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Entrée: Do You Hear
What I Hear? by Jim
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That’s what the monitor was. Blank. Empty. A never-ending void of white, extending in my mind beyond the edges of the computer screen, stretching forever into the infinite space. . . And yet my mind was racing.
"I’ve got to get a newsletter out." "Why can’t I think of anything to say?" "Is that it? Have I said everything I have to say? Is there nothing more for me to comment on? Is there nothing else to share?"
And on and on and on.
I was suffering from writer’s block to end all writer’s block. Absolutely nothing worked. None of the usual tricks. None of the tried and true exercises that have come through for me in the past. I filled file after file of words strung together in a numbingly long chain, like the genetic code of some twisted wordsmith. Except that DNA makes sense after a while, and nothing I’d yet written had or would, not even by accident.
After a month of struggling, I finally took my own advice. Not too long ago, in an article that I didn't have trouble writing, I said, "If you don’t have anything to say, say nothing." So I did. I shut up. I stepped away and did other things. Anything but writing.
Rather than sit and listen to the noise of the internal dialogue in my mind, that voice that kept asking questions about why I wasn’t writing and where had all my ideas gone, I hit the MUTE button instead. Rather than talking, I listened. Rather than writing, I read. Rather than creating, I enjoyed the creations of others. Rather than doing, I didn’t.
And it was while I was doing this - while I was being "quiet" and exploring the silence - that I heard a voice. A voice that gave me one idea after another. . . My voice, coming back, recharged, rested, and ready to go. My voice, reminding me of important lessons . . .
Every experience, positive or negative, is an opportunity to learn (or relearn). Whether it’s merely a case of writer’s block or something much bigger. Each of us has to decide if we are going to continue struggling, overcome by the noise, or if we will stop and listen to the lessons life whispers in our ears.
About the author:
Jim Allen, the Big Idea Coach, helps you make your small ideas big & your big ideas real. Your life can be as big, bold, and brilliant as you wish it to be... IF you're ready to stop dreaming and to start working! For more ideas, subscribe to his bi-weekly ezine, THE BIG IDEA, by going to http://www.bigideacoach.com/subscribe.html
Main Course: Remember These
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Though my children are all grown into adults, there are a few things I have taught them that I would hope they remember, and pass on to their children. Today, as I write this list, I do so that I might again remind myself of what is important in my own life:
The value of time - Each of us has a bank account of time, into which a deposit is made and withdrawals are taken. No matter how depleted that account was at the end of yesterday, today it is chock-full of moments to cherish, memories to make, and minute after minute to spend wisely or not. Choose well, with each passing moment!
The success of perseverance - Determination is that which took Lincoln, a humble log-splitter, to the White House. It is a hundred failures in hopes of that one success which propelled a deaf man, Edison, to be the wizard of electrical invention. Pressing onward allowed a lowly patent researcher, Einstein, to become the father of the nuclear age. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Don't quit!
The pleasure of working - "Work, and therein have well-being" is the oldest of gospels. Work is that which ennobles mankind, making order out of chaos and employing creativity to improve the lot of daily life. Work is the Universe's ordinance for human improvement, and the worker is far more deserving of honor than the idler. Keep in balance with the outer work of the world by not ignoring the necessary inner work of the spirit. Get busy, for there is much to do!
The dignity of simplicity - Streamlining duties, organizing tasks, reducing complications; each of these lightens the burden of one's daily toil. It is well to appreciate the simple pleasures of life, the simple gratitude for abundance, and the simple acts that convey to others benevolence, compassion and understanding. Keep it simple!
The worth of character - Moral and mental character is not formed in a moment, but is the habit of mind and the result of many thoughts, feelings and efforts. Noble character is simple and generous, sincere and fond of life, able to bear injustice without seeking revenge. Be great of spirit!
The power of kindness - Kindness is the fruit of the spirit. Kindness is like a religion between hearts. Honest, heartfelt, disinterested, inexpressible affection is sorely needed, here and everywhere. Each human being is worthy of one's kindness. It forgives faults, relieves distresses and soothes afflictions. Extend the cup of generosity and thoughtfulness to all!
The influence of example - Examples are the best and most lasting lectures, and a virtuous life the best example. Doing good deeds and setting good precedents, with sincerity, leads to happiness and improvement in others. Examples of one's life live on long after death, and the memory of noble actions is more enduring than monuments of marble. Others are watching; be mindful of your actions!
The obligation of duty - The entire path to happiness and success consists of duty. There are no short-cuts or bypaths that will get you there any faster - the broad highway of hard work and perseverance leads directly to it. Duty to yourself, duty to others, duty to your country and your God. Perform your duties, actively and earnestly!
The wisdom of economy - Can it not be realized that thrift is a great source of income? It is the basis of wealth and the source of prosperity. Be wise, and save some for important occasions!
The virtue of patience - All which surrounds me is Love, if I would only train myself to see it. How ridiculous it is to strain against this problem or that difficulty, when the answer is to accept things as they are, and approach matters with gentle, tender love. Things change, just like people. Wait, and watch!
The improvement of talent - Strengths and abilities are either acquired or inborn. Each type is a gift to be cherished and exercised. If not used, it is failure; if only half used, it is only partly a failure; if used fully, it is triumph experienced. Let not your abilities whither with disuse!
The joy of creativity - Inventiveness leaps beyond competence, and utilizes a sense of freedom to venture beyond the known. It is a personal resource developed from multiple experiences, a muscle strengthened with practice and frequent use. It is that which elevates humans above the animals, and shows mankind to be most like unto God. Creativity will help you carry on!
Michael Rawls, Friday's Inspiration © 2003
Second Helping: The
Cha-Cha Effect by Maya Talisman
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My grandmother used to say that the secret to living a good life is maintaining a flexible spine and a flexible mind. Whether we’re talking about joints or brains, there’s just no room for rigidity. Mark Twain once made a comment that illustrates my grandmother’s idea perfectly. He said: “It is discouraging to try to penetrate a mind like yours. You ought to get it out and dance on it. That would take some of the rigidity out of it.”
That’s exactly what we need to do in order to be open to new ideas. We’ve got to take our brains out and dance on them! Do the twist. Do a little clogging. Tap. Cha-Cha. Shake it like a Polaroid picture. We all know people whose brains we’d like to flamenco. And if we’re honest, we’ll admit to needing to have our own brain danced upon from time to time.
It’s not that we set out to be rigid. We establish certain thinking patterns and we build whole belief systems that may or may not serve us well. At some point, we get complacent, lazy, or just plain clueless about the boxes we’ve built for ourselves. We humans have an interesting way of hanging on to old thoughts and beliefs. We end up with a cupboard full of ideas past their shelf life - unexamined, unused, but still taking up space.
Our thoughts become incredibly repetitive as certain cues pop up in the course of the day.
Let’s say that every morning, you listen to the news, full of turmoil and despair, and it reminds you that you’re not sure if you want to have a child with so much uncertainty in the world. Then you get in the shower and get ready for work, and as you look in the mirror, you realize you aren’t getting any younger, and maybe you’d better make that decision to have kids now while you still can. And then, as you drive to work, you pass a school, and you calculate how old you’ll be when your child is the same age as the students you see. Then you get to the office and wonder how you’d be able to juggle work and a family at the same time.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Every single day.
That’s just one example. There are many. It could be about your job, your weight, your relationships - you know the top ten things on your own mental list. No matter what you’re facing in life, you have cues that bring it up for you again and again. You thought about it yesterday, you’re thinking about it today, and you’re going to think about it again tomorrow.
What if you did some applied thinking? Not just that casual sort of obsessing you do daily, but serious applied thought? We need to learn how to think more efficiently and effectively. Dr. Edward de Bono is a former Rhodes scholar who was on the faculty at Cambridge, Oxford, and Harvard universities. He is considered the world’s foremost authority on creative thinking.
Okay, the guy’s brilliant. But the cool thing about de Bono is that he wasn’t interested in revealing his method only to those who breathed the rarified air of the world’s finest universities. He was passionate about developing a way to teach creative thinking that was so simple even a five-year-old could benefit from it.
He coined the term “lateral thinking” and set about developing clear, visual ways to enhance the way we think. He uses the image of a car. Just because you’re in a good, quality car does not mean you are a good driver. You must learn how to drive. Some people are better than others, but everyone can acquire a reasonable amount of skill. You must have the desire to learn and spend time practicing. Once you become good at it, it’s easy and enjoyable.
De Bono believes that good thinkers aren’t born - they’re made. He says there are two dangerous fallacies: that if you’re intelligent, you don’t need to do anything about your thinking, and that if you have a more humble intelligence level, there’s nothing you can do about your thinking. De Bono inspires us to develop a broad view. The broader your knowledge base, the better your thinking. De Bono actually came up with the phrase, “think outside the box” - but don’t hold that against him! It remains a clear image and a permanent part of our language because it immediately conveys the concept of stepping out of our regular patterns.
Do your own lateral thinking to see where it leads. When you find yourself stuck in your thoughts-of-the-day cycle, go wide. Jump the track. Consciously take your thoughts in a new direction. Decide on a certain cue - say, whenever you look in the mirror and notice wrinkles or gray hair - and instead of your usual “I’m-getting-so-old” lament, picture yourself with white hair and crinkly eyes. Imagine the things you’ll be doing when you’re old. Escape into a reverie of the dreams you see coming true and the loving friends and family surrounding you. Stop dreading the process and focus on that brilliant 85-year-old who will be amazing and amusing everyone.
Your bones need lateral motion, and so does your brain. You can walk for miles and miles, but unless you add some sideways action, you’re grinding your hipbones in their sockets. Linear thought will get you where you think you want to go, but you will have missed out on tremendous opportunities for gaining perspective.
You’re going to keep on thinking until the day you die. Why not be a bit intentional about it? Pick your cue, and engage in a full-on effort to replace a repetitive thought cycle with an interesting new twist. Take your brain out to dance in this daring new direction. Flex and stretch it at every opportunity. Feel it becoming more limber, supple, and - why not? - sexy.
About the author:
Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse. Her course, Massage Your Mind!: Defining Your Life Philosophy, has inspired thinkers in over 80 countries around the world. Her free weekly e-zine, Friday Mind Massage, serves up a satisfying blend of clarity, comfort and comic relief. To subscribe, visit http://www.massageyourmind.com.
Soup to Nuts: From the feedback
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Margene writes, "Whether you oppose marriage of same-sex couples, or are in favor of it, is a matter of personal opinion and conscience. I believe, however, that American society should never amend their constitution to prohibit the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness in matters such as this, or any other. I don't believe it is the duty of the government to legislate morality by prohibiting free choice. If you would like to sign a petition to the U.S. President, informing him of your opposition to the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, take 30 seconds of your time and follow this link: http://www.care2.com/go/z/12267 "
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