Posts Tagged ‘clarity’

I sit here at 7:30 PM, at the table eating dinner by myself.
For this blog, I usually commit my thoughts to paper and talk about our attitude to the world. Change that, MY attitude to the world.
But my writing tonight concerns the life of a child in another part of the world. I haven’t met him or her yet. But I am about to change his/her life.

You see, I have created a system in my business that contributes a specific percentage of income to World Vision. Every time our client base grows by 10 people, we sponsor another child. The difference this time is that my current clients are choosing the next child.
Funny thing is, they are struggling.
They are realising that you can’t help everyone. For every child that you help, there are dozens that you can’t. Dozens of faces staring back at you from their website, dozens that will stay outside your reach.

So I sit here, sharing this dilemma with you. I have announced to the customers I have that at 9 PM I will make a choice.
Right now, I look over the list of suggestions. One lady has chosen a child because that child has the same birthday as her son. Another has chosen a child in Sri Lanka because she travelled there. Others have forwarded names of children all over the world for reasons not shared with me.

Before I sit down and make my final choice, I wish to share how this all came about.
I once read that for a person to be truly compassionate about others, they should give a percentage of their income to charity every month. The amount offered in that book was 10%. This prompted me to find my percentage. At that time, as a family, we had 2 World Vision children. That amounted to 1% of our income on a monthly basis. As I live in one of the most affluent countries in the world, my level of giving shamed me.
At 9pm, that number should move to approximately 3%.
Still not much.
But better than most.

Finally, I am reminded by writing about this, the story of a man’s experience walking along a beach. Strewn across the sand, were thousands of starfish that had washed up and were slowly drying out and dying in the sun. The beach stretched on and on. Just ahead of him he noticed a small boy picking up one starfish at a time, carefully tossing it into the ocean. The man reached the boy and asked what he was doing.
“I’m saving these starfish”, was the reply.
The man queried, “There are thousands of them. How can you possibly make a difference?”
The small boy bent over, picked up a starfish and tossed it into the ocean.
“I bet I made a difference to that one”, he replied.

Many kids will not receive my money tonight.
But one will.

 

Choosing a surfboard for a wave in a river is difficult.

As a river is freshwater it is not as buoyant as seawater. A surfer needs more foam underneath him to keep him moving. This newly made surfboard was now sitting in the cargo area of a plane flight that had just delivered me to São Luis, a town near the banks of the mouth of the Amazon river. Although the exact time of the wave’s arrival was known, 7 AM on Saturday, exactly how it would break was not known. We would have to travel up river the day before with a stick to test the depth as the sand bar shifts as the river curves through the Amazon jungle.

The adrenaline was pumping and I was full of the wonder of being in a new country and preparing myself for the experience of a lifetime. Even though I didn’t speak the language I was learning Portuguese
bit by bit. One conversation I will never forget. As we were moving up river in the early morning before the wave, one of the tour guides taps me on the shoulder and points to the river bank and says ‘Jacare’. I followed his direction to a three meter crocodile lying on the muddy bank. My eyes open wide. I turn to him. All that comes out of my mouth is, “Crocodile”.

He smiles and looks at me nodding and repeats, “Crocodile”.

Even thought the wave is due at 7am, we can hear it at 6.45am. Standing knee deep in mud on the banks of a river, waiting for a wave is not something you would expect on a Saturday morning.

The surreal nature of surfing in a river with crocodiles, piranha and anaconda hit me full force. You see, it’s not the experiences we have in life that changes us. It is the moments in between the experiences when things sink in. Therapists call them ‘teachable moments’. Only problem is that they usually occur when there is not a therapist in sight. That leaves just one person to make sense of it. You.

The wave itself is a sight that leaves even the tour guides initially speechless. The water is the colour of iced coffee. Branches and debris are pushed in front of the wave making it twice as hard for the surfer to negotiate his line.

In the event of falling off, I am instructed to wave my board over my head as the Jacare may wander over to see this new Australian addition to their menu.

The wave lasts about 2 hours. It is rideable most of that time which means the time you stand on your board – when added up – means you surf for nearly an hour. This probably equates to a 10 kilometre wave. A novice could learn to surf in just one wave.

At one stage we are told to get in the boat as we have to negotiate around a whirlpool that has developed on the bend of the river. A whirlpool? No one told me about that.

I ride the wave past towns and local people who have lined up on the bank to see the twice yearly sight. I lift my hand above my head to wave. They wave back. I surf on. They return to their lives.

Rising early

Final part comes out tomorrow…

We all do it. 

You probably did it as you read the title.

Choosing thoughts needs to be quick.

You definitely did it as you looked at the picture.

Our critical mind judges in an instant.

We play ‘devil’s advocate’ and call it ‘reality’.
This process was originally designed to save your life in the form of an adrenaline surge when we were flooded with fear after hearing a lion’s roar. It demanded our attention and jolted us out of our daily chores.

Makes sense so far.

Later, we detected situations where danger was likely and the same thoughts entered our conscious mind. Then adrenalin. Just like Pavlov’s dog, we found ourselves sweating as we entered the scene of our last encounter. But it helped us to survive. Being smarter than the average bear, the signs and signals of danger made a permanent imprint on our minds and we gained control over most situations.

This permanent imprint now follows us and creates it’s own havoc today. With few situations that threaten to cull our population, the thought process continues. It means we remember the negative more than the positive.

We need to un-learn this, but not completely as it still has value.

So where to now?

We need perspective. And a story to illustrate the process that is necessary.

The Monk And The River

Two monks were walking on a narrow trail near the base of the Tian Shan Mountains, in Northern China. They had both taken a vow of celibacy and silence. Mile after mile they consciously walked without talking. After a while they came to a shallow river. At the bank of the river was a beautiful young girl who was looking for a crossing. As the monks approached, the first monk picked her up, carried her across the river, put her down and continued walking. The other monk was exasperated and after sometime could hold back no more. He exclaimed, “How could you do that? How could you pick up that beautiful young girl?”

The other monk replied, “My friend, I put her down on the bank of the river. Why are you still carrying her?

It’s Not That Hard.

So like the monk, we need to drop mental baggage when we decide it is not necessary. Deciding on the validity of a thought can happen in a split second. Without energy. The trick is to smile as you do it.

Smile? Yes, smile. Well maybe not on the outside but on the inside.

You see, we may not have the ability to stop a thought from entering our head, but we sure can decide on whether or not it is useful.

Here is an example:

Imagine waking up from a nightmare. As we realise we were asleep, our logic says, “It was just a dream’. We instantly relax and smile. The same process can help us weed out negative thoughts.

“Ah, it’s just anger.”

“Ah, it’s just jealousy.”

“Ah, it’s just regret.”

Labelling thoughts puts them in a box and allows us to move to something that will help us enjoy life. To enjoy the moment.

Your next thought will come whether you like it or not.

It just did then.

“Wake up. It’s just dream.”

From Trauma To Enlightenment.

It’s been 30 days since a part of my heart was replaced with a mechanism made of carbon fibre. As I sit here typing this, I can hear it click with each beat of my heart. Kids can hear it across the room and ask, “What is that sound?” Adults hearing isn’t that finely tuned as life has dulled our senses.

The clicking is a constant reminder of an event 30 days ago.

For the surgeon it was just another day at the office. He has done over 4000 of these operations. But when you are on the receiving end, it is traumatic to say the least.
To begin with, my sternum was cut from top to bottom and pulled open for 4 hours. All this so the surgeon could get his hands in.
After the repairs are done, they wire your sternum back again and stitch you up.
I explain this as a precursor to my real point. I’ve never been happier.
The peace of mind is not because of the extension to my lifespan I’ve been given.
It’s the perspective I’ve been given.
So yes, your difficulties transport you to the next level in life. They are an elevator to the next floor that has a better view.
And the view is pretty good from where I sit now.

It’s obvious that trauma causes enlightenment. But is enlightenment possible without the trauma?
Surely from where I sit, I should be able to direct other people towards enlightenment so that they avoid the trauma.
Not possible.
So those of us who have experienced the trauma, sit here and wait for others to join us. To join the brotherhood. To shake their hand and express our happiness at their arrival. We quietly look on as others bounce from one diversion to another. Chasing the very thing that prevents the happiness that they so passionately and urgently seek.
It’s only when the person exhausts all the energy through chasing these opportunities that they finally sit down and see the comfort that was at their feet anyway. Like the student of Zen who is confounded by an unanswerable question. His mind pushes him so far around the bend, that he meets himself on the way back.
The Zen master watches patiently, occasionally hitting the student with a stick to jolt him out of his present way of thinking. The timing of the hit with the stick is critical.

There is a little known Zen story of a master and a student walking in the dark. The master hands the student a candle so he can make his way home. As the student accepts the candle, the master blows it out.
In that moment, the student achieves enlightenment.
He is still in the dark but achieves acceptance of the situation.

Life is good.
06 3 days later

My birthday tomorrow

Posted: August 2, 2012 in Depression
Tags: ,

One day before my 50th birthday
Feeling 7/10 so really very comfortable in my own shoes at the moment
It seems as anyone who has depressive feelings grows older they either become more comfortable with the dynamics of the condition or succumb to the condition. I think that the difference between a depressed person and a successful high-performance person is just a choice. It all depends on where you want to focus your attention.
I read that last week that enlightenment doesn’t make you happy. It just makes the world clearer and enables you to be calm as you know the outcome of your actions. …. and thoughts.
Stopped dexamphetamines as it made my heart race.