David K. Reynolds, Ph.D.
See Creative Commons Deed below
No magic will get your bed made in the morning.
No magic will pay your bills or clean your toaster.
No amount of meditation will feed you or drive your car.
No exalted feelings will weed your garden or fix a dripping faucet.
You have to do something to affect the world. Your action gets a response from reality.
The response may not be the one you wanted or expected, but something will happen.
Imagination creates possibilities and interest.
Imagination also generates fear and worry.
But it won't open your garage door or tie your shoelaces.
Ground your life in what you do.
While playing your mind, activate your body.
I can recommend nothing more fundamental.
The three principles of the action aspect of CL are:
Accept reality as it is.
Know your purpose.
Do what needs doing.
Did you know that these principles are circular? After you do what needs doing, you need to accept the reality of the results of your doing, find your next purpose and do what needs doing next. Again and again.
The three action principles of CL applied to mediation are:
1. Discover acceptable shared reality (by communication)
2. Discover shared purposes.
3. Discover shared behavior that needs to be done.
The addition of finding shared elements is applicable to quarreling spouses and business disputes and any other situation inviting mediation.
If your beliefs don't show in your behavior the beliefs are for show alone. If your beliefs are confined to a holy place they are excuses for indifference elsewhere.
Any opportunity to serve others is a gift. Any ability to serve others is a gift. Any service to others is a gift. Deciding to serve others is not serving others.
How do you know which bite of food from the plate will be next? How do you know which dish to pick up from the dishpan and what strokes will be used to wash it? You just do it. Like driving and talking and sleeping, you don't decide or ponder or commit. You just do it. Service, too.
We don't earn our existence; so all is a gift. The time and energy to work on our debt is a gift. The tools to work on our debt, Reality's representatives, are gifts. To see ourselves primarily as givers to the world is to walk about with hands outstretched and eyes closed.
Gifts deserve our respect. All occupations are worldly occupations. Don't be fooled.
Some parts of Reality I don't like. Some parts of my don't liking I don't like. The don't liking itself is just as it is, like it or not. Such acceptance is there, like it or not.
Many of the prayers I have heard are like asking for a drink in a downpour. The intricate combination of events that produced this planet capable of sustaining this form of life ought to astound us. The elaborate combination of events that produced this me and this you and keeps us stimulated and fed and breathing is so detailed as to be beyond our grasp. We drink from the downpour moment by moment.
What comes to you with a guarantee that it cannot be lost? You will even lose you someday. Use these possessions, this you, this moment well.
Thoughts on Thoughtlessness
There is a lot to not-know.
I keep running into its expansiveness as I grow older.
It turns out, for example, that the mind (though a noun) is not a thing.
It can't be fabricated or fixed as some objects can.
Yet so many "experts" claim to be able to fix it.
Their toolkits vary considerably, using magic wands of various sorts.
They use smoke and mirrors to affect something that is also smoke and mirrors.
The spotlight of attention illuminates one subject while shadowing multitudes.
The spotlight of attention (though a noun) is not a thing either. Mind and attention should be verbs. We should talk about "minding" in the same way we talk about "attending to".
It may be interesting to try to measure this mind with objective tools, but you can't wrap a tape measure around it. No matter how many verbal and projective tests and brain scans and questionnaires you apply, the mind drifts through them all, drifting.
Get your priorities straight. Know the true source of satisfaction. Grabbing for baubles leaves you exhausted and wasted. Purposeful action can provide lasting worth; provided you select the right purposes.
Virtue is intimately tied to values. You choose what is virtuous behavior based on your values, not mine. We promote our own values with awareness or not. But my values have no special absolute quality.
We are born into debt having received life without ever earning it. This life gift must be repaid, although the longer we live, the more indebted we become. We use life to repay this life debt, so there is no end to it in one sense. In another sense there is an end to it, but we don't come out ahead.
Repetitions of actions produce habits, good and bad. Changing behavior changes habits. Rather than "breaking" habits we overlay new habits on the old, submerging the old habits. Habits can save us time and attention and effort, but stay alert for circumstances that call for revised habits.
You cannot make a habit of "living constructively". Can you see why?
You cannot pursue all your goals at the same time. The goal queue keeps changing. Goals are temporarily sacrificed to achieve more important ones at the moment. Goals are dropped completely as circumstances change. Now and then check to see that important goals have not been ambushed.
Courteous, civil behavior is required however you feel about your neighbor. The moral world encompasses behavior, not feelings. You may choose to perform acts of worship without consistently loving your God. Beware that actions, however, are likely to promote certain feelings, desireable and undesireable. You choose.
You are unwise to ignore the justice system, but you may benefit if the justice system ignores you. To stand out is to invite lots of time spent in legal activities. Time spent in courtrooms and medical waiting rooms is time deducted from other pursuits. Beware of much activity aimed at restoring some imagined personal status quo of law or health.
Wealth reduces certain kinds of neediness and introduces other kinds. Use well the wealth that comes your way, knowing that even earned wealth is a gift unearned. It is just ordinary to recognize the everyday bounty that comes our way. It is nothing special to realize that there is no way we can do enough good to deserve all the moment-by-moment gifts. I sit here warm and fed and pain-free using borrowed words, typing with borrowed fingers on this borrowed computer viewed with borrowed eyes while thinking borrowed thoughts over borrowed time. How could anyone be foolish enough to believe that such wealth is earned? Yet how quickly we complain when even one element of this downpour fails to fall upon us, A few moments of cold or hunger or pain or loneliness or failure or weakness get our attention, and the rest of the bounty is forgotten. Suffering is a mere spark of misery in a conflagration of care. Something seems to be devoted to my care and support. Who/what would be so interested in this imperfect me as to meet my multitude of needs in such a regular, even automatic, fashion in ways often hidden from my understanding and awareness? I don't understand the process of digestion, the process of the seasonal circling of the earth around the sun, or the detailed workings of this computer, much less the origins of this stellar universe. Yet these representative processes work in intricate, unnoticed, cooperation to sustain me. Such is life.
Do not let others define what is right and what is wrong for you. Do not ignore their opinions either. Be prepared to enjoy the benefits and suffer the consequences of your definitions of right and wrong. Make sure that your definitions of permissable behavior are not selfishly broad. Aim to cause minimal trouble to others and maximum benefit to all. Keep learning the details of how to accomplish the above. We are all eye-deep in debt.
Young people may have unrealistically high ideals and so suffer from their inability to achieve those ideals. With age we learn the ordinary limits of ourselves and others. We measure ourselves differently with age. Don't give up ideals altogether, however.
Pay attention to sunsets and roses and dirt and mold and definitions and laws and the preferences of others. These topics and others are markers inviting, not requiring, you to do something.
Water doesn't really care about the rocks it washes over and wears away. Water just seeks to get on about going where it is going. Maintain water's purpose, but give some thought about the rocks, too. Rocks can raise the level of the water. Rocks can permit water music. Rocks can show off water's skills. Thank your rocks sometimes.
Devote yourself to living life realistically and well. Reality promises a multitude of successes and failures as seen by our eyes. Actually, it offers only more Reality tagged by our hopes and values and desires. It is possible to be too smart in the sense that all appears to be figured out. The ways you and I analyze and understand are limited by our assumptions and experiences. Our understanding both expands and constricts us. It does no good to admit the limits of our understanding, for that is just more pseudo-understanding. Our boundaries are intrinsic and unfathomable. Okay, what needs doing now.
Perhaps my greatest fault is my lack of effort to work on my other faults. I am aware of some of them, and others kindly remind me of others. Yet I fail to systematically eliminate them. It is not that I am unreasonably satisfied with myself as I am. I can make up fault-sustaining stories about familiarity and a busy life and difficulty of methodology and inability and distractions and so forth. Such stories are not explanations, but rather further distractions from what needs doing. There is no extra credit for confessing this tendency while failing to do anything about it.
Comparing is built into our minds. We compare ourselves with others; we compare our joys and sorrows, our successes and failures. As we grow older we compare our current conditions with those of our youth. Comparisons are tricky, however. What is, is; but that to which we compare this present state is a mental construction based on memories and imagination. What we really know is what is now. So all such comparisons are imprecise.
I have stolen time and killed dreams and injured lives. I have wasted time and earth's resources. I have caused many to wait or hurry to meet my preferred time schedule. Becoming aware of these failures is one step. Acknowledging them publicly is another step. Working to eliminate them is yet another step. I am stepping. What a climb confronts me!
We have hopes, wishes, dreams that are not fulfilled in the now. To focus on the discrepancy between what is and what we wish to be results in dissatisfaction. To ignore or deny our dreams would be unrealistic. While holding to our dreams we must forge them into goals that can guide our behavior in the now. Hopes, wishes, and dreams are not ends in themselves. They are guidelines with desired destinations and mapped courses for today's journey.
Circumstances don't always turn out as I wish or plan. Life has so many variables that I can't control or don't know how to control or don't know can be or needs to be controlled. Lots going on here. But it doesn't make sense to give up altogether. So I'll do what I can, knowing that circumstances don't always turn out as I wish or plan. A prayer of petition is an effort to put a measure of control back into the uncontrollable. Your experience will indicate whether or not such prayers are effective for that purpose. Prayers of acknowledgment, appreciation, and merging are a different matter. Your experience will indicate whether or not such prayers are effective for those purposes.
Now that I am in my early seventies and no longer concerned with income I can at last begin to parse teaching from occupation. What needs doing now has no innate tie to making a living. The chances to give myself away depend now on opportunities available. As I slowly withdraw from appearances in the media, fewer people come seeking what I can offer. My daily pace of instruction slows and reorders itself while I have more time to take good care of my mind and body. I'll continue to write and do lectures for a while longer.
We find what we are looking for. When I look for weakness and faults in myself and others, I have no trouble finding them. When I look for strength and goodness I can find those, too. The looking itself may be related to weakness and strength. The looking at the looking, too. Sometimes just looking...
Desires are endless. So are satisfactions. So are disappointments. It may look like one or another is predominant, but that view is only in the looking. Careful looking reveals desire, satisfaction, and disappointment within the careful looking itself. Furthermore, desires, satisfactions, and disappointments each contain the others. Please turn off the lights you are not using.
Enemies are misperceived colleagues. Learn how to cooperate with them. Neither love nor revenge is necessary. Find ways to be helpful. Offer thanks for services received. Apologize for the troubles you caused. You are more alike than you might imagine. Your efforts to cooperate invariably produce results, not necessarily the results you desire or deserve.
Do not be fooled, no one wins a war. Countries do not fight wars; individuals do. Countries are not wounded; they do not die. Economies are not rescued or dismembered. Societies do not suffer or prosper. Look to what is lying on the ground.
Prayer, whatever its form, is acknowledgment of our impotence. So much of life lies outside of our direct control. Prayer strips away our false sense of limitless personal mastery and inserts hope into our affairs. Doing prayer influences belief.
I cause others trouble by what I do not do as well as by what I do. There is no end to what I could have done but didn't. Included in that list are the apologies I didn't give for the not doing. While focusing on forgiving others, I overlook my own need for forgiveness.
Buttons and forks and shoelaces and toilet paper may be seen as items inferior to cars and houses and money and televisions. Values are optional add-ons, designed in many ways. They are not absolute. Notice the circumstantial value of the above objects. The smallest of objects step forward to meet our myriad needs.
A German saying has it that three things do not return: a shot arrow, a spoken word, and time. Our voices are tools requiring careful use. Speak knowing your purpose. Speak having first listened. Speak with listener in mind. Silence, too, is communication. Be silent knowing your purpose. Be silent having first listened. Be silent with listener in mind.
Performances aim at audiences. Some performances are aimed at the self. Be aware of your performances. Be aware of performances that are lies. Use your performances as gifts that benefit others. No one is performance-free.
Suppose you receive a gift that you don't really want. Suppose you give advice and the listener seems to be preoccupied with something else. Suppose a friend tries to fix something for you and makes it worse. Suppose you are stuck in a snowstorm while driving to deliver holiday food to the needy. Do not discard effort, no matter what results. The effort of offers, received from others or given to them, is worthy of notice and appreciation. Even the shadow of such efforts is worth attention.
How long should you make effort toward a goal when the effort is not rewarded? As long as the goal is worthy. Other goals, however, will emerge naturally in the course of everyday life. They, too, invite your attention. Don't lose sight of the forkful of food coming to your mouth.
We make up stories about why prayers were not answered, why we did what we did, why others left or stayed, why someone died at that particular time, why we failed the test, why the accident occured then and so on. We go to professional story-tellers who may or may not use science to provide more detailed stories for us. But even knowing the rational probabilities we do not know the momentariness of events. So we try to satisfy ourselves with the mythical certainty of stories. These pseudo-explanations are fine so long as you realize their whimsy.
Stringing words together can be just a way of making a living. Now I have no income from such work, and yet I continue to do it. I tell myself it is because I need to string together words of truth, for readers, but for myself, too. Writing causes me to examine my view of the world in detail. I hope you find your truth here, too.
Desires keep outpacing what we attain. Sometimes what we desire and attain produces temperory satisfaction, but sometimes the result is disappointment and revised desires. Such a process is natural, and there is no way short of death to eliminate all desires. The reasonable stance is to accept desires as they are, but to prevent them from being the sole determinant of our behavior. Notice them, take them into account, but keep them in their place.
Reciprocity requires that you incur a debt when you ask for help. You owe those who help you a debt that must be repaid, whether you asked for their help or not. Those helpers whose names and faces you don't know can be repaid by various forms of community service, thus serving some people whose names and faces you don't know.
You must decide when serving someone or some organization is causing more trouble to them than the service is worth. If your service causes weakness or callousness or indifference or other harm then it may be better to end the service, for the sake of the other. Do not serve, automatically, merely from habit; watch the effects of your service.
Disappointment comes when an objective is not achieved, a goal is not met. The way to deal with disappointment is to turn attention to other goals, perhaps new ones. A setback can teach us about more realistic goals.
Genuine love is not possessive. It seeks not to tie up the love object in obligations or guilt. However much it yearns to be loved, it aims to free the love object to develop its potential, even if that freedom involves abandonment. Genuine love rejoices in the love object's success.
Leisure time does not mean time without purpose. Find ways to use your leisure moments to learn, to develop skills, to serve, and to improve your health so you can learn, develop skills, serve and improve your health so you can learn in order to develop skills and serve and improve your health so you can...
We have no chance of knowing everything about everything. Science, the most careful way of knowing, gives us glimpses of the breadth of our ignorance about the potentially knowable. Beyond those limits there is much we cannot know by any means available to us. So don't be a "know-it-all". Use your rented knowledge well.
Occupations are more than ways to earn a living. Choose an occupation that is helpful, not harmful, to others. "Others" includes consumers but also fellow workers, family, and others influenced by your work. Some jobs can be adapted to be helpful even if they do not begin so. Pay attention to opportunities to serve. In doing so you find the work more interesting and rewarding.
Thanks to students, teaching can be done. Thanks to a line of teachers in the past and present, teaching can be done. Teachers expound borrowed lessons to borrowed ears. Good teachers work on their debt by continuing to learn so that their teaching is current and fitting to their students.
Paranoia generates purposes. The purposes may be unrealistic, but they provide direction for action. Paranoia also provides a simplified lens for viewing a complex world. The world is seen to be full of enemies and danger. Any successful cure of paranoia must compete with these two elements.
Independence is relative. No one is independent of other people and things. We all depend on the efforts of others, whether we recognize our dependence or not. Dependence calls from us responsibility and reciprocity. Our intertwined gifts and obligations keep us upstanding.
When is doing, not doing? When is not doing, doing? When is it better to shift the locus of activity from hands to mind? From mind to hands? Reality's responses guide you. Pay attention and dance the dance.
Too much time on your hands? Get out and look around. Not enough time to do all you want to do? Make an appointment with yourself to look at purposes and priorities. You can't do everything, and you can't do anything by your own efforts alone. To whom and to what do you owe your successes? What is the best way to begin to repay?
There is no "there". It is all a big "here".
Two ways to make life easier for those who take care of you:
1. Show no preferences; give thanks for everything that comes. Of course, you have preferences, but this difficult course emphasizes the caregiver's needs. The problem with this strategy is that caregivers may want to do the best for you, but they can't discover it because anything goes.
2. Have regular, unchanging preferences and routines so that your behavior is predictable. Caregivers learn regular responses. The kindest course is to avoid making the preferences and routines burdensome.
Eight Great Awakenings of Constructive Living
We don't really know anything about how life will turn out, how our health will hold up in the future, what the experience of death is like, how we know anything.
Desires bring both satisfaction and dissatisfaction, joy and suffering. Desires are natural. They need not, cannot, be eliminated. It is possible, however, to emphasize some of them over others. Freedom from feelings such as fear and anger and anxiety is not a sensible goal. Those feelings represent natural desires for self-protection, for social approval, for assertiveness, and so forth. All desires must be accepted as they are, but they need not be acted on.
It is fine to be dissatisfied with what we have, with what we have achieved. The desires to gain more, to serve more, to understand more, to give more provide both suffering and impetus for constructive, positive action. Discontentment can spur us to seek understanding, to give ourselves away through service to other people and things.
Self-centeredness causes an emotional roller-coaster that distracts from discoveries about our environment including others in it. Situating ourselves as embedded in the whole of our environment offers a more realistic perspective and a wider set of purposes.
In order to teach well one must be a student. In order to learn one must give up the notion that everything of importance is already known. Teaching is both giving and receiving. Knowledge brings both joy and suffering, but knowledge offers opportunities that ignorance does not.
Wealth allows only certain kinds of giving and restricts other kinds. No one lacks opportunities for giving. Searching for potential gifts and giving them are meaningful life purposes. Focus on receiving gifts, demanding gifts, seeking gifts, resenting gifts ungiven, increases misery.
No one is constantly pure, kind, giving. We all change moment by moment. Pleasures and discipline are both necessary in life. Virtue is variously defined and variously exhibited by groups and individuals. Imperfectly used moments are, nevertheless, members of the finite set of moments allowed us. It is fine to aim high while stumbling, but check the terrain, too.
Birth and death are great mysteries helping us to define the limits of our understanding. We come from the unknown and go to the unknown. While we live we can seek some level of understanding of ourselves as part of this Reality. We can invite others to share and expand this understanding. And then we die.
Constructive Living Beatitudes
New Testament Original: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
CL version: Blessed are those who hold to their purposes, for purposeful action is satisfying.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are those who see that time is unforgiving, for they shall live fully in the present.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who know that results are uncontrollable, for they shall devote themselves to the process of doing.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are those who do what they determine to be right, for in the doing they are fulfilled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are those who work on repaying their debt to the world, for they receive more than they give.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are those who aren't focused on themselves, for they shall see a wider Reality.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who do right regardless of feelings, for they are representatives of the ordinary.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those whose right actions don't bring deserved results, for theirs is rewarded by the doing.
29 hours of no electrical power in Coos Bay.
1.how important electricity is for my everyday life
2.how my hand automatically went to a light switch when I entered a dark room (attention, attention)
3.that I can stay warm with clothes and a sleeping bag (12 hours in the bag)
4.that I can heat water and soup with my old camping canned heat (I bent a clothes hanger to make a stand for a pan over the can of alcohol-heat, Sterno)
5.that battery-operated radios and flashlights are useful
6.that dawn and dusk are important markers, especially for reading
7.that I have only THIS LIFE NOW, so I must live it fully now.
What my cold teaches me:
I do not have complete control over my body's health.
Medicine, designed and produced by others, sometimes relieves my symptoms.
I can attempt to repay others by acting to keep my cold symptoms to myself.
Complaining about misery doesn't make it go away.
Holding back my complaints is a service I can secretly offer others.
Several people noticed that my voice sounded different.
Doing many of the recommended actions still doesn't result in instant cure.
Advice from others with cold experience can be helpful.
Being able to sleep and rest is important.
Colds take their natural course.
I suspect that for me some medicines may actually extend the cold.
Distractions help get my mind off the cold; I just don't notice it sometimes.
Coughing reminds me of the cold's continuing existence.
My posture affects my symptoms.
I can aim to make use of any experience, even while suffering symptoms.
Eating and drinking are possible even without the benefits and limitations of tasting.
Despite the cold many behaviors are possible, and many purposes can be accomplished.
Colds show no respect for inconvenience or holidays.
It is possible to be kind and helpful even when sick.
Distracted by the cold I make mistakes, so I must move slowly and carefully.
Some busy people went out of their way to help me.
Lessons for living are all around us when we adopt a student perspective.
Addendum from Crilly Butler
Though I do not have complete control over my health, there are things that I can do to improve my chances of staying well. When I fail to do these things, I’m more likely to become ill.
Sometimes being ill is a blessing, as it forces me to rest—something that does not always come naturally to me.
Though I may think that by showing up at work feeling ill I’m being a dutiful employee, by exposing others to my germs, I may be doing more harm than good. Sometimes it’s actually a greater gift to stay home.
Health is precious.
Creative Commons Deed
You are free:
to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work Under the following conditions:
Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.
Noncommercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
No Derivative Works. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.
For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above.