Friday, July 24, 2009Happiness
Thanks to Nancy for pointing out this great article by Pico Iyer on the Dalai Lama.
My favorite part:
Think in terms of enemies, he suggests, and the only loser is yourself.
Concentrate on external wealth, he said at Town Hall, and at some point you realize it has limits — and you’re still feeling discontented. Take his word as law, he constantly implies, and you’re doing him — as well as yourself — a disservice, as you do when assuming that any physician is infallible, or can protect his patients from death in the end.
None of these are Buddhist laws as such — though in his case they arise from Buddhist teaching — any more than the law of universal gravitation is Christian, just because it happened to be formulated by Isaac Newton (who said, “God created everything by number, weight and measure”). I’ve been spending time for 18 years in a Benedictine monastery, and the monks I know there have likewise found out how to be delighted by the smallest birthday cake. Happiness is not pleasure, they know, and unhappiness, as the Buddhists say, is not the same as suffering. Suffering — in the sense of old age, sickness and death — is the law of life; unhappiness is just the position we choose — or can not choose — to bring to it.
Monday, June 22, 2009Inspiration
Absolutely stunning shots of ice in Greenland. It will transport you to another world.
A must read short article on the thoughts of a 90 year-old vibrant Rabbi, 6 Reasons to Grow Old. Excerpt:
Tranquility tops his list. “You have achieved in old age what you have wanted to, if you are fortunate,” he said. The important battles have been waged, the decisions made. “You no longer have to do the pushing, the striving, the struggle.”
“You don’t rush to quick action,” Rabbi Haberman explained. “You’re more likely to stop and think.” These days he’s hardly indifferent to the world’s problems, he added, but he’s less inclined to think he can solve them, or that they’re soluble at all.
Americans are activists by nature, but “more happens to us than we cause to happen,” he has found. “You have to accept the unalterable.”
Moreover, the rabbi confessed, he’s increasingly apt to consider the possibility he’s wrong, a gift of old age (fourth on the list) he labeled “liberation from the compulsion to set everyone else straight.” He has loosened up, he told me, since his more dogmatic youth.
Each night before bed, he recites in Hebrew a passage from Psalm 31: “In God’s hand I entrust my spirit, when asleep and when awake/My body and spirit, God is with me, I shall not fear.”
“And I leave it at that,” the rabbi said.
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.
Thursday, April 30, 2009Enough
It's understanding that lifts the consciousness.
It's not saying understanding;
it is living understanding,
it is doing understanding,
it is where, in the midst of misery,
you still have understanding.
People say, "But I'm confused. I don't understand."
I say, "That's your concern."
For you must still keep breathing,
even if you're confused,
and you must still eat,
even if you don't understand,
for no one will do these things for you.
Oh, you might get a slave for a while,
but even slaves eventually say,
"When do I get mine?"
And the master always answers, "Later."
And so the slave revolts.
But if the slave is smart, it just evolves.
For at that point of evolution,
you find out that the one who has served you
has been your god,
and the one who has understood you
has been your light,
and the one who walks with you
has been the Beloved.
And you never had to go anywhere.
(From: The Tao of Spirit by John-Roger, DSS)
I have had two examples in the last week of people (not on MSIA staff) coming to me with not feeling they have enough. They had a good paying job, and were healthy, and one even had a great relationship yet they sought more. I advised one today, (unsolicited--there are still too many times where I need to keep my mouth shut!) to learn to enjoy where they were. Then they would have a new skill that they could apply to anywhere they went. They smiled--unknowingly.
Seth Godin's post below is about business but it resonated with my thoughts above:
Infinity--they keep making more of it
If you had a little business in a little town, there was a natural limit to your growth. You hit a limit on strangers (no people left to pitch), some became friends, some became customers and you then went delivered as much as you could to this core audience. Every day wasn't spent trying to get bigger.
There's no limit now. No limit to how many clicks, readers, followers and friends you can acquire.
I don't think this new mindset is better. It shortchanges the customers you have now (screw them, if they can't take a joke, we'll just replace them!) and worse, it means you're never done. Instead of getting better, you focus obsessively on getting bigger.
You're at a conference, talking to someone who matters to you. Over their shoulder, you see a new, bigger, better networking possibility. So you scamper away. It's about getting bigger.
Compared to what? You're never going to be the biggest, so it seems like being better is a reasonable alternative.
The problem with getting bigger is that getting bigger costs you. Not just in time and money, but in focus and standards and principles. Moving your way to the biggest part of the curve means appealing to an ever broader audience, becoming (by definition) more average.
More, more, more is rarely the mantra of a successful person.
There are certainly some businesses and some projects that don't work unless they're huge, but in your case, I'm not sure that's true. Big enough is big enough, biggest isn't necessary.
Thursday, March 12, 2009Feeling Good--and Responsible
My brother sent me an interview with Terry McBride, CEO of Nettwork Music Group. I thought this comment from Terry was worth quoting here:
To me all emotions are simply choices. You can choose to be angry, upset, or wound up in stress, or you can choose to be happy, easy-going, and of a quiet mind. Once you understand the power of choice, you will be much happier even in tough times.
It complemented today’s Loving Each Day:
You are the one in charge and responsible for your life, and even if you've empowered something or someone else through blame or playing the victim, you are still in charge and responsible for your life. You can't get away from it.
(From The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS with Paul Kaye)
Here is a feel good five minutes. (Hat tip to my Kaui’i buddy Brian Carson). The piece gets better and better as it goes along.
Sunday, March 8, 2009Ranting and Raving
Last week I took an acquaintance out for coffee at the new Urth Caffe in Downtown Los Angeles. By the way, keep a visit to Urth in mind when you are next in L.A. It's really worth a visit to see the new freshly emerging downtown.
Anyway, I took the opportunity to show this person around and in the process rant and rave about the economy, the corruption, the dishonesty, etc.--you know, what I have been ranting and raving about here on this blog.
The person's response was that I was not being very loving. And the next day they told me that they didn't find me neutral on some of the other subjects I covered.
I thought I was having an animated, engaging conversation with a new friend, and instead I am being responded to from the spiritual high ground. Needless to say that was my last rant with this person.
I think we all need a safe place to express ourselves, without paying a therapist for the privilege. And if the other person can do the same then we have a bonding and human interchange. I think it is good to speak our minds for a number of reasons:
1) It is healthy. It just feels better to get things off our mind/chest, instead of letting them fester inside of us.
2) Sometimes unless we voice something we don't realize how stupid it is. Inside of us we hold things that make perfect sense, until we speak them out and articulate them. Sometimes we realize it is nonsense and can let them go. Very freeing.
3) Just openly communicating creates bonds and relationships which have been found to be essential to good health and longevity.
So this this article on Being and Mindfulness by Judith Warner certainly resonated with me, as you will see if you read it.
And the Loving Each Day for Saturday, the day the above article came out, added to the irony:
No matter what is going on in your life, you can always take a moment to focus on your breathing. When you find yourself in a tense situation, for example, you may notice that you are holding your breath. Putting your attention on your breathing can help you relax and immediately be in the here and now. This practice, found in many spiritual traditions, is often referred to as mindfulness, being present, or living in the now.
You may ask, since we're breathing all the time, why do we need to practice it? What we're practicing is conscious awareness of the breath. Then breathing becomes a concentration exercise that not only focuses the mind but brings many healing benefits as well.
- John-Roger with Paul Kaye
(From: Momentum, Letting Love Lead - Simple Practices for Spiritual Living, p. 61)
And this Tom Friedman article is definitely worth a read. He is spot on.
Monday, February 23, 2009The Good, the Bad, and the Adorable
Here's the paradox:
Spirit has always been here.
And for the most part,
it seems like we've always been here.
So if we've always been here
and it's always been here,
why are we not knowing
that we're both here?
What is this thing inside of us
that stops us from knowing
what's going on?
(From The Tao of Spirit by John-Roger, DSS)
I am not a political person. I am not an activist and politics has not been an interest of mine. I do feel privileged to be able to vote. People have fought and died for that right and in a strange way I feel I am honoring them by voting. I don’t have an allegiance to any party. I don’t care about the parties or partisanship. What I do crave for is good, honest leadership. That last sentence, while true for me, is of course a set-up.
I voted for Arnold Schwartznegger for Governor of California because I thought he would be a refreshing change. He promised not to raise taxes. Last week he broke that promise and has to al large part broken his ties from the Republican Party as a result. When his term expires and he leaves office next year my guess is that he will joining Obama’s government in some capacity. Undoubtedly he will be continued to be rewarded for breaking promises and essentially doing nothing except what is in service to his rise to power.
This last year I have been left in a state of disillusionment. It’s a good thing. A reality check for me. I have been awed by the extent of the corruption lies, and insincerity at the heart of our public leaders. I am just fed up with the whole economic political thing. It’s enough to drive anyone to doing spiritual exercises.
At the end of the day we can only trust ourselves, which is why we must develop that trust within ourselves. And we can trust others if they have EARNED that trust and if they are trustWORTHY. In this time and age, may take on is that this trust will become increasingly important and define our relationships to a much greater extent than in the past fifty years.
Okay, time for a complete break. You’ve got to check this website out.
And here is a contemporary bedtime story for you:
Once upon a time....
Young Chuck moved to Texas and bought a donkey from a farmer for $100.
The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day.
The next day the farmer drove up and said, 'Sorry Chuck, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.'
Chuck replied, 'Well, then just give me my money back.'
The farmer said, 'Can't do that. I went and spent it already.'
Chuck said, 'OK, then, just bring me the dead donkey.'
The farmer asked, 'What ya gonna do with a dead donkey?
Chuck said, 'I'm going to raffle him off.'
The farmer said 'You can't raffle off a dead donkey!'
Chuck said, 'Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody he's dead.'
A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked, 'What happened with that dead donkey?'
Chuck said, 'I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars apiece and made a profit of $898.00.'
The farmer said, 'Didn't anyone complain?'
Chuck said, 'Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back.'
Postscript: Chuck went on to become president of a large Wall St. investment banking company and although he drove the company to bankruptcy and was fired, he now lives comfortably on his own island, with his wife, two dogs, and several hundred million dollars, and lived happily ever after.
Saturday, February 21, 2009On the Lighter Side
I still have a couple more posts on In the Midst of the Meltdown, but I think we all need a break. Please find 20 minutes to watch this brilliant and inspiring talk by Ben Zander conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. If you are not moved, checked to see if you have a pulse.
Monday, December 8, 2008Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
This article tells you 10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy. Excerpt:
Put Money Low on the List
People who put money high on their priority list are more at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, according to researchers Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan. Their findings hold true across nations and cultures. “The more we seek satisfactions in material goods, the less we find them there,” Ryan says. “The satisfaction has a short half-life—it’s very fleeting.” Money-seekers also score lower on tests of vitality and self-actualization.
And this LA Times article talks about How Happiness is Contagious. Excerpt:
Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself, the study found. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%, and even your neighbor's sister's friend can give you a 5.6% boost.
"Your emotional state depends not just on actions and choices that you make, but also on actions and choices of other people, many of which you don't even know," said Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and medical sociologist at Harvard who co-wrote the study.
Personally I am into Joy. I find it more enduring and it goes to the heart of who we all are. (Quotes below are from The Way Out Book by John-Roger, DSS)
The Soul is forever connected to God. That connection is perfect and intimate; it is the source from which we draw our life. The nature, the essence, of the Soul is JOY. It is joyful because it is wholly of God, is aware of that, and has total knowledge of that.
Then again, why split hairs?
When you move to the power source of your beingness in the inner kingdom, you find happiness and joy. It is a dynamic joy, an active expression of happiness. And within that happiness is peace. It may not be jovial or raucous happiness, but it is one where the warmth of your own consciousness is united with the knowingness of your Soul. And when those two aspects are one, happiness is the natural result.
Joy, dynamically moving through your consciousness, changing, altering, updating, making all things new, is indicative of the presence of Spirit. The Spirit is always NOW, always present. When you are most aware of it, you are also wholly present, at one with the Spirit within. Those are the moments when Spirit is most mobile within you, and you are able to most clearly identify yourself as an extension of the divine.
There are no catastrophes, only what appears to be catastrophes in the eye of the beholder. If other people share their experiences with you and you learn from them, you can probably cut down the time you have to sit on the borders of fear and doubt and can more quickly discover the center of your beingness and reside in the presence and joy of Spirit. Finding the “state of being” can bring you a fulfillment and a joy greater than you have ever known on this earth. It transcends all the levels of mind, emotions, and body, and reaches to the inner Kingdom, wherein resides all peace, joy, and love.