the intensity of grief.

Laughter is one of those natural states that serve two (or more) purposes. It triggers endorphins that are good for healing and it acts as a catalyst for releasing anger. Even if I don’t feel like laughing, it helps me to remember my father’s laugh. I can still consciously choose to hear that. It fills my heart in a way that I am not aware of when I laugh of my own accord. I also gaze at photos of him in a burst of laughter. This makes me smile and not so self conscious of laughing.

Thanks to my friend and coffee customer Janet Still, I have a webpage to share on the healing of laughter.

It’s okay to take a few minutes to look at laughter, to heal, to let go of the stress of loss. Your beloved would probably approve.

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David Frost and the Panel of Death

Teens and pre-teens, with the lights turned down, will discuss life and death. What is life? What is death? Where do we go? When and how?

But here’s some adults facing the issue under studio lights. It’s David Frost with a panel including Rosalyn Hayward, Rev H. A. Harry Williams, John Bechman and Nichol Williamson.

Actor Williamson reads a piece from playwright Samuel Beckett, describing the terror of dying and facing death.

Filmed possibly around 1968

I think it is appropriate to look at death now instead of waiting until our last breath. It is now that I can appreciate life and the consequences of not living fully.

Isn’t death feared because we waited so long to discover what living was all about? Or because we became so attached to what we had- things that were attachments, not our real, alive self?

Rather than waiting for the death grip to convince me that I am alive, I stare down death now, simply by living my life fully, consciously and in committed partnership with it. Then, no matter what happens, I lived an ideal life.

Posted in Living Fully Now, The Ultimate Enemy | 2 Comments

Sex and Bravery

Candice Holdorf is a brave woman. She is also a free woman. Free to be who she is without apology. I honor her living example of living fully.

I was recently impressed with her article in Elephant Journal in which she shares her complex emotions as she experienced a completely vulnerable orgasm. It’s engaging reading for men and women.

Living fully includes being vulnerable. Can we trust ourselves? Our life path? God?  The Universe? I think we must, because for the life of me, I can’t figure out how a guy as dumb as me got to sixty years old in one piece. I trusted life and my angels backed me up. I hope to trust life more.

Thank you, life. Thank you, angels. Thank you, God.

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First Things Foremost

It’s hard for anyone to tell me what should be first in my life. Well, it’s not hard for them to do it. It’s hard for me to hear it.

There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that people have been trying to set my priorities for almost as long as I have lived. So, I’m tired of that. But, also, it is important for me to figure out my own priorities and make my own “first things foremost.” That makes me a self-actualized person.

And, yet, perhaps out of my experience as a parent and grandparent, I understand the urge to tell someone else, especially someone less experienced, what is foremost and should be put first on their list of priorities.

But this post is not going to be me telling you, the reader, what you should put first. My approach to these important issues will be three-fold.

  • First to speak in general, what people in general should put first, based on my experience.
  • Second, to illustrate what happens when we don’t put first things foremost. It’s true that what we don’t take care of falls apart.
  • Third, to help you find the motivation in yourself to put first things foremost.

The Squeaky Wheel

What we usually put first is pretty similar to oiling the squeaky wheel first. People (such as parents, teachers, neighbors, friends, police, ministers, etc) have a way of making us respond to their needs first. “It’s urgent,” they insist. “It’s important.” “I won’t love you if you don’t…” “You will go to hell/ jail/ the same class over…if you don’t.” And the like.

So, to avoid banishment, another fight, failure, not being liked, not belonging, et cetera, we attend to the business of complying with them and falling in line. This becomes habitual.

It is the opposite of becoming self-actualized. Whether we recognize it or not, it makes us angry and destructive. Worse, what needs to get done for our mental and physical health gets put on the back burner. We might even console ourselves that we have avoided a disaster.

What we should have done, for our own health and thus for those that depend on us, is to take care of our vitality and our mental clarity. Those are first and foremost.

The Likely, Rusty Result

We see this so many times in those that have recently retired. They are out of shape. Their health may have been compromised by job stress or injuries related to the workplace. Their mental focus is starting to wane due to a lack of variety, stimulation, years of weariness and television. All they can think of is starting to live for themselves, at long last.

My father passed away last year, partly due to age (he was not old), partly due to lack of exercise, partly due to ignorance of basic health maintenance practices (like vitamin supplementation and the necessity of hydration) and partly due to his mindset that his body didn’t matter as much as the spirit. He was willing to let the body take care of itself because it wasn’t really that important to him.

That is what happens when we don’t put first things foremost. Our body and mind slip into entropy. It would be like driving a car and failing to be interested in the basics necessary to keep it going. Or flying a plane and not doing a flight check first.

This is what faces us if we don’t pay attention to what’s foremost for life: chronic pain, disability, immobility, depression, lack of purpose and difficulty in finding solutions to life’s problems. Entropy will find you. It is written into the process of life. All you have to do is deny it will ever happen to you that way.

First and Foremost

The body may seem complex and difficult to manage, but if we gave our body the attention we give to those “squeaky wheels” that demand that we pay attention to them first, we would have enough time to learn, understand and love our bodies.

The same is true of our brains. We can train them, improve them, make them more efficient and keep them from sliding into diseases that are a result of poor use. It’s a “use it or lose it” scenario. And I’d rather lose those people that are so intent on me paying attention to their needs first than lose my health or mind.

Completing the Picture of Health

Is there a solution? Yes. It’s motivation. Sometimes this motivation comes when we face death and disability in the face, like I did with my dying father. Sometimes we hit bottom in other ways, such as a personal health crisis. Sometimes we grow up in a part of town that has become inconsequential (to put it nicely) and we see what confronts us if we don’t personally move forward with positive action. Or maybe we hear a motivational talk that helps us see what awaits us if we don’t take committed action.

Motivation is the key to staying on top of the game. What will motivate you? It’s a question only you can answer. It becomes your good squeaky wheel. Your call to action. Your choice to live fully. It’s not someone else telling you what you should do. It’s your voice and your insight regarding what is at stake.

It’s your very life and it starts now. First and foremost.

Posted in Enlightened Action, Health, Meaning and Life | Leave a comment

What happens when more people live longer?

Simply answered, when people live longer, they become happier.
Contrary to the stereotyped image of losing interest in life, TED speaker and Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, Laura Carstensen is sharing great information on the prospect of becoming older. Their studies show that older people:

  • Are happier
  • Live in the moment
  • Know what’s important in life
  • Savor life
  • Deepen relationships
  • Are more open to reconciliation
  • Invest in more emotionally important parts of life
  • Appreciate life more

Laura says, “When we realize we don’t have all the time in the world, we see our priorities most clearly.”

And what happens when  societies have more older than younger people? “….the numbers won’t determine the outcome. The culture will.”

Watch here:

Posted in Gratitude, Life Extension, Our Shared Future | Leave a comment

Is Death Necessary?

It seems like a valid question. Is death necessary? Many people think it is. Others wonder.

To take the doubt away, I’d like to approach this question via another angle: what is necessary for life and would death be included? In other words, what do we need to stay alive? There are many elements necessary for life. Life does not require beauty, money or career success.

The real essentials include thing like food.

  • We die without food. So, food is necessary for our lives.
  • Water, too.
  • We need a hospitable environment, one that is not too harsh on our limited bodies.
  • We need other people. Now you may argue that, but it seems plain that (judging by their actions) most humans need and deeply long for a partner as well as some others to avoid successive trauma.
  • We need air we can breathe.
  • We need rest once in a while. We can’t work all the time.
  • We need to relieve ourselves of toxins, waste and stresses of life.
  • I believe we also need conscious awareness; otherwise we can’t take care of ourselves, adapt or evolve.
  • We need to learn. If we don’t learn from mistakes, we could be killed by them.
  • We need balance. Too much of anything will also threaten our equilibrium.
  • And, of course, we need healthy bodies.

You might want to add some things, like love or joy, and I won’t make you argue that. And other possible additions to this list would probably fall under the areas above. But there are two other, very significant things missing from the list of essentials, things that we have observed and depended upon since the dawn of time: sex and death.

Do we really need sex and death to live?

The reason we need sex is to bring in replacements for those that have died. Or to boost our human resources in the advent of an epidemic that sickens a majority of the tribe. But if there was no death, our need of sex would be markedly diminished.

Why would we need death to live?

Some say we need death to make space for the new children. So, grandma has to die of old age and daddy has to die in a war to make room for other families’ babies?! That’s how that kind of logic plays out.

But making way for new children is not what death does. Look at the world population. How effective at population control has death been by getting rid of the old folks and (assuming “natural selection”) allowing the weak to die young? Birth control seems to be the more immediate and humane answer to population control.

Some say we need death because all things die. That’s like saying we need booze because everybody drinks it.

And everything does not die. Light and energy don’t die. Some plastics are indestructible. Love never dies, say the romantics. Some religions have heroes that have avoided death, living on forever. Time doesn’t die or cease. And really, just because flowers, ladybugs and bunnies die, does that mean they set the standard for human beings?

Is death necessary?

What good does death bring to human life?

The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that we need death to make for change. Perhaps Steve didn’t realize how much change he brought to the world by being alive.

Does death bring any other good?

I would argue that the death can be a sort of re-birth for the survivors. Look at all the good that has been done by people whose loved ones died from some crime, accident or disease, which created new laws, incentives and businesses to answer those stricken by such a loss. (I am collecting first person accounts of these people for a book. Let me know if you would like to be considered.)

But the achievements of people motivated by death is a different question. The vital question is not, “Is death a good thing?” The question is, “Is death necessary?” (I wanted to illustrate here that the two questions are different.)

I don’t see any reason how death could be necessary.

Your input is welcome. Use the response box (or link that takes you to the box) below.

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It’s Okay to Cry

Grief… we have lost so many things. Many people today are talking about the loss of our freedoms and working opportunities. Loss of financial options. Loss of trust in the government, the banking system, the schools, etc.

And while loss is loss no matter how we cut it, those of us that lose loved ones suffer the most. And as the first anniversary of my father’s passing looms in the next week, I found myself getting more angry, depressed and tearful.

At first, I didn’t know what to do.

I thought I was past it.

I have tried so hard to be positive, to look at the loss directly by blogging and writing my upcoming books on living fully while avoiding death…

Yesterday, it came to me. My tears are something to be grateful for.

Not just because I believe that life intends for us to become more loving, understanding and have more gratitude. Tears themselves are telling me about me, the “me” I rarely look at. The “me” that was created before I really had words or the ability to think logically about the world around me. Tears were my infantile method of releasing stress. Thank God for releasing stress!

But as an adult, tears can create stress. Tears are embarrassing. Others want to help and they can bring me a glass of water, cup of tea or coffee. They can give me a shoulder to cry on. They can reassure me that everything is going to be all right. But still the tears flow.

And letting the tears flow yesterday, I remembered what I learned and recorded in this blog some months ago. It’s what to do when life gets hard. It’s Be GReaT. (BGRT.)

In those posts, I shared what I was doing to live through a crisis. The crisis became more manageable with four simple steps.  1. Breathing to center into my body and allow it to relax. 2. Giving thanks and/or service to others who are in pain. 3. Reflecting on the upcoming lessons and gifts that always follow a trial. 4. Treating the problem with precise tools once identified.

But first, one might have to deal with tears. You see, this infant whose tears are flowing out of an adult’s face needs to know there is a way past the tears. In my infancy, it might have been a sweet treat, a bottle or breast, a funny face Dad made, a kiss on the sore spot, or a loving affirmation.

It’s no different today. That child inside can still hurt and feel tremendous loss.  I want to recognize that child’s pain, frustration or fear of abandonment. I want to let it cry to relieve the stress. Then I offer a plan. He can Be GReaT. He can Breathe and relax. He can reach out to Give, taking the focus off of his anguish. He can Reflect on what’s coming next- it’s going to be great. Then, with adult skills, he can Treat the problem like an empowered adult. One step at a time, but he will get there and he will be great.

Check out the other posts. B. G. R. T.

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Mega Millions Missing

The buzz-buzz-buzz has been over the Mega Millions Jackpot.

Did you hear it went missing?

True. The juicy jackpot, the real riches, went missing. But, lucky that you found this post (or were sent this message) because I intend to explain where it went. Better yet, I’ll show you where it is. Now. (And there’s no tax on it.)

Perhaps first, I should show where it is not. It is not in Mega Millions. The real jackpot is in SLOTS.

No, not Vegas “SLOTS.” In the acronym “SLOTS.”

Most of us have been so looking for the magic bullet that will solve our problems. Our money problems. Job problems. Relationship problems. Religious problems. Political problems. Sex problems. Health problems. And it seems that winning a load of cash (or getting a ton of credit) will make the worst of it go away.

What? You’ve never heard of miserable millionaires? Miserable long-term marriages? Religious rancor on high? Petulant politicians? Sex slaves? Does money fix any of  that? No.

But SLOTS can.

SLOTS is the process (not the solution) that puts things right.

S. Slow down. We can never live fully while still in the fast lane.

L. Love. Care, concern and commitment make a world of difference.

O. Observe. Without judgment or attachment, curiously observe what is really happening, especially to your feelings.

T. Think. Think before you act or speak. Think about how your actions affect others.

S. Serve and Share. There is no surer ways to grow in gratitude and understanding than by reaching out and helping.

Mega Millions are a poor replacement for SLOTS. Don’t waste your time chasing money. Let it come if it will, but it will never buy you what hitting the SLOTS does.

Live fully now. Not after the ship comes in.

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Sleeping to Death

No, sleeping does not cause death…at least, from no studies I have heard of… But taking sleeping pills (according to a recent study involving over 10,000 patients) causes an astounding four-fold likelihood of death, even when taking only eighteen of them per year.

Here’s some of Dr. Mercola’s information:

Most would not knowingly put their life on the line, but you may be doing just that if you take sleeping pills.

Research involving data from more than 10,500 people who received drugs for poor sleep (hypnotics) showed that “as predicted, patients prescribed any hypnotic had substantially elevated hazards of dying compared to those prescribed no hypnotics” and the association held true even when patients with poor health were taken into account — and even if the patients took fewer than 18 pills in a year.

The study suggested that those who take such medications are not only at higher risk for certain cancers, but are nearly four times more likely to die than people who don’t take them.

Sleeping pills linked to these risks included benzodiazepines (such as temazepam), non-benzodiazepines (such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata), barbiturates, and sedative antihistamines.

Thank heaven I have never had trouble sleeping! If you do, you might try reading Dr. Mercola’s Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep.

More information from Dr. Daniel F. Kripke, The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills.

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Love, Understanding and Gratitude Energies are easily understood. Everyone I talk to about them agrees that our lives would be better if we focused on those all the time. 100% agreement. So I say to myself, “Great. We all agree on love, understanding and gratitude. But is it me or do we all fall short of acting on these?”

I can’t speak for others, but I can speak for myself. The reason we fall short is “ego.” It’s a short word, but it talks a thousand languages and gushes and spreads wide over the Earth.

Ego starts out innocently enough; it is our normal method of coping and connecting with those whom we depend upon to live. But ego has a dark side. It is also a self-enforced self-destruct mechanism.

Ego hides its self-destructiveness in many ways with cover-ups such as: praise of life’s good things, getting rid of ignorance (primarily through education of various sorts), service to others, care and compassion of others, love and worship. Society also encourages such activities because ego’s self-destruction doesn’t stop with one’s self.

But, just as meditators can still struggle with ego outside the meditation hour and church members suffer from selfishness after church services, these above activities do not eliminate the self-destroying aspects of ego. Because our ego is still in place. In order to be rid of our defaulting self-hate, we must get rid of our ego. And it can be considerably reduced or eliminated in our lifetime.

Here is how we get rid of ego and really live life fully. I call it giving ego the SLIP.

S. See ego objectively for what it is. (I can’t speak for yours, but mine is a falsifier, a destroyer, a thief, a control freak, an asshole at times, a fearful hatemonger, a two-faced shape-shifter, a saboteur, as well as a charmer, a manipulator and an escape artist.)

L. Let go of ego, having seen what it is. Or at least, be willing to let it go. This is a mental decision and commitment to getting rid of ego as much as possible. Renounce its games, illusions, wanton destructiveness and BS. (Ego is tricky, here, such as making this renouncement an act of ego, instead of using awareness to let go of it.)

I. Intensive practice of selfless activities such as service, compassion, meditation/ mindsight, gratitude, generosity, love, education and selfless awareness.

P. Personal/ Private training from someone who has learned how to be ego-less. This would be someone who can tell you what your ego is doing but you can’t see on your own. This person instructs with compassion, not for elevation to status as teacher, guru,  priest or any form or superior. And until this person comes into your life, Pray for their arrival.

Giving ego the SLIP is easy to remember. Four steps we can repeat to ourselves. Just practice it with self-love and see how many of your (ego-created) troubles slip away as well.

See more posts on these categories. Love. Understanding. Gratitude. Enlightened Action. LUGE

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Humility, the Unsung Hero: An Interview

Recently, I had the rare (really rare) opportunity to interview Humility. Usually working in the background, and often misunderstood as weak or failing to thrive, Humility, IMHO, is a hero in the development of wisdom and understanding.

Me: Humility, what a rare privilege it is to converse with you today! You aren’t often in the public eye.

Humility: Yes, that’s true. I don’t get out much.

M: Do you think that contributes to the many common misunderstandings that you are weak, like the “Casper Milktoasts” we despise?

H: It might. Not that it bothers me.

M: In some ways, you seem to be all around us. Look at the people cleaning floors, emptying trash, begging on the corner…

H: Those people aren’t necessarily me. Humility is not doing a thankless task or being “lowly;” it is willingness to be quiet and learn from any task, no matter how menial. If we think we have nothing to learn about any activity, we don’t know it at all.

M: What do you think is the major disconnect for people, in terms of understanding the value of Humility?

H: The major disconnect? That’s easy. It’s Ego. Ego and I do not live well together.

M: How do you mean?

H: Ego and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Ego gets off discrediting what I offer. Ego says I have no backbone and that we don’t need to listen to the situation, as I suggest. Ego already has the answers.

M: What is it you offer? I am not sure I am clear about that.

H: I have no interest in one-up-manship. My approach is to listen to every situation to hear what I can and then learn from it. I want to grow, understand and love. That only comes from listening to the entire situation, not just the surface issues that seem so alarming, charming or disarming.

M: Doesn’t this make you, Humility, or anyone that embraces your approach, easy victims of others?

H: No. To the contrary. The victims are those that don’t know what they are doing; they are just reacting or creating plans based on old information.

M: That is interesting.

H: Thanks. But to me, it’s the most rewarding approach as well. I may be a silent partner, but my experience proves that it gives the best results. By being readily willing to listen and learn, more opportunities arise to understand, have hope, get past ego barriers to love…and more.

M: I get it. You hesitate to say what that “more” is because you are not ready to brag or call attention to yourself.

H: That could be. I’m really not trying to convince anyone. You see, Humility as a concept is weak and ineffectual. Humility must be practiced, put in action, committed to, and proved by experience.

M: If you were to offer our readers and listeners a hint about taking steps toward what you are talking about, what would that be in 5 words or less?

H: Listen to the tiny voice.

M: What tiny voice?

H (Very quietly spoken):  The one that leads you to truth.

M: I have to confess, I am not sure what you mean.

H (Quietly spoken):  Perhaps Ego is talking too loud for you to hear the truth.

M: So, what you are after is the Truth? What is the Truth?

H: I can’t speak for you. What do you think it is?

M: I am not sure about you, Humility!

H: That’s okay.

M: I mean, why should I wait and listen?

H: I didn’t say you “should.” I think you heard Ego say that word.

M: Okay. Let me take this approach. Does the Truth really matter? Isn’t it all shifting and relative?

H: “Does the Truth really matter?” That would be up to you to decide.

M: You are getting under my skin, Humility!

H: Okay. So this is a perfect opportunity to learn something. What about learning and listening to whatever situation you find yourself in is making your skin crawl? Are you unable to hear another opinion if it doesn’t fit in your established ideas? Does listening to the tiny voice make you feel impotent? Isn’t that your Ego making you a victim of the situation? Quiet your Ego. Can you do that?

M: I can try.

H: Tell your Ego it needs to take a well-deserved break.

M: Okay.

H: Now, tell me about a time, a few years back, when you were frustrated.

M: My wife wasn’t listening to me.

H: Okay. That’s good. Was she entirely wrong?

M: No.

H: And how long did it take for you to realize that she had a point?

M: Months.

H: In the meantime, you held it against her. Right?

M: Yup.

H: If you had been willing to listen to her and her situation at the time of the blow-up, do you think it would have taken you months to resolve the problem?

M: You have a point.

H: So, in this situation, you learned you’d been a heel. You held a grudge that affected your health, your work, your relationships… Did you realize that Humility would have changed it?

M: No. That’s the honest truth.

H: Pardon me, but that means you are still a heel.

M: You’re right.

H: That’s the first step toward Humility. You have admitted you were wrong. Now commit to it. Not to being wrong, but to listening, understanding and loving. It’s not all about your Ego.

M: Humility, thank you.

H: Yes, Gratitude is another joy of Humility. Go enjoy it!

M: There it is: the heroism of Humility. It’s true. Ego may get you some short term benefits but Humility is the stroke of finesse that gets you to the truth.  It’s not easy to learn from something so unexpected or small; it just takes courage to choose Humility. Thank you, readers and listeners. Please take a hint from my new friend, Humility, and give that little voice a chance to teach you more than Ego can.  I think its part of living life fully! (Off mike) You know, I do feel better! How about that? No, Ego. I don’t need you back right now. (Fade out)

This is dedicated to my father, E. Ted Miller. We kids often joked about his flabbergasting humility, so misplaced in the world of egos. But his humility was solid and a great example to us. I honor him again today with this dedication.


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Understanding the Power of Death

Death wields ultimate power over us, or so it seems. Having encountered it (not the theatrical versions), death shakes us of our illusions of self-power, control and imperviousness. For many of us it goes even further to make us fearful of belonging, achievement or caring. Or death drives us to overcompensating in our careers, our estate and legacy building, or risking physical health to “cheat death.”

It is my experience that understanding the power of death is too immense to understand without first understanding the power of smaller things: Other’s opinions. The boss. The judge. The barking theologian. Where does their power come from?

It comes from us. It’s really that simple. We give them the power. Each person that has authority is just like you and me: missing information, suffering from delayed connections with reality, often overwhelmed and frightened, prone to doubts and delusions. With those gaps in their makeup, they compensate and fill in the spaces with raw power. That raw power comes from their fear of their missing parts becoming visible to everyone else. Think of the man behind the curtain, operating the “Great and Terrible Oz.“

And due to gaps in our own personas, we allow them to wield that power. In effect, we give them their power. But if we were to see them as they truly are (with gaps in their personalities, intellect, experience, etc.), we would have no more fear of their power and no more reason to give them the power that keeps us from exercising our own. Think of it like the classic tale,  The Emperor’s New Clothes. He had so much power that even stripped of his “power tie” he was eagerly worshipped…until one little boy, untrained in lying about power, commented that the emperor actually didn’t have any clothes on.

So it is with death, [a word I rarely willingly capitalize except at the beginning of a sentence or as a title to an article, as I would any other word]. Death has its power over us only by our perception of its power, just as we ascribe power to human beings.  In one frightful perspective, death robs us of our loved ones or of our very body. In another perspective, death is a “final rest and deserved rest” or a “change of address” or a “going home.” Yet death happens to our bodies thousands of times a day and we take no notice of it. Our skin cells slough off, dead inner cells are carried away through the blood and organs as waste or are eaten by “friendly bacteria.”

I do not write about death this way to embrace it or to celebrate the loss of my father who was not fully ready to die. He had books he was writing as well as other projects he prized. He was not ready to leave his beloved wife. (I know these things because we talked about it right before he died.) I still insist that he died too soon and many of us have experienced similar, untimely “departures.”

The key thought here is that death need not be our worst fear. It has its power over us only as we allow it to reign over us. I see the death of loved ones as a rebirth for the survivors. (See post.) I see death as often unnecessary and something we should all work together to reduce or eventually eliminate. I hate the way death tears up families, the way governments inflict it on people of other cultures and boundaries, the helplessness it shrieks, the sense of uselessness it fosters, the joy and wisdom it deprives… But before we stop death, each of us can realize that it has no more power than “I” give it.

Once we understand and no longer fear the power of death, other fears also find a back seat in our lives. Because ultimately, no one and no thing have more power over us than death. Without death looming, we are freed to live, love, discover who we are and let others be who they are. Even the smallish things that usually drive us nuts have less power. (See Facing Down Death)

Understanding the power of death is no small thing. And this short article does not completely explain it.* It was written to let you peek at some freedom, stir your motivation and start planning your escape. Even if the human race does not eliminate death before your time, you can definitely eliminate death’s grip on your mind in this lifetime.


*For a fuller explanation of how people come to have power over us, I recommend Gerry Spence’s book How to Argue and Win Every Time. Mr. Spence has looked across the courtroom at police, judges, the law, juries, the US Government, large corporations and highly paid insurance company lawyers. His work required him to battle on the behalf of his clients and therein, he found the power to understand.

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Reunion, the Ecstasy and Agony

Reunions of long divided family members is the stuff of legend. So reunion is exactly what we desire for our departed ones…a great reunion on the other side. Even so, we long for a reunion for ourselves when we pass to the next life.

Ever since I was a child, I had dreams of reunions and wondered at their power. They are simultaneously ecstasy in the present and the agony of separation remembered.

I recently was reading a blog (Love Life with EO) that had a link to a YouTube video of elephants being reunited. Produced by PBS, it is as heartrending as it is glorious.

Watch the video below for Part One where we meet Shirley, a crippled and retired 52 year-old Asian elephant. She hasn’t seen another elephant for over 20 years.

Part Two follows with the introductions of Jenny and Tarra.

The tremendous power of reunions is more than human and it tells me there is a deeper essence underneath. My theory is that reunions are a preview of the ultimate reunion. You may think I refer to the meeting of family after death. But no, I call the ultimate reunion the ecstasy and agony of re-uniting with our true, unmasked Self. It’s that moment when, devoid of our attachments and fears, we come face to face with who we really are…and finally know our own love.

We do not need to wait for death for this reunion to happen. We only need to let go of all self-deception and play with and accept who we are. We are Love in action. We are the act of Understanding (reuniting with what we intuitively have known). And we are Gratitude expressed. Don’t let the elephants have all the fun!

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Change the World

You’ve heard and seen the commercials. You can change the world by getting a degree at “Any” University. Change the world by enlisting at your local US Armed Services recruiter. You can change the world when you give money to “Peety’s Charity.” But you also know that you can change the world if you invent the next iDevice.

We all want to make a difference, perhaps even change the world, but it isn’t that difficult. It’s as easy as one, two, three. Love. Understanding. Gratitude as Energy 1. 2. 3. L. U. G.

Living COLA

Living COLA

To change the world, you don’t need a leader, a system, a holy book, money, a guru, a constitutional right or a lifetime. You just need to change who you are – with Love, Understanding and Gratitude. And by doing so, each one of us can change the world for the better.

Was I able to give that “commercial” in less than 30 seconds? Perhaps.  But more importantly, I got to Love in less than 3 seconds.

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2012 and The Year Of Understanding (Y.O.U.)

There are many prophecies and theories about what is in store for us in 2012. Hold on to your hats. It could be the end of the world. It could be the end of present tyrannies or simply a broad-based spiritual awakening. I propose that we make 2012 a Y.O.U., a Year Of Understanding.

In 2012, there will be more understanding arising out of new revelations, shared online, tweeted and emailed. There will be more coming out about the powers behind the economic forces that are driving more hard working people into poverty. There will be more information (and perhaps understanding, too) about governments, war, about mega-corporations and the corporate run media.

But the Year Of Understanding I propose is about the big U: Understanding as a way of life, a daily priority that will finally help us Understand who we are. We are not (ultimately, that is) pawns of economic policies and their police. We are not trained rats meant to run the engines of commerce. We are not consumers grouped in families with marketable needs. We are not helpless worshippers of Fate or a distant, judgmental Deity bent on keeping us in our place.

Who are we? (Hold on to your hats; this is big.) We are visitors come this era to infuse it with Love, Gratitude and Understanding through purposeful, enlightened action. Do you want proof? Commit your actions with Love, Understanding and Gratitude, and you will awaken your knowledge of who we are. (I dare you to commit to it without any presuppositions!)

Last night my wife had an unusual dream as she tossed and turned. In the morning she remarked, “It’s a wonder that we don’t yet understand sleep. Or dreaming.”

I have a feeling that we don’t understand sleep or dreams because we don’t understand wakefulness. I have a stronger feeling that we don’t understand death because we don’t know how to live fully. And we don’t understand love because we don’t know who we are. All the mysteries of life will be resolved when we give ourselves to Understanding.

We can’t understand things if we continue to move at the frenetic, multi-tasking pace that we do, without stopping to listen to our inner knowledge, hunches, and feelings. We can’t understand who we are when we are constantly pushed by the agendas of others. We can’t understand what we are here to do if we always give top priority to economic imperatives (rules we didn’t write and barely understand).

To make 2012 a YOU, we must give priority to the four elements of Understanding: C.O.L.A.  (Curiosity, Openness, Love and Acceptance). Understanding does not happen without Curiosity. We naturally have great Curiosity as children, but that is cured with endless rules and authorities to enforce them. If there is any hope of Understanding, we must be Open to people and circumstances, without our fears and prejudices in the way. Understanding also requires us to Love all that this person or circumstance (including ourselves, of course) creates – though it be destructive, chaotic and unpleasant. (See below for a parable the prophet Jesus told about this.) To Understand, we must also Accept life’s circumstances (including the people) as they are, for nothing in this world exists for no reason.

A Year Of Understanding I propose is not about Fate, Armageddon or the toppling of repressive regimes. It is about each one of us, taking the power we have (and has never been lost) to become fully ourselves. Here’s how it works: the more Gratitude we have, the better we Love and Understand. The more Love we share, the better we Understand and the more Gratitude we have for life and all its quirks. Finally, the more we Understand, the more Gratitude we have for the life we know and the more we become Love. By this path of Understanding, we discover more about what life is and on the way, discover and Understand who we really are.

There is a curious story that Jesus of Nazareth told regarding what to do when someone plans an economic hardship for us. It demonstrates a deep Understanding of how all things work together. (It’s from Matthew 13:24-30, New International Version)

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

   27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

   28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

   “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

   29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Jesus points out that the process of life must be respected and come to fruition instead of being interrupted beforehand. If it is interrupted, the good and desirable may be harmed as well as the chaotic, destructive and undesirable.

This Understanding accepts the way of Life, as unfair, tainted and unpleasant as it can be. In other words, “let it be.” At the harvest it will be sorted out; but in the meantime, use it to Understand life, relationships, growth and fulfillment. This is wise. It is deep Understanding. It has no haste or anxiety.

This “Parable of the Wheat” reminds us to Understand the priorities of the moment by continuing to care for the wheat. Reacting in frustration will uproot the good.

It’s up to YOU. Make it YOU. Be YOU. It is YOU.

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How My Terrier Taught Me Mastery

How My Terrier Taught Mastery, A Lesson To Start 2012

Years ago, I outlined twelve or thirteen chapters for a proposed book “Everything I Learned about Prayer, I Got from My Dog.” I was convinced that dogs have an easy way of bringing out the best in us and “Maggie” was my proof.

As my beloved terrier-mix aged, I learned something more. This time, it was about desperation and love. It’s this: with love, we will, in desperation, label the slightest “improvement” from disability as” a return to health.” For instance, Maggie had days when she didn’t feel so well. She had to stop during her daily walk and lie down. Other days, she was fine and without symptoms. So, I figured, the problem had resolved. Besides, the vet couldn’t find anything wrong.

Today, Maggie still teaches me: beware of what you label as healthy; it might just as easily be fewer symptoms, not a healing. On March 17, 1997, she died in my arms of a heart attack we couldn’t diagnose, and I could no longer delude myself about her illness.

Back to the present. This week, I posted the story “You Are Not Alone, or The Wheelwright.” In this story, a wheelwright explains the difference between going forward (the working wheel has four spokes: Love, Understanding and Gratitude Energies or LUGE) and wheel breakdown. Breakdown is caused by external forces on the wheel: HIND (Hate, Ignorance, Neediness and Desperate action).

This is what I have since realized: HIND is pervasive and I have been delusional about the lack of symptoms. Now identified for me by the wheelwright, I see HIND everywhere in our social structures. For example, every day, a majority of the ga-jillions of words spoken are laden with HIND. Billions of products are sold every minute around the world because we Hate ourselves or others, are Ignorant of who we are, and feeling Needy or Desperate. Millions of corporate, institutional and governmental officials use the power of Hate, Ignorance and Neediness every day against each other and down the hierarchy. HIND is as pervasive as pollution and as destructive as hell.

Now, as I go about my daily business, this is not pleasant to think about or observe. I want this to be a happier world, a more vital culture, a more enlightened group of acquaintances and relatives. To make it so, I usually escape to my delusions. Seeing a child, I feel hope. Feeling the sun on me and seeing a blue sky above, I believe the world is okay. Getting home to my family from work, I wonder how I could be so fortunate.

This is just like it was when Maggie was sick. It’s just seeing fewer symptoms; all the while, Maggie’s heart was growing weaker. Delusion is easy. Delusion is a kind of Ignorance. I choose it because it feels better than the sad state we’re in.

So, when I look directly at the HIND that smothers us, I wonder. Am I tough enough to face it? Does my loving support have a ghost of a chance? Will I be swallowed up by the consuming horizon of HIND?

Because HIND has many symptoms, I will look at it through the metaphor of healers. Any doctor or nurse that fights disease knows that delusion, desperation and ignorance cannot heal a patient. The only real chance a patient has will come from awareness, bravery, and focused action over time. The team (patient and medical staff) has to know what the disease is, how it progresses and how it is defeated.

And all of us that read the wheelwright’s story know the diseases of a life-maligning kind: Hate, Ignorance, Neediness and Desperate action. We also know how to defeat them: with LUGE (Love, Understanding and Gratitude Energies).

For 2012, I am ridding myself of the delusion that all will be well if we keep our present course. We are not healthy! I dedicate myself to this life-wrighting therapy. It doesn’t matter how hateful others are, how ignorant institutions or individuals are, how needy I feel or how desperately my soul screams. I trust my all to Love, Understanding and Gratitude. Fear will not deter me as it has before.

I know what needs to be done:

  • Clear my delusions.
  • Know the nature of the disease.
  • Stop HIND from killing us.
  • Practice LUGE.
  • Know LUGE is who we are.
  • Commit to forward movement.

It’s going to be a new self in 2012! I love you, Maggie. And I am sorry I didn’t see how sick you were.

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Life Is an (Inspired) Argument

Inspired by How to Argue and Win Every Time, by Gerry Spence

Inspiration is a beautiful thing. It helps us soar over the trifles that often get us down. Sometimes it comes in the form of a pithy quote, a stranger’s smile, a strain of music, a memory, a great idea unearthed, a story of someone who struggled and overcame the odds, etc. Most recently, I was inspired by an idea, in a book by a man that I look up to.

I wouldn’t have thought that the idea that “life is an argument” would have any inspiring qualities. “Life is an argument” sounds too difficult. But, admittedly, Gerry Spence is as convincing a writer as he was a convincing lawyer, specializing in defending the underdog and not losing a civil case since 1969.

You would expect a lawyer to have the perspective that “life is an argument” as much as a salesman to say that “life is a sales pitch” or an artist to say that “life is beautiful.” And, each of those viewpoints is an argument, an argument looking to prove its point.

Spence explains that arguing is simply getting what we want from others. It may be for others to accept us, listen to us or give us respect. But arguing for anything does not mean that it needs to be aggressive or a disagreement. An argument is simply using our best abilities to convince and persuade others to help us get the things we want.

So what do you want and what are you willing to argue for? If you are like me, you want a lot, but what you are willing to argue for is a far shorter list.

So where is the inspiration I was talking about? It’s in looking at my list of what I am willing to argue for. Those are important to me and it inspires me that I can argue for them. I would recommend a quick personal survey for all my readers as the New Year begins. What are you willing to argue for?

I am continuing to read How to Argue and Win Every Time for more inspiration as I argue on the Life Forever Now blog. I will continue arguing for health, love, understanding, gratitude, and living fully now into a future that is ours. Feel free to reply below what you are willing to argue for.

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Merry Creative Christmas

How was your Christmas? In spite of very limited funds, ours was awesome for many reasons. The limited gift-giving did not limit our joy.

My wife and I held to spending less than $10 on each other and were both very pleased. We spent our money on giving the grandchildren a good Christmas. We didn’t feel deprived and neither did they.

Discussing this with my friend Gina Marie, she told me about some of her favorite Christmases. These favorite versions were without the usual Christmas tree, stockings and piled gifts.

One year Gina and her mother Toni (now deceased) gathered a blanket on the floor and gave each other clipped photos from free flyers and magazines what they wished for each other. The money was spent on food. Their energy was on gratitude for being together in spite of the odds against them. They lit up their room with creative joy, thinking of the things that would bring a smile to their dearest. These memories still light up Gina’s heart twenty years later.

I bet many of us chose to be more creative this year. Of course, we reused decorations from previous years, but that is not much different. There was less money to spend. Gas prices may have been too expensive for unnecessary trips. We may have felt squeezed by changes in living arrangements, strained relationships or sickness. But we were creative because Christmas inspires us to be.

In the spirit of sharing, I am asking for your input to share with other readers. How did you make Christmas special this year? What simple things made amazing impressions? What surprised you and gave you the assurance that the spirit of Christmas lives on?

Our Christmas surprise was a sudden windfall of my son’s unspent timeshare points that he and his wife couldn’t use by the deadline. So my wife and I found a unit the weekend before Christmas in Solvang (the town where we first met); we shopped the second hand shops and shared a steak in our room, purchased from a local grocery. We watched “The Wizard of Oz” for the umpteenth time and waxed philosophical about the meaning of Dorothy’s affirmation, “There’s no place like home.”(Read the post.)

This was an amazing Christmas for us and we hope yours, too, was full of the magic that hung in the air. Care to share how creativity brought you closer to the spirit of Christmas?

(Thank you, Gina, for the inspiration.)

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You Are Not Alone, or, The Wheelwright

You Are Not Alone, or, The Wheelwright
A Story about Our Future

Have you ever wondered why we are here and where this all is going? You are not alone. All you and I really want is to “arrive” and to fully live life. Most of us feel the same; and some of us call this arrival “home” (though we use other names for it as well).

But rather than staying ignorant and feeling behind, allow me to suggest a path toward home. It involves only three concepts; I call them life-wrights. (Like the old-fashioned “wheelwrights” that fixed cartwheels and coach wheels, life-wrights make forward progress immeasurably safer and faster.)

Three life-wrighting concepts
Concept One: There is a significant part of us that is from the future.  The future calls us and is our home. (More on this later.)

Concept Two: This Future self is composed of Love, Understanding and Gratitude. Love/ Understanding/ Gratitude are not what we have; they are what we are. Now and Forever.

Concept Three: The more we practice our Future self, the more we realize that we have always been Love, Understanding and Gratitude. This also means that the more we act with Love, Understanding and Gratitude, the swifter we arrive home.

Four spokes, one wheel
Here’s how these three elements (Love, Understanding and Gratitude) work together like spokes of a wheel.
· Gratitude for everything helps us
· Understand who we are and more about our situation. This Understanding melts away our chronic fears. Without fear, we blossom into our
· Love-ing self. As we take action,
· Our Gratitude, Understanding and Love spread beyond our own self-concept and self-contained energy… out to our environment, our family, our tribe and eventually to our enemies.

On this journey we discover (through Love, Understanding and Gratitude) that those “others” are like us, from the future, but (like we used to be) are still whipped by fear into Hate, Ignorance and Neediness, creating Desperate action (HIND) with a fixation on the past.

How the wheel breaks down
When the above concepts feel untenable or we are in a state of fear, we have life-wheel breakdown. (No doubt, you have seen this kind of breakdown anytime you encounter a new way of thinking or doing anything. And we are all habituated to think first with ego, fear and self-interested survival.)

You may ask:
· How could we be “from the future?”
· How could we be beings that are essentially Love, Understanding and Gratitude when there is so much wrong with the world?
· Why would we choose Hate, Ignorance and Neediness when we could have more pleasant and nurturing attitudes instead?

What these questions don’t account for is how much our vision has been tainted by our disappointments and our misguided leaders, how adaptable we are (even when lost and mired), or how we cling to these things in order to belong with our family and friends (who are also in a similar rut in the struggle to survive).

In the place inside that craves Love, Understanding and Gratitude, we instead entertain Hate, Ignorance and Neediness. And so, our choices become committed to HIND sight; we are be HIND, based on the past, living in a virtual swamp, mired and misaligned.

Back to the wheelwright
What a fully functioning wheel and a wheelwright do are all positive and forward moving. The wheelwright does not study the beginnings of the wheel, or tell the world the history of the wheel so the wheel can rise to the occasion. The wheel does not go forward by spinning a tale about where it has been. When the wheel is right with itself and with what it is, it acts on it with almost no effort.

Like the misaligned, stuck or spinning wheel, we need to let the past be less than a memory. Wheels are forward movers! And because a wheel always slows down and performs less precisely if unnecessary hardware or debris get attached to it, we see that there is no need for an ounce of attachment to where we have been.

One more concept to close
Okay, I said there were three concepts. But wheel dynamics require a fourth: letting go of all our past connections and present attachments. This allows us to be the future beings that move foward: home.

It is easy to recognize our present attachments to our stuff, our reputation, job, pleasures, appearance, etc. What we have not recognized (and I say this is almost universally true, even among many so-called advanced spiritual teachers): that going back (reliving the past in any form) is where we add hardware and debris to the wheel, stalling our forward progress.

· Focusing on our proud cultural or family history,
· Trying to recreate our pristine origins,
· Languishing over our “fall from grace,”
· Identifying our present and future problems with earlier (perhaps childhood) traumas,
· Tracing our tribal or family tree,
· Keeping albums and storerooms of memories,
· Practicing traditions that fortified past inequities…

All of these can lock us into a linear (rather than cyclical or multi-layered) concept of time, frustrate our awareness of our future imperative and throw wrenches into our gears of progress. They inspire Fear, Hate, Ignorance, Neediness and Desperate acts.

The wheelwright’s last words
“And there,” the wheelwright exclaimed to me, after several years of repeated fixes, “is where you went wrong.” And then, so I wouldn’t judge myself too strongly for disabling my own progress, he added,

“Not to worry, son. You’re not alone. Now, go forward and remember, there’s no place…”

“Like home,” I breathed.

As I moved toward home more easily with the wheel’s design, I looked back to wave goodbye to the wheelwright.

“No, my good man…keep your eyes front! Otherwise, you’ll need a new alignment in no time!”

copyright 2011 Richard Guy Miller

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Starting with Gratitude

If you want peace, start with gratitude.
If you want understanding, start with gratitude.
If you want joy, start with gratitude.
If you want love, start with gratitude.
If you want health, start with gratitude.
Gratitude eases the way out of fear and confusion into fulfilling relationships, accomplishment and wholeness.
It’s easy. Start with a gratitude meditation with Deepak Chopra from YouTube.

My thanks to Wake Up World for posting the Huffington Post article on the Power of Gratitude.

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Home Sweet Home

A recent visit to a favorite spot also occasioned a re-visit to “The Wizard of Oz.” There in a romantic get-away, my wife and I snuggled in bed and watched the timeless story of Dorothy and her search for a place over the rainbow, a story we both treasure.

Perhaps this time I saw it with more life experience as a tale of leaving the familiar landscape to find that beautiful place that is more caring, just, cooperative, honest, respectful and rewarding than home. It’s a better place (I told myself at 18), where I knew I belonged and was worth every effort to get there.

Of course, the real world was quite different. It was anything but just, caring, respectful and rewarding (except for what little came my way from time to time, renewing my hope and commitment to the dream). In that place of turmoil (and in my weaker moments), I dreamed of going home like Dorothy did, including to those that had cared for me, however awkwardly, because they cared honestly, in their own way. “There’s no place like home.” I got a lump in my throat with every movie that depicted a heart-filled reunion. Home sure looked right; the reunion would be worth everything it took to get back there for good.

And yet, today I am more than just life-experienced from chasing rainbows. I am wiser, too. And I know that home is not other people. (Sorry, Dad and Mom.) Home is not beneficial circumstances that feed me, people who greet me, respect me or want me to be there with them.

Ironically, home is not a physical location that I can escape. Home has always been with me. All I need to do to experience home is to experience my true self, that place my caretakers were awakening within me. And as a wiser person, I now know that my true self, my true home, is none other than this: acting in love (for myself and others), focused on understanding and bathed in gratitude. The more I act out of my true self, the more I am at home.

Dorothy returned home from Oz by clicking her heels (bringing her focus to the present) and affirming that “There’s no place like home.” She was confused on waking up in her bed; she was so sure that she had been to another place called Oz. But by looking at the faces of Auntie Em and the hired hands, she recognized herself. She heartily committed to her discovery with new understanding and gratitude.

Yes, Dorothy, there’s no place like home. There is no greater satisfaction than loving, understanding and giving gratitude. This home, sweet home, is warm, healthy, nourishing and full of shared treasures. It protects us and honors our true nature. It is beautiful because it’s who we are and it never leaves us.

Yes, Dorothy, Good Witch Glinda, Auntie Em and Toto. There is no place like home. The Cowardly Lion realized that he had courage all along; the rusty Tin Man had always had a heart and the whimsical Scarecrow had always had a brain. It’s there within. Look no further.

See you at home!

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During this time of a drastically declining economy, more and more of us are experiencing a corresponding declining hope and sense of emotional well-being. We are strung out with a multitude of pressures to pay obligations, adapting to others’ stresses, taking on more obligations to maintain a sense of safety and normalcy, suffering from less sleep and more  relationship breakdowns. And worse, we have been watching our efforts to gain ground for the last full year fail month after month.

How can we even consider the possibility of living fully now?

Living fully isn’t just about having things, good times and ease. Living fully involves an understanding of our various states of mind and the way our (personal) mind works so we can leverage the most from every situation.

Usually, we think the way to attain this presence is through a long study of meditation. And although such a course of study will often produce that result, author and doctor Daniel Siegel has helped his patients achieve this mental awareness more simply and easily. His wonderful and well researched book Mindsight, The New Science of Personal Transformation, shares essential information about brain function and mental states so the readers can peer into their own mind and leverage it for good, especially in stressful times.

What I love about the difficulties we face these days is the way they can remind us of what really matters. They force us to commit to essentials like family, monetary responsibility and health. They can even remind us of all we have and allow us more states of gratitude.

But with our working harder and with juggling more at once, it is easy to skip a practice that is less urgent, such as mental health and insight. It is easy to make saving or making money a top priority. We find ourselves getting proud of our juggling skill.

So, here’s my plan to add a fun task (learning) and get the audio version of this book free. This way you can listen to it in your car or while waiting in line somewhere via your iPod, iPhone, Kindle, or Android device. By listening on the go, you can get the gist of the information and start tuning your mind. (Later, if you want a mark-able, text version, you can buy a copy and study it in more depth. I found several print copies at a deeply discounted price at Amazon.)

The plan for your mental health: Go to and look up Mindsight, the New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel J Siegel.  There are several versions available (Kindle, hardcover, paperback and audio). Look for the “Audible Audio Version” that is free with a 30 day free trial (of Audible). Click that and follow the directions to claim and download your free, unabridged copy of Mindsight.

Listen as you drive to errands, wait in line, walk, exercise, or commute to work. You may well be amazed as Dr. Siegel discusses people (and himself) in pretty common (and some severe) mental traps, now released. And you will want to know that experience for yourself. You will discover that most of it can be done by mimicking the successes of his patients, using two simple exercises that take just ten to fifteen minutes. Practiced regularly, these practices will soon give you the rewards of insight.  The light at the end of the tunnel will get brighter, your thinking clearer, your troublesome emotions less insistent and your commitment to living fully now enhanced.

Now, smile and go get it! And, please share your thoughts with other blog readers below. They may need your encouragement and insight.

For more info on Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, visit his website.

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Meditation Marinade

As a child of middle class parents, I grew up with a strong work ethic. And though my father was not “blue collar,” we lived and got by with plenty of manual effort. Every one of my father’s four boys pitched in. We mowed the lawn with a push mower (and later, an electric one), shoveled snow, set and washed dishes, scrubbed floors, counters and ovens… In the summer we had to finish our chores before we could go out and hike, play ball or swim. So, it has always been hard for me to just sit, except to study. I have always been more comfortable on my feet, at least poised for work.

So it has come with a great deal of discomfort that I am learning to meditate. It’s “just” sitting. In meditation, I am not helping anyone, making money or studying to advance myself. And, like others not advanced in meditation, I am more likely to fall asleep than just “be.”

But, the more I meditate as an opportunity to observe my thoughts and feelings, the more I do see some benefit to “just” sitting. I am also learning to accept that “just” sitting is not “just sitting,” as in “lazy.”

This morning a word popped into my head: “Marinade.” “That’s a great concept for holiday meals,” I thought. Then… “Marinades are important for delicious meals.” Then… “That’s why meditating is so good for us. We marinade.”

A marinade is known for layering in flavor; but it is also good for making subtle flavors more noticeable. In meditation, the subtleties of our thoughts, feelings and motivations come to the surface. They arise with opportunity to be seen and not judged. Experienced and not attached. Known and left to be. Meditation marinade. (My repetition of this phrase is, hopefully, a good marinade.)

When we get some time off (such as, for Thanksgiving and other holidays), a meditation marinade is easy. We fill our time one way or another and time off gives us more choices. We can choose to meditate, consider or reminisce. But can we marinade when we are back to our schedule? I believe that the metaphor of a marinade might just help us do that.

As our grandchild explained to us the other night (probably from lessons at school), “I think we should have Thanksgiving all year.” If we agree, it might be all the motivation we might need to start our thanks and every one of our “meals” of life’s many energies, with a meditation marinade.

Happy Holidays! Happy Marinading!

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Brain Sharpening

An engaged, balanced brain is a happy one, with lively connections, problem-solving smarts and relatively free of emotional hangups. A brain is essential to connect with others, which is why a sharp brain is essential for living fully moment to moment as well as experiencing a delightfully long life.

Stimulating, sharpening and balancing the brain can be fun, engaging and powerfully life-enhancing. Have you checked into the growing field of brain science? Just reading about it makes my brain fire new connections.

Here are some great websites I recommend looking into:

Sharp Brains

Dr. Dan Siegel

Dr. Daniel Amen

Jill Bolte Taylor video on TED talks

Dr. Norman Doidge

Dr. John Ratey

T.E.D. Talks exciting and engaging videos of our smartest minds

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Progress: Fact or Exception

“I’d like to feel that progress is a fact rather than the exception.”

Most of us want to move forward, out of the present realm of problems, regrets and imbalances and into a bright future with solid benefits. But we are often plagued by one disappointment after another. We try to move on, but it is drudgingly slow. We see progress as the exception, not the rule.

Of course, if we leave the progress to others, it won’t necessarily benefit us, so if we want to make progress a fact, we must take it in hand. There are a multitude of ways we can progress quite readily. We can always progress toward better health, a larger vocabulary, more awareness and more friends. These are easily done for almost everyone and they are always positive, opening up more opportunities to progress further.

One of my current reads, “Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” explains that better health is not limited to new muscles; we can even grow new brain cells! This is contrary to science taught in schools only twenty years ago.

  • When we add to our vocabulary, we also grow new synapses and new associations to our entire catalog of life.
  • When we stop thinking and listen with all our senses, our choices increase.
  • And when we spend time with people we didn’t know before, our experience expands.

It’s all progress and its all good. None of these advancements need to cost a cent. And that’s a reason to grow in gratitude as well.

The quote above came to me in a dream. Perhaps it was your voice or thought that I picked up. If you identify with it and have any more thoughts, I’d love to connect and listen, progressing toward more awareness, health, experience and gratitude with you. Use the comments section below. Thank you and may your progress be immediate.

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Changing our faltering mythology

A recent review of Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero’s Journey, offered an insight into who we are as a people and maybe why we are here at this point in time. Joseph’s lifelong work was to study the myths of heroes, gods and goddesses around the globe. Joseph’s interest started with Native Americans, in contrast to the Roman Catholicism he grew up with. Later, he connected with the storied heroes from around the world and found astounding similarities about the meaning of transcendence, that is, what is beyond our physical knowing. He said that the stories, myths and art attempt to tell what is beyond words and experience.

As I pondered Professor Campbell’s material, I saw that heroes, gods and goddesses are the mortar that holds societies together. But even more so, these icons are the inner architects of who we strive to be (individually and as a society) and design how we need to present ourselves to be valid.

Consider the Greek gods, goddesses, heroes and heroines. We don’t have to know much about their particular myths to see that they were often depicted as semi-nude, that is, vulnerable, driven by emotions and as flawed as humans are. We also know that Greece was the foundation of later Western civilization. So for all the flaws the Greeks’ immortals had, Grecians had clear thoughts, clear intentions, strategies, math and logic, music and art. What their gods afforded them was identification with their human condition. Their gods’ behavior made complete connection with the often-irrational behavior of things beyond our control. The Fates dished out good and bad and were beyond human or divine control.

Contrast this with today’s modern world, built on ideals of the Greeks, such as art, math, music, and philosophy (especially philosophy of a democratic government). Other than technology, there is a stark contrast. Our godhead is singular, perfect, above reproach, a mixture of love and angry judgment, sexless and bodiless (with the exception of Christ and church-appointed saints). Order is of paramount importance to the Judeo-Christian godhead and humankind is the spoiler of order.

While the Greeks were eventually undone by the pressures of inner and outer strife (characteristic of their gods and heroes), modern Western society is being brought to its knees by our fixation on God’s perfection. This demand of our “gods” that we “be perfect as God is perfect” (or face eternal judgment), creates a tremendous amount of fear. This fear breeds reactionary misunderstandings in families, between lovers, between authorities and subjects, between generations, misreadings of change and the actions of other cultures.

Inner and outer wars follow, but are not the causative problem. The worst of it is that we judge ourselves so harshly that most of us rarely experience joy, feel our own bodies, trust ourselves, understand our own contributions, or follow our own best wisdom. We need authorities to lead us, to interpret life for us, to tell us how to take care of our bodies and how to entertain ourselves. We are pathetic and we know it. (Advertising exploits this to the max.) Unlike the Greeks whose human flaws were mirrored in their immortals, our human flaws have no legitimate place except as consumers and replaceable human resources. The reflection of our godhead is in the power we give to our authorities.

It hasn’t always been like this. While monarchies took advantage of their divine rights as kings and queens, American democracy was formed around a standard closer to the Greek model of equality. (Yes, the Greeks had classes, including slaves. Early America had slaves and the unequal status of genders as well.) The removal of absolute governing power was a significant step away from the top-down order of the Judeo-Christian creation story. But the old emphasis on divine order wasn’t completely removed from society. Our myths about a perfect, irreproachable immortal ruler persisted. There remained a Holy Father in Rome and other evidences of our dependence on a perfect, orderly rule developed (whether of Nature, Science, the Economy or the Godhead).

Corporations that were not answerable to their communities or their employees (and families) developed. Cults and Evangelical Christians with their simplistic view of its received scriptures grew by appealing to our lack of faith in ourselves, a wish for order and hope that our sufferings would someday be rewarded. In the last century these “non-denominational” claimants as the only true Christians developed their own schools, including colleges and universities and gained political and monetary leverage. Science also raced for supremacy, gaining political and monetary advantages. Science threw out the traditional myths and established a new order based on reproducible evidence. And as our “Space Ship Earth” now groans under centuries of pollution and exploitation, another “Universal” order is demanding adherents lest we face “her” final judgment. Politicians and the media, as well as an unenlightened and uncoordinated resistance movement, continue to fight over territory, including intellectual real estate, in our elevating “winner-take-all” mentality.

It will continue this way, no matter the human consequences, because our beliefs about a perfect ruling order that demands total submission persists, running in the background of our minds, unchallenged, unknown and unaltered.

This all sounds irreversible until we recall the unique genius found in Richard Buckminster Fuller. Besides Joseph Campbell, “Bucky” questioned the myths that hold together the established order. He understood the nature of change when he wrote, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Change, anyone?

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4 new links added on Life Links

More great links to life, longevity and thinking of the future have been added to our Life Links page.

Blog on life extension, technology and longevity

Blog of futurism, trans-humanism and singularity

Blog of John Renesch, author, futurist at the Global Dialogue Center

News of discovery on the future horizon

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Futures Awareness

The World Future Society  uses the word “future” as a singular and plural noun, as well as a verb, as in “futuring.” It got me thinking, future should be plural…I mean futures should be plural. What if we were willing to look at shared futures in the world instead of “a future” we must all somehow fit into?

You know from reading this blog that I believe in living fully, but I may have not indicated that “living fully” has no designs of dictating to others how they should live. Of course it doesn’t; living fully takes too much personal focus to have it stray onto what others should be doing.

Don’t we all have a future? Isn’t it crazy to think, although we all live on one planet, that it isn’t big enough for each of us to have what we need to be fulfilled? Have we so taken on the image of our small planet spinning in space that we can’t allow room for difference, for unleashed creativity or for unlimited horizons?

After all, the biggest distance these days is between the ears of one person, not the real estate of the galaxy. (Indeed, brain science tells us that we have more synapses in our brains then there are atoms in the known universe!) When we are all allowed and encouraged to explore our inner fullness, we will discover an awareness of infinite layers of futures.

If we are willing to take this concept of “futures” one more step and recall my perspective that we are “of the future, not the past,” then living into our futures is not a difficult task that we must somehow wrench from the past, from the earth or the sweat of our brow. We only need to focus on who we inherently are: successful, wise and adaptive beings, living here and now to spread the kind of love, understanding and gratitude the future has already created. As irrational, utopian or crazy as that sounds, I believe that if you let that live in your head for just a short while, the chances are you will begin to feel it calling you back to who you are… and have simply forgotten.

We are children of the future. And the futures are ours. Now.

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To Be or Not To Be

What allows people to accept death instead of a life that lasts for 1000 years and beyond? Is there some kind of barrier that stops people from considering living a long life that contributes over and over to the wisdom and advancement of our kind? Yes, many people believe that dying is about “going home” or “going to a better place.” Feelings of failure also collect over time and burden us to the point of self-loathing. I also believe, as I observed many years ago, that our soul accepts death after it has seen many…or been shocked by one too many. It gives up the will and belief to go on.

There is yet another barrier to wanting to live a long life. It’s a mental predisposition. And like all predispositions, it rejects all evidence to the contrary. It’s the predisposition of youth, naiveté, and mostly, immaturity. Immaturity believes its way is best and the only way. Immaturity loves the excitement of ever-new stimulations. It easily accepts and often applauds being rid of the old. Its delusion is that by getting rid of the old and by accumulating the new, it will gain power. (An immature mind also just skipped over most of this paragraph, completely disinterested in its own true reflection.)

A mature and wise mind is different. It is open to new concepts it hasn’t considered before, unthreatened by the”new” and equally dis-inclined to equate “new” with “better.” The wise mind sees the shallowness of the immature mind yet it allows it to develop as it needs. It ponders the act of being alive, seeking understanding and gratitude over so-called solutions that create new sets of problems. The wise is not sure about the necessity of death, as there is very little evidence that it has made us better. She knows that whatever problems arise because more people are living longer can be solved by the new challenge. The wise mind knows that the answer is contained within the experience of the problem. There is no reason to fear any problem. Not death. Not life forever now.

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Your Time is Ripe

It is interesting how historic photographs show places that were, at the time, common, but today are more precious for the contrast. Buildings that were seen every day and used for every conceivable human activity, say, one hundred years ago, are now replaced with a new cityscape.

We can’t hardly imagine it, but the roads we drive on today, the buildings we shop and go to work in, as well as the purposes of those buildings will, one day, be no more. We can scarcely recognize our present activities as significant, worthy of a photograph or the setting of a story. But the truth is, our time is ripe. What we have is an achievement. It deserves our focused attention, like a camera or a full recording of the events.

For me, living fully includes giving full attention to what matters and choosing what matters. But what most of us don’t realize is that now matters. Now is ripe with opportunities to change everything and to be a part of everything meaningful.

History classes tell stories starring groups of men and women that knew the time was ripe. These accounts tell how, out of their inner core, people created great plays and music, worked together to oppose dictators and oppressive regimes, explored outer space and inner consciousness. They met in public places and private to live into issues that would turn events forever. In 1776, our founding fathers told King George that they were done with his whims and lack of respect. In recent times, people living out of their assurance that the time was ripe rallied for women’s rights, civil rights, against aggressive corporations and fundamentalist governments. These movements all sound significant, much more significant than who we are and what we know.

Yet, there are many reasons to believe that our times are ripe for significant meaning and change. We can see it in the now worldwide protest to “Occupy Wall Street,” the overthrow of Momar Kadafi’s Libyan government, the demonstrations that recently rocked Egypt, the financial markets crises… But it shouldn’t take these headlines for us to realize that the moment is ripe-full of opportunities to be present, to experience life outside our usual narrow limits and to be driven by purposes that resonate with eternity.

Why are we not occupied with the pregnancy of our moments? What delusions of fear are keeping us from living as if each moment matters? Are we so completely paid off with promises, comforts and cheap goods that we are content to let our only moments slip away into oblivion without regret? Are we so overburdened with stimulation that we forget what matters? Are we such co-dependents with the way things are that we have excused every offense? Are we so comfortable with forgetting the moments of everyday experience that life finally hands us dementia?

The time is ripe. Let’s live life now. Let’s use COLA to be present, grow in gratitude and understanding. We are no longer children waiting to become something. You are ripe. I am ripe. Our time is ripe. Life is ripe. That is why we are here in this present moment.

I’d love to know where you are connecting that is meaningful and significant. Feel free to comment below, email me, or connect on twitter (@lifeforevernow). Connecting is the first step. That’s when we snap the picture for history.


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Living COLA

I have said many times that I am committed to living fully. (I hope you share that commitment with me.) And if I hadn’t noticed, a recent read has made me more aware that living fully requires being fully conscious.

To be fully conscious, according to Dr. Daniel J Siegel, author of Mindsight, The New Science Of Personal Transformation, we must be present. He suggests in chapter 9 that there are four elements of being present. I made an acronym for those to help me remember these elements: COLA. Curiosity, Openness, Love and Acceptance.

When we are more present, we open our possibilities for understanding, gratitude and, of course, love, not only toward others, but also for ourselves.

As a way to begin being more COLA connected, I devised some questions that I can ask of myself while I am attempting to be fully conscious.

C: What is this I am seeing? Hearing? Feeling? Smelling? Touching? What are the colors, tones, and emphases? What does this arouse in me? In others? Where did it come from? Where is it going? What is its story? In which part of the world does it reside or dominate? What does it leave behind?

O: Am I open to its needs? Its connections? Its offerings? How is my openness to it felt or held back? What might make me more or less open to it? What is its meaning? Might it mean similar or opposite to someone else? How might a great leader be open to the meaning of this? How might an alien, a mathematician, a scientist, a naive child, or a foreigner be open to this?

L: Being that we are all on this planet together, how might I support the presence of this other? What has this other made that expresses its beauty? How am I like it? What do we share? How do we connect? How is it perfect for itself?

A: What references in my life can assist me to accept this other as it is? What meanings from my past and understandings of others help or hinder my acceptance? When have I been accepting of something like it? How did that feel?

COLA may mean many other things to you and I encourage you to enumerate those as clearly as you can. Once you have done that, take this awareness and turn it toward yourself. Be Curious, Open, Loving and Accepting of you, your life, your hopes, dreams, failures, connections, beliefs, misunderstandings and perfections. To do so is to live being present, and to do so as fully as possible.

And because it is so hard for most of us to really take notice of our lack of self-love, I’d like to offer a couple of contrasting, limiting behaviors that you may recognize as barriers to slaking your thirst for love and presence with COLA.  Instead of judging and thinking you know yourself, be Curious. Instead of protecting and keeping yourself in established routines, be Open, especially to change. Instead of limiting yourself and practicing false modesty, Love yourself without condition. Instead of doubting yourself or your abilities, fully accept yourself as you are.

This is living COLA. It’s free, it raises your power and intellect and there is no need for a diet version because this is truly healthy.

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Clues to Longevity

Recent studies of longevity are being written up in’s health pages, summing up ten clues to longevity.

The clues include your ability to walk quickly, your gender, social involvement and positive emotions. It’s a short read and may be helpful.

I have some questions, however, as to whether the studies overlooked other important factors or were simply dismissed by the author’s bias. Clearly, health and longevity are influenced by what we eat. How could that go unnoticed? Dental hygiene is another, often overlooked, factor. What drugs and how many are you taking? How well do you manage your brain health? I feel that these are more important factors than four other factors mentioned in this article: things like telomere length, what year you were born, gender or giving birth after 40. These factors aren’t ones we have any control over.

I also am inclined to give a vote of confidence to centenarian Helen Howland who said her secret was to always have something to look forward to. Being over 100 isn’t about winning some prize; it’s about contributing to others as long as possible knowing that life always has more good around the next corner.

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We ALL Die, A Story

A Story

“We ALL die,” he declared to the other, who was struggling with the death of his father.

What an amazingly unreasonable thing to communicate to another person! Not only does it lack any reason, it couldn’t be more a more uncaring and thinly veiled attempt at empathy.

Immediately the grieving man replied, “Oh, I see. That’s reasonable. We all die. So by that reasoning, when we say that we are all ignorant, we should just accept ignorance and not try to change it. Or because we are all born naked, shitting everywhere and sticking everything in our mouths, we should just do it for the rest of our lives, because we all have to. And since we all have enemies, we should just make sure they stay that way. It was meant to be.”

“Well, I didn’t exactly mean that,” the first replied apologetically. “I mean that there is nothing to do about it.”

“And what about electric lights? Or were we meant to live in the dark or by firelight? Was there nothing to do about the dark except wait for the sun?”

“No, I didn’t mean that we can’t change things.”

“Of course you didn’t. And you didn’t mean that because we all get sick, medicine was a bad idea, or that because people couldn’t hear us further than a 100 yards away, that the only solution was smoke signals. What you are saying is that we don’t have a solution for death….yet.”

“I hear what you’re saying. And I can hear your anger with me. But you know the reason that we all die.”

“No, I don’t.”

“It’s because we all have sinned. Death is God’s punishment for sin. And because we all sin, we all die.

“Prove it.”

“I don’t have to. I believe it and the Bible teaches it.”

“So there is no proof that we all must die? If there was to be any proof, we would need a control group. We would need to see if people that didn’t sin died or not. This could tell us if the dying was from sin or possibly from other factors. If they died anyway, it still could have been organ failure and not sin, disease and not sin, poison in the food supply and not sin…”

“Plainly, we all die. There is no disputing that.”

“What you mean is that we don’t know of anyone that has not died. Or maybe you mean that up to this point in time we all have died. Or maybe you mean that dying is upsetting and you don’t know how to deal with it, so you accept it.”

“But I DO know how to deal with it. I know that my Redeemer lives and that I shall see him face to face.”

“You KNOW that?”


“How do you know that? Did you hear it from somewhere and like what it meant? Or did you know it by gathering data and testing to see that the data was not biased and only claiming to be conclusive?”

“Curt. Cut the crap. This is me. It’s Dad!”

“Dad? But…you’re dead. I saw you buried two weeks ago!”

“Yes. I am dead. And I am here to tell you that I went to see our Lord in heaven. He lives. I live. I didn’t want you to be sad anymore. I want you to live, understand, have faith. You need to grieve, I know, but don’t overdue it. I know you miss me, but don’t be faithless.”

“Am I dreaming?”

“Honestly, Curt. I don’t know. You are as real to me as ever.”

“But if you are Dad…”

“I am. Why do you doubt?”

“Then how am I talking to you?

“It’s a mystery. Don’t ask too many questions.”

“Dad. If it’s you, and you taught me to understand the Bible as God’s inspired word, its principles valid forever, then you just sent me to hell!”

“I did?”

“Yeah. King Saul lost his throne and was condemned by God for talking to the dead!”


Copyright 2011 Rich Guy Miller. Permission granted to republish with this copyright notice intact.

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Death Through the Eyes of a Visionary

Steve Jobs, the inspiration behind the Apple empire, a man with amazing vision about what was possible within technology, a man who changed how we act several times a day, has passed. Though his illness was widely publicized, many of us are in shock at the final event.

It is interesting to me that he had written about death. It contains some wisdom that comes from a lack of regret. Here it is…

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

His spin on death is uncommon, honest and ultimately hopeful. It rings more true than most eulogies and that in itself makes it easy to swallow the entire statement as true.  He calls death (with a capital d) the single best invention in Life. He implies that his passing, like everyone’s passing, is a good thing because it clears out the old to make way for the new. All the while, his family, associates and friends would prefer Steve’s kind of changing the world over his death.

Let’s remember this important perspective- Steve Jobs was an expert at technology and following his dream. He was not trapped by dogma. He didn’t let his own inner voice be drowned out by others’ opinions. But he never was an expert at death and certainly, not an expert in my or your death. He was not an expert at knowing what others are feeling about his passing. He dismisses our feelings as standing in the way of progress.  Are we standing in the way of progress to be excited about what course he had set us on?

In spite of Steve’s visionary statement about death, let us take his encouragement to pursue our dreams. My dream is to stop death. To end the useless loss of wisdom, experience and vital connections that make communities thrive. I hear Steve trying to make excuses for death: it’s the way for change to happen. But I also hear him, after his passing, still trying to make a difference in the future. He says,  “Follow your dreams no matter what they cost.”

No, Steve didn’t really want to die and he didn’t want to have to find an excuse for it. He was no expert on death. Let’s be honest about that and change the future by changing death.

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Want to stay young?

I love the idea of staying young. And I am taking steps, just like a a child learning the new skills of running and jumping, to do that. To stay young.

Recent reads for me include: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the BrainMindsight, the New Science of Personal Transformation and The Brain that Changes Itself: Personal Triumphs from the Frontiers of Brain Science. I am learning a lot about learning, how the brain understands the world around it and the choices we can make to improve our experience of learning.  And like a youngster, I am seeing my world like it is new.

As it turns out, many people, including centenarians with generations of practical experience, think that learning is the key to staying young. Below is a link to a quick read on the subject. It is not just good information, it is heartening to read of 80 year-olds and up, in their own words, reflecting about staying engaged and learning new things.

This document Life Long Learning Is Key to Staying Young at Heart is a product of the Duncaster Retirement Community in Bloomfield, CT

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The Purpose of Grief

I recently read that “the purpose of grief is to help you reach the point in your life when you can remember without the pain.”

How do you understand the purpose of grief?

I think grief has another purpose.

Posted in Dealing with Grief | 2 Comments

Facing Down Death’s Agenda

Last week was emotionally difficult. Really difficult. Our family had several anniversaries and a memorial, not including the anniversary of September 11. (My wife was there in NYC.) The emotional difficulty didn’t show itself as a direct result of these deaths. It showed up as a cloud, an emotional disconnection and disability. But wanting to understand the source, I traced it back.

We say it’s the little things in life that get us down. But no. What gets us down is the way the little nagging things remind us that we have no control over the big thing, death; that’s what eats away at us little by little. We are often reminded about death: by seasons, departures, loss of resources, when things we own break down, miscommunications, loss of trust, etc.

I believe that all disappointments are really about the biggest disappointment of all, death. And we mostly refuse to look at that disappointment because it makes us question EVERYTHING. And that death goes unchecked, sneaking behind us every day, makes us very nervous about EVERYTHING.

The battle for survival (or maybe even for joy) is between the hope and will of “I will make this life of mine work” and the opposition, “Why bother? You and everyone else is going to die and it will mean nothing.”

The closer we are to death, the sooner this fight starts. And the more we feel its damaging force, the less motivated we are to really care about life, about others, about doing the right thing. “Why try so hard? It doesn’t really matter all that much. You are really all alone.”

The battle has begun.

There is a part of us that needs to strive and succeed in spite of the odds. That is the life force. Yet… it may arise in anger and be twisted by disappointment. The urge to succeed in spite of all odds against life makes men and women into devils with a vengeance. They gouge, cut, swindle, kill…and they do it without mercy or conscience. This is true evil because it acts like the good, the will to survive and make good on life, but it destroys as it flashes signs of success and achievement.

And those of us that cannot let that anger take hold… we

  • cry, we
  • despair, we
  • apologize for living, we
  • look for inspiring things to think or do, we
  • search for outside distractions because the inside hurt is so painful, we
  • practice art for the healing it will bring but never quite accomplishes, we
  • attend church for someone else’s answers because our own don’t work anymore, we
  • have meaningless sex and buy meaningless things in a bid for new life, we
  • engage in risk-filled activities to prove our careless bravery in the face of hurt, we
  • watch new episodes of TV and follow sports teams that promise a vicarious win, we
  • laugh at people more stupid than we as a “win for me,” we
  • avoid people that may require more care and involvement and would thereby make death more costly to us, we
  • worship celebrities and gather heroes and successful products in our corner, tying us to a winner, we
  • create products, games and fads that don’t require us to face the real enemy (the defeat and disability that come from death), we
  • create and consume “silver bullets” that promise to kill our enemies once and for all (but leave the real enemy, the one we cannot face, death, untouched), we
  • take drugs and alcohol to avoid the sense of doom that comes from death, we
  • smoke for pleasure/ rebellion/ daring death, we
  • focus on things we believe we can control (maybe money or people), we
  • go through the motions of life and remember the good days…And later we
  • die because we realize we just couldn’t win, no matter how hard we tried.

And once again, the battle of survival is lost.


  • practice gratitude for what we have and are,
  • work at understanding others and developing wisdom, and
  • love without conditions as a way to make the effort of life easier.

These virtues are not the silver bullets some say they are. Gratitude, understanding and love have not yet stopped the ultimate enemy, but they do soften the destructive forces of death and motivate us in the direction of a more fulfilling life. And by becoming aware of this choice to choose life’s values and squarely face down death’s agenda, it enables me to choose life. Consider the alternative.

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Digital Crystal Ball

Care for a look at what the future will be like? The Singularity hub website has a large cache of interesting articles based on science and future predictions. I particularly like the page dedicated to longevity and health.

This digital crystal ball is mostly fun and only possibly predictive, IMHO. But go ahead. Dream, enjoy the view and think out of the box.


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Prayer for 9/11

A couple of days ago I was trying to clear my laptop of excess files and was happy to find many memories of what really matters in life. It helped remind me of my life basics.

This is particularly appropriate for today, September 11. It is a post I made on a classmates website on September 12, 2001. It was an attempt to remind myself and my friends of what really matters.

“September 12, 2001

Today is a new day–a day when we can no longer take our personal and national security for granted. We feel so very vulnerable today. And when we feel vulnerable, we question deeply–even those things that we “know.”

The questioning is natural and good, but loses its greatest advantage and value when the things being pursued are answers that are

  • A. Easy,
  • B. Quickly reached and/or
  • C. Supportive of the kind of blindness associated with rage or
  • D. Supportive of the the greed and arrogance that led us to the discovery of our all too evident vulnerabilities.

When we feel vulnerable, we think we can focus our anger and confusion at the events and perpetrators of our hurt, but that is a delusion. Anger mixed with confusion creates a dangerous cocktail that ignites sparks of discontent in families, neighborhoods and businesses. The spirit of anger does not stop with the perpetrators.

Feeling vulnerable is human, yet not our greatest asset. It is a survival mechanism that kicks in, suited for an angrier and more confused era in human history. And when we begin to awake from that reactionary state, we can choose a better response, one that has no association with weaponry or retribution. The better response is spiritual–kindness, tolerance, service, awe and a hefty portion of experienced beauty. If we take this awe-full event of September 11th, 2001 as a call to spiritual values, it need not become a matter of greater loss, but an experience of higher consciousness.

Please join me in a prayer for all beings, of all sorts, in all dimensions of reality:

 May all beings be happy, content, fulfilled and never lonely.

May all beings be healed, whole and harmonious.

May all thrive in abundance & be renewed by constant change and diversity.

May all enjoy connectedness in response to their needs and desires.

May all be protected from harm and free of fear, safe in the arms of Love.

May all beings know inner peace & ease, aware this is a safe cosmos.

May all be awakened and liberated to be themselves.

May there be abundant, peaceful harmonies throughout this world.

And may this embrace echo ceaselessly across the Multi-verses.

Please send this prayer to others. Find a way to adapt it to make it your own. Embrace yourself and all others. Therein is peace.”


As you rummage through your memories, I hope you find treasures that remind you of who you are and what matters most. A life nurtured by these treasures is a life fully lived.




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Marking Anniversaries for the Dead

September 11, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, July 4th, Presidents Day, VJ Day. Anniversaries we mark to honor the lives of our compatriots. Some survivors, millions now gone and leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my deceased father. His passing changed my life in many ways, not the least of which are anniversaries. And though he did not die in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, his passing helps me understand the losses that occurred on that tragic day. September 11 is a day of mourning because the violent and sudden deaths of thousands of Americans shocked us into redefining who we are… much like how the death of a family patriarch, matriarch, child or sibling affects survivors every single day.

This loss affects us daily, but especially on anniversaries of their life. Our memories of time spent with them are tainted; it may be with grief, loss, regret and sometimes anger. And we feel driven to make sense of it. We create an anniversary of their parting. Maybe we pray more, make a renewed dedication to our family or our personal goals, spend more time in gratitude for life, revisit the gravesite … anything that will help us fill that sense of extreme loss. September 11 will do that, too.

As I make sense of it, I go back to the image of the rebirth canal – lest the memory cripple me one more time. The rebirth canal is where, like infants in the birth canal, we are pushed by force beyond our will or comprehension into a life we do not yet comprehend. At first, it is painful, scary and it challenges every nerve fiber we own. But with good support from others, we survive.

Being a survivor is scary and challenging. The pain is mostly emotional, but it is real. If we have support, our chances of survival are good. And we can boost our chances of survival by honoring anniversaries of our rebirth with acts of support for others.

I’m not saying it is easy to get out of our emotional paralysis, the shock of losing a loved one and all the successive reminders of that loss. But great leaders before us have taught that if we are aware of the near universality of pain and if we will shed our egos from time to time to be vulnerable to the sufferings of others, we will not spend so much [anniversary] time crippled by the losses suffered in life, but on our knees in gratitude and service…creating new anniversaries marked by everlasting compassion.

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Why We Crave the New

Humans are forever creating new things, making new connections and wanting to hear what’s new. Why is that? Is it, like I was taught, that we are covetous, lustful and insatiable? Or is it, like religious teachers assure us, the proof that we are seeking to fill a spiritual need? Or perhaps, as the psychologists suggest, newness helps us to deny and disconnect with issues that haunt us from the past. Any one of these theories can be supported, depending on your assumptions about human nature.

I have a different angle on why we crave the new. It’s based on a different assumption about human nature. It’s this: we are children of the future, where it’s all new. We crave the new because new is “home.” New is the destiny we cannot deny. New is as original as we are. Newness stimulates us to connect with the life process in anticipation of growth, awareness and more involvement with life.

To accept this position, I have found it necessary to let go of the concept that we are made up of our personal and shared past. Instead, we are made up from future elements.  To me, it is not our past shaping our future, but our future pulling us to itself (like a mother calls her children) with unrelenting passion. And as long as we think the past is making our choices, we are dogged by it and do not accept our true identity, children of the future. (I have often criticized the idea of Karma, our unforgiving past chasing us with consequences of old choices.)

Yes, because the future is full of promise in an evolutionary way, I know that our future is bright, whole and fulfilling. I have no fear of what the future brings. I know it will challenge me, but that is to teach me more about my capabilities and my unity with others that are similarly challenged.

The future is coming, no thanks to the past. The future is here, growing and teaching me. The future is me, creating this opportunity to live in love where before I could not, and opportunities to serve where before I only thought of myself. To believe and hope where before I doubted and feared. The future picture is now clear: I am creating my reality; how could I create if I wasn’t in the future of the creation?

Children of the future, does this ring true to you? How chained are you to the past? How insistent are you that your sins hold you in their evil grasp? Are you willing to consider that the future pulls you every moment of the day out of the past? If so, then which is more supportive of you: the future or the past? Let the past go, know why you crave the new and join us as a child of the future.

Re-read this post if the ideas do not resonate. It may take some time to come to this awareness. Don’t react; ask questions. Consider it because it could fill you with hope, direction and new identity. Look and listen for resonances in your day and watch how the future opens up into newness, love and joy.

I like this quote from Mike Anissimov, a twitter connection, “How long will it take for people to realize that over- focusing on the present is simply short-sighted?” And being entrenched in the past is simply a grave error.



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Anniversaries Before and After

Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my father. His passing has changed my life in many ways, not the least of which are anniversaries. His birthday. Father’s Day. Their wedding anniversary. Anniversaries of family reunions, etc. In the not to distant future, I will have to deal with the anniversary of his passing.

Last week was the anniversary of Mom and Dad’s wedding. Sixty-six years ago they promised togetherness “’till death do us part.” I spent time viewing pictures of them together (as it turned out, celebrating earlier wedding anniversaries) with gratitude to the photographers.

Now that Dad is gone, all memories are tainted with loss and I find the need to make sense of the loss lest it cripple me one more time. I go back to the image of death as a rebirth canal where like infants in the birth canal, we are pushed by force beyond our will or comprehension into a life we do not yet comprehend.

Someone wrote me, “what meaning can life have without death?” Perhaps he suffered through the rebirth canal. Perhaps his life took on new meaning and direction after passing of a loved one- like me. This happens to many of us: after the death of a loved one, we later awaken to the value of each new day, the loveliness of our spouse and children and the preciousness of each breath.

As valuable as this rebirth is, I do not accept my father’s death and all the subsequent anniversaries relived without him as the best deal or the optimal way to find meaning in life.

If we are aware humans and will give time to others in need; if we will shed our egos from time to time to be vulnerable to the sufferings of all living beings, perhaps we will not spend so much anniversary time crippled by the loss, but on our knees in gratitude and service…creating new anniversaries marked by everlasting compassion.

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100 Plus- New book releases Sept. 1

Sonia Arrison’s new book, “1oo Plus, How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything,” will be released on September 1st. The book explores some of the many changes that will occur very soon as technology meets the human lives and needs of those who live to be 150 years old.

I have not read it (it releases tomorrow) but the recommendations on Amazon look interesting. Also Fight Aging newsletter has posted more thoughts on changing the paradigm of aging. Excite and open your mind. The future calls.

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How to Live Forever and Why

Yesterday I was spotted with one of my books. It’s an unusual subject, living forever on this earth, and it has a funny title, How to Live Forever or Die Trying. (I will offer a book review on this blog in the future.) But looking at the title, my friend said to me, “That’s pretty funny, but I don’t want to live forever. At least not in this body.” I boldly told him, “I do.” He quickly moved to his next task and I didn’t have the opportunity to explain why I want to live forever. Perhaps the easiest explanation is this: I want to live forever because life is tough and I want to be here when it is tough for my children.

To fill out the story a bit, yesterday was one of those difficult ones. I am sure you have noticed that  tough times and aching bodies have a way of feeling personal, like it’s a failure on your part or an insult to all your efforts to live right. As I worked yesterday, I was putting forth my best even though I was in pain. My suggestions that people try a free, no obligation sample of my delicious product (as I do most days of the week) went pretty much unrecognized. My sales were horrible. And yet, I still wanted to live forever.

As I mentioned, my friend had work to do, so he moved on without getting into a discussion about living forever. Perhaps he didn’t want a discussion because for him, the subject was closed. But because I know him as a good man, I bet my reasoning would change his mind.

This morning I hope to tell more than my friend that it isn’t just for me that I want to live forever. I want to live forever for my children. I want to see them grow and find happiness and I also want to be there to help when growth is tough and painful. I want to tell the children and their children that it’s going to be okay, that they have the strength they need to get through it and that they are the most adaptable and smartest of creatures. I want to assure them that they are able to mold their futures. I want to let them know that I understand how tough it is and that I have not left them to do it on their own.

In the final analysis, I want to live forever to help them commit to life, because it’s the only way to have a full one. Won’t that be wonderful to see them triumph, making new connections, breaking old barriers and raising their offspring to break even more? I think so. I want to be here to see that.


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Conversations on Integrity

Jennifer Elizabeth Masters has an insightful blog… easy to read and share. I recommend her post on integrity, a subject that has been going around in my consciousness as I prepare for my next book.

Living Fully, the Hidden Requirement, my post last week on integrity got more attention than the usual and I have had some interesting reactions. For instance, I read it to one of my brothers, a lawyer, and he shared some of the challenges he gets into to maintain integrity as a lawyer. Another acquaitance wrote me that “it set me on a conscious course into my day!”

I’d love to hear about your conversations with others on integrity.

Posted in Living Fully Now, Meaning and Life | 2 Comments

More meaning from life

Death, it has been argued, is the way to ensure that we live life with gravity. (Pun intended.) But death really doesn’t ensure that, does it? As a general observation, conservatives in America are happy to see their enemies die and our criminals be executed. But has that made conservatives live life with more appreciation, presence and gusto? If so, I have not seen any evidence.

Most everyone over 16 in the US happily drives cars that kill thousands every year and will heighten the risk of death to each one. Some heighten the risk even more by simultaneously chatting on their cell phone, eating, doing a search for a dropped cigarette and texting. (I will never forget seeing a driver going between 70 and 80 mph using two cell phones. It looked like he was manually transferring the phone numbers from one to the other.) We drive by fatal car crashes a few times a month. Have those deaths ensured our living life to the full? No, no more than the formerly popular public executions in the city square. The evidence indicates that death does not ensure that we give life more value. (And why should we need such a confirmation?)

I believe that what gives life more value is a fuller experience of it. There are many ways to do that including awareness, education, community, cross-cultural experience, great sex and other peak physical experiences, a strong connection with earth and the ebbs and flows of Nature. A good workout, a comfortable hammock in the shade, a hot drink on an icy winter day, meeting a long-missed friend, laughing and sharing a big family meal (from preparation to cleanup), a welcome home embrace, some blessed solitude, a frolicking dance to a favorite tune, a great story that helps us expand our gratitude or awareness…

These are what make us value life. They don’t convince us of its gravity…they lift us out of it. They tease us and love us into gratitude for being. They confirm our heart’s most ardent wish- that each of us matters and that everything will turn out well for all concerned. The more we embrace and encourage these experiences, the more life gives, the greater our gratitude, the fonder our memories, the more friends we have and…fill in the blank. It’s your life.

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Living Fully: The Hidden Requirement

Living fully in each moment (by which I mean taking advantage of all the gifts bestowed on us by being alive) is what we are here to do. Living fully doesn’t just happen; it requires commitment. But commitment requires something more: integrity. Integrity is the hidden requirement for living fully.

Integrity is integral to a good, full life. Remember the regrets people share on their deathbeds? These are disclosures of Integrity Failure (IF). IF robbed these people of the fullest life possible.

I am not intending to teach anyone reading this blog about IF as if I am untainted.  I intend to be real in this post. You should expect nothing less than my honesty.

Look around. I am sure you noticed. L(IF)E is full of IF. For example, we take jobs that don’t fit our well-being, hang out with people that don’t have our best interests at heart, belong to organizations only for the personal benefits, tell gossip that hurts others, buy from businesses that are stealing from our future and destroying our planetary home for profit, we sing the national anthem because everyone else does, et cetera, et cetera.

My life is full of examples of Integrity Failure. It started early in my life, perhaps as an experiment in survival and then it continued as a habit. My first friends were often people that others didn’t like. I felt sorry for them and committed to being a “real” friend, through thick and thin. Integrity Failure.

Ron, for example, consistently got me in trouble. He lied, stole and manipulated to get what he wanted. I followed along at first and then copied his example. Integrity Failure. Specifically, I recall Ron and me stealing a neighbor’s corn and cherries, and another neighbor’s apples and pears. I knew that was wrong. Integrity Failure.  We broke into abandoned buildings and new construction. Integrity Failure. And, of course, we were caught. He convinced me to break my parents rules over and over because “the rules were stupid.” Ron told me he got by with stealing candy from a storeowner, so I tried it. Integrity Failure. We never got into cruelty or grand larceny (and I don’t think I would have been capable of bending the stupid rules that far) but this was more than bending rules, it was sacrificing my commitment to a higher authority than friendship for friendship’s sake. That is IF.

Later on in life, similar friendships developed and my commitment to church got hypocritical. It was hypocritical because I believed just like the others so I could have friends and not disappoint my family. IF. It wasn’t just breaking integrity with an organization; I broke integrity with my parents, my brothers, my wife and my only child.

One of the first major steps I took toward Full Integrity (FI) was to admit that my thirty-year-plus marriage was another IF. And though I have often blamed her in my head, as a step toward FI, I will say here publicly that my IF was a major factor in that relationship and breakup.

One general observation comes from this: most all of us have lied to ourselves that our integrity will cover up for others’ lack of integrity. For example, “My love will hold together this marriage.” “My commitment to the children will keep them from harm even if my partner fails them.” “I know how this works and the group needs me for it to function, even if they don’t appreciate me.” Does this sound familiar? It’s our flirtation with IF and it’s a slippery slope.

My slippery slope story was that I did it for love, God, and country. When I was eighteen, I registered at the draft board as a conscientious objector. I knew in my heart that killing was wrong and it would be a crime against my conscience to go to war as a participant in any way. That was FI. Not long after, I got married. I told myself it was for love, but it was for peer acceptance, to rebel against my parents, and to help give my girlfriend a new start. IF. So, I entered the workforce at 18. Then, for “love” and at her insistence, I moved away from my job to another state. Jobs there were extremely hard to come by and soon we had a child. My meager pay as a busboy wasn’t paying the bills. I had to do something…so I signed up for the Armed Forces. Major Integrity Failure. I was in the middle of huge lie…an IF… but “I did it for my family.” Did I learn? No.

A couple of years later, my wife decided she needed a college degree. But she didn’t like school, so with some relaxed rules of an off-site university, I helped her with her undergraduate degree. A few years after that, she went on to pursue a Masters. Again, I helped, mostly with research and writing. But this time, because her degree would get work in a church setting, I was doing it for God. Then, as the ministry work moved us around,  our son had to leave friends and change schools almost yearly. The poor little guy witnessed IF after IF from his father. No wonder he had difficulties with religion in general and me in particular. IF was a slippery slope for me. It all started with wanting to be accepted and wanting to help. The self-told lie lasted for thirty-some years, and some of us still bear the scars.

Seeing Integrity Failure in someone else is easier than seeing it in ourselves. That is the value of my story. You can see it in me and that could be your first step toward awareness of how slippery the slope can be. Lives are ruined by Integrity Failure. Marriages, careers, children, organizations, communities and countries.

Living fully is impossible on the slippery IF slope. Our hope of regaining a full life is not on our deathbed making a confession full of regrets. Our hope of living fully requires the brilliant light of Full Integrity (FI) ASAP. The brightness of Full Integrity reveals the shadow of IF behind us. We only become aware of the shadow if we turn around to look at it… and then admit to what everyone behind us sees clearly.

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Change, the Only Constant

They say change is inevitable. It certainly seems to be true. And the proof is that it’s not just insignificant things that change, like the faces on coins. Change is constant.

The most significant things of life have changed and are changing still. How we court and have sex. How we have babies. How we travel. How we eat. How we stay warm. How we talk. How we treat disease. How we drink water. How we spend and manage our money. How we live as families. How we do business. How we get news. How we are entertained. It has all changed.

I don’t fear change. It is. And I embrace it as necessary. What most people don’t speculate on is why things always change. Perhaps there are too many forces at work to pin it down, but I am going to try. I believe it is because we humans are change agents. It is our job. We can’t seem to leave anything alone. And we weren’t meant to.

Someday, even death will change. It hasn’t changed that much over the course of several thousand years. Yes, we used to die more from diseases, crime, inhumanity and war than old age. But we still die with regrets, accidents, disease, anger, lots of war and some disillusionment. That too, will change. Everything changes.

I believe that death must change because the future demands it, because in the future, we will no longer accept it and because death is our ultimate enemy. I believe we will get rid of self-hatred that accepts death, religions that promote sacrificial death, and governments that send their best and brightest to war. I believe that death will not have the last say as the prophets of doom portend, but that life will have the last say, as love and goodness will.

Call me a dreamer, but I know the future still brings change. Death is not unchangeable. Prepare for life forever now.

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The Problem with Good People

Today, as I reflect on the good people of this world, I am saddened. Here’s an example: Some very nice folks that I got to know at a local farmers market offered me a free sample. It usually sells for two dollars and they might have even given it to me with real concern for my welfare. It was a lotion for my ailing and aging skin. I repeat, I believe they are good people, like many of the good people I grew up with in my childhood. I like them. But the lotion has parabens. Parabens are carcinogens! They probably don’t know this. Their attention is on all the benefits the manufacturer told them about instead of the fine print. So, in their desire to help me, they were encouraging me to use toxic substances that can open the doorway to cancer.

This is not really new.  Good people, ever since the dawn of the industrial age, have worked to advance employers that are involved in cover-ups, safety violations, gross pollution, money mismanagement, worker discrimination, et cetera, et cetera. Today, they come home and let their children watch violent TV shows that are either hyper-realistic or parade as mindless cartoons. They are good people, but they are not paying attention to the fine print. Meanwhile, politicians are regularly elected by good people that don’t have the time to really discover who these people are that want to be in office.

Good people often don’t suffer from a lack of trust; they trust too readily. They trust their leaders, their type of government, their national pastimes…even their watchdogs (like Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdock and Fox News). They also accept that dying is part of the natural landscape for themselves and their family members. They trust death as God’s plan or the natural cycle, even though they know that death is not their friend.

Some good people, however, by the death of someone special, have awakened. They cannot live another day just being good. They have to make sure that this enemy is beaten. They lobby their lawmakers, they fund disease research, they write a book and go around the country promoting it…whatever it takes. These are not just good people, they are survivors of the death/rebirth canal  and they are daily invigorated to stop their enemy.

Being a good person, like my friends at the farmers market giving free samples with carcinogenic ingredients, is often being partner with death. Instead, we must become new and take on a vision that sees the fine print that takes action. Death is not our friend and cannot be trusted. Death is the enemy. We must especially work to make sure that our family is safe from death and from the debilitating effects of aging. We must learn about our health so we can be there for them, instead of accepting that they will go on without us.

If we don’t know how to start, we can join those that are already in the fight for life. We can get the word out, attend their rallies, and promote their websites and Facebook pages. There is much to do. The ultimate enemy is killing millions of humans per day. Hear the cries of the families and stop being satisfied that you are a good person. Be a visionary, instead. Be an activist. Live fully! It is the ultimate good. Defy death. It is the ultimate enemy.

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In Praise of Mischief

Mischief rarely gets its due. In fact, if it weren’t for mischief, many of us wouldn’t have been born or made the unique contributions to life that we have.

As children, we are punished for making mischief. Our parents and teachers (as well as other authorities) are often desperate to be in compliance with their superiors. Perhaps they are afraid of what gets loosed from mischief. Perhaps it is jealousy that children can still get by with it. Perhaps they have a bit of both.

Mischief is such a universal phenomenon that it makes me think that it is endemic to life itself. And like the previous post on “the ultimate good,” there can be mischief that is good for life and mischief that is anti-life. The kind of mischief worthy of praise, then, would be the kind that promotes life, community, and the flow of information and goods that support life.

Where would this world be without the mischief of the original thirteen US colonies? Or the willingness of merchants and barons to press King John to sign the Magna Carta? Or the mischief of a thousand inventors that saw better ways to supply basic human needs? Or the mischief of social and religious reformers?

Yes, mischief is guaranteed by the US Constitution. For example, it gives us the right to publish the truth, to assemble, to petition the government and hold it accountable. We have the right to stir up the pot where we see bad mischief.  We need mischief in our lives. So, let’s have some praise for mischief.

There is a lot of what I might term “innocent mischief.” It’s the way we express who we are, even though it is not to the liking of those around us. For me, innocent mischief means that I can be my slow, deliberate self and claim it as my personal way of expressing who I am.  It means that I can write my blog, tweet or post on Facebook posing mischievous questions, topics and discussions. It’s just me being my inner mischievous self.

The establishment, to use a popular phrase from the hippies, does not care for mischief. They typically see it as promoting anarchy or tempting fate. So, yes, mischief is a problem for them. Mischief upsets the grip of society’s controllers because it adds elements of unpredictability. They find their work easier with compliant workers, attenders, electorate, etc.

What is your natural, innocent mischief? Have you been stifling it? Have you been in denial of its contributions to life and your community? Would you like to loosen the grip of the authorities? Would you like to feel less bored and more free? Try a little “innocent mischief.” Try praising a little mischief. It may become a new life, like you or me.

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The Ultimate Good

You may recall that I have earlier identified our ultimate enemy as death. This came from an admittedly emotional response to the death of my beloved father. And that is how many people understood it. They understood this as a statement of my understandable reaction to a horrible event in my life.

Yet, over the last few months, I find that not only do other people have that same feeling, (that death is the ultimate enemy) there are scientists and researchers, no doubt with some emotional investment, trying to understand aging and stop its advance. And while these researchers are humans with emotions, possibly working through some issues with their mortality (or that of their life companions), they are attempting to stop death by aging or disease using established, rational procedures. My love of life and preference for life feels validated by their work and dedication to life extension.

What I may not have referred to is the polar opposite. Life is the ultimate good. Being alive is good and the work of human nutrition, medical science, and more recently, molecular biology, is to understand living in order to extend this goodness called life. I want to be clear, so I will repeat it: Life is the ultimate good.

You may agree with that…or not. You may be schooled in our western religious mindset that identifies humans as less than good and God being the only possessor of goodness. If so, I ask you to consider the beginning chapter of the scriptures, the foundation of our understanding of who we are. In Genesis, chapter One, God created this world with its line up of inhabitants then promptly declared it all good, very good in some translations. So, yes, the life we have received and the elements that support life are good. God said so. I accept that many followers of Christ (though, not all) may have formed a rebuttal to that premise and we could discourse all day upon it, but please accept that for me, life is the ultimate good.

With life as the ultimate good, we can move forward to an extremely clear path. All that we do, say or think is good if it supports life, the ultimate good. If it does not immediately support life, or rationalizations are required to make it fit into the scheme of supporting life, there is less to recommend it. This is not to say it is bad if it does not immediately support life. But the line is drawn for anything that justifies death, the ultimate enemy. Said another way, anything that kills or reduces the experience of life’s vibrancy is anti-life, anti-community, anti-awareness and anti-compassion.

I understand that the above sounds overly simple. There is the one good (life and all that supports living) and the one evil (death and all that aids and abets dying). It leaves the question of all the gray area between, left unmarked. But actually, the gray area is the playground of life, a testing facility. It’s the arena where rich differences come into play, language, culture, governments, arts, foods, mating and raising of children, ways of sensing and learning… That playground supports life as easily as it allows opportunities for accidents, failures, mistakes, ignorance, misunderstandings, poor judgment, etc. In this “gray” arena, the good in us will not want to mistake death for life, war for peace, darkness for light, force for love, enemies for friends, growth for advancement, information for intelligence, intelligence for wisdom, or power for authority.

The good, however, is not left without direction; it can easily distinguish forward movement from backward. It only requires keeping our eyes on life. That’s what Life would do.

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The Meaning of Life

A writer friend asked me about LifeForeverNow and was quizzical about its premise. “My mother thinks that we should get rid of death, too. But I think death is just part of life. You know, birth, growth and then death.” We talked more with me taking mental notes for a blog post. I listened to more of this writer’s story and finally realized that she doesn’t yet know the meaning of life.

Yes, strangely enough, I think I do know the meaning of life. It came to me a few weeks after my father’s passing. I don’t know when you might discover the meaning, but I hope that my upcoming book will move you toward that discovery. I was surprised that the meaning of life is so simple to grasp. It excited me that with this awareness, all of my previous assumptions and false notions slipped into the background. And to date, whenever life’s trials get me stressed, cause me to question my life and tempt me to give up hope, all I have to do is remember this simple purpose and I again am free of stress and full of energy for life.

I feel quite sure that the meaning of life is full commitment to life. (That’s all there is to it. Simple, isn’t it?) The meaning of life is never found in acceptance of whatever life hands our way, including dishonor, disease, death or disability. Put another way, and perhaps more simply, we can never discover the meaning of life without committing to it.

And I have no intentions of hiding this, the meaning of life, deep in the bowels of the book to encourage people to read it. The meaning of life is going to be in the title. The Meaning of Life is Commitment to it.

The Meaning of Life is Commitment to it is slated to have thirteen chapters. Each chapter is one of the essences of life, a part of life that must be operating for life to be worth living. Like love, health, breath and hospitable environments. We must commit to each or we lose our will to be alive.

I don’t blame my friend for not knowing the meaning of life. Our culture has made the meaning of life obscure. You have probably heard many jokes about the unfulfilled but wealthy American that sells all his possessions, takes on a long trek to the Himalayas to find the meditating master who has the secret, the meaning of life. In one version of this story, this man gets to the guru and poses the question. The grizzled old meditator states that the meaning of life is “Asparagus.” The traveler is shocked. “You mean I gave away all my worldly possessions, abandoned my securities and personal safety to hear you say that the meaning of life is asparagus?” The old teacher shakes his head and asks the traveler, “You mean, it isn’t?

So our culture has made the meaning of life into a big mystery. The fact that the meaning of life is simple is great news. The fact that most people aren’t aware of the meaning of life makes this a great opportunity for you. If you could help people like my writer friend to discover the meaning of life (really discover it, not like the post-wealthy American described above), together we could change the world. And it’s easy. Send people this blog by email. Tweet it and facebook it. StumbleUpon it, Reddit or Digg it. Subscribe to the feeds or subscribe to it on Amazon Kindle and encourage others to subscribe.

You can also contribute to the book and blog with your comments. Leave feedback. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on your commitment to life. Let’s get the word out to people like my friend that don’t know the meaning of life. Yes, by opening people’s awareness to the meaning of life, we will create a world where people are committed to life, growth and improving life. That has real meaning.

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Cognitive Health link

Aging in Action newsletter’s page on cognitive health has lots of articles for improving and maintaining cognitive health.

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Death as Rebirth

Perhaps the most ancient and powerful of metaphors about life is birth.

Birth is not a specialty of mine; I am male. But it remains to me, and most men I am sure, the most powerful of life experiences and a perfect metaphor for life.

We all know that the precursors to birth are both physical and emotional: physically with the sex act and ideally with love. To generalize, the entire birth sequence starts with a flush of feelings of attraction, followed by, perhaps, some awkwardness or slight physical pain trumped by a form of wild joy, which then develops, without our conscious involvement, into a fertilized egg. From there the woman suffers various pains and accommodations to the growing fetus. The pain just before birth becomes more frequent and intense. She wants it to stop, but it won’t as long as the fetus is in the birth canal. Then, after all that indescribable effort, anticipation and pain, she sees the child, flushes with joy on seeing this hidden life now before her. Her attendees announce the joy and everyone around offers their support.

Notice the sequence: love/attraction between two people -> sex -> slow development of the new life in the woman with pain and accommodations-> mother’s pain build-up (labor) -> extreme pain in the birth canal -> shared joy with the mother at seeing this child for the first time.

At the end of a life, people will get philosophical and might compare their lives to a sequence like birth. They see their later years on earth as getting ready to be reborn into “the next life.” We don’t really have any evidence for a next life beyond this physical one. We have to take that on faith. But what we do have evidence for is the next life that occurs in the lives of the survivors.

Let me explain: survivors are reborn in a process similar to what gave them life.

I didn’t realize this in my first five decades of life. The deaths I was exposed to were mostly that of acquaintances, distant relatives and strangers. Every time, death was unsettling. But my status as survivor did not move me to a new place until I lost my father. (My mother is still living. I have no idea how I will be reborn if she dies.)

My wife has recently gone through the death of both parents. She is a different person now, she tells me. The death of a parent is no small incident. In the midst of this labor-like crisis, we must pass through the narrow “birth and death” canal. We struggle, feel hurt, get pulled into an unknown future by unknown forces and into a way of being that feels foreign, hostile and limited.

Yes, death is like birth. It brings us to a time for rebirth even though we don’t feel ready for it. (I doubt a fetus feels ready to be birthed.) And again, like birth, the sequence started earlier with a relationship. It brought us some forewarnings of awkwardness and pain. We accommodated and hoped for the best. Then the pain developed into an intensity we felt we could not bear. (The pain may have been induced by watching a loved one die or happened sometime after they died… or both.) The pain would not go away when we asked it to. We felt pulled into a way of existence we did not know.

We survivors were being reborn. Now our life is totally new. The attendees are not announcing our rebirth but the passing of the loved one into a better place. Where is the spreading of joy that a life has survived into rebirth?

There are no announcements that a survivor has been reborn because we don’t have a cultural understanding that death brings new life to each survivor. We are usually stuck in forms of grief like denial, anger, loneliness or sorrow of being without the other. This time, the announcement that someone has been reborn is the responsibility of each survivor. And no survivor will announce it until he or she realizes that they are fully alive.

Did you survive? Have you realized your rebirth or are you still in the birth/death canal?

I implore this culture to recognize this new life like a mother seeing her child for the first time. Celebrate and announce it. This man, this writer, has been reborn.

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3 Steps to Cultivate Hope, Compassion and Healing

Opening up to hope in the midst of, say, a struggle for your life or someone else’s, is profoundly healing. It allows us the ability to connect with compassion to all of life.

The linked article offers an easy method to connect this way. It is well written, easily digestible and powerful. Thank you Elisha Goldstein!

Breathe in hope, breathe out love. – Bernie Siegel

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Just Touch It

Jake Johanssen has produced a DVD of his show called “I Love You” and it is incredibly funny. His self-deprecating humor is the best I have seen since the late Rodney Dangerfield. In one section of his routine, he talks about solving the mystery around male sexuality. He advocates that instead of wasting time reading all the magazine articles that give women techniques for how to please her man, she should “Just touch it.”

This post, however, is not about sex nor overcoming the difference between men and women. It is about “touching” what is foreign and perhaps a bit scary. When we are willing to overcome our fears of “touching it,” we can get closer to living fully now.

It’s easy to approach those things that seem foreign or difficult with a sense of keeping a safe distance. We would rather talk about it, buy a book or magazine about it, google it…anything but touch it. Once we get over the shock of it, sometimes the best way to get past a problem is to “just touch it.”

After the initial contact, what does it honestly feel like? Does it live up to our worst fears? How does it change over time? What would we compare it to in the most positive way? What might we learn about life from it? What is its history and how have people made peace with it?

Many before us have taken in foreigners, learned to fly or parachute, and the “most feared” of all, public speaking. They “touched it.” They discovered themselves by getting out of their comfort zone. It’s part of living fully now. It could be our rallying cry, “Just touch it!”

Feel free to let us know in the comment box or link below. What is it you have been approaching, but are  yet unable to touch?

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World Future Society

A new resource for those interested in our amazing shared future is on the Life Links page.

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When Life Hurts, Part Four

I knew when I opened this “When Life Hurts” topic that it was a large one, but I didn’t expect to blog so many times on it. I guess life’s challenges are feeling very real to me right now and I am having to look at them head on.

It’s about tools, therapies and treatments for life.

Yesterday’s lesson for me was about tools. It started when I was feeling burdened and distraught. It seemed that all resources had been exhausted and there was no way to escape the oncoming disaster. I wasn’t blaming myself or lost in self-pity. I was not even at a loss for what to do. I knew what had to be done, but felt unfit for the task.

That’s when it occurred to me that what we humans do when we are unfit for the task: we employ or devise tools. Besides language, I would argue that tools are humankind’s greatest advantage over animal life. From the axe and knife to the plow and hammer, simple tools allow us to make radical changes to our environment. And not only that, they can do their jobs quickly and without fuss. You know, like the fuss you get when you tell your child to clean up their room, or tell the employees to produce more in the same workweek … or you are faced with your own task that happens to be onerous.

One tool that makes a great example is the knife. A knife suited for the task makes a clean incision without tearing; the surrounding material is separated without injury. The knife comes out undamaged, ready for the next cut. This is exactly what I need to get my personal issue resolved. I need a clean incision into the problem, a blade that easily slips through the coil of resistance and then comes out cleanly.

Realizing this, it was important to reflect on this: tools are not limited to physical instruments and our major tool is our mind.

And this: the major holdout of resistance is our emotions.

Therefore, if we can use the mind to cut through the emotions and get to the tangled mess that needs to be freed up, the job is done, as cleanly as a well-sharpened and selected knife.

Inspired by the knife, I determined to make my mind sharp, and to let go of the resisting, fearful emotions for the period required to get the job done.

That’s when I saw the bumper sticker of a two time Viet Nam War Survivor. I thought about the tools at a soldier’s disposal: a gun, hand explosives, knives, communication devices, night vision, intelligence, a chain of command, a strategy that is superior to the enemy’s, etc. And perhaps the most significant (and life-saving) tool a soldier has is a mind that is clear, that knows it’s job, has determination to see it completed and has eliminated emotional complications for the time being.

When life hurts, a soldier’s mind and array of tools may be required. A soldier’s or tool-handler’s mind creates distance from the emotions. It gives us the ability to assess the threat, to make a logical plan (treatment) for the best of all concerned, to focus on improving our chances of survival and to commit to that. Neither the tool handler nor the tool can take the operation personally.

The best tools for life are not always love, hope and joy. Sometimes what life throws at us involves action squarely applied for the amount of time required…without apology. Love is my tool of choice, but not all problems respond to love. Or hope, or optimism alone. Sometimes, we need to pick up the harder tools and not flinch.

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Wit and Wisdom, Centenarian Style

Centenarians have a variety of personal characteristics that seem to pre-dispose them to a long life. Besides not abusing their bodies over their lifetime, many stay active mentally and physically. The wit of comedian and centenarian George Burns is legendary. It never left him. For more on the wit and wisdom of other centenarians, read this article from the British publication, The Centenarian.

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Looking Forward with Helen

You always have to have something to look forward to. –Helen Howland

Of the many people that could have said this (a psychologist or other therapist, a teacher of the Law of Attraction, a concentration camp survivor or a motivational speaker), it was centenarian Helen Howland.

Centenarians are ritually asked what their secret to longevity is and I have read many answers, and Helen’s is the most convincing to me. It is true that growing older comes with serious challenges, the worst possibly being losing your family members and best friends. How do centenarians get past that? Other challenges include losing mobility and senses, serious and chronic diseases, slowing brain functions and reduced sexual response. So, what is there to look forward to? That is a question each of us must answer for ourselves if we are to get through the challenges of aging.

On a more immediate basis, looking forward to something each and every day is something we can practice now. It is an important aspect of living fully now. What is it you look forward to? Is it fairly immediate and deeply fulfilling? Helen’s advice was that we always need something to look forward to. That means now and today.

We need something to look forward to or we lose our way. Yes, we can look forward to eternal life in heaven (after our bodies betray life, which is not something to look forward to) or we can look forward to a long life of growing wise and more aware, BUT we need something to look forward to that is fairly immediate and deeply fulfilling. Otherwise, the long-term promise can fail to inspire us through the challenges of aging.

I recommend that each day begin with a clear perspective, using all the senses at our disposal, of those things that are deeply fulfilling and will be part of our future. It may be posted as a written or graphic plan, a visual collage “dream board” or a highly engaging mediation. It might include sex, dance, food, laughter, applause, music, family, achievements, décor, clothing, time on the beach or whatever it is that you find deeply satisfying.

Never lose touch with that. Not for a day, whether working, playing or on vacation. Vacation time allows more time to refine and build that realistic dream. Make it active. Think of ways to make it happen sooner than later. Protect it. Live as many parts of it as possible in the present. Don’t hold back… it is living fully now that is at stake.

“You always have to have something to look forward to.”

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Slowing Down

We are all in such a rush to get things done. Expectations are high. Payments from the marketplace of skills come too slowly for our appetites. Things around us seem to be piling up, falling down, running over and creating a cacophony of unwelcome noise. “How could I possibly slow down,” you ask?

Yet, slowing down is wise these days, especially when technology is advancing faster than our ability to fully consider the ramifications.

Let’s consider the technology of atom-splitting, for instance. In 1944, we were in a war with Germany, Italy and Japan. We had lost many soldiers and some citizens. We had spent millions of dollars and had to suspend everyday comforts. We were anxious to stop the flow of blood and tragedy and return to “normal.” To that end, scientists were quarantined and exhorted to create a bomb that would stop the enemy cold. And in our inability to stop and consider the future ramifications, we dropped two of those monsters. All we wanted was to win and end the war. We got that, but we also got proliferation of those monsters which caused: spending billions of dollars and scientific energy on warfare instead of solving real human problems; government indebtedness previously unheard of; and worldwide rumors of coming terror that persist today.

All of this is because we couldn’t slow down use of the technology in the urgency of war. We did not fully consider how we might suffer the consequences, let alone others. Today, we go forward at breakneck speed in the war of free market economics.

Slowing down can be a form of practiced wisdom that many handicapped bask in, senior citizens join and meditators embrace. Slowing down is helpful for living fully now. It detaches us from the urgency of attachments, being “up to date” and technologically adept or being superficially relevant. Slowing down allows us to connect deeply rather than skimming over what really matters.

Certainly you have noticed that when you come back from vacation or being on extended sick leave that your involvement was not as crucial as you had thought. Perhaps that felt disappointing. But it is proof that slowing down does not stop things from moving forward as they will. Our fears of being left out or becoming irrelevant are just fears and not realities. Slowing down allowed you to heal and recuperate, be your best self.

So, today… try slowing down. No, don’t try. Make a commitment to it. Decide for wisdom, healing and allowing for time-outs. You will probably get fewer wrinkles, better heart and adrenal health. You will be able to take a full mealtime to be with the food and make a connection with the hands that prepared it for you. Your head will clear and peace will be more accessible. Doesn’t that sound great?

Ted Miller, my father and the inspiration for this blog, knew how to slow down. Every Sunday was a sabbath for him. And as much as he could, he did not rush any day of the week. I think he understood the value of getting things done slowly and fully. He also took time daily to read the Bible, ask questions of it, pray and share it with others, even if it did not bear immediate fruit. Ted Miller got wise by slowing down. And I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

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Impatience is a very telling sign that I believe that time, particularly my time, is in short supply. That belief, like the emotions mentioned in my previous post (Law of Attraction) are self-replicating. If I think my time is short, I immediately get signs and confirmations that my time is short.

Shortage of time not only spoils my ability to live fully now, it is something I would rather not choose. I choose lifetimes of time, lifetimes of action and lifetimes of change.

Our experience of time can be largely what we believe about time. This is true throughout our lives. For instance, our experience of trials can be experienced as learnings, opportunities, challenges, pet peeves or the worst thing that could happen. So, I ask, what is my belief about time?

I believe time is action. Time is change. Time is relative. Time is a measurement of successive now moments. Time is projection. And sometimes, I am more emotionally attached. I get conflicted and feel time is limited or painful or going too fast.

Impatience is an opportunity for me to see my inner conflict with time. Impatience sabotages my experience of the present and steals my vision of the pregnancy of now. Impatience is that awful feeling, a distinct alarm to choose differently.

I choose lifetimes of time. I choose lifetimes of change. I choose lifetimes of action. I choose lifetimes of opportunities. I choose full engagement in the present. I choose patience, like Ted Miller, my father and teacher. My hope is that you, too, have a model of and encouragement in patience.


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Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction, made popular by the movie “The Secret” states that what we think about and what we do attracts more of the same in our lives. So, if we want more success, better relationships, money or job prospects, we must think and act like we already have them. That will attract the results we want. More commonly, this is the age-old (and hardly a secret) observation that what we sow becomes what we reap. We can’t sow thoughts or actions around failure and really expect to realize success, for instance.

Emotions are a big part of what we sow because of the way they take hold of us. Feelings of jealousy, depression, guilt, abuse, fear of death and pain, revenge and striking out are powerful and can take over our thoughts, both conscious and unconscious. They tend, then, to be the seeds we sow, what we attract later on.

How do we get past these emotions? How do we stop intentionally and unintentionally sowing a worse future for ourselves? The reason this is important is because death is in this potent mix of emotions. Can we ever hope to live fully in the present (or the future) if the fear of death is sown (attracted) on a daily basis?

“The Secret” encourages viewers to use their imagination to step toward a future that is more favorable- finding a perfect mate, a better paying job, more checks in the mail, improved health… even a primo parking space. I realized something similar as a child. One morning, while telling my mother about a bad dream in which I was being run over by a large truck, she asked, “What happened then?” I replied, “I switched channels.” In other words, I put my mind in a different state, a different reality.

When we want to imagine or believe in a different reality, we don’t have to go to the television, but we can use it as a metaphor. We can change mental channels. One perhaps, that has a place that suits your talents and perspective, or one in which you are rewarded according to your efforts, or one that removes the barriers to love.

Believing in such a reality makes it easier to live that way, to make those choices on a daily basis and to think outside the box created by the past. More importantly, by believing in this way, we can get our emotions in line with the reality we wish to create. Then, their power comes to our aid and not to our detriment.

This kind of result based on thoughts and actions is not hard to prove. It is the age-old concept of “Whatever a person sows, so shall they reap.” But “The Secret” has limitations. We can’t for instance, choose a reality in which other people always behave the way we “need” them to, or choose a reality that is bizarre, such as becoming a great person of the past. But does the limit also apply to our own death? Do we attract death by fear of it, worry about it, expectation of it? Or is it beyond our ability to change?

If delaying or overcoming death is impossible, wasn’t it also decreed that people don’t have wings and therefore cannot fly, or that our eyes can only perceive things as small as 1/60th of an inch and will never see a virus or an amoeba? Some people believed differently and attracted a different experience; they made ways for us to fly all the way to the moon and back while others created ways to “see” atoms in collision.

Maybe death is the ultimate reality that we can change. But first we must sow the seed that sees that as true.

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Faith in the Impossible

What seems impossible one minute becomes, through faith, possible the next. – Norman Vincent Peale

How big is your belief? Do you believe in the impossible? Is anything impossible?

The great healer and teacher Jesus said that those who believe will do even greater works than his. He said that all we needed was faith as large as a mustard seed.

Do you believe in living forever? I do. It may take the working together of faith and science, but that is not impossible, either.

See you there! Living fully!

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When Life Hurts, Part 3

In my numerous challenges over a lifetime, I have observed a pattern. It’s a pattern that could help others in crisis if they were also inclined. The key to taking advantage of this pattern is staying aware and anticipating a change of events or perspective.

Crises have a way of hijacking our emotions, exposing our vulnerabilities and devastating our self-image. This is probably heightened by the raising of our level of adrenaline. Adrenaline is responsible for putting us in “Fight or flight” mode, but it can also help sharpen our awareness.

Crises effectively shake up our perceptions, which open the door for new possibilities. If we use the adrenaline for being aware of those new viewpoints, priorities, actions, input, options or realities, or if it helps us see our blind spots, we get insights. Insights and vision are the proverbial silver linings flickering on the dark cloud’s edge.

My life challenges have helped me observe this pattern- and when I remember in the midst of the crisis that there is a great opportunity flickering on the fringes, I stay alert; I know there is hope. Yes, there is even guaranteed improvement on the horizon.

Storms, crises and upheavals are part of life and our Creator gave us the adrenaline and brainpower to take advantage of it. It may not be the time to make more than temporary decisions, but it is an excellent time to grow in awareness, gratitude and empowerment.

When Life Hurts, Part Four

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When Life Hurts, Part 2

When life hurts, we can come to question everything about the life we have been living. The hurts’ sudden blow can make us question our assumptions or try to make a lesson of it. But sometimes it is too early to understand our assumptions or understand the lesson. First we need to gain perspective and find some emotional distance.

This can be very hard because of the way that emotions feed on themselves…and us. Emotions become very self-serving, leading us down into darker realms. But you know that. Life hurts often enough to see that. (When Life Hurts, Part 1.)

So, this is not to tell you, as much as it is to remind all of us, that one of the best ways to gain emotional distance is to go help someone else.

There are many examples and you may know of some right next to you. There are always lonely neighbors, harried moms, ailing seniors and business owners trying hard to make ends meet. Even writing a card to a relative that hasn’t been in touch is a meaningful act that can change perspective.

Helping someone else raises our endorphin level. It can make us grateful that our problems are at least something we know about. It shares the load that life dumps from time to time. And the way it can change our attitude is almost magical.

While you may have known all this, it is not bad to be reminded. And it is good to be reminded that when life hurts, it isn’t true that there is nothing we can do about it.

Part 3 follows.

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Living fully in the present is a big order. I get that. It requires commitment as mentioned in the last post, “When Life Hurts.” Things constantly get in the way of living fully and there is no remedy besides commitment to it.

I have noticed that a huge barrier to living fully now is our extremely elaborate web of reliance on services, professionals and intricate machinery. Just have a plumbing emergency and you get what I am talking about. Or a medical problem, or a legal issue. A simple engine warning light can send one into a panic. This takes us far from the ideal of being able to resolve things on our own as we live into the way it unfolds. The plumber may forget his tools, the doctor may be too busy with other emergencies, the lawyer may be away on vacation… and there you are. If you were self-reliant, not dependent on so many other people, services, regulations and machinery, it would never get this difficult.

Self-reliance is a big topic. I don’t have the space here to discuss all the ins and outs. (Self-reliance can be overdone, too.) But I do know of a great and newly published book that I heartily recommend. “The Entrepreneur That Could” (sold at seems to be about being and becoming an entrepreneur. But the book has a larger vision than that and it includes a section on self-reliance. Of course, self-reliance is not only a business asset. It is a life asset.

Here are a couple of links. You can read part of the book and visit the web site for free as well as purchase it at various locations.

We can’t wait for others to make us self-reliant. This one is in our court.

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When Life Hurts

Many friends and relatives are up in arms. A family friend is about to lose the house he built with his own hands because of an extended illness and his insurance running out. A mother I know is in an uphill battle for custody of her children. A sister of one of my clients fell off her horse and injured the donated kidney that keeps her alive. A friend of a family member was killed in a freak accident.

How can one live fully in the moment when the moments are so painful? What I am about to say is not advice cast from my easy chair. I am closely connected to these people in the throes of real devastation. There is no easy answer, but the sure answer is to stay committed to Life as it is (not how we want or think is right and deserving) and committed to what you know is true. I think every survivor has had to get this lest unrelenting anger or utter despair take over.

The Talmud says, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Living fully does not always mean to throw yourself into it. It does mean resolve and commitment. And when the experience of life devastates us, there is only one thing to do. Withdraw temporarily to catch your breath, review your perspective and to plan creatively. It doesn’t seem like much at the time, but it certainly does not honor life to put your hand in the flame. It does honor life to take charge with renewed interest at an emotional distance. You may need to accept help. Just make sure that the help stays true to Life as it is (not as you wish it to be) and to what you know is true.

Things change. They always change. And opportunities will come, but only if we stay aware.

Want to read more on this? Click for more: Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

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Examining the Benefit of Limits

In my previous post about limits, I indicated that limits do not agree with us as human beings. Then why do we have them? Besides real dangers that we rightly fear, the reason we limit our aspirations and doubt our abilities is unfounded fears.

Yet there is more. People around us like to impose fears and repeat to us about our limits. We fear their repetition of our limits, their judgments and imposition of “consequences” (especially when there are no natural ones).

It starts when we are children. Those with more access to power make themselves and their power known most effectively when we are vulnerable. Then as adults, those fears are reinforced with other judgments such as that we don’t have the money, the looks or the credit we “should” have. And all along, we are reminded that we are fragile and mortal. We will die. (So, why don’t you just accept your limits and play your role as a limited servant to a greater cause?)

What the human spirit wants is to be free, to break the bonds, to become fully alive. But do we go there? Some do. Some don’t. I propose that those that break their bonds have asked themselves, “Who benefits from my limits?”

The answer is, “Those in power.”

For example, women the world over have been kept from their power. Those that questioned the limits and took hold of their bodies and minds suffered the consequences. (By using women as an example, I do not mean any slight to other people suffering discrimination; but women is the largest group ever to suffer such limitations.) Margaret Sanger and Susan B. Anthony come to mind. Look at the tremendous prices they paid to help women overcome the tyranny of men. The men in power have used their power and backed it with “Holy Scriptures,” social ridicule and by creating role model women that would not question the men.

Everywhere I go, I encounter the powerless that have accepted the ultimate limit, death. It so happens their daddy died, and their grandmother died; why shouldn’t they accept it as well?

There is talk about all the social problems that will result from people not dying. There will be too many old people, burdening Medicare and Social Security. There will be too many people on Earth to feed, clothe and house. No more death will eventually create more poor people. And on and on. Those arguments are not kind, not life empowering nor helpful. They are smokescreens. Don’t listen.

Ask yourself, would you like to have had your daddy still alive or your loving grandmother? Would you like to live and see your great-grandchildren grow up, get married and make something of themselves? Would you like to live long enough to get past your childhood insecurities and become fully yourself? Would you like to gain wisdom from a lifetime of lessons learned and pass that on in person instead of dying? Would you like to become so free that no one can hold death over your head?

I would. Let’s

  • Spread the message without fear.
  • Tweet it.
  • Read up on longevity.
  • Blog it.
  • Make healthy choices in anticipation of living 1000 years or more.
  • Link to each other.
  • Show support on the social media.
  • Refuse to give up.
  • Live fully now and forever.
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Life Beyond Limits

“We are limited, not by our abilities, but by our vision.”

Humanity is unique among species. It doesn’t just evolve, it seeks to explore its limits and eliminate its boundaries.

We are innocent in this regard; we seem to come this way. As babies, we do not just let others take care of us as pleasant as that is. We are not content with crawling, being misunderstood with our baby talk or being dressed by mommy.

As adults, we get bored with doing the same limiting things over and over. So we search for excitements, temptations and competitions.

As a society, we are not content with fearsome boundaries erected by some leaders. Instead, we respond to and choose leaders that inspire us to be more than we have been before.

All these are indicators that we are looking to live more fully into what we are. The future is calling us and we cannot ignore it.

Specifically for this blog, we do not like the limit called death. Not just because it ends our string of challenges and delights. We do not like death because during it we lose who we are. Will you join the vision of our limitless lives?

“Know your limits, but never accept them.”- anonymous

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Time is too valuable

A friend told me on Sunday that “life is too short to…” I replied, “You say life is too short. I say time is too valuable.” Then I got an email about it.

“To realize the value of ten years:
Ask a newly divorced couple.

To realize the value of four years:
Ask a graduate.

To realize the value of one year:
Ask a student who has failed a final exam.

To realize the value of nine months:
Ask a mother.

To realize the value of one month:
Ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.

To realize the value of one week:
Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realize the value of one minute:
Ask a person who has missed the train, bus or plane.

To realize the value of one second:
Ask a person who has survived an accident.

Time waits for no one.
Treasure every moment you have.
You will treasure it even more when you can share it with someone special.

To realize the value of a friend or family member: Lose one.”

Time is too valuable to not be present.

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What’s new?

“What’s new,” my neighbor asked? I could have mentioned the new blog post, the new coffee product I received or the recent disturbance in the neighborhood. Those are new. But I replied, “What an interesting question. Isn’t everything new?” “Yes, he agreed. We never step into the same river twice.”

If everything is new, and I believe it is, that newness could be met with several responses: love, interest, excitement, anticipation, fear, anxiety, anger…

The perspective of newness is more accessible to young people, especially children. For them, each day, hour or minute could be made of possibility. I like emulating children in ways that help me look forward to life, another day, another opportunity, another possibility… That’s a delicious way to experience life, like it has never been fully known before.

I am new, just by talking to my neighbor, writing this blog, reinforcing my love of newness. What’s new with you?

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I can’t believe I ate the whole thing

This age-old regret may be a significant factor in aging and feeling old. Overeating has long made news, but a different approach, a calorie restriction diet, is rarely seen or heard, and is often ridiculed.

Instead of taking an over-the-counter remedy for overeating, one might consider checking out a healthy alternative that is proving to improve longevity: intelligent calorie restriction.

Here’s a few resources:
The CR Society
Article on CR reversing type 2 diabetes
Fight Aging Article explaining CR
New York Magazine’s article on CR

Some of these resources give proof of turning disease and advanced aging around. More than a diet, CR is a way to live fully now.

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Living Without Regrets

I came across a blog recently where nurse Bronnie Ware posts the most commonly heard regrets people utter before they die.

Regrets are something we can nurse every day, pardon the pun. But nursing them keeps them alive. It’s best to let regrets pass on- once we have learned the lesson they came to teach.

This is not a “read ’em and weep” but an opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes and start living fully now.

After you check these out, feel free to post here the regrets you are letting go.

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Body Ownership

Life forever on this planet raises many theological, demographic, social and philosophical issues. On this blog, I attempt to speak to many of them and to resource other expert opinions. But central to this discussion is one I have not yet addressed- whose are you and how will that ownership be managed?

It isn’t so simple as it may first appear. All of us belong to a social network that may depend upon our contributions. First, there is family. There is also extended family, the neighborhood in which we participate, our business, our financial obligations and beyond. These complexities come to light when someone dies. There are forms to fill out with the government, titles and deeds, family and friends to call, bills, managing possession of the corpse, living arrangements that may change due to a loss of income, insurances, etc.

Some of these people contacted will file paperwork. Others will sit down and stare blankly at the suddenness of the loss. Some will mechanically open the cadaver and examine it for reasons of public health or liability. Who does our body belong to? There seem to be many claims on it…especially when we die.

But on this blog, the assumption is life, not death. So, who owns our body while we live? Contrary to our daily list of responsibilities, the strong implication is that your body is not your own. Yes, you must feed, clothe and house it and not be a burden on others, but does that make it your own?

Back in my childhood, I was taught St. Paul’s view: the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I took this to mean that I couldn’t have any fun without feeling guilty. Yes, there were a few approved physical activities, but there was always the thought of a holy judge looking over my shoulder in case I had too much fun or got too self-absorbed. Not that the judge would do anything to correct me immediately, but that the judgment would be hanging over my head, accumulating until I died. I learned that the most pleasing thing for the Holy Spirit was for me to work. Really hard.

Who does your and my body belong to? On second thought, perhaps it is the Holy Spirit, but a pleasure-loving, generous and helpful one. Honestly, I am more motivated to take good care of my body as a gift from God or Nature. Certainly, my body is a marvel. I did not create it on my own, and yet it is both a privilege and pleasure to keep it healthy, clean and able. If I treat it as my own creation, I can slack off a bit and who is to say I can’t do that? I can smoke a few cigarettes, sit around for hours playing video games and ignore signs of ill health because it is only me that must pay the consequences.

Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self Realization Fellowship, also took this view. “The body is God’s temple.” He taught his followers to take care of their body and also stay in a positive mental state. It’s not that a positive mental state requires a healthy body, but mental states tend to reflect the body and vice versa. Further, care for the body as God’s temple seems to indicate a fuller and more spiritual understanding of whose we are and how best to live: like residing in a beautiful, complex temple, gifted by a loving God.

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I don’t accept death

Ray Kurzweil in the documentary “Transcendent Man” states a new attitude about death.

There’s nothing good about disease and death, as much as we try to ennoble it. People have had no alternative but to rationalize… but death really is a profound tragedy, a profound loss of relationships and knowledge and skill and meaning.

Some people articulate that we need to accept death. ‘That’s the goal of life! Be comfortable with death and accept it.’ I don’t accept it.

Preview below with an opportunity to purchase.

View the movie on Netflix or buy it online at “Transcendent Man” movie site.

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Looking Forward

“You always have to have something to look forward to.” Helen Howland, 100 years old

Centenarians are looking forward to more in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and you have to admire their zest for life. I think Helen has just shared the secret to a long life.

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“You can’t take it with you.”

If there is only one thing that death teaches us, it is that we do not own anything. Yet this truth is not limited to the objects we think we own; neither do we own our reputation that follows us after death. Victims of crime or life-altering accidents are also faced with this harsh reality: we do not own anything.

But in the throes of the death of a loved one, the lesson that we do not own anything is not easily learned. We are too immersed in our grieving and utter astonishment at the loss. Mostly, we are in denial.

So it may be in the lesser things that we can be more attentive to this major lesson in life. For example, when someone moves our stuff, besmirches our work reputation, changes things that matter without consulting us… That is when we can more readily learn that we do not own anything. Good people all over the US are being forced to learn that they do not own their jobs, their homes, their families or their economic futures.

After the shock and sadness that follows our burst “ownership” bubble, where do we turn? Hopefully, we turn to a firmer, better grip on the truth. Your perception of the truth will differ from mine, but I am also happy to recommend a thought for you: we are here as incarnated spirits to love, share and to physically be – nothing else.

Loving is not about owning the one we love; it is loving them in a way that lets them be their true self. Sharing has never been about owning. Being has no investment in owning, it is simply being a spirit blessed with physical sensations.

Love. Share. Be. The rest is for experience and letting go.

What have you learned about letting go of ownership? Feel free to comment, using the comment link or reply box below.

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Love, Share, Be. The Reason We Live.

My father’s passing has made an impression on me that nothing before has…and it’s no surprise to those of you that have suffered a similar fate. It has given me a focus on the meaning of my life here and, by extension, the meaning of human life on this planet.

Today, Father’s Day 2011, it re-occurred to me that the reason we are here is to physically be with those we love. Make of that what you will and I will make of it what I will, but let me explain a couple of my assumptions.

I start with an assumption that we could be somewhere else. We could be in spirit form, either having passed from earthly existence, or a spirit waiting to be born. I also assume that we come here by our own volition, not by divine imperative, by chance or by ignorance. My third assumption is that we have inherent divine qualities, in other words, we are in the image of God.

These assumptions make it easy for me to conclude that we come here by our own choice to live on earth and be with those we love, or will love. To share physical space, to hug, make love, share smiles, care for needy children and the less fortunate or able. To share the panoply of sensual input and to give out of love are the most pleasant, the most life affirming and the most spiritually evolved things we are capable of knowing. And it is only meaningful by virtue of being with someone we love.

The “proof” of this is how awful it feels when someone dies, gets lost or is socially ostracized. Then, we experience an overwhelming kind of pain that almost literally is screaming in the most intense manner, “NOOOOO!” This sense of separation feels impossible to bear. It can prompt us to think of drastic acts, to profound depression, unremitting anger, disassociation from ourselves or heroic acts in memory of those we miss.

Separation is not what we came to do or experience. Yet it happens in the small ways when someone we love moves away, takes a long vacation, business trip or military tour. It is more profound when someone we love is locked in a coma, in prison or, God forbid, is taken in war as a prisoner, kidnapped or taken hostage. But in all these situations, there may be hope for a reunion. But when a loved one dies, it feels like complete devastation because we know there is no reversing the reality.

I believe my father came here to give me life (like other fathers around the world), support me and others and to share in our growth. He did not come to start this loving and intimate sharing and then leave as if nothing had happened or as if his work was done. Neither would be true. Instead, he believed he was given a life span and although he gave great effort to live it well, he admitted that he had not finished his task, he had not prioritized wisely and had missed his mark. Fortunately, he loved and knew he was loved and for that, his mission was successful.

My assumptions may be amiss, but almost every human being I know agrees (maybe more readily on their deathbed) that there is nothing more important than being with those we love and giving ourselves to one another. It seems odd that we wait until someone we love (or our own life) has come to an end to realize this. But realize it we all do and it is never too late to know what we came here to do: love, share and be.

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Fallen Fathers

On this Father’s Day, 2011, we again remember fathers. And if your or your partner’s father has passed on, you know that Father’s Day is not necessarily a time of connection and joy.

As I look at photos of my recently passed on father and reflect that this is the first Father’s Day that I will not be able to call him, hear his voice or send him is favorite gift (nuts), I also recall the post I wrote soon after his death on April 16th, Deciding Against Death Honors Our Ancestors Hopes.

Many of our parents lived and worked in the hopes that their children would have a better life than they had. Well, the opportunity they were striving for is here: to choose life, a life forever on this earth. This is what would have chosen, if they had the technology.

Our forebears (fathers and mothers) would have wanted to see their grandchildren graduate, find their life partner, raise beautiful children, find their mission and change the world. And it would have been no small joy for them to see their great and great-great grandchildren follow a life of promise and developing wisdom. But since they did not have the technology, they could not.

Remember your father’s wish for himself and make it your own: live longer and more fully. Embrace the opportunities to do and see what he could not. It is the best gift you could give him, and it’s an eternal gift, your love of the life he and your mother gave you.

Read more about life extension, health, mission and how to live fully. It will help you make the choice to live forever now.

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Waiting for Death

Too much TV time (more than two hours per day) has been linked to higher risk of death.

Other recent studies show that sitting in general (computer, office, lounging) is less healthy than standing or moving about. But this latest study specifically links TV time to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Dr. Frank B. Hu of Harvard School of Public Health and Anders Grontved of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense also found that added TV viewing increased the risk of mortality from all causes.

I see most TV viewing as counter to living fully now. I have not watched much TV since reading Jerry Mander’s book “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television” in the 80’s. Jerry was a successful ad executive and knows the medium well. His experience with TV forced him to conclude that the medium cannot be redeemed, even with news and educational programming.

Lest you think this study was about overweight Americans, the report asserts that “The findings also seemed to be independent of the weight of the individuals studied.” See the report on ABC.
Time spent sitting and mortality comparison

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Transcendence- Immortality on our Doorstep

Award winning author and scientist Ray Kurzweil, author of “The Age of Spiritual Machines,” “The Age of Intelligent Machines,” “Fantastic Voyage,” “Nine Steps to Living Well Forever” and “The Singularity is Near” is more than imagining a future where immortality is an option. He is stunning audiences with his vision. I recommend his books, but you could get an intro just by watching his documentary “Transcendent Man.” Preview below with an opportunity to purchase.

Netflix subscribers can see this documentary as part of their membership.

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Passion or Mission

People often think of me as a passionate person. (You may have been able to pick up some of my passion from the way I write.) But counter to the current emphasis on finding your passion, I have not found it to be the “silver bullet” that makes life meaningful. Passion is not something I lack, yet I did not find meaning until I found my “mission.”

Passion has been defined as intensity, drive or emotion that is distinct from reason. It’s more an avid devotion than a good feeling. And it is good, in my opinion, to experience passion. But for me, passion is self-serving. “Following your passion” seems to be focused on making one extremely happy and self-fulfilled.

To me, mission is more meaningful than passion. And until I discovered my mission, passion and duty were the best I could do. Mission is always larger than self-fulfillment. It is an assigned task (from the Medieval Latin meaning) a person or group is sent to accomplish. The strong implication is that a mission is service to a greater cause. That is where I found meaning.

While passion is fun and may be fun for others to watch, meaning that comes from passion is limited to one’s own experience. I say this in case you might find yourself in the same place: passionate but not fulfilled. Perhaps you have not found your mission, that task you were sent to accomplish.

I know lots of us are just filling roles. This is not “mission” and adds little meaning to life. Others of us are feeling passionate about art, politics, religion or a particular sport. But I have to ask, “Might your mission be something so fulfilling as saving lives?”

“Life Extension” is saving lives. “Living Fully” is saving lives. “Life Forever Now” adds ultimate meaning to life because the purpose is not to live fully just for myself, but to open the door for others to living fully, growing in wisdom and engaging in what ultimately fulfills.

Are you on a mission? Feel free to share in the comment box or link below.

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Body Love

I love my body for one particular reason: it is my touchstone with all that I am. It stores my memories, my emotions, senses and perceptions. It connects me to the people I love. It gives me the ability to create and change things. It is stunning in its magnificence. I noticed this recently while getting some body therapy. By being touched, I was brought into the moment while simultaneously felt able to release the past. It was a connection that brought feelings of love and joy, which are my perfect future self.

But much of my life I have not loved my body. I have hated it for its limitations and I felt burdened by the past it reminded me of. The teachings of my church didn’t help because the flesh represented much that is considered evil. So, I did not love my body. I treated it more like a necessary evil. I did not always listen to its cries for attention, balance, touch, water, love, sleep, or healthy food….

Have you ever thrilled to a helium balloon? It begins with such joy! There it floats above gravity, tethered only by a thin string. It is unburdened and as free as a bird… except for the string. Then… in a moment of panic, the string is loosened and the balloon floats away. It rises dreamily up, unable to respond to the child below doing everything it can to recapture that delight of touching the sky through the tethered balloon. The balloon rises slowly into the sky and finally floats out of sight.

The loose balloon is like our physical bodies when we neglect to take care of them. It started so joyfully.