rescued dog

Would you answer the call?

It is said that when a person makes plans, God laughs. Last week, my week was planned. I knew what I would be doing and when. Over the years, I have become more flexible with my schedule, but I still have a schedule. Tuesday morning shifted my schedule. Most mornings my adopted dog Güera and I meet up with a neighbor and her dogs to walk. Tuesday was no different, until the dogs stopped by a field. When we came to the field, we found a severely dehydrated and malnourished dog.

Day One

We could have left. We both had work. We both had plans. We both had busy days. None of that seemed important anymore. A meditation teacher from Myanmar once said, “When the sunshine of loving-kindness meets the tears of suffering the rainbow of compassion appears.” The rainbow of compassion took hold of us, and we could not help but assist this dog. A mutual friend was called and arrived with water. Cautiously approaching the dog, for we did not know if it was vitious or diseased, we gave it two liters of water which it greedily ate up. The dog could not stand. It stretched with its neck to get to the water. Food was also brought but untouched. Later that day I returned with water which again was met with approval. The dog was about two feet from where it had been, but again showed no signs of being able to stand up or move freely.

Day Two

I had plans the next day, which were rearranged again to bring food and water to the little girl. Day two she was up a bit on her front paws, and she greedily ate everything we brought to her. Two meals were consumed within minutes. We were glad that she was looking a bit better, but she was obviously dragging her hind legs. We didn’t know if she was in an accident. We didn’t dare touch her, because we had no idea if she would bite us to protect herself.

Day Three

Day three, after again adjusting my plans, I fed her in the morning then returned in the afternoon with a different friend. We were thrilled to see that she was now using three of her legs. Having planned to bring her to a veterinarian that day for examination, when the time came, we did not have the courage. If her one leg was injured, it was quite possible that she might defend herself if there was pain when we picked her up. The trip to the vet did not happen, but I did get close enough to her to pet her. She accepted it calmly. Her eyes and demeanor clearly showed that she was not a threat.

Day Four

Friday, day four, after again shifting my schedule to accommodate this injured dog’s needs, I was accompanied by a dog trainer and some lovely people who often rescue dogs. We were all surprised to see Boxie, who had been named day two because she looked part boxer, was up on all four legs. Compared to how she had looked only a few days before this seemed a miracle. The current helpers were skillfully able to transport the dog to a very accommodating and supportive veterinarian who checked Boxie out. She did not have any major diseases and was just suffering from malnutrition and the normal bugs one would expect to find on a dog that was left in the wild. That evening Boxie came home with me because she had nowhere else to go. She is now recuperating at a shelter, as my own adopted dog was not adjusting well to our houseguest.

Besides a plug below requesting your help to find a home for this sweet girl, I also wanted to share some of the lessons this experience gave me.

The Pause: In my old Type A ways, had I rushed to get Boxie to a veterinarian the first day they may have put her down because of her condition, I would not have found the right people to help me move her, and I would not have found the shelter who took her in. Although it took conscious effort to not rush into things, every time I allowed myself to pause, the next right step appeared.

The Ego: I felt so much guilt the night after I brought Boxie to the shelter. It was not because she was not being cared for, but because I should have done it. I should have rescued her and taken her in. I was a bad person. All the guilt and remorse I felt was my ego taking on a role. I knew in my heart, not keeping her was the right thing for Boxie, my dog Güera, and our family. When I took away my expectations and judgments, I found serenity in my actions.

Purpose: My life had become pretty routine lately, and I felt trapped and unsatisfied in that routine. When faced with an opportunity to do something new and to help someone else, it gave my life purpose. When I could put aside my schedule, the flexibility gave me the ability to connect with others, help save a life, and bring together a community of support. #TeamBoxie

As you go about your week, keep your eye out for opportunities to help others, act as guided when you receive intuition, remove egoistic expectations and judgments, and rediscover your deeper purpose for living.

If you are interested in helping Boxie find her forever home, please contact me or Rescate Perruno. Rescue dogs are routinely sent from Los Cabos, Mexico to the USA and Canada. We’d love to show you how easy it would be to have this darling become part of your family.

It's time for a change

Making a Change for the Better

The realization last week that I need to accept my neighbor’s inconsiderate actions was pivotal. But just what do I do with that? As Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Knowing that I need to accept his poor actions as truth, to release the anger that is hurting me, and to embrace strong boundaries are just mental exercises. These are knowledge but not change. To go from knowing to applying, we need willingness and action.

If you're reading this it's time for change.
Photo by hay s on Unsplash

Willingness

We can know that eating a more vegetable-filled diet is good for us, but the willingness to forgo a juicy burger for a handful of carrots may not be there. Knowing what is good for us is not enough. We have to be willing to act differently. Oxford Languages defines willingness as “the quality or state of being prepared to do something; readiness.” Synonyms are readiness, disposition, inclination, wish, desire, eagerness, and enthusiasm. That is a powerful list. How many times do you know something is good for you, but you lack the readiness, disposition, or inclination to act? When do you go into a new project begrudgingly instead of with eagerness and enthusiasm? Before we can act and make real changes, we need to have the willingness to act.

If there are changes you want to make in your life but you are not moving forward, explore your willingness first. What do you fear will happen if you make a change? Will you lose something? Will you feel unsafe? Will others mock or leave you? Are you just uncomfortable in the newness of it? Are you more comfortable with the devil you know? After looking at your fear, look at the rewards. What do you gain through the change? How would your life’s experience improve? Is the reward worth the effort and risk?

Take your time exploring your lack of motivation and willingness. Don’t gloss over it. If you don’t spend the time getting buy-in from yourself, you will never move forward or stick with your new way of being.

Action

Now it is time to take it to the streets. Making a mental change of attitude and commitment means nothing without action. What steps can you take to move forward into the new? Stay away from all-or-nothing thinking. There is no need to make major drastic changes all at once. What is the smallest most comfortable step you can take in the right direction? What is that one thing you can do that is contrary action to what you were doing before? These little tangible steps lead up to the major change you are looking for.

In my case, I realized that my obsession with the inconsideration happening next door was taking away my joy. A major change could have been for me to move. That was not necessary. What I started with was noticing I was allowing myself to be disturbed by his actions, even when he was not around. I became ready and willing to release my obsessive thinking about the injustice when it was not happening and then I took action. The first easy action I took was counting. On the first day, I counted how many times my mind replayed the story of injustice. This did two things. First, it stopped me from feeding or fighting the story; all I had was objective awareness. Doing this took me out of the emotion of the story. Secondly, it gave me something tangible to work on. Sadly, that first day I disturbed myself over thirty times with my story of injustice. The second day that number was just over ten. By the third day it was less than five. My circumstances have not changed, I still have an annoying neighbor living next door, but my experience has improved immensely because I have changed my actions and behaviors.

What do you want to change in your life? Do you have the deep-down inclination and true desire to make the change? What is a small tangible step you can take today?

simpson

True Freedom

Last week I introduced my favorite Greek philosopher, Epictetus. The passage I read today from The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness seemed perfectly suited for our current world. Note that the writing I am going to mention was originally written 1600 years before the founding of the United States of America. Epictetus was neither a liberal or a conservative, nor had any view on American politics, because there was no America.

“Understand what freedom really is and how it is achieved.”

Epictetus invites us to look at the truth of freedom. I looked up the definitions of freedom and thought it was interesting that most of the definitions, including the Cambridge Dictionary, defined freedom as “the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc. whatever you want to without being controlled or limited.” I think many of our Don’t Tread on Me neighbors have latched on to this definition. But Epictetus does not agree with that meaning.

“Freedom isn’t the right or ability to do whatever you please.”

I am sure that doesn’t make a lot of people happy, but to me it is an important point of freedom. Freedom is not a three-year-old throwing a tantrum because she wants candy for dinner or the driver who cuts me off because of his right to drive fast and dangerously. Freedom is not Bart Simpson do-what-you-feel, but a state of acceptance and responsibility focused on more than our selves. Epictetus invites us to see freedom based on knowledge and deep understanding.

Simpsons

“Freedom comes from understanding the limits of our own power and the natural limits set in place by divine providence.”

Epictetus’ view of freedom is based on a realistic view of ourselves and acceptance of our limited power. As a society we have agreed that, at least in most of the world, we drive the right side of the road. If we want to be part of society, we are limited in where we drive. Our external power is limited. Our internal power is unlimited.

The true core of freedom is in the mind, not in our actions. As Epictetus said,

“By accepting life’s limits and inevitabilities and working with them rather than fighting them, we become free.”

By accepting the truth of life, society’s rules, and the way things truly work, we find freedom. Freedom is a state of mind, not a state of action. We find freedom in acceptance, not defiance. We lose freedom when we fight against reality. Much of the anger and fear that people feel these days is because they are fighting against “life’s limits and inevitabilities.”

“If, on the other hand, we succumb to our passing desires for things that aren’t in our control, freedom is lost.”

I want the freedom of perfectly sunny days, each and every day. The truth is there are hurricanes. I can not control the weather. I can not stop an advancing storm. That does not mean I don’t have freedom. It just means if I want to experience freedom, I need to stop being Don Quixote fighting battles I can never win. This goes back to the serenity prayer – knowing those things I need to accept and those I can change, and having the wisdom to discern between the two.

How do you view freedom? Is freedom the action to do just as you please, without thought of those around you? Is freedom the serenity which comes from accepting reality? Is freedom a state of mind or a state of action? What responsibility do you have for your neighbors when your view of freedom infringes upon their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

support group

Learning from History

When I wrote my book, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It, I was sure I had a novel and new idea. But I did not. Turns out Epictetus, a philosopher from around 100 AD said pretty much the same thing. He thought philosophy should be lived, not just discussed. He taught acceptance of what is and releasing the desire to control things we can’t control. He believed in self-examination and self-discipline. Many of his quotes could have been easily integrated in my book like, “People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.” Or “Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.” And “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

At first, I was bummed that I was my writing was not groundbreaking. Then, after I accepted that there was nothing new under the sun, I started to see his writing as a validation of my thoughts. We saw the world similarly and having the same thinking as someone else lent credence to what I intuitively believed. This was no longer my experience but a shared experience.

support group
Photo by adrianna geo on Unsplash

Often when something happens in our lives, we believe it is new, novel, and singularly unique to us. The truth is that someone, somewhere has gone through what we have. It may not be exactly the same, but it will be close enough that we can learn from that person’s experience, strength, and hope. We can understand their challenge and how it relates to ours. We can learn how they approached the issue, and what worked, or didn’t. We can be inspired to act knowing how their actions netted a positive result.

Learning from history and from others’ experiences helps us to create our own plan of action. This is different than receiving some guru’s three-step plan to happiness. This is learning from someone’s experience, applying it to our lives, and discerning how we should mirror, or not, their choices. This is real life experience that can be applied, not some sterile one-size-fits-all expert formula. Learning from others is learning to fish, not being given a fish.

Learning from others can happen on many levels. It may be talking to others who went through something similar and discerning our options based on what they tried. Small and large business can learn much from the practices other businesses have had in the past. Learning from others can also be applied on a global level so we can learn from and not mindlessly recreate history.

It helps to go through this process with a confidant; to have an outside objective voice to work through your problem. They will be able to spot things quickly and more easily because they are outside the story, outside the emotion. If they have gone through something similar, it is even better because they will know what to watch for which you may not yet realize.

What is your current challenge? Are there those you know, support groups, or memoir books which explore your challenge? What can you learn from their choices? Is there a mentor who can help you navigate what you learn and how it applies to your situation? Knowing that others were able to rise above their challenge, are you ready to try to tackle your own?

gnome go away

Are your means leading to your ends?

The other day a friend shared with me a simple reality check for our behaviors. He said that he looks at his goal and then reviews the methods he is using to reach that goal to determine if those methods are actually moving him toward his desired end result. Very simple. Very telling.

Here are a few examples where the means are not getting to our desired result:

I have often wanted to have deeper, more loving relationships (goal). My actions (method) have been to be distant and aloof to keep me from being hurt.  The result is that my distance kept others distant which prevents my having deeper, more loving relationships.

A millennial dreams of owning his own house (goal). Every day he eats out breakfast, lunch, and dinner (method). The result is that he is not able to save enough money for the down payment.

A spouse wants to be trusted by her partner (goal). Yet she continued to lie and manipulate him (method). The result is that she is less, not more trusted by her partner.

A worker wants to receive a promotion and be respected in the company (goal). He constantly complains to his co-workers that he is not treated fairly (method). The result is that his co-workers see him as a complainer instead of management material.

Looking at the goal, method, and results is simple in design and difficult in practice. The two challenges that come up are the ability to look at our methods objectively and second, to know that if we are not headed toward our goal, we need to make changes.

Being Objective

Humans are very rational beings. Or maybe I should say that we rationalize things to make ourselves feel better about them. We can do awful, unethical, or at least not wise things, but if we can find some story or premise to explain our choices, we feel justified. To learn from the Goal-Method-Result tool, we need to look at each action objectively, without excuse or justification. If we explain away our less-than-ideal choices, we can not learn to do better.

Goals

The goal can be something specific like buying a house or the goal may be something less tangible like being more peaceful. It is important for your goal to be YOUR goal. It should not be what others want you to do or what you believe you should do. In your heart of hearts, what would make you happy?

Method

Next, look at your current actions, words, and beliefs. This is not a time to analyze, just uncover. Be honest with yourself. What are you doing?  What are you not doing? How are you currently acting, speaking, and feeling?

Result

Now play out those methods to the end. Are they moving you toward or away from your goal? If they are not moving you toward your goal, what is the end result you are heading toward? Look at the examples I provided at the beginning of this article. The methods applied were in direct conflict with the end goal.

Change

Nothing changes until something changes. It is hard to honestly look at our methods (actions and beliefs). It can be more difficult to be willing to change those methods. First you need an honest desire and willingness to be and do different. We may want change but the actual transition into something new can be terrifying. Even welcomed change is scary because it is not what we have known. Humans crave consistency. Our stress levels are lower when life continues in the way we are accustomed. That is why so many people stay in a bad relationship or an unfulfilling position longer than they should. It is the devil they know. Moving into something new upsets the apple cart, takes us out of our comfort level. But it can also move us toward our goal.

What is the life you want (goal)? What are your current actions and beliefs (methods)? Are you heading toward or away from what you want? Are you willing to make a change to head you in the desired direction?

Wanting versus Willing

Throughout my life I have studied, analyzed, and comprehended. I expressed theories and best practices. I feel I have a good understanding of how to live the best life. Thinking, feeling, and believing are great. But none of those make me experience the best life, until I act. Taking action is a theme for me this year. I have written about how action can take us out of worry, and I have shared tangible steps to help someone take action. In this article I want to explore the step before action, willingness.

How many times do we want something, desire something different in our life but we are unwilling to do anything about it? We think it is too hard. We think we can not obtain it. We know it is good for us, but we stubbornly or fearfully don’t want to change. Wanting to change is not the same as willing to change.

Let’s go to Merriam-Webster to learn the difference. To want is defined as desire. Desire is an emotion, not an action. Willing is an action. Willing means “done, borne, or accepted by choice or without reluctance.” Willingness is a strong confident unwavering action.

Our want or desire is good because it defines for us the change we want in our life. If we don’t know where we want to go, we will never get there. However, the best visions and plans do not ensure we reach our goal if we never take any steps toward completing them. Here are a few stumbling blocks that may hinder us from moving from wanting to willing.

Overwhelm

A common reason we don’t move forward is that our goals seem insurmountable. Maybe we have so much on our plate already that we can’t imagine adding one more thing. Maybe we know what we need to do but the amount of time and effort needed is discouraging. Some of us shut down before we get started. We dream and imagine, but we are not willing to put on our big girl pants and make those first steps. It all seems like too much.

Worth

My usual stumbling block is feeling unworthy. I want better but I don’t believe I deserve better. Maybe I say others are worse off than I am, how can I be so greedy as to want more. Maybe I have resigned myself to a position of less-than and don’t believe I deserve to be happy. Being stuck in unworthiness can make our desires a fantasy we never give ourselves permission to explore.

Fear

Fear is usually the base culprit of our inability to move forward. We may be afraid we can’t reach our goal and will be disappointed. We may be afraid that our goal is not the right choice for us.  We may be afraid we will reach our goal and there will be backlash from others if we do succeed. Fear comes in many forms and no matter how it shows up, it can be paralyzing.

Make the Switch

How can one flip the switch from wanting to willing?  The answer is by removing all of the dishonest beliefs that are holding us back. Look at the excuse keeping you from willingness. Is it overwhelm, unworthiness, or fear? Is it real or imagined? If it is real, can you solve or address it? If it is imagined, which it usually is, stop feeding it. Stop replaying the what-ifs. Stop telling yourself again and again how this is insurmountable. Next, build proof that the story you are telling yourself is false. By listing tangible examples about how our dishonest beliefs are dishonest, it makes it easier to be released from their grasp.

What do you want next in your life? If you are stuck in wanting but not willing, break down the lies you are telling yourself and use the truth as building blocks to your willingness and eventual action.