Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Inspirational Afternoon

Yesterday Rich and I went to the Reagan Presidential Library. It's located several miles from our home and we hadn't been there in awhile. This past week the original Emancipation Proclamation was on display at the library and we were privileged to view it for a minute (literally) along with hundreds of others who were there. It was a great opportunity to see this document, reflect on Lincoln and his courage, and view the latest additions to the library.

We toured the presidential aircraft, Air Force One, used by six presidents, including Reagan, which, as of several years ago, is now permanently displayed at the library in this magnificent glass pavilion.

As we browsed the various exhibits depicting Reagan's life and presidency, I was again so moved by his sense of personal responsibility to his nation, whether he was in office or not. The sense of entitlement, so present in our culture today, was not a part of his thinking. Instead he viewed government as something to be kept in check.

In his first inaugural address on January 20, 1981, Reagan said,

"Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price."

John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech contained the oft recited quote: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

When Americans sink into entitlement mentality, we put a ball and chain on ourselves individually and as a nation which pulls us down into a mire of restriction and regulation. Isn't this what our founding fathers were trying to escape?

On a personal level, I know there is dignity in work. There is a sense of contribution in being able to accomplish something with quality and significance. I've experienced that and want to cultivate that concept in others.

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Photo: Sheryl Bullock

Monday, September 15, 2008

Creating "the day"

So, have you considered what a day would be like without duties, demands, and deadlines? Creating a day like this for yourself is not the same as "pampering." A trip to the spa may be wonderful, but what would happen if you went somewhere where it was really quiet except for maybe some occasional wistful sound of nature in the background?

Our world is filled with sound...maybe it's music in the grocery store, the TV in your home, the coffee machines at Starbucks, or engine noise, yours and all the other vehicles around you, as you drive home from work on the freeway. Whatever it is, we are definitely conditioned to noise. Given that we live in that state so much, silence can be uncomfortable and almost scary!

Great things can happen to you in the midst of extended silence. What can happen in silence? We have time and space to think! What a novel idea. In an age where our brains receive continual rapid fire information, we have opportunity to, as the dictionary* says, "use one's mind actively to form connected ideas."

Try taking a notebook and a pen with you and spending an extended period of time (a few hours) in a spot out in nature where you are away from people and noise. You may be surprised as to what comes to mind and makes its way onto the paper in front of you. Creative ideas, reflections on life, or some very imaginative plans may visit you...thoughts that would never surface in a typical day filled with routine activity. When we step out of the craziness of a frenzied pace and spend some time in the "quiet," our lives can come to a crossroads of change and growth.

That familiar Bible chapter, the 23rd Psalm, gives us some images that start us pondering. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul." It doesn't get much better than that. And its effects linger much longer than a day at the spa.

*Oxford American Dictionary

Photo: Stanko Mravljak/

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ever have one of those days?

I know, you're sitting there saying, "yes, yes, I have!" But I'm not talking about the kind of day where you are frustrated, going too many directions, and just plain overwhelmed with your life. I'm talking about a day with no duties, demands or deadlines. "What was that again," you say? Okay, I'll repeat it for you...."When was the last time you had a day with no duties, demands, or deadlines?"

I was recently asked this question. Hmmm. It stopped me in my tracks! I attended a women's event recently where Dr. Sharon Norling spoke about the effects of stress on our bodies and the prevalence of disease resulting from that stress. Did you know that over 70% of disease is directly related to the stress is our lives?

I think we tend to make the assumption that if we do not have a major crisis going on at the moment then we are not living with stress. Not so. Her implication was that a constant lifestyle of duties, demands, and deadlines is stress. So it's important to set aside regular days where we block out the day on our calendars and devote that space to something that will give us a break from the daily grind. This is a fantasy, you say? Yes, it does seem like it.

My question for you is, "What would it take for you to create one of those days for yourself?" What steps would you take to begin to create this day?

I snapped this photo yesterday of the courtyard outside Hotel Cheval in Paso Robles, California. I was walking down the sidewalk and there it was....a perfect picture of tranquility right before my eyes. So gaze on it for awhile as you begin to create your day without duties, demands or deadlines. and we'll continue this conversation. I'll be back with more suggestions and inspiration.

In the meantime, take a slow, deep breath and enjoy creating!