We’re Moving

Image titled Fragment by iboy_daniel.  Click on the image to view his Flickr photostream.

Image titled "Fragment" by iboy_daniel. Click on the image to view his Flickr photostream.

The Serendipity Journal is moving!

Sorry it has been so long since the last post.  Things have not been running to plan lately.  We started work on a self-hosted website for this blog back in June.  It took a lot longer than expected to get the site up and running.

We’ve finally got the Serendipity Journal migrated to its new home at www.dugmugg.com.  Come on over and visit us there.

A Vision Of Two Worlds

I missed last week’s post.  I’m in danger of missing this week’s as well.  There’s so much to do…

When I was laid-off in February, I didn’t anticipate how busy I would be in unemployment.  In the last two weeks, I spent a day’s time applying for food stamps and almost two days reapplying for financial aid for our two college-aged children.  And then there’s the job search, which has settled into a frustrating daily effort.

I’m working harder now than I have in years, but with very little to show for my efforts so far.  In fact, this is the answer to the question I posed in the last post:

I’m not unemployed, I’m under-compensated.

Compensation can be corrected – that’s the good news.

Unfortunately, I can’t correct it all by myself.  That’s the crux of my challenge; my problem, my opportunity to grow.

I’ve enjoyed the extra time I’ve had at home with my family over the past two months.  Our relationships are growing stronger, and the flexibility in my schedule is a real benefit.  It’s exciting to envision all the new career paths available to me with my friends and family.  These have been mountain-top experiences.

But I still find it daunting to reach out to “weak” network connections.  When exploring potential leads not perfectly in alignment with my previous career tract, I drag my feelings of lack and self-doubt with me into the conversations.  I stack the deck against myself before I even pick up the phone.  The truth be told, sometimes I lose faith in myself and don’t even make the call, unwilling to risk possible rejection.  A valley like that can feel very deep indeed.

I’m trapped between two visions of competing worlds.  In one, we’re all connected at a deep level, sharing one spirit, brothers and sisters working together in peace and strength.  Success comes through our connections, providing an abundance that is mutually shared and beneficial.

The other world is a far darker place, dog-eat-dog, where our success comes at the expense of others.  Those others I see as my competitors at best, my enemies in my weaker moments.  I fear they hold a power over me that keeps me from fulfilling my purpose on this earth.

These two worlds are mutually exclusive.  They cannot both exist.  One is true, the other is false.  Yet I’ve experienced both over my lifetime.  And I continue to vacillate between the two, with more and more frequency.

A loving person lives in a loving world.  A hostile person lives in a hostile world.  Everyone you meet is your mirror.  — Ken Keyes Jr.

The time has now come to choose.  I made a plan in share group today with my friend Jim.  Starting today, I plan to reach out each day to at least one person that challenges my comfort.  In this way, I will test whether I can perceive the Savior that faith tells me is in each one of us. I share this plan with you so that you can hold me accountable.

May we all behold the light that others hold out for us.

Stories From Unemployment 2

Image titled Grand Canyon backpack by Kevindooley.  Click on image to see more of his work.

Image titled "Grand Canyon backpack" by Kevindooley. Click on image to see more of his work.

It’s now a little over three weeks since the layoff.  The past week has been very busy and challenging, but also extremely rewarding.  One of the things this experience has taught me is that the rest of your life doesn’t end just because you lose your job.

For instance, our boy scout troop has a backpacking hike planned for tomorrow.  The boys plan to hike a few miles with full packs to prepare for a longer hike in May.  I’ll be sharing the following advice with them before we set out.  This “Scoutmaster’s Minute” obviously has broader applications to searching for a new job, or any other challenge that life may give you.

A Scoutmaster’s Minute On Hiking

As you set out on this hike, you have a choice to make: where are you going to focus your attention?

The reason why you hike is to reach a desired destination.  That’s the goal.  Having a goal is a good thing.  It gives you a direction and a purpose.  Reaching a goal, especially a challenging goal, is rewarding.  When we reach our goal this afternoon, what do you think will be our rewards?

With so many obvious rewards, it’s easy to see why so many people focus their attention on the goal.

But consider this: what is a hike?  A hike is actually a series of individual steps taken one after the other over time until the desired goal is achieved.  What many people fail to recognize is each one of those steps offers its own special reward, if you allow it.

This is something you can’t be taught from a book or from someone else telling you about it.  You have to experience it for yourself to understand.

Each step is an opportunity.  No two steps are exactly the same.  Each step is necessary to reach the goal.  And each step will reward you in its own unique way if you’re paying attention.

That’s the beauty and the challenge of hiking: you can focus on the goal and receive your reward at the end, or you can focus on each step, receiving each individual reward along the way, and also attain the extra reward of the goal as an extra benefit.  The choice is yours.

So where will you focus your attention?

Halfway And Just Beginning

Image by Erika Mugglin

Image by Erika Mugglin

It was my birthday last week.  I’m 48 years old.  Not a major milestone birthday like 50, but it got me thinking: this could be the halfway point in my life.  My grandmother celebrated her 95th birthday back in December and she’s still going strong; it’s not unreasonable to think of reaching 96 in my own lifetime.

Halfway done.  50% complete.

And here’s the most amazing, surprising, and sometimes frightening thing: I honestly feel like I’m just getting started living my life.

It’d be nice to say that “just getting started” means I feel like I’m poised at the starting line of a race that I’ve been preparing to run for the past forty-eight years.  That would give a favorable impression.  The world respects strength, vision, and perseverance.  I enjoy writing from a position of authority, of power.

In this case, however, “just getting started” feels more like being a newborn baby.  I’m beginning to see that I’ve misperceived a great deal in my life.  “Truths” that I’ve accepted all my life are being questioned and found lacking.  So many have fallen lately that I no longer have confidence in any of them.  All of my core beliefs, the way that I understand the world and how it works, are being challenged.

The cause of this reexamination is A Course In Miracles, my sole goal for 2009.  I mentioned the Course (published by The Foundation For Inner Peace) and my goal in a previous post.  So far, I’ve progressed to Lesson 46 in the Workbook For Students and I’m halfway through chapter 13 of the Text.  The Text reading has gone slower than planned because I find myself taking so many notes in my prayer journal; the journal has been virtually taken over by these notes.

I also read Gary Renard’s The Disappearance Of The Universe, a book describing his experiences from the Course, back in January.  And I’ve located an ACIM website that provides all of the Course’s lesson and Text on-line; it’s a great resource when I don’t have my book available.

The Course has been very good.  It has also been very challenging to me.  At times I’ve been truly inspired by the beauty and peace that the Course is teaching.  At other times, I’ve found myself resisting its message of love and healing.

The Course teaches that there are two mutually exclusive forces at work in our world: the Holy Spirit and the ego.  The Spirit operates from our true self, offering us a vision of love and wholeness in God.  The ego operates from our false self and gives us fear, guilt, and separation to maintain its own existence at our expense.

When I choose the Spirit as my guide, I give Christ permission to work through me for reconciliation, blessing others and myself.  But when I attack in word or thought, I’m siding with the ego, making its insane beliefs real in our world.

My efforts to side with the Spirit have caused a great deal of resistance within me from my ego these past few weeks.  I’ve felt worn out and sick for a large portion of the last two weeks.  I lost confidence in my ability to express these new ideas and avoided posting to this blog.  Even my efforts to advocate the core Course principal of responding with love and not fear fell short in comments I exchanged with my friends in the post What Message Are You Sending?

The journey is just started, and it’s too early to have an idea of the outcome, although the Text takes pains to assure us that we will all ultimately succeed.  For now, the newness of it all is daunting, especially when I think about how to share it with you, my readers.  But the experiences I’ve had so far as I’ve practiced the principles of A Course In Miracles gives me faith that its teachings are true.

I invite you to check it out for yourself at the links above.  I also invite your comments and questions below.  Salvation is a shared experience, and I’m ready to get started.

Inspiration For The New Year

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.  —  Marianne Williamson

I collect quotes.  My journals are full of them.  They inspire me, challenge me, and help me tap into the thoughts of some of the greatest minds to ever walk this earth.  I believe the quotes a man keeps say a lot about his character.  Although Dorthy L. Sayers may be more correct when she says, “A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.”

I’ll leave it to you to test the fruits of my labor.

The quote by Marianne Williamson above is one of my favorites.  I originally heard that quote attributed to Nelson Mandala, but later learned Williamson penned those words in her book A Return to Love – Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Recently, I took the opportunity to listen to that book on tape, as read by the author herself.

The audio book isn’t very long, just two cassette tapes.  I was able to listen to the entire book in just two and a half daily commutes to work.  Williamson is an inspiring speaker and she delivers her material with a rapid-fire delivery style.  I found her book to be so pregnant with insight and wisdom that I felt compelled to listen to the entire work three full times.

In a nutshell, A Return to Love is Williamson’s story of how she discovered A Course in Miracles and how it saved her life.  She devotes much of the book to explaining her take on the principles of the Course, which she now teaches to others.  If A Course in Miracles could inspire such a profound work, I reasoned, then I need to get that book for myself.

And so my Christmas gift this year was a trip on the Internet to purchase A Course in Miracles and another Amazon-recommended book about the Course by Gary Renard titled The Disappearance of the Universe.  Over the Christmas holiday, I took some time to begin both books.

I also scheduled some time to review the accomplishments from 2008, and to set my goals for 2009.  Like Zig Ziglar says, “You can’t hit a target if you’re not aiming for one.”  Last year, I had multiple goals in seven different life-categories, including family, career, finances, and spirituality.  My results were a mixed bag; some important goals achieved, but many still unattained.

I started to compile a new list of potential goals for 2009, but as I spent more time exploring the principles of the Course, it became clear where the focus for the coming year needed to be.  In 2009, I will focus on a single goal: the study of A Course in Miracles, including the Text, the Manual for Teachers, the Clarification of Terms, and the Supplements, and the practice of the exercises in the Workbook for Students.  I will also seek out other texts that can further clarify the Course, like Williamson’s and Renard’s.  As I learn more, I’ll do my best to share what I’m learning with you.

My goal is inner-peace and healing, in my life and in yours.  May the Holy Spirit bless this effort and grant the miracle of Christ’s mind in our lives.  Amen.

How May I Serve You?

Image by awnisalan

Image by awnisalan

It’s December 31st as I write this.  It’s had to believe that another year is drawing to a close, and it’s surprising to realize that this blog is now eight months old.  Time flies when you’re learning new stuff!

I’d like to thank you all for your support and interest on this blog during 2008.  I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to stretch my creative muscles and to post on some of the things that have inspired me.  Your comments and encouragement on this blog have meant more to me than you can imagine.  Thank you.

With the New Year comes the opportunity to review the past year’s performance and to set new goals for the coming year.  For the past several weeks I’ve had the feeling that The Serendipity Journal could become much more than what it has been to date.  What that “something more” is, I can’t quite define yet.  It’s simply a feeling that there’s a great deal more potential, just waiting to be discovered and explored.

I’d like to ask your help in defining the future direction of this blog.  What do you like about the blog?  What would you like to see changed?  What topics and subjects would you like to explore? How about the post lengths and frequencies, do they fit your needs?

Writing for this blog has been a wonderful experience so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing.  My goal is to provide content that is informative and hopefully inspirational.  My greatest satisfaction comes from serving the needs of our readers.  Please leave your suggestions, comments, and critiques in the comments section below so that I can do a better job of serving your needs in 2009 and beyond.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s celebration.  I look forward to our continuing conversation and collaboration in 2009.

The Summer Camp Allegory

Covered Bridge at Camp Falling Rock

Sorry for the lack of posts last week; I spent the week off-line at Boy Scout summer camp.  For the past four years, I’ve spent a week out of each summer with our Troop at Camp Falling Rock.  I like going to summer camp: sleeping in tents, working in the program areas, eating in the Dining Hall, enjoying the camp fires, sharing in the camp staff’s shenanigans.  It reminds me of the summers I spent working on the staff at Crumhorn Mountain Boy Scout Camp.  For a week, I can be one of the Lost Boys back in Neverland.

This year at camp, I set the goal of earning the BSA Lifeguard certification.  My friend and fellow Scoutmaster Paul S. gave me the inspiration when we were back at the Alfred University Reunion.  I knew the certification could help our Troop when we plan our next canoe trip.  I didn’t know how much was involved in earning the BSA Lifeguard, but I figured it couldn’t be too difficult.  I made my best-laid plans to earn the certification, help our boys with their merit badges, and do some deep thinking on my life’s goals.  Heck, I even packed a bunch of books so I could catch up on my reading.

But the BSA Lifeguard was a lot more involved than I had anticipated.  Thirty hours of instruction and observation!  It’s a week-long program, all by itself.  I swear, I’ve received more training as a Boy Scout leader over the past few years than I’ve received from all of my employers combined over my entire twenty-five-year career.  There was no way around it, if I wanted to earn my certification, I’d be spending every morning and afternoon, and a couple of my evenings too, at the camp’s pool.

Earning the BSA Lifeguard was my highest goal.  I would have to let go of all of the other goals.

It was surprisingly easy for me to accept that decision.  Normally, I’d resist such a total commitment, my mind endlessly second-guessing the decision, playing “what if” games.  This time, however, I was given the necessary resolve to stand by my decision – it just felt right – and I experienced a peace of mind that helped me through the physical and mental demands of the week.  It also gave me insights into my life’s goal-setting efforts:

  • For the past four years, I’ve attended Camp Falling Rock’s summer camp as a scout leader.  While I enjoyed all four years, each camp was a completely different experience from the others.
  • There are so many different things that can be done at summer camp.  It’s exciting to think about all the different possible activities that you can experience.  However, with only one week of time available, it’s impossible to experience all the activities available.  You have to make a choice.
  • Choosing an activity naturally excludes all the other possibilities.
  • All the choices have pros & cons.  This time I chose BSA Lifeguard, but I could have made a hundred other choices: archery, canoeing, climbing, hiking, hanging out, swimming, pioneering, napping, cooking, kayaking, shooting, leatherworking, pottery, reading, whitling, even doing nothing at all.  All these and more were possibilities.  All had consequences, but there was no “right” choice, only the best choice for me at the time.
    • There have been times in the past when I didn’t take the time to consider all of the possibilities that I had available to me.
    • There have been times in the past when I was unwilling to commit to a choice for fear that I would miss out on an even better choice.
  • Choosing the BSA Lifeguard exposed me to new goals and experiences that I couldn’t have anticipated.  It also brought me into contact with people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, people who became new friends. 
    • One of my classmates suggested that we all should earn the Mile Swim award.  I had never earned, nor even considered attempting the mile swim as a scout.  Yet that new goal took hold of my thoughts and wouldn’t let go.  Could I swim a mile?  I had to find out.
    • I was concerned going into the week that the actual lifeguarding work would be one long, boring drag.  Watching others while they’re having fun has never been my idea of a good time.  Instead, I found the lifeguarding time to be very rewarding as I practiced my not-thinking, remaining in the moment, simply experiencing the pool.
      • When thoughts of regret for opportunities missed in other activity areas would occur, I’d quickly recognize them as the enemy.  Not-thinking allowed me to simply release those thoughts instead of fighting with them.  This helped me to feel a peace and a sense of belonging.
  • What I choose to do doesn’t really matter anyway.
    • Achieving the Mile Swim goal was no big deal, once it was done.  It was only important to me while it was still in the future as an unknown.  On Wednesday, the daily quote in my planner read:
    • Not in reward, but in the strength to strive, the blessing lies. — J.T. Trowbridge
    • I’m grateful for that bit of serendipity.  It gave me the wisdom to focus on enjoying the experience of the mile swim, being in the moment.  The details of the moment became profound – the way the waves refracted the light that played across the pool bottom, the way my body felt as it moved through the water – that was worthwhile.
    • Focusing on reaching the goal made me tense and self-critical; everything became more difficult in that frame of mind.  Focusing on the moment allowed me to relax and enjoy the experience. 
    • The goals set simply provided direction.  That direction opened new vistas to be explored and set the boundaries in which to play.
    • I needed the help and support of others to realize my goals.  Along the way, I supported others in realizing their goals.
  • Ultimately, our most important achievements are the relationships that we build along the way.  All the rest is just window dressing.