Persistence or Insanity?

Persistence is being willing to push through and let nothing stop you from getting what you want. It forces you to work through obstacles, roadblocks and many stepping stones that seem impossible when you first set out to overcome them.

It’s a force that cannot be reckoned with when the motivation is in the right place.

No matter how audacious the idea may be, persistence is the key to trudging through and making it to the other side of what’s calling you.

Insanity, on the other hand, is persistence gone wrong.

It’s an ideal stuck in your head with only one possible outcome. Rather than persist, iterating and trying new approaches to test what may seep through, it’s the continuous bludgeoning along the same course.

Insanity is not understanding the current path is closed and being willing to use any means possible to get what is desired. It has an outrageously high possibility the action considered is a bad one with tremendous negative repercussions.

Persistence works.

Insanity works against you and others.

The Ancient Wisdom of Books

There is a story in the Zohar of man who lived in the mountains and didn’t know much about the city. He ate wheat and raw kernels. One day he finally visited the people and they offered him bread in three different forms, each one more delicious than the last.

When he asked what each of those loves were made of, they responded with “wheat.” He immediately dismissed the bread, stating he knew the essence of each one because he ate wheat every day. In doing so, he missed out on all the delights of the world, which were lost on him. So it is one who grasps the principle, but is unaware of all the delights deriving and diverging from that principle.

I use that story to teach students how fiction can teach us truth. Fiction can wrap up truths in many ways that are palatable to our senses, each one taking on a new form while still retaining the essence of what they are about.

 

Social media, fast news and online sharing have increased the frequency on which we dump information out into the world. We can try riding the tidal wave of trying to keep up with it all… or we can learn some of those same truths from our books that can still teach us something new today.

Each Moment is an Opportunity to Learn

I was supposed to be giving a meditation, but my mind was elsewhere. My students, who normally love taking time away from class to meditate, were excitable and not fully settling down.

As I began reading through the script, I could feel it in my own voice this session was off. I was supposed be leading it, but even I wasn’t into the moment. It was tempting to abandon the practice all together.

Then I remembered there were others who wanted to take part in this and were giving their full attention. They were listening to every word coming out of my mouth and following my example.

Reminding myself I was here to serve and be the example they should follow, I re-aligned myself and got back on track. Things settled down afterwards and the session went as planned. There were thank-yous to be had afterward.

We can set ourselves up to wait for some distant time to learn or we can ask what this moment is teaching us right now. When we bask in the present, looking carefully for what it can offer, there is always something to learn.

Learning never stops, but we can stop paying attention.

It Doesn’t Need Your Time as Well

Ever spend money on something, regret it, then try to make the best of a situation because you already spent the money on it?

It’s called the sunk-cost fallacy.

Since you already made an investment, you’re going to keep investing yourself into it because you hate to see your money go to waste. This idea can also be extrapolated to projects, relationships or just about anything requiring an investment of yourself.

We really have a hard time letting go and will use any justification necessary.

Unfortunately, this only causes more headache, heartache, anxiety and a whole lot of stress you’re not even aware you’re holding on to.

The money (or energy) is already spent, don’t let it take your time as well.

Money can be replenished… time you can never get back.

People Like It When You Bleed

I was sitting in my office, door closed, crying.

Here I was, the spiritual support for my school, and I couldn’t hold it together. On the way in that morning, I received a phone call that a good friend and close mentor had passed away.

I’m no stranger to death. The first time I was forced to face the fragility of human life came at the age of thirteen when a classmate had a practice grenade blow up in his face. Then I sat at the funeral of another classmate at the end of high school who passed away from a brain tumor.

It may have been these experiences that marked me to dive into the contemplative life and study. I can’t say for certainty.

However, it was this death in particular that really struck home. I met this wonderful friend in my third year of University – he was my professor… and he found me quite annoying… like many of my teachers did (my role as a teacher now plays into the adage the punishment always fits the crime).

But, instead of just rolling his eyes and attempting to ignore me, which he also did periodically, he started challenging me. I would walk home from his lectures with my head spinning, staying up half the night thinking of what he said in class.

I found myself wanting to spend more time with him and hung around him during breaks and after class.

I was very lost, insecure and felt like I had no idea who I was during this time. He was helping me put it together and he recognized his influence on me outside of the classroom. After I graduated, we became friends and he started mentoring me on life.

He taught me authenticity – You have to be 100% who you are because people can’t engage with you unless they know who they are dealing with.

He pushed me to do my Masters – giving me the genesis of my topic and instructing me on how to take my courses in a way that plays into it. I finished my program way ahead of schedule thanks to that advice.

He taught me how to prevent burnout – I was trying to control a universe that didn’t want to be controlled, burning the candle at both ends to do it. Sometimes, you just have to let go.

I regained a real faith life – he was a formidable Priest, but he never talked faith: he lived it. I learned everything by his example.

While I waited for an arbitrary day to propose to my wife, he taught me that marriage isn’t about a perfect time because it doesn’t exist. It’s about growing together.

He was supposed to be the one to officiate our wedding, but his health prevented him from travelling at that time.

I got to visit The Magic Castle and attend San Diego Comic Con thanks to his connections.

He taught me how to be an effective teacher by first reaching to the heart of your students, then approaching ideas in multiple ways so they can build connections in their heads.

While I’ve always had the support of family and friends, it was his guidance that helped me find peace within myself.

The day he passed away, a part of me died. I felt lost again and turned inward in a way I hadn’t done since childhood. It took some time to grieve and as I wrote in “We Are All Broken,” no one really gets over the death of a loved one.

I find myself fortunate that I still get to speak with his family and as their only connection to his time in Canada, it was an uplifting experience to share stories when they came to visit.

I dedicated Transforming the Heart to him because that’s what he did for me.

Today, I will drink copious amounts of coffee and have a hamburger for dinner in honour of the person who taught me so much when I absolutely needed it.

I’m not sure if I can bleed anymore for you right now. I’ll see you tomorrow.

The Seasons Teach Us Everything

The four seasons of our year teach us everything we need to know about life.

No matter your circumstance, the seasons will continue to cycle through. They are a part of this world and until we leave this planet, will always be a part of the fabric of our being.

Rather than run from them, which we cannot do, we must appreciate the gift each one brings. It makes no sense to hate them as they are ambivalent to our emotions.

As pattern making beings, they also represent the cycles of our life.

In the spring, we are young and fresh, full of new life. Then come the long, hot days of summer where we are full of energy and optimism, feeling invincible at every turn. After comes the fall, a time of harvest, when we reap all that we have planted in the previous two seasons. Finally, the winter is when material things have much less purpose and we draw upon our wisdom as we prepare for a long rest.

We cannot rush through the seasons, nor can we pause them when they’re here. We certainly can’t turn them back after they’re gone.

Understand the season you are in and appreciate what it offers you. Be thankful for any seasons that may have already passed through your life.

Look ahead to the season approaching, but don’t run to get there.

All things come in time.

Before We Give Up

Throw your hands up and just admit defeat.

This is the call for those who just had enough and don’t know how to work around it anymore. After the multitude of paths taken, chances given and patience used up, there is no opportunity to go any further.

The world can seem like a place that is in decline… and it always has… but now we get the instant communication of every awful thing happening as it occurs. This gets coupled with the commentary from those who feel entitled the world wants to hear their opinion, yet, they are also in the same category as people you try to avoid having as dinner guests.

All that you’ve been working toward has shored up nothing to very little. What’s the point?

The expectations of life have been met with the harsh reality the universe doesn’t bend itself to your whims and wishes. Those are simply platitudes others provide because they can think of nothing else to say.

It’s the wrong politician, the wrong political party, the wrong time, the wrong thing to say, the wrong law, the wrong decision and the wrong way to do things.

The ideas of hope we have in our head are replaced with the ocean of pessimism and we hope to share that bitterness with others.

How could it have all gone so wrong?

Then we remember the story we come into the world with… the one we are all meant to hear… again… and again…

It comes back to us through a random song you will never hear again, a stranger you meet at a train station, a wrong turn on a road that ends up at the most breathtaking scenery, a book you randomly picked up and can’t explain why, a walk in nature and a friend you never expected to call.

This is the story of a world of infinite wonder and mystery.
That anything is possible.
That people really care for each other.
There’s more to it than just you.
This story of your own is woven into a much greater tale, spanning billions of years.

Before we give up, remember the story.

We’re Self Aware, But Can’t Adjust

Eat healthier, exercise, get more sleep and take time for ourselves.

Not only have we known this to be the solution to what will keep us strong… for thousands of years at this point… we now have undeniable, scientific evidence to show the issues when we ignore it.

Yet, unbeknownst to any of us who fully understand the full magnitude of our behaviour towards our own bodies, we continue to ignore the advice. While the current academic posturing is to suggest this is a result of our habitual behaviour (habit change being the popular term), the reasoning may go deeper.

After all, we also know the Earth is in a critical state with climate change, pollution, deforestation, limited access to fresh water and unsustainable farming practices (to name a few), but we continue forward with business as usual. To this, we attribute more to lifestyle expectation than habit, while ignoring the multitude of other parameters.

The truth is we are self-aware of the issues we currently face. We understand the problems we are encountering and know the changes needed to go forward, but still can’t adjust.

This is because we’re being given surface level answers to deeper issues.

Putting a band-aid on a broken bone is not going to heal it. Being told that it’s broken is only stating the obvious and giving the scientific explanation of the issues with living with a broken bone is baffling.

However, getting the proper care for that injury and understanding the full time scale of the process suddenly changes the situation. It goes from painful to hopeful with anticipation along the way.

Adjustment requires time and a deep understanding of what is needed.

A quick fix is never the solution.

I Just Can’t Do It Anymore

It’s a breaking point that gets pressed upon so much, it isn’t possible to continue.

There was patience, understanding and a wide breadth of hope it would ease up at some point. Instead, you discover the absolute limit for yourself.

This is the boundary on which no further steps can be taken.

You would be a fool to continue.

It isn’t even a matter of giving up because you gave it everything and more.

There is no coach coming to inspire you with a talk about perserverance.

This is the end of the line.

At this point, if you would be willing to stand up… without despair… something happens…

You hit self-actualization.

Then freedom is just around the corner.

It’s Always a Story We Remember

My grandparents were veterans and they rarely, if ever, talk about their time at war.

The stories they told stop at a certain point and the rest of the details are all second hand given by those who knew them. I have a great appreciation for what they had to endure based on those stories.

There are many facts about war: number of battles, strategy, soldier deaths, instances of disease, types of warfare, leaders, blunders, etc.

While those can be eye-opening, they don’t resonate like the stories we hear.

It’s the story… the individual story… that has the greatest impact on our sensibilities.

The reason for change is the story we hear.

Remember the story.