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Self Improvement

The older I get, the clearer it becomes that self-improvement is a complete waste of time! That sounds harsh, but please hear me out. Walk into any major bookstore. Odds are, the largest section is self-improvement, and the largest section within that area is diet plans. So let’s test my theory out. Have you ever …

Into The Great Wide Open*

Have you ever peered into a cloudless night sky and not been amazed? We are a part of something impossible to comprehend. The Earth is 26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way. That’s an enormous distance! The Voyager-1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, travels at 11 miles/sec. It took thirty-five years for it to …

The Shape Of Time

I grew up in the 1960s in suburban America.  Like the rest of our neighbors, we had a 19″ black and white TV, a phone attached to the wall, one family car, and no air conditioning. Let me put that last part into context. Daily summertime temperatures exceed 90 degrees in St. Louis.  My childhood …

Dog-Sitting

Allow me to begin with a confession. I am not the biggest fan of dogs!  I understand this shines a bad light on me, but it sets the stage for a story about our two-month dog-sitting experience. For those unfamiliar with having a new dog in the house, they’re pretty much the same thing as …

Being Present

Remember back in school when the teacher droned on about some boring subject? The only way to survive was to escape. I remember a day in grade school when I did just that.   Staring out the window, I “checked out.” When the teacher called on me, I didn’t hear her the first, second, or …

How Was Heaven?

What if you died and found yourself standing in front of St. Peter, and the almighty asks, “How was heaven?” We spend our entire lives striving to get somewhere else. What if heaven is here and now? Shortly after I graduated from college and accepted their job offer, The Pillsbury Company moved into a new …

The Downside of Debate

I was on the debate team in school. The experience taught me there are two sides to every issue.  From that experience, I developed an appreciation for dialectical conversation or the search for truth from opposing views. Today I rarely take a stand on anything until I’ve heard both sides. Objective facts, logically presented, win …

Transitions

Life is constant change. Some are planned; others sneak upon us. What have been some of the most significant transitions in your life? For me, getting a driver’s license was huge. In retrospect, it signaled the end of childhood. I will never forget my first solo outing behind the wheel and the pure exhilaration of …

Just Nine Words

I used to work for a large corporation.  One of the rewards of my job was young people seeking my opinion and listening to what I had to say. Considering the advice I might offer, a Winston Churchill Quote came to mind; “If I had more time to prepare, I would’ve made a shorter speech.”  …

Cats and Dogs

People who like pets generally fall into one of two categories, cat people or dog people. Some, I guess, enjoy both animals, but most people prefer one or the other. Have you ever noticed people resemble their pets? It’s especially true for dog people. Cat people, on the other hand, sometimes display cat-like personalities. A …

The Quality of Life

Near the end of her long life, I asked my grandmother if she could go back, would she change anything.  “No,” she said, “I’ve had a wonderful life!” I guess we can either chase what we want or want what we have. Grandma was clearly in the latter camp. Still, it begs the question. What …

The Lost Art of Listening

Listening is something we usually do while doing something else.   TV is a good example. It’s often left on as background noise, like packing peanuts filled in around higher priorities for attention.  Want to give someone a gift they will love? Try listening to them.  It’s not as easy as it sounds. To really …

The Search For Meaning

Contrary to popular belief, truth is not synonymous with fact. We see the world not as it is, but as we are, something the fact-checkers miss. Facts rule the head telling us what things are but not what they mean. Meaning resides in the heart, and without it, we lose our way.   Joseph Cambell …

Loneliness

Sometimes life resembles the two ants floating downstream on a log, thinking they’re steering. We rarely have as much control over life as we think. The past year was proof.  In the song “Big Yellow Taxi,” Joni Mitchel sang; “Don’t it always seem to go,that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” We …

Belonging

Recently while cleaning out my office, I stumbled across my high school yearbook. Our high school was very “clique-ish.” I was not one of the cool kids.  In middle school, kids were just kids. By the time we reached high school, a rigid caste system splintered us into factions. A few of my good buddies …

The Power of We

During the recent inauguration, I heard the term his-story substituted for history, which of course, was about to change. I never thought about that before, but it struck me as an accurate description of the past. I’ve spent years tracing our family’s genealogy. The easiest way to do that is to go straight back along …

Half-Way There

I’ve kept a personal journal for over thirty years. I’ve never shown it to anyone. Recently, it occurred to me that there was a decent chance no one would ever see it.  After dad passed away, my sister and I took responsibility for getting rid of his stuff. It was an emotionally draining task. Some …

Living In The Moment

I still remember the last day of sixth grade. I went to a K-6 school. Sixth graders were at the top of the food chain. The “little kids” looked at us with a mixture of respect and fear, which was not lost on us! Staring out the window, I thought to myself, ”I’m a big …

The Doors of Perception

What we perceive is a tiny slice of reality.  Visible light accounts for less than one percent of the electromagnetic spectrum. Yet to us, it’s the whole enchilada. Aldous Huxley (with dated gender language) wrote, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”  It’s challenging to understand …

A Quality Life

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s been years since I’ve heard that question. Most of us stop thinking about it after graduating from school and land our first “real” job. From there, reality takes over and life, in Robert Frost’s words, flows on its own melt. In a time frame …

What Matters.

What makes us who we are? The renowned physicist Brian Greene recently wrote a piece in the New York Times addressing why art matters. He concludes: “Whereas the patterns of math and science matter because they speak to qualities of reality that exist beyond us, the patterns of art matter because they speak to qualities …

Learning the Two-Step

When I was a youngster, one of the biggest thrills in life was getting a new pair of sneakers. In those days, Keds were what the cool kids wore. My parents watched their finances pretty closely, so I usually got a discount brand. Every once in a while, though, Mom came through. Such was the …

Can Opposites Attract?

Music is a big part of my life. I love the sound made by musical instruments, but it’s the silence between notes that defines a song. A jazz trio with perfectly timed silence is a wondrous thing to experience.  I am very fond of photography, as well.  One needs light to make a picture. But …

Spirit Running Wild

In grade school, at the beginning of each day, our teacher would take attendance. After we took our seats, she would open her attendance book and call out each student’s name in alphabetical order. When we heard our name, we answered, “Here!” Since that time, I’ve discovered that loved ones don’t have to be “Here” …

The Spirit of Christmas

Our family celebrates Christmas. For me, it is the time of year when spirit is strongest.  I remember my mother, who instilled my love of music and the arts, gone now for eleven years. I think of my Father, my coach, and mentor, gone now for nearly ten years.  I think of my Grandmother, who …

What If God Is A Verb?

The other day, a former colleague asked if I believe in God.  A few years ago, I might have had a quick answer. But, the older I get, the more I’m discovering that I don’t know as much as I once thought. As a consequence, I’m finding,  questions often invite more questions.  So, I asked …

Silent Fitness

I have reached an age where walking is a fitness exercise. It’s taking some getting used to! I used to be a runner. When my knees began complaining, I switched to biking. My bike has a fancy computer that tracks cadence, heart rate, average speed, and distance to assist in training. I’ve always found exercise …

The Search For Union

Social isolation has made this a challenging year. Connections are fundamental to our well-being.  I have been writing about the importance of maintaining balance in life, suggesting that the development of spirit, along with mind and body, is critical to a life well-lived.  Developing spirit is about growing our capacity to experience connectivity with life. …

Spirit Part 1: Spirit In Action

Balance is fundamental to a healthy life. When we are off-balance, emotional or physical dis-ease eventually follows. Efforts made to achieve and maintain balance are richly rewarded. A life well-lived is built of such routines. Our life is comprised of three elements, mind, body, and spirit. These elements, like the legs of a tripod, support …

Thoughts On the Election

When I was young, I wasn’t interested in politics. What others thought didn’t concern me. I studied economics in college, and I thought I understood the world! The future looked bright.  My viewpoints have changed!   Why people think the way they do fascinates me now. Over time, I learned there is very little about …

Resilience

If we are lucky, there are periods in life when everything seems to fall into place; school, work, family, relationships, etc. Curiously, at such times, we’re usually too busy to even notice our good fortune.  Then something happens; illness, the loss of a loved one, getting laid off, or suddenly finding ourselves in a pandemic. …

Soul-Food

We live in the North-country. In springtime, when the rest of the nation is going to the lawn and garden center, we are shoveling snow. At the cabin, I don’t cut grass for the first time until Memorial Day weekend.  Why would someone live in such a place? The answer used to be prominently displayed …

Big Rocks

Most everyone agrees that life-balance is a worthy goal, but making progress is difficult. Before retirement, I had the type of job where a visit to the restroom made me late for my next meeting.  Perhaps you can relate!  The common excuse for not exercising or doing other things to achieve life balance is, “I …

Out To Pasture

“Out to pasture” is a derogatory label no one aspires to.  That’s why my bicycle ride out Moose Lake Road to Sawyer County S last summer took me by surprise.  The 26-mile route from our cabin is one of my favorites, especially in the second half of June when wildflowers are in full bloom!  The …

A Fish Out OF Water

I’m not much of a fisherman, but as summer draws to a close, I thought a fishing story might be in order. Our daughter Julia and husband Ryan spent a month and a half at the cabin with us this summer. (The teaching profession has some advantages!). While on the pontoon boat touring the perimeter …

Wisdom From Grandma

Two weeks ago, we became Grandparents! How lucky we are to witness the cycle of birth.  I only got to know one of my Grandparents, My Grandma Laura Coats. I was very fond of her.  Grandma was born in 1899. She lived the first half of her life on a small farm without indoor plumbing …

Awareness Part 8, Conclusion

There is a famous optical illusion that simultaneously depicts the face and shoulders of a fashionable young woman and a decrepit old woman. Most people immediately recognize one image but have difficulty seeing the other. The illusion reminds me of our current political environment. Opposing sides see different worlds, proving the adage that the world …

Awareness Part 7, We

“The miracle of we*” is one of the most beautifully descriptive phrases I know. Life is relationships enabled by awareness. “We” is a relationship of the highest level, the “black belt” of awareness. There is nothing to stop us from a life filled with “We.” Yet, too often, it’s in short supply! Perhaps if we …

Awareness Part 5, Resonance

Remember the Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations”? That song is about connections. “I’m pickin’ up good vibrationsShe’s giving me the excitations” Resonance happens when a connection is made. There are millions of things going on around us all the time. We resonate with some and are “blind” to others. What determines which is which? My …

Awareness Part 4, Presence

Let’s try something. If you will, take a breath in, then release it. What did you notice in the space between the breath in and its release? Probably nothing, right? That simple exercise is a metaphor for life. The future slips so quickly into the past, we fail to notice the present moment! “Life is …

Awareness Part 3, Flow:

I often find myself watching other people.  One of the things I’ve noticed is people who have hobbies and outside interests seem happier than those who don’t.  I wondered why, so I decided to look into it.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, an early pioneer in the study of happiness, provides a possible explanation in his 1990 book, …

Awareness: Part 2, Ego

The essence of who we are is deeper than our body or even our thoughts. Something inside us is aware of these!    Peeling back the onion as far as one can, we find that our deepest essence is that awareness. It is most commonly experienced as the voice in our head that looks outward …

Awareness: Part 1

I have a confession… I am quick tempered and it doesn’t take much to set me off. It’s a terrible personal trait that I’ve worked my entire life to moderate. Some friends don’t know this about me, which says I’ve been partially successful. That hasn’t always been the case. Luckily caring bosses provided the opportunity …

Inside-Out

Getting older isn’t anything like I thought it would be. Everyone says it’s inevitable, maybe so, but on the inside, I don’t feel any different than I did when I was twenty-five. My physical body of course is a different matter. I used to be a runner, now I go for walks. But fortunately, the …

Clear Mind, Open Heart

How would you define a clear mind? Our company CEO had a photographic memory and it was pretty intimidating. I made a presentation to him one day and he interrupted me: “Wait a minute Tim, six months ago, on slide 24 you indicated……”. Wait? What? I had no idea what was on slide 24! His …

This I Believe

“This I Believe” was originally a 1950’s radio talk show hosted by Edward R. Murrow. At the time, Americans would gather around the radio to hear essays written by famous people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, and Helen Keller as well as those from everyday people relating the core values that guided their lives. NPR …

Just Like Me

This past Father’s Day, I was thinking about my father who passed away nine years ago. Dad was the most influential person in my life. What occurred to me, for the first time, was that had he not been my Dad, I would likely have never met him. That sounds stupidly obvious, but there’s more …

The Space Between

Space intrigues me. I have never really understood it. What does the space between the earth and moon consist of? It must be something, otherwise that space wouldn’t exist. According to Einstein, space and time are related, a fabric if you will. Mass warps this fabric, like a bowling ball on a rubber sheet. Objects …

Energy In Motion

Breathe in.., breath out; we do it about twenty-thousand times per day, without thinking. Were it to stop, we would be unconscious in two minutes and dead in ten. It’s obviously important. Life is fueled by exchanges; breath, food, water, and innumerable others. These exchanges manage the flow of energy in the body. Theoretical physicist, …

The Evolution of We

Our country faces enormous issues: To make matters worse, collective trust in foundational institutions like corporations, congress, police, the judicial system, organized religion, and the press, are low and trending down. Technology, often cited as an answer, is a sword that cuts both ways. Self-driving vehicles and advanced robotics will ultimately displace a large segment …

The Illusion of Separation

The illusion that we are separate and independent from each other and the world is a leading cause of social ills and unhappiness. This week’s post is about the origin of this dangerous notion and the importance of dispelling it. Awareness is fueled by our ability to distinguish between sights, sounds, taste, touches, scents and …

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