An update after a long silence

I have neglected this blog for a long time, mostly because I was busy.

But I want to go back to bring some constant reminders on happiness and meaning back to my life – mainly just to remind myself – but it might also inspire others.

I have started meditation – and that is a great experience. Never thought that stopping your mind can be so difficult, but also never thought that it could be so liberating. I will write more about that soon.

I have started to read more books on happiness – and I keep my gratitude journal – and I fight through ups and downs like we all do.

I still search the internet for inspiration and all the great things you can find there – if you only search for it. But I have stopped sharing them here. I want to go back to do that from now on again. This is a promise. Whoever might read this, I hope you are well and have a great day!

 

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Where do you get your power from?

Plato once said that most people are very careful about what kind of food they put in their body. Nobody would like to eat poison or bad food, risking one’s health or even one’s life. But we are usually, Plato goes on, not so careful as what we put in our soul – as if the soul could easily digest anything. We are, it seems, open to all informations all the time whether it is good for us or not. And of course we all want to be mature and realistic – closing the eyes and ears from bad news is not possible and not advisable.

But giving the soul only the daily diet of bad news that surround as all the time and using the mind only to fulfill the pleasures of our body and even our spirit is not enough. Plato seems to suggest that an animale rationale is different from a merely  clever animal. We can use the mind to feed and care for the body – which is necessary according to Plato: we need food, health etc. This is the desire of  our plant soul as Plato call it: all living beings must sustain their life and replicate, so they feel pleasure if the related desires are fulfilled. In addition we can use our mind and intelligence  to care for the spirit: we love do challenge our spirit in sports, games and are happy when we overcome fear and weakness. This is the ‘animal soul’ according to Plato: enjoying action and being brave: sticking to once goals in the face of obstacles and temptations or weaknesses.

But Plato also claims that the mind – in addition of being a servant for the plant soul and the animal soul – has its own desires and goals. The human mind wants truth – but it also wants Goodness. If we only use our mind as a servant we are not a ‘rational animal’ but only a clever animal. Justice and Harmony, Plato proclaims, consists in balancing the desires of the soul-parts in such a way that each parts gets what its deserves and in such a way that we don’t forget the aims of the ‘human soul’. We need also to feed our soul with truth, goodness and meaning. And this requires some active engagement from us. We don’t get these kinds of truth from the news or from everyday life. There is no number to call or no delivery service. We have to go out and search for it. If we search we will find, Jesus says.

So I do believe it is important to open ears and eyes for good news – and sometimes that means you have actively to search for them. For the media, naturally, it is often true that ‘only bad news is good news’. If everything goes well it seems it is not worth a ‘breaking news’. Imagine CNN proclaiming: “Breaking News: Even today after all the sun is still shining! Life can go on!! World leaders relieved.” It is of course not only very very but utmost important that we still have sunlight everyday – life would be impossible without it – but it is not news-worthy. How often can or should we, however, reflect on the things we are thankful for or that we depend upon and that go by unnoticed?

I noticed that for me in times of darkness it is really important to meet the right people, to get the right information and to look for the good news. The internet is a great source of inspiration and there are blogs that I have subscribed to that give me new optimism and hope every day. I did not have these kind of news before I started searching for it. So, where do you get your good meals for your human soul from? Are you searching, are you finding? Stay inspired by all the good news you can find if you only care to look for them and thanks to all those people who spread all kind of good energy online. I am truly thankful for that! Have a great week-end everybody, I hope it is filled with good news for you!

the power of good actions

Sometimes we might feel that good actions we do, efforts we make, love we give and the like is not recognized. Sometimes people take our support, our help, our kindness for granted – and we might feel bitter when we are in need and people that we have helped before are letting us down. The cynical saying comes to mind:

“People will remember your good actions and your help. They will not forget. They will remember you next time they need help”.

A couple of weeks ago I was in that kind of mood, was feeling I have invested much in many friendships and was living in a world where there is not much appreciation or thankfulness.  Just only a very few moments later I got a text message from a stranger I met on a plane a couple of month ago. It was her first time to travel to the United States. I helped her with some of the forms you have to fill out, comforted some trouble relating to fear of flying long distance in a plane  for the first time and gave some  – so I thought – random small advices from my first experience long time ago when I was flying to the US for the first time.

Anyway, many month later while contemplating bitterness  I got a short message saying thanks  for my help. Both my help and my advices about do’s and don’t in the US were, so I was told, incredibly helpful. I realized that in that situation I was just helping without any thoughts about ‘investments’, payoffs, returns etc. If you help a stranger you might exchange business cards but usually you never meet again. And usually people don’t take the time to text ‘thank you’.

So maybe the things I was complaining about the time I got the message where  not caused by a lack of appreciation of  real self-less help, but because very often – sometime even without you noticing it – helping others is in fact linked to expectations. “People should return the favor, they should maybe at least acknowledge”.

True, there are people who only take without giving. True, there are people who exploit the readiness of others without returning favors. But I guess it is also true that bitterness is not the right reaction.  I guess it also true  that  real help is not connected to any thoughts about “pay off” – and if you are disappointed you should not only think about blaming others but also question your motivation. After having done that you can still blame others 🙂 as long as you realize:  You don’t give in order to take. You should be happy if you can help and make a difference.  Calculations will only come back to you. They come back at you in the form of bitterness.

Random acts of kindness to strangers you never see again, helping because you can and want to help, are and should be our best motivations. And guess what, sometimes you get a short thank you note, and that can make your day :).

These things came back to my mind while stumbling upon this great blog: http://gooddeedsareeasy.wordpress.com. You can find many many inspiring ideas there for acts of kindness, simple things that make a difference. There are so many times a day where we can help others. Just because we can help. Not because we might profit! A great blog to follow and great ideas to contemplate.

Real motivation

It is good to see that after a long time of a somewhat more “dualistic” approach modern science tries to re-integrate optimism and realism. What I mean by that is that one might say that for a long time there was an approach to contra-pose nature/reality and mind/reason in such a way that the “truth behind” everything good, beautiful and reasonable was supposed to be something ‘mere’ materialistic, ugly, selfish etc. Let’s reduce everything we cherish to something ‘all too human’ seemed to be the leading idea.

For example, as Martin Seligman points out, Freudian psychology, simply put, seemed to believe that all our higher motivations of love, care and altruism are just a compensation for our real egocentric dark desires. Positive Psychology tries to correct that picture by pointing out that we have genuine altruistic motivations in addition to our desires for self-preservance and success. New brain research even analyses the connection of gratitude, meditation, optimism on healing, stress relief and even on brain patterns.

For example, Sociobiology was happy to conclude erroneously  that darwinian nature must be selfish – because in competition for survival and replication only ruthless selfishness can be successful and the too optimistic picture of  the earlier studies of animal behavior allegedly had a too nice picture of nature. Modern biologist however stress again the genuine altruistic nature of man and many animals – Greed is out, altruism is (again) in, as Frans de Waal writes.

Rational choice theory and economics used to belief that we make rational choices – defined as looking for profit maximization. So it is good to see that, also in this domain, new research points into a different direction: and Dan Pink’s talk – beautifully illustrated by RSAnimate – is yet another piece in the puzzle of having a more realistic and optimistic outlook on human nature and capacities: we are much more driven by intrinsic motivations than many people tend to belief.

Can we change our lives in such a way that we use more of this creative power? Can we build a society, economy and educational system that renders justice to these new (or in fact very old) insights? An inspiring talk! Have  a great weekend that might allow you to follow your own motivations!

make something big by starting with it when small

Do that which consists in taking no action; pursue that which is not meddlesome; savor that which has no flavour.
Make the small big and the few many; do good to him who has done you an injury.

Make plans for the accomplishment of the difficult before it becomes difficult; make something big by starting with it when small.

Difficult things in the world must needs have their beginnings in the easy; big things must needs have their beginnings in the small.

Therefore it is because the sage never attempts to be great that he succeeds in becoming great.

One who makes promises rashly rally keeps good faith; one who is in the habit of considering things easy meets with frequent difficulties.

Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult. That is why in the end no difficulties can get the better off him.

(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, LXIII)

An inspiring blog: the Peace-Artist

There are many ways to keep a good spirit, optimism, hope and happiness alive. One good method for example is to show and practice gratitude. But the most powerful way is to meet great and inspiring  people in our live. And second best  is to read about or from inspiring people online.

One great thing about having access to the internet is that we can actively search for inspiration and connect with people that might be more uplifting and helping our own faith in humankind than some of the people that surround us  – and in addition to all the bad news we get delivered all the time we can try to level that by looking for some actual people who act otherwise, show altruism and reassure our trust in the fact that there is something greater and bigger than selfishness. Something that is just as real and happening on this very same planet as the bad news, but that is rarely newsworthy – so that you have to look for it yourself.

Therefore I was really thankful and happy that the webpage dailygood.org was featuring ‘the peace artist’.

“He goes by the name Peace Artist, and he spent the past year running 6,000 miles from Seattle to San Diego to Savannah, Georgia. He ran until given shelter, fasted until given food. He carried no money, only art supplies, to create and gift original works of art along the way.”

The Peace Artist describes that the reason for his journey was to give up his security, property, daily routines to go out and try to live for love and practice altruism on a daily basis, in every single action. Just try to go out and make people happy! Help where you can, give away paintings and rely on the help of strangers. Put the idea that ‘if you give, you will receive’ to a test. His summary of his experience:

“Have I ever not felt love? I’ve felt people not manifesting love, sure. But love exists all the time. You can do experiments on it, just like you can with gravity. Throw out a kindness to somebody else—just like you throw a ball in the air. Go out and make food for an elderly man. Talk to a stranger in the park. Take care of some kittens. Anything kind that you can think of. Try it. Go out and experiment.I can only speak from my own experience, but my experience guarantees that the experience will come back. If the intention is for love.”

Now I am both far away from the United States, and far from being able to make such a radical transition in my life. But it is great to read the blog of the peace artist on an almost daily basis. Many of his stories, adventures and actions are just inspiring and uplifting. Since I did not know about him or his blog before, there is time for me to go through the blog from july last year (right before he starts his journey) and read some of his observations and stories every morning: a great way to start the day and feel inspired to trust once more in the power of altruism and love! If somebody is out there, putting love to the test, giving as much love as he can,  and putting himself to the risk of having to rely on others, we all can take some smaller risks in being a little bit more kind, a little bit more friendly, a little bit more willing to help and willing to trust life more than we usually do!  I hope you enjoy his blog us much as I do! Have a great week-end!