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You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

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Hope a Poem by Mark Schmitz

Hope

Hope is not the closing of your eyes

to the difficulty, the risk,

or the failure.

It is a trust that –

if I fail now –

I shall not fail forever;

and if I am hurt,

I shall be healed.

It is a trust that

life is good,

love is powerful,

and the future is full of promise.

By Mark Schmitz



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Be Happy!

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”  – Prov. 17:22

When I am gloomy and melancholy I seem to walk around in a black cloud.  I find that I attract other disheartened people to me and soon it’s as if we are marching along in a funeral procession.

To be permanently gloomy seems an insult to life.  After all, there are many people who are worse off than I am, and yet they manage to find the energy and love to reach out and express joy.  Why then, should I coexist in the gloomy minority?

Often, I find that my thoughts dictate my mood.  Most vividly, I recall the gloom that appeared when I used to do a great deal of acting out, leading a double life with half of it rooted in fear and shame.  It’s no wonder that I was “down”, and that I sometimes still carry this habit and attitude with me now, along my path of personal and spiritual growth.

Part of my growth is in the regaining of a sense of happiness that reaches into the deepest part of me.  I can hear myself laugh and learn to play.  What a tonic it is, to be happy!  Joy is a vital part of life and I want to feel it deep inside me and bring to my face a smile!

 

Wisdom of the Seasons

 

“If Winter comes, can spring be far behind?”  – Percy Bysshe Shelley

I live in sunny Phoenix, Arizona.  For those not familiar with our desert climate, we do in fact experience a period of winter weather.  We can experience some very cold temperatures during the month of January; lows can dip to below freezing at night and only reach the low to mid 50’s during the day and a relative humidity in the negative.  There remains however plenty of green and flowering plants to trick the mind when the eye shoots a quick look out the window and sees the majestic palms and the deep blue sky with seemingly unending sunshine.  Occasionally those of us who grew up in the winter grasp of the Midwest begin to long for that time of hibernation.  I know I do.  I miss snow, bundling up with hats, coats, mittens, boots, scarves and more.  I miss warming up the car and days when no one goes anywhere because the snow has us shut in for a day or two.

I have learned that we do not need to be afraid of winter.   In winter nature lies fallow in preparation for the New Year.  All life needs rest in order to grow with greater strength and winter is the time of withdrawal that precedes renewal.

Sometimes, it may seem that our lives have become dark and hopeless and we can’t see a way forward.  I felt exactly as I’ve just described, many times over.  Perhaps, it came when a relationship failed and I thought, “This really has to be the end”, or my business was going badly; money became a problem, or the loss of family ties or connections.  I became lost in my melancholy and felt that things would never get better.

I knew that I could draw some strength from the wisdom of the seasons.  Bare trees will become clothed in green and the hard earth will again yield harvests of plenty.  I learned to appreciate this transformation as it happens every year and I take hope from it.  I can see my life also as bound to change!  From this wisdom of the seasons I grew this affirmation which is ready to be plucked from my jar of affirmations when the time is right: “Nothing in my life need defeat me, since I know that spring and summer will always come again”.


“A Letting Go” for the Holidays

 

“Celebration is a forgetting in order to remember. A forgetting of ego, of problems, of difficulties. A letting go.”  — Matthew Fox

 

Holidays can be a real test to one’s personal growth. That’s the case particularly for me. I struggle anyway on a day-to-day basis to stay emotionally and physically healthy. I can’t imagine those that must go it alone.

But I find this to be a good time to focus on taking good care of myself. I can reach out and invite my healthy friends, acquaintances and members of my “family of choice” to my home, keep up with phone calls, and try to be honest, rather than jolly. I can refuse to lose myself in my former unhealthy behaviors. I can find other healthy people to be with.

Perhaps holidays offer all of us the chance to reflect on the impact our former unhealthy ways have affected our relationships and how much sharing these special times with others means. We are also able to appreciate what we already have, to better recognize our blessings because we have known the pain and deprivation of our former, negative ways.

The path toward personal growth is my holiday season, offering to me peace, simplicity and most of all, reality. I can choose an attitude of hope and gratitude. In letting go of expectations, I find much more to celebrate than I could have anticipated. My affirmation for today is, “I have enough, I do enough, I am enough.”


 

On Friendship

 

 

Friendship is a strong and habitual inclination in two persons to promote the good and happiness of one another” – Eustace Budgell

A friend of mine recently passed on to me one of his most important beliefs about relationships:

“The person with the greater need comes first. This means there are times I will consciously choose to set aside my own needs, feelings, or concerns because someone else’s need is greater. If I visit a friend in the hospital, it isn’t the time to go on and on about how I’ve accepted a new job and am moving across the country”.

I know that the more I progress through my own personal growth work, the more I’ll develop relationships to turn to for support. And, of course, I have the best resource of all – myself. My ability to guide, support and nurture myself increases without my being aware of it.

The self-centeredness and selfishness I possessed as the “old Mark”, before beginning work on myself begins to disappear. I don’t always have to vie for attention or have my way. I can decide to put someone else first, not out of martyrdom, but out of respect and love.

When in doubt, I will remember that the one with the greater need comes first!


Get Rid of Fear and Anxiety – Be O.K. with YOU

“Perhaps the most important thing we can undertake toward the reduction of fear is to make it easier for people to accept themselves; to like themselves.”  — Bonaro Overstreet

I was going about my life when suddenly; I became aware that I was feeling anxious, uncomfortable and insecure.  But what I feel underneath is afraid.  Even when we’re not conscious of it, fear can drain our concentration, deplete our confidence and manifest behaviors that aren’t typical of us.

Everyone feels afraid; it’s a part, even an affirmation of being human.  Fear can be a healthy, energizing response in some situations – such as when we take a risk or strike out in a new direction.

When we’re fearful, it can be reassuring to remember that, in the end, success or failure isn’t what’s important.  If, in any situation, we do the best we can and learn from our experiences, then we’ve nothing to fear.  Still, when we’re feeling fear, it’s important to know that the people who love us will go on loving us.  Sometimes, we may just need to hear someone say, “I know you can do it; I have faith in you.”  Then, fearful or not, we move forward, our fear balanced by faith and our willingness to try.


A Gift So Rich This Holiday

 

“To eat bread without hope is still slowly to starve to death.” – – Pearl S. Buck

This holiday season is one of little financial means for me and void of certain family and friends. I am beginning to feel an emptiness creep into my preparations for the holiday season.  Without the usual seasonal hoopla and extravagances, a feeling began to evolve inside of me – a feeling of hopelessness. I quickly realized that if I continued to exist without hope I would surely lose my hold on life. I know from experience that without some form of love and intimacy I would move step-by-step into despair. I would retreat into my little world of selfish gratification and eventually forget what it means to be alive.

With this awareness, I have made great efforts to make this upcoming holiday special with plans to surround myself with my closest friends. When I look at these people whom I know to be on a strong path toward personal growth, I am struck by the sparkle in their eyes, the color in their cheeks, the spring in their step. They have come back to life. They have learned how to care again and to be unafraid of closeness. They have found life again in all its vibrancy and promise of change and renewal. That is what I strive for, and work towards.

This kind of energy is contagious, and forms one of the many advantages of building a network of other people working on their own spirituality and personal growth. I see people change and come back to life. Their growth touches my life and inspires me to come back out of the darkness of my dysfunction and unhealthy ways of thinking and into the clear light of the day. That is a gift so rich, yet so within reach. There is no need now for the exchange of material gifts when such special gifts have already been given. My life has changed through contact with my friends and “family of choice” and by developing my own traditions.


 


The Gift of Friends

"A little help from my friends..."

“And when I see you happy, well, it sets my heart free.  I’d like to be as good a friend to you as you are to me.”  — Joni Mitchell

Friends are one of the greatest gifts and they come as a result of a life that’s sane and manageable.  It takes time and energy to make and keep good friends, but the rewards are worth it.  To these most special people we can gladly give our honesty, our fidelity, our trust, and our unconditional acceptance.

As friendship grows, we find ourselves more able to understand our friend’s needs.  Is there a child to be watched or perhaps a kitchen that could really use a cleaning?  Can we listen emphatically, without judging, to whatever a friend is going through?  When a friend is sick, are we ready to help out?  Can we put aside our needs because a friend’s need is greater at the moment than our own?

Through our efforts toward personal growth, we build the skills it takes to be a good friend, we can let go and let our friendships develop naturally.  Then, we will be able to trust the bond of love between our friends and us.

Hugging and Holding

 

“I’d never seen men hold each other.  I thought the only thing they were allowed to do was shake hands or fight.”  —Rita Mae Brown

Like many men, I grew up without knowing the warmth of lovingly touching one another.  Some of us had fathers who trapped themselves in a stereotypical male role, afraid to hold us and show their love for us.  We may have learned to be independent, competitive, and even separate.  We often fall into awkwardness and isolation.  As men especially, we become afraid to reach out, hug, and hold someone of our own sex. So many of us, whether male or female, have lost touch with ourselves and with others.  We have been alone far too long.

One result when pursuing personal growth is the awareness and beginning of healthy and proper holding of one another and giving hugs.  At first, we may find it embarrassing and keep our distance.  As we learn to loosen up and reach out, we look forward to the warmth and strength that comes from giving and receiving a friendly, caring hug.  It is good to learn to touch in a fearless and nonsexual way.  I am glad to be in touch with other people through hugging and holding.