Friday, June 22, 2012

The Art of Love and Appreciation

If there is one thing that all human beings have in common, it is the overwhelming need to feel loved and appreciated. But how many of us do? How many of us go through life looking for someone to really love and appreciate us just as we are?  How many of us go through life wanting our very existence acknowledged? I believe this is engrained in each and every one of us since birth.

Personally, I believe that before we came to this earthly existence, our souls knew what it was like to feel loved and appreciated. Unconditionally.  A love and appreciation so pure and magnificent that we spend our whole lives on earth searching for that very feeling of love and appreciation. The problem is, as human beings, we always somehow fall short. We have a faint remembrance of that feeling, and we search for it in our earthly embodiments, but it seems like we’re always reaching for the brass ring. No matter how close we get to grabbing it, we always miss it. In fact, that’s exactly what we do. We miss it. We miss that feeling. Therefore, we are always in search to have that feeling once again.

So, how can we help each other to experience these glorious and wonderful feelings of love and appreciation?  The Golden Rule states “Do unto others as you would have them do until you.”  When you do for others, you do for yourself.  This rule is stated in some form in most all religions and their Bibles:  Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism are only a few.

There really is an art to love and appreciation, and it’s actually quite simple. Tell people you love and appreciate them. Tell them that because they are in your life, your life is so much better, that they bless you for just being here. When was the last time you had anyone tell you such wonderful words of bliss? When was the last time you told anyone these words of poetry that made their heart sing?

Why is it that three of the shortest words in the English language are also three of the most difficult for human beings to utter?   Those words are “I love you.”  How often do you say these words to the people you know and love?  You may think they know you love them so you don’t have to say it, but they need to hear it. Just knowing isn’t enough.

How often do we as children go through our whole lives waiting for our parents to tell us they love us and that they are proud of us? Some people go their whole lives waiting to hear these words, even after the death of those very parents. 

When we speak to others, do we speak to build them up or to tear them down? Do we speak words of love and kindness, or do we cut them down with words of anger, hate, and just plain old meanness? When someone is unkind to others with their words, it is not a reflection on the person who is being spoken to, but it reflects on the person speaking the words.

Another way to make people feel appreciated is to say the words “please” and “thank you.” You’d be surprised how far saying these words can take you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent, child, relative, boss, or friend. Common courtesy goes a long way. I remember when I was doing the interviewing at one of the companies I worked for, I don’t know how many times someone said that they would take a “thank you” or “job well done” over a raise! Bosses, if you want good employees, make sure they know you appreciate them. Parents, you want kids to appreciate you? Appreciate them.  And on it goes.

You may not get a response when practicing the art of love and appreciation.  Too many people don’t know how to say these words, so don’t take it personally.  They may not have been taught.  Many fear the words won’t be reciprocated so they don’t say them.  But you can’t say them expecting something in return.  Don’t think of these words as a common courtesy; think of them as gifts.  Give them freely from your heart.  Know that because you said them you may have brightened someone’s day.  And you never know that when you say them to someone, they may even change someone’s life.

Life is short and you don’t know how long your loved ones will be here to say those words to.  Don’t wait.  Say them now before it is too late.

And to those who read my column (and to those who don’t):  I love you and appreciate you. 

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen June 22, 2012.)


Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Power of Beliefs

Many years ago while attending a Native American sweat lodge in Chicago, I found myself standing outside the lodge with the ceremonial singer.  Out of the blue, he tells me, “You know, there’s no such thing as right or wrong.”  Flabbergasted, I exclaimed, “Of course there’s such a thing as right and wrong!  Murder is wrong!”  He gently replied, “What if someone had to kill someone to protect his family?  Or when we go to war?”  I came back at him and said, “Well stealing is wrong!”  Again, he gently answered, “What happens if someone has to steal food because that is the only way he can feed his family?”  Knowing that I couldn’t argue with him, but still thinking he was wrong, I decided to keep my thoughts to myself.

For the next two weeks, I thought consistently on this theory.  I argued with him in my head and I argued with myself.  Of course, there’s such a thing as right and wrong.  Isn’t that what we’ve been taught since we were old enough to understand what was right and wrong?  I remember being at work when I finally had that “aha” moment.  I got it!  There really isn’t such a thing as right or wrong; only one’s perception of what is right or wrong based on a person’s beliefs, upbringing, experiences, culture, and environment.  I realize that this is a hard concept for most people to grasp.  People won’t get it…until they do.  And just because someone does or doesn’t get it, doesn’t make them…well…right or wrong.  

Everything we think we know or believe is just that…a belief.  Our world is full of dichotomies.  Everywhere you look, everything you read and hear, has an opposite.  We particularly see this in religion and politics today.  People are either for or against abortion, capital punishment, gay marriage, war, or they’re Democrat/Republican/Independent, Christian/non-Christian, and on it goes.  If you asked an audience who is pro and who is anti on these very issues, the audience would be divided.  Then if you asked who was right or wrong, each person would say that they were right and everyone else was wrong.  So who is right and who is wrong?  

These are all beliefs and everyone’s beliefs are different.  Most people are very passionate in what they believe, they believe their way is the only way, and everyone else is wrong.  They fight, argue, attack each other, and call each other names.  I can understand this in politics, but it’s extremely disturbing when I see it in religion, particularly in Christianity.  Most all religions have spiritual teachers whose lives were all about love, peace, harmony, and compassion:  Jesus in Christianity, Moses in Judaism, Mohammed in Islam, Buddha in Buddhism, and so on.  I really believe that the majority of people follow these teachings.  The problem is that the media gets more attention when they publicize the religious and political leaders who are propagating hate, bigotry, and ignorance.  I believe that there are many more who believe that we are to love one another as Jesus loved us, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  They don’t judge.  They believe in kindness as the Dalai Lama expresses his religion to be.  They know we are in this world together and they believe in inclusiveness because they know we are all one.

Think about something for me if you will.  Pretend we’re in a sci-fi movie and the earth releases an energy of some kind all over the world.  All electronics, books, and paperwork disappear.  What also disappears is everyone’s memory.  No one has any memory of God, religion, politics, war, or anything in their past.  You only know the moment and you only see each other as human beings.  What would you believe and who would you be?  

Personally, I believe that we would know our oneness.  We would know our connectedness to the All-That-Is even though we wouldn’t be able to describe it.  Like the early Native Americans and other cultures that do not have electronic media, books, or the like, we would sense a greater power and we would be joined together in that collective consciousness of unity.  

My dream is that more and more will come to know that we really are a part of each other and that the greatest power in the world is unconditional love.  The fighting, arguing, and attacking stop and we focus on what we have in common.  We learn to love and accept each other as we are regardless of color, race, nationality, religion, politics, sexual preference, or any of the other differences that give us the illusion of separateness.  Only then will we know peace because we will become peace, and we will know love because we become love.  Namaste’.

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen paper on Friday, June 8, 2012.)