Wednesday, May 13, 2009It's all perfect! Or is it?
The world is perfect—you just don’t like It that way.
The Soul, which is your greatest reality, is perfect. You are already perfect in who you are and what you are. And although you may not know it yet, God’s plan for you, for your neighbor, and for the world, is perfect.
Remember, too, that it is the spiritual levels that are perfect; it is the Soul that is perfect. There’s no perfection on the physical level, so don’t worry about attaining perfection because none of us will ever be perfect here, although we can shoot for excellence. Also keep in mind that each of us is still evolving, changing, and growing, and part of our growth process involves making mistakes and making corrections.
(From: Timeless Wisdoms Vol. One by John-Roger, DSS)
In my last abundance email (subscribe here if you are not getting them) I said:
If I truly believe that this world is perfect just the way it is, then what am I holding onto anyway?
A reader commented:
What does “perfect” mean to you? In God’s perfection this world is perfect? With all the mayhem and cruelty and ugliness, how could a God of Love be responsible for this “perfect” world. I think not, my friend. I think the world is f----d due to we human beings. We conscious human beings work to make it better, never perfect ‘cause perfect ain’t available.
Instead of “believing the world is perfect”, how about believing the world is in need of help, in need of love, in need of commitment to improve. How about believing that I can accept the IMperfections of this world and do my best to make it better.
My own take on this is that the world is perfectly designed to give everyone the perfect experience they need. That’s what makes it the perfect school. And no matter what we choose it’s perfectly designed to give us the next perfect experience we need, positive or negative, as a result of that choice.
I resonate with Thoreau’s approach:
I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad.
Monday, May 11, 2009A Good Read and some Happiness
It's been extra challenging to find new takes on our financial crisis that are accessible, interesting, entertaining, and educational. This article from the Atlantic Monthly qualifies on all counts. (Hat tip to John F. for pointing this one out). It's long but it is worth it. If you don't want to plough through it here are some of my favorite excerpts to entice you to read the whole thing:
I haven’t depended solely on Merrill Lynch for advice. I believed I could find investments for myself. I stayed away from mutual funds because I couldn’t figure out who ran them. And I applied Warren Buffett’s famous dictum—Don’t buy something you don’t understand—to my trading, so I bought, in our Merrill Lynch account, such companies as Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble and Illinois Tool Works and Caterpillar, and these have been kind to us, until now. (I also bought the Internet company Ariba, because I heard about it from a guy who heard about it from a guy. It went up to about $1,000; I didn’t sell, of course, and now it’s at $8.) And every so often, I would follow the recommendations of the financial magazines, SmartMoney in particular, because for a long while I was an ardent consumer of financial pornography. No more. In the harsh light of recession, I find it hard to believe I listened to a magazine that, in August 2007, recommended American Express at $63 a share (a “conservative way to make hay from global credit-card growth”), which as I write this is selling for $13 a share; Wynn Resorts, $94 then, $20 now; HSBC, $93 then, $25 now; Washington Mutual, $36 at the time, seized by the government last September—rendering the stock worthless.
IT TURNS OUT that my crucial mistake was believing that the brokers and wealth managers and cable-television oracles who make up the financial-services industrial complex actually had my best interests at heart. Or so say the extremely smart—and wealthy—people I asked to help me figure a way out of my paralysis.
One of these people was Robert Soros, the deputy chairman of the fund started by his father, George. I went to see him at his office, where he spent two hours performing an autopsy on my assumptions.
“You think a brokerage should be a place you go to pay commissions for fair and unbiased advice, right?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“It’s not. It never has been.” He then cited another saying of Buffett’s: “‘Wall Street is a place where whatever can be sold will be sold.’ You are the consumer of their dreck. What they can sell to you, they will sell to you.”
“But they told us—”
He went on: “You should be disheartened and disappointed. But don’t kid yourself. You’re a naive capitalist. They were never your advisers. Do not for a moment think that a brokerage firm is your friend.”
“So who’s my friend?”
“You don’t have one. This is the market.”
“Okay, that’s Merrill Lynch. What about the others?”
“They’re not your friends,” Soros said patiently.
“What about Chuck Schwab?”
“All brokers move products based on volume and commission,” he said.
I had a benevolent, advertising-induced understanding of Schwab. It was the billboards: “I’ve got a lot less money. And a lot more questions. Talk to Chuck.” And: “It’s not just money. It’s my money. Talk to Chuck.”
I thought that perhaps Schwab, a discount broker, might be able to answer the question Soros could not: Why had my full-service financial adviser stopped calling me?
I did what I was told, and called Chuck. His spokesman intercepted the call. I explained that I was trying to understand the role financial advisers play in the life of the small investor, but the spokesman, Greg Gable, said that Chuck would not, in fact, talk.
“We’re not going to be able to help you out,” he said.
But then I thought, This is Bill Ackman standing before me. He’s a great investor. Maybe he can give me some advice.
So this is what came out of my mouth: “What do you tell the ordinary mortal—say, the person who works in the press that you talked about—what do you say to the person who has $20,000, $50,000, $100,000, or $200,000, maybe, parked somewhere doing nothing? What is your advice right now for that person?”
I looked around. The wizards in the room were having difficulty calculating figures of such humble size. I had thought $200,000 sounded like a large and unembarrassing number. But the room reacted as if I had asked, “Bill, I have 75 cents in my pocket. Do you think I should buy Twizzlers or a big red gumball?”
THE WAY I SEE IT, it’s all a con game,” Cody Lundin was saying. “What I mean is that Wall Street has always been an illusion. Now it’s an illusion that’s crumbling. Wall Street is like someone who’s having heart trouble. It’s in constant need of resuscitation, but after a while, it just doesn’t work anymore. People think that Bernard Madoff was unique, that he was an illusion, but he’s just an extension of the same illusion, the same con game. This is one of the reasons I don’t like to have any debt. When you have debt, you become part of this illusion, and sometimes you get trapped by it.”
I asked Cody how he invests his money. “I don’t believe in the intangible economy; I believe in the tangible economy. When I have extra money, I buy tools, food, or land. I like to be able to see what I’m buying. And I really don’t like debt, so I’d rather not have certain things than be in debt to anyone. I just feel better knowing that I don’t owe money, and I feel good knowing that I can take care of myself. That’s the American way, to be able to be self-reliant.”
For the record, I don’t think the grid is buckling under the weight of consumer debt or the mistakes of AIG. But we’re in a strange moment in American history when a mouse-eating barefoot survivalist in the mountains of Arizona makes more sense than the chief investment strategist of Merrill Lynch.
“People need a plan, they need skills, and they need supplies. What would happen if the ATMs stopped working for a couple of days? People would panic. But you won’t panic if you’re prepared to ride out a disturbance.”
(Seth Klarman) agreed with Robert Soros that the financial-services industry treats the small investor not as a client but as a source of ready cash. “The average person can’t really trust anybody. They can’t trust a broker, because the broker is interested in churning commissions. They can’t trust a mutual fund, because the mutual fund is interested in gathering a lot of assets and keeping them. And now it’s even worse because even the most sophisticated people have no idea what’s going on.”
After 15 years of pabulum, I was enjoying, in a perverse sort of way, receiving straight talk from masters of finance.
I found this interesting quote on happiness last week here
As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Caroline Adams Miller knows a few things about using mental exercises to achieve goals. But last year, one exercise she was asked to try took her by surprise.
Every night, she was to think of three good things that happened that day and analyze why they occurred. That was supposed to increase her overall happiness.
"I thought it was too simple to be effective," said Miller, 44, of Bethesda. Md. "I went to Harvard. I'm used to things being complicated."
Miller was assigned the task as homework in a master's degree program. But as a chronic worrier, she knew she could use the kind of boost the exercise was supposed to deliver.
She got it.
"The quality of my dreams has changed, I never have trouble falling asleep and I do feel happier," she said.
Results may vary, as they say in the weight-loss ads. But that exercise is one of several that have shown preliminary promise in recent research into how people can make themselves happier — not just for a day or two, but long-term. It's part of a larger body of work that challenges a long-standing skepticism about whether that's even possible.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009Focus
While doing spiritual exercises, a lot of people struggle with the idea that they can't steady or focus the mind. Very few people can hold the mind steady, however. So while you are chanting, you may start thinking of other things. But you can think of other things and still be chanting. You can do that. It's a mechanical thing. Don't stop the chanting, and don't try to control the mind. Just let the mind do what it wants, and you continue chanting. The mind is slowly trapping itself.
(From: Walking With the Lord by John-Roger, DSS)
Fascinating article on attention in today's New York Times. Excerpt:
Researchers have already observed higher levels of synchrony in the brains of people who regularly meditate.
Ms. Gallagher advocates meditation to increase your focus, but she says there are also simpler ways to put the lessons of attention researchers to use. Once she learned how hard it was for the brain to avoid paying attention to sounds, particularly other people’s voices, she began carrying ear plugs with her. When you’re trapped in a noisy subway car or a taxi with a TV that won’t turn off, she says you have to build your own “stimulus shelter.”
She recommends starting your work day concentrating on your most important task for 90 minutes. At that point your prefrontal cortex probably needs a rest, and you can answer e-mail, return phone calls and sip caffeine (which does help attention) before focusing again. But until that first break, don’t get distracted by anything else, because it can take the brain 20 minutes to do the equivalent of rebooting after an interruption.
“Multitasking is a myth,” Ms. Gallagher said. “You cannot do two things at once. The mechanism of attention is selection: it’s either this or it’s that.” She points to calculations that the typical person’s brain can process 173 billion bits of information over the course of a lifetime.
“People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money,” she said. “Do you want to invest your cognitive cash on endless Twittering or Net surfing or couch potatoing? You’re constantly making choices, and your choices determine your experience, just as William James said.”
Financial Quote of the Day from Paul Kedrosky:
An interesting comment from Nassim Taleb at today's New Yorker Summit. He argues that even 1980s level of economy-wide debt are intolerable today, in part because of the Internet:
“We have to be a lot more careful going forward, because we have globalization, the internet, and operational efficiency — which cannot accommodate debt.”
We live in a world with less slack than ever, whether you're thinking in epidemiological or financial terms (and they are analogous), and that has immense consequences for runs, of whatever variety.
Monday, May 4, 2009There really is hope!
Please take a moment to watch this 5 minute inspiring video about what can be done in a country with a little focus. We saw how Obama was able to use the Internet and the power of social networking to get leacted. Now watch how it was use to clean up a country. (Hat tip to charityfocus.org and to Mark Lurie for pointing it out time).
In May 2008 a massive country-wide clean-up day took place, bringing together more than 50 000 volunteers to clean-up illegal waste from all over the Estonian countryside. This extraordinary project helped to change the waste department system as well as public perspectives on the environment and the possibilities for civic action.
Last year, 650 active people got involved to plan and make that day happen. The initiators caught wind of its success and called a new project to life – My Estonia.
Friday, May 1, 2009More of Enough
As an interesting follow-up to yesterday's post, Superhero blog by Andrea Sher had this to say (excerpt):
If you are reading this you are probably overwhelmed. Right? (If you aren't overwhelmed I would love to know your secret!) But for the rest of us, we live in a world where we are juggling so many things. Whether it's juggling kids and work, a day job with your creative life, or all the other commitments and responsibilities we take on, it's hard not to feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. But something got clear for me today.
Really, truly. In the world of overwhelm there is never enough. There is not enough time, money, resources, to keep you going. Your heart is racing, you are always behind, you are not doing enough. It is a rough way to live. I know this from personal experience.
What I considered today was this: What if I decided what was enough? What if I decided that posting three essays a week was really, really enough? Or maybe two essays is enough. When I think about simplifying my life, I need to consider the question: How much is enough for me to feel satisfied? How much will get the job done? It occurred to me that it's possible that I already average about 2 or 3 posts a week, but I never feel the satisfaction of a job well done, or a sense of completion because I never declared what I was committed to. I never decided what was enough.
I can also see that I suffer from the same problem in the realm of finances. I don't create sales goals or budgets, I don't know for sure how much money I make or how much money I need to earn to keep my finances healthy and abundant. I simply bust my butt to make as much as I can, spend as little as possible, treat myself to cute clothes occasionally and pray that everything works out. This does not make me a bad person, and so far it has worked out okay, but I also rob myself of the satisfaction of knowing I am earning what I set out to. My default is to assume that I'm not earning enough, or not doing enough to earn that money, but a lot of the time I actually am.
Where in our lives have we not distinguished what enough looks like? Without this, we are constantly disappointed in ourselves, constantly afraid and thoroughly overwhelmed. And if we are creating realistic goals and still feeling overwhelmed, perhaps it's time to simplify again. Saying no is powerful.
And if you are a perfectionist like me, and wonder if good enough is well, good enough, I am here to say that it is. Good enough is really effin good.
36,000 people die a year of seasonal influenza and its complications in the U.S., so why the present manic outcry over Swine Flu?
From the Financial Times today:
The future is, of course, unpredictable. Flu is a notoriously fast-changing virus, and it may mutate into a much more dangerous form. Or it may turn out to be less lethal than normal seasonal flu, which kills 500,000 in a bad year.
Well, that was helpful.
I found these Public Service Announcements (1 1/2 minutes) from 1976 interesting--I ain't saying, I'm just thinking.