Flounder or Explore

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I have a friend who hates the paved roads in preserved wilderness areas. He hates the cleared parking lots with their convenient vending machines and clean bathrooms with running water. He can’t stand that you can drive your air conditioned car right into that parking lot and read a sign that encourages you to download an app that will guide you through that wilderness. Even if the app doesn’t work, there is a cleared trail ahead with so many signs on it that you can’t get lost, even if you tried.  The parks themselves advertise on the internet and invite you to “experience” the last great frontier of wooded America. This friend has been backpacking and exploring American wilderness for over forty years. He purposely selects areas where there is NO assistance. Areas that he is NOT likely to be told where to go or what to do or be provided any comfort. To him, his way of exploring is really exploring. The other version is simply observing.

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When I’m conflicted, thinking about my life’s journey ahead, my frustration is always that I can’t tell which way to go and that there is no clear guidance for what I should do next. If somehow I just had a clear sign from God what the course is, I’d get on it and stay on it. I am a hard worker, and, given the right instruction, I relish in performing a task to completion. But when I am left unguided, I fear I am going to only waste time wandering aimlessly.

Since it seems like I am always at some crossroads in life, I have become drawn to doing prep work. Drawn to self-help and how-to style information. I want to increase my odds of success by knowing ahead of time what I will do.

Maybe I should take a page out of my friends book. While he gathers a lot of information too, for him, moving forward without specific guidance is the essence of exploration. Following the traveled path is merely a cheat-sheet for the test. You’ll get from A to B, but the experience will not be wholly yours.

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I complain that God doesn’t tell me what to do. He doesn’t provide clear instruction on what career change or relationship modifications I should make. I gripe because my performance is not up to my own expectations and blame the fact that God didn’t lead me to the best decision. He just let me flounder.

WHAT BODHI THINKS

Maybe, while standing at my next crossroads, I should consider exploring instead of floundering. Maybe I should venture out on my own with no signs, no comforts and no assurances. Walking ahead and exploring without any idea what the result will be. If you know, don’t tell me. This journey needs to be mine and mine alone.

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Secrets – They Will Find Out

A48759A6-43CB-42BE-AACC-41963B577093-208-000000044EC5C9CEWhen you’re a kid, the things you want to keep secret seem like they’d be life-altering, game changing, reputation killing and oh so painful truths if anyone found out. Usually they were proven insignificant after the initial reveal. I left the designated play area at the park with my best friend when we were 7 or 8 years old and went down to a nearby creek. We sneaked away, found stepping stones in the creek, ventured around and then we sneaked back. Nobody noticed. Nobody said a word. Our mothers found out. When I was nine I punched a taunting 12-year-old in the stomach at lunch in front of my classmates and dropped him to the floor. Kids laughed. Melvin was shocked. I was shocked but proud. Who would talk? The Principal and my mother both found out. When I lied, someone found out. I covered up, he or she found out. I omitted, they found out. Damn it!

When you’re growing out of childhood, the secrets may start to become about more significant, sensitive and painful things. As a young person trying to mature and find their way in life though, I think this can also be counterproductive. How can you learn to face the music if you hide all your missteps? Sometimes the secrets are unimportant and being kept only because you’ve fallen into a pattern. Not good. I often found myself in situations at this stage of my secret keeping life where I just KNEW they knew. And I was sure they thought I knew they knew. I shied away because certainly they must know my secret. So many relationships faded. So many opportunities to be accepted or forgiven never blessed my life. My secrets robbed others and cheated me too. Man that sucks.

In adulthood, the act of keeping secrets can simply be more devastating than the truth. How many of our famous Americans publicly go down in a blaze of shame each year because they knew something and kept it a secret, or covered it up, or lied about it? A lot.C32A1DFC-4F83-4FB2-B2E6-976559A9A28F-208-0000000B2EABDE1C

I’m not saying we need to share every dirty detail of our lives. I’m not even saying there aren’t some things that should be left alone and kept only to yourself. The purpose of the secrecy is not what I’m trying to expose here. It is first the belief that nobody will ever find out and the subsequent failure then to play out what life will look like if or when your secret is revealed.  Mistakes can be good. Embarrassing stories can be hilarious, endearing points of entry into relationship. The exposure we most fear can be hugely beneficial to freeing ourselves or teaching others.

What Bodhi Thinks

If you want to keep a secret, do yourself a favor and process the impact it will have on your life if that secret is later revealed. Honestly, I tend toward secrecy myself. In fact, I have a secret I’ll share with you… someone will find out.

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Teasure Found in Debris of Life’s Sunken Ships

I’ve crashed and burned so many times I can’t count. With time I rebound from each and try again, albeit with new scars and lessons learned. Recently I came across the analogy of the sinking ship and what the debris field reveals to the survivors.

Simple disappointments, dreams lost, hopes dashed, death and other crushing tragedies. These are the stuff of our sunken ships. The pain and ugly crap that accompanies the wreck is the debris floating to the surface.

The Ship is down

You are rocking back and forth in the life raft seeing the tragedy of it all. You know you will probably survive. Probably get back to shore and return to some sort of normalcy. But for now you float just like another piece of debris in the wreckage, waiting to see what’s next.

Dream Another Dream

Most of us don’t go down with the ship on the first wreck. Each devastation we are impacted, forever changed in some big or small way. Whether we know it or not, we are always going to build another ship and sail it until it takes us where it leads. The next dream might be small and cautious or big and audacious. Either way, we will likely take the advice of Van Halen from the 1990’s song and “Dream another dream, this one is over!”  Check it out here

Designing the Next Ship to be the Next Wreck

In our tough times, we often choose to mourn the loss, lick our wounds or chalk it up to destiny. If we do it that way though, we leave only an embarrassing blotch on our story-line. One that nags at us and that we forever try to ignore. Worse, we run the risk that sunken ship may just get added to the ocean floor with all the other war-torn vessels in our “losers battlefield”, confirming that our life was no more than a series of failures.

Examine the Debris Looking for Treasure

Inspecting the debris we will find things that might make us say: “What was I thinking? I didn’t need that” or  “That just may have been what caused me to sink” or “I get it, that’s good stuff, I will keep it and move on”. In my debris fields, for example, I have seen floating to the surface, anger, selfishness, dreams of arrogance and dreams of integrity. I have found jealousy and pride but also forgiveness and signs that I can have a positive impact on the world. Things I can keep and others I can discard forever.

What Bodhi Thinks

Examining the aftermath of our shipwrecks should be about perspective gained, not just damage done.  The next time one of my ships sinks, while I’m floating amidst the debris, I am going to see what floats to the top and then, hopefully, decide what is and isn’t going to be a part of my next ship.

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The Power of a Little Bit: Defeating Perfectionism

Calling all perfectionists.

At an early age perfectionism got hold of me. For me, it was about control. By my teens you could see it in my bedroom, my schoolwork and even in my hair. By early adulthood I had come to believe perfectionism was one of my best qualities. I know now it wasn’t.

The first problem it caused for me was my ever-increasing unwillingness to even start things that I didn’t think I could do perfectly. I’ve lived long enough now to regret the thousands of opportunities lost because of my fear of being less than perfect. I thought perfectionism gave me control but it was systematically robbing me of it.

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Perhaps the biggest problem for a perfectionist today is there is no room for it. American society has become too “busy”. Compare 1950’s TV to today and it will become obvious. Today it’s about motion. It’s about keeping fast-moving, witty words and shiny objects in front of the viewer. There is no time for perfected dialogue or well-played out story lines. The workplace is no different. You can’t find a job posting these days that isn’t asking for an energetic, multitasker that can do it all and communicate with everyone and all at once. I imagine school is the same way now.

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Another drawback for me was the fact that any finished product would be scrutinized on a perfectionists scale. Wait, did I say finished? No, any product at any time is subject to the white glove treatment. Nobody critiques quite like a perfectionist. That said, embracing perfectionism will most certainly NOT help anyone achieve a place of contentment in their life.

“I thought perfectionism gave me control but it was systematically robbing me of it.” 

A friend of mine is a “project” guy. He always has multiple projects in the works and never focuses on just one. Honestly, that used to piss me off. Why not do one thing start to finish? How did he leave all these unfinished projects around? To me, his project list seemed out of control.

The “Power of a Little Bit”. My friend got much more done in a year than I did. His work was just as good or better than mine. The advantages became obvious. He took little chunks of time and focused on just a segment of the job allowing time to do it right. I had been driving myself crazy waiting for the perfect window of time, for all the planets to align so I could get the whole project done at once. My idea of perfect was getting it right the first time, in one shot. It rarely happened. I rarely even started.

WHAT BODHI THINKS

I am learning to take on goals using the “Power of a Little Bit” and it is making a huge difference. This blog was written a little bit at a time and it’s not perfect. For a reforming perfectionist, that’s a big deal.

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Ego Tries to Drown 9 Year-Old Boy

My family took summer vacations in Canada at a lodge in Ontario. Coming from “The States”, this place was my dreamland and was nothing like home. With hot summer days, cool nights, a beach, a huge lake, food and so many other cool things to do, I never wanted to leave. Stanton House 2002

One of those activities was water skiing, something I had never done. I had just finished fourth grade that year and I had learned by then that girls admired boys for taking risks and for physical prowess. I really wanted girls to admire me. My parents said I could try it.

I was nervously standing on the dock loaded with onlookers, many of which were girls. My father was there so I knew I couldn’t back out. I got a life jacket and put on skis. In the water I immediately fell backwards as the huge wooden skis rocketed my feet upward. Weeds were brushing against the backs of my legs as an instructor jumped in and stood next to me. The ski boat came around and the spotter threw out a rope that landed right in front of me. I could see and smell the thick exhaust from the outboard motor and hear the sputtering sound of the engine. I felt like I was embarking on a journey towards manhood. Exhilarating.

The instructor stood beside me giving me precise instructions. He  explained how to position myself and how I should let the boat do the work. He told me to lean slightly back but never forward and once I was up I should slightly bend my knees. He said I should avoid rocking forward and back. He showed me hand signals to communicate with the spotter. Most importantly, he said, if I fell I should close my mouth and let go of the rope right away. Although I heard what he said I was really just thinking about what everyone was going to think of me.

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Up in a flash, how impressed my father and those girls back at the dock must be. I remember smiling, wanting to wave at my fans. I stood tall, throwing my shoulders back and straightening my legs. I pulled on the rope and started a rocking motion forward and back. I opened my mouth wide to communicate with the spotter, holding on to the rope with a death grip. I felt the skis come off about the same time I heard water rushing into my ears. I held onto that rope for dear life, plowing ahead until the boat stopped.

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“I had learned by then that girls admired boys for taking risks and for physical prowess. I really wanted girls to admire me.”

Back at the dock, I laid on my stomach and threw up lake water.. The girls started watching boys who actually could ski. My father, walking away, said it was a good trick how I made rooster tails fly from both sides of my face. 122635154

WHAT BODHI THINKS

Ego sucks. Listen. Think. Focus on performance, not others admiration.

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Angels In The Rearview

I’m often frustrated when I hear testimony from someone who has an apparent hotline to God. To this point, I’ve never had a revelation moment myself, never seen or heard God speak to me. It may be that God is not ready but more than likely, it is me that isn’t ready to hear. For now, I have to have faith and wait awhile for God’s work to be revealed. Angels in the rear-view mirror, that’s my story.

“I don’t hear God’s voice or get revelations about the future.”

I was outgoing, energetic and generally very happy until I hit middle school. Then began a journey of sadness, hopelessness and varying degrees of unhappiness that would take me to the lowest of places.

Angel #1) Looking backward I know that my mothers willingness to share her Christian faith with me saved my life over and again. No matter how bad things got, I would never completely give up. It was the faith she shared that kept me above ground believing it would all be worth it some day, even if it wasn’t in this lifetime. No doubt, she’s still an angel by the way.

Angel #2) My sixth grade teacher showed me things like how a gentleman dresses, behaves and how respect is to be given and how it’s earned. He told me about the dangers of drug abuse and it’s temptations. I’ve cried out for relief so many times in my life since then it astounds me I never turned to drugs. My respect for that teacher when I was twelve, my trust in him and especially his faith in me kept me from those temptations to use drugs that started within months of leaving his class. He came to my wedding reception thirty years later.

Angel #3) High School. I was one step away from being a recluse. Miserable and unable to look people in the eye. Lost. A girl I knew well took a chance and intervened when she feared I might take my own life. She was right to do so. What I saw then as interference, I see in retrospect as the lifesaving act of an angel. She remains a special friend to this day.

Angel #4) I began college five years behind my peers. Still socially terrified and awkward, I struggled and was put on academic probation. Then I took a class taught by a woman who offered me patience, hope and opportunity. She decided to invest in me. It was her encouragement and faith in me that got me on track academically. Years later, when I graduated with honors, I was able to look back and see how God had sent her to speak into my life. She is retired now and we stay in touch. My daughter carries her angelic name.

There are certainly more angels waiting until I get further down the road to be revealed.

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WHAT BODHI THINKS

I don’t hear God’s voice, yet, or get revelations about the future. I do know God sends me angels. I take comfort knowing He uses people to prepare me, inspire me and save me. If the only way I ever get to see God working in my life is to look in the rear-view mirror, I’ll take it… with gratitude.

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The Parachute Effect

Unresolved problems in life can be obviously devastating to some people. To others it’s like an unnoticed foot gradually stepping on the brake pedal of life. After spending years working with many people who had so many proverbial monkeys on their back, I started using the phrase “the parachute effect”. I used it as an analogy depicting the unresolved issues in our lives that so often interfere with our attempts at enjoyment and success.

We’re all familiar with using a parachute to skydive. I used to watch drag racing and saw cars that ran so fast they too need parachutes to slow them down before they ran out of track. At a minimum, the success and enjoyment of skydiving or high-speed drag racing requires the chute be used properly. When the chute is deployed improperly or not at all, disaster can result.

Imagine, if you will, a stick figure of a man standing on a timeline that represents progress he’s made in his life. Movement to the right indicates positive growth. Movement to the left represents problems. Imagine watching a filmed account of his movement throughout his lifetime. You would see times when he was moving forward at a fast pace (periods of great growth), a few moments of quick back-steps (mistakes) and pauses for long periods of time (stagnation).

Imagine adding a parachute, open but laying on the ground behind the man, the ropes attached to the harness on his back. Watch the film again, this time in “Fast Forward”. What do you notice about the chute during the times he tries to move quickly towards progress? The chute fills with air and does what it is designed to do, it slows him down and eventually stops him. What do you notice about the times he moves backwards? The chute doesn’t open and the ropes and material become a cumbersome entanglement at his feet making the journey more unpleasant. What do you notice when he stands still and makes no moves? The chute has no impact on his life leaving the illusion it’s not even there.


“…during the times he tries to move quickly towards progress? The chute fills with air and does what it is designed to do, it slows him down and eventually stops him.”

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WHAT BODHI THINKS

When we avoid dealing with life’s trauma’s, addictions and all the other monkeys on our backs we may be strapping an open parachute on for the journey. I think it’s why so many of us end up standing still in life even though our hearts and minds want to move forward. Maybe we should stop for a minute, turn around and acknowledge the ropes and follow where they lead. Get help if we need to and deal with the issue at hand. Maybe it’s only when those ropes are completely cut and the chute falls detached to the ground, can we turn around and fully achieve the success that lies waiting for us.

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Pump The Brakes

Early 1990’s. I’m helping a neighbor with the brakes on her car and she agreed to pay me a few bucks in return. I’ve never been a certified mechanic but by this time I have done my share of brake jobs. I had a Craftsman rolling tool chest, a floor jack, a fender cover and one of those little rolling creeper boards to slide underneath cars with.

When I was a kid I would help my father in the garage when he was “fixing’ cars. I held the flashlight while he said things like, “shine the light there, no not there, I still can’t see, there, wait, no, shit, move it just a little left, your other left, what the… there are more batteries in the house”. As I got older I began working on my own car in the same garage. Whatever stage of mechanical learning I was in, my father always reminded me SAFETY was to come first. To him though safety apparently meant things like smoking while working around a leaky gas tank or opening an overheated radiator with just a rag or maybe crawling under a car that is being held up by an off-brand jack that drops an inch every ten minutes. Regardless of his actions, whenever I was working on cars the old man still reminded me that safety came first.

So I got the neighbors brakes changed easy enough. I kept her car clean inside and out. I completed the job before I told her it would be done. I topped off the brake fluid and then I got focused on cleaning my tools and putting things away. I started to think about opening my first beer of the afternoon as a reward for a job well done.

“I had learned young that cars were measured in tons, not pounds and that stopping one was more important from  a safety standpoint than making one go.”

I’m guessing you may see some of what’s coming next, but I did not. I had learned young that cars were measured in tons, not pounds and that stopping one was more important from  a safety standpoint than making one go. I had also learned to pump the brakes after a brake change to assure the calipers filled with fluid and readjusted into position. This meant the first time you stepped on the pedal after a brake change, the brakes may not engage.

The car was a Blue Pontiac Sunbird. The Kayak above-ground pool 30 feet away shared almost the same shade blue. The faces of the swimmers in that pool turned white as I drove into the support posts which stopped the car from joining the aquatic festivities.5647620008_large221047c11ef88450f2e92141531edb9b

RESULTS

One bent pool post. A hole in the bumper of the Sunbird (which I had to pay to repair). Embarrassment. No more auto repair requests from the neighbors.

WHAT BODHI THINKS

If others give you good advice, even if they don’t ever follow that advice, take heed.

 

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My First Intentional Fast

For spiritual, mental and physical reasons, I recently undertook my first three-day fast. I fasted simply by removing all solid food from my diet for three days and minimizing any liquids that are not water.

Primarily I wanted to see if I could achieve some clarity in my communication with God. As a Christian whose faith has grown through the trials of my life, and one who is going through another of those trials presently, I felt it was time to try this science and bible-approved method of clearing the mind, body and soul. The plan was to use a deliberately triggered external factor (hunger) to drive my mind back to God in prayer.

Long aware of the mental and physical benefits of fasting, I felt assured that my brain and body would benefit from a three-day fast as much as my spirit.

THE PROCESS

I drank water. I didn’t eat. I was hungry! Three hours in and I was damned hungry. Each hunger pang was initially read by my mind as an indicator of a need for food and a source of frustration. Then, as planned, I countered that thought with the knowledge that there was plenty of energy stored in my body for three days and redirected my self to prayer. I maintained this process with every sign of hunger (even if it was a quick prayer acknowledging my need for God). The hunger came and went over the three days and at times wasn’t there at all. I made it through fairly easily. I drank a ton of water. A little tea, broth, wine and coffee but in limited amounts.

THE SPIRITUAL RESULTS

Big Win. One day after the fast I was sitting in silence reflecting on what I had learned from the fast and arrived at this phrase “Humble before God, confident before man”. Without elaborating of the phrase, suffice it to say it was very relevant to my situation and a boost to my optimism. I also choose to attribute that helpful thought nugget directly to the fast and am incorporating it into my current situation.

THE MENTAL RESULTS

Win. For the most part, I was very mentally drained during the fast and did not feel any special mental acuity. That said, my sense of worry and angst was severely numbed and I think my racing mind rested a bit.

THE PHYSICAL RESULTS

Win. I lost three pounds. I was physically exhausted. I felt less achy but that was about it.

WHAT BODHI THINKS

I think that periodic fasting with adequate planning and an intentional mind can only benefit the human body, mind and for me, connection with God. I look forward to my next fast.

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