I’ve been thinking about Monday’s post. It ended with these words:
Today, I’ll let go of the thoughts that have me trapped…Today, I’ll let go, and see the sky. Today, as the moments fly, I’ll fly with them!
That reminds me of the old Russian story of the two friends who were hiking in the dark and got separated. One calls out, “I’ve caught a bear!” His friend says, “Well, bring him here!” The first says, “He won’t come.” The friend says, “Okay, you come here.” He says, “He won’t let me.”
We all experience fears, regrets, resentments, hurts, etc. But sometimes, when we try to let go of these thoughts—they won’t let go of us! (As someone said, our problems won’t kill us—but the way we think about them might.)
That’s when it’s time to fight back; it’s time to do something to break the cycle.
That’s what Henry David Thoreau did. He looked around and saw that most people were living lives of “quiet desperation.” They were trapped, imprisoned by what Blake calls “the mind-forged manacles.” The bear wouldn’t let them go!
Thoreau didn’t want to live like that, so he did something. He built a one-room cabin on the shore of Walden Pond and lived there for a couple of years, working things out.
What did he think about? What did he work on? He said,
“I went to the woods to learn to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what is not life, living is so dear.”
I love that. How important it is to just find a little quiet now and then, to clear away all the clutter and just be deliberate. Just to try to let life teach us. Just try to cut through all the noise and fragmentation and boil it down to the few things that truly matter—the things that make life “dear.”
Thoreau is saying, we can’t take for granted that we know how to be alive and how to live. There is an art to living and being alive, an art we can deliberately practice. And he thought that was important enough that he took some time off to work on it.
He also wrote: “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.”
I hear him saying: “Stand up for your life! Don’t let anything hold you down! You are the only you there’s ever been and today is the day you’ve been waiting for. Fight for aliveness today! You do not have to live what is not life. It’s not required.”
But how do I do that Henry? Where do I start? Do I have to move into a one-room cabin for a couple of years?
He says, just start with today: “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of the arts.”
Think about that. Is he right? Is that correct?
To draw on your humor, your courage, your innate wisdom, your compassion, your aliveness—to use these to affect the quality of this ordinary day—is that actually a higher art than music or painting or novels?
Well, what do you think?
There’s one way to find out.
Guest post by J. M. Hawkins
I feel uptight. I’m afraid to let go, to try anything new.
Just hang on and you’ll get trapped in a hang-up—which is no way to live. Let go and you’ll make an incredible discovery.
Which reminds me of a story…
The Mountain Climber and the Rope
The mountain climber hung onto the rope for dear life. The only problem was, he had reached the top of the mountain years ago, but he had never taken his eyes off the rope; he had never looked at the majestic view. The rope had become his security. The thing he’d hung onto had become his hang-up. He was trapped.
Then one day, he remembered these words: “He called them to the edge of the cliff. He pushed them off. They flew!” He smiled, lifted his eyes…and let go of the rope. He stood straight and looked around, and his spirits soared. He had learned that it’s never too late to quit just hanging around, never too late to simply let go of the thing that is hanging you up and holding you back.
“They flew!” he thought. “The moments are flying by…and I’ll fly with them.”
Today, I’ll simply let go of the thoughts that have me trapped, the fear that steals my energy, the hurt I’m hung up on, the resentment that keeps me stuck. I’ll realize that I have the power to let go of the things that are holding me back and holding me down.
Today, I’ll let go, and see the sky. Today, as the moments fly, I’ll fly with them!
*The Dear Soul/Dear Life dialogs by J.M. Hawkins are adapted and used by permission. They are excerpted from his collection, Word From Soul City and were used in discussion groups across America in response to the Life That Loves to Happen seminars with Landon Saunders.
Monday’s post, “Don’t Sweat It!” reminded me of Richard Carlson’s little book, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff…And It’s All Small Stuff.”
But isn’t it strange how the “small stuff” can sometimes get to us in a big way?
I was driving home, tired. We have a garage that fronts onto a main street in the city and as I pulled up, I saw a big pickup parked in front of our garage, directly under the “No Parking” sign, so that I couldn’t enter. The owner of the pickup was right there, so I pulled over, jumped out and let him have it! And it felt really good—for about a minute.
And then, as I walked away, it felt horrible. I thought, “Where did that come from?” It was a hot day, so I went into the house and got some ice cream bars. Then I walked back and found the guy with his work crew next door. He saw me coming and bristled, but I said, “That was stupid, you didn’t need that, and I don’t want to be like that!” He was gracious, we had a more human moment, and I gave the ice cream bars to his workers.
That experience reminded me: (a) I’m only human, (b) life comes straight at us, sometimes without warning, and (c) it’s important to stay alert to what is Small Stuff and what is Big Stuff. And the truth is, there is a whole lot of Small Stuff and only a few things that qualify as Big Stuff.
A famous writer was walking in New York City with a friend. They stopped in a newsstand and, for some reason, the clerk was very rude to the writer. The writer responded courteously, even though the clerk continued to be quite rude.
As they left, the writer’s friend said, “Why did you keep responding like that when the man was so rude to you?” The writer answered, “Because I didn’t want him to control who I am.”
So, Not Sweating the Small Stuff is not only about preserving our own peace of mind—though it is that. It’s also about the kind of persons we most want to be in the world.
And who you and I most want to be—ah, that is not “small stuff.” That’s Big Stuff.
I’ve been thinking about Monday’s post: The Way of the Cookie vs. The Way of the Crumbles.
What a simple but powerful idea: When we love “partially” we end up fragmented and frustrated; but when we love with our whole self, this helps us become whole human beings.
I admit, this is challenging. There are always things that seem to get in the way of loving with our whole self. So to help us with this, here are:
10 Reasons to Embrace Loving With Your Whole Self
(In no particular order.)
- Genuine Love is More Than a Warm Feeling. Love is what you do, how you live, what you cherish and value, what you care about and are devoted to, what you fight for—even when the feelings are not there.
- It’s Easier To Handle All The Little Things in a Relationship When You’ve Got a Handle On The One Big Thing. The determination to love with your whole self puts all those little problems and annoyances and frustrations in perspective.
- Expectations are Expectorations. To withhold love because you “expect” something from the other person is like spitting in the wind: it’s going to come back on you.
- Taking People for Granted Turns Our Souls to Granite. It leads to hard-heartedness. But accepting the challenge to “Take no one for granted” opens our eyes and awakens our souls.
- The Way of the Cookie Can Brighten an Ordinary Day. Loving with your whole self makes even humdrum days feel more special. (Sort of like having a cookie!)
- That Ornery Person in Your Life May Be the One Who Needs Your Care and Kindness the Most. Is it easy? No. But if we’re serious about making the world a better place, it’s a great place to start.
- You Can Love Your Work And The People You Love. These are not in competition. We can care deeply about both—and, to be whole, we must. Work is the prose of our lives, love is the poetry, the music.
- Loving Freely and Joyfully is About Living Life in the Overflow. It takes you beyond the glass-is-half-empty or the glass-is-half-full to a glass that overflows with gladness and generosity.
- Giving Your Whole Self to Love Lets You Live For Something Larger Than Yourself, Larger Than Life, and Even Larger Than Death—and something that money can’t buy.
- Loving With Your Whole Self Makes Things Better. As James Taylor sings: “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel. You know that, things are going to be much better if you only will.”
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Welcome to The Living Conversation
“I did not wish to live what was not life; living is so dear. I wanted to live deep.”
— Henry David Thoreau
Someone has said that the greatest source of stress is not the petty annoyances, frustrations and problems.
The greatest source of stress is the living we don’t do—that underlying feeling that we’re somehow missing out, or not living the way we could be.
And the greatest source of joy? The living we do well.
The Living Conversation is about mining that joy for all it’s worth! It’s based on the belief that every person counts and it’s never too late to have a life that loves to happen, no matter what happens.
This blog is based on the groundbreaking work of Landon Saunders and the Heartbeat educational organization over the past 50 years. (See the About page for details.)
Our brief posts come out two or three times a week and there’s never any charge or obligation. This is a public service.
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