Wednesday Wisdom: Expectation vs. Appreciation

 

“Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole life changes in that moment.”

– Tony Robbins

 

 

 

 

Image: Spare the Weeds (Arthur Turrell, 1880; public domain, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress).

 

 

 

 

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Birth of a Rainbow


Rainbow over the Oakland Tribune building in Oakland, California (©Laurie Snyder, January 2017. All rights reserved.)

 

Meditation Mondays: Gratitude Practice for Spring

Highsmith, Carol. “Interesting clouds over Inks Lake, a Colorado River inlet, Burnet County, Texas, 2014 (public domain, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress).

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. 

— Melody Beattie

And it can also turn a stormy day into one with rays of sun breaking through the clouds. With that in mind, our managing editor presents this new practice suggestion below to help you remember that light always finds a way to break through darkness.

Practice Suggestion for Spring 2019: Look around you — at home and at work, and assess your environment and life constructively, but without judging yourself or others negatively. As you do, take pen to paper, and begin to make a list of the obvious people and possessions in your life for which you should be profoundly grateful. Choose one person or possession each day, recall how that person or thing came into your life, recall how that person or thing first made you feel joy, and then allow yourself to send that joy back out into the world by envisioning a similar gift being given to someone you know who is having a hard time right now.

Then, over the next few weeks, expand your gratitude list to include experiences which might not initially have seemed positive, but which helped you advance along your life’s path. Be sure to include these “teachable moments” in your mindfulness practice moving forward.

 

Image: Highsmith, Carol. “Interesting clouds over Inks Lake, an inlet of the Colorado River in Burnet County, Texas,” 2014 (public domain, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress).

Gilgamesh and Tai Chi on a Summer’s Morn in New Hampshire: An Odyssey for 21st-Century Adventurers

Thompson Bridge, West Swanzey, New Hampshire ( circa 1915, public domain).

There comes a time when everyone experiences despair and defeat. “Blown off course” as Odysseus was in Homer’s epic, The Odyssey, one must find a way back to one’s chosen path, or blaze another trail, using wit, intuition and grit to transform life’s circumstances from detrimental to favorable. Though the individual challenges and solutions may vary from one person to the next, the common goal for every human being across the globe is remarkably similar — finding the strength within to triumph over adversity and become the hero of one’s own life story.

Road Scholar, a Boston-based non-profit, aims to help busy adults achieve greater success in this regard by providing soul-searching humans with six days of time in a serene, New Hampshire setting to reconnect with nature while gaining new perspective on life by reflecting on the lessons presented in several of the greatest classics of literature — Gilgamesh; Homer’s The Odyssey; The Thousand and One Nights (also known as Arabian Nights), and Monkey: A Folk-Tale of China, Arthur Waley’s abridged translation of the sixteenth-century Chinese novel, Journey to the West.

In addition to discussing the major themes of these classic adventure stories and delving into the travel routes, beliefs and life arcs of their respective heroes, participants will be given the opportunity to participate in morning Tai Chi sessions and explore the beauty of New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region through day trips to covered bridges and historic towns within a ten-mile radius of Pilgrim Pines Camp and Retreat Center in West Swanzey.

The program, “Epic Tales: Gilgamesh, Homer’s Odyssey, Arabian Night & More,” will run from August 25 to August 30, 2019, and is specially priced at $729 per person with no extra cost charged for single rooms. In addition to five nights of accommodation, the package includes fifteen meals, ten lectures and three field trips led by experts, and admission to one performance and one hands-on experience, as well as the Road Scholar Assurance Plan, customary gratuities, and taxes.

Participants will also have the opportunity to relax and enjoy personal time at the retreat center. Established prior to 1920, Pilgrim Pines was launched as a Christian camp for residents of Cromwell, Connecticut, who subsequently chose to move their facility to West Swanzey, rather than have its serenity shattered by increased construction and land development. The New Hampshire site remains a ministry program of the East Coast Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Travel to and from the center may be undertaken through a combination of air and automobile or train and automobile with the cost dependent on various factors, such as the traveler’s departing city of origin.

In addition to keeping brains nimble, such Road Scholar programs also confer additional benefits — the chance for participants to ponder the uncertainty and misunderstandings which can occur when people experience new cultures for the first time, the desire to grow by seeing through another’s eyes, and the joy which comes from understanding and valuing another human’s “way of being.”

SPEAK, MEMORY—
Of the cunning hero,
The wanderer, blown off course time and again….

Speak, Immortal One,
And tell the tale once more in our time.

— Homer, The Odyssey, Book I

 

For more information, visit “Epic Tales: Gilgamesh, Homer’s Odyssey, Arabian Night & More” (Program No. 23620RJ).

Meditation Mondays: Finding and Conveying Hope

Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

 

In Spanish (Oración por la paz, San Francisco de Asís)

Señor, haz de mi un instrumento de tu paz.
Que allá donde hay odio, yo ponga el amor.
Que allá donde hay ofensa, yo ponga el perdón.
Que allá donde hay discordia, yo ponga la unión.
Que allá donde hay error, yo ponga la verdad.
Que allá donde hay duda, yo ponga la Fe.
Que allá donde desesperación, yo ponga la esperanza.
Que allá donde hay tinieblas, yo ponga la luz.
Que allá donde hay tristeza, yo ponga la alegría.

Oh Señor, que yo no busque tanto ser consolado, cuanto consolar,
ser comprendido, cuanto comprender,
ser amado, cuanto amar.
Porque es dándose como se recibe,
es olvidándose de sí mismo como uno se encuentra a sí mismo,
es perdonando, como se es perdonado,
es muriendo como se resucita a la vida eterna.

Amén.

 

Image: NASA (public domain).

 

Wednesday Wisdom: The Journey of Life

 

“We lead our lives like water flowing down a hill, going more or less in one direction until we splash into something that forces us to find a new course.”

– Arthur Golden, in Memoirs of a Geisha

 

Image: Mountain stream with boulders (public domain).

 

National Cell Phone Courtesy Month: Time to Renew Your “No Phone Zone” Pledge

At 55 miles per hour, it takes an automobile just five seconds to drive the length of a football field on a traffic-free highway. That’s fairly basic math, but an important statistic for any parent hoping to teach his or her child to use the family car responsibly.

This tidbit of driving data takes on even greater importance when one realizes just how many teens today are making those football field-length journeys on a daily basis – and are effectively doing so with their eyes closed. According to a recent poll by AAA, 35 percent of teenagers admitted to texting while driving – even though 94 percent of those same teens acknowledged that it was a dangerous practice.

If that thought strikes you as terrifying and prompts you to take action to protect a loved one, then this article will have done its job.

Killer Texts

Distracted driving was already an epidemic in 2010 when Oprah Winfrey launched her campaign to educate the public about the dangers of talking on cell phones while driving. That year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 3092 Americans were killed and another 415,000 injured in automobile crashes involving distracted drivers.

Shocked by that statistic and by other data revealed in Winfrey’s television program, America’s Deadly New Obsession, many of her regular viewers opted to take her “No Phone Zone” pledge that year, and encouraged their teens to do so as well:

I pledge to make my car a No Phone Zone. Beginning right now, I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by not texting or using my phone while I am driving. I will ask other drivers I know to do the same. I pledge to make a difference.

Unfortunately, as cell phone use became second nature to teens with the advent of texting and to average working adults when bosses realized that they could demand that employees respond to questions at any time and from any location – regardless of whether or not it was physically safe or socially appropriate to do so – those statistics only continued to climb. By 2014, nearly 13,000 more Americans had been killed in distracted driving-related accidents with another 1,663,000 injured. (For those trying to form a mind picture, that latter number would be the equivalent of having the entire populations of Indianapolis and San Francisco injured by distracted drivers in the same year.)

And if that weren’t enough, research over the past several years has shown that Americans’ interactions with family, friends and co-workers are also being harmed. According to a recent article in Fortune, 55 percent of bosses surveyed stated that texting and cell phone use were the largest sources of distraction for their employees with 48 percent indicating that this usage had negatively impacted the work of their employees, and 38 percent noting a clear decline in the morale of other employees forced to “pick up the slack” of their cell phone-addicted colleagues.

That same year, Brigham and Young University scientists released a study showing that “conflict over technology use, lower relationship satisfaction, more depressive symptoms, and lower life satisfaction” has grown between life partners as computers, smartphones or televisions have increasingly interrupted “couple leisure time, conversations, and mealtimes.” Such “technoference” appears to be more damaging than partners realize “even when unintentional or for brief moments,” said researchers, because “individuals may be sending implicit messages about what they value most.”

So What Can Be Done?

While it’s not realistic for working men and women to totally eliminate email or smartphone use in today’s technology-driven world, it is possible for most to take a time out. And there’s no better time to do so than during the summer, according to Jacqueline Whitmore. Whitmore, a business etiquette expert, launched National Cell Phone Courtesy Month in 2002 “to o encourage the increasingly unmindful corps of cellphone users to be more respectful of their surroundings by using some simple cellphone etiquette principles.”

Six years later, she released a list of tips which still serve as a useful, basic etiquette guide for adults and teens trying to make their work and social settings more productive and pleasant. Among her suggestions, let calls go to voicemail when you’re in a meeting or at a restaurant so that you can focus on the person who should have your attention at that moment; if you must take a call, then at least be polite enough to “take it outside” so you won’t interfere with others trying to engage in their own activities in that same setting. Be discreet with what you share over a cell phone during your commute on the train. And for heaven’s sake, turn your cell phone off when you’re in church or at temple.

Be Smart with your Smart Phone – Tips from The Contemplative Traveler

  • Drive Mindfully: Fight distracted driving during the month of July. Take the “No Phone Zone” pledge shown above, and then spend the remainder of the month driving mindfully. Turn your cell phone off and put it away before you get behind the wheel. If need be, notify your co-workers in advance that you won’t be available by phone for 30 minutes (or whatever the length of your commute is), and just drive. Convince your family, friends, colleagues, and members of your congregation to do the same.
  • Work Mindfully: Improve workplace morale and work-life balance by limiting “technoference.” Review the effectiveness of policies which regulate how and when employees may use their cell phones and the Internet while on the job, and make a concerted effort to reduce the unrealistic expectations of supervisors who require employees to respond to text, emails or phone calls at all hours of the day and night.
  • Eat Mindfully: Get each day off to a good start with a breakfast powered by mindfulness. With your mobile phone off, use the time you would have spent getting a jump on your email by having your morning meal outside on your deck or at the picnic table in your backyard (while watching the sun rise if possible). Think about the comforting warmth and aroma of your first cup of coffee or the way the strawberries you’re savoring enhance your morning cereal. If you must use the time for work-related matters, then use that time as mindfully as possible by planning out key parts of your day without the distraction of calls and other interruptions. Then, renew that focus over lunch. Put your cell phone away. (Resist the temptation to set it to vibrate and simply turn it off.) If you’re eating alone, take at least 20 minutes to focus on your meal, or better yet? Lock your cell phone in your desk drawer and take a 20-minute stroll sans cell phone. Walk briskly to get your heart pumping, or just mosey along enjoying the sites and sounds around you. You’ll feel lighter without the phone and will be more focused when you return to your desk. If you’re scheduled for a lunch meeting, encourage group members to turn phones off so that participants can enjoy their meals and be attentive to the topic at hand. And your dinner mindfulness practice should be an even bigger no brainer. No texts. No cell phone interruptions. Period. Just laughter, love and a good meal.

 

Image: Public domain.

 

Meditation Mondays: Practicing Gratitude

 

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. 

– Albert Schweitzer

 

 

Gratitude Practice:

Think of a time in life when you were profoundly grateful for something. Who or what was the catalyst for the event that inspired your gratitude in that moment? How did you feel before the event occurred? After the situation was resolved, what sensations accompanied your feeling of gratitude? Easier, deeper breathing? Less “weight” on your shoulders? A feeling of warmth or deep love? A sense of finally being at peace? Recall, meditate on, and re-live your feelings.

As you gradually come back to the present, ask yourself, “Who in my circle of friends, neighbors or co-workers is having a hard time right now? What single act of kindness could I perform today to make that person’s life easier?” Then, do it – and thank the universe for giving you the opportunity to be mindful enough to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.

 

Image: Single candle flame (public domain).

 

 

A Decade of Satisfied Travelers: Alaska Air Honored Again by J.D. Powers

Alaska Airlines’ logo on the tail of a Boeing 737-800 (public domain).

 

“Our 20,000 remarkable and kind-hearted employees are what distinguish Alaska Airlines, Virgin America and Horizon Air.” 

– Brad Tilden, CEO, Alaska Airlines

 

For the tenth straight year, Alaska Airlines has taken top honors in traditional airline carrier customer satisfaction, surpassing Air Canada and American, Delta and United Airlines in the North America Airline Satisfaction Study, an annual assessment conducted by consumer research giant J.D. Power and Associates.

“To have this recognition from the highly respected J.D. Power organization for 10 consecutive years is both extraordinary and humbling,” says Brad Tilden, the CEO of Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines earned consistently high marks across the board, garnering five-out-of-five-point ratings for passenger experiences with costs and fees, reservations, and check-in and boarding, as well as aircraft experience and staff interactions, leading to the airline’s five-out-of-five overall satisfaction rating – the only traditional carrier to reach that pinnacle of success.

“Our 20,000 remarkable and kind-hearted employees are what distinguish Alaska Airlines, Virgin America and Horizon Air,” observes Tilden. “The rest of the leadership team and I would like to thank them for their incredible dedication to our guests.”

The reviews on TripAdvisor back up the results from J.D. Power with comments ranging from, “Always leaves on time, or before. Friendly attendants. Clean plane,” and “Impressed” to “I wouldn’t have trusted another airline to handle plane changes with my child. Alaska Airlines is just that consistent. You don’t have to dread flying if you book with Alaska Airlines.”

Adds Tilden, “We’re working to achieve our higher purpose of creating an airline people love and recognition like this confirms that we’re heading in the right direction.”

 

Before You Go:

Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air: For current travel options, visit the Alaska Airlines’ flight deals page.

Virgin America: To  learn more about the Alaska Airlines-Virgin America partnership or arrange travel on a Virgin America flight, visit the airline’s Book a Flight page.

 

 

Thursday Temple Tour (Byodo-In, Kahaluu, Oahu, Hawaii)

Byodo-In Temple, Valley of the Temples, Hawaii, USA (Carol Highsmith, 1980, U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

 

Stunning. Majestic. A hidden gem that’s off the beaten path. Those are just a few of the many adjectives which have been used over the years to describe Hawaii’s Byodo-In Temple.

A non-practicing Buddhist temple, the exterior, grounds and artwork are immediately recognizable to fans of television shows such as Hawaii Five-O, Lost, and Magnum, P.I., which all filmed episodes here.

Initially built in 1968 to memorialize the arrival of Japan’s first immigrants to Hawaii more than a century ago, this particular place of pilgrimage has since become a popular destination for graduations, military re-enlistment ceremonies, funeral services, and weddings – and a time travel device of sorts for 21st century contemplatives, who find the grounds so picturesque and restful that they are transported back to the years of 1052-1053 when Japan’s original Byodo-In Temple complex was erected in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture by the Regent Fujiwara.

Hawaii’s namesake temple is, in fact, a replica of one of the complex buildings at that famed Japanese complex – the Phoenix Hall (also known as Amidado Hall) – which opened its doors in 1053 and houses the Amida Nyorai (or Amitabha Tathagata), a seated, nearly eight-foot tall statue birthed by the master Heian Period sculptor Jocho to depict the principal Buddha of Pure Land Buddhism.

Hawaii’s Byodo-In Temple

Just as the Japanese temple complex is being preserved for future generations (as a UNESCO World Heritage site), so too is Hawaii’s smaller version of the Phoenix Hall – now designated as a Hawaii State Landmark. Situated in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park at the base of the Ko’olau Mountains near Kaneohe, Oahu, the hall first opened its doors on June 7, 1968.

Visitors here encounter strutting peacocks, black swans, turtles, frogs, and other animals wandering the temple’s verdant grounds, as well as small waterfalls, a meditation pavilion, a reflecting pond with Japanese koi, a tea house/gift shop, and a bell house with a five-foot tall, three-ton, bronze and tin sacred bell (bon-sho), which was cast in Osaka, Japan. When struck by its shu-moku (soft wooden log), the bell’s warm tones ripple gently across the grounds, banishing temptation and evil spirits while conferring happy longevity.

Amida Buddha, Byodo-In Temple, Hawaii (public domain).

But it is when visitors enter the temple itself that the 21st century truly fades away. Towering above is another of the world’s great religious icons – the Amida Buddha. Surrounded by fifty-two smaller Bodhisattva sculptures, this nine-foot-plus tall Amida, which was sculpted and dressed in gold lacquer and gold leaf by Masuzo Inui, is reported to be the largest figure of its kind to ever have been fashioned outside of Japan.

For the less spiritually inclined, a series of concerts and other memorable activities bring visitors together regularly on the temple’s grounds in the spirit of fun and fellowship.

Obon

Among the most important of these special events held at Byodo-In is Obon. Typically celebrated by Buddhists in Japan every August, this festival welcomes the spirits of long-dead ancestors on their annual return visits to loved ones. Lanterns are lit, and sent floating down rivers or placed on buildings, helping to guide loved ones home as the living honor the departed through colorful dance ceremonies, temple food offerings and grave visitations.

If You Go:

Bring mosquito repellent, and be respectful. Remember that the temple and its grounds are a place of worship for area Buddhists, as well as a columbarium and cemetery for people of all faiths. Be quiet and thoughtful in your movements, remove your shoes before entering the temple’s sanctuary, and adhere to all regulations posted online and on site.

Memorial Park schedules may change without notice. Call ahead to verify regular and special event hours. Group tours are available by appointment. The Temple Grounds are open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Gift Shop is typically open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays and from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sundays. Restrooms are available.

Photography:

Mornings offer the best lighting; however, because the temple and grounds are privately owned, reservations must be made for all amateur or professional shoots. Paid permits are also required for professional and commercial photography. (Contact the events coordinator for pricing.) Aerial photography and drones are prohibited.

Temple Admission: $3 (adults), $2 (seniors), $1 (children).

Address:

Valley of the Temples Memorial Park
47-200 Kahekili Highway
Kaneohe, HI 96744
Telephone: (808) 725-2798
Email: info@valley-of-the-temples.com

Directions: Easily accessible by car. See directions on the Byodo-In website.

Also accessible via bus with a roughly half-mile walk to reach the cemetery. Fees average $2.50 each way. For more information, call: (808) 848-5555.

 

 

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