Questions

14. THE STRENGTH OF COMPASSION

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Once, a long time ago, I was witness to a hit and run. Never really saw the car, but I was the man who stopped to help the victim. She remained conscious and I remained calm, all the while telling her that things were going to be just fine. I knew they weren’t. She was bleeding from her eyes and ears and was concerned about her husband getting upset she was going to miss work that day. I took off my coat and gently placed it over her, worried that the cold, snowy ground was going to compound problems of shock. The collision was so hard that her shoes bounced off my windshield some forty feet away, so my gut feeling was that there was much more injury than could be diagnosed by casual observation. I continued a simple reassuring conversation with her, never letting on what I really thought. My only goals were to keep her conscious and to try and stop her from panicking. Within minutes the paramedics showed up. Her condition in this short span had already showed signs of deterioration. The blood flow from her injuries was increasing and she had lost her eyesight. I never asked her what her name was. I guess I didn’t need to. They whisked her off, and I continued to work, wondering if she was even going to live. Seventeen years later, I still wonder.

What behavior marks the pinnacle of our aspirations? That morning I spent ten minutes lying to a total stranger, and yet at the time I knew I’d done the right thing. That morning I treated someone differently than I might have wanted them to treat me, and looking back, I wouldn’t hesitate doing the same thing again. That morning, though tragic for someone else, forced me to abandon what I normally thought of as proper conduct and embrace a much more powerful idea, kindness.

The “Golden Rule” that all of us are familiar with is something I cannot fully endorse anymore. It is a good idea and a great place to start, but it can be abusive and heartless if practiced with too much passion. I am forty-eight years old. I carry no shame with my age and I never will. For one, I’ve never associated how old I am with who I am. Now I ask you, just because I carry this belief close to my heart, does this give me free rein to ask all who cross my path what their age is? There is no doubt that this is indeed treating others the way I want to be treated, but the very idea of doing this is selfish and inconsiderate. The “Golden Rule” applies in this situation only when I change the angle of approach by generalizing the moment; would I want a total stranger asking me a question I was unprepared or unwilling to answer? Of course not.

The second situation that seemed to violate my ethics all those years ago was lying. My heart knew this was a circumstance where the outcome could easily end with the death of the person I was talking to. Yes, it did cross my mind; what I would want to hear if the roles were reversed? If I felt the end might be near, would I like the chance to say goodbye to those I loved? Would I want to express a final thought? Would I want to ask forgiveness for things I could no longer correct? These are harsh questions and not to be lightly asked when a life hangs in the balance. I suppose if death were eminent, that there was no chance living, then yes, by all means I would want the truth. Even then I suppose I’d want it tempered with reassurance and faith that what awaited was not to be feared. I had no idea what lay in store for this woman an hour from then, but I had a grasp of what the immediate future held. Instead of handing her the facts, I opted to give her nothing but hope. It wasn’t just for her, but to a small degree, me as well. I had to share a belief that things were okay, if nothing else so that she could hang on long enough for those who could bring real aid to have a better chance.

One of my mentors says, “When facing the choice to be right or to be kind comes up, choose kindness.” This means never saying to someone “I told you so.” There are of course times that require a blunt approach, but they always seem to come before any given incident, not after. I feel potentially negative honesty is best used as a warning. It also comes in handy to point out unrecognized acts of self-destruction, but even this is still nothing more than a warning to not repeat oneself. Basically, I believe that “Honesty precedes, while compassion follows.”

To live compassionately is my goal. To be empathetic (not sympathetic) towards all I meet is  the life I demand of myself. To align with another individual’s priorities, even for just a moment, erases my ego. I cannot be “self-centered” when I become “they-centered.” This is a blessing of the highest sort. All the pain, anguish, bitterness, hostility, angst, regret, and fear that had so effectively eroded  my life was the direct result of the storms of my selfishness. The peace that compassion continues to feed me, strengthens me. May it strengthen all of us.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

9. THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

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A higher standard of living is a wonderful thing. Who doesn’t want better health, a greater income, stronger relationships, better outlooks, and happier moments? This utopian existence isn’t a fantasy. As a matter of fact, it’s not that difficult to manifest. All it usually requires is a shift in patterns of thought.

When I receive anything, it’s by the appearance of only two possible outcomes–I either get what I want, or I don’t.  I’m well aware that my thoughts equal my reality. Everything that surrounds me has appeared because I have desired it. The desk I’m writing upon, the clothing I’m wearing, the music I’m listening to, the health I enjoy, the love I know–all of these are here because I wished them here.  If my reality becomes unsatisfactory, then my thoughts must be in line with whatever has become unwanted. Allow me to clarify this before  it starts sounding a little too weird.

My quality of life equals the quality of my requests. To put it simply, better questions equal better answers. When my world was a garbage dump, it was because I collected nothing but trash. The “why me?” brand of questioning produced all kinds of unwelcome results, and since I had no idea I was doing it, I kept it up. When I asked “why am I fat?, why am I lonely?, why am I poor?, why am I an addict?”, I got a lot of answers.  The answers all served to re-enforce the original idea. In essence, what I kept asking gave me more reasons to keep asking the same questions; since I was repeating myself, the answers would compound. For instance, the question “why am I so fat?” would produce replies that sounded something like this, “you’re so fat because you’re lazy, eat crap, don’t exercise, and have no will power.” When I convinced myself that I had logical reasons to keep up my behavior, I had no leverage to stop it.

Nothing changed until I shifted my questions. The brain is a remarkable machine. Almost any problem conceived will require it to produce some sort of feedback. When I started focusing on the opposite of what I’d been fixating upon, miraculous transformations began taking place. The idea of finding solutions rather than problems was an old idea, but one I had never really given much thought to. This may sound simple, but I assure you, it’s a powerful tool. The opposite of “why am I fat?” wasn’t “how do I lose weight?” This is because the idea of being heavy still persists in the question. It’s true opposite is “how do I get thin?” While this is indeed a higher quality question, it can be energized to force the brain to find the BEST solution. “What’s the healthiest way to get thin and have fun doing it?” Now THERE’ a great question.

The pattern to the elimination of this self-destructive behavior hasn’t failed me yet. These are the steps I take.

  1. If I have results in my life that are opposite of what I really want, I recognize that somewhere a wrong question is being asked.
  2.  I identify the question.
  3. I flip the idea to the highest or most positive outcome I want.
  4.  I take action. This often includes asking for advice or assistance.
  5. I actively appreciate–not just by thanking others, but also by allowing gratitude to be extended to myself.

Please keep in mind that I’m not necessarily talking about the “stuff” in life improving. The material part of my existence has always reflected my mental initiative, so my focus has remained on shifting my attitude. I believe that whatever I expect, I create. One thing’s for sure, I’ve done exactly that so far. All the pain and all the pleasure that has come and gone in my life has either met or exceeded my expectations.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

7. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LANGUAGE?

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An obvious answer to the title question may come to mind. Language exists so we can communicate vocally in ways that don’t require grunting, snarling, snorting, and screaming. There’s no doubt these expressions still prevail–especially among men–but there’s a much more profound need to speak. We crave deeper connections to others, not just through our senses, but mentally.

At one time, my speech was quite stoic. It had neither passion nor imagination.  When I attempted to illustrate myself with the limited feelings I had connection to, the descriptions came out clichéd and boring. For years, I uttered the same words in the same tone of voice to the same uninterested people. I never stopped to think about what came out of my mouth. My responses were never astute, and the results were often insulting and insensitive. I’ve tasted my foot more often than I’d like, and my attempts at taking back what’s  just been said  always had a tone of insincerity  when filtered through my toes. Once it was uttered, the original thought prevailed. Whatever came after did little to dispel the impact of  my initial misfortune. Over the years, I’ve consciously developed a slower response time. This, and a better vocabulary, has significantly improved my moments of awkwardness.

My mentor, Joe, sat me down years ago and posed the initial question. It changed my life.

“So, do you know what the purpose of language is?”

“Sure.” I said confidently. “We need to communicate so we can interact with each other.” Joe looked blankly at me, totally unimpressed with my answer.

He kept staring. “What happens when I say something to you and include a word you don’t quite understand?”

“I guess I’d probably ask you what you meant.”

“I doubt it.” He smirked a little and continued. “Let’s try an example and we’ll see what happens. How would you interpret Honor thy Mother and Father?”

I cleared my throat. “Well, according to the ten commandments I suppose we are obligated to love our parents.”

Joe smiled. “Look up the word honor.”

There was always a huge dictionary on the table when we talked. I thought it was there for decoration. I picked it up, flipped to the word, and read the entire definition. No where was mentioned the word “love.”  Joe could see I was speechless, so he continued.

“Here lies our problem. The purpose of language is an attempt of the speaker to take the images, ideas, feelings, and definitions of what they are thinking and  place them into the mind of the listener with as little discrepancy as possible. If each person has a different understanding of the same word, communication will not take place as intended. In cases where we are attempting to learn from those who are offering us information, it’s vital that we bridge the gap.”

I now carry a dictionary with me everywhere. I find myself looking up words with great frequency. More often than not, I still need assistance interpreting my own thoughts, especially when I’m writing. The accessibility of reference material has become quite easy these days with technology where it is. Any excuse I harbored for the unavailability of either a better word or its definition, has vanished. I’m no master of the English language, but I do consider myself at least a student. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I don’t still grunt, snarl, snort, and scream from time to time.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

WELCOME TO SELF-HELP AND RECOVERY FOR BEGINNERS!

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For both men and women, knowing where to begin a better life can be overwhelming. I’m only the doorman to tomorrow. I can show you where to start, but I will not tell you where to go.

“…it’s easier to undertake a journey when the entrance is clearly marked.”

When I first set out to seek out new avenues and new sources for self-improvement, I made a trip to my local book store expecting to find exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t. I stood there facing several hundred choices wondering where to start. Surely someone had written a beginner’s guide, a square one launching point that wasn’t overwhelming. My goal was to find something not only easy to read, but informative and entertaining. I sought plain and straight forward instruction on how to move ahead in my life. I wanted a resource that would offer the basics and inspire me to continue researching whatever subject might stimulate my interest.  After thumbing through several dozen publications, I found out rather quickly my thirst for knowledge was being offered to me through a fire hose. There was no doubt every answer conceivable lay buried in the pages of the volumes I was wavering in front of, but the process of sifting through endless manuals to look for what appealed to me was not one I was eager to attempt. For the most part, each title addressed a specific topic, and that was fine, but my tastes were much more generalized. What I longed for, even though I didn’t know it at the time, were the right questions. Eventually, through trial and error, I became interested in specific authors, various subjects, and diverse teachings. Even though the road I chose was slow and treacherous, I never stopped progressing. There is, however, little doubt in my mind, I’d be a lot further along than I am now if it had been somewhat less intimidating. It is my opinion that the absence of an easy first step keeps many a wandered traveler from finding their way home.

There was a time when I was truly certifiable. I had nothing in my world that someone would have wanted in theirs. In 1995 I was drinking two-fifths of vodka a day. Since July 28th of that same year, I have been in recovery. As the years progressed, I worked on various elements of my character that needed nurturing. My health improved as did the rest of my personal life. Abundance flowed in, while misfortune waned. In the summer of 2007, came one of my biggest wake-up calls. I had hit the high mark of my weight–347 pounds. After committing to a weight loss program early in 2009, I lost over 105 pounds in six months without loss of energy or strength. I now tip the scales at an average of 220. I’ve had heat stroke, carbon monoxide poisoning, viral pneumonia, MRSA (staph infections), pulmonary embolisms, and car accidents. There are those who may use similar events to convince others how unlucky they are; I use them to prove how fortunate I am. I’ve survived these and other temporary setbacks with flying colors. If attitude is everything, then I’m the direct result of the resolute belief that life gets better every day.

My attempt with this blog is not to provide a goal, but rather an introduction. I’m not a scholar, nor am I a counselor. As a matter of fact, I’m a plumber; a blue-collar worker who has no problems getting his hands dirty and breaking a sweat for a living. Hopefully, my background will offer an approachable and relaxed alternative for those just starting out. I know it’s easier to undertake a journey when the entrance is clearly marked. I’ll never tell anyone where to go, but I’ll be glad to talk about where I’ve been and if you want to visit these places, I’ll simply point the way.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood