July 6, 2021
More than 400 Americans died in 150 gun shootings across the long holiday weekend. Is that the America we want to continue to celebrate and defend?
July 2, 2021
The second half of the year has started. I’m moving into a new phase of research for the nonfiction book I’ve been developing since the end of 2020. My current aspiration is to wrap up this final phase by the end of this year, and actually write (and revise, revise, revise) the book itself during 2022.
June 29, 2021
For many years I’ve had a recurring dream where I’m still a United Methodist pastor at a church in South Florida. It’s usually an upsetting dream that elicits many of the emotions I felt in real-time during those years at the beginning of the 21st Century. When I wake up I notice fresh gratitude for my decision at the end of 2003 to leave pastoral ministry. I’ve grown so much as a person and professional since then.
The other day I wrote down (and shared) my personal mission, vision, values, strategies…and, in full candor, obstacles to the aforementioned that sometimes—sometimes often–I grapple with.
It was another example, preceded by thousands across my five-ish decades, of needing to write things out to full understand what I think, what I want, what challenges I face.
The past couple of days have also been an opportunity to refine “systems” (incorporating practices, processes and habits) that drive higher likelihood of fully living out my stated mission, vision, values and strategies while helping to mitigate the obstacles.
I attempted to jot down as many of my current systems as possible while adding ones I want to begin. While doing so, I was mindful of a desire to link all of them back to my three “meta systems,” the practices of mindfulness, learning, and storytelling that I write and think about daily.
June 15, 2021
My baby girl turned 16 today. Wow. She’s away at camp and I miss her so much.
June 14, 2021
“Every moment is a lifetime.”
That statement etched itself into my brain a few minutes ago during an early morning neighborhood walk.
During the walk I was attempting to simply observe whatever I engaged with my senses: the heat of the June morning, the sweat manifesting on my forehead, the melody of nearby birds, the roar of BNA-bound commercial jets.
What I also noted was the way I reacted to a few of these sensory encounters.
I saw a couple of men planting a large American flag and its tall post into the lawn of someone else’s yard. I deduced that they were doing so throughout the neighborhood, for I noticed other large flags in other yards. I wondered if it was Flag Day (I later confirmed it was) or some other patriotic occasion.
But my more powerful notation of this moment was a visceral reaction of anger, a tightness in my chest and uptick of my heart rate. For the past several years I’ve come to associate flag bearers with the right wing folks who gloat about patriotism while working to undermine liberties such as voting rights.
As I continued walking i attempted to resume noticing whatever I encountered, hopefully without judgment.
I passed an older black man whom I’ve seen on numerous occasions. As I waved to him and he waved back I wondered if he was angry at me or judging me, and I was transported back in time to when, as a child and youth, I felt very uncomfortable around people of color.
I also passed a soccer mom-age woman walking her dog, and we exchanged waves as well. And I time traveled again to seasons of childhood and youth when I was nervous about passing girls on the streets, including when I was 9 and a couple of girls I’d never seen before told me I was “dumb.”
And that’s when I made the observation regarding every moment containing an entire lifetime. Any sensory encounter can, without warning, hijack the mind and place it immediately in the center of memories laden with visceral reactions, memories that live in the body and never seem to expire.
I can learn a lot from those moments, as difficult as they are.
June 12, 2021
My daughter Olivia leaves for three weeks of technology–free, no visitation or phone calls summer camp tomorrow. I’m missing her so much already, and feeling very sad in general tonight.
May 30, 2021
Mindfulness, Loving-kindness, Compassion
Relieve suffering. Facilitate happiness.
It’s that simple. And profound.
May 29, 2021
The stack of active books on my nightstand is more Pisa-leaning than ever. I’m reading a chapter or so from each one, then putting the book on the bottom of the stack and rotating to the next one.
The leaning literary tower is a cross- disciplinary endeavor, ranging from first person essays by individuals with disabilities to Ray Dalio‘s Principles, to a memoir by an Indigenous poet and biographies on jazz greats John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. I’ve purchased all of these books since May 1.
I love to learn. I must keep learning. My curiosity is never satisfied, driven by a lifelong urgency to go deeper into diverse perspectives, connect dots across disciplines, see patterns and themes…and write about all of it.
May 26, 2021
I’m not sure why I always remember May 26 as the anniversary of my one and only Little League baseball grand slam.
It was 41 years ago, which might as well be a century ago. I still don’t know how I did it, and the majority of my other at-bats across five years of Little League ended in three strikes.
But I was a good infielder, playing first and then second base, and was even given a small trophy one season for “fewest errors.” So, there’s that.
May 25, 2021
George Floyd was murdered a year ago today.
And many other Black men and women have been killed since then.
May 22, 2021
Mindfulness, Storytelling, Equanimity
This afternoon is the memorial service for my friend and fellow executive coach Dan Haile, who died last month from brain cancer. It’s taking place at an outdoor area that’s part of a retreat center, and will conclude with a serving of key lime pie. It sounds like a perfect celebration of Dan’s wonderful qualities of introspection and winsomeness.
May 15, 2021
Learning, Storytelling, Compassion
The On Being podcast with Krista Tippett is one of my favorite mediums for discovering a diversity of artistic voices.
May 14, 2021
So many of life’s most significant insights flow from a dynamic tension of apparent opposites.
Right now, I have both a determination to thoughtfully and slowly produce my best creative work…and an urgency to “get it done before I run out of time.“
May 8, 2021
I’m increasingly grappling with the realities of my physical body: both its destiny for decay and death, and the increasing frustration I find with not being more fully attentive to what feelings are present within it.
Certain long-standing fears are entrenched in the grappling:
The fear of unrealized potential.
The fear of missing out.
The fear of not learning all I long to learn, writing all I long to write, traveling to all the places I long to see.
The fear of insignificance.
May 6, 2021
Mindfulness, Loving-kindness, Compassion, Equanimity
It’s one of those weekday early mornings when I’m tempted to go straight to the laptop and start working. I have two presentations before noon and need to do some final preparations.
When I’m caught up in the urgency to start working upon waking, my favorite self care activities can feel irrelevant. Yet when I skip this self care, especially for a couple of mornings in a row, I feel off. Life itself loses some of its deeper meaning for me.
And so here I am, typing this entry on my phone, with the heating pad on my back because doing so prepares me for the stretching activities I learned last year during a round of physical therapy. After I publish this entry I’ll look through my handwritten overview of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, and then I’ll meditate on loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.
(My stomach just rumbled but it’s not time to eat just yet.)
When I go upstairs to my bedroom office I’ll begin on the carpet with those aforementioned stretching exercises. And then, I will get reacquainted with the laptop and begin to prepare for my morning presentations.
Taking time for self care is an act of radical kindness and compassion for yourself. It also demonstrates equanimity in the face of the powerful urges to blow things off and start working right away, lest you be caught unprepared and fail.
May 4, 2021
For various reasons I did not begin the past two mornings with mindfulness practices. And I feel the difference.
Start and continue. This is the way.
May 1, 2021
Mindfulness, Storytelling, Compassion
It was nice taking yesterday off from work. I evolved my book projects a little and made a few round trips to my daughters‘ schools, but spent most of the day resting.
I need more rest and, in particular, more sleep.
Resting is an act of self-compassion.
April 30, 2021
“Be aware of whatever is arising in the moment and don’t cling to it.” – Joseph Goldstein, summarizing the practice of mindfulness￼￼.
April 29, 2021
Mindfulness, Loving-kindness, Compassion, Equanimity.
I’m grieving. I learned last night that a close friend here in Nashville lost his short battle with cancer.
I really thought I’d get to talk to him again. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
But, in this long journey of impermanence, is any of us ever really ready?
April 28, 2021
Loving-kindness, Sympathetic Joy
My daughter Olivia made a tremendous catch of a deep fly ball during her softball game yesterday. I’m so proud of the progress she’s made and how dedicated she is to her new sport.
April 27, 2021
The acceptance of the impermanence of all created things–this might be the most challenging psychological and spiritual reality with which human beings must grapple.
April 25, 2021
Mindfulness, Learning, Loving-kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, Equanimity
I’ve found Buddhism so appealing because of its emphasis on practical tools and application, with a unifying goal of liberation from suffering. Rather than strict adherence to doctrines and beliefs, Buddhism says, “Try this and see what works for you. So many have already benefited.”
The practice of mindfulness meditation, as informed by Buddhism, is a lifelong journey of starts and stops, breakthroughs and barriers, joys and frustrations. I inch forward a little bit each year.
For me, the simpler I can keep things, the better. I find the last page of Buddhist scholars Bhikku Bodhi’s short but substantive book, The Noble Eightfold Path, to be incredibly helpful in its clear, concise, four-pronged summary of the path itself:
- “Straighten out your views” (Right View)
- “Clarify your intentions” (Right Intention)
- “Purify your conduct” (Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood)
- “Apply effort, energy, and mindfulness to cultivate concentration and wisdom” (Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration)
Mindfulness, Learning, Sympathetic Joy
I’m grateful tonight for an abundance of meaningful, interesting growth and projects, both personal and professional. I’ve struggled so often in life with a fear that I’m not living up to my potential or contributing as much as I could. And that life is passing me by.
I imagine that everyone goes through a version of that at times. And many people are suffering today in a manner far worse than I’ve ever experienced. To ponder whether you’re living up to your potential is a privilege, a luxury that many aren’t able to contemplate because they’re too busy trying to survive.
I don’t take joyful seasons like my present life for granted. And every season is impermanent.
Mindfulness, Loving-kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, Equanimity
This morning I wrote out a new diagram of the core practices of mindfulness, including the 4 Immeasurables. I find it helpful to do this every few months, to maintain focus and practice. And while I generally detest writing things in longhand, there’s something about applying it to these diagrams that feels more meaningful, organic, and authentic.
A fresh insight amid what has been a two year struggle to fully understand the “Right Concentration” component of Buddhism’s Noble Eightfold Path: Concentration isn’t some separate set of meditation activities distinct from “Right Mindfulness” practice. Rather, along with wisdom, concentration is the fruit of the effort and energy one puts into mindfulness practice.
This may not sound like much, but it’s brought me joy today.
April 23, 2021
Both of my cats hate going to the vet..and anywhere else that requires them to ride in the dreaded cat carrier.
I’m in the vet parking lot right now, waiting for Itty Bitty to get her vaccines (for cats, not Covid). She cried most of the way here before finally surrendering in silence. As she cried I kept telling her things like:
“It’s ok, sweetie.” “I know, it’s no fun.” “We’re almost there, sweetheart.”
It’s easier for me to have compassion for a cat than for persons whose viewpoints are starkly opposed to mine.
Mindfulness, Sympathetic Joy
Tonight, fully vaccinated, we had our first real Nashville date night since before the pandemic started. From a Picasso exhibit to a fish dinner, stroll along the pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River, and dessert with decaf, I felt pure gratitude.
April 22, 2021
Mindfulness, Loving-kindness, Compassion
It’s Earth Day, an annual spotlight on the beauty, frailty, and endangerment of our planet.
There are millions who, throughout the year, speak to and act upon the urgency of environmental stewardship, and millions more who scoff at or demonstrate apathy or ignorance toward this urgency.
Most of us are caught somewhere in the middle.
Irony, cynicism, and derivatives upon derivatives don’t provide lasting satisfaction.
April 21, 2021
Mindfulness, Learning, Equanimity
There’s no grand narrative moving toward some packaged resolution. There’s simply the interplay of impermanent forms. Everything is of the nature to decay. Our stories have the same ending.
And somehow, both mysteriously and miraculously, in the midst of this shared tragicomedy there is ultimately love, kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
I threw a lot of softballs during this past weekend, and now my right arm is giving me feedback.
April 19, 2021
I wonder how many Mondays I’ve already lived through. The number is obtainable with a little effort but I’m not quite that ambitious.
April 18, 2021
Mindfulness, Learning, Storytelling, Compassion
I’m almost finished with Ken Burns’ new three-part PBS documentary on Ernest Hemingway. It’s excellent, and provides even more details and insights regarding this man’s fatal flaws and decisions.
As a person and a writer, I’m striving to move in the opposite direction from where Hemingway found himself in his 50s. I’m seeking to be kinder, more compassionate, and more perceptive. I want to continue to be a good steward of my health as well.
April 17, 2021
It’s not quite 5:30 am. As usual I’m the only one awake in my home. There’s a few birds chirping somewhere in the distance. Their song is my companion.
Mindfulness, Compassion, Loving-kindness
A popular expression among Millennials and younger is “random,” such as “some random person/guy/girl/dog/cat.”
My question: Do “random” persons view themselves as “random?” Do they look in the mirror and tell themselves, “You’re so random,” or “Today I’m gonna be that random dude”?
These are the kinds of existential things I ponder. Word choices are interesting and, at times, revelatory.
Mindfulness, Compassion, Equanimity
Weekend afternoons are difficult for me. I get very sleepy, and I often lay down to nap but actual sleep eludes me.
I’m too tired to read or do anything else I enjoy, but not quite drowsy enough to sleep. It’s an in-between window of existence, a personal purgatory. Meaning and purpose are hard to hold onto during this purgatory, and I think of the title of a novel I’m currently reading: The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
All things, experiences, and moments are impermanent. When I’m feeling this afternoon slump, I’m just lucid enough to know it will pass within an hour or two. My body will recover, the curiosity will return, and I’ll once again see possibilities in numerous directions.
But the sobering acceptance of impermanence itself transcends these slumps. More and more often, I’m holding good and bad times in tandem with the reality that nothing is going to last.
At times this acceptance is a powerful undercurrent of joy, an unshakable sense that all is good and there’s no freedom quite like the freedom of letting yourself let go.
Other times, the ghosts that have chased me most of my life insist on being heard…their whispers that it’s never enough, that I must produce more, that it’s important to leave legacies or artifacts that people will cherish and remember.
When I give myself the gift of simply observing my breath, the ghosts don’t get much airtime. When I just “am,” a simple vessel of in-breaths and out-breaths, there’s an easier bearing of all being during all moments, heavy or light.
April 16, 2021
Mindfulness, Storytelling, Loving-kindness, Compassion
My youngest daughter Olivia is playing softball on her high school team. She’s new to the sport, as are many of her teammates, and it’s fun to see her progress and dedication.
As I sit near the bleachers and watch Olivia’s games, I sense the ghosts of my own Little League baseball playing years. I visualize my own father, who played countless sessions of catch with me and hit hundreds of fly balls in my direction, watching me play.
I remember how excited he would get when it was my turn to bat against the opposing tram, or when the ball was hit in my direction. And I feel vestiges of the pain and embarrassment of striking out, again and again, despite how hard I tried.
Things come full circle quite often. A father playing ball with his teenage son and cheering him on at the ballpark. The middle aged version of that teenage boy cheering for his teenage daughter.
Innings come and go, along with days and months and decades. Every moment matters.
April 15, 2021
My brain is so tired after a full day of writing and work. I wake up bursting with creativity and possibilities, and pour out as much as I can before the last call ends and I walk away from the laptop in my home office. I don’t hold back.
April 14, 2021
The beginnings of these ongoing reflections
It’s been a while since I’ve written out reflections and observations regarding my ongoing thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I’ve written thousands of words for other purposes–website copy, learning resources, storyboards, character biographies, and incomplete manuscripts. But in 2021, I’ve yet to use the pen to peel back the layers and check in with myself in any intentional manner.
In the midst of so much activity it becomes easy to hide from yourself. A lack of consistent reflection on core values and observations becomes habitual. Awareness of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity becomes more elusive.
And so, this.