Planting Trees

Planting Trees

The wise teacher asks, “When is the best time to plant a tree?”

I can let you into a secret: the answer they are seeking is, “20 years ago!”

So, when is the second best time to plant a tree? Of course we could say, “19 years ago…” and so on, but the answer I am holding onto today is… “Today!”

Having seen the Dalai Lama recently, several important matters became far clearer to me. One was that “Happiness” is definitely an inside job. Happiness has surprisingly little to do with external materialism. The undoubted value of material wealth is nevertheless eclipsed by: enriching relationships, being in the now, learning, growing, appreciating, giving, and creating a sense of purpose and direction. If I win the lottery this week, I shall be joyful, but that material wealth will only serve to fuel the other elements I’ve listed. Poverty, of course, can severely impact relationships, our ability to learn and grow, and can even sometimes make us reluctant to give. But money clearly isn’t the answer it’s been made out to be. It is not of prime importance.

A second important matter was that emotional change takes time. Becoming resilient takes time and experience and review and reflection. Resilience, like a tree, needs nourishment and nurturing. And so does learning to be happy.

I’d thought of planting financial trees that would help me in my later years, but I hadn’t thought of planting the seeds of becoming more happy, more resilient, more at peace. I certainly hadn’t considered that these trees might take 20 years to come to maturity. Of course, many trees can bear fruit within a few years – so I might be surprised by joy earlier than expected! However, the important lessons for me were that happiness really is up to me, and I need to be planting the seeds for the harvest I want now. With nourishment, those seeds can then grow and bear fruit year after year after year.

What trees would you like to plant? If money isn’t the answer we’d been promised, are we focusing on it too much? Is there a better use of our time?

I Long for Structure

I Long For Structure


If you are of a certain age, you may remember “boring Sundays”. In the UK, when and where I was growing up, most business pressed “pause” on Sundays. There were no shops open, save for a few Newsagents. Everyone, it seemed, rested.

Whilst I now believe this was a good thing, as a child I thought it was boring.

Why? Well, there was “nothing” to do. My time was not structured for me.

I can vividly remember regularly going down to the tennis courts, where the guardian of the key to the courts watched benevolently with his pipe and Red Setter. My sister is four years younger than me, and, at that time, deferred to my seniority, even though she is a great tennis player and knew more about the sport than I did.

So, we would begin to knock a ball back-and-forth, to-and-fro, monotonously.   Boring! Then one of us would wake up!
“Hey!” they’d say, “Let’s play a game!” Suddenly there would be a structure to our Sunday – a purpose.

Where time dragged and energy flagged before, passion would be ignited and the time would fly by. We even say this cliché: “Time flies when you’re having fun!” My sister and I discovered the truth in this.

What we experienced satisfied what is stated as a basic human need by psychologists. Apparently, we crave structure – especially structured time. We may resist a standard 9-5, Monday-Friday routine but it gives us a rhythm to the week.

My Father is now loving the routine he has in his retirement. He finds comfort in structure.

Because of known rhythms to our week, we can have beginnings and endings, and a sense of closure.

As someone who directs my own time, I too often lack this structure, and, as you can well imagine, it causes a lot of stress. Nothing seems to have an end to it. There’s always more to do.

So my suggestion today is to embrace routine like a long-lost friend. Seek structure where it does not currently exist, confident in the knowledge that your psyche longs for this. Add a rhythm to the day.
And, to be utterly specific, break your day into 45 minute segments with a micro-break in-between. Find tasks that can be completed within 45 or 90 minutes. Get closure. More than this, there is s surprise set of benefits awaiting you. Taking a micro-break that involves a shift in posture will “reboot” your lymphatic system, leading to more energy, more creative insights, and a surprising boost to your immune system!

You don’t have to believe me, just test this for yourself!

Then share with me your results!

Life to the Max

Life to the Max?

[Audio version: Life to the Max]

I’ve got a little friend called, “Max.” Max is my neighbour’s dog. He looks like “Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy” if you’ve ever seen the Lynley Dodd books (or care to Google the image).

Max is an enthusiast. Nothing is held back. I have known him try to draw me through the garden fence by the power of his nose suction alone. This little black, wet nozzle of a snozzle finds a tiny gap under the fence and inhales as if his life depends upon it… His wagging tail causes a small tremor that can be felt through the ground… he is truly inspirational!

I think it would be fair to create a verb in Max’s honour: to be Maxed. To be Maxed means to be enthusiastically ‘assaulted’ by an energetic bundle of hairy love!

I’m pretty sure Max’s love is unconditional, or perhaps indiscriminate. It still feels nice – if you’re not wearing your posh togs.

Walking to the shop the other day, I saw Max in the distance, and thought to myself, “Today, I do not wish to be ‘Maxed’!” I wondered how I could politely avoid being pounced upon without offending him or his owner. My concerns were unnecessary. Max was ‘elsewhere’. He had found some fascinating scent along the bottom of another fence and was busy pursuing this trail. Nose down, he was blissfully unaware of anything else.

Max had found joy and freedom through single-minded focus. One thought, one purpose, one pursuit. I don’t think he has many worries, but if he did, he wouldn’t have been troubled at this time. His mind was absorbed.

Could you find joy and freedom in single-minded focus today? Could you make a promise to your brain that you’ll come back to the other stuff it’s fretting about later but in the meantime just focus enthusiastically on something lovely and absorbing?

Live life to the Max.

 

A Walk In The Park?

Robin

A Walk in the Park?

[Audio version here: Audio version of the blog]

There are many strange clichés in all cultures. English has its fair share. How about this one, “Life’s a walk in the park!” This means that life is easy and pleasant. This is a wonderful state that we’re all supposed to aspire to. Apparently.

Well the more people I get to know – really know – the more I realise that I don’t know anybody for whom this is true.

Scratch under the surface a bit and you find that all people or their friends and families face battles against poverty, ill-health and all manner of sorrows. None of them have a life that is a walk in the park.

So, should we abandon the dream? Yes, I think we should! The exaggerations of marketing professionals, fashion gurus and media moguls set us up to expect the unrealistic. When the unrealistic is continuously unattained, disappointment and disillusionment can set in… and even despair. Far better, then, to choose a better path – a path of realism.

The path I recommend is a path through the park. Not a walk in the park, but a walk through the park. By this, I mean the conscious decision to take time to enjoy the park each day. The ‘park’ can be anything you take pleasure in. Your loyal and adoring pet. Art. Music. Nature. Whatever your ‘park’ is, is must be cherished each day, at least for a few precious moments.

One of my parks is the park! There’s a recreation field at the top of our cul-de-sac. There, with space to grow and be itself, is a young oak tree. I get a ridiculous amount of pleasure from pausing and just looking at how well it is developing this year. I haven’t seen a single other person pause and enjoy this feast for the senses. For many, it seems the park is an interruption between where they are now and where they are seeking to get to.

May I recommend a walk through the park? And when you do take up this recommendation, may I suggest you pause and drink in the sensory feast prepared there for you? The clouds, the trees, the grass, the birds…

My desire is that, in taking a walk through the park, you find that your life might just become more like a walk in the park.

Rhythms Cycles and Ripples pt1

Rhythms, Cycles and Ripples

Sammy Davis Jnr said it,

“And the rhythm of life is a powerful beat,
“Puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet,
“Rhythm in your bedroom, rhythm in the street,
“Yes, the rhythm of life is a powerful beat.”

[Song, “The Rhythm of Life.”]

There’s a rhythm and a cycle to your year, your Seasons, your month, your week, your day and night.

Every moment has its own rhythm.

And your personality has its own “Signature Rhythm”… something that sets ‘you’ apart by the way you walk, the way you talk, even the way you shrug your shoulders.

Or to sing again…

“The way you wear your hat.
“The way you sip your tea…

“The way your smile just beams.
“The way you sing off-key.
“The way you haunt my dreams…

“The way you hold your knife (do-do-do-do do-do).
“The way we danced until three.
“The way you’ve changed my life…”

[Song, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”]

There are many messages here, but I’d like to begin today with drawing our attention to circles that ripples make.

Life happens. Events happen like dropping a stone into the pond of our lives. The effects ripple out.

Some things we can control, some things we can influence, and some things are outside this in what we can call “The Circle of Concern”. Knowing the difference between these ripples or circles can really help respond with resilience. By focusing on what we can control and what we can influence, we can feel empowered. It’s not always possible to let go of those matters that are outside our control and influence yet still weigh upon our concerns. However, time is mercifully finite. If we choose to invest our finite time in giving attention to the circles of control and influence, the positive ripples will spread out and even tranform the ways we see the circle of concern.

To conclude this first in a series, I’d just say that there will be a rhythm and cycle to your day – a time in the day when you’ll feel more able to deal with ‘stuff’. I’m stronger, sharper, more effective in the morning. I know this. So, getting in-synch with this rhythm of life can make all the difference to working on what you can control and influence.

Here’s to perfect timing.

On Purpose, Patterns and Passion

On Purpose, Patterns and Passion

On Purpose

I think.

A lot.

On purpose.

I like it when “Life” makes sense.

But it doesn’t often.

When “Life” doesn’t “make sense”, I think you have to make Life make sense.

And I’m not alone in this.

Viktor Frankl wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I’d recommend you read it for yourself. Part of his key message is to find meaning in existence – and thus give yourself a reason for living. His credibility flows from the fact that he managed to do this as an inmate of a Concentration Camp.

My quest for meaning led me to become a Theologian (of sorts!) I went to Theological College and walked away with a love for Wisdom and Inspiration. The Apostle Paul said that, “All things work together for the good of those who love God…” (See Romans 8:28) Paul and Viktor were always looking for a pattern that made sense – that made their circumstances serve them or a higher goal.

They lived their lives “on purpose”.

So, even when “Life” seems both kind or unkind, ask yourself these liberating questions:

“How can this serve my purpose?”

“How can this serve me?”

If you’re even more assertive – make it serve you. Adam and Eve were put on Earth to rule the Planet (according to the Scriptures) – not to whinge and whine. Dominion was their job description! Later in History, when the storm threatened to sink the boat (Mark 4:35-41), Jesus was asleep! The text suggests that He expected His disciples to do something about it.

Whatever your theological position, these messages are about humankind creating purpose and taking action. You are naturally creative – so create value in whatever you experience.

Live deliberately… on purpose.

When you need a better Pattern

If “Life” isn’t working…

…you need a better pattern.

If “Life” doesn’t make sense…

…you need a better pattern.

When humankind has forgotten the “kind” part of “Humankind”…

…we all need a better pattern.

That’s what revolution is – changing the paradigm – upgrading our thinking – creating a better pattern.

If your life seems flat – remember that’s the way the Earth used to be to multitudes of people who were wrong. They had the wrong pattern. Now the pattern is different – now the pattern is round.

The Earth used to be the Centre of the Solar System – now it plays (an important) part, but it’s not the Centre of everything.

You can have a well-rounded life if you take you out of the centre of everything! Light, Life and Laughter – like the Sun – doesn’t revolve around you, you revolve around it. If you want to evolve, revolve! That means making some cause or someone else the Centre of your Universe. That’s a revolutionary pattern.

You are amazingly designed to discover patterns. That pattern of discovery will never end. You’ll always be learning. Don’t fight this, embrace it. If you see a “pattern of behaviour” you don’t like, change the pattern. When you change your thoughts, you change the very chemistry of your brain. When you change your chemistry, you change your behaviour. When you change your actions (your observable behaviour) you change your History. You cannot change your History without changing mine. Let’s change History together.

It begins with another pattern… a pattern of thought.

The Passion

They can make software and robots to do many of the tasks and activities that take up my time. I have access to a washing machine – I don’t need to spend hours going to the river to wash clothes. Sewing machines can sew my clothes. My computer can even back up my memory so that I can remember birthdays and get to meetings on the right day – without having to think.

But, the software and the robots will never have my passion. They may be able to mimic passion, but they can never have my passion. That’s unique. That’s the spark. When that goes, the spark dies.

So today’s blog closes with this imperative:

“You need to control your chemistry.”

You are more in control than you’ve yet realised. “Enthusiasm” is a chemical reaction. “Love” is chemistry. “Faith” is chemistry. “Hope” is chemistry. It’s “stuff”. And you can make this “stuff” in your very own Chemistry Lab. It begins with a thought and a purpose. You can lead your thoughts. Your thoughts become the catalysts for the kind of chemical reactions that happen next. You can put that chemistry in motion – that’s why we call part of the process “E-motion”. Choose the thought, add the passion, trigger the reaction, watch the result as you witness the magic unfold.

You are the Chemist.

You just might be an Alchemist.

It’s time to stir yourself!

If you wish to be confident, confide

Confidence

If you wish to be confident, confide!

Today’s message was inpired by the cover of a notebook I recently found.  The inscription that inspired reads simply, “If you wish to be a writer, write!”

Simple truth.

And what a gift to a writer!  That one truth leads to all manner of helpful thoughts: “if you want to be an xer, x!”  If you want to be a lovely person, love!  If you want to be good friend, be friendly!  I think there will be a good few blogs and poems coming out of that one!

The one that struck me with great force was the prevaling issue of “Confidence”.  So many people need to build and express confidence in themselves and their abilities and self worth.

Could it be true then that if you want to be more confident, you need to confide in someone?  Etymologically, I’m building on a firm foundation here – but will it work in the real world?

True Friends

I believe a lack of confidence can come from doubts about oneself.  These doubts can be based upon the opinions of key people throughout our development, comparing ourselves with the models supplied by the media, and the way we talk to ourselves internally.  It may also stem from decisions we’ve made that have not worked out well.

I think we all need a confessor; a friend we can trust in; a friend we can tell the truth, the whole truth to.  The root of “confide” is the Latin confidere which is “to trust in, rely firmly upon, believe.”  (online etymology dictionary)

Everyone, and I do mean everyone who has consciousness, needs someone who knows everything about them and yet genuinely accepts them without criticism or judgment.  Even better it is to find a friend who not only accepts but encourages.

Coming Out

A vital area a friend can support in is in the whole process of “coming out”.  Fortunately we have many tolerant societies around the World where being anything other than heterosexual is now OK.  Of course there are some orientations that are not OK and never will be, but the orientation of consenting adults should not be something we judge others about.

Some Christians have a real issue with this, which I understand but do not condone.  Christian love is supposed to be so amazingly different to anything else that a word had to be dedicated for the use of this “God-kind-of-Love” – Agape.  This, for many spiritual people, has the meaning of unconditional love.  It is contrasted with Philia – which is used for friendly love – and Eros – which is a whole other ball game!

We all need a friend who will show us Agape – the spiritual, unconditional love, that seeks nothing in return.

That would be the FACTS of Life for me:

Friend + Agape + Confide + Trust = Success

I am very fortunate to have two friends like that – and I don’t thank them often enough… something to do today.

A Word or Two of Warning

I, personally, have confided in more than those two friends.  With these two “saints” all is well, in fact our relationships are better for the “truth” shared between us.

I also shared with two other ‘friends’ over the years.  In confiding in them, I received the opposite – rejection.  (I’m not completely heterosexual!)  The result was a loss of confidence.  The relationships were lost too.

So, choose carefully in whom you confide.  I can’t believe I made such mistakes in the past, but at least I found my two who are a rock to me.  They, and only they, have built my confidence.

I would have to say to anyone reading this, I am worth you confiding in.  Sometimes the comfort of relative strangers is a deep comfort – and I’m here for you.