19 March 2019 : How to Appreciate the Mundane Tasks in Our Lives

We all have repetitious tasks that may seem tedious, even boring to do, so much so that we might complete them on auto-pilot. But these are often the tasks that need to get to done to ensure the bigger projects get done.

If it helps, think about what happens to your teeth if you don’t brush them every day.

This also holds true in our relationships with others, be they personal or professional. In the relationship dynamic, we all have tedious jobs to complete in order for the relationship to work.

For a little exercise, get out a pen and piece of paper and write down at least five tedious tasks you do that enhance one of your personal relationships.

If you’ve chosen a home relationship and you live with others, your list might include grocery shopping, doing the laundry and/or the dishes, making the bed, cleaning the bathrooms, changing the toilet paper roll…

In all likelihood, your list quickly grew to more than five tasks.

Next, consider what kind of breakdown would occur if you didn’t do one of the tasks. For instance, if your list includes grocery shopping and you don’t do it, there won’t be food in the house. And if there isn’t food in the house, what would happen next?

People would be hungry?

You’d have to eat out, which might mean you wouldn’t be eating healthy food, and you might go over your budget, thus impacting your plans for an upcoming vacation?

Again, you can likely extend this pretty far and pretty quickly, including the lack of food having a negative impact on your relationships.

As I said earlier, the point here is that the little tasks getting done is what leads to the bigger projects happening. When you do the grocery shopping, for instance, you are saving toward the family’s summer vacation.

Now it’s all well and good to simply think about the little tasks that WE, ourselves, do. It’s a more challenging exercise to identify the little tasks others do and from which we derive benefit.
In other words, who else in your relationship dynamic is doing the little things in a way that helps ensure your family will get to go on its summer vacation?

On your paper, try to write down five tedious tasks that are done by someone else in a personal relationship with you. You’ll likely find this to be more difficult to do than creating your list of tasks, the reason being that we tend to take for granted the tasks completed by others.

We are even more likely to take them for granted when they are done consistently, for the simple reason that we don’t notice them being done. For instance, if doing the laundry isn’t on your list, the fact that you have clean underwear in your drawer is due to the efforts of someone else.

With these things in mind, consider the word “synergy,” which, at its root, means “working together.” In practice, the word has come to mean working together WELL.

When there is food in the house and underwear in the drawers, and hundreds of other things are completed and/or available, there is synergy at play. This synergy allows for smooth functioning in the home, which stabilizes the home lives of everyone.

So think again about those little tasks you do, but do so with this awareness of synergy. You are contributing to the smooth working of your home.

Further, we all have had times in which we are functioning so well with others that we feel we are part of a whole. It is at these times that we gain glimpses of the concept that we are part of something greater than ourselves. This form of synergy awareness is warming and provides us energy.

Here’s another way to think about the ideas of synergy and that we all are part of something bigger than ourselves:

Holographic images can be recorded on glass. Looking at them, they appear 3-D despite being in 2-D form, and seen from different angles give you the look of seeing the image from different perspectives. Further, if the glass that holds the image is broken, each piece contains the whole image. It’s not like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that have to be reassembled to form a whole.

Each piece CONTAINS the whole (learn more here).

With that in mind, consider the value each member of a team plays in making the whole team function, like the five basketball players on the floor during a game, that have to work together well in order for any one of them to excel.

Next, consider that every person on a team is one piece of glass of a broken hologram, each piece containing the whole. Seen like this, our responsibility as individuals is to contribute positively to the whole, to do our part to make sure the team functions at its best.

Now apply this same concept to those with whom you share a home.

Are you familiar with the Dr. Seuss book “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” Many people see this book, intended for children, as a way to focus on how to feel better about their lives by comparing them to the lives of less fortunate, albeit silly, characters.

For instance, this quote comes from page 24:

And poor Mr. Potter,
T-crosser,
I-dotter.
He has to cross t’s
and he has to dot i’s
in and I-and-T factory
out in Van Nuys.

Yes, poor Mr. Potter.

These may seem like meaningless tasks he has to do, but if Mr. Potter doesn’t do them, an attention to detail is lost that will contribute to a significant problem down the line, just like what would happen if you didn’t do the grocery shopping or someone else didn’t doing the laundry.

As such, I encourage you to appreciate when you have to be Mr. Potter and to acknowledge when others are doing their “Mr. Potter” tasks. Extended to our places of businesses, to our cities, to our country, and to the world, it’s how everything keeps functioning.

Ultimately, we’ll come to appreciate that it’s completing the repetitious tasks in our lives that move us closer to peace on earth.

11 March 2019 : Reflections on Looking for a Job

Looking for a job in 2019 is a humbling experience.

Especially after having worked at the same place for 24 years, a place that I helped create. As such, I haven’t had to apply anywhere for quite a long time. I didn’t even have to apply for the job I had before the one I created for myself. It was offered because I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Come to think of it, the last time I applied for a job was in 1988. I created my resumé on something called a typewriter. I filled out the job application with something called a pen.

Geez, I sound old. In fact, I can hear you asking if I used something called the post office to deliver my completed application.

No, I delivered it in person, actually, and shook the hand of the person to whom I handed it.

Enough nostalgia.

Part of my current challenge is I’m finding myself all over the map when it comes to what I want to do next. I go in three different directions, sometimes within minutes of each other, each with their own compelling draws.

MINUTE #1

In the first minute, I’m drawn to the idea of simply going out in the world and trying to be of service. I’ve considered training programs for becoming a Spiritual Director, looked at applying for a weekend job at a neighborhood toy store not far from my home, and contacted an organization that helps train therapy dogs and their handlers to visit places like senior centers and children’s hospitals.

For a visual, I see myself doing something like Lucy from the comic strip Peanuts did. She set up a booth out on the street with a sign at the top offering help for the price of 5 cents, and a note at the bottom indicating whether the “doctor” was “in” or “out”. You might recall Charlie Brown coming by, plopping himself down, and pouring out his heart.

I will say that Lucy wasn’t too good at doling out advice, and I see my role as being there just to support folks, knowing that support is a two-way street. I’d get as good as I gave, I’m sure.

Turns out someone beat me to the idea. A New York pastor started doing this very thing a few years ago, down to creating a booth that looks like Lucy’s, outside his church.

My idea also makes me think of the outstanding Kurt Vonnegut novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.” Written in the 1960’s, the themes still have relevance today, specifically around the idea of philanthropy. The protagonist of the story, Eliot Rosewater, the son and only heir to an elderly millionaire, decides he wants to use his family fortune to help others.

Lawyers get involved to try proving that Eliot is certifiably insane.

It’s from this book that one of Vonnegut’s most famous quotes is found, and it is delivered through the warmth of his protagonist after he’s asked what he’d like newborns to know upon their arrival on Earth.

Eliot says he’d tell them:

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’”

This first minute, which must feel like a heck of a lot longer than a minute by now, also finds me promoting ordinary acts of kindness online, activity that includes having written daily compassion “missions” for the 2019 World Interfaith Harmony Week, posting weekly inspirational poems to social media sites, and adapting the 81 chapters of the Tao Te Ching into kindness-based poems.

Unfortunately, at least so far, none of these activities involve income. Well, I should take that back. I do acknowledge that I made $2.15 last week on Medium and my Patreon site is up to $15 in monthly pledges.

Enough of that first minute…

MINUTE #2

In the next minute, the second, I find myself thinking about the fact that I’m in my mid 50’s and might want to consider my retirement (ie — put some money away). In this minute I spend a lot of time reading job postings in the Bay Area. Most make my eyes water, probably a combination of tears, worry, and too much time staring at a computer screen.

Because, really, applying for work in 2019 involves a lot of computer screen staring, and hardly any time talking to actual people.

Still, I admit, there is some relief that comes from picturing myself with a job that has a guaranteed income and benefits, little things like health care, eyeglasses, and a rambling selection of numbers and letters like 4, 0, 1, and k (in parentheses).

MINUTE #3

In the third minute, I find a profound sense of peace, purpose, and meaning. I get creative. When in it, I’m convinced it’s one we can all access; in fact, I think babies and dogs are accessing it most of the time. It’s where fear dissipates and love emerges. When I’m in this state, something flows through me. This poem came out of one of those third minutes. Unsurprising, this shows up when I’m quiet and instead of thinking externally I reflect internally.

I will say that the third minute doesn’t come when I wake up in the middle of the night, as quiet as it is then, something that happens more recently now and usually involves a trip to the bathroom. These middle of the night sessions are, I think, a subset of the second minute and usually involve worry, a profound longing to see my children, and then, ultimately, noise-cancelling headphones — white noise and/or Native American flutes.

Another thing about this third minute, I’ve been communicating a lot via email with my friends David & Julie Spangler. David is a fairly well-known author, educator, philosopher, and mystic. His focus these days is promoting what he calls Incarnational Spirituality, the idea that we are born into bodies not to gain wisdom or to move on to some higher place after we die or to return to some greater whole. In our own individual wholeness, we are here to enhance other wholenesses.

For a mundane example, in rush hour I am a whole driver, just as are the other drivers. The traffic jam also is a wholeness of sorts, too. If I elevate my wholeness over that of other drivers, I get mad at their actions. In getting mad at their actions, I ignore the wholeness of the traffic jam.

Anger, divisiveness, etc result. Sound familiar?

The idea of Incarnational Spirituality calms me, which is why I’m putting it in the third minute and not in the first, although there is some strong overlap. In fact, if you want to learn more about it, you can join me Thursday night at 5pm PDT to hear Julie explain it via a free webinar.

So…

I was supposed to interview for a job last week, but it got cancelled by the COO of the company. It was for a Bay Area tech company management position. If hired, I would have been helping IT consultants bring more of their humanity to their jobs. I would have had a decent salary and all those desired benefits.

I was kind of excited by it, and disappointed when it fell through. I could actually see my work station as being a sort of Lucy-style booth with the IT consultants swinging by (or me coming to them) to get my support.

As such, was it more than a second minute job? Maybe having a second minute job actually frees up the first and third minutes…

So, yeah, looking for a job in 2019 is a humbling experience. I think the key for me as I move forward is finding work and arranging my life in a way that caters to all three minutes.

28 January 2019 : Focusing Our Attention on the Profound

A teacher once told me the story of two people walking at dawn one morning, the rising sun at their backs. One paused and turned to look at the beautiful sunrise, awed by its beauty.

Wanting to share it, he tapped the shoulder of his friend, who turned to look and was equally awed.

Stop and consider this story for a minute to contemplate its meaning or meanings. One comes from recognizing the important role we have to help those in our lives be aware of meaningful things.

Related to that, however, is the truth that try as we might we can never MAKE another person be aware of something. We may WANT to share things with others, but they still have to turn, literally and/or metaphorically, to see them.

THEY have to do the physical and mental work.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve found what has become an even bigger lesson for me from this story. It’s that we all are being tapped on our shoulders all the time. Every second of every day we are offered opportunities to see meaningful things.

Many of us wonder who or what does what I’m calling this shoulder-tapping. Call it Source, or Light, or Intelligence, or God, or some other name. For my purposes, though, putting a name to what taps us is not the most important thing.

What’s important is to recognize that we are being tapped, the practice of focusing our attention. In other words, I have the responsibility to do the physical and mental work, to turn and look so to speak.

As I gain experience doing this, I learn there is also discipline involved in the practice. Undisciplined, my attention is drawn to all sorts of things — negative news stories, certain uses of social media, drama from the sports world — which distract me from what is actually meaningful.

I sometimes even fool myself into believing the distracting things are important.

Disciplined, I learn to see the difference between the distracting and the divine, between the pointless and the profound.

In time, I find that I’ve come to internally filter out the things that distract me, which allows me to gently focus on the divine and the profound.

Like a sunrise.