The Secret of Why

Secrets, secrets are no fun

Unless they’re shared by everyone

Author Unknown

We all know about secrets — having them, keeping them and having them kept from us.   In my case, I felt a lot of people knew secrets about my accident and I set out a couple of years ago to unearth them.   Granted, what-I-believed-to-be the so-called “secrets” were often straightforward things like someone’s  stories, a medical record or a hazy recollection.  Yet to me, these were secrets of a grand proportion for the simple reason that no one had ever told me about these things before.

Just why did I need to know these things and why did I need to know why?  In fact, why does anyone need to know why?

It seems science answers this for us, which comes as a great relief to me since these are the things I would otherwise have thought too much about.  “Why is what drives not only everything we do, but also our emotional reactions to everything that happens to us,” says the Buddhist doctor Alex Lickerman, author of the blog, Happiness in This World, Reflections of a Buddhist Physician.  “The negative impact of being left in the dark about why things are done the way they are can be so extreme for some people that explaining our thinking to others actually represents an opportunity to contribute to their well-being. Research has suggested that taking the time to explain yourself will help your children develop a moral conscience, your students achieve mastery, your employees stay happy, and your personal relationships flourish.”

Ahhh, it feels so good to hear stuff like this.  It confirms how important it is to understand the context of our lives.  It is (in my opinion) the essence of Kierkegard‘s quote, “Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards.”

If there is an easier way, please let me know.

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Inspiration in the Banquet Line

In general, high school athletic banquets are about sweet and well-deserved awards for the student athletes rather than doses of inspiration. At least that was my state of mind while driving to the Italian banquet hall on Chicago’s Central Avenue this week for my freshman basketball player son. In between the salad and the pasta along the banquet line, a funny thing happened. Yes, the awards were awarded, letters distributed, the boys commended for their hard work and dedication, and the season dissected for freshman teams, junior varsity and varsity.

But then Coach LoGalbo ended the evening by talking about the importance of being a man, of character and how raising the bar made each athlete a better person. He read from a text, As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen.

“Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.  Man is manacled only by himself. Thought and action are the jailers of Fate – they imprison, being base. They are also the angels of Freedom – they liberate, being noble. Not what he wishes and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions.”

Some other gems

*“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves, they therefore remain bound.”

*“Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him to himself.”

Written as a literary essay in 1904, Allen essentially says  everything happening in your life (circumstances, achievements, all actions) is because of the thoughts we are thinking all day. Everything – job, relationships, happiness, pain, winning, losing – all is because of our thoughts.  He implores us to become aware of our thoughts.  If we only knew, he says, then we would realize that our life sucks because we are thinking – ‘my life sucks, my life sucks’ all day. And so do not assume that you know your thoughts, he says. Observe them. And then if you change them gradually – you will automatically create any circumstance you want by changing them.

I do believe that.

Thoughts being things is hardly a new concept but it created a hush at the athletic banquet, especially when Coach explained that he uses lessons from the text as part of every basketball practice.

After we got home, I went to the Internet and found the text, about 17 pages in all.

How and why do some people let their life events inspire them forward while others fall backward?  Is it only a question of thoughts?

As a child, how was I not destroyed by my accident?  I was too young to control my thoughts in a positive way so how were they shaped?

Doctors, nurses, parents of course of course played a part in shaping my young mind, right?

I’m not sure.

More than purely positive thought processes, I happen to think it was just my moment to have a second chance. While I think positive thinking is uniquely important, I don’t think it is life’s single magic elixir.  Bad things sometimes happen, no matter how well you may think.  Life is cruel to the kindest among us.  Thinking good thoughts won’t spare us from life’s challenges.

As much as we have the power within us, maybe we don’t credit the power outside us enough.  The God spark might give us more chances than we realize, pick us up more times than we know.  Yes, think positive thoughts and train our children to understand their power.  And also accept–  that some things  happen for reasons we’ll never know and simply shape who we are.

Cover of "As a Man Thinketh (Family Inspi...

Cover via Amazon

Book Review: Shift Happens

It’s holiday time 2011 but I wasn’t expecting Shift Happens:  How to Live an Inspired Life…Starting Right Now by Robert Holden, Ph.D. to bring me so many gifts.  Packed within its 300 pages is the kind of simple wisdom that makes you say to yourself, “Have I been making things too complicated?”  Of course, I probably have and in upbeat, happy ways Shift Happens came at the perfect end-of-year time to refresh my perspective and provide a little inspiration for entering 2012.

“The whole world gains when one person has the courage to heal, to love, and to be happy.  No one is healed alone,” writes Holden in the last chapter, appropriately titled, “Your Happiness is a Gift.”  “You are a gift bearer.  You are the “light of the world,” and so is the person next to you.  Do not forget your purpose.  Do not be distracted with “getting” and “having” and “to-ing” and “fro-ing.”  Do not give in to fear, and do not let old wounds blow you off course.  Your healing is a gift.  Your happiness is a gift.  Your loving touch is a gift,” he writes in what is my favorite passage from the book.

Holden is a “happiness” author who has written Happiness NOW! and Be Happy as well as undertaken a ‘Happiness Project‘ focused on the how and why people are (or are not) happy.  There is something affirming about a person who has dedicated his life to the study of happiness — something that makes me think twice (and without cynicism) about his statement, “Happiness is an inner light switch with no off light.”

There are all sorts of uplifting and motivational books out there and that requires some discernment for us readers.  This one is a gem — an excellent compilation of what-you-already-may-know, supplemented with any number of what-you-may-not-have-thought-of ways to see the world.  Some of my favorite examples marked on dog-eared pages:

*  “I have found that whenever you clear your stuff about God, your life shifts.  Life gets easier.  To be happy you do not have to be religious about God but you do have to be unafraid about God….What a pity it is that we made a religion out of God.”

*  “The world changes when you do…..being willing to show up differently is what makes something different happen.”

* “The meaning of life is made, not found,”

* “Any pain or struggle is a signal to relax and let go.”

* “Think less, live more.”

* “Anger always hides a gift.”

These are of course, just snippets — the book elaborates fills out each one with anecdotes, research and other thought-provoking tales.

The book is available for purchase at www.hayhouse.comwww.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com.  More information on Robert Holden is available on his website at www.robertholden.org.

This is another book review in my partnership with Hay House. I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.