Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Journey

It has been said that life is a journey and rightly so. And like any journey, it is accomplished by taking step after step. Lao Tzu wrote that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Our journey in life is measured in time and the steps that we take as we move through that time. It begins at conception, we move forward through growth until we emerge from the birth canal and we begin to experience the outside world without the protection and filter of our mother’s womb.

There are times that we need to rest and be still, enjoy what we have or seek respite from the stresses of life. But even then, it soon becomes time to start again. Our life is not meant to be stagnant. We are meant to learn, explore, and gain experiences.

I love to learn. I have learned through books, lectures, listening to others’ experiences, and of course from my own. The more I learn, the more I realize that I know so little. I appreciate things more because of the loss I have suffered or have seen others suffer. I’ve learned not to take everything so seriously. Some paths are merely distractions but we can’t forget to get back to the vital path. There is so much to learn in this world. I am equally amazed at the viewpoints that people have of the same situation. One person sees a challenge whereas another sees an immovable obstacle. One person is inspired while another is defeated. Our experiences through our journey shape our character and our responses. But even so, we still decide the next step, the next turn of our journey. We can go above and beyond our response, decide which is the best course and take the next step in our life.

Sometimes we are stopped because we do not choose to take an alternate path in our journey. We repeat the same steps that failed us before. I have done this myself but I hope that I have learned from this. We might move from relationship to relationship picking the same type of person even though we know that that particular trait will eventually frustrate us. We may choose to be with a weak individual because we feel we can “fix” them or maybe we feel unworthy to be with anyone else.

We must look at our path ahead, examine where we came from and choose our next step wisely. We will make mistakes. I will make a mistake. None of us is perfect. Yet, we seem to learn more from our failures then our successes. It is overcoming the struggles that burn the lessons into our brains. It is overcoming the struggles that help us realize our inner strength, humble us and allow us to seek the aid and advice of others.

Life is a journey. I have not reached my destination. I look forward to the next part of my journey. Although I cannot control all that happens on my journey, I can choose to respond wisely to those things I can control.

Maybe I will see you on the path. Maybe we can help each other move ahead. Our paths may be different but our quest of self realization is the same. May your travels be filled with wonderful experiences.

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Contentment

Contentment is sometimes confused with happiness, although they can be connected, they are not the same. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that is usually a reaction to outside influences. We seek happiness and sometimes seek it to sooth our discontent.  Being content, to me, means appreciating what you have on a continual basis. Remember that many of the great things you have now you did not have before. And if you don’t have things, take a personal inventory of your strengths; self-respect, stamina, endurance, surviving, the will to press on, the striving to be better.

By nature, we are discontented. Marketers make full use of this fact and it is easy for them to create want and need in us. But being contented does not mean that you don’t want more or better. It means that you appreciate what you have and who you are. That better things might exist but you do not disregard what you have or neglect those you love because of your desire for something better.

In Philippians 4:11, Paul wrote: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Paul wrote this while he was imprisoned for ministering. He goes on to say in verses 12 -13, “ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (NIV) Paul’s contentment was not based on his situation or circumstance but on his reliance and relationship with Christ.

Notice, that Paul says that he “learned” to be content. It is not an easy thing. We all yearn for more. We might say, “if I only had a bigger house, I would be happy.” A realtor can sell you a house, but a realtor cannot sell you a home. You might say, “if I only made more money or had a better job, I would be happy.” You might be happier but you may not be content. There are so many stories of the rich and famous who die bitter and lonely, for their money did not buy them what is truly important.

Contentment is an attitude, a mindset. Happiness is a choice. Contentment comes from within. Even during trials, one can be content and not happy. Contented people are more positive, more confident in themselves because they know who they are. They might not be happy with certain aspects of their selves or their situation but are content in knowing that they are improving themselves and accepting of those things they cannot change.

A contented person’s positive attitude can improve things at their jobs or open opportunities for other work. Their mindset can improve their relationships. Their positive attitude can be infectious and help others see the blessings that abound.

So how does one learn to be content? It definitely takes practice. I believe that one key to contentment is to have an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful to God for all the blessings that He provides. Thank others for their good deeds towards you, no matter how small, and remember to appreciate those around you. Let your loved ones know that you love them.

Examine what you have and appreciate that you have those things. What if you didn’t have them? Who are you? What do you want your living example to say about you? Accept the things you cannot change and move forward to improve the things you can.  It is not wrong to want better, just realize where you are, appreciate what you have and move forward from there.

We come into this world with nothing, and we leave with nothing. (1 Timothy 6:6-7) We leave behind all the possessions that we accumulated and all the money we made. But you also leave behind your relationships. You will dwell for a while in the hearts and minds of those lives you touched. These relationships are to be built now and everyday. When you see the strength of these relationships grow, contentment will grow as well.

Epictetus, the Greek philosopher, saw the value of contentedness saying, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”  Paul found his strength in his beliefs. He had faith that God would not fail him. His relationship with God is the core of his contentment. We can have that too. Although we have to practice and learn to have this mindset, it certainly is possible.

My hope for you is to have much happiness and lasting contentment.

Good doggie

First let me apologize for being away from the blog. I took an 8 day vacation on the road to visit family and have been tremendously busy with work since.

While I traveled, my sister took care of my dog, Soda. Soda is a Bichon Frise. He was my father’s dog and I promised to look after him after my father passed on.

Pets, in general, are very beneficial. There are those that do not have pets because of allergies, see pets as unwanted responsibilities or as destructive and messy. But, pets can provide companionship, hours of entertainment, act as a sounding board and be a focus for our love, attention and caring. Pets can also serve as protection, or at least as alarms to alert the owner of an outside presence, danger or alert others to the need of help.

Certain health benefits have been discovered by the presence of a pet or pet animal. In general, owners have lower blood pressure which puts them at a reduced risk for heart disease. Pets can safeguard against loneliness and depression. Pets, cuddly ones, can be excellent snugglers. This is one reason nursing homes encourage pet visits to lift the spirits of the residents. Pets can also provide exercise, especially if they need to be walked or require play. Pets can increase social contact because a person walking a dog can seem more approachable by giving people a reason to stop and talk.

Even though you may not be a pet person, realize the importance they can have in many lives by providing unconditional love as well as health benefits. Yes, my dog can be a pain sometimes, excessive barking or if I have to clean up after him, but I love him still. When he sits beside me on the couch inviting me to pet him, it is easy to scratch his head and say “Good doggie.”