Inspiration

140. A BRAND NEW LIBRARY

 

I had no idea what taking out the trash would do. All I really knew is I was done with my old perspectives and expectations. I gathered up everything I used to believe in and hauled it to the cosmic dumpster, and as you can speculate, it took several trips.  At any rate there I was at the age of thirty, starting over from scratch. The vacuum it created surprised me. All of the sudden I was in possession of an empty house. Fortunately, I immediately accepted the idea of being open to criticism, especially from those who obviously had something I wanted. Admittedly it never felt good, but I was convinced my old ways were suicidal.  One might think this would leave me hollow when in fact it turned me into a magnet, a sponge as it were. There was obviously little for me to cling to so I tossed out my desire to defend myself as well. The freedom and thirst my purging left in its wake were overwhelming sensations, and I was quickly determined to replenish my rooms with furnishings of discipline and quality, and the first one I wanted to rebuild was my library. Other than working with my mentor and following his suggestions without question (since all of my old habits and directions were out of some nightmarish Dr. Seuss travel guide) I soon found myself buried in books. Alan Watts, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins were common authors, and titles like “The Peter Pan Syndrome” and “Stage II Recovery” by Earnie Larson also made their way into my mental athenaeum.

My collection grew rather quickly and along the path I discovered a new way to absorb information. I drove a lot in those days (still do as a matter of fact) and instead of having the radio droning away in the background (playing songs I no longer cared about) my attention turned towards audio versions of what I’d been drawn to study and explore. I read a ton as a youth, but most of that was fiction. Now with renewed zest I turned to unexplored categories. Philosophy, religion, and self-help became my go-to focus. Slowly, like a massive puzzle coming into focus, MY picture, my understanding of how life needed to proceed for me became clearer and honestly, more beautiful, more synchronous.

My first excursions into the world of spoken books was rather antiquated. Cassettes often lay scattered in my cab along with a crappy radio to play them on, but play them I did. As my funds and accessibility to better technology increased I acquired CD’s. Eventually I purchased an iPod into which I crammed hundreds of titles. These days I use an iPod Touch, and for good reason. I’ve found nothing better to carry and play books on. There are services I could pay for, but they are extremely limited to accessibility and all too often they offer only abridged versions of what I’m looking for. Not only that but I already own a ton of hard copies and this acts as my own foolproof replacement policy. Also, once on my iPod I can backup what I’ve downloaded to a cloud. In any case, it’s extremely easy to use, durable, and portable.

It’s unfortunate, but many books are simply not yet available in audio format, so a more tactile approach is required. That being said, sometimes there’s no substitute for the feel and absorption of the written word in an old-fashioned manner. It can be an almost meditative experience, spiritual if nothing else, at least for me. Another downside is some seminars I want still exist only in cassette format, and while this is annoying, at least they do exist.

For those who are looking for a jump-start on some decent titles, both books AND seminars, here is a list of my favorites.

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

This is the granddaddy of self-help literature. The title is deceptive for those with shallow aspirations. Some of the writing (first published in 1937) is a bit off-color, but it’s said with good intentions nonetheless. This is a GREAT place to start a foundation of building a solid and rewarding life.

Alcoholics Anonymous – AKA – The Big Book

I read this book twice a year at least, and I’ve been in recovery for twenty-five plus years now. For those who are in the grip of addiction AND are willing to admit it, this is a good source of information. Anyone who has gone through the program is going to argee it can actually apply to anyone, not just addicts. Once you get past the stumbling blocks of what a “higher power” is, the doors open. Different versions are written for different addictions, but the message is the same.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

First published in 1946 this book was written by a concentration camp survivor and is often referred to as the third school of psychology past the teachings of Freud and Jung. It is both depressing and highly uplifting. Hard to read, hard to put down. If you think you have a horrible life, your wrong. After finishing this tiny book your outlook will improve significantly over what you have as well as what you may have overlooked. It’s a truly inspirational book worth multiple readings.

There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every ProblemWayne W. Dyer

Anyone who reads this blog knows this man is my main (but NOT singular) source of inspiration. I Love all his books, but this is my favorite. Keep in mind spiritual means “of the spirit”. Religious connections are not necessarily applicable here, although some religious beliefs are referred to within the pages. There are two stories on the audio version that make me cry every time.

Personal Power II – Anthony Robbins

Anthony Robbins? That really tall goofy (but good looking) dude who sells self-improvement programs in old infomercials? Yup. Seriously, this man is light years past my spot on the food chain and he has the genre’ dialed in. I’m not belittling myself here, my goal has always been to encourage a first step, shining a light on the doors people are looking for. He, on the other hand, offers up a detailed roadmap to your wildest fantasies and his lifestyle matches his beliefs and ethics. This program, which is quite involved (and a bit aged now) is right on target. He’s engaging, entertaining, and brings real tools to the table anyone can pick up and use. There’s usually tons of his stuff on eBay, so go that route first. Also check Craigslist in your area. This is NOT a book, it’s a seminar.

I have many other authors in my collection, Deepak Chopra, The 14th Dalai Lama, Louise Hay, Marianne Williamson, and so on. Yes, even the Bible is in my iPod. I’m not pushing anything here, just sharing. If you really want a better life there are so many choices. Please don’t think you have no route, you’d be surprised just how accessible it is with a minimal investment of money and time. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a good trip, especially when it leads somewhere you’ve never been?

Please follow my blog, comment and share as you wish. 

Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind.

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

139. SEEING 2020 – 20/20

I’d be lying if I said this year has been easy for me. Just like almost all of us on Earth, the pandemic has quite honestly hit close to home, touching everyone I know in one form or another. Early on a friend of mine at work lost his father to it. I looked over one day and saw him weeping, still barely holding the phone in his hands. Some of my family members have had it and I’m beyond grateful they are still with us. Our planet has been, and continues to be scared, in pain, mourning, and yes, angry, frustrated, and just plain exhausted. We feel caged, lashing out at anyone who tightens our restrictions, all the while not realizing we are the ones who built the prison to begin with.   

I see 2020 as a divine test, an exam we will either pass or fail. There’s no middle grade on this one, and regrettably, it isn’t over yet. Religious people always want some sort of “sign from above” hoping for divine rescue to whisk away the darkness falling upon them while at the same time obliterating the perceived enemy. What they don’t seem to realize is the hand of God, when it comes to correcting the mistakes man has burdened himself with, has historically come in the form of floods, disease, and unfortunately, extinction. God’s solution to our problems (when they get completely out of control) is to effectively erase almost everyone on both sides of the conflict. If we are to survive, if we are to persevere, we MUST look to each other for salvation.

What then is the best way to help our fellow human? Is it by charitable means? Is it through kindness, tolerance, and prayer? Should our energies be focused in the name of cooperation and encouragement? I do indeed believe these are worthwhile paths, and I swear I practice every one of them, but in my experience there’s a much higher calling we all can choose to act upon, the projection of constant gratitude.

I’ve been debating whether I should put a list on this entry of my setbacks this year. Everyone has a similar one, and many, in fact most I would imagine, have ones that make mine look rather tame, but I thought it best to show that even though I can come up with an inventory of negative events, I’m ALSO capable of generating one of a positive nature. I think the exercise of doing this is good not only good for my soul, it’s also capable of resonating beyond just my tiny existence and will hopefully inspire others to do the same.  

I’ll try to keep what might be interpreted as complaining or, of course, generating excuses for self-destructive behavior, to an unemotional, somewhat dry summary.

  • There have been deaths, my father in February, and a coworker, one of whom I was quite fond of. He was the son of a supervisor of mine, the same man who hired me almost twenty-two years ago. He (my supervisor) committed suicide the day after thanksgiving in 2019, so now both are gone.
  • I’ve had some weird medical issues pertaining to, of all things, amnesia. I’ve experienced two episodes this year, the latest, and more disabling of the two, taking place on December 1st of this year. The doctors, who have been slow to respond, still have no idea what’s causing this. I’m currently not working as a result.
  • Our Hawaii vacation we had paid for lock stock, and barrel, was, for obvious reasons, cancelled. We got back about 25% of our costs. Several thousand dollars lost.
  • By my own hand, literally, I’ve regained a ton of weight I managed to lose last year.

Those were the big “negative” events beyond other shared roadblocks with mankind this year. And while they did push me back on my heels, I’m still standing, as it were. This being said, it’s rather easy to come up with a list of positive events, and this is where I choose to direct my attention.

  • My wife managed to find new employment that, conveniently enough allows her to work, for the time being, from home. Coincidentally the wheels started turning on her new path just weeks before the pandemic. In fact, she worked from the main offices for some time before being shuffled to her current base of operation.
  • I too, being an essential worker under the categorization of new construction, never skipped a beat. Having skills at building laboratories and medical facilities came in all too handy.
  • Our Honda we bought new several years ago was paid off just prior to the ensuing chaos, so this was a nice relief in our finances.
  • Believe it or not my 401k has gone up a lot this year. (I recommend to everyone who has one to consult with financial advisors before dolling out percentages to what might look profitable to an untrained eye.)
  • My company is angelic as far as management goes. They work hard with me to ensure my needs are met and their kindness and ethical practices are truly rare. I do my best to keep my behavior and skills worthy of such compensation. This company also pays for short-term disability which I am leaning on for the moment, albeit reluctantly; but it is a blessing.
  • I reached a milestone in my recovery in July; twenty-five years. I know it’s just a number, one day at a time of course, but it’s a nice marker nonetheless.
  • I said above my father had passed away in February, and although it affected me in ways I hadn’t expected, I was still happy to see him suffering no longer.
  • We never ran out of toilet paper.

So obviously I have some wonderful energies being sent my way, and I am constantly openly, as well as silently, thankful. Could I take the first list and totally ruin my life with it, disregarding the second list in the process? Easily. As a drunk I was a master of excuses, and those skills that expanded my misery are still programmed into my mind. Luckily stronger, more powerful, and consciously practiced skills now override those old, dusty habits. I still have moments of depression, fear, and doubt, just like most, but my track record at this point is leverage and practice is enough for me to find inspiration to look forward rather than dwell on the road behind me.

This ACTION of constant gratitude is how I feel we are best armed to help others find their way out of desperate suffering. Without judging or preaching we can, by example, be living proof to others there is a way through life’s cruel labyrinth, there is hope, and eventually, peace.

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind. 

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

136. THE GREAT EXPERIMENT

One of my basement beliefs, one a good many may disagree with, is that our behaviors are more important than our objectives. I think how we decide to act is far more productive, and in the long run, satisfying to our spirit, than creating and moving toward a vision. Both are important, even necessary, but in my experience, character is shaped much more by how we choose to get somewhere. The way in which we travel and the things we do along the route is where we find and reveal our soul. Our resolve to do it repeatedly is prompted by reaching the summit of one’s vision, and in doing so, know we can take up a similar quest again. I suppose it could be equated thus, “If life is a road trip, then how important is the course and carriage as opposed to the destination?” Many philosophers have pointed out the secret to living is about the journey, and I agree. Goals are inherently necessary or movement through life becomes stagnant, pointless; but when we look back, reminisce as it were, do not our thoughts almost linger more about how we got there than it was about finally accomplishing our mission? I think the secret to living is to make our life’s vision all about the journey by creating interesting and creative intentions that force us along new and challenging paths. The circle (or perhaps spiral) becomes symbiotic between method and objective.

Here lies the real question, “What would happen to our lives if we concentrated on our conduct rather than focusing on an outcome?” I have other posts on this blog addressing the importance of asking quality questions, and in my opinion, this is one of the best. If outcome is all that matters, then it’s almost inevitable we will forgo our ethics to reach a conclusion. I’m not willing to compromise my principles, so I choose to, in every situation, practice my beliefs. For example, I will not abandon kindness in favor of cruelty just to win the race. I once heard a man say, “If life is a journey, then the faster you go, the quicker you reach the end.” If this is true, then the higher the speed, the lower the quality of our experiences.

I threw away a good portion of my life, fifteen years at least. I have no compunctions about it, but I do intend to do what I can to regain ground, and I must say, so far, so good. I made a decision years ago to treat the rest of my existence as an experiment. When I first sobered up, appreciation and gratitude for everything rose massively. Situations many would call boring or ordinary had me looking at the miracle of the moment most ignore. It forced me to slow down, and in turn it gave me an insight to a secret, one I talk at length about in another blog post, 118. Eyes of Wonder. The secret is this, the more we look forward, anticipate as it were, the more we force our perspective of time to slow down. Think of your own childhood. Did it not feel as if your birthdays were three years apart? That Christmas was never, ever going to arrive? When we were children, we spent all our thought processes, all our energy looking forward. It didn’t matter if we anticipated a pleasant conclusion or not. As adults we tend to look back, both in the framework of reminiscence and regret. It stands to reason, the more we concentrate on the past, the more we neglect what’s in front of us, and in doing so we speed up the arrival of our future. If I’m correct about this, then the reverse is true. The more we look forward, with either dread or eagerness, the more we force our awareness of time to decelerate. This realization was the first part of my intended “experiment.”

The second part was to concentrate on my morals. If I were to move forward with a plan, I needed parameters. The willingness to set and stick to behavioral boundaries is what separates us from the common animal. We have the ability to look in the mirror and say “I’m going to be a better person than I was yesterday, kinder, more tolerant, less indulgent, better informed, more productive, less selfish, more empathetic and less judgmental, and so on.” This list reflects my personal intentions, but you get the idea. Grizzly bears do not get up in the morning and say to themselves, “Today I’m going to be a better bear.” Doesn’t happen. We own the ability to circumvent our instincts, and that’s a divine gift, one many throw in the garbage.

Once I had both parts, I had the vehicle to move forward with my life’s “experiment.” I will choose to constantly look forward to tomorrow (without ignoring the moment, this is important) and do so while attempting to become a better person than I was yesterday. If you’ll notice, my plan is absent of a specific destination, but without manufacturing them, I’d have a difficult time collecting research, so I do set goals.

I’m not immune to distractions and I often find myself wandering off the road, this year (2020) especially. I get flat tires, run out of gas (physical neglect), I pull over to indulge in crappy roadside gift shops (materialism), and get bored (lose faith) BUT… I always eventually keep going. Here’s to better roads worthy of stopping to take pictures, enjoying the ride,  and meeting new people along the way.

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind.

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