“My Walden” – Are we truly more advanced??

Is there anyone out there who can relate to the words written about life in 1845-1847 by Henry David Thoreau?

“Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.”

“He has no time to be anything but a machine.”

“…, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough…”

“…; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up something against a sick day, something to be tucked away in an old chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or, more safely, in the brick bank; no matter where, no matter how much or how little.”

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“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.” ~Earl Nightingale

Today I watch and observe the same. People wake up sleep deprived to an alarm that insists they step back on the treadmill. They prepare themselves for a day at work, commuting idling behind stop light after stoplight. Hurry to work, spend more time there than with your family, commute back home to share what little energy and presence you have left. Hit repeat the next morning… Living for the weekends and days off.

Now this would not sadden me, if I saw happy people. If I experienced people excited to “go to work”, witnessing joy and passion. In the thirty seven years I have been working across the grand diversity of thirty different jobs, it has been my experience that happiness is not what greets me when I enter the door to my workplace. The negativity vibrates off the walls like a slap in the face. My colleagues count the hours until the day is done, they groan about the meetings and lament the shortcomings of those in charge.

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“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” ~ Steve Jobs

Humans are not robots. We are fueled by emotions, desires, passions, and the ultimate wish to love and be loved; celebrating in the interconnectedness of friends, family, community.  In our world presently not only do most people robotically go through their day, they sit behind a machine that is completely detached and void of fulfilling any of their internal needs.  This rectangular box dictates the day’s progression. It has become a physical extension of our body and sadly how we stay connected to others versus sharing time in person.

Thoreau stated clearly, “He has no time to be anything but a machine.” I wonder what he would say now about all of us? Yikes! If he found himself shaking his head one hundred and seventy three years ago, I fear his whole being would go into shock today.

What might change if we started to show up differently? I might not enjoy my present employment, however, the day will be more fulfilling if I shift my attitude and become aware of how I can serve and be positively present with those around me. I do experience that positive behavior can be as contagious as negative.

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“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” ~Aristotle

Today’s Exploration –

Are you happy with your life?

Do you go through the motions of your day like a machine?

What “finer fruits” are you missing out on in your daily life, that you can choose to start noticing?

If you are not happy, what are some small steps today that you can choose to shift things?

What if every time you found yourself complaining, you caught yourself and changed it to a positive thought?

In closing, I wish to invite you to “try out” how just changing your mindset can hugely impact your experiences and thus your life. YOU choose how you feel, NO ONE makes you feel anything.

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“My Walden” – Choosing Our Path…

The first blog entry for “My Walden” came directly from the first page of Thoreau’s reflections, midway into his second paragraph in the first chapter “Economy”. This second post which I hope you will truly take the time to explore, comes from paragraph three and four, ahhh… the incredible teachings, that like history we perpetuate and hit repeat.

Thoreau’s words –

“I have travelled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways.”

“I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in.”

“Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?”

“But men labor under mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. …laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.”

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“Of all possessions a friend is the most precious.” ~Herodotus

As I sit here quietly on the deck of “My Walden”, I am blessed to observe the playful shenanigans of two squirrels, a floating duck on a glass still pond and the chatting walkers’ across the way who absorb a wee bit of nature while they mosey.  The sun plays peek a boo through the clouds and the buzz of distant traffic reminds me that a very chaotic world exists beyond my sanctuary.

In the times of Thoreau and today, to be a land owner is celebrated; to “own” your home, property, a piece of the planet. I used to “own” a small morsel of land that cradled a little home. Of course I did not “own” it, the bank did and when the crash of 2008-2009 blazed through, I lost it.

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“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” ~Democritus

At times I miss that place, however I am clear, it is not so much the home or the land I miss, it is the memories created there. The time shared with others, the experiences and rituals established with neighbors. “Losing it all” has given a perspective from which to reflect and explore. Is home ownership all that it is marketed to be? Hmmm.., I am not so sure, for one can easily become slave to the home, its upkeep and maintenance, the time and separation it creates from others. As Thoreau so wisely stated, is your home a place of celebration or penance? When you are lying on your death bed, will it be the home you remember and cherish, or will it be the times shared with others inside those walls that comfort you during your last breaths?

I am most certainly not against home/land ownership, I do however wish to question how your time is spent within the walls of such ownership. Does it line up with your passions, your dreams, your desires? Does it gift you with freedom to play, to connect, to be with those you love, doing what you love? Or does it begin the downslide to the digging of your grave? Is it a noose or wings?

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“Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them! There is great freedom in simplicity of living. It is those who have enough but not too much who are the happiest.” ~Peace Pilgrim

We supposedly live in the “Land of the Free”, yet all around me I observe like Thoreau a people doing penance. Living life for the tomorrows which never come. Waiting until…!! Then they find themselves alone, broke, and lying in a bed of regret. I continue to be grateful for the wisdom I gleaned from the patients I cared for in a nursing home during my early twenties. The stories they shared highlighted for me what was most important – the connection with others and living a life filled with passion and faith. There is value in learning from what resides in our rearview mirror, however, be careful that your history does not become your limiting belief/story. Celebrating our present moments with complete awareness guides us into our tomorrows full of inspired dreams.

For me, this is an eloquent dance. Like standing on the peak of a mountain you have climbed. You can see the trail you journeyed, as you stand celebrating the panoramic view before you. Looking out you can see all the possibilities, which way shall you go, what path will lead you to what comes next, what beckons you…

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“Your most precious, valued possessions and your greatest powers are invisible and intangible. No one can take them. You, and you alone, can give them. You will receive abundance for your giving.” ~W. Clement Stone

Today’s Pondering – Assess your present reality

Are you living a life full of passion, joy, love, and co-creating?

Are you burdened by the things you own, are they the ball and chain that keeps you stuck?

Are you waiting for tomorrow, or “when I have…” I will do this and go for that?

In closing I can say with certainty that we all have a few things in common – we were born, we will die, we all have 24 hours each day and our personal quality of life is directly tied to the choices we make in our present moments. 

“My Walden” – JOY (Just Own You)

Today is a wonderful day to start fresh upon this page. To begin a new journey of sharing and exploring. It is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a holiday I have always struggled with. Even as a young person, I thought it strange we celebrated a day hallmarking gratitude for the Native American helping the white settler to survive, only to then massacre and destroy their way of life. Hmmm…, just one of those historical things I have pondered.

Over the years as I have asked people why do we teach history, I always get the rote reply, “We teach history, so we will not repeat our mistakes.”.  I actually have to laugh at this response, for look around, read the paper (does anyone do this anymore?) or watch the news (I must admit, I do not and have not watched the news for at least 20 years) – we repeat history ALL the time. Year after year, century after century, civilization after civilization. This new journey on my blog is going to be a reflective exploration of “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, an autobiographical story that poignantly exposes the repetition of history and the games we play.

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“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” ~Henry David Thoreau

So let’s start at the very beginning – “A very good place to start…” as Julie Andrews so graciously shares in her song “Do, Re, Me…” from “Sound of Music” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp0opnxQ4rY). In the opening chapter, “Economy” Thoreau introduces himself and the book. He states, “In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the fist person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.”

Why do I choose such a simplistic, “unimportant” point to begin this narrative journey? My why, zeroes in on the serious sincere truth that the only person we can truly “talk about” is the “I”.  We do not tread in any other persons moccasins, so why do we pretend to know, make assumptions, waste time in gossip and hyperbole about anyone? Everything around us barrages us from a perspective that we “KNOW” another, that our way is better, that there is a “right or wrong” way to live. It is my experience that we pretend to know and understand another culture and people without ever going there, without ever being able to embody their way of life.  So.., think about the beautiful pure simplicity of this statement from Thoreau – “I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else home I knew as well.”

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“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” ~Albert Einstein

What would the world be like if we stayed true to this? If we spoke and lived from the “I”? Never assuming or putting onto another our beliefs, expectations, or attachments? What might unfold if we stopped judging without knowing? If we stopped assuming and pretending we know without asking?

This blog is about ME, about my reflective exploration of the world through my eyes. I cannot begin to imagine, nor understand your world, for I do not journey within your beating heart, warm breath, or synopsizing brain. I can only inquire, open the door to learning and hearing about another’s experience and perspective. I know in my heart and soul that all I wish for in this glorious world is for each being to find the immense joy, peace, and love that resides within. How? Well that is an individual odyssey.

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“I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” ~Socrates

I shall conclude today’s little pondering with a challenge for you, one that I give myself over and over and over again, for it bashes up against our human domesticated nature, live today from the “I”.

  • Communicate with others from your “I” place. (Example – “I feel sad when there is no time to be together. I hear that you do not wish to go with me, when you say you are busy. Etc…) This is a journey in owning your “feelings” without blame and victimhood. 
  • Listen from your “I” place, free of judgment, expectation, attachment, or assumption. This will take awareness and practice.
  • If you do not understand something, brave the opportunity to inquire, to ask, to desire to see from another perspective.
  • As you observe outside of yourself, can you step away from your place of judgment to view and experience without attachment?

Have fun with this, it just might change your experience of yourself and others. I would love to hear how your experience with “I” goes.