The Art of Closure

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

Bill looked around the room. Papers were piled high on the desk, files were on the floor and a few random sheets of paper found their way to the carpet, silently resting, waiting for their fate to be revealed. Bill was feeling panicky. The volume of paperwork had stymied his progress. He felt choked, but knew he had to act.

And more…

Ever been buried with work or a long list of things to do and just felt immobilized with angst, not knowing where to start? Me neither, not since I’ve learned the art of closure. Practicing closure can help maintain balance and curb the insanity that comes with jobs and projects and “things to do” that never seem to get completed – You know, those things where the status is always “pending” some type of action or response or something else that has to happen first and they just don’t seem to end. They linger like the pile in Bill’s office and they also occupy brain cells and space in our memory banks.

Closure can help. It’s a sense of finality that removes something from our list that doesn’t return. It’s the end of a project, the reconciliation of an agreement or the purging of the irrelevant and unnecessary from our psyche. It’s freedom to move on to something new. It’s the key to the cycle of life. Closure is popular as a New Year’s resolution because it cleans up the loose ends and let’s us move on. Here are a few ideas on how to integrate the art of closure into our routine:

– Know what’s pending. Make a list of ALL that needs to done. Don’t skip anything.

– Separate the list into things for us to do for ourselves and things to do for all others.

– On the list for all others, pick the easiest and get them done and cross them off the list – Anything we say we’ll do, we should probably see it through.

– On the list that is for us, get out the red pencil and cross off everything that is pending an action by another because waiting for someone else to do something first is like waiting and worrying about the bus coming. Assume it will and get it off the list for now. Then delete everything that doesn’t really matter and that no one will know if you do it or not. You can always add things back later but for now enjoy the peace of a short and more manageable list.

Closure creates a feeling of accomplishment. It adds the period that we all need to get on to the next thought. Now you can officially cross the reading of the Book of Szen off your list for this week. Doesn’t that feel good?
Szenippet: No thought is ever complete until it comes to life.

En Garde
A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

There was no way that Marcus would make the appointment on time. He started early, but ran into traffic, and then almost there, he realized he forgot the prototype. He became a bit reckless as he darted around cars, now on his second effort to get to the meeting of his life. Miraculously he made it. Shaken, but very ready.

And more…

Some people are so focused that nothing can dissuade them from their goal. Obstacles, setbacks, restarts, etc. – it doesn’t matter what they encounter they overcome and succeed. They feed on the stress for success and it just seems to make them stronger. Is it the training, knowledge, education, experience, or just plain luck that makes the difference? Maybe a little bit of each, but mostly what separates the always ready from the still chasing is not so much about the what as it is about the when.

We’ve all heard the expression “timing is everything” which implies that somehow good fortune puts us in just the right place and time to take advantage of an opportunity. And of course that does happen, but for the ever successful, never thwarted, and bound and determined success-chaser it’s not really about a timely event or coincidence that generates luck, it’s about all of the lucky and incredible moments that lead to it.

Here’s the rule: No moment should ever be taken for granted. This sounds pretty simple and probably not a bad idea, but for most of us we pack a zillion moments into each and every day that we let pass by without notice. It’s easy to rationalize that not every experience in the “now” will net something positive and incredible, so we pick and choose when to be alert and En Garde. That’s a big difference from Marcus who remained so present and aware that even under stress he attached himself to the very second where he stood and in that moment there is a calmness, grounding and internal readiness. The real beauty of this perspective is that all of us, by simply paying just a little bit more attention to the now and less to the then or when, can capture real life, drama, happiness and good fortune right when we need it most, which of course is always.

Szenippet: All moments have an equal chance of changing our lives.

No Will No Way

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

The leaves crackled under his step breaking the dark silence. He reached for the door and opened it slowly. Peering down the dimly lit hallway he looked and listened intently for a sign, sound, or a sense, and stepped inside. He felt the whoosh of the door slamming and froze. Fear swept in, but his will prevailed, leading the way.

And more…

Being bold in the face of fear doesn’t diminish the fear, but rather puts it in its place. Taking the steps we want, making the moves we seek, pushing our needle of success forward are all examples of following the will of our inner self, regardless of any fear or the obstacles seen or unseen. The willpower we posses is an incredible yet very complex system for making things happen – good things, bad things, anythings.

Things occur because when we seek outcomes and put energy toward it we literally create and we draw people and circumstances to our aid. Often the grander the goal the more willpower it takes, but sometimes, good luck helps us too. The opposite of willpower is “won’t power.” We use this when we are wishing “against” an outcome – something bad or we somehow fear that is about to happen, might happen or maybe something that will never happen ever; it’s all in how we see it. Won’t power happens by by simply turning off the will to let something just happen on its own. This lack of positive willpower looks a lot like indifference, where no effort nets nothing, no gain, or even loss.

Both options are always available and they play significant roles in our life. Generally speaking though I think that anything we put our energy toward will thrive and grow and what we ignore will wither and die. And all throughout the process we control the flow of “will” which is why there are no accidents in life. So doing “nothing” will also impact how life unfolds. Yes, it’s complicated, but it’s also a huge gift to be able to point to and then keep moving toward our dream whether the path is scary or not and even if the door slams behind us.

Szenippet: Willpower is desire in motion.

The Unseen Vision

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

The picture hook was all that was left hanging over the fireplace. The shaded lines still visible against the faded paint indicated that what was there nearly filled the entire space rising to the 12-foot high ceiling. He imagined that it was glorious and commanded attention, praise and awe. He then carefully removed the hook, and painted over its past.

And more…

The danger in planning a trip too thoroughly and carefully is that once we finally arrive at our destination, we only see exactly what we expected to see. We gravitate to the sights, events and venues that we thoughtfully charted in advance. The result is that the pictures we take match the ones in the tour guide and we deem the trip a success.

The same can be said for how we live our lives. We start with a menu of choices and options along with many helpful opinions and we fill in our days and nights checking off the milestones and piling up memories that create our own personal tapestry. When we plan, we create expectations and so often what we envision comes to be. It’s quite an elegant and sophisticated formula for living – Have a vision and move toward it.

What happens though when we’ve been there and done that too often? What if we go to the same job, spa, club, restaurants, resorts and events so often and predictably that, over time, instead of exciting us, we begin to grow bored? What then? What next? The answer is whatever.

As thinkers we have a distinct advantage and when we grow restless and are turning a page in our lives we can often see the choices fulfilled in our minds even before we move toward them. We can become so adept at imagining that we can play out nearly any scenario we desire, the good and the bad, in a mental preview mode. We begin to literally experience our future, head first, in thoughts before actions. So it’s up to us what strokes we place on the canvas of our minds and what work of art we’ll complete for all to see. We are all masters in the art of our life and we can turn what’s been inside and unseen into our own original masterpiece.

Szenippet: Planning is great, but it doesn’t help if your goal is to be surprised and excited with new possibilities.

In the Dark

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

Just before the light went out and darkness filled the room he noticed her robe slip from her shoulder and fall to the floor. He could hear the softness of the steps she took toward him. He thought on how many times he ran from those steps, but now, he was ready. He felt her touch and the darkness vanished…

And more…

So often we run from life’s gifts. We reason we’re not worthy or entitled or plead ignorance. Somehow though, love works her magic and we see the light go on. Illumination and readiness come together and what was not, becomes what is. It’s a beautiful crossing of the chasm of doubt into acceptance. That’s where the light shines brightest and that’s where love blooms.

Every seed of love needs nurturing to grow and to thrive. And for every seed of doubt uprooted, love’s roots take stronger hold. Every living creature needs to see the light to grow and in love the light shines strongest when it illuminates the corners of doubt and fear. As it washes its brilliance across the din of the past, it leaves a spark of light for the next hopeful moment. In love, it’s all about embracing the moments and our willingness to accept its gift and keep the light glowing.

…When he saw the robe fall to the floor it was a sign that what would happen next would change everything; there is always a clue to decipher when it comes to emerging from the dark. May your clues be obvious and fun to solve.

Szenippet: Being in the dark and not knowing keeps us from the knowledge we need to move. Once we move to the light, it streams its guiding glow and the movement it embraces makes us fearless.

Seven-Year Stretch

From the Szenippet file:

In celebration of writing and sharing the Book of Szen for 7 years, here is an encore of some of my favorites Szenippets:

– It doesn’t matter which path we take as long as we know where we’re going.

– There is no trip insurance for life’s journey.

– Always begin your song on a positive note.

– Less judging, more peace.

– The way we see the world is the only way that matters.

– The energy it takes to wait for something is always greater than simply reaching for it.

– Every thought carries the seed of creation.

– Once you are ready to give love, you open the door to receiving it.

– Whatever challenge you face can always be improved upon by changing your viewpoint.

– Remember, at the very end, all that matters has already happened.

– Peace always arrives the moment that ego leaves the room.

– Time stands still when we take advantage of her endless appreciation for how we spend the moment called now; while at the same time she honors life by rewarding us with second chances. Chances created because time is a constant partner not a participant. She is neither passive nor judgmental – she simply is. (I guess this is really more of a Szenip )

– An idea is what happens when input meets disposition.

– Messages and opportunities are sent all of the time, but until or unless you’re open to receiving them, they pass by into the dark expanse of “what if” – never to be retrieved and possibly lost forever.

– Just because something fits, doesn’t mean it belongs.

– Inspiration is that moment when you realize that you don’t need permission to create what your own heart has always known you could do.

– The only thing that separates the you today from the new and powerful you that’s meant to be, is the step that your heart is begging you to take.

Today’s Szenippet: In every life at least one dream comes true. What’s yours?

Rain of Fear
From the Now & Szen file:

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They have a special exhibit called the Rain Room. In this room, it rains everywhere except where you are standing, even if you move it follows and stops. Rain all around, but not on you. It’s the antithesis of the dark cloud following one around and a totally satisfying metaphor for those die-hard optimists that, even when completely drenched, never lose their positive view of their world.

I like to think I’m one of those glass mostly full types. So every day I fill up the glass and enter the world of unknown events and circumstances. A place that an encounter with other like – minded people is a possibility and always a joy when it happens. Sometimes, the glass just runs over. Then of course there are the mostly empty glass types. When I encounter these types, I try to share what’s in my glass. I sometimes pour it on, so to speak, to help resist the negative pull. Unfortunately it often doesn’t help and I sense that their glass has a large hole or sometimes, it’s not a glass at all but more like a tube or funnel. They can’t hold what they don’t seek and become so contrary that would likely get very wet, even in the Rain Room.

I think one reason that people hold on to the half empty perspective is fear – Fear to trust, fear to believe and afraid of the unknown. It’s easier to retreat when one is afraid. But it’s exactly the time when courage is required. And even though it is raining all around us, we can sometimes, and more often than we think, take a step into the downpour and never feel a drop.
Today’s Szenippet: Always begin your song on a positive note.

You’ve Got Male
From the Szenabling file:

Over the past few months as some of you know, I’ve been involved in the world of on-line dating. It’s a world of rejection, fear and hope. It’s 24/7 and although the names and the faces change constantly, the profiles and the messaging is eerily consistent. After a while I run out of gas and retreat. When this happens, my productivity tends to increase and I embrace my challenges and opportunities with more vigor and enthusiasm. This makes me feel better and more connected to clients and students and friends. It’s exactly the time when I’m at my very best version of Gary.

When this happens I start to absorb everything around me in a “connect the dots” kind of way. I uncover new insights and appreciation for just how beautiful and elegant life can be. I gobble up books to extract new nougats of knowledge to add layers of new thought onto my already solid foundation of positive thinking and loving that has always served me well. It draws me into self-evaluation and revelation and simply oozing with a revitalized sense of purpose and wonder. There is just so much to share and inspire that it spills uncontrollably out of me to anyone within earshot. Some of you reading this know exactly what I mean. It’s also when I miss love’s open arms the most.

That’s because love, in my view, presents a safe haven and allows us to strip away fear and gain access to our untethered soul that is our endless potential. Love added to the mix can ignite the possibilities way beyond what a single person can do. And so the search continues for just the right soul mate that can also see their own unlimited potential and appreciate how a simple joining of forces can change the world.

Szenippet: Love trumps fear and without fear we thrive.

Assumptive Algorithm

There is a wonderful book by Miguel Ruiz entitled The Four Agreements – Four things we can do to lead a better, more enriched life. One of the four agreements is “Don’t Make Assumptions.” Here is what the author says: “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” I totally agree that it is desirable to not assume anything, because an assumption quickly becomes a belief and it’s our beliefs, accurate or not, that determine how we see ourselves and the world we live in. That said, the world is spinning so fast that we’ve become accustomed to assuming. Making assumptions, jumping to conclusions and believing we’re right saves us time and stress, or so we think. Here’s how it works:

A (Message Sent) = B (Message Received)
B (Message Received) = C (Message Understood)
∴(Therefore)
A (Message Sent) = C (Message Understood)

A while ago, I sent a signed copy of my Book of Szen to a friend in Florida. A few months went by and I received an email that said that she never received the book. I had sent it (A) and actually had been wondering why I had not heard back or anything like maybe “thanks, I love it.” She was thinking I was maybe too busy to send it, or changed my mind or just forgot. I had assumed she got it. She had assumed I had not sent it (A never happened). And therefore we both believed something that was not a complete truth (B and C were missing). I sent another, which she received and then the first book showed up in the mail a few days later. I’m not making this stuff up.

What about the experience of sending or texting a message and not getting a response? We could easily (or maybe we have from time to time) jump to a conclusion that the other person is being rude because they obviously don’t care and are just ignoring us. What can happen sometimes is technology fails us and the message never got there. A friend just told me that she recently rebooted her smart phone and miraculously messages she had never seen appeared – some were very important and even critical too. It’s the same equation as above – B never happens so there can’t be a C.

The two examples I just gave can be easily explained and perhaps no harm is done. But what of the situation where the person sending the message believes that their intention is understood? This means that if two people or two companies (I’ve seen this before) or maybe two countries believe they understand each other, but they really don’t, it could be a recipe for disaster.

The implications of making assumptions in relationship are profound. Anywhere along the way, if one misunderstands the other and then acts upon it, it can create layers of misperception and wrong thinking. Here’s what the author says: “Just imagine the day you stop making assumptions with your partner and eventually with everyone else in your life. Your way of communicating will change completely, and your relationships will no longer suffer from conflicts by mistaken assumptions.”

What’s needed is another step – Message Confirmed. The reason this is important is because in step B where the message is received is also where a person lives. People have bias, preconceived notions, are too busy, can’t understand the message, or misread the message altogether. There are endless possibilities when people get involved. It’s also possible that the timing of the message finds the receiver in an off mood and so they send a return message that seems to be completely out of context. The bottom line is that there are countless opportunities to miscommunicate and much of it starts with the belief that we have everything we need to know to make a judgment. There has to be a better way.

Here’s a different model. It’s not just the movement of information; it’s the understanding that ultimately defines us.

A (Message Sent)
B (Message Received)
C (Message Replayed/Understood)
= D (Message Confirmed)
∴(Therefore)
Happy Endings (I assume you know what I mean)

It might be more work, but could also be just the thing to change our lives…

On A Personal Note
To quote myself, what follows is an excerpt from the Book of Szen. It’s lifted from a story entitled When Things Go Bad, which appears around page 110 as a reference.

“In the face of a mental, physical, financial or emotional meltdown, here are two things to remember:

1. You are not alone. You may feel like you want to be alone or maybe that no one understands or cares, but that is shortsighted and just plain poor thinking. There are people in your life that care and can help, even if it’s just listening to your plight. Invite them into a dialog with your inner and truer self and you’ll be surprised at the positive outcomes you can create.
2. Seriously, you are not alone. ‘Nuff said.”

I recently experienced a separation and loss that had a surprisingly devastating effect on me. For pretty much all of the time I’ve been writing these – over 6 years now – I’ve been in a loving and special relationship with a woman that became my best friend. Our journey together has certainly had its ups and downs and has been on again, off again for some time. For those of you that know the story, you know it’s been both a traumatic and sometimes glorious ride. We faced enormous adversity and even challenged death together and survived.

Our inability to advance the relationship any further stems from, in my opinion, our reluctance to take the leap of faith that love so often needs to survive and then thrive. That leap must be unconditional and it must be mutual in order to attain the fearless velocity love needs to overcome what sometimes appears to be insurmountable. I think we had the hope, but not the will. It officially went dark just recently. And although I knew it was inevitable, it still caught me off guard.

Love can seldom end clean,
For all of the tissue is torn
And each lover turned stranger
Is dropped into a ruin of distance
Where emptiness is young and fierce
John O’Donohue To Bless the Space Between Us

This emptiness is where I find myself now, but as I say so often on these pages – we all have the power to create a future that’s just perfect for us, and this inspired me to open a dialogue with my inner self and I began to read what SZEN had to say. I studied my own words, seeking some comfort and insight into what I need to do next. So, as I noted at the beginning, I decided to invite all of you into my story.

So there you have it. Just writing and sharing a small piece of my world with all of you makes it feel better already. My next steps are to emerge on the other side, as they say, by hitting the restart button, following my heart to its next glorious encounter. It should be fun. Wish me luck.

I’d love to hear from you and your thoughts. Thanks for being there and letting me share.

Szenippet: People can’t help you when they don’t know you need it.

Coming Around Again
“I want to be able to hear a love song and see a face,” she said to no one in earshot, as the music seemed to overtake the room and the mood.

Melanie had spent the last few hours scouring the photos and profiles of so many men on-line that it seemed like a blur, and the music was making it even cloudier. What she really wanted wasn’t clear to her just yet, but she for sure knew what she didn’t want. Facial hair, turned around baseball caps and bare chests were all signs to her to hit delete. Also anybody that was promising to be moving to her hometown of Seattle in just a few weeks did not make the short list either. The problem was the short list was really short.

Melanie had met a few guys over coffee in a “meet and greet” format. Usually within a nanosecond she knew if there would be date two. So far, after a couple of months, nobody made it to the second round. There were, however, a couple of encounters though that seemed promising, but ended abruptly, the same way: The conversation would be fluid and she would freely be sharing details of her broken romance with Robert, always making the point that she didn’t understand exactly why it had to end. After all, she had told her lost love so many times over the years just how great it was for her, and what it meant to her to have him in her life. It was always at this stage of the conversation where she found herself smiling and thinking to herself: “this could be good.” And then, just at that moment, before the thought could even take hold she would see the disconnect in her date’s eyes. He had checked out and without much more than polite conversation, the date was over.

She wondered what was causing these seemingly perfect matches to get up and leave right at the moment she was feeling most connected. She played back the dialogue in her mind, searching for clues and eventually came to understand that it wasn’t what she was saying, it was what she was not saying that was oozing out and changing the mood of the meeting. As she replayed her words over and over and over she began to see and feel for herself what these first dates could sense immediately; it was the feeling of anger and resentment, but why?

The real epiphany for Melanie came as she discovered the unnerving reality of her relationship with Robert was that she was the only one actually in the relationship. She was always the one that would articulate the love they felt for each other and how strong and special it was. She was always starting conversations with “I love you.” And now a few painful months had passed and she knew that she alone had been doing the work to make it go and grow. She alone saw a future and now in the process of reliving those four years, she honestly could recall only a few words, or gestures or signs that ever confirmed that Robert was on board and just as committed. Wow, talk about a reality check.

Once Melanie understood, she could let go, and finally hit the restart button. As the music once again floated to the surface – “…and I believe in love, and who knows where or when, but it’s coming around again…” – she began to see the face in the love song; it was she.

Szenippet: Sometimes we come out of love empty handed, which makes it easier to grasp the next time.

The One Step Process
From the Szenabling file:

There are two types of people: goal oriented and process oriented. For the world to operate effectively we need both. And as different as each type is, they can learn a lot from each other. Having a goal orientation is about recognizing the opportunities and clearly seeing the possibilities for achievement. A process orientation means understanding that things just don’t manufacturer themselves out of thin air, we have to have a plan.

Individually, we share a little of each orientation: The part of us that sees and sets the goals, and the part that finds a way to achieve them. A simple example would be taking a trip. First we decide where we want to go and next we determine the best means to get there. Often the more distant the destination, the longer it takes and the more it will cost.

In terms of personal goal setting and having a dream for our lives we can literally set any grandiose goal we choose, and sometimes we do, especially when we’re young. Sometimes however, we set the goal based only on what we think we can achieve. And quite often we get there. And as we get older we may even lower the bar further – making the easy choices. This happens because when we set a goal or a vision for ourselves that seems too lofty or hard to achieve, our internal process orientation side kicks in and we get frustrated because we can’t seem to find the resources or best way to get there or we think the price, be it effort, training, time etc. is too high. So we don’t go there. We can’t get there we tell ourselves and we reset our dream to accommodate our situation. And theses situations can often become cyclical. This means that every time we try to move on or move up we rethink it and end up not moving at all.

But what if we did not settle for only what we knew we could do, and dreamt of something that we really wanted to do? How would our world look then? How do we shift?

Here are a couple of thoughts: As we set our goal, imagine not only reaching it, but also what we would do next. This will help push the dream a bit farther out.

Concentrate on the how the outcome will feel. When considering our vision, we can’t focus on what it will take to achieve it, but rather the feeling we get once we arrive.

And finally, even though we may not know how the journey will unfold we have to maintain the vision and at the very least make a move in the direction by taking some type of action. Whatever our dream may be, there is at least one step we can take, one move we can make toward the dream and once we do, it draws the dream closer. The one step process removes the burden of having to connect all of the dots before we start. With one simple move in the right direction, a commitment of faith, we can set in motion energy of purpose that serves to align the dots on our behalf. All we have to do is believe, point and go.

Mantra Makeover
A broad definition of mantra is its an expression, a few choice words or sometimes a sound that when repeated over and over creates positive vibrations that allows one to feel the calmness and peace of a meditative state. We all have employed mantras to help us concentrate, or remind us of a particular goal we may have, or to build internal self-confidence and a positive attitude that we’ll be able to succeed at a specific task. The only true value of a mantra however is found in the experience, which it ultimately creates; in other words, if it’s working great, if not, find or create another. Here are a few ideas:
– Start with the end in mind. Make your secret goal an integral part of your mantra.
– Include a strong attribute you possess or want to possess. For example “my self-confidence insures I’ll achieve my ____.”
– Make it easy to remember, make it rhyme, or put it to music. Humming a mantra also sends a positive vibration.

– Repeat as needed until your mojo returns. A successful mantra can create a superstar mojo.

– Take all of the credit for however its changed your life. After all, it all came from you in the first place.

Szenippet: The best mantra is the one that connects your faith to your true desire. Find it and you’ll never be lost.

Win Lose & Draw
From the Szenabling file:

So many decisions we make, especially important ones serve us best when we’re in a position of strength. Being in charge, acting on desire and not just need, while controlling the variables gives us the power to call the shots in our favor. These are the times we relish because we know we can’t lose; it’s only a matter of how much we’ll win. Like having really good choices for deciding what job offer or scholarship to take.

One the other hand, many significant decisions emerge from weakness and happen because we really don’t feel we have a choice. And in those situations we just end up compromising and take the least worrisome route or often whatever is left to take. It’s not about winning at all; it’s about not losing too much. Like staying in a bad job just for the health benefits.

A draw is a situation that can keep us even. Not too many highs and not too many lows, somewhere in the nether world of neutral. Whereas a winner’s mentality is to keep going, like getting a push hand at the blackjack table usually means they’ll try another hand. Winners figure if they bet it once and didn’t lose, they might as well try it again and maybe win. The same hand for a losing mentality nets the same re-deal, but with the anticipation for a loss. Both tend to get what they’re looking for eventually.

There are also lots of things that turn out to be draws in life but with seemingly no option to re-deal. Some situations we negotiated, or compromised ourselves into, are just going to be, by their very nature, somewhere in the middle between winning and losing – situations that are neither painful nor blissful. They just are.

Over time what happens when the cards we’re dealt are just too predictable and we find ourselves in an endless draw state of mind, is we take the chance of getting bored with the game or worse yet, we’re asleep at the wheel, just going through the motions. Without any highs or lows we end up in the middle. A comfort zone for the ages and many would say that’s a good thing. Some wouldn’t.

If we find ourselves wondering about leaving the comfort zone we created, and we think we might want to shake it up or reshuffle our deck, the first thing to remember is when we leave, it’s a new game and a win/lose option is a real possibility. Well, do you feel lucky?

Szenippet: Taking something or someone for granted sets the course for loss.

Lose Some Win Some

Have you ever found money just lying there to be picked up? I mean even a loose dime or penny. I always pick up even the smallest amount because it sends a signal to my psyche that I’m attracting money in my life and conversely, if you don’t pick it up you send the signal that you don’t need the money. I believe that the universe doesn’t deal in denominations but only general principles and so you have to pay attention to your actions. This means that if you gain some money you need to give some money because that keeps the whole flow of money circulating in your life.

In broader terms it means that what goes out must come back. There is a perfect accounting system in the universe that monitors your personal giving and receiving quotient. And although it sometimes seems difficult to believe that whatever you send out there will come back to you in like kind, I’ve found it to be true. And this truth, more than any other, has helped shape my life.

A case in point: Two weeks ago I was in Las Vegas on business to attend a large convention. There were thousands of people milling around and moving quickly from one exhibit to the next and hurrying through common areas that literally were clogged with people. In the midst of this mass I was trying to follow my friend so that we wouldn’t get separated. The crowding was so intense that even if someone wanted to be followed, it was difficult as every slight little space that emerged was filled with somebody intent on reaching their own destination quickly. As I was concentrating on the person in front of me I noticed something drop to the floor right next me; it was a wad of cash.

Ignoring the possibility of being trampled by the throng, I scooped up the bills and quickly looked to see a man in a checked shirt from where the cash had fallen. It all happened so quickly and as I turned to see him he was absorbed into the mix of scurrying, hell-bent conventioneers. I pushed and shoved and stayed glued to his shirt, the only distinguishing feature amidst a sea of coats and ties. Finally, I was able to reach him and get his attention. I asked him if he had lost some money and he quickly noticed the windfall I held in my hand. “Yes,” he said, in an English accent and thanked me for returning it to him. We both turned and parted ways quickly being consumed by the crowd. All of this happened in just a few short moments and in those initial seconds I flashed on two personal examples in my life which have guided me to the conclusion that regardless of the size of the cache, it wasn’t my money and I had to get it back to the right person. I’ve told these stories here before but they are worth repeating. The first one takes place on registration day of enrollment in my first day in College. I had saved the money through hard work all summer and withdrew the funds the morning of registration. As I waited in line to pay for and confirm my classes, someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had dropped a large amount of cash (about $500). It was my tuition savings which had fallen out of my pocket. It was a great gift and an even better lesson.

The second example occurred in Las Vegas. Returning to my friends’ room in the wee hours of the morning I found a $100 bill on the carpet in the hallway. What luck! When I got to their room I announced to the group that I had just found $100. From the back of the room I heard: “I just lost $100.” I gave him the bill and said, “If you wake up tomorrow and find you didn’t lose it, please give it back to me. “ Of course it was his because that’s the way things tend to work for me.

Now getting back to the original story: As I was leaving Las Vegas, I was running late to meet some friends and partners but as I was passing the long row of gambling machines, my inner voice beckoned me to stop. I felt this incredible urge to play this video poker machine. It was a 25 cent machine so I pulled out five bucks and said to myself, “What the heck, it’ll only take a minute to lose this and satisfy the urge”.

I sat down and bet the maximum bet of 5 coins and immediately lost. On the next hand I was dealt a King, Queen and Jack of spades and two lower cards. I held the spades and was dealt the Ace and ten of spades – a Royal Flush. The machine loudly tallied my winnings and stopped at $1000. I “cashed out” and as I was leaving the casino I wondered how much there was in the wad of cash that I had found and returned earlier in the day. My guess was that it was about a thousand dollars – Makes cents to me.

The Bend in the Bow

Did you ever stop to think about what it is you really want in life? I don’t mean society’s goals like the two cars and home in the suburbs and two point two children. I mean what is it that you ultimately need and desire to make your life whole and happy? What outcome are you seeking from all of the effort and work you put into your day to day living. Is there a goal? Is there a strategy to harness your good will and effort and transform it into some semblance of personal reward or success? Is the effort you expend translating into return? How do we gauge return? How do we even know if we’re on the right track? The answer is that intuitively we all know if we’re moving in the right direction, we just know. But is that enough? As Will Rogers said: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll still get run over if you just sit there.”

Outside of the village, about a mile or two in an open meadow the “elder of the bow” would bring the youth and misdirected to a training mission. Out in the open they would practice and pretend about what life may present and how they might react and hopefully take advantage. The elder was the most patient and observing person in the village. This task was alternated every year and sometimes a woman would earn the right to teach the young how to achieve their desires. Whoever was selected was revered as teacher, mentor and prophet; they were honored for their patience and insight. The “elder of the bow” was considered to be one of the highest honors in the village.

This season the honor came to Jurica. She was the daughter of the chief and a princess in love with life. She knew completely the scope of the tribe’s heritage and destiny. She understood that the passing of the bow was not only symbolic but life changing. To know the “bow” was to know how to steer and direct one’s life. It was an exercise designed to create an epiphany for the student while providing the essential passing of the “baton” to new and younger generations. Using the “bow” was simple conceptually but perfection was anything but simple; it required strength, will and courage. As in life, what we seek most requires that we have the fortitude to pursue it and the skills to attain it, whatever “it” may be.

Using a bow to shoot an arrow at a target is not complicated but not everyone has the strength and vision to hit the target. It takes a great deal of concentration to deliver the arrow to its intended destination. Jurica would ask her students to prepare a mental image of the target before they ever really opened their eyes to see it. She taught them to be still and silent and to “feel” the arrow and how it would sit on the bow. She asked them to project the desired outcome in their minds and then let their arrow “fly” home; where it was supposed to be, drawn to be, its ultimate resting place. As they pulled back on the bow they could feel the tension and their muscles would shake trying to control and pull the bow back to its fullest and most lethal position. As they aligned the target in their sights they would strain to hold the bow back as far as it could go. This tension would guarantee the fastest and strongest release. At maximum pull the target would not only be hit but penetrated. The arrow would pierce through and exit on the other side. The other side was metaphorically called the future. With practice the students would routinely cut through and reach the other side.

The lesson was always the same: Stay and be focused. Use your strength to propel the strongest and fastest arrow. Pick your target wisely.

Once we know that we are destined to achieve what we want, we then have to be careful and diligent in picking the target. Hitting the mark is only significant if we hit the “right” mark. For most of us the goal is to see what it is we want to “hit.” The tools and training to hit “it” are simply a matter of practice. The only reason that we don’t reach the goal today is because we don’t see it. It is somehow hidden around the corner out of sight and therefore out of mind. And sometimes it is right in front of our eyes and we look past it not recognizing its closeness.

If we can remember that we’re given the innate talent to accomplish whatever we desire, then all we need to do is to have the desire. The desire comes from within and is not a pre-packaged, contrived and generic goal. It is personal, profound, unique and always within our ability and reach. Dig deep and listen to your heart, it’s telling you where to aim. And use your inner vision to virtually see your calling and then, and only then, when you believe it possible, you will make it happen…bull’s-eye.

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When Things Go Bad

From the Szenabling File:

“So I’m down and so I’m out but so are many others. So I feel like trying to hide my head ‘neath these covers.” *

Sometimes things come at us and we feel helpless and simply want to hide. We wonder what we did to deserve the bad times and how in the world we will survive. It’s just one thing after another in waves of disappointment and fear and even the strongest of us lose faith. And of course when we lose faith, we lose everything.

One Tuesday morning a father was taking his two young girls to school. He had to stop on the way to buy some gas. He looked at his wallet and saw seven dollars – a five and two ones. The ones would go to his daughters for lunch and his last five dollars would go into the tank. As he watched the gas pump counting out the last pennies he possessed, he looked at the car he was driving (a fifteen year old Oldsmobile with no air conditioning, power steering or radio and bald tires to boot) and wondered how in the world he would be able to take care of his children. Business was horrible and the rent was late. The click of the pump brought him back to the present and he had to hurry to get the kids to school on time. He jumped into the car and sped off, but he had neglected to take the hose out of the gas tank and pulled it right out of the pump dragging it behind the car as a type of icon for his own personal nadir. He wanted to cry.

“But I’ll keep my head up high although I’m kind of tired. My gal just up and left last week, and Friday I got fired. I know it’s kind of funny but things can’t get worse than now.” *

Bad things can happen to good people. Negative things can happen to positive people. And unexpected things can happen to people that plan. Such is life and often the yin and yang of our existence treats and exposes all of us to situations that beat us up, bring us down and sap all remnants of positive energy right out of our psyche. How we react in these situations determines to what extent we can be controlled by what’s going on “outside” versus what we know to be true about ourselves on the “inside.” We could lose money, love, and people in our lives and begin to feel that somehow we deserve the bad luck and that it’s entirely our fault. We also know the pain of not being able to help someone we care about navigate through difficult times, perhaps we even have first hand experience: Be it divorce, family death, illness, job loss or whatever, it often feels like the pain, stress and sorrow will never end.

However, even though we may slip into ennui of pity and desperation, we can’t forget that the engine inside of us is still beating with a force of will that is legendary. The same willpower that creates heroes from POW’s and inspiration from darkness works inside each of us to bring us through the challenges we face. An inner sanctum of positive power is available to help us succeed in the midst of defeat and thrive amongst the barren landscapes we sometimes face. Not my law; God’s law.

I’ve been told and I believe that life is meant for living and even when my chips are low, there’s still some left for giving.” *

In the face of a mental, physical, financial or emotional meltdown, here are two things to remember:

1. You are not alone. You may feel like you want to be alone or maybe that no one understands or cares, but that is shortsighted and just plain poor thinking. There are people in your life that care and can help, even if it’s just listening to your plight. Invite them into a dialog with your inner and truer self and you’ll be surprised at the positive outcomes you can create.

2. You are not alone. ‘Nuff said.
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Today’s Szenippet: When facing adversity or just stupid and nasty people remember that your strength lies in your own heart. You are here to accomplish great things and that is exactly what you will do, whether your enemies like it or not. Play on; it sounds so sweet.

* Lyrics from a song entitled “Cycles” performed by Frank Sinatra.
From the Books of Szen©

I Know it Hurts

From the Szenabling File:

Children of all ages are so cool. They just wake up and live every day and pile on experience after experience until they are exhausted and ready for bed. A child looks at life with wide eyes and no fear. They step into every situation without any opinion or bias. They encounter opportunity and obstacles in exactly the same way – there it is, now what? Whatever they choose, they remain happy with the decision and if something doesn’t work out they move on, not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically too. And if it does work out, they enjoy it to the max.

When we observe children, we see the way things should be. We see their wonder and quest for adventure. We see them fall and immediately get up again, unless of course an adult intervenes: You know, when you see a child take a bad fall that looks really painful there is always a moment between the fall and the reaction when they stop and think about their situation. They actually take an internal assessment of their condition and consider if the pain is worth stopping the fun. They also, very slyly, look to you to see your reaction. They can tell by the expression on your face and your body language what is supposed to happen next. If you start running towards them screaming, “Oh my God are you okay?” they will break down in tears or maybe screams. Ignore them and they bounce back up. This is an important moment in parenting.

When my youngest son, Adam, was still pretty young, about 6 or 7ish, he took a ride on a go-cart with his friend’s dad, our neighbor. The dad was showing off and not paying too much attention to the fact that Adam was dragging his feet on the pavement and in the process creating some pretty horrendous bruises. As they sped by, going faster and faster, Adam was smiling wider and laughing louder. When they finally stopped, it was obvious from the blood that something wasn’t right. My little boy had scraped a few layers of skin right off of his feet. Ouch, I thought, that has got to hurt.

I looked at him and saw that he also saw the blood and looked at me as if to ask how he should react. I knew that if I ran up and started tending to his wounds he would have started to cry – a basic cause and effect situation. I chose, however, to remain calm and not react. Adam responded with a smile and actually wanted to go on another ride. I stepped in and suggested that he let some of the other children take a turn. He was okay with that (as he limped to the curb). By then his mom had seen what had happened and was bringing out the first aid kit. Once she applied the first dab of medicine on his scrapes, he cried … I paid a visit to the neighbor.

The entire experience was a lesson in the power of our perspective and thinking to keep us balanced, even when confronted with real pain. We can learn from observing our children that there is a huge threshold for pain and so much of what we’re feeling is a function of what we think we are “supposed to feel.” That is, an obvious and expected reaction is only one option for us when we face our own drama and misfortune. What other choices do we have? The answer can be found by following two simple rules:

1. Step outside of yourself and try to observe your situation from a distance. Be still. When you view life as if in a movie, you can use that detachment to embrace a more reasoned, calm and positive reaction to what you’ve been dealt; you rise above it.
2. Avoid overreaction and ignore the urge to retaliate or blame. Sometimes things, even real bad things, happen and there is no one to blame, nor is there anyone that will reimburse you for your pain.

I know it hurts when we encounter pain, but not nearly as much as when we see those we love suffer or sadly, even leave us. If you’ve experienced pain or loss you fear in your heart that it may not ever leave you, but if you can remain open and childlike, the pain will not own you either.
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Today’s Szenippet: Experiencing pain is a part of life but sometimes we hold on longer than we should and if we don’t let it go, it will haunt us and eventually become the norm instead of the exception.

The Time is Now

From the Szenabling file:

One of my favorite topics is time and its relative impact and role in all of our lives. Time is a universal given and very likely the most discussed subject and concept of all time – pun intended. When we run out of time, we’re late and when we have too much time, we’re bored. We blame time for stealing our lives and yet we are grateful for time when our lives are being filled. Time is our friend when we use it wisely, and our enemy when misspent. We can have all of the time in the world and still miss a deadline and conversely, we are capable of achieving miraculous outcomes in a split second.

The paradox of time is that we sometimes need more of it but often have time to kill. The reason for all of this is simple: time can’t be stopped or saved for another time. Time only exists in the moment we’re in – right now, not later, not before and not on demand. And what we have in common with time is that we share its essence of “being.” That is, we are who we are in the present. We don’t/can’t live in the future or the past, although many try. And even though we cherish the good times of the past and pray for better times ahead, nothing really happens except in the now. So how is your “now”? How could it be improved? What’s the best way to spend the time you have? Here are few ideas:

Don’t watch the clock. Clock watching is a sign that means you don’t want to be where you are and are waiting for a time to be doing something else, somewhere else. Remember that “a watched pot never boils” and so rather than focusing on the clock, focus on the room or the people in the room or whatever activity is going on. Being engaged in life makes the clock tick a lot faster.

Change your habits – less routine creates more life. When we do the same thing the same way we go through the motions and miss opportunities to create. Routine allows us to disengage from whatever activity we’re in because “we can do it in our sleep” which also means we’re not awake to our surroundings and thus miss moments of new possibilities. Doing anything by rote may provide “think” time but in the process lets “real” time escape.

Honor time – to every season there is a time – a time to reap and sow and laugh and cry and live and die. Yes, in reality, things must be done and so they will, but sometimes we expand our work to fill the time allotted. By stretching the activity we become inefficient and predictable. We’re not here to fill time; we’re here to mine it.

Time is not neutral. It absorbs and accepts the role we give it and thus becomes positive or negative depending upon our own view point. “Time waits for no man” is still true but it is also true that no man should wait for time because now is all we have. Use it wisely.

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Today’s Szenippet: Time stands still when we take advantage of her endless appreciation for how we spend the moment called now; while at the same time she honors life by rewarding us with second chances. Chances created because time is a constant partner not a participant. She is neither passive nor judgmental – she simply is.

From the Books of Szen©

It Pays to Listen

I don’t know about you but I have this inner voice that follows me wherever I go. It tells me what is right and what is wrong and it is way more than a conscience. It can live and share beyond the rights and wrongs and the goods and bads. Unlike the conscience, it doesn’t wait until something happens to advise you, it actually can lead you to a decision. It can literally tell you what the real you is supposed to do. And it does this all of the time, 24-7, when you’re awake or asleep. It’s a constant companion and barometer; like an angel, soul, basic intuition or instinct.

What makes this happen is software. The software that is required is simple and God-sent. Being human, we have an extraordinary nervous system that is aware of what’s all around us, even if we don’t consciously recognize it ourselves. It’s built in and works forever for everyone. Sometimes though, we drown out the voice inside and do what is expected and perhaps easy. When we ignore the inner voice we compromise our life to meeting others’ expectations. We lose authenticity and become “un-grounded.” By not paying attention to what is calling to us, we miss the obvious and are left with seeking the hard to find.

Learning to hear one’s inner voice can sometimes be difficult. We may hear it but we don’t recognize its intuitive power. We discount it before we absorb the message; In other words, we are given the right coordinates but often choose to follow a map that was prepared for us by someone else. We take off on our journey but it’s not really our journey at all. The map that was provided was prepared by another force and they have a different goal and destiny in mind. By missing the cues from our inner voice we may be tempted to go with whatever voice is loudest or persistent. This leads to a wrong-way journey towards unhappiness.

Your inner and private and totally secret voice is the inbred guidance system that you were created with. It is programmed just for you and uses all of your talents and desires to initiate the perfect and bountiful journey that was pre-ordained and rightfully yours to enjoy. All you have to do is listen to your heart. That’s where the voice inside resides; and in your heart, your future and your calling awaits your command. Sometimes it is a big calling and other times it is of smaller consequence. And because you won’t know which is which, you must follow every single even subtle impulse that guides and leads you knowing that each tug on your heart is a step to your own special one-of-a-kind destiny.

A case in point: Last week I was driving through an area where I used to work and I was driving past a small market that I used to frequent. Something told me to stop and I was compelled to pull in to the parking lot. I exchanged pleasantries with the owners and we spent a few moments catching up on our respective lives. Before I left, something told me to buy a couple of lottery tickets. I did.

The next day I was amazed that I had won several hundred dollars – but not that amazed. That morning, even before I checked to see the winning numbers, I had already put my name on the back of the tickets in a sort of pre-cognition expectation. I was told to expect to win and so I acted accordingly.

Many opportunities present themselves every day and yet we don’t listen to their instructions and don’t heed their hopeful nudge to a better day than we originally imagined. Wake up, listen, pay attention and follow the directions that are being sent from your creator. You’re here for a reason and until you arrive at your ultimate destination there may be lots of chances to enjoy the journey along the way. I bet there is one calling you now; listen and the next steps you take could change your life.

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Today’s Szenippet: Messages and opportunities are sent all of the time but until or unless you’re open to receiving them, they pass by into the dark expanse of “what if” – never to be retrieved and possibly lost forever.