Hope

130. IN SEARCH OF THE ENEMY

If there’s one thing I know for sure it’s this; frustration, fear, anger, resentment, and hate will never claim to have sprung from its true source of origin, they’ll always look to blame their existence on outside circumstance. As long as we own the power of reaction, we have leverage over how we feel. This is one of life’s most important truths.

Right now the world is coming at us in ways we’ve never dared to imagine. We stand at the edge of a worldwide hurricane. We feel the breeze turning into an inevitable tempest as the skies on the horizon go from grey to black. We are indeed being attacked, and our defences are minimal at best. We do however, have defences, and those who make the best use of them will eventually walk free of the storm. 

Who then is the real enemy? Who or what do we ultimately need to defend ourselves against? Is it the government for what we convince ourselves is lack of proper action? Is it the media for either over-hyping or under-prioritizing the dangers we face? Is it our neighbors who are in hysterics, buying out mass quantities of products hoping to isolate comfortably? Is it the disease itself? I say no, and here’s why.

None of the above examples are anything we have an active power over. We do on the other hand have the power of reaction. Awareness and manipulation of this strategy is the foundation of monuments. I’ve stated many, many times both on this blog and in person that we cannot change life from the outside in, we can only do it from the inside out, and here is where our real enemy lies; it’s ourselves. When we choose to blame, we relinquish self-control. When we choose to blame we fully acknowledge the problem and discard any thought of seeking solutions. 

I do not deny there will be victims, and I pray I will come to know none, but I do know there will be a lot less in the end if we choose to abandon frustration, fear, anger, resentment, and hate. We MUST bring water to the fire. To stoke it further is to align with its intent. Obviously then we must move forward with the opposites of these negative emotions. Confidence, Love, joy, and kindness are therefore the “weapons” we must wield. These are NOT weak defences, for does it not take MORE strength than usual to project this strategy? If you think doing so is going to be tough, then so be it, be tough. I for one believe composure during the most violent of situations is the highest state of mind one can achieve. You can either lead others with this approach, or follow the rest to almost certain self-destruction. 

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

129. SILVER LININGS IN THE PANDEMIC STORM CLOUDS

I’m in Colorado. Per capita we are a huge hot-spot in the United States for the pandemic now sweeping through the world. All too soon I’m sure we will be on isolation protocols, it’s part of an inevitable domino effect, and I for one will be prepared, at least mentally. This is NOT the time for fear, I’ve done plenty of that in my past and it has no appeal, use, or leverage in my life anymore. I have skills in place learned and practiced through my program of recovery that deal with such threats very efficiently; namely the “Serenity Prayer” which is really just a re-affirmation we can only control ourselves. The way we choose to act and react is the ONLY power we can exercise discipline over. Outside circumstances are not only beyond our control, they are are, for the most part, unpredictable as well. 

My suggestion to others is this, sit down and write out everything you’ve been putting off, be it tedious, fun, or necessary, and create a schedule to start working towards what you want to purge, create, or improve upon. Lack of purpose is extremely efficient fertilizer for all kinds of unwanted outcomes. Trust me, I speak from experience. Keep an emphasis on scheduling. Write out what you are going to do, what time to get up, what you want to accomplish first, by noon, and by the end of what would be considered a “normal” work day. Stay at home parents will no doubt have the easiest time adjusting to how the world is shifting, but the rest of us will be left with giant gaps in our daily habit. 

Who hasn’t thought about getting back to long neglected hobbies and pastimes? Many have dusty crafts, unread books, half finished drawings and paintings (me, me me!), and partially written manuscripts and poetry. There are those with cars waiting to be worked on in their garages, work shops with plenty of supplies, and gardens to start soon. Boredom is fueled by an inability to do what we think we’ll enjoy while at the same time convincing ourselves what needs attention requires too much effort. I call B.S. on this attitude. Excuses hold us back more than any other thing on Earth, and I’m not beyond manufacturing all kinds of seemingly creative ones myself. Do it all the time, which makes me something of a hypocrite. In any case, I’m much better at following through on my duties, hobbies, and dreams than I used to be, so at least my track record is constantly improving. 

I’ll gladly share my intentions and hopefully my example will inspire others to follow a similar path. 

Productive things to do in my life –

  • Exercise daily every morning in place of work. (while watching recorded shows)
  • Clean the grill. (we use it three to four times a week)
  • Clean and organize the garage. (THIS should take a while)
  • Clean and organize my storage room in the basement. (this should take even MORE of a while)
  • Separate what I need to donate. (WAY WAY too much, kind of a clothes whore)
  • Do classes from The Great Courses, both new ones I want to buy and those I already own. (math skills, language skills, writing skills, science, Shakespeare, etc.)
  • Complete online classes offered by my work. (there’s a bunch, and it will endure my willingness to be committed to my job as well as educate me on necessary work place skills)
  • Download my giant audio library of self-help, self-improvement programs to my iPod. (this is time consuming but it pays off.)
  • Organize and clean my work van and tools. (not bad now, can always be better)

Fun things to do in my life –

  • Write on my blog. (there’s never a lack of inspiration, and sometimes what guides me, surprises me as well)
  • Work on my art, both painting and pen and ink. (several projects I’ve been neglecting for far too long)
  • Watch my collected movies and series. (Battlestar Galactica, Sons of Anarchy, Northern Exposure and a plethora of others, twelve hundred titles in all, so no lack of entertainment here)
  • Complete my book and send it off for publication. (THIS is a big one. Not completing this equals massive regret, something I refuse to cultivate)
  • Listen to music. (Pandora – nothing calms me like Steely Dan, Firefall, Neil Diamond, and Gordon Lightfoot)
  • Sit down and read. (I own several thousand books so no lack here either)

I plan to keep getting up at four a.m. every day just as I do now. 

  1. 4:00 – 4:30 – Shower
  2. 4:30 – 5:00 – Eat Breakfast
  3. 5:00 – 6:00 – Exercise 
  4. 6:00 – 8:00 – Pick something on my “to do” list. Doesn’t have to get done, just progressed.
  5. 8:00 – 11:00 – Education choice
  6. 11:00 – 12:00 – Lunch
  7. 12:00 – 2:00 – Write
  8. 2:00 – 4:00 – Work on my art

The rest of the day will be the same as it is now which includes time with my wife, dinner, and confidently giving a bunch of wrong answers to the night’s episode of Jeopardy! Chores like laundry can happen whenever because I can do other things while the machine does the work. I’m usually in bed by nine p.m. 

One of the biggest reasons I MUST do this is if I don’t, old habits will attempt to resurface, and I have a host of those which almost destroyed me. One of the recent ones is weight loss. I’ve dropped about a hundred pounds since March of last year, and I’m prone to eating all the wrong crap when I let fear and stress dominate my mind, so keeping focused on a daily pattern will help deter me from self-destructive tendencies.

I have no intention of telling others what to do, all I want is to share how I’m going to handle what’s coming for all of us. 

I wish you all the best. 

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

125. SEARCHING FOR INSPIRATION

The older I get the more I know what the highest personal achievements in life are, and surprisingly, in the end, we don’t seem to want anything material at all. We may think we do, especially in our youth, but what’s truly sought after are the feelings that come from what we’re convinced will trigger whatever state of euphoria we seek to manifest. Many (including myself) buy into false repackaged, cliched, and resold icons associated with happiness which usually revolve around power, money, and fame. When people find they cannot gain footing on this type of path, drugs inevitably become the number one go-to in pursuit of mood-altering experiences, and I can understand why; it’s easy, extremely available, and it works…sort of. I myself was a slave to the idea of alcohol induced tranquility just like millions of others. If you don’t believe this to be true, take a ten-minute drive through the nearest business district and count just how many places you pass by who sell liquor. Damn near every street corner is testimony to the immense popularity of booze. Illicit drugs are a bit more covert, but I’d wager almost no one on Earth is unaffected in their own family by their ubiquity and use. All too often this path becomes extraordinarily self-destructive; physically, yes, but more importantly, emotionally. When we force our state of mind to change from the outside in, we ignore spirit and embrace pure hedonism. We also forget how to express ourselves naturally, how to explore our passions and allow our sorrows. I know from experience when the spirit dies from lack of nourishment, so does the body.

Complete contentment, peace, ecstasy, excitement, harmony, and bliss are good examples of the type of heightened emotions everyone wishes they had instant access to. Unfortunately, we’re all too familiar with the opposites such as discouragement, conflict, depression, boredom, apathy, and misery, and believe it or not it’s here the secret of inspiration can actually be found. Stick with this article and by the end you’ll be, well… inspired. Trust me.

We are creatures of negativity for two very distinct reasons, but this isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. We have built into our limbic system the “fight or flight” response which is on the constant lookout for the safest path. There are those who confront this instinct by intentionally risking limb and lifestyle, either for excitement or to challenge tendencies, but it’s always there in one form or another. And this skill is extremely useful, no doubt about it. Our ancient ancestors knew enough to be afraid of danger and avoid unjustifiable risks. The second reason is a little weird. We approach most tasks and challenges with a mindset that says “how can I fix this?” OR “how can I improve this?” As a result we automatically look for lack, and when we do, we force our minds to notice and all too often manufacture flaws, even if they don’t exist to begin with. One thing’s for sure, very seldom do we walk through life carefree and totally accepting of the world around us. Those souls who do are almost nonexistent. This is why we identify with negative points of view so easily, it’s a covert  and highly practiced habit to begin with.

The least desirable emotional states I listed above are actually easier to understand and diagnose than their counterparts because of the way we’re wired. They aren’t simple, no illusions here, just more relatable, more common as it were. I’ve stated this many times on this blog, I’m no doctor nor am I a professional on any subject I bring up, all I try do is share how I’ve moved past those barriers in life so many of us seem to share. Most states of negativity I’ve found a way past, although I don’t practice what I preach as much as I should. My ego occasionally gets inflated, I look for excuses, and play the victim from time to time, there’s no doubt about it, BUT I do know how to get beyond these temporary setbacks

There’s a one-word response for neutralizing negativity. Those I’ve named above, discouragement, conflict, depression, boredom, apathy, and misery have a redundant thread.

  • Discouragement = giving up on taking action
  • Conflict = absence of seeking cooperative action
  • Depression = unwilling to take action
  • Boredom = no action at all
  • Apathy = not caring about taking action
  • Misery = not taking the correct action

Obviously the key word is… action. Action designed to avoid destructive tenancies is, by default, creative in nature, and all things creative hold the seeds of inspiration. If this is true, then it stands to reason creativity breeds inspiration. You see, most believe inspiration comes before creativity. Not true. If you want to be inspired all you need to do is choose to be consistently active in your own life. The activities don’t have to be all rainbows and unicorns, and most likely they’ll be annoying rather than comforting, though this isn’t always the case. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the nature of your activities are as long as they’re intended to be part of a bigger (positive) picture. Think of life as setting up dominos, once they’re in place all that’s needed is a push on the first one. Yes, the preparations can be tedious and time consuming, but the payoff is easy to visualize. The satisfaction of seeing them make a predetermined pattern, to act in a perfectly synchronized, harmonious manner is pure gratification. The same logic can be applied to those goals and dreams we so often abandon because the road leading to our visions seems overwhelming and hopeless. Little steps and movements all too often lead to huge accomplishments, in fact I would say this is the only way one finds themselves seeing their dreams come true.

When I look back at the things I’m grateful for, the accomplishments I’ve followed through on, they all consisted of constant, small, sometimes almost imperceptible movements. Most were drudgerous, but in the end it has always been more than worth it. The price is not that high upon appreciating the worth of the finished product. Seeing one’s goals make the finish line IS inspirational, and THAT inspiration is what is needed to start all over again on a new, perhaps even more impressive task.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

121. THE 21st CENTURY PLAGUE

This country, the United States (and others too, I imagine) has a disease. It’s crept over our land like a virus, infecting almost everyone who comes in contact with it. It’s covert to be sure; devious and deceptive, and it’s consuming us from the inside out. It’s slowly rotting our minds and spirits. Unless it’s recognized, admitted to, and subsequently dealt with, little can be done except sit back and, well, die. We don’t see or feel it as a killer, but it’s destroying every dream and hope we dare to envision. It’s the barrier of the present, and the cancer of our future. We wallow in this shared illusion thinking it protects us from either judgement by our peers, or retribution for our choices. It is, in fact turning us into statues, forcing us to stand catatonic in our own lives. In doing so we hand our power over to those unaffected few who are willing to take action, be they good or evil.

What IS this affliction? I call it the “Jerry Springer Syndrome.” It may sound funny at first, it’s not. Let me illustrate. Our society has become more and more comfortable moving through life as audience members rather than activists. Not only that, we are seeking to witness any stage where we are spotlighting those who are so-called train wrecks. In doing so we attempt to convince ourselves we’re better than those whose lives are supposedly falling apart. The glut of television shows in line with this theme is undeniable. Keep in mind most of this showcased human carnage is scripted to begin with. We THINK we are doing okay because we’re obviously NOT “those idiots.” The fantasy is we are making progress because so many others are falling behind. Our ego convinces us we are, by default, moving forward, when all we’re really doing is standing completely still, pointing fingers, laughing at, and judging others. As much as it disgusts me, I do find myself stepping over this line from time to time, and when I recognize it, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Every time I hear “what about?” or any version of it, I (mentally) run the other way. This type of distraction tactic is designed to dismiss responsibility as well as belittle the initial issue by attempting to point out there are other, bigger problems in need of attention. This kills the conversation and avoids any sort of shared solution. Such maneuvers are one hundred per-cent cowardice. Nothing this type of person spews from their pie hole has any merit whatsoever. They too are looking to surround themselves with those who are “worse” than they are. This type of action creates nothing. All it does is feed the ego of the person who practices such drivel.

This takes me back to a previous statement I’ve made elsewhere on this blog. “We cannot make the world a better place by struggling to get rid of what we don’t want. The ONLY way to change the world for the better is to create what we do want. Eradicating evil does nothing to replace the void left behind once it’s been purged. When our ambition is to destroy, we unintentionally align with the very energy we are intent on eliminating; in essence, we become the enemy.” One cannot grow a garden by picking out a patch of earth and pulling weeds. Crops do not magically sprout from the absence of unwanted growth. It seems all too simple, right?

I do my darndest to not compare myself to others, good or bad. This is a trap, and the first step toward practicing what I’ve been talking about. I DO, however, compare who I am, who I want to be, with who and where I was. Even then I do my best to do so without self-judgement, which I fail at more often than not.

As a final note there is another ugly side-effect to this course of action, and it’s reprehensible. Ask this question, ask it a lot and every day, and mull it over very carefully.

“Who needs the most Love?”

Is it the group or individual who collects it in torrents because we feel they’re productive, beautiful, or famous… or is it the crowd or person devoid of compassion we judge to be lazy, dirty, and common? Our society has a tendency to praise and elevate those who don’t need it and belittle and step on anyone who hasn’t “earned” it. Some say there are those who are undeserving of Love; pearls before swine as it were. Whoever avoids practicing unconditional Love will inevitably manifest its opposite which is of course, fear. Whatever we express, we magnify within. If Love is your go-to reaction to the world, your stock increases when it’s communicated, likewise if suspicion and disapproval are the signs you wave at everything, pretty soon this is all you’ll have for yourself. Empathy, tolerance, and most of all, forgiveness are such rare commodities, yet we put all of life’s value on worthless expressions. It’s no wonder the people who insist on taking the high road make waves and are eventually targeted by the masses; such behavior threatens the group consciousness of the human tribe, and we all know what happened to those select few in history.

Standing alone and projecting kindness is stronger than all the rest of mankind standing together in shared hatred. So, the real question is, how brave are you?

I know I’m willing to give it a shot.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

119. EYES OF WONDER

Most of my favorite memories were first time events, and I’ll bet the same is true for the majority of adults. These peak moments are anchor points to what we believe is the very best life has to offer, and for most, the older we get, the less we seem to experience these milestones. What was once exciting and anticipatory all too quickly becomes monotonous and ordinary. Childhood is crammed with examples of excitement, while grown-up life is more repetitious. I have nothing against a good solid routine because when it’s disciplined, it can bring great rewards. We pay bills, we go to work, we have food, we have chores and duties, and through these choices we generate comforts and other necessities that keep chaos and uncertainty tamed. On the other hand without spontaneity, or at the very least, something planned to look forward to, it becomes easy to let our eyes glaze over at the thought of another redundant day.

I’ve discussed before on other entries about how time passes differently the older we get, seeming to speed up as we age. As children, having essentially a blank slate ready and waiting to fill with experience and memories, we have no choice but to look forward to everything; it doesn’t matter if what’s expected is good or bad, all we do at this level is visualize the future which carries with it the illusion of slowing down our perception of time. Let’s face it, kids in second grade don’t sit around and discuss life in a retrospective manner. As we grow older and accumulate perspectives and narrative, the more we naturally look back, and this is usually helpful. When faced with one of life’s puzzles we reach back into the archives and extract information that hopefully will aid in properly reacting to or solving what needs attention. It’s an unconscious act for most, and we probably wouldn’t survive without this ability. On the other hand many DO reach back consciously and relive memories in the form of regret. If regret is the main choice of reaction when revisiting the past, we tend to do its equal when looking forward, which is worry. Both of these choices are useless and cancerous. I believe practicing this habit is the fuel that speeds up time because we’ve stopped practicing hope for what lies ahead and acceptance for our yesterdays. The more we want something, the longer it takes to arrive, the less we want something, the faster it’s upon us. Reminiscing and planning on the other hand, the polar opposites of regret and worry, can be a healthy and enjoyable pastime as long as the present remains the main focus of living. This is an abbreviated observation I’ve written about in years back, but revisiting this concept will help illustrate the upcoming point I intend to make.

I don’t know about you, but I miss the having the ability to conjure butterflies in anticipation of upcoming festivities. It was a good feeling, one that often surpassed the actual event. This is because my fantasy of what was to happen had limitless possibilities; I had no preconceptions to taint my optimism, These daydreams not only stimulated my imagination, they fueled visions of what I wanted even further into my future. There were also occasions where I was totally surprised at what I saw as an impulsive adventure. When my parents took me to the Denver zoo when I was nine, and they had kept their plans secret, well, that day is one of the standout moments in my childhood. The first time I stepped foot into a carnival I was probably seven or so, and THIS was like visiting another planet. The colors, smells, the barkers tempting passerby’s with their crap games and even crappier prizes, and the rides at night, spinning and twisting, dressed in neon, and sound-tracked with joyful screams from the riders was overwhelmingly intoxicating. Now when I’ve gone to those places I find myself disappointed, not just because I see past the superficialities of the environment, but because I’m aware I can never re-create the first-time impression from my youth. In actuality this attitude is a LIE, one I all too frequently convince myself of; almost without even being aware of it.

I don’t have children, but I imagine one of the most rewarding joys of parenthood is being there to witness incidents similar to our history as they encounter them for the first time. We cannot help but share in their enthusiasms because joy and bliss are not only extremely contagious, but highly sought after. I’m sure these experiences create an even more powerful bond between family members which is why we seek to manifest such events on a regular basis. I believe the same is possible for those without kids as long as they pursue an identical dynamic with relatives and friends. Admittedly the frequency may be significantly diminished, but for most opportunities are there nonetheless. If this seems like the only way to recapture life for the first time, it’s not. We needn’t be vicarious in going about it, and it’s not that hard to do.

There’s a way to re-boot the adolescent point-of-view, and that is by getting in touch with our “inner-child.” The attitudes of immaturity and irresponsibility are NOT what is meant to be expressed by aligning with this doctrine. There are many who DO think this is the way, and the results can be extraordinarily catastrophic. There are two books, somewhat dated now but still relevant nonetheless, called “The Peter Pan Syndrome” and “The Cinderella Complex” that delve into the idea and disastrous consequences of never wanting to grow up and take responsibility for our own lives. I have indeed read them myself, but admittedly it’s been some years ago. Most will be insulted by the first few pages and never have the courage and humility to actually self-evaluate. Such is the power and danger of letting the ego run our lives. What I’m eluding to here is embracing the idea of seeing the world as we first did, through eyes of wonder. The only thing that prevents us from doing so is our insistence in holding on to a single concept, and that concept is prejudice.

Prejudice is NOT a negative word, it simply means to “pre-judge” something. We all do it, and for the most part there’s nothing wrong with educated use. We know from experience what foods we can and cannot, or at the very least, should not eat, we know what impending weather may cause us to grab an umbrella for later in the day, we anticipate how someone may react if we unavoidably or accidentally upset them, and we express elevated politeness when approaching strangers. All these examples require a pre-judgement of some sort. We want to feel comfortable and assured in most situations. For most the practice goes unnoticed and therefore is usually subconscious. If we force ourselves to become aware of pre-judgments it becomes an easy (choose-able) exercise to pretend there’s no judgement of the situation whatsoever. Don’t believe me? I’m telling you it’s not all that difficult. When we find ourselves able to enter this state of mind we will have reconnected with our true “inner child.” In other words we can manipulate ourselves into having primordial experiences. Again, the key is to remove ALL judgement from what we encounter.

Here are some suggestive exercises –

  • Go to the mall, park, grocery store, anywhere there are a variety of people and just look. Don’t think. If you are struggling with stereotypes then at least focus on finding the most beautiful thing you can about everyone. I’m well aware this too is a judgement, BUT, it’s one we automatically maintain when in the mindset of innocence, which is where we want to be anyway. There’s no such thing as fat, thin, old, young, male, female, clean, messy, rich, poor, and on and on, JUST people.
  • The next time you’re driving, and someone is being what you might usually be label as rude, obnoxious, or thoughtless, entertain the idea this person might be trying to get to their parent, spouse, or child who is dying in the hospital. If this happened to me I guarantee I’d break a few traffic laws trying to get there as fast as possible and I’d bet you would too. I also know this is a judgement, however, if we swap a knee-jerk negative response for an empathetic one, we re-wire our minds to see and experience the world on a whole new level.
  • For most of us the music we grew up with has powerful connections to recreating feelings, events, and memories. A lot are pleasant, but some are downright annoying. The next time a song comes on you REALLY can’t stand, just listen. Pretend you’ve never heard it before. Focus on every part of it, the structure, words, rhythm, and message. Keep in mind the songs you hate are ALWAYS someone’s favorite. I pick music because it’s everywhere, in every culture, and it’s a fast artistic expression of how someone else views their life and world.

There is one more way to reconnect with a puerile sense of awe, even if we are determined to hold onto a judgmental attitude, and that is to actively “take chances.” Doing this on a regular basis will eventually override a lifetime of subjective programming. Taking chances is not as forbeboding as it sounds, and there’s plenty of existing evidence in everyone’s lives that can be used as leverage to push us out of our comfort zones. All anyone needs to do is look at their own track record. This next question may be one of the most important observations ever –

“How many times in your past is regret attached to actually having taken a chance?”

Even those chances we took that initially turned out as failures often became the foundations for unexpected rewards. Now ask the opposite, “How many times in your past is there regret attached to having avoided taking a chance?” Personally I have no regrets, I refuse to live in this frame of mind, however, there used to be a time where I overwhelmed with disappointment whenever I focused on my history, so I have common ground with the consequences of holding onto such a damaging perspective. I have another post that addresses this attitude with greater detail. 81. WORDS OF POWER – WHY NOT?. If you’re having trouble with coming up with ideas of just what exactly to take a chance on, simply sit down and write a list of your fears. You’ll have generated plenty of opportunities to put this experiment to the test in a matter of minutes.

The inner child awaits inside everyone. It craves a life without judgement. It is who we TRULY are, a being of Love, gratitude, and unending curiosity.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

107. AN UNPOPULAR OPINION

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If I could share the truth of one and only one thing, it would be this –

We cannot make the world a better place by fighting to get rid of what we don’t want. We MUST, instead, focus our energies on what creating we do want. Creation is the force of positive change. Destruction is the catalyst of negative change.

Here then is the cyclical problem facing us today…

“Ignorance of hate” and the “hate of ignorance” are the exact same energy.

Too few realize this.

I grow weary of a society that’s essentially eating away at itself. I speak, of course, about our political and social climate in the United States. There are throngs who support our destruction (or perhaps better illuminated as de-construction) with blind ignorance, and on the seemingly opposite side, there are those who unknowingly give the monster exactly what it feeds upon the most, unending hate. These motives are anchored equally in selfishness. They both magnify pride over humility.

What then is our course of action? Which path leads to our best mutual benefit? It hasn’t been walked in a while, that’s for sure. It lies in hibernation, waiting for the resurrection of sanity and unity. The disease of blame we have embraced as a country must be cleansed. We collectively point fingers, convinced we’re doing good by showcasing the so-called enemy as a force that must be eradicated.

Please stop, I beg you. I plead with all my heart and soul. The art of cooperation, the quality of empathy, and the spirit of service must rise from the ashes of separation, indifference, and malice. We are wallowing in a state of reaction rather than action. We think we’re doing something when in fact we are doing nothing at all.

If you’re truly open-minded, if you really are religious (and I don’t care what religion you insert here), if you consider yourself a good person, ask yourself, “how am I making the world a better place by example?” What actions (again, NOT re-actions) are you putting your energy into? I’m not suggesting to lower one’s defenses when being attacked, that’s suicide by default and is the fast track to erasing motivation. Let me be blunt here, defending our beliefs, while it’s occasionally justifiable, must be a distant second to the manifestation of what we want. Without a clear and active vision of what tomorrow should be, we inevitably invite those waiting in the sidelines to fill the coming void, and all to often those replacements are far more powerful and destructive than their predecessors. Just because the so-called “enemy” is defeated doesn’t mean the audience it attracted goes with it.

It sounds clichéd to say we give power to those we oppose when we defend ourselves, it’s not. Why? Because if the opinion of another doesn’t matter to begin with, it’s impossible to get mad at them. As soon as we do, we validate their viewpoint and in turn give the enemy exactly what it seeks. I know, it’s SO tempting to want to fire back, especially when we see actions that hurt or belittle others. Please do not meet them on their terms, invite them to yours. Stay aligned with your beliefs while letting them know the intimidation game they’re playing has no effect on your goals. I do, however, applaud the direct involvement of stopping pain and suffering because this creates an example of action, one that can possibly inspire thousands more. This takes a ton of courage, both to stay calm while doing it, and knowing we are placing ourselves in the line of fire, sometimes literally.

Fantasy may be the blueprint of reality, but so is fear. Whatever energy we choose magnify will inevitably materialize, so obviously there’s more than enough motive to avoid what’s despised, yet this is what most people do. Remember, all visionaries were once criticized by their oppressors as dreamers. Let this intended insult serve to reinforce ideals instead. Do not focus on what you fear, instead act on what you envision.  I do.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

106. THE SEVENTH SENSE

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Knock knock stuff

Let’s see, there’s touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight and of course the sixth sense or the ability to see dead people.

So what’s the seventh sense?

Humor, duh.

Give me comedy over drama any day. Not to say I’m not laser focused when it comes to being responsible, I most certainly am. Here’s the thing, I’ve found the biggest secret of humor it that’s it’s not at odds with seriousness. If nothing else it has the ability to enhance it. Too much spice, however, and the meal is ruined. Just enough and it brings out the best intended flavor. One must know when to add, and when to stop. Presentation is everything.

Over the years I’ve written a smattering of jokes, mostly to entertain myself more than anything. Here are a few examples –

  • Did you know that urinating is my number one favorite way to lose weight? You know what number two is?
  • Being a plumber I used to have nightmares about my job until I realized they were all just pipe dreams.
  • Years ago I had my steering wheel converted into a loom. That way if I got pulled over for weaving I had a REALLY good excuse.
  • It’s a good thing I’m surrounded by idiots ’cause the opposite would really suck.
  • And one of my favorites – Your faith in my abilities is undermining my self-worth. I’ve only met one person who actually got that joke. Still one of my favorites.

There was a time where I thought it would be a good idea to pursue the comedy stand-up field. Had me pages of stuff written down. Glad I didn’t, but I still laugh at the thought of a few of my ideas like doing karaoke as “Sling Blade” singing “On the road Again”. Wouldn’t actually sing it though, just talk it out. Room full of drunks and you’ve got an easy audience. I mentioned this to someone some time back and they suggested I change the song to “Walking on Sunshine”. Yea, that might be a lot funnier. Also thought about doing Chris Farley imitating Bob Ross doing some P.O.S. painting as an SNL skit. Too bad he died, that would have been his crowning achievement. Easy to imagine too. Huge afro, beard glued on crooked, super tight shirt, slinging paint everywhere, ripping holes in the canvas with sharp pallet knives, and complaining about making mistakes every time he touched a brush. All this while he paints the van down by the river. And remember how Bob showed squirrels and other wildlife he shared his home with? Chris would be like “I’m gonna show you a little animal now, it’s my neighbor’s ROTTWEILER!! (shows picture of snarling dog with a huge spiked collar) S.O.B. keeps me up day and night! I’m going insane!!! Then he finishes the skit by pulling off a contact paper pattern hoping to show a nice rounded frame of white on the canvas around the picture, but instead pulls off the entire painting to reveal a blank canvas full of holes. Proceed to tackle the easel and, well, the end. Too funny.

My personal sense of humor is extremely warped. Not rude or cruel. just strange. One of my favorite activities is to sit down with old “Herman” collection books and read one caption as it applies to a completely different picture. The result is highly entertaining to me. Here’s three examples I quickly made up, hope it doesn’t piss anyone off. Remember, the captions go to other comics, I just swapped them to make a nonsense joke. Sometimes  wonder if I really am certifiable.

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My parents, the everlasting weirdos they are, taught me this type of humor. Stuff like, take any book or movie title and then add “between the sheets” after. Endless entertainment for an eight year old with no siblings who had only two channels of TV available to him as a kid. And spoonerisms? Ugh, I’m hard-wired for that now. My Father happened to say the other day, “there’s a mist falling” which, of course flips to “there’s a fist mauling.” Yep, fists do that sometimes. All kinds of weird ones out there. Day at the store becomes stay at the door, field positions reverses to say peeled physicians (whatever the heck THAT means) and sugar beet…. booger sheet. I know, yuck. Still funny. One of my first ones occurred when I was about six years old. I blurted out on a comment made by my mother upon seeing a little “fuzzy duck”. Immediately my parents whipped around intending to yell at me, but I have a feeling they were doing their best to keep from laughing while asking “What did you say??” Hell, I had no idea. Really.

I feel when humor is nurtured it enhances all areas of our lives, not the least of which is our health. If nothing else it can manifest into the first link of a lifeline where hope is needed most. It seems cliché to say “we’ll look back on this someday and laugh.” I disagree; all too often, all too true. That being said I do indeed feel there is such a thing as toxic humor. I refuse to laugh at the misfortune of others. It’s not that I hold back; don’t need to. Pain on ANY level, be it physical or emotional, holds no entertainment value for me whatsoever. Humor used to hide pain is obviously unhealthy as well. There are way too many examples of those who’ve tragically died practicing this lifestyle. Humor has to be who we are, not who we want the world to see us as, in other words it cannot be a mask. One of my favorite comedians, if you can even call him one, is David Letterman.  Why?  Because he comes across as if he could care less if there’s an audience. Apparently the only person he’s trying to make laugh is himself. Though he can be a little caustic from time to time, it’s nonetheless an admirable quality. one I wish more people practiced.

Lastly I’d like to say I feel the ability to laugh at oneself is a valuable skill, one that removes self-judgement. When Wayne Dyer talks about Abraham Maslow and speaks of self-actualization, one of the qualities mentioned most is indeed this. It’s all about acceptance, because acceptance eliminates the need for punishment. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve, of course I do, it’s just that I can be satisfied with where I am as nothing more than part of the journey, one that seems to make me laugh more often than not.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

By the way…

The link under the picture of the “WTF” post-it leads to a site stuffed with funny note pads and other humorous items. Check them out.

99. TWENTY-TWO YEARS SOBER

22 years

Here I am at the twenty-two year mark and honestly sometimes it feels like last week. In reality this is a wonderful phenomenon. Indeed I still occasionally have dreams I’ve broken my recovery, ones so real I have to get up and shake them off, yet I’m grateful at the same time for these episodes that remind me the horror I was going through more than two decades ago. The closeness of my addiction cunningly leverages fear, which was once my enemy into what is now my most valuable ally. I’m eternally grateful I’m still horrified of alcohol; complacency is nowhere in my future, I won’t allow it.

For those who are in a deep hole, one filled with paranoia and crushing shame, I know a way out. I will say my way isn’t the only way, that’s for sure. The advantage I see to walking a similar path as mine is that no one who gave me what I needed had an agenda of material profit, it was strictly one of spirit. There was a time where everything I had was in shambles. my credit, my future, my health, my outlook, my belongings, and even my faith. I was crawling the path of inevitability towards what I was convinced was a world better off without me. Apparently the universe has other plans because I’m still here.

The future, once a dreadful prospect, the past, once a regrettable ball and chain, and the present, once a reason for oblivion, are now fully recognized, accepted and forgiven by yours truly. I now live free of shame, regret, and unproductive fear.

I talk a lot on this blog about how I’ve gotten past my demons. Please feel free to browse the topics and entries. If you want to talk or ask a question one can do so on any entry or by clicking at the top of the screen on the “Contact Me” page. I do my best to share rather than preach which means I’ll do my best to empathize rather than judge. My apologies if anything comes across as otherwise.

The journey of my gratitude and subsequent recovery began with doing nothing more than asking for, and accepting without conditions, help.

Please let me help. I ask for nothing in return.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

91. MY DEPRESSION

depression

I’m not in a position to give professional advice to those in the grip of depression. I’m not a doctor nor am I a counselor. That being said, what I can do is share the details of my journey beyond desolation. Perhaps shedding some light on where I was compared to where I am will help, perhaps not. In any case I certainly know what it feels like to be immobilized and lost.

Thoughts of doom and suicide dominated my life for a long time, years in fact. I had love, no spark, no peace, and no purpose. Surviving was my only motivation, and even that began to deteriorate. Chasing pleasure quickly became a substitute for manufacturing happiness. This mental prison I’d built started in the mid eighties and finally began to erode in the mid nineties. Going over a decade without hope, self-respect, or direction sounds like an impossible journey, one destined to end in disaster, yet here I am.

They say the further you fall, the higher you rise. Considering just how high I’ve risen in the past twenty years, my low must have been exceptionally deep, especially since even now I continue progressing with great strides. So, what exactly was the moment I started to ascend? When did my life finally stop spiraling towards oblivion?  There were three major shifts in my life that allowed the floodgates of redemption to swing wide open.

SHIFT NUMBER ONE……

The first began with letting go of a belief I had drilled into my skull since I was a small boy. It’s one many are programmed with, and have wrongly reinforced through our peers and mentors. This belief was that somewhere buried inside me I had the tools and desire to fix who I was all by myself. Most people call this elusive, superhuman skill ……willpower.

What garbage.

In my playbook, if I want to become a better person, then I must step past my ego. This maneuver is called “Letting go”. Letting go involves zero willpower. It DID require me to take an action once previously thought of as demeaning and painful. I had to open my arms and mind to criticism. Keep in mind there are two very specific types of criticism, one is a form of abuse, and the other is pure Love, and there’s a big difference.  Most will criticize with the intent of cloning themselves; that is they want you to be more like them. Those who do it with Love in their hearts will only be interested in you becoming a better person. Trust me; you’ll know the difference with this definition in mind.

Some equate letting go with giving up; nothing could be further from the truth. Here is the equation. Giving up is the equivalent of steering your boat to the most remote point of the ocean, lowering your sails, sabotaging your radio, and dumping all your provisions overboard. Not a good scenario, this is essentially suicide, please don’t do this. Letting go, on the other hand, is akin to admitting you’re lost on the water, pulling into a port you’ve never heard of, and asking someone you’ve never met to pilot you and your ship to somewhere you’ve never heard of. This requires a massive step out of one’s own feeling of self-control.

If I’m to embrace my full potential I must allow those to lead me who are already somewhere I want to be. Keep in mind the boat is still mine, I’m ultimately in charge, but for the moment I’ve decided to allow forces that align with faith to guide me. I’m relaxed and am open to outside direction. If this is the case, then what I was attempting before was fighting against the tides. I was closed to suggestion and focused on using only my own energy to guide me. Here lies the difference between being problem aligned rather than solution oriented. It never feels good going forward, it’s a vulnerable and uncertain maneuver, but this choice always reaps massive rewards. So, this action illustrates the first step I took towards serenity.

SHIFT NUMBER TWO……

This second step is a bit more personal so you may not have any common ground with what I’m going to share. In any case, this exercise defiantly helped me, and to this day it still continues to do so. In a nutshell I was told by a professional in the field of mental health that depression is basically rooted in unexpressed anger.

Unexpressed anger?

Yes, unexpressed anger. This does not, however, mean un-generated anger. It means I’d felt hostility, bitterness, angst, and rage but they were never fully expressed in a mentally healthy manner. My mind had reactions to events I’d kept muted or even completely bottled up. In my experience (and all too often in my observations of others, especially men) ALL emotions we hold back on eventually find their way to the surface both unexpectedly and mutated.  The road to mental health is paved with the stones of proper expression and use of emotion. Depression, in my case, was created from the inability to let out and deal with those events I found undesirable.

One may ask, why anger? Couldn’t other emotions poorly expressed and downright withheld be the cause of depression? Yes, but consider this; if Love is not revealed when it’s deeply and desperately felt, would this not eventually cause anger towards oneself? How about sadness, celebration, shame, or satisfaction? The truth is, at least for me, holding back on any emotion no matter the source, will eventually cause the feeling to go from regret to anger.

It helps me tremendously to ask “what am I mad about?” rather than “what’s depressing me?”  In other entries of this blog I write about the quality of our questions equaling the quality of our answers and thus in doing so improve the quality of life. This question is a terrific example.

SHIFT NUMBER THREE……

Nothing transforms my emotional state like movement, just plain old moving around can initiate massive changes in my outlook and attitudes. The good news, nothing has to be all that focused on what I feel needs “fixing”.  Examples may include doing the laundry, going for a walk, cooking, and especially……cleaning. I have a feeling that last one, cleaning, has psychological benefits that can have other, subconscious healing effects. It should be clarified I’m not going to the point of becoming a germophobe. Simple elimination of junk and clutter in the course of reorganizing my environment has always reverberated to other tasks and neglected responsibilities. If this is true, then surely the opposite is just as obvious.  When I’ve been depressed, and have decided to do nothing but sit, sleep, and remain as motionless as possible, it waters the seeds of my hopelessness. To be very clear here I’m NOT talking about meditation, that’s a completely different (spiritual) dynamic designed to center and focus myself. I guess the more I concentrate on anything outside of me, removing my focus from my perceived “problems,” the further I get away from the fear-based voice of my ego, which seems to be the very root of every problem I’ve ever faced.

Honestly this last suggestion has been extremely easy for me to observe in the lives of others. Those who are depressed usually seem to do very little physically. Likewise I’ve never met a depressed person who was one to get out of bed and exercise first thing in the morning. I’m sure this is a generalization, and like I said at the beginning, I’m no doctor. All I want to do here is share what has worked so far in my life. Take it as you will. I truly hope no one ever visits those places I’ve been, but if you have I’m here to tell you I found a way out.

I would like to acknowledge the help of a Facebook friend who helped me iron out and make a few suggestions that help clarify what I’m attempting to share here in this entry. She is a professional in the field of mental health and my gratitude is eternal, thank you Alma!

May the breadcrumbs of my life nourish those who are lost.

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With Love and Compassion,  Daniel Andrew Lockwood

80. ELIMINATING EVIL

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood