Understanding

35. PLEASE STOP BY…..

open

Welcome!

I write a blog dedicated to the subject of ground-floor self-help topics. My introduction says a lot about where I come from and who I am. Further subjects address different areas of interest. I’m looking for new subscribers and will respond to all who care to leave a message.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

34. A LIFE OF PEACE

peace and tolerance

“There is no serenity, no joy, no grace without embracing the attitude of tolerance.”

tol·er·ance

/ˈtɒlərəns/ Show Spelled [tol-er-uhns]

noun

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

 (this definition was pasted from Dictionary.com)
Freedom from bigotry. It sounds so simple and yet its influence can be as subtle as a reference to a single childhood memory. It’s impossible to move forward and take action without some sort of reference to the past. We equate what once happened with what might happen and make choices based on comparing the scenarios. Simple enough? Nope. We also do the same thing with emotional states. What has previously made us happy  will serve as motivation to seek out similar situations later in life; and what once frightened us we’ll remember, thus avoiding what might scare us in the future. In other words most of us (yes, including myself) pre-judge almost everything.
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To be honest I think in order to survive we have to pre-judge, but its usage must be limited. I’m willing to bet this food or diet will improve my health.  It looks like a storm is coming so I’ll bring an umbrella. The trip may be long, so I should fill up the gas tank. All well and fine as long as this attitude doesn’t cross over into the world of people. Not only is tolerance the  gift of being free from equating yourself with others, but equating yourself with who you used to be. Without these judgments we are able to take much more action. So much energy  and time is wasted on staying ahead of  those we think we must while trying to catch up with who we want to pass. The closest I come to continued competition in my life is to consciously work at becoming better than I was. That’s it. I do not, will not, equate myself with who I used to be. Just because I was slacking in one area yesterday is no indication I’m going to repeat the action. Who I was it not who I am. The same goes for you. I also do not consider myself better or worse than anyone I know. There is no doubt I do “play” to win, but not because my goal is to beat someone else. My goal is to prove to myself that I’m becoming better. Any outcome that is ego based has no appeal to me. Bragging rights, awards, fame, etc. are opposite examples of practicing tolerance.
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Do I have knee-jerk reactions to situations that bring up stereotypical perceptions and examples? Yes, all the time. A life of outside influences has programmed them into my hard drive. My salvation is that is I am to recognize these one-dimensional images of the world and send them on their way. I let them pass through without meaning and embrace a more nourishing, open-minded approach to those with differences. As far as I’m concerned everyone has some sort of gift to share, and if my defenses (or God forbid my offences) are in play, then I have blinded myself to whatever they have to offer. There are of course people I don’t want to associate with. Those with doubt, negativity, complaint without solution, and hostile attitudes need not bother trying to leverage me to their point of view. I honor their stand, but that does not mean I must incorporate these beliefs into my ethics. Were I to do that I would eventually become a completely unfocused, unproductive individual. I have my own set of goals and do my best to surround myself with those who support and encourage me. I’m willing to listen to other ideas and paths as long as they do not attack my current course.
Keep in mind tolerance is the mortar that bonds the entire structure of mankind together, while intolerance is the battle cry for all the violence and hatred that has caused nothing separation and destruction.
In one of my first posts titled “My Favorite Bumper Sticker” I talk about another aspect of this topic. It ties in nicely with this entry and it’s rather funny if you would like to check it out. The symbol I’ve posted as a picture accompanying this article is called a tolerance button, and can be found on eBay.
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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.”  This is a follow-up or companion piece to that article. Approaching life in this manner 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. The volume of my new-found form of analysis was more than I’d anticipated. Some examples were clear, and the answer obvious, and some were quite cryptic. The latter of the two was meant to free certain “mental” wheels that had been poorly maintained. When I was asked “What must I do to begin building up a life of reliability?” the solution 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. The answer came quickly and was easy to understand. On the other hand I was frequently 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 shifted considerably. Basically I’ve gotten two answers from those who were sincere in coming up with an honest reply. Some say prayer and silence would be their choice. This is a minority answer, and I consider it an extremely enlightened one, but maybe one in twenty will state it. The majority say something like, “I would use part of my time to thank those whose lives have made mine better. Whatever was left over I’d spend in the arms of the person I love 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 manifest what is desired. The problem with unintentionally attracting what is unwanted lies in how we word our thoughts. Think about it. If you constantly ask yourself why are you passed by for promotion you’ll get answers that are riddled with blame rather than accountability, and these will only serve self-defeating behavior.

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

  1. Stop saying “why?” and start saying “how?” It’s a one word change that will produce 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.
  2. Stop asking yourself questions 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 convinced 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.
  3. 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 unfold. 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 seat belts 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?

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

20. APPROACHING LIFE POLITELY

tr

When I was in second grade our teacher, Mrs. Larson, spent an entire day on manners. It made a great impression on me. I learned to open doors not just for girls, but anyone. I learned to say “Mr.” and “Miss or Mrs.” to those I approached (especially strangers) as a way of acknowledging someone with dignity. I learned to show a graceful respect for everyone no matter their appearance or age.  I’ve often wondered how far and to whom her influence has carried itself. Forty years later the ripples in my pond are still there.

I learned very quickly how important politeness is. Some think of it as an attempt at being self-centered or above reproach using such words as snotty, conceited, pretentious, or arrogant to describe this attitude.  I do indeed see how it  might be played as leverage to try and rise above others.  This is not the proper definition nor execution of what I’ve come to understand. Courtesy is the act of putting even the smallest needs for others first; always. This is easily understood when its opposite is realized. Those we know who are the most rude and cocky constantly put themselves first in every situation. They are unkind and impolite. Their self-perceived priorities take precedence. They are extremely unreliable in every situation because when the need for help arises, it’s given only when it benefits them as well.

Putting the needs of others first isn’t just the entire picture. I suppose one could do this outwardly while hiding feelings resentment and jealousy. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve done this, especially in traffic, but I’m also happy to announce that these incidents are becoming exceedingly rare. Being polite isn’t about how I want others to see me, it’s about how I want to see myself. If someone else benefits from something I’ve done, it’s a side-effect, not the goal. I used to become frustrated when my attempts at being civilized weren’t being returned. Someone would yell at me until I finally sunk to their level and yelled back. Not anymore. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of times where I will step up and be a MAN, raising my voice appropriately when the situation calls for it, but I will never be a jerk or insulting.

Do not think that politeness is equal with weakness. It’s not an invitation  to those seeking to take advantage of a peaceful situation. Upon the contrary, keeping a calm and patient exterior (as well as interior) lets nothing unwanted influence you.  Remember, frustration always commits suicide. It cannot survive without a captive audience so it self-destructs. As soon as its given attention it has a reason to re-assert itself which is why the followers of a great many historical blowhards are just as annoying as their leaders.

At the very least ask yourself these questions. Why not be kind? Why not be patient? Why not be empathetic? Why not be generous? Besides, who really does want to become rude, impatient, indifferent, and selfish anyway?

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

13. A GIFT TO A FRIEND

old potter

This post contains a poem I wrote as a gift to a friend years ago. He’s gone now, but his influence lives on. His physical presence is nothing more than a memory. I don’t even have a photo of him, yet his image is as vivid to me as the first time I ever met the man. It’s almost as if I can see him in my reflection now, not as a copy or imitation, but as a continuation of the best he had to offer.

How does one repay someone for saving their life? Is there any price that can be offered to balance the scales and compensate for this act of selflessness? Yes, there is. The gifts we receive that allow us a better life must be shared; they must be, or they will not fulfill the intention of the universe, and that is perpetuation with abundance.

You may be wondering how this blog entry applies to the subject of self-help. There was a time where I wasn’t sure my existence had any significance at all. This has changed. I now know  we all have a place, a destiny, that fits in perfectly and harmoniously with the world around us. Unfortunately,  the opposite is also just as true. All of us also have a path we can choose that is destructive and painful to those we care for as well as ourselves. The more we nurture our environment, the more we draw sustenance from it. The more we abuse our surroundings, the more it will, in turn, injure us. There is a way to manifest that place that gives life meaning, and it’s not difficult to find.  For the moment, the observation that it functions in others is priority. The more we observe something at work that does not exist in our lives, the more we create faith that it is indeed possible in our own.

Look to those you know or have known in your life that live with purpose. They move effortlessly and gracefully through their days, doing what they do well, sharing their talents without demanding and accepting everything with an abundance of gratitude. Is there not admiration for these people? Is there not a healthy dose of envy that beckons us to reproduce these conditions for ourselves?

This poem is not directly about the man in question I mentioned at the beginning. The imagery is more representative of how I felt he had found his place and in turn mine as well.

THE POTTER

When a lazy sun

Draws its colors

From the evening clouds,

And shadows lengthen

To embrace the night

In silent murky shrouds,

And as the world                                   

Goes to sleep                                             

Under starlit skies,                                   

There comes to life                                 

An old man                                                 

With kindness in his eyes.                     

He slowly rises                                         

And lights a lamp                                     

To start his work again.

A crust of bread,                                       

A bit of drink,                                           

And then he does begin. 

         Just as he who picks

         And presses grapes 

         Off the family vines.

         From the juice that flows

         Will then be made

         Into family wines.                         

         Just as he who cuts                          

         From the weavers cloth               

         Patterns which he sews.               

         And skilled hands

         Will turn his craft

         Into wearers’ clothes.

         Just as he who shapes

         Red-hot iron

         With a mighty hammer.

         As the strokes do fall

         Upon the anvil

         There’s peace among the clamor.

         Just as he who sits

         At the wheel

         Molding clay and water.

         As the stone does whirl

         Another vessel rises

         From the old town potter.

With a tranquil look

And gentle touch

He moves in loving grace.

Shaping his gifts to share with others,

He has found his place.

No longer burdened

By the woes of man,

He works without a sound.

For in himself there lies a calm,

A treasure that’s been found.

And when he is done

Sitting slowly back

To see what’s been turned,

He will always find

That for his efforts

There’s more than what’s been earned.

When the morning sun

Marks another day

And birds begin to sing

The old town potter

Will close his eyes

And dream of what the night will bring.

Thank you for letting me share this with you, and may you too find the bliss that is more valuable than all our “material” world has to offer.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

8. MY FAVORITE BUMPER STICKER

Sunset_2007-1

I had this bumper sticker printed up years ago and handed them out for free to anyone willing to take one. While it still makes me laugh, I also consider it a very important question.  It’s a little like hearing someone complain about whiners. Not only are they joining in with the same crowd they are trying to distance themselves from, now they’re center stage. I think this is why we should “Love thine enemy as thyself.”

If tolerance is what we want to project, are we not obligated to turn this attitude towards those who receive it the least? When mankind experiences pain somewhere in its “body” shouldn’t this demand care and healing? We seem to point towards what isn’t working in our society and do our best to fight it rather than help it. We praise that which is already doing well and insult what isn’t functioning properly. In my opinion this attitude is destructive and immoral.

No one wants to be around a hypocrite. People that do this are fooling themselves into believing that by putting everyone else down, they don’t have to work at doing anything to look good. We witness this unethical “sleight-of-hand” all the time in various incarnations. The “I’m right and everyone else is wrong” syndrome is, unfortunately, very common.  “No one does what I tell them to do” equals “I’m perfect, they’re flawed.” “No one comes up with better solutions than me” equals “I’m brilliant and they’re stupid.” “Others don’t do nearly as much work as me” equals “I’m productive, they’re useless.” “Everyday I fight bad drivers on the way to work” equals “I’m courteous, they’re rude.” All of these are hypocritical attitudes. No one is perfect. This is not a generalized judgment; I simply mean that there is always room for improvement.  The trap of thinking you’re beyond reproach is to invite a lifestyle that will convince itself there’s no need for progress.   Those who try to position themselves into a brighter spotlight by negative promotion lose all credibility. They don’t realize their audience is  instinctively aware that they’re unwilling to become better.

I would love to think I am past this kind of behavior but I’m not. On occasion I catch myself playing the victim. My moments of “poor me” are a lot less pronounced than they used to be, but at least I have the ability to recognize them. This “role” leaves a bitter taste, I assure you.  I’ve learned  there are countermeasures for this habit.

  1. I stop trying to be better than the rest of the crowd, I simply commit to being better than I used to be.
  2. My personal standards are far beyond what others expect of me.
  3. I acknowledge where talent lies. When I’m seen as someone who gives credit where credit is due, I notice people are more eager to work as a team. Everyone wants some sort of recognition for their contributions. Sometimes nothing more than a “Thank You” makes all the difference, especially when it’s done in public. I know it does for me.

I think it’s amazing just how many don’t do this. It’s too bad that the ones who do this stand out so prominently. They are a rare breed; I wish they weren’t.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood