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Well, here’s an essay that will shake up your Ego (click HERE). This is written by Neil deGrasse Tyson; you’ve seen him if you watch NOVA Science Now, but his main gig is as an astrophysicist and he’s the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in NYC. I absolutely adore his outlook and perspective. This essay, written in 2007, really makes me think about the absurdity of the human mind. There are more than six billion humans on Earth; many of them struggle daily to survive while others haven’t worked a day in their lives. Many have no food or clean water while others kill each other over borders, money, and whose God is the better God. When you look at our place in the Universe, you realize how insignificant many of our “problems” are. How much time/effort/resources are wasted on things that only matter because we decide they should matter? Here’s a quote:

As grown-ups, dare we admit to ourselves that we, too, have a collective immaturity of view? Dare we admit that our thoughts and behaviors spring from a belief that the world revolves around us? Apparently not. And the evidence abounds. Part the curtains of society’s racial, ethnic, religious, national, and cultural conflicts, and you find the human ego turning the knobs and pulling the levers.

Now imagine a world in which everyone, but especially people with power and influence, holds an expanded view of our place in the cosmos. With that perspective, our problems would shrink—or never arise at all—and we could celebrate our earthly differences while shunning the behavior of our predecessors who slaughtered each other because of them.

Mr. Tyson is more eloquent and thoughtful than I dare dream being. I will return to read this essay often.

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Stumbled upon this while cyber-hopping! I love the internet. Check out operationbeautiful.com. Such a simple concept!

So many women have body image issues. You know, the voice in your head that tells you you’re too fat, or too thin, or would have looked better in the blue sweater, and why in the world did you think those pants would be slimming? One of those voices I warned you was in your head that you shouldn’t be listening to because we’re all pretty damn awesome just as we are. I know, she’s a pretty loud voice and hard to drown out, especially any time you’re within three feet of a mirror. Anyway, the concept is to put a post-it note with an uplifting comment in a place where women will see it. I just think that is an awesome idea and I’m going to give it a shot.

I mean, think about it. Ripples go far and wide, you never know their power. This is a little, anonymous, positive ripple. You might just change someone’s day! You could potentially change someone’s life. Really, I mean that. You just don’t know. And who doesn’t like a compliment, a little shot in the arm? Heck, I’ll take ’em wherever I can get ’em, even if it’s just a post-it talking to me.

The video of people’s Operation Beautiful notes in action is quite touching and while it mentions anorexia and bulimia, I liked how it has specific stats that relate to the rest of us.

As a matter of fact, just thinking out loud as I type, I wonder if guys have body issues too? I’d bet they do! So maybe all you guys out there could also put a little sticky note, with a masculine statement like YOU ROCK in the men’s room. Whadda ya think? Well, I think it’s a great idea even if you think it’s too girly. Shame on you. Just sayin’.

Having made an effort to learn a bit about the world’s religions – sometimes from direct experience, sometimes from authoritative testimony – I’ve come to believe that while they wear different costumes and embrace different rituals, and sometimes have a God figure and sometimes don’t, the core teaching always comes down to the Golden Rule of treating others the way you wish to be treated. Since I want to be treated kindly and with compassion and tolerance, I can only presume that the rest of the creatures on this planet, large and small, want to be treated the same way. I can even go the extra step that says if all life on this planet is intimately connected then treating another being badly is ultimately treating myself badly, and will lead directly to consequences down the road that may not be pleasant.

I just finished reading HH Dalai Lama’s new book, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths. How the World’s Religions Can Come Together. The Dalai Lama has been a proponent of interfaith cooperation for many years, and his new book not only chronicles the various  spiritual leaders he’s met over the years, but specifically notes how the world’s religious teachings overlap and how to work through the areas where they don’t. Using his native Buddhism as his touchstone, the book has specific chapters dedicated to Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and also touches on Jainism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and many others. I found it particularly interesting when he tells a story of how, being raised in the Buddhist tradition, he used to be rather attached –  feeling that “Buddhism was best”.  After expanding his vision he no longer thinks that way, and in fact has a huge appreciation and respect for all the spiritual paths.

How wonderful and amazing is it that all these religions, arising in very different times and geographical areas, have the same ethical message – compassion for all beings and the avoidance of doing harm to others. In fact, the reader will find on page 112 a list of quotations of the Golden Rule from the pages of nine different holy scriptures.

“It is my fundamental conviction that compassion – the natural capacity of the human heart to feel concern for and connection with another being – constitutes a basic aspect of our nature shared by all human beings, as well as being the foundation of our happiness. In this respect, there is not an iota of difference between a believer and a nonbeliever, nor between people of one race or another. All ethical teachings, whether religious or nonreligious, aim to nurture this innate and precious quality, to develop it and to perfect it.” A True Kinship of  Faiths, page 109

Where the book really upped the ante for me is a sub-chapter titled “The Ethics of Compassion”, where His Holiness pushes beyond the self-referential Golden Rule to genuine selflessness. A place where it’s not just how you treat me, but my having compassion for all including those that hurt me.

“What we find in the teachings of the world religions is a vision of ethics that moves beyond the limited reciprocity of the Golden Rule to an exhortation to universal compassion. On this level, beyond grounding one’s ethics in a self-referential framework – that is, “I do not do to others what I wish them not to do to me” – the worlds’ religions situate this ethics within a larger frame that extends beyond the boundaries of self-reference. In the Golden Rule, there is the seed of compassion because the consideration of the other is central, but in the ethics of compassion, one must move beyond to a plane of genuine selflessness, which I see as a matter of fostering the qualities of a good heart.” A True Kinship of Faiths, page 114

I was delighted to find this book was simple to read, as so many spiritual and self-help books get technical and wordy and often end up making my brain feel like mud. HH Dalai Lama’s writing style is very much what I experienced when I heard him speak – expressing potentially complex thoughts in a simple, straightforward manner. His Holiness will tell you that he is “just a monk”, and his speaking and writing style suits a man who is asked to address the masses on a regular basis.

Whatever your religious tradition, or lack thereof, I strongly suggest you read this book. At the very least, it will give you insight into the other religions and the people who practice them.

I ran a Professional Organizing business for a few years, and one of the things I learned is that mental and physical clutter are absolutely linked.

Most of the time, people called me because their physical clutter had become an unbearable obstacle in their lives. While everyone’s definition of unbearable is different, people almost always felt the same way: all this stuff is in my way (either at home or at the office) and I can’t move ahead with my life when I can’t find what I need. The physical clutter blocks their mental flow and they feel constricted.

Sometimes, when I speak with someone who has reached out to me for help I can tell just by what they’re telling me about their lives that their mental state is causing physical clutter. Someone who feels lost, out of control, or depressed often mirrors those feelings in their physical environment. Occasionally the physical clutter is soothing to them – like a wall they’ve built around themselves for protection, but the physical mess just ends up adding to their mental stress. Many people who call Professional Organizers express feeling ashamed and embarrassed.

Getting organized – both mentally and physically – isn’t about baskets and totes. It’s about habits, goals, and rewards. Establishing a habit takes about 30 days. Choose one small thing to change and try doing it for a month. When you get to two weeks, give yourself a little reward. If you get off track, don’t give up and don’t let that mental bully visit – just go back to trying. Enlist some support from a trusted friend or relative. Eventually you will reach your goal!

When you see the physical clutter building up, ask yourself what might be bothering you. When you’re feeling like your head is clogged with things to do, look around and see if getting organized can help you feel less stressed. Take small steps – every step is a step forward!

I’m not ashamed of myself; I am who I am. I’m awkward in social situations and talk too loudly. I laugh heartily. I think farts are funny, and sometimes I laugh so hard I can’t breathe. Sometimes in my effort to be true to myself I hurt people, or make them angry, or turn them off to me. I don’t like hurting people, but if me being me makes you uncomfortable that is out of my control. When I decide to change something about myself, it’s not to fit into your definition of “better”, it’s to fit into mine.

I was reading Rachel Andersen’s post about cancer and how she has felt surrounded. It has come closer to her than it has to me, but I think I understand how she feels. She’s raising money for the American Association for Cancer Research. You can read Rachel’s post here and there is a link at the bottom if you’d like to donate.

Update: here is another blog post related to Rachel’s. This author is donating two books to the cause. You can read that entry here.

Surrounded

I’ve been thinking about cancer a lot lately.

When I was young (but old enough to be aware of the world), cancer was an “old person” disease.  People’s grandparents, in their 70s and 80s, old and wrinkled. In my kid world, you got old and either had a heart attack and dropped dead, or got this disease and died. Oncology and cardiology weren’t what they are today.

In my 20s, the ages of the victims started creeping lower. There weren’t many, but people only a few years older than me were diagnosed. In my 30s, there were more cases and the ages were still dropping; people’s parents were dying in their 60s. Now I’m about to turn 40, and I feel surrounded. Cancer has touched my family, my friends and coworkers, and their families. It seems like every day I find out about someone else. All ages, races, genders, socioeconomic levels… cancer doesn’t discriminate.

The only thing we all have in common is the environment. I think years of toxins, pollutants, and poisons have caught up to us. Our water, air, food, even the carpeting on the floor and the paint on the walls… surrounded again. On the brighter side, oncology has come a long way; its amazing. Chemo has improved greatly, there’s targeted radiation, drugs are able to keep tumor cells from replicating or can choke off a tumor’s blood supply. Early detection and clinical trials save lives. New treatments, therapies and medicines come out every year.

I’m often asked to pray for people. And I do. And I dedicate this post to all the victims, all the survivors, all the caregivers, and all those who pray for all those other people. Sending thoughts, prayers, positive vibes, good karma, chi, prana… and hugs.