Category: Don’s Blog

Tips for Fishing and Living # 18

Tip #18:

“The two best times to fish is when it’s rainin’ and when it ain’t.”

     Patrick F. MacManus

There is the now old, but famous, Samuel Beckett play called: Waiting for Godot. It is about waiting for God. The opening time for the play passes as the audience gets more and more restless. Eventually, an actor comes out from behind the main curtain to somewhat explain some technical difficulty and cause for the delay, and then starts to chit-chat and waste time with the audience until it begins to dawn on the audience that this is the play.

 Beckett’s play highlights the existential crises of his time when he wrote it. Unfortunately humanity has not changed one bit in those 60 years since this play was written. It remains relevant in our present times. Godot never comes, and the play suggests that life has no meaning and is full of suffering. While Beckett didn’t say this, I contend it is up to each of us to create meaning. And certainly to not wait in doing so.

There are two main points to the play:

  • You only live once.
  • This one-time life is short.

 Whenever I see couples that seem stuck in a hum-drum existence, and need some essential changes in order to bring about their stated desires – such as having an alive and joyful marital relationship, I chide them by asking, “What are you waiting for? Go for the gold!”

 I also telling them that whether one ever gets to one’s stated goal(s) or does not, in the end we still die! I do not say this to be morbid, or to frighten them. I am trying to motivate. I want them to take on an urgency. Now is all we have. Nike was onto this with their old “Just do It!” campaign.  Don’t wait for opportunity; create it.

 I love it when experts tell us this is the wrong time to buy a house, or start a business, change careers, or any other such things. You may detect some sarcasm here. That’s because it’s all nonsense. It is never the wrong time to do anything one’s heart desires. Opportunities abound. We just need to look for them.

 There is an old tale of two shoe salesmen that each travel to a remote area of Africa. One writes back, “This is terrible, they don’t were shoes here.”

The other writes, “This is wonderful, they don’t wear shoes here.”

 Often we spend so much of our energy in the “should we or shouldn’t we” stage. This ambivalence, if we remain in it for too long, will zap our energy and even bring about depression. Once one decides to take decisive action all that energy is then freed up and released to now be utilized towards making the decision happen.

 Life is always meant to be lived – lived fully and lived now. Even so-called mistakes are precious and can have value. It’s far better to make “mistakes” early. It’s even better to not make the same ones too often. The best way is to learn and grow from them. That’s why mistakes are potentially valuable. Good judgment results from making bad judgments. In reality there are no mistakes, only learning experiences.

 Do not delay in following through with what your heart is telling you. Make haste. You have eternity to be dead. Until then keep on living and doing and being fully engaged with your precious life – the only one you will ever have.

 Perhaps Mark Twain said it best:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

 Maybe now is the perfect time to grab your rod and tackle; rain or no rain. No telling what might come of it.


Tips for Fishing and Living # 17

Tip #17:

“Some go to church and think about fishing, others go fishing and think about God.”

Tony Blake

Perhaps churches are for those who have little or no imagination. It isn’t that one cannot find God there; it’s that God is also everywhere. The Divine flourishes in each and every crack, crevice, within and without.

Most people go to church in order to get holy. We needn’t go to church or temple or mosque, to GET holy. Ideally we go to be reminded that we already are holy – holy and sacred; with no exceptions.

The reason to go to any religious gathering, then, if we are interested in going at all, is to be reminded of this holiness.  The Divine is everywhere and dwells among us, and within us. It’s great, then, to gather and celebrate this essential reality. At the mature levels of all religions is a common goal: union with all beings and with God. I cannot say “I love God but hate humanity.”

Mystics are people that seem to be living quiet, disconnected lives, but actually they are about expanding the world’s consciousness and evolution. Foundational to mysticism is transforming the entire world. Such is a world would be where we recognize all people to possess value, and that we all are morally obligated to respect the intrinsic goodness and sacredness in one another.

This is a tall order with huge consequences. Honoring the humanity of all our fellow beings means that if they are hungry, ill, or oppressed, we must help. This is a most inconvenient truth. This requires a response on social, political and economic terms.

Mystics do this transforming of the world by first confronting their own personal isms, biases, and blind spots. These are the things that get fueled in everyone from fear. “Heal thyself, physician.”

When we start first with ourselves, other people show up differently.

I am not going to go into this current state of our society where fear is being used to separate and pit one group against another, and thus appealing to the worst of humankind. Let’s, instead focus on the basic truth that there is only one human race. All the differences bantered about are pure nonsense, and a huge insult to everyone.

Some people define spiritual maturity as “just trying hard to follow rules of the Bible.” This falls very short of what is actual maturity. Soren Kierkegaard said it best: “The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”

Not surprisingly, the two personal barriers towards spiritual growth people self-report are:

(1) “I’m not motivated to grow spiritually” and,

(2) “There are too many distractions that get in the way.”

Furthermore, a majority of responders report they’re satisfied with the level of spiritual maturity they presently experience. Growth is seen as threatening.

This seems to belie a common apprehension regarding change. Change is avoided even when the present situation isn’t working. Fear of the unknown; fear of the cost change may require, as well as, all sorts of anxiousness around leaving the status quo can deter us from otherwise making chooses we know are needed.

The greatest obstacle to a great marriage – or great career – or a great life – is a good one. It’s a “Don’t rock the boat” kind of thinking. So we settle for a so-so, or a sort-of-okay marriage, job, life. I call this not living. Rather, it’s a settling for an “arrangement.”  

“Deep down, each one of us is a mystic. When we tap into that energy we become alive again and we give birth. From the creativity that we release is born the prophetic vision and work that we all aspire to realize as our gift to the world. We want to serve in whatever capacity we can. Getting in touch with the mystic inside is the beginning of our deep service.” Matthew Fox

Mysticism isn’t an exclusive club for the few “so heavenly minded [they’re] of no earthly good” belong, as Johnny Cash sang. Mysticism isn’t only found in monasteries or ashrams, but in ordinary people, in all of us.

The spirituality 99.9% of us are called to isn’t to a monastic life. It’s to a spirituality rooted in our family life, work, and sexuality. It’s a spirituality of the mundane and ordinariness of our day in and day out lives. We live in the world. The holiness is found within the messiness and craziness of our ordinary lives.

Ultimately we are each called to maturity. I like to describe it as being self-differentiated. It‘s the capacity to remain calm and present in the midst of the anxiousness of others. The fancy-schamcy language is to be a non-anxious presence. This is only possible if we are conscious and present.

A reflective life is essential for being a mystic of monasteries and a mystic of main street, USA. We don’t start by asking what the world needs. Reflection as to what makes you come alive; and then go do it. What the world needs is people who have come alive. 

While they are not alone on this score, fishers are people who slow down their minds enough and have a better chance at living a more reflective and conscious life.

Tips for Fishing and Living # 16

Tip #16:

“The difference between fly fishers and worm dunkers is the quality of their excuses.”  Anonymous

In life you wind up with one of two things: either getting the results you were seeking, or having the reason(s) why you didn’t get those results. Results don’t have to be explained. They just are. People who don’t produce results or many results, instead, have their various excuses – or their reasons. They are reasonable people.

What I mean is these are people who reason away not getting the result(s) they said they wanting to get.“I wanted to lose 10 pounds, but the holidays came and I went to all these parties.”Or “I am trying to be a safe driver but these crazy people who speed, and cut and serve, and do all sorts of dangerous things, make me see red!”

BUT, but, but… Whenever we interject the word but into a sentence we rescind the first part of the sentence. It’s like saying, “I love you BUT I hate you.” So which is it? In this case it could be accurate to say, “I love you and I hate you.” Both are true. The and lets both parts of the sentence stand, whereas the BUT does not.

I can say “I want to lose 10 pounds AND I went to holiday parties without a plan to change my old behavior so I dropped my weight loss goal. At least I am owning what I did. By taking responsibility I can now formulate a better action plan for the future. Maybe I can reset my goal, take more decisive steps, and not need to rely on REASONS for not reaching this stated goal.

Successful people are UNREASONABLE. They do whatever it takes. They go the extra mile. They persist. And they begin by taking full responsibility for their outcomes.

Then there are those who don’t set goals for themselves. They tend to just go with the flow. They often take the path of least resistance. They allow circumstances to dictate how their lives proceed. These are the people who are good at being a Poor-me. They tend to live like victims.

None of us gets to choose the circumstances of our lives. We do, however, get to choose how we respond to these circumstances. And to this extent we get to have a powerful say in the matter of our lives, whether we realize it or not. While some would say they simply had good luck, I suggest it’s also a matter of being prepared to act when the so-called good luck appears.

There’s a very old adage: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.” In his book: The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren takes on a Christian perspective where our lives are seen as a spiritual journey. He uses the Bible to unpack his belief that God directs our lives with purpose. Other disciplines contend similarly that we’re here for more than simply our own happiness. Our life’s meaning has to do with something greater than ourselves and with making a contribution. Fulfillment is the byproduct.

Quantum Physics also points to the realization that each and every one of us is connected. Failing to see this and solely pursuing things exclusively for ourselves, is delusional. It is also short sighted.

Whatever philosophy or life perspective one prescribes to, setting solely self- indulged goals and achieving these will never be fully satisfying. Our accomplishments will not carry the day. They’ll feel great initially, but this satisfaction fades rather quickly. What is fulfilling is when these goals are meant to reach beyond our own self-centeredness. When we make a difference in other people’s lives we are rewarded with much deeper joy and contentment.

Simply put: If you want to be happy do something for someone else. Some people know this. Some discover this along the way. For some it is sooner; for others it’s more gradual learning process. Unfortunately some people don’t ever seem to learn this important lesson. Instead, they remain doomed to keep going for that next material goal or next prestigious marker, only to be soon looking for the next, and then the next, unfulfilling, briefly satisfying goal.

Worm dunker are not bad people. Money, success, prestige or fame won’t make you happy. Maybe the difficulty is we need to be asking better questions.

Questions like:

  • Am I making a positive difference?
  • Is the world a tad better because I am here?
  • How can I best use my gifts and talents to be a contribution?
  • What am I most passionate about and how can I express this passion best?

There is a huge difference between wanting to make a million dollars, and wanting financial freedom in order to accomplish something “purposeful” for humankind. When we know our life purpose then there’s no longer any need to ask ourselves, “should I or shouldn’t I do this purposeful pursuit?”

Love what you do; do what you love. Once we know this, it’s a matter of finding the best means towards achieving it. Our gifts and talents are for the sake of others, and there is inherent joy in expressing them. The people who do great, bold and powerful things – the things they set out to do – start with (a) a clear goals, and (b) remain unreasonable in the pursuit of them.

Gene Kranz, Mission Control flight director of Apollo 13 mission, when the flight had a major problem that would have ended in the death of the astronauts, is said to have told the engineers at center they needed find a solution to the problem aboard Apollo 13, and that “failure is not an option.” So they set out to solve it. And they did. Apollo 13 came home safely.

Tips for Fishing and Living # 15

Tip # 15:

“Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job.” 

                                                                            Paul Schullery

 Those individuals who make what they do look easy, do so because they have achieved a significantly high level of mastery. They have this level of mastery because they’ve never stopped learning how to do what they do. They continually practice the rudimentary basics of their discipline each and every day, as well as strive for continual improvement. The Japanese have a word for this called: Kaizen – meaning: continuous improvement.

 I don’t care if you are a master pianist, a master carpenter, or a martial arts expert, these individuals each practice their specific area of skill constantly. These are the NBA super stars who still show up early for practice and then stay late to practice some more. They are the writers that write each and every day whether they feel inspired or not.  They are those individuals who remain open to the possibility of learning new things no matter how accomplished they have become. They are people who, regardless of their level of achievement, are always tweaking and fine tuning their skills and competence.

 These are also people can be described as life-long learners. In fact they love learning so much that they are curious and inquisitive about all sorts of things. Not only are they curious but they constantly see connections with seemingly desperate things. While they have a theoretical basis from which they operate, at the very same time, they are not locked into closed minded or rigid thinking.

 Another way of saying this is they are not so dogmatic and thus blinded, to be merely content with incremental improvements they’ve gained over time. There is nothing wrong with incremental gains, of course. But these people are also open to breakthroughs and paradigm shifts and are willing to see newer prospective that may refute any or all prior ways of seeing and doing things. They are also people who do not see themselves as so much as masters, but as students of their life profession – and of life itself.

 This way of seeing one’s life is available to all of us. We each are to become masters of our own unique life. Whether we know it or not we are creating our life; we are inventing it and making it into a very personal and unique work of art. This includes reframing so-called mistakes as part of our learning opportunities, and often a source of new pathways for growth and wisdom.

 Several years ago Julia Cameron wrote her book, The Artist’s Way, subtitled: “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.” In it, she makes the case that such a journey is not exclusively for so-called Artists. And that each of us is an Artist – a creative being. Cameron encourages us to tap into this artist within – this creative part of oneself. She presents some daily rituals and weekly practices in order to foster one’s artist self.

 It’s easy enough to dismiss such an idea. “I’m not an artist.”  “I don’t draw or sing or play any musical instrument.” But all have creative talents and abilities. An attorney has to tap her creative aspects in order to help be the very best for the client. A plumber needs to use creative thinking to route new piping into a pre-existing structure. Each of us must utilize some creativity and imagining throughout our day.

 An intentional treatment of oneself necessitates a self-respect and honoring of the divine within – the Creator that we are made by/of. It is not about boastfulness or being self-indulgent. It is true humility to live out the calling one has been given, and to see it as part of your unique artistic expression.

 Allow me to segway back to the above fishing quote. It seems a bit presumptuous to pit fly-fishing to brain surgery. But looking past this and picking up the notion of a hobby vs. a serious career, there is something helpful here when we consider how our calling requires: our very presence, an intentional persistence, and lots of practice. 

 No brain surgery is ever the exact same procedure. There are certain, fundamental, and necessary skills that must be utilized each and every time. And then there is also artistry required, as well. In order to meet whatever unique differences and distinctions that are bound to arise, the master surgeon – as does any master – needs to use that creativity cultivated over a life time of learning.

Tips for Fishing and Living # 14

Tip # 14;

“If fishing is interfering with your business, give up your business.”

Alfred W. Miller   

It is so cliché to say life is short, yet this life each of us has been given, relative to death, it is extremely short. Some tells us we have all come from the unknown, into this present life – we call the known – and then, when we die, and go back to the unknown.

It is up to us to decide how we spend this known phase.

Here’s another cliché: Life is not a dress rehearsal. It is the real deal. Therefore we don’t have a minute to waste doing one single thing that is not in alignment with our integrity and with our inner compass – that very part of us often described as our inner voice. I’m lobbying for us to pay closer attention to our inner voice and utilize it as we formulate our actions and life choices.

 This relative short phase we call our life, since it is short can initially sound like justification to not be reflective, but rather to go at top speed, doing everything and anything we wish to do. But it is, actually, the reason for living a more intentional life; a life with purpose and meaning.

 When working with couples I often get them to each learn how to love their partner based upon what makes his/her partner experience being love, rather than what one loves for him or herself. In other words, I challenge each to shift loving smarter, not harder. I might love being given things, so I may logically think I ought to go about giving things to my beloved and think this will be welcomed. But this may not be what “floats her boat.” All I know is that this would float mine.

 So in order to effectively love another person I need to so on their terms. This requires being present and discerning – discernment that comes from good communication, solid listening, and subsequent reflection. Otherwise we are falling into the mistaken belief we k ow what is best, self-absorbed in our superior judgment, and ultimately an ineffective lover.

 Up until now I have resisted offering concrete suggestions. Here are a few I humbly offer for your consideration:

  • Start your day off peacefully. (We have raised a large family, so I laugh as I state this one).
  • Learn to be mindful by slowing things down.
  • Develop new forms of measurement for success – i.e.: “Am I turning toward or away from what life may be offering?”
  • Keep an eye out for miracles; and expect surprises.
  • Practice Gratitude and gratefulness each and every day, and see what comes of this.

 Sadly, too few people truly love what they do and do what they love. If this were the case, there would be no wars, no crime, and no inhumanity to humankind. Those who misinterpret the pithy fishing quote above may do so because they imagine a world with fisherpersons lining all the brooks and streams of the planet and consequentially nothing ever getting done. If so, they are wrong. It is not a call to irresponsibility; rather it’s a calling forth to responsibility – responsibility that cannot be realized until we are reflective and able to see our common shared humanity and common divinity.

 Responsible living starts when we take to heart what our inner voice is telling us. This inner voice ought to be what we allow to call the shots, and what ought to lead us forward, rather than ignoring it, and thus keep us locked into doing what we’ve always done, or doing what we hate doing, simply because we’ve always done it. It is a call to living what is known as a reflective life.

 Mystics, philosophers, and many others, speak about the importance of reflection, and for being a contemplative person. Centered is another way of saying this. It is also about being conscious. Many of us can get quite lazy and by default live unconsciously for as long as we can get away with it.

 Our present world is set up for us to unwittingly live mostly in an unreflective manner. The helter-skelter way we’re fostered into conducting our daily lives feeds into this unconscious, unreflective, living that is predominately the norm. Thus many go about life in a hurried, rushed pace, doing the more expedient, or what we think to be, efficient things, rather than the more effective. We uphold multi-tasking as a badge of honor. We rush in our cars, drive-through windows, “working” lunches, and frantic comings and goings.

 A reflective lifestyle would interrupt such an anxious state.  It takes deliberate discipline to interrupt this way of existing since we would be bucking the tide. But here’s the thing: it will allow us to become more capable of choosing more wisely. And this would distinguish us from merely existing to truly living.

 If your present life ain’t working for you, give it up. Take some small, incremental, and steady steps that will shift you, and keep you moving toward newer and better practices until you discover what best helps.  Over time you will discover what makes for significant and permanent change. In other words: Figure out what your version of “fishing” is right one for you; and get going at it. There’s no better time than now.