“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Plato or Socrates?

“We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance. We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding. We should write because writing is good for the soul. We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in. We should write, above all, because we are writers, whether we call ourselves that or not.”

Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life

Well I have been writing now consistently for 5 years. And that is to me a long time. This “writing” so to speak, every day, day in and day out, has been what Julia Cameron would call “Morning Pages” or “Stream of Consciousness.” I have probably not missed more than 20 to 30 days of writing in this 5 year period – or to put it another way that is about 1800 days of pen to paper so to speak. That just seems amazing to me. In this process I have come up with a lot of insights into my life and why I do certain things or react in certain ways. Just when I think that I have gotten to the bottom of an issue I find that there are more layers upon layers upon layers. My journal is one that I know will never be read by anyone but me. I find that I have to keep this in mind so that I don’t hold back. Nothing is sacred in the journal. All topics are explored – good and bad. You have to go all out so to speak if you want to get through the rock hard layers of the psyche.

One of the things that started to evolve over time with this exploration were small quotes, sayings, and ideas by different authors. These concepts had a tendency to come up again and again and again. Sometimes showing back up as insights when least expected. Over time they coalesced into what I like to call the LIST.

I wrote previously wrote about the list on this Blog site – about a year and a half ago. (May 22nd, 2015). As the exploration has continued since that time the list has changed and evolved, and will continue to do so. But as Plato or Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”


there will be plenty of people in the world that will do that for you and to you.

1. YOU HAVE ALL THAT YOU NEED. Truly we have all that we need. It is when I cannot separate the “need” from what I “want” that gets me into trouble. Over time I noticed three questions that came up over and over again and again. Two of these (with the help of others) I developed on my own and the third one is from Henry David Thoreau. I am still not independently wealthy and more importantly we are all limited by time no matter how rich we are. I wish that I would have been able to voice these questions thirty years ago but as the old saying goes, better late than never.

    Question 1: “What do I care about so much that I would pay to do it?”

    Question 2: “What am I willing to give up so that I can live by working a lot less?”

    Question 3: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” Henry David Thoreau

I try to remind myself each morning these three questions. Before you make that purchase, take that job assignment, commitment to that engagement, etc.…. Ask yourself these three questions.

2. WHAT WOULD YOU ATTEMPT IF “FAILURE” WAS A GOOD FRIEND? If you knew that you could not fail what would you attempt? When you start to think about this the possibilities really become endless. If you make failure your friend and realize that the more you fail the closer you will move towards success. As much as I really don’t like the next President Elect – Mr. Trump, I have to give him credit for his failures. In business and in life. He seems to have been able to learn from his mistakes and move forward. We could all take a lesson from that. As far as his politics are concerned – well that is a different story. The idea here is truly to not be afraid to fail, invite failure in, serve it tea and cookies, and see it all as a learning opportunity. No telling how far you will go…

THE THINGS THAT WE FEAR THE MOST ARE THE THINGS THAT WE MOST NEED TO DO. Not sure who coined this quote first? But really it is a universal truth. How many times do we not do something that we know would lead to our growth? Fear and Failure seem to tie in together, we fear failure and because of this we don’t do the things that we know in our hearts we need to do. We want to turn away from the fear, but in reality we need to turn into it. As Pema Chodron says “We need to lean on the sharp points of life.” Or the quote by Susan Jeffers: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Anytime you become fearful, take a moment, and realize that this is a learning opportunity. A moment for growth to occur.

4. YOU MUST RENEW THE CLIMB OF THE MOUNTAIN EACH AND EVERY DAY! I think that I first heard this quote from a TV show called the “Life Styles of the Rich and Famous.” Some South American billionaire was being interviewed by one of the show’s host/producers, Robin Leach, and was asked why he was so successful and the answer was this idea: That you must go out and climb the mountain each and every day. It does not matter what you did last week, or yesterday, or even tomorrow, but right now. You must go and climb the mountain again and again and again. You might not get to the top today but that is OK. Some days are going to be harder than others. The trick is to just start. You never know how far you will get until you try.

5. LET GO AND WALK ON!! This is from Alan Watts. Sometimes I think that you just have to let go and walk on. It is the idea that life is in a constant state of change, there is nothing that is permanent, everything changes. It helps to remind me to be in the moment. Not to hold on to things too tightly. When we grip life by the horns so to speak we can miss the life that is flowing by us each and every day. All of life is in a state of change. And because of fear we feel that we need some kind of control. That false feeling of control is created by anything that we hold on to. And this “Holding On” means anything: material possessions, cherished beliefs, old friends and acquaintances, certain attitudes, religions, rituals, fears, truths, jobs, who we think we are, etc.… All of this gives us the false feeling of control. The reality is – there is no control. We think we have control but in reality we have no control at all. This can create a lot of fear. The trick is to just open your hand and let go – let the fear go – and walk on. Free up that energy. Let the anxiety go. You don’t need to be on the defensive all the time. The elaborate forms of defense and control that we create by “holding on” do not work.

“Life is an act of faith, an adventure into the unknown.” – Alan Watts

6. LINGER IN THE MOMENT. This one comes from Pema Chodron. It is a way to help remind myself to stay in the moment. Just to linger – good and bad moments. There are times we are so tempted to “rush” through life. But all of life happens in the present moment. The past is past, the future has not happened yet. All of life is right now, right here, right in this very moment while you are reading these words.

7. EMBRACE LIFE. Just embrace life – there are times life is not fair, terrible things happen, good people and loved ones die. And most of the time there is nothing you can do about it. But it is still life, the only choice to make is whether you embrace it or reject it. I like to think that I have made the conscious effort to embrace it. To make a positive difference where ever I can. A quote that I came up with:

“Life is good, bad, beautiful and ugly – but it is all experience, so drink it up, and guzzle it down my friend, for it is all that we are given.” EdB

8. SLIP OFF THE CLOAK AND SHACKLES OF SHAME. LET VULNERABILITY REIN!! Ah – SHAME – the hidden emotion. Thank you again Brene Brown for her research into “Shame”. I like to think of shame as the hidden emotion. I think we wear shame like we wear anger – it is a cloak and it becomes so much a part of us, we have been wearing it for so long, we forget that we have it on until someone or a situation points it out. If you had asked me a few years ago if I had experienced “shame” or if it had ever influenced a decision I made, I would have thought you crazy. But after listening to and reading Brene’s book, “Daring Greatly,” I realize that this emotion has played a large role at times. A quote from her sums it up:

“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”

9. YOU ARE OK JUST AS YOU ARE – YOU ARE ENOUGH!! This also come from Brene Brown and a few others. It is again the fear that you are just not good enough. Society has the tendency to give you what I call the “Never” quips: You are never good enough, never smart enough, never big enough, never beautiful enough, never rich enough, never skinny enough, never fast enough, etc.…. But the reality is that “YOU ARE ENOUGH, YOU ARE OK JUST AS YOU ARE.

10. ALL OF LIFE IS DISTRACTION. When you finally realize it, life is nothing more than one distraction after another distraction. Some are very good and some are self-destructive and therefore bad. The question comes down to a choice: How do we want to be distracted and the realization that not all distractions are bad and not all are good – society works for the group as a whole but not always for the individual. A question to ask yourself with any distraction, good or bad, “What am I turning away from?” Or another way to put it – “What am I running away from?” And this will usually lead to more questions and further examination of your life, which leads to possible changes, and further examination, etc.….

Also some will see “distractions” as getting away from the “purpose or meaning of life” but that question in and of itself is a waste of time. As the great Joseph Campbell said:

“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”

11. WE DO NOT SEE LIFE AS IT REALLY IS, WE SEE LIFE AS WE ARE. This famous quote comes from Anais Nin. She was a remarkable woman who was an author and is famous for keeping a journal for 40 years. When you stop to think about it we really do see the world as we are. I know that when I am feeling really good both mentally and physically I have a tendency to be much more forgiving of others peccadillos. But if I am feeling bad or had a recent bad experience at work, home, etc.… then I might not treat or think of others as gently/forgiving as I normally would. I think that Anais wanted us to see the world as it actually is – to get past our immediate biases. We all get caught up in our day to day issues – the trick is to see how this influences how we see.

12. DON’T USE ANGER AS A SHIELD. DON’T HIDE BEHIND IT – STEP OUT IN FRONT OF IT. This comes from many different authors but several that stand out for me are Jon Kabat-Zinn, Brene Brown and Thich Nhat Nanh. I have come to see anger as a reaction to fear. To protect ourselves from the “fear” we create a shield so to speak. This metaphorical shield is made out of anger. The idea here is to step past the shield of anger. To get out in front of it. This requires us to see our own fears honestly, understand them and take responsibility for them. By taking responsibility, means not letting fear completely dictate our vision and view. This responsibility does not let us run away – it requires mindfulness and turning into the proverbial sharp points of life. For me, I wore anger like a cloak for a very long time. Anytime something came up that I feared I pulled on my cloak of anger. I got so use to wearing the cloak I forgot that I had it on. It adversely affected all of my life. The best TV example of this is from an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation – called The Wounded. Captain Picard makes a statement about another Starfleet Captain that blew up a perceived enemy ship without provocation. The other Captain had a grudge from the death of his wife and child at the hands of this former enemy.

“When one has been angry for a very long time, one gets used to it. And it becomes comfortable, like….like old leather. And finally….becomes so familiar that one can’t ever remember feeling any other way.” – Cap. Picard

This truly was me about 3 years ago. It does not matter what the catalyst was for the initial start of the anger. What does matter is that you own it, understand it, and become mindful of it, otherwise the anger will sour everything you do in life.

13. THIS IS GOOD ENOUGH, OR JUST “GOOD ENOUGH.” This quote comes from Ajahn Brahm. He gives the analogy of how we get into the “perfection” of things and need to step back in order to see the big picture. He talks about building a long brick wall at the monastery and he was upset because a couple of bricks were a little out of alinement. He says this was causing him a great deal of stress until a couple visiting the monastery started talking about the magnificence of the brick wall, how beautiful it was, they never saw the few bricks that were out of alinement. He says that this is a reminder that sometimes things are “GOOD ENOUGH” as they are – we don’t need to worry ourselves needlessly over the “perfection” idea.

14. THERE WILL BE A “LAST TIME” FOR EVERYTHING – ALL THINGS END!! This one just reminds me that no matter what is going on good or bad. All things end – just that simple. This is another way of saying that all things change. It helps me to be grateful for the time I have. That nothing is written in stone. It might all end tomorrow or tonight or the very next moment. Just this one statement can help to slow you down. To truly savor the moment. Even the dull ones. It can bring joy to the most menial tasks.

“When you finally realize that nothing is permanent in this life, you will become more tolerant, more forgiving and less judgmental.” Mufti Ismail Menk

Well this is the second time that I have written out this LIST and posted it to my Blog site. It has been about a year and a half since the last one. Will it change again? I sure do hope so. Life is not static, it is movement and flow. A continuing learning opportunity. Again my hope is that you have found something helpful, useful or interesting for further exploration and inspiration.

Winter has finally set in for Colorado and the snow is falling in the mountains. Time to go and do a little bit of skiing. I hope you enjoy the drawings. I did them over the last year. They are on 5.5 x 8.5 inch paper, 90 lb. weight, with Staedtler, Copic and Sharpie Markers. I call them doodles, each one different in its own way but with the recurring theme of circles. The last one was done from inspiration after watching the Game of Thornes – it is of a Crow but I knew if I did it all in black the details would be hard to bring out. So I decided to add some color – so think of it as a metaphorical crow. The emotions of color beneath the black. Take care and see you OUT THERE!!

HILLBILLY ELEGY – A memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance

December 10th, Saturday 2016

“If you believe that hard work pays off, then you work hard; if you think it’s hard to get ahead even when you try, then why try at all? Similarly, when people do fail, this mind-set allows them to look outward. I once ran into an old acquaintance at a Middletown bar who told me that he had recently quit his job because he was sick of waking up early. I later saw him complaining on Facebook about the “Obama economy” and how it had affected his life. I don’t doubt that the Obama economy has affected many, but this man is assuredly not among them. His status in life is directly attributable to the choices he’s made, and his life will improve only through better decisions. But for him to make better choices, he needs to live in an environment that forces him to ask tough questions about himself. There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.”
J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

“What separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the expectations that they had for their own lives. Yet the message of the right is increasingly: It’s not your fault that you’re a loser; it’s the government’s fault.”

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

“There is no group of Americans more pessimistic than working-class whites. Well over half of blacks, Latinos, and college-educated whites expect that their children will fare better economically than they have. Among working-class whites, only 44 percent share that expectation.”
J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

“Barack Obama strikes at the heart of our deepest insecurities. He is a good father while many of us aren’t. He wears suits to his job while we wear overalls, if we’re lucky enough to have a job at all. His wife tells us that we shouldn’t be feeding our children certain foods, and we hate her for it—not because we think she’s wrong but because we know she’s right.”

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Excellent book – Vance writes about the problems of the white lower economic class of America. He comes off very direct and honest in telling his tale of growing up in Kentucky and Ohio. I think it is one thing to research an area or class in the United States but quite another to actually have lived it as a kid. The book helped me to get a better understanding of the problems facing lower social economic status whites. Joblessness, divorce, substance abuse, poverty, etc.… these issues are a fact of everyday life for the characters in the book. Working where I do I have some understanding of these issues but at the same time I did not appreciate some of the finer details. And how these issues change people’s beliefs and attitudes. This book is a must read for those who want to better understand the issues that surround this group in America. It is available at Amazon for about 12.25 in paperback.

The picture below is from skiing at A-Basin last Monday 12/5 – the snow is finally starting to fall!!

“When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times” by Pema Chodron

December 1st, Thursday, 2016

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know

…nothing ever really attacks us except our own confusion. Perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. Maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. But what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. If we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. It just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.”

― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”

― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”

― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

I have made the habit of trying to read 50 books each year – in all categories. And when I say all categories – I really mean all categories. This has been going on for about 15 years. I have never made it to 50 but have gotten in the high 40s a few years. I am now close to 500 books and hope to cross that barrier next year. It is a lot harder than what it might seem with all the distractions in our modern lives. To get the full scope or to really understand a story and the author’s point of view, you sometimes have to come back and read it more than once. Plain and simple: It is time consuming, it can dominate a huge part of your day… but I believe well worth the effort.

This book was first published in 2000 and it is as relevant today as it was back then. It is a short one, only about 150 pages but packed full of information. To summarize the book or to give what I think as the underlying theme: that when things get confusing, difficult, ugly, messy, really terrible… they fall apart… the idea is not to run away but to turn into it, to lean on the sharp points so to speak. And the realization that most of what we do in our daily richtuals is nothing more than distraction, an escape from the grim and not so grim realities of modern life.

As example, while reading this I was reminded of what the former president, George Bush Jr. told the American public after 911 – “To go shopping” – which on the surface sounds crazy but this was nothing more than a way to escape for a few moments from the harsh reality of 911. An escape from the fear, the confusion and the worry that was generated by this terrible event. Pema shows us that we don’t need to do this, that there is a better path. She also shows that it does not take a watershed event to create this need for escape. Everyday life does this all the time. You really do not have to go looking for it. I think it is in this realization, that this occurs everyday, day in and day out, Pema makes one of the most important points of the book. When we become aware and use the everyday events to practice not running away then we are better prepaired for the bigger life chaning events that we all will face at sometime.

This is one of those books that can be read and reread. Each time you will come to a new understanding of how we “gloss over” our lives, both the good times and especially the bad, not really being in the moment, and always seeking escape. And therefore never having really lived life. I would have to say that this is one of the best books that I have read all year.

If you are a prime member you can get the paper back version of the book for about 10$ on Amazon.

The picture below is from my nephew out in Washington – it is his first day of downhill skiing this year at Steven’s Pass. Looks like it might be a great snow year in the Pacific Northwest.