Finding True North

 

 

person wearing black jacket in the middle of forest
Photo by Julien Bachelet on Pexels.com

One Sunday afternoon when I was a child, we were visiting some family friends who had a son in the Boy Scouts. His dad was a Scout leader and was demonstrating how to use a compass. He told me: “All you have to do is find true north and you’ll always find your way home.”

I spent the first 42 years of my life looking for my “true north.” I was born and raised in the Big Apple, the most exciting place on earth … New York City! Frank Sinatra wasn’t wrong when he said that this city was open 24 hours a day. Who wouldn’t want to grow up surrounded by all that excitement and entertainment, by museums, art galleries, The Met, Broadway and more. Well, believe it or not, I didn’t. Just like folks who swear they were born into the wrong families, I was certain that I had been born in the wrong place. Sure, I loved the arts and all that other stuff, but I would have given it up in a heartbeat for living in a small town where everyone knew your name, and your family, and you cheered the high school football team on a Friday night, and everyone came out for Homecoming Weekend, and when you said “home,” everyone knew what you meant. Somehow the writer in me was released when we visited relatives in the country in the summer time and I could roam the fields with my cousins. Then in high school, and again in college, I read “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, and the dye was cast (actually, I think that book is responsible for more soul-searching journeys than any book ever written). So I made myself a promise that I would keep searching for my true north if it took me forever.

When I did find it, as is usually the case, it was seemingly by accident. I was traveling up from Pennsylvania where I was living at the time to visit my sister who lived on a farm in Upstate New York. Also on my agenda for that weekend was finding a store I had seen advertised in a teddy bear collectors magazine that had one-of-a-kind handmade bears for sale. When I asked my sister if she had ever heard of the town where the store was located, she replied with what everyone in her neck of the woods always said when asked for directions: “Oh, that’s just 10 minutes down the road.” So one hot, August afternoon in 1991 I got in my car and headed north in search of teddy bears and, unknown to me, my forever home.

Oddly enough, my sister was absolutely right. The store was really just 10 minutes down the road. In addition to teddy bears, the store also sold crafts and decor made by local folks. It was Americana at its best. I zeroed in on a bear with dark, curly fur and a lacy crocheted collar around its neck. With a bright red ribbon to finish her adornments, she was aptly named “Holly,” for she was a Christmas bear. It was love at first sight. Our eyes met and we both knew that there was no going back … she was mine.

As we left the store we realized that the temperature had gone up while we were inside. “I know a great place for ice cream,” my sister said. It’s just … you guessed it …10 minutes down the road.”  So my sister, Holly and I piled back in the car and road some of the most beautiful back roads I had ever seen on our way to the next town over. The road led us into a sleepy little town on the banks of a sleepy little river,  along a road where the trees formed a cool canopy over the houses, and people sat on their front porches with ice tea and passed the time of day. One house with a spectacular view of the river caught my attention. For some reason, and quite without even thinking about it, I said to my sister, “some day I’m going to live in that house.” Seven months later I did. Actually, it was a two-family home and I moved into the upstairs apartment where the spectacular view of the river was joined by an even lovelier view of the hills beyond.

Why am I telling you all this? Because creating an authentic life can’t happen if the idea of home doesn’t match up with the reality of where you are now. Home is your safe haven, your port in the storm. It’s your soft place to land. It is where you can be who you are. It is where you can laugh, cry, rant, rave, jump for joy, or hold your very own pep-rally-for-one. Home is how you feel inside about who you are and about what really matters. It’s the place where, when you’re there, you soul is at peace.

I don’t live in that idyllic little town any more. Circumstances has forced me to move to a slightly larger town not far away but closer to people and the services that I require. I have, however, found a perfect little apartment with another spectacular view, and when I walk in the door, my soul is at peace. Home isn’t what’s outside, it’s what’s inside.

This week over on the Home Page our writing assignment is going to be about where you are on the inside as well as on the outside, and what makes your soul smile. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Advertisements

The Sound Of Our Own Voice

woman sitting by the table raising her hand
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

It happens to all of us sooner or later. One day something will come out of our mouths and it hits us: “Oh my goodness! I sound just like my mother!” Personally, as the mother of two beautiful, adult women, I would silently give my own mother in heaven a virtual high-five when I heard them not only quote me, but quote her as well!

While I certainly celebrate the idea that, yes, our kids were actually listening to us all of these years, there comes a time when we all have to find our own voice as we grow into adulthood. Sadly, as I watch my country continue to be torn apart by voices of separation, hatred, divisiveness and anger, my prayer every day is that people decide to silence those voices which, if they would just look back at their own lives, don’t really even belong to them. They belong to their parents, their peers, their teachers, their culture. With all of those voices competing to be heard, very often our own, authentic voices are drowned out. Pretty soon we don’t even know what our own voice sounds like.

I can remember, when I was starting out as a young writer, reading over and over in the rejections letters that I received for work I submitted, that I needed to find my own voice and write from it. At the time I was trying to emulate the voices and styles of the writers I admired instead of letting the uniqueness and authenticity of my own voice ring out on the page. It has taken me many years (and enough rejection letters to paper an entire room), to not only find, but recognize my own authentic voice in every area of my life, from writing, to politics, to my own spirituality, and especially when I witness injustices and intolerable situations.

It takes courage, my friends, to separate yourself from the crowd and decide that you will no longer let the “herd mentality” speak for you. The first time that you raise your hand and say, “No, I can’t agree with this, ” or, “No, I can’t and won’t let this continue,” you will recognize that voice as your very own. Nothing feels more like freedom than when you own your voice and the words that come out of it.

This week on the Home Page our writing assignment will ask you to find one idea or subject where you finally broke away from the herd and found your own voice. We can’t build an authentic life if we don’t first embrace our authentic voice. Go for it, folks, and remember to always, always, just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

See You In The Field

clouds cloudy countryside farm
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

Rumi

I love this quote from Rumi. It has taken on even more meaning for me as I’ve gotten older. After a lifetime of fighting for causes I believed in, and of taking one side or another in a debate of the issues, I have come to realize that the times when I have been the most productive, and the most peaceful, have been when I have found a middle ground to stand on. In this yes/no, either/or, right/wrong culture that most of us have been brought up in, there is another way: Both/And. There are people, and ideas, and beliefs that can co-exist side by side without having to choose between one or the other. When conflict does arise, we can find that place in the field of common ground and utter what seems to have become a dirty word in this day and age of name-calling and finger-pointing: compromise. Let me tell you a story:

Two men meet while sitting on a park bench on a lovely autumn day. One man is a Christian, the other is Muslim. One man is a Republican, the other a Democrat. One man is white, the other is a man of color. And yet, as the time passes they find things to enjoy together: the children playing with shouts of joy, the beauty of the day, a daredevil squirrel leaping from tree to tree, the warmth of the sun on aging bones. Then one of the men mentions how the price of a cup of coffee in this neighborhood has sky rocketed. The discussion then moves to things like the price of coffee beans, climate change and its effects on crops, tariffs on imports, and so on. Yet the men do not get into a yelling match. Maybe, they agree, the answer is to be found in what is the fairest for all concerned. Or, maybe, it just depends on where you live and how much you are willing to pay for a cup of coffee before you decide to make your own at home and save your money. They chuckle in agreement over how they have just solved the problem of an overpriced cup of coffee. As they get up to leave, they shake hands and wish each other a good day. Perhaps they will see each other here again. Each goes off in a different direction with a smile on their face.

I know that this sounds like a simplistic response to the turmoil and terrible separation that is going on all around us right now, but more often than not the answer to life’s problems are to be found in the simple things like allowing that the other side just may have a point worth discussing, and that, for the good of all, there is always a middle ground to stand on.

This week our writing assignment on the Home Page is going to challenge us to find our middle ground, our field beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing. I will not tell you to have fun with this one, but I will challenge you to find the very best that is within you and within all of us. In the meantime, just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Fierce With Reality

silhouette of man sitting on grass field at daytime
Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com

I came across this poem by the brilliant writer, teacher and activist Parker Palmer while reading his book, “Let Your Life Speak” for about the third or fourth time. It’s amazing how we can read the same book numerous times and, each time we do, we find something new that speaks to us, something we somehow missed before. I don’t know if we truly missed it, or if we were just not ready to see and understand it. In any case, here is his poem:

Harrowing

The plow has savaged this week field

Misshapen clods of earth kicked up

Rocks and twisted roots exposed to view

Last year’s growth demolished by the blade.

I have plowed my life this way

Turned over a whole history

Looking for the roots of what went wrong

Until my face is ravaged, furrowed, scarred.

Enough. The job is done.

Whatever’s been uprooted, let it be.

Seedbed for the growing that’s to come.

I plowed to unearth last year’s reasons – 

The farmer plows to plant a greening season. 

We cannot hope to build an authentic life going forward if we do not accept and embrace who we’ve been and where we’ve been. That means taking the good with the bad, the shadow side with the side we show the world, and the history that we have lived, and owning it all. We can spend a lifetime trying to figure out the how’s and the why’s of what went before, but as my Buddhist friends have tried to teach me, “not knowing” is okay. In fact, it is a blessing. When we go through life with “beginner’s mind,” we are open to whatever comes along with no attachment to the outcome and no self-criticism if things don’t work out the way we thought they should. This was a hard one for me to learn, especially as I am the eternal academic, always searching for answers to questions that have been asked since the beginning of time and may very well remain unanswered for eternity.

I know now why this poem waited for me, only to reappear again when I needed it. It is because Autumn is my favorite time of year, harvest time, a time when I usually pick new ideas and projects to pursue just like kids starting a new school year. I needed to be reminded that whatever I did not accomplish this year, or even in this life so far, does not need to be uprooted and examined. All I need to do is plow it under and let it compost into the soil, ready to accept the seeds of new ideas. It’s all part of who I am and where I’ve been, as author and psychologist Florida Scott-Maxwell tells us:

“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done … you are fierce with reality.”

When you think about it, that’s not a such a bad way to start planting the seeds for the greening of an authentic life.

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment will ask us to look at what we’ve been trying to “uproot.” Be honest, plow deep, and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Your Gift To The World

adorable baby boy child
Photo by Bingo Theme on Pexels.com

One of my college professors gave us an assignment to do that entailed researching what was going on in the world on the day we were born. As I had returned to college in my 30’s, I was, at any given time, usually the oldest one in the class. So it stood to reason that I would have to dig a bit deeper than my classmates to find out what was going on in the world way back then – or, as my children used to say, in the Stone Age.

I was born in July 1949. Harry Truman was President and we were still feeling the repercussions of World War II. It was the era of the “Fair Deal.” The best-selling books of the day were: “1984”, “Death Of A Salesman”, and “The Martian Chronicles.” Clearly people were as curious about the future as we are today. Box office movies included: “Samson and Delilah,” “The Third Man,” and, “Rope and Sand.” The No. 1 record in the nation (yes, I said record, not MP3 or CD) was: “Riders In The Sky,” by Vaughn Monroe. 1949 was the year we saw the first woman to graduate from Harvard, the country of Siam became Thailand, and, on the very day of my birth, the great Stan Musial and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Brooklyn Dodgers. I share my  birthday with the likes of Billy Joel, Richard Gere (be still my heart), and George Foreman.

So what does all this have to do with anything?

The one thing missing from that list of notable events and people was this one: I came into the world. After all that digging and research, that was the lesson my professor wanted us to know. On that hot day in July, at 6:30 in the morning, the one and only “me” came into this world, complete with all of my gifts, and heritage, and dreams, and goals, and with a blank page upon which to write my very own story. There was no one else like me born on that day, or on any day before or after. As my mother was fond of saying, “after they made you, they broke the mold.” And the same is true for you.

There is only one you. Yes, you may have shared a life and a history with siblings and other family members, but, individually, you are a unique and never-before-seen individual with infinite possibilities at your fingertips. How exciting is that? Even more exciting is the fact that, the older we get, the more things there are for us to discover, create, and experience, not to mention all of the moments in history that we have experienced, things we never dreamed would actually come true back when we were reading “1984” and “The Martian Chronicles.” We saw a man walk on the moon. We saw the creation of computers, cell phones, and electric cars. We saw an African-American man become President. How else can we use this gift that is us? I’d say that the world became a little richer the day we were born, wouldn’t you?

This week over on the Home Page, our assignment this week is going to entail a bit more than just a 20 minute writing practice (I bet you know where this is going).  Let’s have a blast with this one and, as always, remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Lessons For A Lifetime

woman sits on floor facing gold macbook
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

I am what you might call an eternal student. From the time I was very little, my mind was always on the lookout for some new idea or concept that I was sure, in my childish brain, would explain the world to me. My mother said she should have named me “Why?” because of how often I used that word day in and day out.

Learning is what keeps us growing and evolving. Learning not only sharpens our mind, our ability to reason, discern and discover, but it always leaves open the possibility that there is something that we don’t know that, the knowing of it, could change everything (I borrowed that idea from the brilliant Neale Donald Walsh, author of the wonderful Conversations With God series). Take for example what happened to me when I was in my 30’s.

I had always wanted to go to college after I from graduated high school back in the 60’s, but in those days the mindset was that girls only went to college to find a husband, or to take up a profession that would take care of them should anything happen to that husband, like death or divorce. The culturally approved professions at that time were teacher or nurse. Secretarial work was the holding ground where we worked to save for our weddings and fill our hope chests until we said “I Do.” My parents very much agreed with that train of thought so I was shipped off to Manhattan to find suitable work until I found a husband, but I never gave up hope of returning to school.

That dream came true at the age of 30 when, with the help of my church and some scholarships for women that had evolved thanks to the Women’s Movement, I was able to return to school, part-time at first, then full-time, juggling work, home, kids and school for the 6 years it took me to get my degree. In every class, even the required subjects we had to take like science and a language, I found something new and wonderful that I had never known, something that gave me a new perspective on the world. Imagine, then how much wider that world became for me when I started going deeply into my own course of study which was religion and philosophy. Where had all this information been hidden and why didn’t anyone tell me about this before? Because knowledge is power and women weren’t allowed to have that when I was younger. Praise Heaven that has all changed.

Now, every September, when the kids go back to school, I search for some new project that I can start as well, one that will teach me something I don’t know or understand, and offer me new perspectives on myself and the world I live in. Some years I have chosen something just for fun, other years I decided on things I needed to know (like computers which, sadly, is still an ongoing project for this non-technical person). In every case, I learned something that, the knowing of it, made a difference in my life.

We are never too old to learn. I have read of people in their 70’s, 80’s, and even 90’s who have taken courses, learned a new skill, even graduated from college. There is no expiration date on learning. At the tender “young” age of 69, I am contemplating which subject I will pick for this year – there’s a whole world of knowledge waiting out there for me. Who knows what I will discover next? How about you?

This week on the Home Page, our writing assignment will challenge us to take the plunge into the unknown to see what it has to teach us. As always, have fun with it and remember to always keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

With Praise And Gratitude For Teachers

portrait of young woman against white background
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tomorrow my very first great-grandchild starts kindergarten. I cannot believe I have been blessed to be able to experience three generations of my family starting that new and exciting journey. My prayer for each of them has always been that they are lucky enough to find that one, special teacher who will see them for who they are and help them cultivate their talents and gifts. I was blessed to have had two in my elementary school days and what they taught me still lingers after all these years.

You may have heard me talk about my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Zimmler, who ruled his class with an iron grip, more drill sargent than teacher to the naked eye, but who, underneath his “no-nonsense-follow-the-rules” exterior lay the heart of a poet, a lover of the written and spoken word. It was his powerful use of punishment essays that led some of us to repent of our rebellious ways quickly before our hands fell off from writing. For others, like me, it was actually the tool I needed to go after my dreams … I just didn’t know it then, but he did. Mr. Zimmler lovingly, and with great thought, passed me on to my 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Rotholtz who, after actually sitting and reading the thick file that contained my own punishment essays (my feminist, freedom-loving banter with Mr. Zimmer had earned me the record for longest punishment essay ever assigned … 3,000 words), said to me, “Would I be right if I guessed that you want to be a writer? If so, we have lots of work to do.  You have talent galore, but you need discipline and focus.” With that she took me under her wing and introduced me to the likes of Edna St. Vincent Millay, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and others. She never played the “you’ll never be able to support yourself writing” card as all the other adults did. She fed my dreams and my soul. Together, Mr. Zimmler and Mrs. Rotholtz not only gave me wings, they taught me how to fly.

Last week on August 30th, we noted the anniversaries of the passing of two of the greatest teachers of my adult life, Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer, who passed over on the same day three years apart. Together they helped me heal my life and gave me a new set of tools so that I could help others do the same. I am deeply grateful that I was gifted with not one, but two sets of teachers that helped me to grow as well as to thrive. We should all be so lucky.

So this week as I watch my little Xavier hop on that school bus with his new back pack and lunch box, I will wish him joy and excitement as he ventures forth on this new adventure. With luck, he will find a gift of his own in the one who will lead him.

This week over on the Home Page we will be talking about things we’ve learned growing up and the profound effect teachers have had on us. Let’s consider this a “what we did over the summer” kind of assignment! As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

The Courage Of Our Convictions

 

dawn sunset beach woman
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My very favorite move of all time is the 1983 smash hit “The Big Chill,” an entertaining and thought-provoking story staring an amazing ensemble of up and coming actors, many of who went on to very successful careers, names like Kevin Kline, Glen Close, Jeff Goldblum, JoBeth Williams, Tom Berenger, and others. The story line goes like this: a group of old college friends are brought together years later by the death of one of their own, a brilliant but troubled man who took his own life because he had lost the courage of his convictions. All of his hopes and dreams for changing the world for the better had simply vanished and he could not live in such a world. The group decides to spend the weekend together, not only to get caught up in each others’ lives, but to examine their own feelings about the dreams and convictions of their youth versus the reality of their lives as they played out. All but one of them put away their youthful notions about anti-war movements, saving the environment and the world, and, as one of them says, “grew up” – one a doctor, another a successful businessman, a woman who put marriage and family aside for money, power and position, an actor with his own popular TV show, another an ace newspaper reporter.  Yet the death of their friend has them re-examining the substance and meaning of their own lives. As Glen Close’s character, Sarah, puts it: “I’d hate to think it was all just a fad.”

Idealism is born in our youth when the world is new, we are feeling our own power for the first time, and we set out to change the world for the good of all. We join protests, create groups and political action committees, march with signs, attend sit-ins, and make our voices heard. We are, after all, the next generation, the one who will be calling the shots and we see things a whole lot differently than our parents’ generation. Then, eventually, for most of us, something happens. We graduate from school and are expected to “grow up and become responsible.” Sadly, most of us do. We come to a point where we do not see the changes happening the way we were sure they would, and we lose hope. Sure, it would be wonderful to go to another rally, or canvas a neighborhood for signatures on our petitions, but we’ve got to get a job, pay the rent, get medical insurance … and what about relationships? Marriage? Kids? Before we know it, we’re talking to financial planners about our retirement!

Idealism has to be nourished and nurtured. We lose it in the hunger for approval and belonging. We lose it in our fear of the future and need for security. We lose it when we hear the older generation tell us: “Get real. It just isn’t going to happen.” We lose hope. We may try to keep our hand in every time we step into a voting both, or refuse to support a specific business or product, or answer the door to sign yet another petition (carried by a younger version of ourselves), and by writing checks. Yet the real power we can yield as we get older isn’t necessarily in our ability to chuck our jobs and responsibilities and take it to the streets (although those of us who are retired are free to pull out our old tie-dyed shirts and do so). The power to stand in the courage of our convictions comes through the written and spoken word. We hold onto our idealism every time we refuse to remain silent, when we write that letter to our congressman, or senator, or mayor, or when we create a blog to express our views and hopes. We refuse to remain silent to the cries of the people and the needs of the world. We speak for those who can’t. There is no age limit on idealism, only a sad disbelief that the real world is the one where we give up, grow up, and shut up. But silence is not something our generation was good at 50 years ago, and that, my Third Agers, is the wisdom and the power we bring to this age. That, as we have come to learn over the years, is how to be the change we want to see in the world.

Our writing assignment on the Home Page for this week is going to ask you to put your idealism down on paper, to see what you think is worth fighting for, and how you can balance your life in such a way that you can live and still fight the good fight. I don’t know if asking you to have fun with this one is appropriate, but I will tell you that you will feel like a million bucks when you get done. Just remember, especially today, to always keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Picture Perfect

woman holding black and gray camera focus photo
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Yesterday my 11-year-old granddaughter, Gabby, helped me start on a project I have been putting off for years, namely hauling down and going through the hundreds of photos I had stuffed away in albums, envelopes, and storage bins. There it was, my life, those of my two daughters, my 5 grandchildren and now my great-grandson, all captured in pictures from tiny wallet size to 11 x 14 wall size. For several hours, my entire family history was sitting in piles all over my living room floor. Going through them one by one, I took an abbreviated trip through my entire 69 years on this planet. Turns out I was busier than I thought I’d been!

After about an hour or so of sorting and reviewing my life, I suddenly became overwhelmed by the task at hand. How could I possibly fit all of these photos neatly into albums? My grandson told me when he helped me move all this stuff into my new apartment to get with the 21st century and scan all the photos onto discs so I can keep them digitally, and for some of them that might work out well. The problem is that: 1. Some of the photos are very old and faded, and would probably not scan well, and, 2. I’d need a ton of discs to hold all of them. The next question I asked myself was this: “Do you really need each and every one of these pictures?” Let’s face it, how many photos of the kids at the pumpkin farm, that we visit every year do I need to keep? How many photos of kids opening Christmas presents? How many shots of autumn leaves, and oceans, and sunsets? And what would happen if I just pared them down to only those that told the story without all the repetition?

The problem, as I came to see it, was that getting rid of the photos felt like getting rid of the memories and I was downright afraid to do that. My father suffered from Alzheimer’s before he died, barely recognizing anyone at the end, and my Mom had her moments of dementia, although not as severe as my Dad’s, before she passed as well. Losing memories scares me to death. What if I didn’t remember my daughters’ births, birthdays and graduations, the births of my grandchildren, the names of my grandchildren? What if I forgot our trips to the pumpkin farm, or my first trip on a plane to visit a new friend in LA, or that awesome vacation to Asheville? What if I forgot my summers in Maine with my sister?

We can’t let our memories, or the fear of losing them, take over and stop us from living our authentic lives going forward. Sure, we want to capture the good times, let go of the bad ones, and cherish each and every moment of happiness, but not at the expense of the new moments waiting for us in the present and beyond. I truly believe that even if the mind forgets, the heart never does. I am constantly calling my granddaughters by their mothers’ names, or their sisters’ names, but my heart still knows they are my beloved grandkids. Heck, I even call my cats by the names of their dear, departed predecessors sometimes but none of that matters when they are curled up on my lap and looking up at me with unconditional love.

So I’ve decided to just keep a few photos of the pumpkin farm and give the rest out to the kids for their own memory albums. I’ll keep one school picture for each year, one or two of each wedding, one or two of each Christmas, and just the very best of the autumn leaves and sunsets. The rest I will pass around to the others. For some of my 21st century techies, I’ll bet holding an actual photo will be like a trip through the Smithsonian to them. It’s never too early to remind them where, and who, they came from.

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment will ask us to take our own trips down memory lane and paint a picture with words. As always, have loads of fun (and pleasant memories) with this one, and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Finding Your “Ikigai”

two people smiling
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I just finished reading a sweet little book called “Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.” In my continuing quest to find out how other countries and cultures are creating their authentic lives as they age, I have to say that this one certainly covered all of the bases that I personally believe lead us there.

So what is “Ikigai?” As the authors tells us:

“Having a strong sense of ikigai – the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect – means that each day is infused with meaning. It’s the reason we get up in the morning.”

The book covers all the different aspects that go into finding our ikigai and summarizes them all into these top 10 secrets to a long and happy life:

  1. Don’t retire – keep doing things of value, making a difference, helping others.
  2. Take it slow – ours is a “hurry up” culture. As the old saying goes: “Walk slowly and you’ll go far.” Life takes on new meaning when we stop to smell the roses.
  3. Don’t fill your stomach – this was an interesting one for me and definitely one for Westerners to take heed of. Japanese folks stop eating when they are 80% full, allowing their bodies to digest and nourish them more naturally and effectively.
  4. Surround yourself with good friends – I would have made this one at least #2 on my own Top Ten list. Friends are the best medicine – we need our playmates.
  5. Get in shape for your next birthday – commit to being a little bit better, a little bit stronger, and a little bit fitter as you move through life. Plus, exercise stimulates the hormones that make us feel happy.
  6. Smile – even when we don’t feel like it. You not only lift your own spirits, you lift the spirits of everyone you meet, even strangers passing on the street or in the grocery store (when I don’t feel like smiling, I call my 4-year-old great-grandson who always has something to say that changes my mood).
  7. Reconnect with nature – even if you live in the city, you can find a park or a piece of grass somewhere to sit or do some tree hugging. We come from nature and we need to return to it often to recharge our batteries.
  8. Give thanks – having an “attitude of gratitude” goes a long way. The more we are thankful for, the more we have to be thankful for.
  9. Live in the moment – the past is over and the future isn’t here yet. The only moment we have is now. Live it to the max.
  10. Follow you ikigai – whatever it is. Maybe it’s creative like painting or writing. Maybe it’s gardening. Maybe it’s volunteering for your church or some community need. If you don’t know what your ikigai is yet, then your mission is to find out what it is. Make finding your passion your ikigai.

By the way, the focus of this book was based on interviews with the older inhabitants of the island of Okinawa, in the village of Ogimi. It so happens that Okinawa ranked #1 on the list of Blue Zones, places where the number of folks 100 years old or older is the highest. There are 24.44 people over the age of 100 per 100,000 inhabitants there. Something tells me they might have something to teach all of us.

This week on the Home Page, our assignment is going to give us a chance to come up with our own ideas about living long and happy lives. I don’t have to tell you to have fun with this one – the fun is built into it. I will tell you, as always, to remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.