Progress

96. IN SEARCH OF PERFECTION

I’m an artist, though not nearly as prolific as I used to be. In my basement I have thousands of dollars in supplies. All mediums, tools, and colors wait patiently for my return to the tablet or canvas.  The variety is so extensive that I had to buy a huge tool chest (no taboret is large enough) just to hold and organize some of it. When the mood strikes, I’ll sit down and express myself; meticulously taking my time with every movement. It’s weird but I can go back to a picture I started years ago and continue working right where I left off. I like that about myself because there was a time when I had no patience or desire for continuing such endeavors; if I couldn’t finish it in one sitting I’d tear it up or throw it away and all too often never even start over. It’s also a (slight) burden because I know I don’t have the drive finish some things that might turn out quite well. It’s almost as if I gain more satisfaction from the experience than the finished product. In either case I’d rather own the latter deficiency. Why? Because for me it lacks a lot of negative self-judgement.

As much as I would LOVE to embrace the idea of not judging oneself, I still find this skill useful as long as I don’t initiate self-punishment when I see a need for improvement. There’s no doubt it’s difficult to not step over this line. There are times where I feel shame for not perusing my dreams, and this attitude does nothing for making my life a better place to live.

Years ago, when I first started plumbing, my supervisor said something to me I still use on a daily basis. I was obviously grouchy about my progress as an apprentice because no matter what, I would want my work as perfect as possible. He noticed this behavior and came to the rescue with this philosophy, “As long as what you’re doing will function and is to code, accept it and keep going. When you’re done, stand back for thirty seconds and ask yourself how will I do it better next time?” This mindset keeps the creative juices flowing without the added burden of becoming frustrated.

Do I still occasionally take things apart and start over? Not really; used to though. When I do start over it’s normally because someone else put together what I would never. I’ve got some things on my job now someone else did that I’m going to change. I’ll never tell them though; doesn’t matter anyway.

I feel the secret of pursuing perfection lies in the acceptance of what we think are flaws. The greatest example (that I know of) at expressing this is Bob Ross. Yes, he was an artist too, but unlike how I used to be he saw “mistakes” as opportunities to change an occasional misstep into something beautiful; or perhaps a better definition may be that he chose to find and recognize perfection in chaos. When we do so we aren’t lowering our standards by accepting an inferior product or outcome, far from it. What we are doing is learning how to adapt, accept, and progress, and this is a superior talent for moving through life, at least in my opinion.

Look to the what the universe has surrounded us with. Is anything truly imperfect? One cannot point to a tree and say, “This is flawed”. It may indeed be diseased, dying, split from lightning, or damaged by a storm, but its state is never imperfect because it simply is what it is. Everything is part of the natural flow of the cosmos, including your creations and accomplishments, your actions and reactions. Don’t negatively judge them, remember this automatically invites self-punishment, use them instead as stepping-stones to guide you where you want to go. Knowing what we don’t want is a wonderful companion to moving toward what we do want, but there’s a huge difference between progress and foolishness. I’ve said this before, and I mean it again. One cannot invite improvement by walking backwards and constantly judging where we were. This is called the path of excuses. Turn around and move towards the future……a rear-view mirror will do just fine for remembering and reminding us of what we’ve moved beyond and all those “happy accidents” will eventually become the building blocks of tomorrow.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

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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, and dumping all your provisions overboard. Not a good scenario. Letting go, on the other hand, is akin to deciding you’re lost on the water, pulling into a port, and asking someone else who is obviously skilled and wise to pilot you and your ship to somewhere you’ve never even 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

81. WORDS OF POWER – WHY NOT?

Leap of Faith

“Leap of Faith” is one of my favorite movies. For those who haven’t seen it (and that’s quite a few) here’s a vague synopsis. Steve Martin plays a con man whose pretense is a faith healer. He’s not an evil person, but he does take advantage of those who are believers. Through the course of the story, as one thing leads to another in an unplanned series of events, he finds the real meaning of conviction. No comedy here, Steve plays it completely straight which is, I’m sure, a big reason the movie was unsuccessful. That’s too bad. If you have the chance, check it out. If you’ve seen it, feel free to leave your opinion in a reply to this blog entry.

Faith, for me,  comes down to two words……

Why not?

So far I’ve never taken a chance I’ve come to regret. I will say there have been times long past where I have failed to take a chance and those have become moments of regret. If the thought process of moving through life is preceded by constantly asking “what if?” (for me the “opposite” philosophy of “why not”) then the fear of what might happen will keep me from doing hardly anything. It therefore becomes logical to avoid this situation. I’ve said it before, “regrets are grudges we hold against ourselves.” When we embrace this emotion, we also accept the actions that must define what a grudge is. When we hold malice towards another for a perceived act of persecution, we want justice, usually in the form of painful punishment. When we do the same to ourselves, we subconsciously invite self-destructive behavior.

In A.A., and of course all twelve step programs, there’s the saying “Let go, Let God.” It’s one of the most commonly quoted beliefs within the program. In my opinion this is the very essence of a leap of faith. Some interpret it as giving up. Letting go and letting God is far from it. The prerequisite to giving up requires us to shut out any chance of hope or rescue; essentially we lower the sail and drop anchor in the middle of the ocean. In a very real sense it’s a form of suicide. On the other hand the action of letting go will attract those forces willing to guide and teach us. It’s the equivalent of tossing the map, letting go of the rudder, and inviting someone else aboard to lead the way. In other words, “Why not let go of your own life and let a higher power take over?” The semantics are subtle, but the result of absorbing the proper definitions are essential to a healthy future.

Trust does not come easily to those used to living life from a defensive point of view. For me the “enemy” used to be anyone who didn’t agree with me. Now my allies are those who are willing tell me the truth no matter what. Often this attacks my ego, and yes….I still feel it. All too frequently I have my defences up, I’m not past that yet, but at least I’m able to recognize my reactions as shallow and unproductive. When people say what I don’t want to hear I do my best to say to myself, “Why not?” Sometimes this takes a day or so, but eventually I get past my selfish attitude. Why not take what they say as something of value and caring?

Being open to new a experience into our lives is often interpreted by the brain as an attack on old ideas. This isn’t always the case of course. When we do resist, it’s a safe bet we’re acknowledging fault at some level, and I don’t know anyone who loves admitting they are a lier. I don’t. The most common lie I used to tell myself was, “Inviting the unknown tomorrow is far worse than a safe expectation of the future.” This antiquated belief has held me back on several occasions; never again. If you, the reader, and I have any common ground, I’ll wager it’s lies here. Don’t face tomorrow with an attitude of “what if?” Meet it head on with the philosophy of “why not?”

Why not try that diet and stick to it? Why not write that book? Why not try for a promotion? Why not ask out that beautiful person you dream about? Why not apply for the job you REALLY want while continuing to work the one you’re on? Why not start a fitness program? Why not further your education? Why not forgive those who have hurt you?  Why not pick a faith? Why not ask for a raise?

Now…….

Go back and re-read that last paragraph, but this time replace the words “why not” with the phrase “what if.” If you’re anything like me you’ll hear a flood of excuses entering into the picture. Can you see the potential damage one can allow when they live the wrong principle? It’s so sad, all what might have been, gone to waste. Please don’t sit and wonder about your life. When you improve your world you improve the entire world; and that includes the one I live in.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

78. A NEW BLOG FOR A BETTER WORLD

earth-from-the-moon

Good Morning, Afternoon, or Evening!

I have started a new blog to discuss what it might take to make the world a better place. Job creation and world peace are two of the topics. Three entries so far and more on the way. Please stop by and let me know what you think!

LET’S MOVE OUR WORLD

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

63. FIRE AND WATER

fire and water

For a long time now my main mission in life has been to prove that it’s easy, fun, and magical. The few “guidelines” we need to follow that make this existence worth every moment is almost laughable. This doesn’t mean there won’t be times of frustration and grief. All of us have the occasional fire that needs extinguished. We encounter unexpected emergencies, situations, and setbacks that can be easily labeled as unwanted, annoying, and painful. Me too. Happens all the time. I wish it didn’t, but there is a part of the equation I always have control over, and that’s how I choose to react.

Water puts out fire. If you disagree with this, you can stop reading now, it won’t do any good to go further. When the fires of life rear up and block our progress, the watery equivalent is necessary to clear the path so we may resume our journey. I’m sure this makes sense. More fire will obviously increase and lengthen the conflict, yet this is the preferred method of dealing with problems as most encounter them. Don’t believe me? Let’s see if any of these illustrations sound familiar.

  • A man hears a friend has died. He decides to get drunk.
  • A person is suspected of stealing at the office. Angered, they go home and spend the night thinking of ways to get back at their accuser.
  • A supervisor at work is tired of never being listened to. As a result he has a meeting and demands even louder that his orders must be remembered and followed.
  • A group that opposes war goes on a march to voice opinions against the enemy.
  • A preacher spends his life pointing out what is wrong with the world and why people will suffer if they do not change.
  • A woman complains they are unloved and never going to find the right person
  • A person spends most of their time blaming. They wait for others  to realize their mistakes.

These are no doubt stereotypical situations, but the futility of their approach is obvious. All are cases of fighting fire with fire. Let’s turn around the same ideas and see how they look if symbolic water is used to confront these circumstances.

  • A man hears a friend has died. He goes home and starts writing about him. It becomes the eulogy to his funeral.
  • A person is accused of stealing at the office. Intrigued, they wonder if they can help find the real culprit.  They spend the night formulating a strategy to help in the investigation.
  • A supervisor at work is tired of never being listened to. He realizes that HE cannot listen while he is talking. He calls a meeting and asks of his employees what they want of him.
  • A group that supports peace goes on a march and voices opinions why their way of life is productive and desirable.
  • A preacher spends his life pointing out what is right and good in the world and why people will be happier if they align with these examples.
  • An unloved woman becomes full of praise and love for others so she will attract someone who is likewise.
  • A person spends most of their time taking responsibility. They realize they hold the power to change their life.

Why fight against what we don’t want when cheering for what we do want will have a more creative outcome? Remember, focusing on the eradication of what we wish to eliminate does nothing to build a vision of what will replace it. Those people who move forward with determination and resolve are also the ones who continue to ignore their critics. They know it’s a waste of time to defend against attitudes and situations that are beyond their control; here lies the need for the serenity prayer. Do not, however, misinterpret this action as opening up yourself to attack. The easiest way to define the best objective is to use action to attract what is desired, and reserve reaction to dissuade what threatens growth. It really comes down to not using anything negative as a tool of progress. Don’t fight for what you want, work for it.  Don’t label your situation as problematic, label it as opportunistic. Don’t dread the unknown, be excited by it. There are no mistakes, just learning experiences, and these examples aren’t clichéd, they are tried-and-true.

When I let the fires “out there” ignite my own, it’s usually fueled by an overabundance of impatience and selfishness. “My way and fast” usually leads to some sort of catastrophe. At the very least it’s rude and thoughtless. The first set of situations listed above are self-centered, while the second set is based in humility, and that’s really all it’s about. How may I serve? How can  I contribute to the dreams of others? Let me offer my assistance. Let me help. It’s kind of weird, but I have more interest and gain more satisfaction in helping others to achieve their dreams rather than work exclusively on my own. Imagine if everyone did this? What a paradise would come to existence. I am water. Show me the fires of destruction and I will rain upon them.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

45. CHANGE YOUR LIFE – LOSE YOUR LUGGAGE

“Lost Luggage”, a new Shirt.Woot t-shirt design by Matt Leyen.

“You have NO idea what I’ve been through.” I’ve heard this frequently from those who have walked a road of suffering and yes, it’s true, I don’t know; honestly it doesn’t matter. I’m not being harsh or cold, but we cannot move forward without letting go of the past, and I’d bet my life on it. If you really do want help, or know someone who does, the best thing is stop worrying about where you came from and start caring about where you are going. Don’t think that what once happened is doomed to repetition. Don’t talk about how others have let you down, or how you’ve let yourself down, and  don’t relive it, just leave it behind. No more sentences are allowed that begin with “it’s too bad…….” or “what if….” This is the ONLY way to progress. Excuses are the enemy. They are bred exclusively from what cannot be changed or affected. EVERYONE who has stepped from chaos into harmony has done this.

I’ve been taught that most people go through life with two dominating mindsets. They’re consumed by worrying about the future or regretting what has happened. Neither of these exercises are productive, and I ought to know, I was a master of the game. When I was focused on what I couldn’t modify or influence I had little to no time to savor the moment let alone act upon it. I spent most of my waking hours looking for ways to blame. Remember this – choosing to live a life of re-action over a life of pro-action is self-imposed slavery. I’m not talking about charging through the days aggressively, I’m talking about improving the functions of being awake, aware, and alert.

It is okay, however, to reminisce and plan. Neither of these attitudes are based in remorse or victimization. I choose to not live in days gone by, but that does not equal forgetting about what is inevitably going to harm me; old patterns and habits. I also choose not fantasize or dwell upon the “worst case scenario” but that doesn’t keep me from preparing for the possibility of bad things.

Self-respect (NOT arrogance) is the goal of all who are motivated to change their lives and their futures. Self-pity is the goal of those who want to justify blaming everybody else’s lives and their past. All the garbage we carry with us as our “business card” is  nothing more than one giant reason not to improve. All that luggage we drag through life is only needed for trips into the past. If there is nothing in our baggage we would wish on anyone else, then why keep it for ourselves?

These three similarly themed “mantras” will help keep a new life in focus.

          1. Change for the better equals abandoning our history.

          2. Where I was doesn’t matter, where I am, does.

          3. Blame is the battle-cry of self-destructiveness.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

23. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RIGHT QUESTION

questions

A few weeks ago I wrote an entry called “The Right Questions.” (here is the link)https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2013/05/25/the-right-questions/ This is a follow up or companion piece to that article. This approach to life is a passion of mine and I’ll most likely write about it again in the future.

When I first ventured towards new horizons a different perspective of both asking and answering questions became necessary, and  the volume was more than I’d anticipated. Some were clear and the answer obvious, and some were cryptic. The latter of the two was meant to free certain “mental” wheels that had been poorly maintained. For instance, I was asked “What must I do to begin building up a life of reliability?”  The solution revealed to me was to stop being late everywhere. There was no doubt as to the meaning of this directive and there was no uncertainty as to the outcome of its implementation. On the other hand I was often given nothing more than the answer with instructions to search for the question. One such example was “You limit yourself because you have a fear of success.” Quite often my goal was to come up with the question that fit the answer. Eventually I did, and the question was, “Why do I avoid responsibility?”  In any case, the quality of my life improved with the quality of the questions that were being asked, either directly or indirectly.

 One such question that drastically changed my life was, “If you knew you only had an hour to live and if you felt good and weren’t scared, What would you do?” It’s an old  point of discussion and I’ve heard it before, but I’d never meditated on it. Once I did, my outlook on life changed drastically. Basically I’ve Heard two answers from those who were sincere in coming up with a real reply. I’ve heard that prayer and silence would be a choice. This is a minority answer; maybe one on twenty say it. The majority say something that sounds like this, “I would use part of my time to thank those whose lives have made mine better, and spend the rest of it in the arms of the person I loved the most.” My personal response probably lies here. It’s an interesting question because no one says “I’ve only got an hour, maybe I should clean the house, or mow the lawn, or go to the bank, or even eat.” Nothing material is attached to where true value lies. Nothing. This is but one example of a high quality question.

Most seek nothing but answers when their true quest should be identifying the correct questions. My mentor used to say, “There are no right answers to the wrong questions.” If you say to the ether “Why me?” you will get lots of answers that do nothing to empower you. In return you’ll get plenty of information designed to reaffirm why you are in a place of undesirability. Logically, if the original inquiry is producing unwanted answers, then should not the opposite question produce what is sought? Try asking instead “Why NOT me?” If you want to lose weight the opposite of “Why am I fat?” is NOT “Why am I not thin?” This is the same question in disguise. It’s true opposite would be “How can I get thin?” Subtle; yes, but believe me the brain knows the difference and it will eventually churn out what is asked of it.

Subconsciously (and of course consciously) everyone has conversations in their minds designed to eliminate what is wanted and attract what is desired. The problem with attracting what is unwanted is truly in how we word our queries. Think about it. If you constantly ask yourself why are you passed by for promotion you will get answers that are, one- riddled with blame rather than accountability, and two- will serve only self-defeating behavior.

There are several ways to stop the habit of asking bad questions.

First- Stop saying “why?” and start saying “how?” It is a one word change that will get instant results. When “why” is the driving force of a question, you will generate excuses. When “how” is used instead, you will generate solutions. By the way, don’t revert to “how come?” That’s just another “why” in disguise.

Second- Stop asking yourself questions that are really better answered by a more qualified source i.e. “How do I stop drinking?” The use of the word “how” in this case will eventually force us beyond the limits of our own minds. When we embrace outside information (oftentimes masquerading as criticism) we open ourselves to unlimited choices, and isn’t that what we should have anyway?  Remember what Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems  by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” For me this means I have to stop re-arranging what’s in my own head while trying to convince myself it will eventually add up differently. He also said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. It really comes down to listening more than talking; something I still struggle with.

Third- Start shifting your approach to life from one of doubt to one of expectation. This will automatically re-write how thoughts word themselves. Don’t generate anxiety, uncertainty,  or worry  about your goals; expect them and they will manifest. Get off the “what if?” ride and jump onto the certitude express. Remember, planning for the worst and assuming it are vastly different. Contingency plans are fine but they must exist only in the background. Driving a vehicle without brakes and seatbelts will force you to a crawl; whereas utilizing the car’s safety features will allow maximum confidence in both driver and machine.

Make a list of good questions and repeat them a LOT to yourself. If they are indeed high quality they will generate even more high quality questions. My top three are-

How can I become a better man?

How can I serve?

And..

How can I live without regret?

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

17. LIBERTY RE-WRITTEN

 statue-of-liberty

TWENTY REASONS WHY I KNOW THE WORLD IS A MUCH BETTER PLACE THAN IT WAS ONLY 150 YEARS AGO….

  1. Indoor plumbing.
  2. Soap, bathing, deodorant, and a general acceptance toward a cleaner lifestyle.
  3. The 40 hour work week.
  4. We don’t gather in the town square and watch people get hung for lack of entertainment anymore.
  5. The accessibility to a highly educated and well informed life (past even the most scholarly of people) is literally lying in wait to be absorbed at libraries and the internet for FREE.
  6. Refrigeration. It has been suggested that this is the most important invention since the wheel. I agree.
  7. We as a world are recognizing more than ever the potential equality of every human.
  8. More people are working on more solutions for those who suffer than ever before.
  9. The ability for one voice to be heard around the world is easily within the grasp of those who seek it. All change throughout history has started this way, and now it can happen at the speed of light.
  10. Medical advancements have not only relieved hardship and misery from millions, the average life span has been extended so further progress in all areas of existence can be explored by those who survive.
  11. Radio, television, movies, and now the internet now brings to even the most remote regions of the world our capacity to express beauty, art, and our common threads in the form of music, imagery, and literature.
  12. The idea of freedom is the magnetic pull that seeks to unite all mankind. It expands daily and will not be stopped. Hope grows in the minds of those who never dared think it.
  13. Self-help, community support, and 12 step groups have given countless sufferers a path out of darkness that never previously existed.
  14. The electrifying of the planet has done more to bring comfort and convenience into our lives than almost anything else.
  15. The scientific community as a whole, from micro-technology to space travel, drives us to continued exploration of of our boundaries, both inside and out. These achievements perpetuate unity and purpose.
  16. We are finally recognizing we cannot continue exploiting our support system, a.k.a- the planet itself. “Saving the Earth” is NOT about whether or not it can overcome our abuse, it will. I’t’s about whether or not we will be on it when it eventually does. We are finally seeing we can only s**t  where we sleep so long.
  17. A largely unrecognized step in our recent evolution is the rise of humor. From visual media to literature, from stand-up comics to comic strips, we have embrace the desire to share and perpetuate laughter.
  18. Feats of engineering have improved almost everyone’s lives. Roads, buildings, heating and air conditioning, all forms of transportation, etc. are part of a better, more connected, world. The list is vast and continues to grow.
  19. Prejudice is waning and forgiveness is growing.The treatment of groups that were once trod upon for ethnic, political, spiritual, mental, and sexual issues or reasons is slowly fading away. In return these groups are learning to release the hate they have expressed towards their oppressors and move on into lives of self-empowerment; dropping the need to blame or accuse current situations on past events.
  20. The beauty of our universe is being revealed in ways never before dreamed. The magnificence of this infinite painting that God has so eloquently created is beyond description. If united we can look upon this and realize just what a miracle it is even to do so, then perhaps we have a chance to grow beyond our differences and continue in peaceful coexistence.

Do I know there are circumstances in the world that need to be erased? Do I know the aforementioned conditions are not everywhere? Of course I do. The goal here is NOT to dwell on problems, but solutions. Please feel free to add to this list and make it grow. Focus on what is already good and getting better. This isn’t a wish list, it’s a recognition one. The dreams of today are the cradles of our children. May future generations have the hindsight to thank their ancestors better than we have.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

12. ADVICE FROM THE GROUND FLOOR

delorean-back-to-the-future-610x287

The fastest way to a higher quality of life is to stop being late. As far as the subject of self-help goes, it doesn’t get any more basic than this. Punctuality is actually rare. This is true because all of us know those who are always prompt, and they do indeed stand out. Most identify this  trait as showing up ahead of schedule. Few realize it also indicates a willingness to stay longer. There’s no doubt all of us want more time, but what good are a few extra minutes if they are not productive and peaceful?

Early in my recovery I was clonked over-the-head repeatedly with this topic, and for good reason. The habit of tardiness is basically one of self-centeredness, and boy did I have buckets of it. Along with the action, I also had a filing cabinet full of excuses to accompany my behavior. There were some pretty creative ones too. My personal favorite (at the time) was claiming I’d been pulled over by the cops for some minor infringement. I’d explain, they were nice and let me go with just a warning. Not only was I lying about why I was late, I was attempting to generate sympathy for myself too. Using lies like this to perpetuate my laziness turned my mind into a garbage dump. This collection of pointless excuses eventually took up so much mental room, there was little left over for even the most basic of needs. It finally became clear that the only thing I could be counted on to do was to be unreliable. I eventually turned this lifestyle around by realizing all that was required to change it, was to walk away from it. There was no clean up necessary, just abandonment.

When I came to the conclusion I had no need to drag the past into the present, it allowed me the freedom to move forward without anchorage. Over the years, I’ve exhibited a lot of behavior I never want to repeat. These slips of character are not who I am; they exist to help me define who I am not. I did not want to be the last person to show up anymore, and I had plenty of leverage in the form of previous examples to help me to change that. I left the habit behind and went forth with a willingness to do what would be asked of me from those I had wronged through my sloth.

It’s just my opinion, but I think a lot of the world’s problems would disappear if everyone would just make a commitment to show up on time. Traffic would ease, health issues due to stress would lower, production would rise, and trust would increase; all because of one thing changing. It may be a fool’s wish, but I’m sure it’s one that can be clearly envisioned by most of us.

There are some habits I’ve developed that help to nurture a more reliable (and relaxing) lifestyle.

First-  When I wake up, I choose to get up. If the thought enters my mind that I would like to sleep some more, I replace it with, “Wake up.” When my mind hears a request from the conscious part, my sub-conscious part (which is still driving the bus)  responds and starts the chemistry that makes me want to get out of bed rather than stay there. Let’s face it, five more minutes, or even a little more, makes almost no difference on a complete nights rest anyway.

Second-  I do my best not to leave anything undone at the end of my duties that I don’t want to do upon returning. In other words, at the very least, I’ll give myself something to look forward to “not doing.”

Third-  IF a delay really does come up, I will inform those waiting on me as soon as possible. If I tell someone ahead of time that my behavior is going to be disruptive, there will be no need to excuse it later, and that earns respect.

Fourth- Rest is a priority to the expenditure of energy. I try not to short-change myself in this area. It does seem that the older I get, the earlier I go to bed, and the earlier I rise– which automatically gives me what I need.

I do not follow these ideas as strictly as I would like. The only one I don’t break is the third one. Yes, I am still late on occasion. I am not without fault here, but I am much more aware of others who are waiting for me, and that has allowed a less-selfish approach to the day. It sounds simplistic, but the bottom line to curing a tardy life is nothing more than choosing to give yourself enough time.

It has been my experience that reliability equals abundance, and this was the first step I took that opened those floodgates. If nothing else, the more we are late, the more we miss out on life, and I for one don’t want to miss a thing.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

11. ELIMINATING REGRET

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In my post “What I Believe”, there is an affirmation that says “I believe in doing the most, what I’ll regret the least.” This philosophy goes hand-in-hand with the statement: “I believe regrets are grudges I hold against myself.” These two ideas are like bookends that keep the direction of my life organized, upright, and on purpose. My past has proven that the presence of regret equals an urge to manufacture excuses. Once I’ve done something I knew wasn’t supposed to, I’d feel compelled to justify why it happened, leading to a defensive posture. As soon as I’ve done something someone else knows I shouldn’t have, and they point it out, I’ve been known to take an offensive stand. Both times I’ve sought to excuse my behavior.

I live my life in two modes, action and reaction, or offensive and defensive. They have their place, but one should not be favored over the other. They compliment with strength and harmony when properly mixed. The people who do this skillfully lead well-adjusted lives. They are easy to pay attention to and quick to listen. A balanced approach attracts, while the unbalanced delivery repels.  No one likes those who are too defensive. Neither do they take kindly to those who are overly offensive. People who play the defender claim to be constantly victimized, and those who play the offender claim to be forever insulted. In either case neither person generates respect or trust from those around them. Each example must come up with constant excuses in order to continue their theatrics, or the behavior will not persist. I should know, I’ve visited the two sides with great frequency over the years.

If the erasure of regret equals the disappearance of excuses, then I say bring it on.  Without regret, I cannot own or operate being either patsy or aggressor. This does not mean I’m not opinionated or that I won’t stand up for what I believe that is right and good. What it does mean is that I’ll move forward with the attitude of doing the most what I’ll regret the least. When I find myself at an intersection, the only question that must be asked is, “what will I regret doing?”  I then avoid moving in those directions. As soon as I choose a lesser way, and create regret, then I begin to hold a grudge against my own actions. Those actions that we hold grudges against, we feel the need to punish. If I do the same to myself, then I’ll inevitably seek out some sort of punishment–mostly unaware I’m even doing it. This is a primary root of self-destructive behavior. ALL self-destructive behavior needs excuses to survive, so it stands to reason that it will consistently choose the lesser of two (or more) destinations in order to perpetuate its existence.

When I feel the impulse to defend, I do my best to use it by helping someone else, especially if they are not present. I’ve noticed people are more willing go into attack mode when there is no chance of retribution from the focus of  their argument. Rarely will I defend a personal agenda. If what’s being threatened is my safety, only then will I not hold back. On the other hand, I’m rarely offended. I’ve chosen a few items over the years I want changed, and these I’ll let offend me. Nothing gets better unless I become dissatisfied with how things are, so this attitude is useful when an action follows that’s designed to improve something. I never do anything that undermines someone else’s quality of life just so mine can get better. Looking at both actions, I will of course avoid doing anything that would lead to a regret.

I think all of us have had episodes of supreme confidence. When I’m in these moments I move forward without complaining or explaining. No excuses, just action. “Don’t complain, don’t explain” is a very famous and useful saying. It helps eliminate other people’s opinions, bad OR good, and keeps me focused on the task at hand. When the thoughts of others are eliminated, then there’s no need to argue (defend) or no need to listen (take a chance on being offended.) There are, of course some people in my life I want feedback from, but there are VERY few.

All I know is, I’m not going to be laying in my death-bed and allow the last words of my life begin with the line “It’s too bad I didn’t…..” A life lived without regret is one of the greatest freedoms we can seek. It’s absence serves to eliminate pain and helps to invite serenity.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood