On Focus, Wisdom and Compassion
“Wisdom, compassion and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.”— Confucius
Let’s talk a little bit about the two remaining aspects of Santa Power tonight; namely, focus and wisdom or insight. Once a person has fully mastered mindfulness (as in the prior discussion relating to the pinecone), the next step is exercising focus or concentration. This is important because to understand anything in this lifetime, whether one seeks to understand something about oneself or another, a person needs to focus and concentrate on the issue at hand. It is this ability to focus and concentrate on a situation or an object that leads to the insight or wisdom that we need to live fully in our present lives. Let’s discuss two examples of this below.
In the first example, a person sits down to have a latte. While drinking the latte, the person is 100% present and focused on the latte. The person smells the aroma, enjoys the warmth of the latte as they sip it slowly and takes in the feeling of security and safety in the present moment. In other words, the person fully appreciates that latte and fully appreciates the actions that have gone into making the latte for him to enjoy.
In the second example, a person who goes to work every Saturday at noon and walks by a street corner sees a homeless person each week. What if the person not only acknowledges that homeless person but invites him to have lunch with him and gets to know him by concentrating on the conversation and listening to what is told to him? Over time that person will get to know the homeless person as someone other than “just another down and out” individual. The concentrated effort and focus may just lead to the insight that is needed for one person to actually help another in some way other than just handing a few dollars to that homeless person.
Why don’t we always do this–why can’t we always appreciate the homeless person that we run into? Are we afraid of the homeless person? Do we think that the homeless person is crazy or somehow “deserves” to be living on the street? How can we fully appreciate this homeless person like we can fully appreciate the latte? May I suggest that it is very simply an exercise of compassion and courage that is needed at this point once one stops to concentrate on and gain insight into the homeless person’s life. This is what Confucius was talking about in the famous quote above. It takes a compassionate person (compassion developed through focus and insight after exercising mindfulness) who can summon the courage to then extend himself or herself to others.
I can honestly say that this is perhaps the most singularly difficult thing to master–this combination of abilities–I am still working on practicing this on a daily and almost hourly basis. I still do not get it quite right all the time. However I do know this for a fact–when I do “get it right” on occasion, miracles occur sometimes so quickly that my head spins when I realize what has happened. That is what makes me keep trying to perfect it so that I can “get it right” more often.
So tomorrow, as you go about your day, think about focusing on your loved ones and on the way that you treat both them and the others that you come into contact with during the day. Think about the insight you can gain by truly focusing on them and learning how to appreciate them in the present moment. Summon compassion and courage if you need to so that you can live fully in the present without the need to look either backward or forward. The past can’t be changed and the future will take care of itself. And you will be using your fully developed Santa Power to experience the grace and beauty of each day fully and reverently. And for that you will enjoy all the benefits that can come to you on this earth in return for exercising what is essentially the spirit of Christmas in your daily life!
May you be successful in all your endeavors!
Pinecones, Mindfulness and Creating Happiness and Peace
Good Evening All!
This morning while on my way to the office, I noticed a lonely pinecone in the middle of the driveway near the gate. It wasn’t the first time I had noticed a pinecone here, but more like the fourth or fifth time. But this morning, instead of going around the pinecone, I stopped the truck and got out to pick it up because I did not want it to get smashed like the others I had seen in the same spot over the fall months. When I picked up the pinecone I noticed how wonderfully perfect it was! Absolutely perfect in shape, symmetry and color and I had a moment of clarity in contemplating that pinecone. I thought about mindfulness and how I had not taken the time to admire the other pinecones — the ones I did not remove from the driveway and which got smashed by either a delivery truck or a garbage truck or another in their haste to get on with their business. I was, for a moment while contemplating that pinecone completely and fully present in that moment and I thought what a wonderful thing if we could all live our lives this way every day. Although I slowed down to admire the pinecone I felt energized in a way I have never felt energized before. I knew what I had to do that day, how to get it all done and I felt eager to begin. I realized pretty quickly that stopping to admire the pinecone made me acutely aware of what was happening in the here and now.
I thought immediately of this blog and that I should share with you what that pinecone taught me this morning. I thought again of Santa Power and thought that this exercise of slowing down and contemplating the moment, being present in the moment, is another element of Santa Power which we can all appreciate and practiced. This act of being mindful can help all of us in our daily lives because it can help us make good decisions and avoid wrong ones. When we are mindful and we see something joyous and fun we can revel in it and when we forget to exercise our thoughts mindfully we can do things that bring negative experiences upon ourselves–we forget to dwell in the present moment at work and upset our coworkers, we get stuck in the past, we may make financial decisions that hurt us or others.
So I think in that small space of time this morning, the presence of that pinecone (as well as the others I had noticed which had fallen in the same exact spot over the months) was telling me to cultivate my spiritual powers a little better than I had previously been doing. It was, in essence, challenging me to step forward and take responsibility for my thoughts, words and actions.
I thought about this and the pinecone all day, on and off, and I began to realize, albeit slowly, that the practice of being mindful can help each one of us achieve happiness and peace in our daily lives. And once this happens, this might even encourage others to become enlightened to do this in their daily lives. Accordingly, we could prove to ourselves that we can actually do very much to change not only our lives but we can change entire situations in our local communities as well as the global community just by being mindful. Pretty powerful thoughts. So tonight, I beckon you to use your Santa Power tomorrow to attempt to be mindful as you move through your day. You never know what magical events may occur in your life or what magical events you might set in place for others.
P.S. For an interesting history of the pinecone and its symbolism, see this link. I found this link absolutely fascinating.
Consistency and Hard Work
“How we lead matters.” —Marilyn Carlson Nelson
Good Evening Everyone!
Let’s get back to our discussion of another aspect of Santa Power, and that is consistency and hard work. You can rely on the magic of Santa–it is seasonally consistent and Santa himself is hard working. This reminds us that we must be mindful of being consistent and hard working too in our own lives. It is not easy to live our lives with awareness and mindfulness on a daily basis. In fact it is very, very hard to be consistent in this practice. But the sooner we can train ourselves to be this way, to act this way, the better we will be able to enjoy ourselves and our interactions with our neighbors on this planet.
If you are a parent, be slow to anger and slow to chastise your child lest you sow seeds of despair in that child. If you are a child, try to remind yourself to appreciate the moments in your life and be mindful of appreciating the wise counsel of the elders in your life. All this will lead to your living in harmony with your family members and also will lead to your learning much more than if you raced through your life buffeted by your emotions.
When you become skillful at practicing this then you will bring lots of joy and happiness to those around you. It is worth a shot–and now is a perfect time to practice this aspect of Santa Power in your own life!
Try it today and let me know how you do!
Gumdrops and candy canes,
What is It and Where Does it Come From?
“The secret to maintaining happiness is to nourish our love every day.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Let me suggest that Santa Power is perhaps one of the most powerful things in the universe. What is it really? I am certainly not referring to the commercialism that springs up around Halloween in many of our stores and I doubt that any of us will argue that Madison Avenue has taken advantage of our collective psyches in order to support the retail economy, whether for better or worse. The Santa Power I am talking about is something very important that we usually don’t think about until we get older. Children, on the other hand, know what Santa Power is and what it can do because they have not unlearned it yet. Let’s dissect Santa Power and examine carefully its several components over the course of the next several days. Let’s start with the first component of Santa Power: faith.
Faith is what helps a person not only have direction in their life, but also helps them be strong as individuals. I looked up a few definitions of the word “faith” and found that Wikipedia defines it as “confidence or trust in a person, thing or deity…[it is] often used as a synonym for hope, trust or belief.” The Merriam-Webster definition states that faith is “strong belief or trust in someone or something.” Accordingly, if this is true, then faith refers to something inside a person rather than something that is directed to something outside that person. Why is this distinction important? Because it means that when a person has faith, having faith actually gives something to the person who has it. And what does it give? Quite simply, it gives the person the ability to live their life on a path that will give them freedom: freedom to have a direction in life that is fulfilling, and it helps them develop confidence and self esteem. When any person, whether a child or an adult has a path, they have palpable energy which others can feel. This energy comes from their confidence in themselves and their path that they are on and in the results that they will achieve by living their life along that path. This is very important to understand because each of us has this ability to foster faith within ourselves and this is what will bring us happiness.
We all understood this as children when we came into this world; some of us have had the unfortunate experience of having difficult upbringings or even difficult lives, but none of us are destined to suffer interminably from this. We can all work on our faith and gain the energy of confidence. Hopefully, when each of us adopts a Santa Letter, or does something else for someone during either this holiday season or during any other part of the year, we feel the energy and gain the confidence that we can in fact make a difference in both our lives and in someone else’s.
Tomorrow, let’s examine another component of Santa Power (there are four more components in addition to faith). Until then, I am wishing you a lovely productive day and a restful evening culminating in sugarplums dancing in your dreams…