Be the Captain of your Soul.

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How would you like to become the “captain of your ship, the master of your destiny”? If this question resonates even in the slightest with you, then perhaps it’s time to actually own the notion that you are a soul having a human experience, that it’s up to you to determine the quality of experience you have as you navigate this life.

You may not get to choose all that happens to you, but you can choose how you respond. What happens to you in life is not the issue; rather, how you respond is the real issue.

The power of this simple advice comes down to an inarguable basic truth: While many events will occur throughout your life, how you go through what happens to you is your choice and yours alone. Now, of course, many will choose to argue with the inarguable, but then that’s their choice as well. Over the years of sharing God’s words to other people by applying the approach of “teaching what I most need to learn” and having observed through working with people, I have come to learn of the obvious that, in life, what you resist, you remain stuck with. If you will, allow me to share the lessons I’ve learned.

I have learned that I can complain, blame or generally be upset with what happens around me or to me, and the more upset I get, the more resistant I become, the more things remain the same. Curiously, the more I have surrendered to the fact that I’m the one choosing my reactions to the apparently negative events in my life, the fewer negative events seem to occur. It could be that the same kind of situations keep showing up with the only real difference being one of learning to make lemonade out of the lemons.

If you wish to argue with the obvious truth that you’re the one choosing how you respond to what happens, then you get to stay stuck with the quality of experience you are having. If you like the experience you are having, then there’s no need to change a thing. However, if you find yourself complaining, blaming or getting upset with what’s happening around you, perhaps it’s time to consider that you do have a choice.

You are the Captain of Your Soul

William Ernest Henley wrote an intriguing poem first published in 1875 that offers some profound wisdom and insight into how you can choose to navigate life’s currents.  The poem sums up a courageous view of dealing with life’s challenges in its concluding stanza, again underscoring that we have choice in how we experience what happens to us:

Out of the night that covers me, 
      Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
      For my unconquerable soul. 
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
      My head is bloody, but unbowed. 
Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
      Finds and shall find me unafraid. 
It matters not how strait the gate, 
      How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
      I am the captain of my soul.

There are many versions of these truths, and yet they all come down to the same basic elements: what is, is. How you choose to experience what is has nothing to do with the events and everything to do with your own choices about how to respond. Of course, it’s pretty hard to make good choices if you don’t have a goal in mind. You might find it useful to take a break from everything and explore the deeper aspects of who you truly are to move past your self and spend some time listening to your soul.

What would your soul have you experience? Listen closely and you will become captain of your ship, master of your destiny. Turn a deaf ear to that quiet inner voice of your soul, and you may wind up shipwrecked instead.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this subject. How have you taken the helm? How have you guided your own experience of life? Please share in the comment section below.

Your Word is your Bond

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Do you think before you make a promise to someone? What if you can’t deliver on your word? Does it really matter? The world isn’t going to come to an end, is it? Well, actually no, but have you considered . . .

Many people are pretty casual about making promises. As a result, promises are frequently made at the drop of a hat with no real intention of keeping them. “Let’s do lunch,” “I’ll call you later,” and “I’ll be there in five minutes” are all examples of throwaway promises that are frequently made but seldom kept. However, this casual attitude can have real consequences.Think about it — when someone else breaks a promise to you, or gets caught in a lie, doesn’t that make you feel violated or cheated?  You can’t help wondering whether you were wrong to ever trust that person.

There was a time when keeping your word held special significance. We took great pride in being of good character. Personal integrity was both expected and valued. That was a time when everyone knew each other’s family, and you wouldn’t do anything that would cast a shadow on your family’s good name. It was a time when integrity was instilled in children at a very early age and was viewed as instrumental in achieving success. The truth is, our world may have changed, but the importance of integrity has not. While we may not know everyone in our own town, the world is still smaller than you think. Create some bad news and you’ll learn this for yourself.

Every time you give your word, you’re putting your honor on the line. You’re implying that others can place their trust in you because you value integrity and would never let them down. It goes without saying that if you don’t live up to your word, you may end up tarnishing your credibility, damaging your relationships, and defaming your reputation. Most importantly, you’ll be letting yourself down.

But . . . when you operate with complete integrity, what you say will be taken at face value, your intentions will be assumed honorable, and your handshake will be as good as a contract. Most importantly, you can take great pride in the standards that you’ve set for yourself and sleep well at night knowing that your conscience is clear. As for others . . . just when they think they’re fooling the world, they’ll realize that they’re only fooling themselves. A promise is a promise after all.

What do you think? Are people too casual about making promises?

 

Invest in Life. Invest in Experiences!

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

It’s everywhere in the media

The Lamborghinis on Wall Street, the Louis Vuitton bags that celebrities wear, the mansions that “successful” people live in. The list goes on. 

We’ve fooled ourselves into believing that the sole recognition  —  no, definition  —  of success & happiness comes from the type of cars we own or the number of zeros in our bank account. We’ve put the notion of material success on a pedestal and convinced those around us to adopt the same beliefs.

In a society that idolizes the pursuit of happiness, carrying out a life where one’s destination is to find joy through material goods is not only ineffective, but it’s a never-ending journey. 

The key to happiness is not spending our time & money acquiring goods.
The key to happiness is spending our time & money experiencing life.

It’s the priceless experiences in life that makes us happy at the end of day.

Experience defines us

We live in a society where tangible things appear more valuable because we can feel, hold and touch the materials we purchase. Above all, it’s because tangible things are tied with currency that places a price of its value in the marketplace.

There’s no way to physically feel the experience of trekking up a mountain trail on a Saturday morning with our closest friends. Nor can we “sell” the experience of our first fight with our partners. It’s the same reason why we can’t put a price value on a human being. 

“If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires.” -Abigail Van Buren

We are the accumulation of everything we’ve ever seen, heard, smelled, tasted and felt. It’s experience that teaches us not to take that 8-5 cubicle job again, and it’s experience that will lead to that next big breakthrough idea for our businesses. 

In other words, experiences come with life lessons
Materials come with nothing but a bill.

Experience stays with us

When we think back to our fondest memories, what are they?

For me, it’s not the gifts I received for Christmas or my birthday. It’s the context surrounding the gifts  —  the people at my birthday party, the smell of the hot chocolate on Christmas morning. It’s the first time I learned how to ride a bike with my dad, and the time I went on my first (awkward) date. This is what puts a smile to my face to this day. 

Here’s the main caveat to investing in materials  — they have expiration dates

Experience can be relived. Experience has emotional longevity. It can be improved in our minds as we continue to grow and progress in life. It stays with us and they are lessons we can use everyday for as long as we live. Experiences bring us happiness not just when we’re having the experience, but also when we simply think about them.

Here’s how my wife and I try to live out our experiences.   

Change budget priorities.

Let’s be truthful, we are not all born with silver spoons in our mouths and everything is freely and abundantly handed out to us to use and abuse, so, if we want to start living a life of experiences, we need to prioritize our financial budgets to accommodate the adventures we’ll undertake. This is the first consideration we make.

Learn to be prudent when purchasing materials, because salvaging those few extra dimes could lead to the experience that could change your life. 

Say “yes” more.

Growing up, we were taught to make decisions with calculated risk assessments by carefully thinking things through. If we want to start fulfilling more experiences in life —  we need to unlearn these principles.

The best adventures arise from moments when we least expect them. 

Filling our mind with “what ifs” is only going to keep us on our couches watching other people live their lives. Before we know it, our “what if” will turn into “should have.” 

Learn to be present in the moment. When the next opportunity for experience appears, ask yourself this simple question.

Will I regret not taking this opportunity?  Tomorrow, next week, or even next year? 

If the answer is yes  —  or even maybe — your immediate response should also be yes.

The future will always be uncertain. That’s never going to change. But you can control how you shape it by thinking less and taking action. 

Start with the small (and cheap) adventures.

Are you the type of person that watches the same movies over and over again, takes the same walking route to the office, and eats at the same food joints or restaurants? 

You need to break out of your regular routine.

Opening our mind up to new experiences needs to start with the small decisions and interactions we have in our daily lives. Instead of going to that same fastfood joint or restaurant near your office because you know it’s a safe decision, go somewhere new. 

The most fulfilling experiences don’t have to cost a lot of money. Often times, it’s right next door. We just need to know where to knock. 

Start taking the small risks in life. You’ll be surprised how far it takes you.

If there’s anything to take away from this article  —  take away this. 

We are all going to die one day, whether you choose to accept it or not. Towards the end of our lives, we’re going to ask the same questions.  

Did I live?
Do I have regrets?
Did I experience everything I wanted to in life?

Ask yourself if you want your existence to be defined by the type of car you owned or the adventures and freedom you led in life. 

Invest in something that will bring you lessons rather than a bill. Become rich in experience. 

Because experience will win  —  every single time

P.S. If you learned something valuable from this post, please let me know on  the comments below.

Love is a Choice

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My wife and I have known each other since early college years, but didn’t date until much later towards graduation. She has her eyes set on someone else as was also I.

Yet the moment we catches each other’s attentions, we had only dated a couple of weeks before we realized that we were madly in love and started making major life plans together. And since then, it has been a crazy blend and mixture of smooth-sailing and roller coaster ride types of relationship between the two of us unto the day of our marriage. On and off relationship, countless disputes and quarrels, so many memorable traveling experiences, emergency situations, family occasion and social gatherings – all assortments  of good and bad things that could possibly happen in a relationship.

Lately, my wife and I had this “conversation” about how we now “see” and consider each other respectively. And by “see” I mean Love. Do we still love each other as much as we did earlier in our relationship and into our marriage?

The more I think about this type of conversation the more I’ve come to realize that loving someone—or choosing to love someone—is actually (at times) an extremely challenging yet the most beautiful thing about Love.

I’ve heard it said that real love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

It’s true.

When all the butterflies have fluttered away and your wedding day becomes a distant memory, you will discover that you’ve married someone who is just as imperfect as you. And they, in turn, will come to learn that you have problems, insecurities, struggles, quirks—and body odor—just as real as theirs!

Then you will realize that real love isn’t just a euphoric, spontaneous feeling—it’s a deliberate choice—a plan to love each other for better and worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. Of course, you don’t choose who you’re attracted to, but you definitely choose who you fall in love with and (more importantly) who you stay in love with.

Our society places a lot of emphasis on feelings. It teaches us to be spontaneous about love. We are taught that we should always follow our feelings and do whatever makes us happy. But feelings are very fickle and fleeting. Real love, on the other hand, is like the north star in the storms of life; it is constant, sure, and true. Whenever we’re lost and confused we can find strength in the love that we have chosen.

Besides, life already offers us plenty of spontaneity: rejection, job loss, heartache, disappointment, despair, illness, and a host of other problems. We simply can’t abandon ship every time we encounter a storm in our marriage. Real love is about weathering the storms of life together.

When my dad had a stroke four years ago taking away his ability to walk and was confined to a wheelchair, my late mom (whom we lost September last year due to cardiac arrest) took care of my dad. She helped him do everything—from getting around the house and visiting the doctor, to helping him take his medicine and bathe.

In speaking about my dad, my late loving mom once told me, “It hurts me to see him like this. You know, when I got married I thought that everything would be smooth sailing. I never imagined that I take care of him like this every day. But I do it and I don’t mind it—because I love him.”

Love is so much more than some random, euphoric feeling. And real love isn’t always fluffy, cute, and cuddly. More often than not, real love has its sleeves rolled up, dirt and grime smeared on its arms, and sweat dripping down its forehead. Real love asks us to do hard things—to forgive one another, to support each other’s dreams, to comfort in times of grief, or to care for family. Real love isn’t easy—and it’s nothing like the wedding day—but it’s far more meaningful and wonderful.

I recently came across this wonderful quote: “No one falls in love by choice, it is by chance. No one stays in love by chance, it is by work. And no one falls out of love by chance, it is by choice.”

This is what I’ve noticed; whenever my wife and I run into a problem in our marriage we do our best to choose love. While we’re certainly not perfect, the love we share today is more real and more wonderful than anything we had ever anticipated.

So, whatever spontaneous storm may come our way I plan on loving my wife.

My resolution after the conversation I had with my wife is that if you truly love someone (and they truly love you), commit to that love and plan on it being hard work.

But also plan on it being the most rewarding work of your life.

Photo source: http://wallpapercave.com

 

Building Connections that Matter

 

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Everything in life begins with connection. In each moment, we are choosing to join or separate – to connect or disconnect – and the person to whom we’re speaking feels what we have chosen regardless of our words.

What makes relationships challenging often comes down to one factor – we build the relationship from the outside in, believing something we want is not happening because of someone else who is outside of us. We must learn to connect first with ourselves and create a relationship from the inside out. These are what I believed in: building heart-to-heart connections is that even though it takes two people to create a relationship, the responsibility for connecting starts with you; and that everything depends on your level of awareness.

Relationships begin with being at peace with yourself – having a connection with yourself that nothing can break from the outside. Other people become a reflection of the loving, kind, peaceful relationship you have with yourself. You cannot receive what you cannot give. The scenery out there reflects the situation in here. Working from the outside in, more often than not, will fall short of the ideal, and leads to frustration, conflict and lack of fulfilment in the end.

We can choose to connect with another person or not, but we cannot choose to disconnect with ourselves. Many people are uncomfortable with this truth – they spend vast amounts of time trying to escape themselves, with all kinds of activities, work and distractions.

For many, their sense of self is ego-based. Individual egos have self-centered aims, tastes, desires, opinions, likes or dislikes. The very construct of the ego brings with it a built in conflict with other egos. If you think about it, it’s surprising that separate egos, each with their own set of rules and agendas, ever get together in the first place. When they do, their connections always risk unravelling because each ego is primarily tied with what it wants. 

To my opinion, the true self is a state of awareness, not a thing, mood, sensation or feeling. All it takes is a shift in awareness to discover that love, peace and lack of conflict exist inside of us, and have the power to change any situation. Indeed, the values you most cherish are not something to seek out and find. They are something that have always belonged to you. The only thing you need to do is recognise them.

Photo source: business2community.com

Light Enters Through Cracks

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FOREWORD: In light of the Lenten season, I wrote this post about embracing freedom and personal strength through brokenness.

Leonard Cohen, the legendary Canadian poet and singer who died on November 7, 2016 once wrote a set of powerful lyrics in his song “Anthem,” off the 1992 album The Future:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

Cohen, who didn’t like explaining his music, reportedly made a rare statement about “Anthem” on The Future Radio Special, a special CD released by Sony in 1992. (Quartz hasn’t been able to independently verify the transcript, which was published on a fan site.)

The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them.

This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.

And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.

(Source: Quartz Media LLC)

There Is A Crack In Everything, That’s How The Light Gets In

Now there are people who resist the insights born of brokenness. One of the ways we most oppress ourselves is by assuming that we, alone, are shattered while everyone else is whole. We tell ourselves, “Look at that family, how perfect they are. Look at their home, how gorgeous and clean it always is”, and we assume that we are the only fractured and broken vessels struggling to make meaning of our fragmented lives. Not only do individuals try to mandate a false wholeness, but there are social forces that seek to impose that same impossible perfection on us, telling us that if we are broken, we no longer retain any utility or worth.

There are entire industries in this era — blogs, magazines, and films — dedicated to the self-hating proposition that we should feel fat, old, and ugly, that we should do surgery on ourselves, or straighten something, or bend some part, or snip something, or be lighter, or darker, and then, then we’ll finally have dignity; then we’ll be whole.

Where then does that leave us?

Let us take for example the iconic and symbolic Liberty Bell. It was hung in the Philadelphia State House in 1753, and it sounded to summon the pre-Independence Colonial Legislature into session, and it was used after the Revolution for the Pennsylvania State Legislature as well.

The intriguing idiosyncrasy of this bell is that when it arrived, it cracked right away. Not once, but twice, American craftspeople repaired the bell by filling in the crack with new metal. And yet it cracked again, and then it cracked again. Apparently the bell wanted to be broken; it had something to say. In the 1830s the abolitionist movement was gaining steam; Americans were awakening to the realization that slavery was economically harmful and morally repugnant.

Some bold Americans started to organize against slavery as an ethical and political imperative. The abolitionists were the very first to label this bell the Liberty Bell, and they elevated it as a symbol of American independence and personal freedom.

In 1846 the Liberty Bell cracked for the final time, and at that point people stopped trying to fill the gap or to ring it.

Now, taking such into considerations, to me, the Liberty Bell — now cracked and silent — resonates more loudly around the globe than any bell that is whole. Inscribed on that beautiful, broken Liberty Bell is a verse from the Book of Leviticus: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof.” Not to those who are tall, to those who are thin, to those who are young, to those are gorgeous — proclaim liberty to everyone.

Liberty belongs to us all, broken, shattered, struggling and striving. And beautiful because of our imperfections.

The medieval author, Menachem Azariah of Fano writes, “Just as a seed cannot grow to perfection as long as it maintains its original form — growth coming only through decomposition — so these points could not become perfect configurations as long as they maintained their original form, but only by breaking.” There is a crack in everything — that’s how the light gets in.

This life is not for the perfect. It is not for the flawless. It is not for the whole. If you are like me, there are parts of you that are very good, and there are parts of you that are aching. There are parts of you that strive and fall short; there are parts of you that feel broken. Those are the parts that let in the light. Don’t run from your imperfections. Don’t hide from your brokenness. Broken bones re-grow stronger at the very location where they are broken. Those are the spots where the light will shine through.

Friendship Demands Truth

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These past few days, my wife and I had been making plans to meet up with some friends we haven’t seen  for quite sometime now. Trips are already booked. We are (I mean, my wife is) finalizing the plans once we get to the place of one of our friends whom we are visiting and we’ll be staying with during said trip. Purpose of the visit: to catch some time together and rekindle the fires of friendship that had gone cold over the years of limited communications. How time has swiftly passed us all, leaving us missing each other and the memories of the times we’ve shared together. 

There are friendships that serve as wallflowers and there are those that remain true no matter what. This post is dedicated to one of the basic truths about friendship. Forget about the sweet, soft and cheesy ones for a while, let’s take it to the core and talk about the  bones — the hard stuff that holds friendship stand steadfast and strong — Truth.

What does it mean to be a friend — to be kind to another human being? We are taught in this culture that being kind means not making another person feel bad. We are conditioned to believe that it is virtuous to hide our strengths to save another from experiencing their weaknesses, to deny our blessings so that another avoids feeling their sorrows. Is this kindness? Is this friendship — to put away our truth so as to save another from experiencing their own truth — which might be sad? If this is true friendship, it is of an odd sort — true friendship that does not include the truth. Hiding the truth may keep a relationship going smoothly, but going smoothly is a paltry goal for such a precious and profound entity as friendship. When we choose smooth sailing over truth, we underestimate the weight that friendship can hold; we dishonor the very substance from which friendship is made. Are we so afraid of suffering as to be willing to sacrifice even friendship in order to avoid it?

To be a true friend is not to pretend that we don’t have different experiences in life, don’t receive different blessings and challenges. It is not to pretend that life is fair. A friendship that creates a shared experience at the lowest common denominator is not a friendship, but rather some kind of hiding place from life. We don’t need more hiding places. What we need are more foxhole buddies, true friends who can keep us company in the truth, and in the hard parts, where life isn’t okay or fair.

In truth, we do not need more ways to skirt the sorrows that are part of life, more strategies for keeping the waters smooth. What we need are friends who can accompany us through the bumpy and different truths of life. True friendship is about meeting in the place of truth, and loving and supporting each other there. Anything else is just a paler shade of polite.

I guess that’s where our (my wife and I) relationships with our friends was grounded and has grown over the years.

What are your thoughts about friendship?

Photo credits: quoteslife101.net