Thursday, August 27, 2009

Family Values: Teaching Kids Respect

Two friends - how kids learn respect

How to Raise Respectful Kids

Respect means honoring other people and treating them with care and courtesy. While respect includes good manners, the core of the behavior goes deeper than politeness. It stems from the belief that other people have as much worth and dignity as you, and that harming others or their property is inherently wrong. Kids usually learn to be respectful of rules at home and at school, to not make fun of friends, and to use polite speech. Respectful behavior seems to have fallen out of favor in public discourse and mass media, and kids pick that up. But they need to learn that even strong feelings can be expressed in a respectful way.

Teaching respect - mom and son on computer

Be Supportive

Even young children deserve respect. Show your kids that you care about their feelings--by sympathizing with their needs, comforting their fears, and explaining what you're doing when it concerns them. Respecting your child means not putting him or her down or making negative statements that could become self-fulfilling prophecies. Children who grow up in supportive families are more likely to develop healthy self-respect--which encourages them to believe in their abilities and make good choices for themselves.

How kids learn respect - respect sign

Respect Is a Two-Way Street

Kids aren’t born respectful. They learn respect from their parents and other important grownups in their lives--through imitation and direct teaching. Young children naturally think the outside world, including parents, exists to meet their needs. As they develop language and cognitive skills, you can teach them that hitting and grabbing are wrong, that screaming and interrupting Mom and Dad are not permitted. They learn this little by litte, as parents react with firmness but not anger. Just say, "No screaming. Please use a quiet voice," and separate them from the action for a few minutes if they don't comply. Also stress kindness and empathy. From these early lessons, respect for other people will grow.

Girl showing respect - set rules

Set Rules and Boundaries for Respect

Rules are essential reminders for kids to curb their impulses. Family rules could include no name-calling or bad language, listening to what others have to say, not using a sibling’s belongings without asking, and finding a respectful way to tell someone they’re annoying you. Set reasonable boundaries, and let children know what is expected of them. Be sure to give consistent consequences when rules are broken--or they won’t be meaningful. Similarly, compliment your child when she or he follows a rule that you've set.

Teaching respect - practice good table manners

Practice Good Manners

Courtesy is the oil that makes everything run more smoothly. Remember the “magic words” please and thank you? You might want to also teach your child “may I,” “excuse me” and “I’m sorry.” These phrases are outward expressions of kindness that help kids function in the world and build relationships. Good table manners are also a form of respect for others who are sharing your meal. Make practicing table manners at home a fun experience rather than an angry or tense one.

Be a role model of respect - dad teaches son to shake hands

Be a Role Model for Respect

Parents are the key role models for most of their children’s behaviors, including respect. Kids learn much more from their parents’ example than from anything else. How moms and dads treat each other helps define how our kids will behave with members of the opposite sex. Adults can also be negative role models, if they speak rudely to a waiter, curse at slow drivers, or treat their own parents disrespectfully. Think about what your kids are learning by watching you.

Teaching respect - child watching TV

Mind the Media Messages

Disrespectful behavior seems to be widespread today on TV, in movies, in pop culture, and online. Putdowns, cursing, off-color jokes, and demeaning sexual or ethnic stereotypes are often portrayed as funny. It’s hard to protect kids from these negative examples of how to treat others. But you can heighten their awareness so they don’t absorb them unquestioningly. Watch TV with your child and comment on rude or intolerant characters, saying, "That man doesn’t respect his wife--that wouldn’t be unacceptable behavior in our house." Develop a standard of respect that transcends mixed messages they may be getting from pop culture.

Teaching respect - teenage girl with her grandmother

Treat Elders with Respect

In some other cultures, the elderly have an honored role, but here it’s a different story. Rather than being seen as repositories of wisdom, older people are often seen as burdensome, inept, or at least uncool. Bring your child along when you spend time with an elderly relative or neighbor. Suggest things that older people can share with your child--a family recipe, a personal story about living through historical events, or an old photo album. Emphasize that the elderly deserve our respect because they’ve lived longer, worked hard, and have wisdom to impart.

Teaching respect - two kids arguing

Teach Kids How to Disagree Respectfully

One of the greatest challenges most of us face is how to deal respectfully with people with whom we disagree. This is something even adults have a hard time with. Some basic rules that you could teach your children (and put into practice in your own dealings): Don't judge people before you get to know them. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Listen attentively before you jump in with your argument. And if you’re treated disrespectfully, tell the person, “I don’t like being talked to that way. Please use a polite tone of voice (or please wait for me to finish speaking) so we can have a discussion.”

Teaching respect - girl with butterfly

Encourage Respect for Nature

Help kids respect for the natural world by teaching them how to treat wild creatures, plants, and pets. If your child wants to pet a dog or cat, teach him or her to ask the owner whether it’s OK first. Make sure kids take care of their pets, remembering to give them enough food, water, and attention. When you’re out in nature, explain the concept of “leave no trace”--taking home any items they’ve brought in and leaving flowers and plants for others to enjoy.

Teaching rrespect - family recycling

Teach Respect for Surroundings

When kids toss their ice cream cups on the street or cover neighbors' houses with toilet paper on Halloween, they haven't learned the connection between respecting people and respecting their property. Start by teaching kids to be careful with their own and family members' belongings. Then extend that by getting involved with kids in neighborhood cleanups, flower-planting, and recycling. If they accidentally harm another's property, have them write a note and offer to help fix the problem.

From Family Values Toolkit

Principles of Personal Transformation

Profound personal transformation is initiated by the realization that you are capable of direct access to the Divine. This is the realization that the wisdom of the Divine can be discovered deep within you. There is a wide range of means that can facilitate self-mastery through personal transformation. Though the means may vary, the intent behind the means is quite narrowly defined as the intent to expand into a state of integration whereby all aspects of your conscious self become increasingly aligned with your divine essence.

There are three particular life principles that help to align your perspective with the perspective of divine essence and thus inspire profound personal transformation. They are: 1) seeing the Divine in all; 2) nurturance of life; and 3) gratitude. When you apply these principles, a deeper meaning will be revealed to the seemingly random events of your life experience.

Seeing the Divine in All

This is the principle that the Divine is present and can be seen everywhere and in all manifestations of life. It is interwoven in all things like an intricate mosaic whose pieces adhere to the same wall, and are thus unified. However, it is not the picture that unifies the mosaic, but the wall upon which its pieces adhere. Similarly, the Divine paints a picture so diverse and seemingly unrelated that there appears to be no unification. Yet it is not the outward manifestations that unify. It is the inward center of divine energy that unifies all life.

Seeing the Divine in all is the principle that all manifestations of life convey an expression of All That Is. It does not matter how far the unifying energy has been distorted; the Divine can be observed. It is the action of perceiving unification even when the outward manifestations appear random, distorted, or chaotic. The principle of seeing the Divine in all is the perception that life is perfect in its expression because it flows from perfection, and that no matter how divergent its manifestations are, all life is an extension of the Divine.

In light of the obvious turmoil and destruction that are apparent on Earth, this is an outlook or perception that may seem naive. How can life in all its forms and expressions be perceived as optimal or perfect? This is the great paradox of life, and it cannot be reconciled with your mental or emotional capabilities. It can only be understood in the context of the soul, which is deathless, timeless, and limitless.

Calling forth the divine perceptions of the soul is actualized through looking for both the inward and outward manifestations of the Divine. It is not only that the Divine is found within you and within every individual manifestation of life; it is also in itself the wholeness of all life. Thus, this principle of transformation calls for seeing the Divine in all its diverse forms of manifestation, as well as in the wholeness of life itself.

Nurturance of Life

Life, in this definition, is an individual's sovereign reality. It is subjective and impressionable. Life is the wholeness of experience flowing past the individual's field of perception in the present moment. Nurturance of life is the principle whereby an individual is in alignment with the natural expansion of intelligence inherent within all life. This alignment enhances the life energy that flows past the individual with the clear intent of gentle support. It is the action of opening to the highest motive in all people and in all life and supporting the flow of this highest intention towards its ultimate expression. In so doing, the action is performed without judgment, analysis, or attachment to outcome. It involves simply nurturing the highest energy that flows from all people and thus supporting the fullest expression of their deepest essence.

This is a departure from the normal perception that nurturing support can only be granted when others are in alignment with your personal will and desires. When, instead, you view everything in your life as an integrated energy flowing as an expression of ever-expanding divine intelligence, all life is honored as an extension of the Divine. All people and all forms of life can be nurtured and supported to their highest expression.

Energy is an element of life that is so subtly interwoven with form that it is one, in much the same manner as space and time are inextricably linked in union. Life energy is always in a state of becoming. It is never static or regressive in its natural state. You are very capable of nurturing this natural expansion of energy to forge new channels of expression and experience.

There are many specific actions that can be taken to nurture life. Each soul can transform energy through a wide variety of means. Working through your body, your soul is able to collect and store energy and redirect its purpose or application. This transformation of energy can occur on both personal and universal levels of expression. That is, within an individual's field of awareness at any time, energy can be transformed to conform more to a vision of personal welfare or aligned with a vision of universal welfare and goodwill.

One of the best methods to transform energy is through one's belief system. All beliefs have energy systems that act like birthing chambers for the manifestation of your perceived reality. Within these energy systems are currents that direct life experience. Your soul is aware of these currents either consciously or unconsciously and allows them to carry you into realms of experience that engage your core belief system. By consciously cultivating beliefs that expand and transform energy, you are more able to explore energy systems that are nurturing to life in all its myriad forms. When beliefs are clearly defined as intentions, your life energy engages fully in the present moment. Clarity of intention is essential to engaging the energy system of your core beliefs, and to allowing the nurturance of life to prevail in all activities.


If you are aware – or at least interested in having the awareness – of how perfectly the Divine supports your sovereign reality, there is a powerful and natural sense of gratitude that flows from you to the Divine. It is this wellspring of gratitude that opens the channel of support from the Divine to the individual and establishes a collaboration of purpose to transform the individual soul into a pure expression of divine essence. It is principally gratitude that opens you to connection and alignment with your divine essence.

When you project gratitude, regardless of circumstance or condition, life becomes increasingly supportive. This feeling of gratitude coupled with the mental concept of appreciation is expressed like an invisible message in all directions and at all times. Gratitude is an essential facet of love that opens you to redefine your purpose as a supportive extension of the Divine, rather than the whimsical outreach of fate or the exacting reaction of a mechanical, detached universe. Establishing a relationship with the universe through the outflow of gratitude also attracts life experience that is deeply transformative – experience that is richly devoted to uncovering life's deepest meaning and most formative purpose.

When you choose to align with divine essence and to live from this perspective as part of an ever-unfolding reality, you attract a natural state of harmony. This does not mean that your life is without problems or discomforts; rather it signifies a perception that there is an integral purpose in what life reveals. Life experience becomes meaningful to the extent that you choose to live in natural harmony with divine essence. When your personal reality flows in alignment with divine essence, you create lasting joy and inner peace.

It is the perspective of divine essence that all life is pure love in its fullest expression, and that in this single concept, all life is conceived and forever exists. This becomes the core belief from which all other beliefs arise. And as these beliefs expand outward, this core belief system emerges with a clear intent of supporting a fundamental perspective of seeing, nurturing, and appreciating the universe as the divine cradle from which all life is created and evolves.

These life principles are merely symbols represented in words and served to you as a potential recipe to stir awake the embers of light that tirelessly burn within. There are no specific techniques or rituals that are required to invoke their power. They are simply perspectives. In a real sense, they are intentions that attract experience that expands consciousness. They do not provide quick fixes or instant realizations. They are amplifiers of personal will and intention that clarify how one lives. Their profound transformative power is contained exclusively in the intent of their application.

Through these principles of transformation, you can become a master of empowering your deeper self. When you apply these principles with clear intent, you have the tools to accelerate the emergence of divine essence. You can awaken the perspective, insights, and empowered abilities of your divine essence to create new realms of possibility and shape them as learning adventures that expand and transform your consciousness. This is the underlying purpose of these principles, and perhaps the best reason to explore them.

Shifting Paradigms

The wisdom and understanding of our own divine essence is like a beacon that invites us inward toward ever deeper connection with all around us. Yet rather than look within, most in this world prefer to look outward for divine wisdom, thus sustaining a dependence upon a vast hierarchy that stretches between the individual and the Divine. In all our wanderings away from the Divine, humankind has obscured its most compelling features through a persistent belief in limitations arising out of the controlling mechanisms of this hierarchy.

The Divine dances outside of the confines of any hierarchical structures. It is complete within itself, and has a singular purpose of demonstrating the collective potential of all life within the universe. It is the archetype of perfection. It is the standard bearer of each soul's innate design and ultimate destiny. The essence of the Divine is far beyond mental conception, yet humanity’s tendency is to resort to the limiting language of the hierarchical paradigm to define and understand it.

The Hierarchical Paradigm: Searching for Connection and Wholeness

When people are unaware of their inner wisdom and wholeness, they tend to search for order and security outside themselves. Uncertain of their place within the hierarchical order of the world, they define themselves based upon their insecurities. Individuals thus become only pieces of their wholeness and like shards of glass from a beautiful vase, they bear little resemblance to their aggregate beauty. Within the hierarchy, many in high positions of power have taken advantage of our collective insecurities in attempting to guide the development of all humankind. They have obscured the direct connection between the individual and the Divine through a variety of means designed to intercede between our inner essence and our divine source.

Each individual can come to know themselves to be free of all forms of hierarchical control. This is not to imply that we should not trust others or join together in bonds of friendship and community. It is simply a reminder that relative truth is constantly shifting in the hands of those who desire to control. And even when the motive for their controlling behaviors may be of good will, it is still a form of control. When the revealers of "truth" within the hierarchy withhold and suppress information, they are usually positioning themselves to maintain or acquire more power rather than to disseminate empowerment to all.

The desire for connection and wholeness is a fuel that drives us to seek out and explore the hierarchical paradigm. This inner longing provides us with the motivation to seek help and guidance from a specific group within the hierarchy, and in so doing, cultivate a sense of belonging and connection. Furthermore, the hierarchical paradigm is a stage whereby we develop a sense of connection to some grand, encompassing vision. This is why the hierarchy nurtures prophets who point toward a greater vision.

Spiritual leaders are able to peer deeply beneath the surface reality of life and experience how intricately connected every life form is, and how the composite of all life is intelligent far beyond measure. These visionary leaders can thus interpret reality through their personal abilities to perceive and express life's dimensional depth and limitless intelligence. Yet no one is able to articulate life's full dimensional depth and breadth with the tools of language. They can only, at best, describe their interpretation or their impressions.

In actuality, all of us are able to peer beneath the surface reality of life and perceive a unique vision of the universe. We require only time and intention to develop our own interpretations. And this is precisely what many great spiritual leaders have taught. Life's deeper essence is not an absolute to be experienced by the chosen few, but an evolving, dynamic intelligence that wears as many faces as there are life forms. No group or people has the exclusive portal into the universe by which the Divine expresses itself in all its majesty. The portal is open and available to all, because the Divine is within all things.

Those recognized as great prophets each produced a vision of the universe beyond what was currently defined by the hierarchy. Because their interpretations were articulated with authority and depth of insight, they became a target of debate among various groups in the hierarchy. This debate then created a polarity of belief. A sympathetic constituency emerged to defend and embellish their leader's interpretation, while established groups held it in contempt of previously held beliefs. Invariably, the leader's vision became confined and shaped into dogma by followers who desired to create a new religion or sect. Thus, this infusion of fresh insight quietly receded into the hands of the hierarchy, where its deeper meaning was obscured by the very fact that it was incorporated into a rigid structure that both protected and promoted it.

The Transformation Paradigm: Inner Wisdom and Understanding

A new paradigm is emerging that promotes a clear connection of individual consciousness to the compelling features of the Divine without the intervention of a hierarchy. This is when the fables and myths of history step into the light and become known as they were originally intended. This is the time when language will be transformed into a new form of communication that breaks down all barriers of control. Personal transformation, through the awakening of inner wisdom and understanding, is the pathway into wholeness.

The transformation paradigm is initiated simply by the recognition that rather than the dependency-inducing ways of the hierarchical paradigm, there are accelerated, independent pathways that bypass the hierarchy and lead to self-mastery. These new pathways lead to the divine wisdom and understanding that is present within all of us. This wisdom can be accessed through the practice of three principles of transformation: seeing the Divine in all, nurturance of life, and gratitude. The application of these life principles disengages individuals from the controlling elements of the hierarchy, thus initiating the transformation experience.

As there are relative truths, there are relative freedoms. As individuals evolve through the hierarchical process, an ever-increasing sense of freedom is gained, yet external forces continue to exert control through limiting language, confining belief systems, and more. These controlling influences lead to continued reliance upon the hierarchy as it unceasingly attempts to impose a sense of inequality between us. The underlying equation of the hierarchical paradigm is: individual + hierarchy = God connection. In the case of personal transformation it is: individual + inner wisdom and understanding = divine equality with all.

The Synthesis Paradigm: Integration

The time has come to integrate the dominant paradigm of the hierarchy with the liberating transformation paradigm. This integration occurs naturally once we have fully explored the two paradigms and develop a synthesis paradigm whereby transformation is attained by searching for connection and wholeness through our own inner wisdom and understanding. It is this combination of release from dependency on the hierarchy and transformation from within that initiates the synthesis paradigm.

Once we take responsibility for our own transformation and integration, it does not mean that the hierarchy is to be shunned or avoided. The hierarchy is quite benign as a manipulative force and merely represents one important stage in the journey toward wholeness. What is being set in motion now is the initial preparation for these paradigm shifts. More specifically, these paradigms will be simultaneously played out over the coming years. As always, it will be the choice of each one of us as to which paradigm we embrace in our journey.

All of the highest imaginings of humanity are yet unaware of our deepest foundation. We have sought the upper reaches of the building, yet remain unaware of the foundation's design. It is here, at the very core of existence that the Divine is bursting forth with its creative energy while simultaneously reintegrating with its invitation to wholeness. It is here that equality is realized, not in the lofty places of relative truth lodged in the hierarchy, but rather in the deepest part of the foundational plan of life's original source and ultimate destiny. The origin and destiny of existence is the tone of equality in life. Listen for this tone – this frequency of vibration – and follow it back into the very foundation from whence all things arise and return.

Consider these words as symbols only. Feel the truth that stands behind these words, and tap into this empowering energy force that reaches out for you. Know it as a tone or vibration – a resonance that waits for you around every corner in which your life will turn. It is a beacon of the Divine gathering itself into the form of language in order to usher you to a place from which you can experience the formless tone of equality – the bypass of limitation. It is the primal language of our divine source that bestows to you the freedom to generate your own deepest beauty in the expression of your highest truth.

Web of Love

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cheer Up!

Smile, it is cool!

smile nation

Have no Fear! Love is here!

love not fear

And her name is Ashley and you better release your fears, otherwise she’s going to pick up one of those boulders and crush them!

Ashley’s such a natural, we asked her to do a shout out, and she had us dying laughing she’s so cute. (Check out her pink Minnie shirt and white glasses!) Then we put the camera on her and she got a little shy.

But I’m including anyway!

Her parents were so cool and helpful and really loved the idea behind CHEERUPNATION; it’s the least I can do. Listen closely, and you can hear Ashley’s dad coaching her on.

Her shout out goes to her Aunt “Ai” in Taiwan.

Oh, and look for her signature “wiggle” move at the end.


Stars: Ashley, 4. Taipei, Taiwan.

Spread the love and make your kid the STAR! Grab a quote, make a sign, take a picture, and email to!

lovely smile

This is a smile parade and Jimena’s leading it!

(Check out the cute SMILE sticker).

Stars: Jimena, 3, North Hollywood. LA, CA. USA.

biggest inspiration

Stars: Sienna, 9 months, my daughter. LA, CA. USA.

hammock heart

Stars: Lindsay & Alexa, 8. LA, CA. USA.

curious george

Stars: George, 3. LA, CA. USA. (Thanks, Ani!)

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

From Cheer Up Nation!

Our story is simple. Everywhere it seems there’s a lot of unhappy people living unhappy lives, unhappily. We asked “WHY?” Then we grabbed some signs and hit the streets. And we recruited a small team to help us out.

cherryUP1 cherryUP2

One by one, then fiddy, then a hundred, we will cheer you UP. Then your friends, then your friend’s friends, then your friends’ friends’ friends’ friend to create a huge ripple and FLOOD THIS WORLD WITH BEAUTY! It doesn’t matter if you’re stuck in a job you hate, live alone with six cats, or your favorite color’s black, we will find you. You will smile.



Site was created by Brian M Papa, a good guy trying to put a little magic back into the world. Laid off from his job, he flipped gears two weeks later and launched this site to cheer people up. He celebrates life with his wife Ana Paula and their eight month old daughter, Sienna. He shares his (PG-15) family life here. Additionally, he has written for T. Rowe Price. (Okay, that’s the formal bio. THIS is the real Brian Papa!)

Thanh tịnh trái tim

Nhà Thần học William Barclay kể lại câu chuyện: Một kinh sư Do Thái (Rabbi) bị cầm tù ở Rôma. Trong tù, ông chỉ được ăn uống tối thiểu nhằm mục đích kéo dài cuộc sống. Thời gian trôi qua, vị kinh sư ấy ngày càng yếu dần. Cuối cùng người ta buộc phải mời bác sĩ đến khám bệnh cho ông. Bác sĩ bảo rằng cơ thể của ông bị thiếu nước. Họ không hiểu nổi tại sao vị Kinh sư ấy lại có thể thiếu nước, bởi vì khẩu phần nước mỗi ngày tuy ít nhưng vẫn đủ cho ông xử dụng. Thế là đám lính gác liền chú ý quan sát người tù này một cách kỹ lưỡng hơn để thử xem ông ta làm gì với số lượng nước ấy. Cuối cùng người ta đã khám phá ra bí mật: Vị kinh sư Do Thái này đã sử dụng phần lớn số lượng nước để rửa tay theo nghi thức Do Thái giáo trước khi ăn và cầu nguyện. Như thế đương nhiên ông ta không còn đủ nước để uống.


Bạn thân mến, Tin Mừng Chúa Nhật hôm nay hôm nay tường thuật thái độ bực bội của những người Pharisêu và kinh sư Do Thái đối với Chúa Giêsu khi họ nhìn thấy các môn đệ của Ngài ăn uống mà không chịu rửa tay theo đúng nghi thức. Ðối với người Pharisêu, sau khi ra nơi phố chợ, người ta thường trở nên ô uế do đụng chạm. Phải rửa tay, vì tay ô uế làm đồ ăn ô uế, và đồ ăn ô uế sẽ khiến cả con người ra ô uế.

Ðức Giêsu đã long trọng khẳng định: "Không có gì từ bên ngoài vào trong con người lại có thể làm cho con người ra ô uế" (Mc.7:15). Khẳng định này là một cuộc cách mạng trong Do Thái giáo, bởi lẽ đời sống người Do Thái bị bao vây bởi nhiều luật lệ và cấm kỵ: không được ăn thịt heo, hay thịt thú chết ngạt; không được đụng vào xác chết, đụng vào người phong cùi; không được ăn chung với dân ngoại hay vào nhà người tội lỗi... Ðụng vào hay ăn vào là trở nên ô uế ngay. Ðức Giêsu đã phạm nhiều điều cấm kỵ, đã phá đổ nhiều bức tường ngăn cách kẻ xấu và người tốt, dân Do Thái và dân ngoại, nam và nữ, nô lệ và tự do... Ngài đến với những người bị coi là ô uế để làm cho họ trở nên trong sạch.

Thật ra Ðức Giêsu chẳng phản đối gì chuyện rửa tay, nhưng Ngài thấy nó quá giả hình vì người Do Thái chẳng để ý đến chuyện tẩy rửa trái tim. Rửa tay để được yên tâm, mãn nguyện, tránh khỏi phải tẩy rửa tâm hồn là điều quan trọng hơn, khó thực hiện hơn. Ðức Giêsu cho ta thấy cái ô uế thực sự lại không đến từ đụng chạm hay ăn uống. Cái ô uế đáng sợ nhất nằm ngay trong trái tim của ta. Nó không từ ngoài vào, nhưng từ trong mà đi ra. “Vì từ bên trong, từ lòng người, phát xuất những ý định xấu: tà dâm, trộm cắp, giết người, ngoại tình, tham lam, độc ác, xảo trá, trác táng, ganh tỵ, phỉ báng, kiêu ngạo, ngông cuồng… Tất cả những điều xấu xa đó, đều từ bên trong xuất ra, và làm cho con người ra ô uế." (Mc.7:21-23)

Cần trở về với trái tim của mình. Ðó không phải là một cuộc dạo chơi, nhưng là một thách đố dám nhìn vào cái tôi sâu thẳm của long mình. "Hãy tạo cho mình một trái tim mới" (Ed 18,31). Ðó là lệnh truyền của Ðức Chúa, nhưng con người chẳng thể tự mình thay tim đổi thịt được. "Ta sẽ thanh tầy các ngươi. Ta sẽ ban cho các ngươi một trái tim mới" (Ed 36,25tt). Ðổi được trái tim là đổi được tất cả.

Lời Chúa hôm nay là một lời nhắc nhở cho ta: Truyền thống, luật lệ và nghi thức là điều cần thiết, nhưng không được quên điều cốt lõi của luật Chúa truyền dạy: “Hãy yêu thương nhau”. Điều quan trọng không phải là việc chúng ta làm mà chính là tình yêu trong trái tim thúc đẩy chúng ta làm. Hành động của chúng ta phải được xuất phát từ con tim, từ tình yêu. Nếu trái tim chất đầy kiêu căng thì mọi nghi thức bên ngoài trước mặt thế gian cũng sẽ chẳng làm cho chúng ta trở nên thánh thiện trước mặt Chúa. Bởi chính Đức Giêsu đã trách mắng người Do Thái trong bài Tin Mừng Chúa Nhật hôm nay: “dân này thờ kính Ta ngoài môi ngoài miệng, còn lòng họ thì lại xa Ta.” (Mc.7:6)


Lạy Chúa Giêsu! Xin giúp con dọn dẹp những bề bộn nơi trái tim con. Xin biến đổi tim con nên đơn sơ hơn, hồn nhiên hơn và tươi thắm hơn.

Ước gì con nhìn mọi sự, mọi người, bằng trái tim bao dung của Chúa. Và ước gì khi đã ra khỏi nỗi bận tâm về mình, trái tim con được nhẹ nhàng hơn và tự do hơn để yêu mến mọi người nhiều hơn.


Lang Thang Chiều Tím

The choice is YOURS

You either gotta get busy living,
or get busy dying.

-- from Shawshank Redemption

By Richard Sauerman
- Wakeup Tiger Blog

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Global warming vs dharma cooling

It's getting hotter outside. Inside, we need to chill out, one monk says

The natural environment around us has plunged into a catastrophic state. But have we ever noticed that the natural environment inside our body, which includes our peace of mind, is also entering the same situation, due to our boundless greed and over consumption?

Phra Paisal Visalo : ‘‘Dharma is indispensable during this time. Nature and dharma are inseparable. Before restoring nature, we should restore dharma in our mind first.’’

As the world's temperature steadily soars, the temperature inside our mind is also heating up rapidly.

Consequently, global and mental warming situations are not so different, since both phenomena are equally crucial. And they need to be cured simultaneously, since internal heat can affect the external environment. We all should bear in mind that we can survive only if nature survives.

Virulent threats

According to the revered monk Phra Paisal Visalo, the abbot of Wat Pa Sukhato in Chaiyaphum province, the major cause of global warming and other environmental problems stems from humans' detrimental attitudes towards nature.

''Humans fail to realise that they're part of nature. They can survive and maintain their race throughout the passage of time, simply because of nature's mercy and hospitality. Humans should be grateful to nature,'' suggested the monk who has devoted his life to protecting the forest in Chaiyaphum.

''Humans think that they're the master. What we commonly see in this technological-driven era is humans trying to control nature and overly, irresponsibly, and unmindfully exploit it,'' Phra Paisal added.

According to the monk, the incessant exploitation of nature happens because humans think that real happiness comes from the ability to possess a large number of material things, but they are still not gratified.

''They think that the more they have, the happier they are.

Their success in life can be measured from the number and kind of cars they own and the price of the house, land, and other possessions they have, including money in their bank account.

"With this attitude, people highly compete to consume and possess more, with consumerism as the stimulator and the capitalism as the supporter," he said.

Is our greed unquenchable?

Human greed has never been fulfilled because people still want more and more, resulting in the ceaseless destruction of nature in order to pamper their luxurious and wasteful life.

Yet, their happiness has never increased in line with their material wealth, which can be seen in the high rate of suicides and patients with mental disorders and neurosis.

"Such attitudes and consequent behaviours make people ignore and estrange themselves from nature. They are even estranged from themselves. They immerse themselves in many unnecessary activities like talking on the phone almost all the time, shopping, and surfing the net. Everything they do contributes to the ruin of nature," said the monk.

It's no exaggeration to say that our natural environment is in crisis because our interior nature is out of balance. Deep down inside people feel alone, depressed and hopeless. That is why they are trying to indulge themselves with material things.

"No matter how they succeed in transforming nature into a wide variety of consumer goods, assets, and money, humans can't be full and their soul is still empty," stressed the monk.

A cure for our mental imbalance

The monk pointed out that the natural environment can't be restored to its healthy state as long as humans' internal nature is still unstable. The elixir that can bring a balanced mind back to all souls during this crisis is "dharma medicine", specially concocted by Lord Buddha. "Dharma is indispensable during this time. In fact, nature and dharma are inseparable. Before restoring nature, we should restore dharma back to our mind first. People must be aware of the fact that we're a part of nature. Our survival totally depends on the survival of nature," Phra Paisal said.

Apart from curing our soul's sickness, dharma also provides us with many precious lessons on sustainability, self-sufficiency, loving compassion and spiritual happiness, he added.

"Nature teaches humans to enjoy a simple life and encourages them to embrace happiness, which derives from peace of mind, making merit, helping others, and being at one with nature."

The monk went on to say that any souls that seek mental tranquility and adopt dharma as their guide will be lighter, calmer, freer and happier.

"This type of mind will be ready to wholeheartedly protect and save nature. It's a mind that won't take advantage of nature, people, community and society. It's a mind that can return serenity and peace to the world," said the abbot.

A simple yet noble happiness

In this era of consumerism, humans greedily hunt for material happiness and along the way they fail to expose themselves to a more noble happiness. When people start controlling and reducing their desires, material happiness becomes less attractive.

"Happiness occurs easily when humans feel enough. And when that happens it's no longer necessary to exploit nature."

Everything in nature teaches lessons about dharma and the truth of life, but only if we open our eyes and attentively listen to it.

According to Phra Paisal, those with an agitated mind will be calmer when surrounded by nature. Their heart will easily fill with goodwill and when they look deeply into their mind, they can cultivate mindfulness, concentration and spiritual wisdom.

The open-minded can learn several chapters of dharma from nature, whether it be the impermanence of life or the well-knitted connection of all lives. Nature also teaches us the lessons of morality and dedication, from the generous trees that provide shade and shelter to animals, the ants that are diligent and persevere to build their kingdom, and the birds that fly happily with no material burdens.

"Nature is the greatest while we're just a tiny life form. Nature teaches us to be humble and understand our real status. We're just a small part of it. When we feel humble, we will not be arrogant and we will get closer to nature."

How grass and a rock teach dharma

All life is inseparable and nature always can teach us several lessons of dharma if only we open our eyes, pay attention and listen.

Phra Paisal recalled that someone once asked Luang Pu Mun (one of the most venerable monks) how he learned so much about dharma, since he didn't study much. The senior monk answered that "for those who have wisdom, dharma can be found in every nook and cranny". Meanwhile, a reformist monk named Bhuddhadasa Bhikkhu always suggested that visitors to his forest hermitage Suan Mokka (Garden of Release) learn how to listen to the trees and rocks that teach dharma all the time.

"Those who hope for mental prosperity should set aside time to be in nature. With our humble mind, we will see both dharma and our inner nature which lead to the understanding of the truth of life.

"Several revered monks became enlightened because of nature. When they see a falling leaf or a wrinkled lotus, they realise that their time in this world is limited. This is a wisdom derived from exposure to nature."

Nature has been giving for so long, while humans have been taking. It is now time for all of us to take care of our generous provider.

"As nature is in great peril, we should not take advantage of her ... humans should be generous and grateful to nature by fully safeguarding it, whether through reforestation, recycling, protecting wildlife, and raising awareness of environmental problems," Phra Paisal said.

Global warming vs dharma cooling

Natural conservation work is somewhat time-consuming and it is an uphill battle as long as there are selfish people who show no respect for nature. The monk encouraged everyone, nature lovers in particular, to be patient.

"We should not be disheartened or feel uncomfortable. If we understand that protecting nature is like practicing dharma, we will feel more peaceful.

"While the world's temperature is soaring, we should not be frustrated. If we protect nature with our suffering, everything will turn out to be harmful to ourselves. We should not be hotter like our world. With a calm and cool mind, we can create good things for the Earth," the monk emphasized.

By Chompoo Trakullertsathien

Can Buddhist principles help cure the climate crisis?

We live in an age where truth has become an illusion of sorts with both sides of an argument able to cite sources that back their own individualistic claims, but if we look at humanity as a singular whole, then the entire spectrum of thought becomes a circular view of which we are all a part.

There is no doubt that our environment is on the brink of catastrophe; no longer can the living ecosystems on the planet absorb the dualistic trends that have come to define the modern world. We must change either the way we treat the planet or our own individual inner states. A Buddhist approach makes the claim the two are mirror images, reflections of each other.

There have been several articles recently trying to address the reasons humanity is reluctant to embrace the problems developing from our lifestyles of greed and overconsumption. One such argument makes the case that human nature since the beginning of time has dealt with these two conditions. The article concludes with the suggestion that investors can profit off of a transition to a more peaceful state of existence, but it does a fine job of opening up the discussion of human nature in relation to the climate, environment, and energy crisis we are currently facing. No one ever said that a sustainable future is deviod of a vibrant economy.

Particlular Buddhist principles outline that greed and overconsumption arise from an imbalance within the human mind. Here in the Western world, society dictates that we 'juice up' on caffeine or other natural stimulants in order to keep up with our daily responsibilities, and then usually at the end of the day we need an alcoholic drink or a smoke in order to slow down and relax. Every day, rain or shine, we repeat this pattern. 24/7/365 we harvest resources to sustain our civilization.

Walking in nature provides a contrary view to the reality that most of us live through every day. In nature processes unfold more slowly; actions are more deliberate; interdependence is a necessity. Society has spent countless years and innumerable dollars to remove humanity from nature, and the linear experiment has seemingly transformed the human being from a creature that came from and is dependent upon nature to an animal that tries to control and exploit it at the peril of our own species.

The climate and environmental crisis we are facing is providing humanity an opportunity to see another role for our species to fill; that is, one of stewardship and sustainability. Humans should offer more gratitude to nature for all that it provides; our actions should show this gratitude by making sacrifices of some of the things that make us feel 'comfortable'.

Do we need to all live in caves and work by candlelight, like critics of the simpler-life argument claim? Of course not. What we need to do is begin addressing the the issues that are causing our insatiable greed leading to overconsumption of the world's resources. The thought that more stuff creates happiness is an illusion; observe people with money and you will most probably find that they have the same problems that people living in poor neighborhoods have. Money does not calm inner turmoil.

Capitalism is the tool we are using to fuel our competitive lifestyles; we need bigger cars, nicer houses, larger TVs, newer handheld gadgets, and prettier kids than our neighbors. It seems as though, as a society, we are never satisfied with our present condition. I have never been more happy than under my tarp in the forest next to a stream; of course, I love my cheeseburger and beer when I return from these trips, but something happens within my mind to my inner state on these trips into the wilderness that I try to infuse into my life in the modern world.

It is not that we have to give up our amenities that we have come to love so much; rather, we simply need to bring into balance our inner demands with our environmental limits. We need to balance our wants with our needs.

Without first acknowledging that part of the human condition is the fact that our desires can never be fully fulfilled, we will collectively continue to fill the void with products manufactured from nature. We can see in America how people fortunate enough to buy one vacation house in addition to their regular residence are never really satisfied; many of them proceed to buy more houses and fill them with 'goodies' until they own eight or nine or ten of them. This idea that seven billion people can all own more than they need, and that the planet has the capacity to fulfill these desires is truly, common sense tell us so, unsustainable.

The number of pharmaceutical pills that the older generations are currently taking is testament to the fact that even our modern life with all of its creature comforts isn't enough to fill the void created by our desires. We are addicted to our own mental constructs of 'want' when we should be filling ourselves up with what we need.

In the western world, we have even begun to pass down our addiction of wanting more to our children; young people on medication that is ultimately geared to numb ourselves to our deteriorating condition, or the growing number of obese children in America shows a tangible, visual example of this problem.

We certainly try to transform the world's resources into products that make us feel full; products and experiences that fill our soul with awe and make us say 'Wow!', but I have only found that natural landscapes and living beings are capable of producing a level of beauty that inspire us to walk within balance on land. A first generation iPhone simply makes us want the 3G version.

We will remain forever locked in a cycle of suffering as a society while we depend upon shopping malls and infomercials to provide our happiness. True happiness comes from caring for something with all of your being and having that living being flourish from your efforts. Destruction and degradation only brings about more suffering. Compassion is the fertilizer for life.

To simply state that our survival depends upon the survival of nature is not working because the planet is so large while the human perspective is so small. Those most responsible for climate change and environmental degradation have built castles that shelter them from the most damaging effects (they also have the luxury of moving from one affected region to one not in full crisis mode, to their second, third, or fourth home). We need to find a way to feel full with what we need and let go of what we want. The Rolling Stones get it! (Is there anything better than Rock&Roll Buddhism).

According to Buddhist dharma, "Nature teaches humans to enjoy a simple life and encourages them to embrace happiness, which derives from peace of mind, making merit, helping others, and being at one with nature". I simply do not see happiness, peace of mind, or people helping others in the protests against climate change and environmental protection. To be frank, the anger and vitriolic language used by protesters is frightening and contrary what all Americans seek. I see selfish attachment to a dying philosophy of economics, one that takes from the earth everything that it wants and leaves a scarred, dying landscape for future generations.

A mind that has evolved through dharma practice is ready, willing, and able to protect life at all levels. To this type of person, violence against nature is as much of a crime as violence against another human being. This type of mind is geared to feel compassion for others, compassion for animals, compassion for plants, heck even compassion for mountains. These people dedicate their lives to protecting those things that are truly valuable and sustain life for future generations.

We can achieve serenity and peace within ourselves and then bring that state to our public discussions and economic activity. We are evolving past the destructive tendencies of the twentieth century; but we are in the midst of a struggle of epic proportions to bring about that change. This movement is as natural as the water fresh off the Divide or the blood in our veins; it is born from the grasses and trees and the hairs on our heads.

When we think of the times that we have felt happy in our lives, we find that those times are when we have felt full; so full that sometimes it leaks from our eyes or tries to escape through our pores giving us goosebumps. The way the wind moves through the grass; the colors in the sky during a cosmic sunset; kids blowing bubbles in the backyard; watching the Milky Way mist drift across the night sky. This is spiritual happiness. Material happiness pales in comparison to the happiness given to us by nature because our things are essentially empty. The nicest castle without compassion as its foundation becomes a dungeon, full of torturous screams that echo within the inner soul.

By allowing the destruction of nature to continue, we are allowing the destruction of our soul and spirit. The greatest writers and scientists of the past have all used nature as their inspiration. Without vibrant natural communities, we are creating a destiny for our species devoid of human creativity, filled with so much inner turmoil that we are only left with war, greed, apathy, and hunger in our world.

To go about life collecting material possessions and cataloguing them within our homes and businesses neglects the one fundamental truth of life, that is, life is impermanent. To attach ourselves to a materialistic culture goes against the very nature of our own lives; none of this stuff can come with us afterwards; the best gift we can leave behind is a vibrant natural world, free from pollution and teeming with life.

To stand in an old growth forest, or swim through a healthy coral reef, or see a herd of elk file over a mountain pass teaches us humility that we can then bring back to our executive boardrooms. With these new eyes trained in compassion and humility, we are then able to execute business strategies that align our deepest desires for happiness with our desires for materialistic goods.

Human society IS out of balance; there is no question of that. The question is whether we can achieve something beyond the suffering that wanting creates. Do we have the courage to create a sustainable world?

Put down the coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, prescription pills, Blackberries, iPhones, video games, and laptops for a few hours every day and sit in the grass and listen to wind and watch the clouds. Interrogate the landscape and sky. Ask questions to the natural world and wait for a response. Tell a tree how much you value its existence, or pat a rock on the back and say 'good job'.

The planet simply can not afford seven million people all going full throttle accumulating material possessions 24/7/365. The Western world is waking up to the fact that nature will continue to give us everything we need, but if we continue taking everything we want it will die.

To protect nature comes from the same instinct built in us to protect our own children.

The heated rhetoric being spewed by people yet unwilling to acknowledge the severity of the problem facing humanity is simply an outward reflection of their inner state. Our minds have become so cluttered with materialistic goods that our species has begun to lose our connection to the natural world; this is what is allowing us to dance along the edge of destruction and say 'not yet' to the increasingly desparate claims for humanity to take responsibility for its actions.

We live in the present; the dharma is here; if it works, we should use it to help solve our problems.

By John Guerrerio

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Way Of the Open Heart

Work is where most of us spend a big part of our week. I am very blessed to work with a wonderful group of people who all have lot of compassion and a passion for helping people. This compassion is a powerful and beautiful thing. There are many of us caring and loving human beings on the planet who reach out to those who struggle in life and lend a helping hand. We are a blessing to those we help. Take a few moments to appreciate your open heart.

Compassion is the opposite of greed, hunger for power, and an ego driven life. These other forces too often drive what happens in the world. The ego-mind is out of touch with the heart and that is why it can rationalize war, profits as god, domination over others and the endless seeking of control. A compassionate person would never be ok with these heartless acts.

The challenge all of us face who care about others is that we have these strong forces who lack heart that want to run the world. We cannot go about trying to battle these force because that would make us just like them. So what can you do?

1. Start each day in touch with the flow of love in your heart and spread it wherever you go.
2. Be awake and aware to your heart’s guidance; live in the consciousness of being fully present in each moment.
3. Take time to quiet yourself and get to know the flow of your heart, the wisdom of your silence, and your Higher Self.
4. Learn to shrink the judging mind and the inner critic and grow the accepting mind and a kind inner dialogue.
5. Wake up your inner healing energy so you can always be at your best when you are helping those who struggle the most.
6. Remember that simple acts of kindness and giving can enrich your day and also those you reach out to in caring ways.
7. Make your way the path of spreading the joy of an open heart; do it with passion and purpose.
8. Giving from your heart and consciousness will melt away even the greatest opposition; kill (maybe a better word here would be “thrill”) them with kindness.

Have an open-hearted week and let you joy and kindness light the way.

Joseph Bernard

Tips for Developing an Excellent Life!

Be positive. The most important thing you can do is to have a positive attitude. This one simple thing can and will get you through tough times, crabby people and down economies. A positive attitude is a must for people who want to create an excellent life. The choice is yours - choose to be positive no matter what.

Be engaged. You cannot feel mediocre about your role or you company and create lasting change at the same time. You must be engaged, passionate and on fire for your organization and its people. If you’re not engaged in your role, you won’t be able to help others to engage in their roles. Asses your current level of engagement and take the steps necessary to re-engage in your role at a higher level.

Engage others. If you’re excited about your job and the future of the company, you’ll be able to get others on board. Employee disengagement is a culture killer. It also affects productivity, effectiveness and the bottom line. Companies with engaged employees have a 200% higher profit margin than disengaged companies. If you’re engaged – you can make a difference. Taking disengaged employees and leading them towards engagement will turn your organization around faster than any other thing. Imagine what your company would look like if every employee showed up and went to work completely engaged and excited about their job.

Pray. I don’t care what you believe or who you believe in – prayer works. Prayer doesn’t need to be religious or formal. It doesn’t have to be a ritual. It just needs to be. Prayer works. Pray for your organization. Pray for your people. Pray for direction as a leader. Just pray and see what happens.

‘BE’ what you want others to ‘BE’. You cannot lead an organization if you say one thing and do another. You must ‘BE’ what you want others to ‘BE’. You cannot lead others somewhere you haven’t been. You cannot ask them to be someone you’re not. If you’re kind – you can ask them to be kind. If you’re honest – you can ask them to be honest. Whatever you ‘ARE’ will impact what they can ‘BE’. Choose to ‘BE’ excellent.

Never stop learning. Your job as a leader is to know your stuff. You need to know your organization, its processes and its products. In addition you need to know how to lead, how to develop your people and how to create an excellent organization. Take the time each week to learn something new. Study your industry, study success and study leadership. No matter what - never stop learning.

By Michelle Neujahr

Zest for Life

The third of the fifth niyamas is called tapas, which means zeal. This niyama is about living life to the fullest. A great deal of living life to the fullest is about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This is an important self-discipline that many of us procrastinate. Why is it so hard for us to be excited about living a healthy life? Why do we always put things that nurture out body and soul last on our priority list? In fact, we are more inclined to engage in self-destructive behavior then self-discipline.

dance live

The practice of tapas comes from the heart, it’s not about vanity. Exercise and eating healthy shouldn’t be about trying to look like a super model, it should be about wanting live a life of vitality, energy, and strength. When we live this way, we are encouraging enthusiasm in all aspects of our life. This energy does not only change our own lives, but the people around us. Positive energy is contagious, when we let ourselves shine, everyone around us will shine. If we set a positive example, people will follow like a magnet.

From a spiritual perspective, taking care of ourselves by eating right and exercising consistently make the mind-body work simultaneously. In other words, when we feel good on the outside, we are guaranteed to feel good in the inside. Similar to what Apostle Paul tells us in the Holy Bible “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received through God; you are not your own” 1 Corinthians 6:19. What the Paul is telling us is that our bodies our sacred, they were given to us by God, so in God they should remain. When we practice tapas with zeal, effort, and commitment, it enables us further into spiritual enlightenment.

From A beautiful soul

It is OK to feel joyful and happy

Allowing Joy

I am sure that I have written about this in another post along the way, but I feel the need to write about it again, so I apologize if this feels too familiar! At times, it has been difficult to allow myself to feel joyful and happy without having the attached guilt and sadness of the fact that there are many people who are suffering and unhappy. It has taken me quite awhile to get to the realization that we are not all in the same place in our healing journey. Also, each one of our paths looks different. Some people are not ready to feel joy and happiness. That is okay. I can also see now that it is OK for me to feel joy whether or not others feel it or not. I have been holding myself back from realizing my own happiness, because I want others to feel the same happiness. I want it to be “fair”. I have learned that it is okay for me to feel joy and happiness, even if other people do not. I know that there is room in the world for every single one of us to feel happy and joy. We are all capable of this.

Expecting bad to happen

I noticed a pattern in myself when I am feeling good. I noticed that I wasn’t allowing myself to have the good feelings without also having feelings of fear and guilt. The fear comes from a place of thinking that something bad has to happen when I feel good. My thoughts were about expecting something bad to counteract the good. How can someone possibly feel this good, without something bad also happening? Somehow, I programmed myself to attach negative thoughts to my happy feelings. I am reminded of the expression of “when will the other shoe drop?” Somehow I taught myself to think that I can’t be “lucky” enough to be happy, without something bad happening. I am sure that this belief was used as a coping mechanism at some point. In order to cope with the downfalls of life, I taught myself not to get “too comfortable”. I thought I was teaching myself to make sure I knew that things won’t always go my way. I am not sure when I started thinking this, but I’m pretty sure it has been a belief for quite some time.

The mind is so powerful!

I am able to see now how powerful the stories in our minds can be! I had myself convinced that you can’t be happy without also experiencing something bad. I was able to convince myself that this story was true. Well, now I can see my story, and see that it is not true. I am allowed to be happy and full of joy. This is a birthright for each of us. I know there will be unhappy events in my life, but it is not because I have allowed myself to be happy. It is because this is a normal part of life. I have learned that I will go with the flow, and I will allow myself to feel happy without feeling like the other shoe will drop soon. Using the law of attraction has helped me tremendously with this. I am able to focus on how I want my life to look, not on what could possibly go wrong. This has made a huge difference in my process as well.

The Power of Thought

Our birthright is Joy

As I have said before, I do believe that we are here to learn how to feel joy and happiness, and to perfect the “art of self-love.” I really do believe that it is the state we are meant to be in. Until we add all of the conditioned baggage to our lives, we are in a state of pure joy and happiness. Look at a newborn baby. They are in a state of pure bliss, unless there is a physical problem. I feel like I have peeled back one more layer of my conditioned baggage, so to speak. Another layer of awareness that my thoughts and beliefs are not always true, nor are they always based on reason. I have another new belief to add to my new collection of TRUE beliefs. My new belief is, “I allow myself to feel joy and happiness, and it is safe.” That feels pretty darn good!

There is a really great video under featured videos on Positive and Negative Thought.

From Be Nurtured

How to Live a Better Life with Less

Declutter your life, and enjoy.

by Leo Babauta.

I’ve worked for more than 5 years now to simplify my life, and while I’ve discovered the sublime joys of living a simple life, I’ve realized most people don’t get it.

“Why would I want LESS?” they ask themselves. “Less is less fun, harder, monk-like, boring.”

The simple answer: because life can be so much better with less.

That’s hard to believe if you haven’t tried it, but today I am happier than ever. I’m better off financially than ever, now that I’m out of debt and living blissfully debt-free. I am unencumbered by a crapload of stuff, and I have room in my life for what’s truly important: my family, my writing, and my twin loves of reading and running.

The beautiful thing is that you don’t need to earn more money or buy a bigger house or car or have a bigger company in order to have this better life — you need less of all of that. It’s attainable simply by cutting back.

Here’s how to do it — briefly. This will be familiar to long-time readers, but it’s a necessary primer for newer converts.

Do less. Cut back on your workload, on your commitments, on your schedule, on your todo list. Focus on the things that make the highest impact, and drop everything else. You can do this slowly, over time, but do it consciously. The result is you’ll have more room in your life for other things, you’ll be more effective with your time, and you’ll be less stressed out. Read more.

Have less. If you learn that enjoyment of life isn’t having stuff, you’ll be able to let go of it … and declutter. Having a life with a minimal amount of clutter is so enjoyable, so peaceful, it’s hard to describe. It leaves you feeling free, without the stress that comes with an overwhelming amount of stuff, and leaves room in your life for relaxation. Less of a focus on buying stuff means you also have more money, or less debt, or you need to work less in order to live the life you want. Any of those options are good.

Produce less. This is nonsensical to a lot of people — after all, aren’t we all trying to Get Things Done? To Get More Done? Well, that’s the norm, I’ll grant you that — people seem to think that producing grand amounts is great — to write a prodigious amount, to code a prodigious amount, to create a ton of products, to churn out services at an astronomical rate, to have more billable hours than anyone else. Well, that’s fine if you want your life to be all about churning out stuff, but not if you’re concerned about quality, about beauty, about meaning, and about having a life outside of producing. Instead, try producing less — spend more time making better things. Spend more time editing your work down to less, leaving only the most essential parts. Embrace a philosophy that work which is edited down to a minimum is better than volume.

Consume less. This is about how many resources we consume, how much we eat, how much waste we produce from our consumption. Instead of consuming, focus on enjoying what you have, preserving the beauty in what you’ve attained, being content with what’s already around you.

Connect online less. I love connecting with others online. Unfortunately, it consumes our lives if we let it. So if you do a lot of connecting online, through email and web surfing and blog reading and Twittering and Facebooking and what have you … cut back a little. Disconnect from time to time. Read the beta version of my book, Focus.

Connect with others, and your passions, more. Ah, here’s the good part. This is how your life becomes better, not worse, in living a life with less. It’s better because you disconnect from the online world in order to connect with what’s truly important: your loved ones, real people in the real world, and the things you really love doing. You’ve cut things out of your life not just for the sake of cutting, but for the sake of making room for what you’re really passionate about.

Edit, edit. Simplifying isn’t a one-step process of cutting things out. It’s an ongoing process, not only of simplifying but of putting a focus on what’s essential … and then continuing to edit. Think of your life as a work of art, and you as the artist. Come back to it and make it more beautiful by whittling away the unnecessary. Then come back and do it again, and again, until all you’re left with is what’s most beautiful, what’s most essential.

Life can really be better with less, if what’s left is what you love.

Read more about simple productivity, focus and getting great things done in my book, The Power of Less.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Steve Jobs

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

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. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

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.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.