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Archive for August, 2011

A Source of Inspiration

“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration”

Claude Monet

When we were children in school, we learned about the “balance of nature.” We were taught about how the sun made the plants grow, and about the animals that fed on the plants, and then, when the animal died, how its body would go back to the earth to renew the soil and feed the plants.

As adults, however, many of us have forgotten what we knew as children. Sequestered in our offices, in front of computer screens all day, we are sometimes disconnected from nature. Many of us are even unaware of when it rains or snows yet we have to dress accordingly or adjust our travel plans.

Nature, however, is a wise teacher who continually reaches out to us with her lessons. Spending time in nature, whether in a park, an urban setting, along a country road, or in the wild, we remember what we knew, but perhaps have forgotten. When things go off track as they sometimes will, step outside and look for guidance from nature. The answers will be there.

We see the industrious ant that doesn’t waste time bemoaning the fact that it isn’t a butterfly. The squirrel that darts from tree to tree gathering nuts as it proactively prepares for what lies ahead. We watch the trees that bend in the wind without resistance, as they surrender to what is and move with the forces around them. Even when a branch breaks and falls, it decays and replenishes the soil so that new growth can spring forth. There is an ongoing process of which we are just a part. All is as it should be – in balance.

If we want to thrive in our own lives, these behaviors in nature are the same that we need to follow: accepting what “is”, trusting in an abundant universe yet being accountable for our own well being, going with the flow instead of resisting, being willing to receive and to give back, paying attention to the signs and signals around us, . We access this knowing when we allow ourselves to become quiet and listen to the inner voice of wisdom-the Sage-that resides within each of us.

We human beings are the only creatures that consciously, with deliberate action, alter and destroy the environment in which we live and share with a plethora of other creatures. Acting responsibly in our environment is a mighty responsibility, and one that we could take too lightly unless we spend time in nature, learning the lessons and enjoying the richness to behold.

Great artists like Claude Monet spent endless hours outdoors as he connected the creative genius he had within with the wonders of nature that surrounded him. Such communion gave the world masterpieces of art. Likewise, we can bring inspiration, hope, unity and peace to the world around us if we too take time to connect with our own greatness through the bountiful life lessons nature has to offer.

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The Carpenter

“People are lonely and angry and entire governments collapse because they build walls instead of bridges.”

Martha Borst

The Carpenter    

“Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.

Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days’ work,” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?”

“Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor. In fact, it’s my younger brother! Last week there was a meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us.  Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence an 8-foot fence — so I won’t need to see his place or his face anymore.”

The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day — measuring, sawing and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.

The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all.

It was a bridge… a bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all! And the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward them, his hand outstretched…

“You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in middle, taking each others hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder.

“No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.
“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build.”

With whom have you built walls instead of bridges? Perhaps you have a relative you always avoid, or an old friend you think has hurt you, a parent with whom you disagree, a life partner with whom you have distanced yourself, a co-worker who disagrees with you, a boss you are afraid of, a neighbor who has offended you . . . the list could go on.

How long have you felt this way? “Come closer,” you say – “No! Stay away!” We say we want connection but when someone reaches out, we pretend we don’t need them. Then when they leave thinking that we don’t want to be around them, we say we don’t care.

When did we decide to be so tough and strong?  When did we decide to put up the walls to protect ourselves from the very things we long for? How much longer can we keep it up? Because I think this is what HELL is . . . to care and not act upon it – to care and not be committed – to desperately want to connect and to pretend that we don’t. When we do this, all our energy goes to defending ourselves, protecting ourselves and we end up tired, or our energy goes to attacking, judging and criticizing others and we go to war.

We need look no further than our own government to observe the disastrous impact that building walls has on the lives of everyone it touches. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Who wins?  Who loses?

If we want change from our leaders, we must change ourselves first. So stop for a moment and ask yourself, “What have I given up to be in CONTROL, to be RIGHT?  Passion, aliveness, intimacy, love . . . effective resolution to long-standing problems?” The very things I believe we hunger for!

Perhaps it’s time for us to be human and vulnerable and admit we not only want to connect, but for our own survival, sanity and well being, we NEED to connect with other people in a way that resolves problems and differences, in a way that builds bridges not walls. Perhaps it is time to not only do this in our own lives, but to also take accountability to demand it of our representatives in government. Isn’t it time to tell them, “Enough! Tear down this wall and start building bridges!”

Thank you to my good friend, Rebecca Lane for sharing The Carpenter story.

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Isaac dies

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
Ken Blanchard

“Isaac dies

A certain Rabbi was adored by the community; everyone was enchanted by what he said.

Except for Isaac, who never missed an opportunity to contradict the Rabbi’s interpretations and point out faults in his teachings.

The others were annoyed by Isaac, but could do nothing about it.

One day, Isaac died. During the funeral, the community noticed that the Rabbi was deeply upset.

Why are you so sad? – someone commented. – He was always criticizing everything you said!

I am not upset for my friend who is now in heaven – replied the
Rabbi – I am upset for my own self.

While everyone revered me, he challenged me, and I was obliged to improve.

Now he has gone, I am afraid I shall stop growing.”

Author unknown

Regardless of our job status, position, or our role in relationship with others, our responsibility is to fulfill/exceed the expectations and requirements of that role, be it in business or within our families, with our friends or in our communities. If we hold our life and relationships with value, we realize we have a responsibility to do our best to support the objectives, goals, and overall success of whatever group we are a part of.

The people who continuously improve will have the greatest self-satisfaction, the most control over job security and advancement and the most joy and personal fulfillment in life.

Success in an organization is closely linked to human behavior, whether it’s about quality, service, productivity, or teamwork. As individual contributors, it is our responsibility to behave in a manner that promotes optimum organizational results.

Success in a family is likewise closely linked to everyone working together and consistently living up to a set of values and standards of excellence.

It is challenging.

No one is perfect, but everyone can grow. Our job on this earth, as I see it, is to continually improve in our various roles, whatever they may be and every peak performer and admirable person I know is one who is not only willing to give and receive feedback but they eagerly request it because they know that others can frequently see things about them that they cannot see themselves. To someone committed to be their best, becoming aware of these things is like finding gold, because then they know what they are doing that is working and what they need to work on to improve.

Ultimately, each of us is responsible for our own performance and for getting the kind of support, guidance, feedback and direction we need to be our best. We must look for it, ask for it and welcome it when it comes.

As the Rabbi in the above tale knew, sometimes the most difficult and challenging feedback is the best because it keeps us alert, aware and conscious in our communication. But we must always remember to not take it personally, because then we become defensive, self protective and tend to negate the feedback that is so important for us to hear.

So the next time someone gives you a compliment or criticizes you, challenges you or gives you any kind of positive or negative feedback about how they perceive you, recognize how they are helping you to become a true champion, an extraordinary person in your role, and simply say, “Thank you for your feedback. I will carefully consider what you have said and I am sure it will help me be a better person.”

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Justice…Who decides?

What is Justice ?

 

What is the right thing to do? How do we know? Is it decided by some internal guidance system or some external set of laws or commandments? For a few thousand years humankind has contemplated the meaning of justice and tried to implement it into society through government, religions, laws and practices. We have killed for it, died for it, ignored it, marched for it and yet we still live in a society where it frequently seems to elude us. As August 2nd approaches and we watch with disbelief at what is happening in our government, one is compelled to ask the question, “What is the right thing to do in a democracy when people with extreme opposing views become deadlocked? Is it “right” to refuse to budge? Is it “right” to give in? Is there a “right” or “wrong”? What does it take to find a way that works for everyone? Should we find a way that works for everyone?

 

“Justice that love gives is a surrender, justice that law gives is a punishment.”
Mohandas Gandhi

“Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

“Knowledge without justice ought to be called cunning rather than wisdom.”
Plato

“Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you want peace, work for justice.

Henry Louis Mencken

This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

What’s the Right Thing To Do?

Is torture ever justified?

Would you steal a drug that your child needs to survive?

Is it sometimes wrong to tell the truth?

How much is one human life worth?

Are we individually and/or collectively accountable for everything that happens in our government? In the world? If we were, what difference would that make?

If you are a thoughtful person who enjoys the enlightening process of challenging your mind, exploring new ideas and being open to other perspectives than you own, please go to this site: www.justiceharvard.org and listen to Professor Michael Sandel talk about justice, equality, democracy, and citizenship. Participate in a journey of moral reflection that has captivated more than 15,000 students for over 30 years, as Harvard University opens its classroom doors to his infamous course called “Justice.”

Thank you to my friend, Paolo Machado do bringing this excellent site to my attention

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