Think, Think, Think

No problem can be solved [Or nation renewed] from the same level of consciousness that created it.

Einstein

 

Robert Greenleaf asked in Servant Leadership:

Who is the enemy? Who is holding back more rapid movement to the better society that is reasonable and possible with available resources? Who is responsible for the mediocre performance of so many of our institutions? Who is standing in the way of a larger consensus on the definition of the better society and paths to reaching it?

The good people who look the other way–not the evil, stupid and apathetic people who have so much power and influence today–are the enemy. The good people—at all socioeconomic levels–who have been lazy, asleep or afraid for a long time need to wake-up, courage-up and get energized and engaged with the future of their country.

They can begin by making a considered decision on their choice for the next President of the United States.

Progress has been made: Millions of people awakened this presidential election cycle as pent-up anger finally surfaced. Many millions more need to rouse themselves. Some on the left call for political revolution; some on the right call for a return to a romanticized past. Many are clueless.

For the newly awakened, now and in the months ahead, furious worship and hooting and hollering fall short of what is required. The roused have additional responsibilities: They must see the reality of America today through clear eyes so they can understand her needs—not just their wants and needs. Many suffer, I believe, fuzzy thinking. All of us must use discernment as we go deeper than our first emotional reactions to evaluate the candidates and their visions for America.

In Ethics For The New Millennium, The Dalai Lama wrote of wise discernment: “…involves constantly checking our outlook and asking ourselves whether we are being broad-minded or narrow-minded. Have we taken into account the overall situation or are we considering only specifics? Is our view short-term or long-term? Are we being short-sighted or clear-eyed, we need to think, think, think.”

Be aware of self-righteousness: “Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one [Friedrich Nietzsche].” Observe those who demonize, scapegoat and marginalize others to justify bad behavior contrary to American values. We die for our values. If we cast them aside for personal gain, we are lost.

Political rallies are not rock concerts to thrill or entertain us, or manipulate us and energize our more sordid sides. Going to a rally and supporting a candidate because he or she made you feel good or is the hot topic trending on Twitter today is not thinking straight. Rallies are but one element of a long, exhaustive and rigorous process. Keep the twists and turns of the daily campaign grind in perspective. Not every big deal is a big deal.

We need to listen, observe and learn the positions of the candidates and how they differ with one another—it doesn’t take long. Then we need to “think, think, think” about the character, experience and temperament of each aspirant along with the practicality of their visions and the specificity of how they would make their aspirations for America real. We should check out our assumptions about candidates: are they based on fact, fiction or opinion? How do our values line up with those of the contenders?

On November 8, 2016, the United States will get the president and the future of America that the majority of voters deserve. Will the voters choose to move forward or backward?

If America ever needed divine intervention it might be now.

Eudaimonic Happiness

So we are coming to a conception of happiness that differs fundamentally from the storybook version. The storybook conception tells of desires fulfilled; the truer version involves striving toward meaningful goals. Storybook happiness involves a bland idleness; the truer conception involves seeking and purposeful effort. Storybook happiness involves every form of pleasant thumb-twiddling; true happiness involves the full use of one’s powers and talents. John W. Gardner in Self-Renewal

 

From: Life Reimagined: The Science, Art and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty:

The highest of all human good is the realization of our own true potential.

Thus was born eudaimonic happiness. It is about striving, working hard, purposeful engagement, the kind of effort that may be stressful or even painful in the short run but over the long run brings meaning and a wildly profitable return on investment.

A life of meaning can be kind of a drag: It involves sacrifice, stress, sleepless nights to feed the baby, working long hours to put your child through college, sitting by your wife’s side through the last stages of cancer, visiting your father even though Alzheimer’s has stolen his capacity for a shared memory, a joke, and gentle word.

So what’s the point of meaning, of eudaimonia, anyway? As it turns out, both our minds and our bodies prefer it. Researchers at the University of Rochester tracked some 150 recent graduates, dividing them into those who were seeking intrinsic goals (valuing “deep, lasting relationships” or “helping others improve their lives”) or extrinsic goals, such as wealth, looks, fame. The researchers checked back two years later and found that the young people who achieved their extrinsic, image-related goals fared poorly: They reported more negative emotions like shame and anger, and more physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, and loss of energy. The intrinsic set, which valued relationships and personal growth, reported more positive feelings toward themselves and others, and fewer physical signs of stress.

Let’s drill down a little further, into our biology. Our bodies prefer selfless happiness to self-centeredness, and will reward eudaimonia with a longer life. Scientists have discovered that people who pursue eudaimonic well-being also have lower particular biomarkers for inflammation that have been linked to a number of health problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. These purposeful people even had lower cholesterol.

Drill down deeper still, and we find that even our DNA rewards eudaimonic meaning and punishes hedonism…. Those who pursued pleasure more than meaning had the bad genomic fingerprint profile, the one with the dangerous immune response. But those whose dispositions tipped toward eudaimonic well-being had the opposite response to stress: they were protected at a cellular level.

It is better to be good than happy.

Time Alone in the Desert

Aloneness is a vital part of any spiritual path. Tom Brown Jr. in Grandfather

 

Casey (my American Eskimo) and I had two weeks alone in the Sonoran desert. I decided to make the time my personal spiritual retreat—a time for my soul: I got up at 6:00 am, walked in the desert for five miles, exercised under the rising sun as it warmed the air, meditated for 45 minutes twice a day, read three excellent books on consciousness, journaled, studied, ate healthy foods and took some peaceful photographs.

The books I read were: Life Reimagined: The Science, Art and Opportunities at Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, Ending the Pursuit of Happiness by Barry Magid and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. Each book added to my knowledge. The Tolle book was especially powerful to me. Many pages spoke to me and my life. I would read and study more of Tolle’s work.

In 2001 I lived on the side of a mountain near Ouray, Colorado for 14 months. I read, wrote essays on life and leadership, grieved some losses and pondered life in the natural hot springs. I consulted enough to pay my bills. I often spent weeks with little human contact. I came face to face with many demons. I felt lonely at times. But I knew the time alone would not last forever and sometimes I have to sacrifice something in order to experience something else. A powerful new vision—now real–evolved from that time alone.

My time in the desert was not all peaceful: I tossed and turned in my bed at night, often woke long before my 6:00 am wake up time and wrestled with ideas and insights from the books I read and my meditations. Once I jumped up: I had to write the ideas that came to me when reading Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. I felt excited when his words provided context for issues I had been struggling to understand for a year or longer. This was a time of inner expansion.

I worked hard to be present. I am a novice at meditation. I began to meditate about 1 ½ years ago. First I sat for 20 minutes a day. Then 45 minutes. At the end of my retreat, I committed to 60 minutes a day. As I meditated, I focused on my breathing. I observed the feelings and thoughts that passed through me. I often asked: “What am I resisting?” I concentrated on my senses while I walked. I admired the blooming flowers—new ones each day—in the Sonoran Desert. I listened to the doves and the quail sing their morning songs. I watched the roadrunners scurry among the cacti. A couple of nights, I sat patiently waiting for the beautiful sun to set below the horizon.

Soon it was time to clean the house and pack our SUV. I was ready to head for home. Casey was ready to come with me wherever I went. My mind was filled with ideas for projects, books to read, blog posts to write and things to do back home. My purpose renewed, I felt alive after a dormant period (See my blog post: Purpose Renewed).

I transitioned with several days in Canyon de Chelly and Canyonlands National Park for some photography. I loved the intensity of my travels and early mornings out in the natural world and days filled with new places and new images. I like contemplation and I like action.

We live better and longer lives with healthy relationships. We do need people. We also need time alone where we can reconnect with ourselves and the natural world, ponder our interconnection with all of life and renew our spirits.