May 7 – Basic Goodness Day

I am a big believer in serendipity.  In fact it is one of my favorite words.  I have recently

Beautiful Flowers on Path, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Beautiful Flowers on Path

had a chain of serendipitous events unfold in my life leading up to the point of my writing this post.

As some of you know from my previous posts, I follow a writer/blogger/meditation instructor named Susan Piver.  I am a member of her Open Heart Project which means that I get two emails from her per week, each containing a 10 minute meditation instruction video.  I am a meditation novice but am sensing more and more the importance of developing a regular meditation practice in my life.  At some point many months ago I am sure I read on her web page that a man named Sakyong Mipham is her spiritual teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage.  This did not register with me though until I was listening to an interview of Susan Piver conducted by Jonathan Fields (another writer/blogger that I follow) as part of his Good Life Project.  In that interview I learned that Sakyong Mipham is a runner.  I am a runner too so at that moment Sakyong Mipham caught my attention.

About a week ago (and several months after learning that Sakyong Mipham is a runner) I, on a whim, decided to visit a store I like in the NoDa section of Charlotte, NC called Pura Vida.  On this day, Pura Vida was displaying about 10 books mostly related to spirituality.  While browsing these titles I pleasantly discovered a book titled, Running With the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham!!  This was serendipity in action.  I knew right away that I should purchase this book and promptly did so.  Since purchasing the book I have read a few chapters and really like it.  As you might imagine it focuses on the similarities and differences of running and meditation – two activities that I am very interested in.  One that I have participated in for many years and know pretty well – running.  And another that I have known about for a long time but that I have really just started to explore – meditation.

Scenic trail view at Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado

Scenic trail view at Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado

So after reading a few pages of this book tonight I decided to try to find Sakyong Mipham on Facebook.  I was successful in doing so and literally in the last hour of the day discovered that Sakyong Mipham had declared May 7 (today – at least when I started this post) to be Basic Goodness Day.

What is Basic Goodness Day (from a note on Sakyong Mipham’s Facebook page):

“When we approach ourselves, others, and our world as basically good rather than basically bad, our actions, words, intentions,aspirations, gestures, energy—everything—change. This subtle shift in our state of mind can alter the environment we live in. It can actually change the world.

 Each of us holds human destiny in our hands. It will be completely determined, not by what we think, but by how we feel. Do we want a world where everyone feels they are basically good, worthy, and kind? I believe we do.

 We invite you to join the effort to declare the truth of goodness and reaffirm our collective belief in ourselves, our fellow humans, and our world.

 We declare May 7, 2013 to be Basic Goodness Day, a day when people all over the world, no matter what their beliefs, religion, culture, or creed, collectively affirm their own and others’ basic goodness.”

~ Sakyong Mipham

Since I did not learn of this until the end of the day on May 7 that means that when you

Sunrise as seen from Hampton Inn and Suites Beachfront Hotel, Myrtle Beach, SC

December Sunrise, Myrtle Beach, SC

ready this post it is no longer May 7 and the official Basic Goodness Day has passed.  No matter.  Simply make today, or some other day, or every day Basic Goodness Day in your life.

How?

Here are some ideas that I plan to use in my own life in order to work on this concept.

I will start with Wednesday, May 8 as my first official Basic Goodness Day and will make an effort to acknowledge Basic Goodness every day going forward.

  • I plan to take time to affirm the basic goodness of my children and my wife.
  • I will also affirm the basic goodness of my parents, my brother and his wife, my in-laws, and other family members to thank them for being who they are.
  • I will make an effort to affirm the basic goodness of friends, coworkers, and other work acquaintances.
  • I will, whenever possible, choose to show my belief in the basic goodness of strangers that I come in contact with on a daily basis.  This can be done without being intrusive by simply looking at people and smiling rather than walking hurriedly past without acknowledging their presence.
  • When I witness the thoughtful or mindful act of another I will acknowledge it and express gratitude.
  • I will relax and acknowledge my own basic goodness.  I am not perfect.  Nobody is.  There is a lot I want to do.  I will get there one step at a time.  I am doing my best and my best is enough.
  • I will look for ways to reach out in peace to people of various religions, cultures, ethnicities, etc..  I have an interest in finding people who believe, as I do, in the possibility of peace.  I will begin making strides to locate others with this same interest.  Together we can focus on our similarities and find ways to bridge the perceived gaps of our differences.
  • Doing all of this will be a challenge, especially at first.  When all else fails, I will take some time to just think about the basic goodness in the world.  Reading Sakyong Mipham’s Basic Goodness Manifesto on a regular basis will help (see below).

I offer my plans for practicing Basic Goodness Day in hopes that they might help others find ways to celebrate basic goodness as well.  Please feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts on how you might celebrate Basic Goodness Day as well.  We can all learn from each other!!

With Peace and Gratitude,

Steve Strother

The Basic Goodness Manifesto:

I trust in my own and others’ goodness.

I know that caring changes everything.

I trust my heart.

I trust you.

~ Sakyong Mipham

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Teaching Peace to Children

Bloggers for Peace by Everyday Gurus

Bloggers for Peace April Challenge: Publish a post on how to teach children peace. How do we raise children to be peaceful? What do children need to know about peace? How do we teach them what peace means?

Once again Kozo of Everyday Gurus has picked a challenging and provoking topic for this month’s  Bloggers for Peace topic – How to teach peace to children.  And once again I thought about the challenge all month and waited until the last day to write down my thoughts :).  As a parent this topic really hits home with me.  To be honest, thinking and writing about this topic makes me worry about whether I am doing enough to teach my kids about peace.  I am thankful to Kozo for bringing this topic to my attention so that I can put more thought into how best to teach peace to my kids.  I find it easiest, with this topic, to divide my thoughts into two categories – 1)  What I (along with my wife) do now.  2)  What I aspire to teach my children about peace.

What I do now:

Use Your Words – We have been teaching our kids to use their words since they were old enough to communicate.  This is a common parenting technique and one that is often taught in child care centers, pre-schools, and elementary schools.  One of the keys to teaching good communication and conflict resolution skills is to get kids to talk it out.  This encourages them to communicate to each other and to adults whenever there is something on their mind.  If you are mad about something someone did then talk to them about it – don’t hit them, bite them, etc.  This also teaches children to talk about their feelings rather than holding them in.  Nobody can change anything if they are not aware that something is bothering you.

Be accepting and respectful of others whether they are like you or whether they are different – I want my kids to grow up with open minds toward other cultures, religions, etc.  We teach our kids that there are many different types of people in the world and that it is important to respect each other’s differences and similarities.  I think the cliché of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” works well here.  When we talk about some of the practices in another country we often discuss things that seem strange to us here in the United States but when you think about if from the perspective of someone who has grown up in that culture you realize it makes sense.  They probably think many of the things that we do in the United States seem strange too.

What I aspire to teach:

Peace is possible – I think that this is an important statement for kids and adults.  I think a

English: Peace button - Web 2.0 style

English: Peace button – Web 2.0 style (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

lot of people decide at some point that peace is too high of an aspiration and therefore give up on it as a possibility.  I feel that it is important for kids to believe in possibilities and to reach for dreams.  Yes, a peace filled world is hard to imagine when you look at all of the negative things that get media attention today but that does not mean that it is not possible.  No matter what anyone’s aspirations are for anything, they will never realize them if they do not believe they are possible.  For this reason, I hope to instill in our kids that it is OK to strive for an ideal like peace.

Present vs. past or future – Ultimately, I believe that the larger possibility of something like world peace is only possible if individuals have inner peace.  To put it another way – outer peace (world peace) is only possible if you have inner peace at the individual level.  In my opinion, one of the best ways for an individual to work on having inner peace is for them to find ways to be present – to be completely mindful and active in the present moment. Even if you can only do this for a few seconds at a time it can have an important impact on your life experience.   While it is important to learn from the past and it is generally not a bad idea in today’s society to plan for the future you should not let the past or the future define your present.  Regarding the past, you have to live and learn and so therefore learn from your past but do not let it define you.  Regarding the future, you can make plans and have aspirations but don’t let your future plans consume your present moments.  Be mindful of what you are doing now.  Enjoy life. Experience what is now.  The more mindful we are of our present, the more mindful we are of how our actions affect others and therefore the more likely we are to promote peace.  If kids can learn the basis of this concept at an early age it is something they can carry with them throughout their lives.

Spread a little kindness in the world – We are all in this world together but it is easy to get caught up so much in our own lives that we forget to think about all the other people we share the planet with.  I want to teach my kids to remember to take some time to show kindness toward others.   Be kind to your family and friends but be kind to people you don’t really know too.  Smile.  Be polite.  Hold the door open for others.  Offer to help.  Buy a stranger a meal (when you are older).  Really some of the simplest things can go a long way.  More importantly, perform these acts of kindness without any expectation that they will be returned in kind to you.

Be compassionate – Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”.  I want to teach my kids to understand that we all go through challenging times, to be mindful of this when they see signs of distress/worry/concern in others, and to look for ways to help when they can.  I believe that being sympathetic and helpful to another when they are in distress can lead to healing (both inwardly and outwardly) and this healing leads to bridge building and bridge building leads to peace.

The more I think about teaching peace to children, the more I realize that there is nothing that applies to teaching peace to kids that does not also apply to teaching peace to adults.  Every concept I have discussed above also applies to me.  I am still working on all of them and probably always will be.  And I have only scratched the surface.  There are so many other things to talk about when it comes to learning about and teaching peace.  It is very likely that I will post more about the topic of teaching peace in future posts.

What experiences have you had with the concept of teaching peace?  Please share by leaving a comment.  I look forward to learning from you.

If you are a blogger and would like to join this movement, simply click here or on any of the links for Bloggers for Peace within the text of this article to find instructions for how to do so.

With Peace and Gratitude,

Steve Strother

Related Blogging for Peace Articles

Monthly Peace Challenge – Children

Good Guys and Bad Guys – Teaching My Children About Peace

Bloggers4Peace: Children

Bloggers for Christ and Bloggers for Peace

Teaching Children Peace – A Bloggers for Peace Post

B4Peace April Edition:  Teaching Children Peace

Posted in B4Peace, kids, Peace, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Bloggers for Peace March Challenge: Forgiveness

English: Peace button - Web 2.0 style

English: Peace button – Web 2.0 style (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Develop inner peace. You get world peace through inner peace. If you’ve got a world of people who have inner peace, then you have a peaceful world.” ~Wayne Dyer

You might remember that in February I joined Bloggers for Peace.  By doing so, I committed to publishing at least one blog post per month on the topic of peace.  For March, the organizer of the Bloggers for Peace movement, Kozo of Everyday Gurus, challenged us to write a post on forgiveness.

Forgiveness – wow!  That is a big topic.  It is a subject that can be difficult to fully grasp.  It is also something that can be challenging to write about at a personal level because… well… because it is so personal.

Probably my biggest personal story of forgiveness involves my divorce.  My ex-wife and I ended our marriage eight years ago.  Nothing major happened between us to lead to divorce.  We just didn’t take care of our relationship and slowly but surely we grew apart. But, as with most ended relationships and especially divorces, there were hurt feelings involved.

One thing I said back then though, was that it took both of us to start the relationship and both of us let it fall apart.  So in my mind at the time we each contributed 50% to the demise of our marriage.  I think this was an early sign of the healing process starting in me – that right out of the gate I saw that I was equally responsible for our failed marriage.  The process of forgiveness had started for me that early but I still had a long way to go.

So eight years later, I feel like I have forgiven my ex-wife for what I saw as her contributions to our issues.  I recognize that we are just very different people in some key areas and neither of us tried hard enough to have the hard conversations about those differences, the type of conversations that could have saved that marriage.

The more challenging piece for me though has been forgiving myself.  I contributed at least 50% to the issues we had.  I could have been a better husband in that marriage – no doubt.  I am always harder on myself than I am on other people.  I do realize however that nobody is perfect – myself included.  I make mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  So I have forgiven myself for my divorce as well.  I had to in order to put it behind me, in order to learn from it.

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz (Photo credit: Nutmeg Designs)

I believe strongly that we are all here to learn from life.  To learn from life, you have to explore.  You have to take risks.  When you take risks, sometimes you fail.  But failure is an opportunity.  Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.  If you let that failure keep you down then you are letting it define you.  If you look closely at a failure, you will find things that you can improve on the next time you try.  In other words, take that failure and move forward with it.  Eventually something good will come out of it.

My failed marriage was obviously not an ideal situation but it happened.  There is nothing I can do to change the fact that it happened.  What I can do however, is learn from it.  I now approach the divorce from a positive perspective.  I think about what I have learned from the divorce and how that knowledge has changed my life for the better.       From here, my goal is to use this knowledge to help influence other people’s lives in positive ways as well.

Here are some positive things that have happened as a result of the divorce.

1)  I am a less judgmental person.  I never really thought of myself as judgmental in the past but I do know that before going through a divorce myself, I judged people that got divorces.  I thought that they did not try hard enough to make their marriages work, etc.  Well now that I have gone through a divorce, I see things differently.  I realize that there is no way that anyone on the outside of a relationship can ever fully understand that relationship.  Some relationships just end and once they do end there is nothing you can do to bring them back.  Seeing things differently about divorce and remembering how I used to judge people who were divorced has helped me accept people better for who they are, no matter the situation.

2)  I am more aware of the importance of communication in all relationships – marriage, business, family, friendship, etc..  My wonderful wife, Kylie, and I have been married now for almost six years.  Like all couples in relationships, we have our challenges, but we do discuss our issues.  These discussions are not always easy but we both know they are important to the success and growth of our relationship.  The same is true of our kids – my daughter and step-son.  We make sure to take the time to have important and sometimes difficult conversations with them too and we encourage them to talk things out with us, with each other, and with their friends.

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

3)  I have become very interested in the topic of peace.  Inner Peace.  World Peace.  Everything that the word peace can mean.  I have come to understand that world peace cannot ever really exist without each of us having inner peace (see Wayne Dyer quote above) and we cannot have inner peace without forgiving others and ourselves.  As long as we are holding on to a grudge or a negative thought toward someone (including ourselves) or something we cannot grow to be more peaceful.  I made the decision a while ago that I did not want a negative event like divorce to define my life and when I made that decision I forgave both my ex-wife and myself for everything related to our divorce.  That forgiveness opened space in my life for exploring mindfulness and peace.

That is my personal forgiveness story.  I post it here as a means of personal healing.  Putting the experience in writing helps me better understand the forgiveness process that I went through.  It is my hope that my personal story will help others in their own process of forgiveness.

Do you have a forgiveness story of your own?  I would love to hear about it if you are willing to share.

Finally, if you are a blogger and would like to join this movement, simply click here or on any of the links for Bloggers for Peace within the text of this article to find instructions for how to do so.

With Peace and Gratitude,

Steve Strother

Related Blogging for Peace Articles

Forgiveness One – B4Peace

Forgiveness Two – I Set Myself Free

Weekly Teaching

Bloggers 4Peace March Edition: Freedom of Forgiveness

That Forgiveness Thing

Flash Forgiveness

Stand Up For Peace…

Posted in B4Peace, forgiveness, Peace | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Inspiring Business Series: Nourish

This is a new installment for my Inspiring Business Series which highlights businesses that are inspiring and innovative.  For this post I will feature Nourish located in Charlotte, NC.

Vital details:

Business Name:  Nourish

Location:  1421 Orchard Lake Dr, Suite F, Charlotte, NC  28270

Website:  https://nourishcharlotte.com

Phone Number: 855-442-FOOD (3663)

Business Owners’ names:  Laura Neff and Julia Simon

Key mission:  Nourish, LLC exists to make it supremely easy for busy, health-oriented Charlotteans to have locally-sourced, clean, nutritious, prepared foods at their fingertips, while supporting our planet, our local economy, and our neighbors at the same time. ~ from Nourish website.

Creamy Corn Chowder by Nourish

Creamy Corn Chowder by Nourish

What is Nourish? – Charlotte’s only locally-sourced, organic, vegan, prepared healthy food delivery service. We make it supremely easy for you to stock up on delicious meals that create vitality and peace of mind! ~also from the Nourish website

It was through one of those small world experiences that I first learned about Nourish.  My wife has some co-workers who are vegan and they had been using a vegan food delivery service in Charlotte and were having the food delivered to their work address.  One day while their delivery was being made, my wife unexpectedly bumped into someone we know from church in the hallway at her office.  The person she bumped into was Laura Neff, one of the co-owners of Nourish.

The Nourish mission statement above says it all.  The company exists to help busy people in the Charlotte area with having easy access to healthy, locally sourced, prepared foods available at meal times.  All of their offerings are vegan, at least 80% organic/pesticide-free, 100% gluten-free, as locally sourced as possible, and completely whole-foods based with very, very few processed ingredients (e.g., brown rice pasta is occasionally used, but that’s about as processed as it gets).  Nourish is owned by Laura Neff and Julia Simon and they both bring their own sets of skills and backgrounds to the business.  The business opened  its doors in April 2012.

Spring Chickpea Salad with Tomatoes, Scallions & Fresh Herbs

Nourish’s Spring Chickpea Salad with Tomatoes, Scallions & Fresh Herbs

I sat down with Laura one day last fall and we talked about how the concept of Nourish came into being.  First, Laura grew up on a self-sustaining farm and so she grew up with the idea of eating locally grown foods.  Laura is the youngest of seven kids in a family that has struggled with high cholesterol and heart disease.  She decided while still in her twenties that she did not want to go down that path – that she would be the test case for using diet as a means of prevention.  From there she started finding ways to cook tasty food that is still healthy.  Healthy cooking lead to her gaining more experience with the concepts and methods of organic farming  and sustainable agriculture.  Eventually all of this lead her to the idea of starting a business to help people have easy access to healthy prepared food while at the same time promoting local farmers and businesses as well as more sustainable, organic farming techniques.  Soon after starting the Nourish pilot and just after realizing she really needed a chef as a business partner, Laura’s husband mentioned the work of chef Julia Simon.  Laura attended one of Julia’s food tastings at a local Charlotte business and introduced herself.  And from there a business partnership was born!

Julia is a chef with similar ideas and passions to Laura related to healthy eating.  Julia also brings the compassion/ethical approach to eating a plant-based diet to the Nourish experience.  For several years before meeting Laura, Julia had worked as a personal chef to families with food allergies or sensitivities, restricted diets, an interest in eating vegan/vegetarian, and a passion for eating locally sourced ingredients.  Laura and Julia quickly saw the synergy of what each of their varying strengths could bring to Nourish.  Laura brings her passion and knowledge of the nutritional side of diet while Julia brings her passion and knowledge related to the ethical side of the food business as well as her expertise as a chef.

For all of the detail on Nourish and how to start ordering from them the best place to consult is their FAQ page but here is a quick description of how it works.

1)  Sign up for Nourish’s weekly menu email via any page on their website.

2)  You will receive an email alert every Monday (at around 1:00 p.m.) letting you know that the following week’s menu is available for viewing and ordering.

3)  Place your order as quickly as possible.  Nourish food is in high demand and they usually sell out within a few hours.  As a first time customer, you will be prompted to either “Log in” or “Register” during the checkout process. Select “Register” so you can create an account in their shopping cart system.

4)  The food you order will be delivered in an insulated bag with ice packs on Tuesday afternoon of the following week to the location you specify when you place the order.  Details on confirmed delivery zip codes and alternate delivery locations are detailed on the Nourish FAQ page ( #4 – Where do we deliver ).

5)  Enjoy the tasty and nutritious food throughout the rest of the week or freeze some of it, as typically half the menu is freezable (if you order enough 🙂 )

Vegan Lasagna with White Sauce

Vegan Lasagna with White Sauce by Nourish

More to the point with #5 above, there is enough variety in the menu each week that customers often order enough food to last throughout the week.  While the food supplied by Nourish is vegan/vegetarian, Laura points out that they have many customers that are neither (including me).  Customers who eat meat often order Nourish food and then supplement it with the meat of their choice.

If you live in the Charlotte area I encourage you to give Nourish a try!  Regardless of where you live, please feel free to leave a comment to let us know what you are doing personally to improve the nutritional value of what you eat.

With Peace and Gratitude!

Steve Strother

*All images courtesy of Nourish.

Posted in Food, Innovation, Inspiring Business, Nutritioin | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blogging For Peace

Recently I stumbled upon a blog called Inspire the Idea that included a badge titled “Bloggers For Peace”.  Naturally this grabbed my attention so I clicked on the image to investigate.  What I learned was that there is a blogger named Kozo with a blog called Everyday Gurus and he started a writing challenge called Bloggers for Peace.  Bloggers who join this movement are simply asked to post the badge on their blog and to agree to post at least one article on their blog per month during 2013 about the topic of peace.

I have decided to join this movement.  This will be a challenge for me because I have struggled to post once per month as it is, and I have other things I want to write about as well.  So why am I taking on this challenge?

1)  Peace is one of my core values.  I believe in the possibility of peace in every aspect of its definition from personal inner tranquility to concord between couples, friends, political parties, cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, etc.  I think it is fairly obvious that we do not see a lot of peace in the news today and this is unfortunate.  It is out there.  There are people striving for peace in every aspect of life.  In every community.  Everywhere.  I personally feel the importance of standing up for peace in all of these areas and therefore I feel this Bloggers for Peace project is a great fit for what I am striving to accomplish at Steve’s Thinking Space and in my life in general.

2)  In my recent blog about my 2013 New Year’s Resolutions, New Year’s Resolutions: Looking Back and Stepping Forward, I mentioned that one of my goals in 2013 was to publish at least two blog posts per month.  Participating in Bloggers For Peace will help me accomplish this goal in a positive way – by publishing quality content on my beliefs, feelings, aspirations related to peace.

3)  One of the most exciting and important things about blogging is networking with other bloggers that have similar interests.  By joining the Bloggers for Peace challenge I will have the opportunity to get to know many other bloggers that value the concept of peace in all of its dimensions.  In essence we are forming an online community of bloggers that strive for peace in the world.  When communities of people get together for a cause that they believe in, the momentum that is gained can help accomplish great things.

I look forward to the journey of blogging for peace!  Thank you Kozo at Everyday Gurus for coming up with and promoting this great idea.

Finally, if you are a blogger and would like to join this movement, simply click on the image at the top of this post or on any of the links for Bloggers for Peace within the text of this article to find instructions for how to do so.

With Peace and Gratitude,

Steve Strother

Related Blogging For Peace articles:

We Can Make a Difference – Right Here, Right Now

B4Peace February

Peace Garden

 

Posted in B4Peace, Peace | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Forgiveness as Front Page News

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz (Photo credit: Nutmeg Designs)

I started this blog to act as a vehicle for promoting the positive.  One aspect of promoting the positive that I mentioned in my first blog post was promoting positive news coverage and I admit that I have not done a lot of that.  So when I happily saw a positive news article promoting the act of forgiveness on Monday, January 28 I immediately felt the urge to blog about it.

The article I refer to is titled, “Forgiving others is a gift to yourself“, and it appeared on the FRONT PAGE of the Charlotte Observer on Monday, January 28.  It details a talk that Dr. Ned Hallowell (psychiatrist and best-selling author) gave to Charlotte’s Christ Episcopal Church the day before.  How exciting that an article on the topic of forgiveness appeared on the front page of a newspaper!!

The basis of the article is a list of Hallowell’s 10 tips to understanding and acting on forgiveness.  I am not going to detail all of them as they can be read in detail by accessing the article online, but I will list two key points that he made.

“Forgiveness is fundamentally a gift you give to yourself.  Because your clearing your system of  poison – anger and resentment.”

“Forgiveness is not a moment.  It’s a process that has to be renewed over and over again.”

Sunrise as seen from Hampton Inn and Suites Beachfront Hotel, Myrtle Beach, SC

December Sunrise, Myrtle Beach, SC

It is nice to see a topic like forgiveness get front page billing.  I have my personal stories of forgiveness that I will share someday on this blog and elsewhere, but for now I just want to celebrate the fact that Ned Hallowell’s talk on forgiveness made front page news in the Charlotte Observer.  It is nice to see.  I think this article is a ray of light.  If an article on forgiveness can make front page news then maybe we can build on that.  Maybe each of us that read this article can start practicing some of the forgiveness concepts that are listed, and from there maybe the practice of forgiveness that we each individually create can transcend our personal experiences in a way that forgiveness becomes a practice between groups of people – people in relationships, families, political parties, religions, countries, etc.  I have hope that this can happen.  That over time we can all learn to forgive in a way that allows us to put past indiscretions in the past where they belong so that we can each allow those indiscretions to no longer define us and from there we all grow.

I close with a few other thought-provoking quotes on forgiveness.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” – Paul Boese

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” – Louis B. Smedes

“Those who injured us only did what they knew how to do, given the conditions of their lives. If you won’t forgive, then you allow those ancient injuries to continue their hold on you.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

Forgiveness can be a challenge but ultimately I believe it is necessary in order to move forward and grow.  We all have stories of forgiveness.  As Dr. Halloway says, forgiveness is a process that must be renewed.  Sharing stories of forgiveness is a way to renew that forgiveness process.  Please feel free to share your forgiveness story by leaving a comment!

With Peace and Gratitude,

Steve

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New Year’s Resolutions: Looking Back and Stepping Forward

“If you intentionally and mindfully engage with a meaningful purpose you leave behind a gift that through the butterfly effect can literally save lives, prevent tragedies, violence, depression, wars, child abuse, hunger and create peace…” ~ Mike Klingler

The quote above is very powerful, and while it may not be immediately obvious when reading my resolutions below, my overall goal for 2013 and all future years is to more mindfully engage with a meaningful purpose in everything I do.  So I could probably just stop this post short just with that statement, however I want to provide the details on how I want to reach toward this goal in 2013.  Included within the post are some of my favorite nature photographs of 2012.

flower, leaves, foliage

Flower blooming in fall on The Gatlinburg Trail.

Last year at about this time I published a blog post full of resolutions for 2012 – 8 in all.  While I had varying degrees of success  in accomplishing these resolutions, overall I feel that it was helpful that I set these goals for 2012 and so I would like to put forth a list of 2013 resolutions that are largely based on the original 2012 blog post.

I will start with my 2012 resolutions by first reporting honestly on how I did with each and then updating them with where I want to take them in 2013 (updates for 2013 are in italics).  At the end of the post I will add some new resolutions to the list.

There are 11 total resolutions here.  I realize that not everyone will be interested in reading the detail about all 11 🙂 so I will simply list them here and anyone that wants can read the detail below.

  1. Spend more time with family.
  2. Lose 25 pounds (2012)/Maintain current weight (2013).
  3. Running.
  4. Meditate regularly.
  5. Develop a personal yoga practice.
  6. Gratitude.
  7. Start a 2nd blog (2012)/Create a new Facebook page (2013).
  8. Blog more.
  9. Create more time to read and write (New for 2013).
  10. Attend a personal development workshop (New for 2013).
  11. Publish a magazine article (New for 2013).

1)  Spend more time with family.  I made some progress here in 2012 but there is still a lot of room for improvement.  For 2103, I still would like to find at least one activity to participate in with each family member individually. Spending time as a whole family is important but it is also important to have one on one time with each of them.  I realize I need to continue to improve in this area with my wife, my step-son, and my daughter.

2)  Lose 25 pounds.  This is definitely the resolution I made the most progress with in 2012.  In fact, I exceeded it.  I lost over 30 pounds.  I do not feel like I need to lose any more weight in 2013 so my plans are to maintain my current weight in 2013 using the same measures that helped me achieve this goal in 2012.

3)  Step up the running.  I was also able to meet my goals here.  I changed to a new running shoe (Brooks PureCadance) and that helped a lot.  I worked my weekly long runs up from 4 to 6 miles.  I worked back up to running five days per week and stubbornly stuck to it.    I met my goal of running two 5K races and a 10K race in 2012.  Most importantly, and probably due to the change in running shoes, I stayed injury free from February through December which helped me accomplish all of these goals.  Just like my weight loss goal above, my plan for 2013 is to maintain the running levels I reached in 2012.  The only difference is that I want to put  at least a couple more races on the schedule.  This year I want to run at least three 5K races and at least two 10K races.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

View from overlook at Great Smoky Mountain National Park during the trip from Cherokee, NC to Gatlinburg, TN.

4)  Meditate regularly.  My 2012 goal for meditating was that by July 1 I would have implemented a daily meditation schedule.  I did not meet this goal.  Honestly my meditation practice was very sporadic throughout the year.  In 2013, my resolution for meditating is to establish a 10 minute per day meditation practice by the end of  January. I will continue to use Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project as one means of helping me establish and maintain a meditation practice and will remain open to other meditation teachings as well.

5)  Develop a personal yoga practice.  The best I did here was experiment with a few new yoga postures to help with lower back stretching and they did seem to work.  Unfortunately I did not develop this into a true practice.  I feel this goal is important for the reasons I mentioned in my 2012 resolution blog post and so I will carry this resolution forward into 2013.  My plan has expanded here though and I hope to involve my whole family in some type of family yoga sessions – probably at Lotus Living Arts Center of Concord.

6)  Write a hand written thank you note or tell someone personally how they

Beautiful Flowers on Path, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Beautiful Flowers on Path

are making a difference or doing something great every day.  This was probably my most interesting resolution of 2012 but it was difficult to measure.  I feel like there were times during the year when I was good at expressing gratitude and there were other times when I allowed myself to get bogged down with my own personal worries.  During those times of worry, I was much less appreciative of things.  While the thought of writing thank you notes was a nice one, I definitely did not do so in 2012.  I do want to make gratitude a part of my daily life as much as possible in 2013 so I plan to keep this as a resolution for the new year.  In general, I want to be more aware of everything that is happening around me and from that I want to more openly express gratitude on a daily basis.  This thankfulness can be expressed in person, in writing, through my actions, etc.  One way I will measure my progress on this goal in 2013 is that I want to write at least one hand written thank you note per week this year.

Two quotes from my 2012 New Year’s Resolutions post that I feel are important to share here again are:

“People need to hear about the good things they are doing and they need to know that these good things are being noticed.”

“I think expressing gratitude is one of the most important forms of prayer.”

7)  Start a second blog by April 1.  To put it bluntly this did not happen.  I tried.  I even went as far as purchasing domain name for a new blog.   Unfortunately I found  myself overburdened by the technical details of setting up the second blog the way I thought I wanted it to be.  This ended up taking away from my writing time for Steve’s Thinking Space and so I eventually gave up on the idea of a second blog – at least for now.  So, in 2013 I do not plan to set-up a second blog.  What I plan to do instead is set-up a new Facebook page based on an idea I had in 2012 – more details on that to follow later in 2013!

The Gatlinburg Trail, Great Smokey Mountains National Park

The Gatlinburg Trail, Great Smokey Mountains National Park – The scene of the event and the realization.

8)  Blog more!  My goal in 2012 was to get to a point that I was publishing a blog post at least once a week.  I fell short of this goal.   In fact I probably barely published a post on a once a month basis.  In 2013, I have decided to reset this goal to publishing a blog post at least twice per month.  This is still an increase over 2012 but not as aggressive as my 2012 resolution.

And finally I have a few brand new resolutions for 2013.

9)  Make more time in my schedule to read and write.  If I want to up my blog writing to two posts per month I need to find ways to make more time for writing.  Likewise, I feel that I need to create more reading time in my schedule.    I have a couple of books that I stated in 2012 that I want to finish and I have a long list of other books that I want to read in 2013.  At the top of my reading list for 2013 are Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein, The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte, and Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields.  To make more time for writing and reading I will probably need to watch less TV and come up with a better sleep routine (i.e. go to bed earlier and get up earlier) especially when I am traveling for work.

10)  Attend at least one personal development workshop.  Top candidates for fulfilling this resolution are a writing workshop like The Write Motivation, a personal or spiritual development workshop like I Can Do It Conference, or a big think tank conference like The World Domination Summit.

Sunrise as seen from Hampton Inn and Suites Beachfront Hotel, Myrtle Beach, SC

December Sunrise, Myrtle Beach, SC

11)  Publish one magazine article this year.  I have had a goal of being a published author for more than a decade but other than becoming a blogger I have not done anything about it.  I want to expand my writing beyond the blogosphere and having a magazine article published is where I want to take my first step.  This is a huge stretch goal for me in 2013 since I have never actually tried to publish in a magazine.  I have a lot to learn regarding how to even get started but I know I am ready for the challenge.  It is time to move forward with my life goals in this area.  By stating this goal publicly, I feel that I am much more likely do move forward with it.

So once again, I have set some aggressive goals for 2013.  While there is a lot more I also want to accomplish I feel that these 11 resolutions will serve as a good base and therefore are the ones I want to focus on first.  I wish you all a happy, peaceful, and productive 2013!

With peace and gratitude,

Steve Strother

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Inspiring Business Series: Sacred Grove Retreat

This is a new installment for my Inspiring Business Series which highlights businesses that SacredGrove_logoare inspiring and innovative.  For this post I will feature Sacred Grove Retreat located near Gold Hill, NC.

Vital details:

Business Name:  Sacred Grove Retreat

Location:  15750 Mattons Grove Church Rd., Gold Hill, NC  28071

Website:  http://www.sacredgroveretreat.com

Phone Number: 704. 299. 5124

Business Owner’s name:  Ellen Whiteside

Key mission:  To provide sacred space for individuals or groups to heal, renew, learn and evolve in unimaginable ways (from Sacred Grove Retreat website).

I am a big fan of the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  For anyone that has not read it, the book is an autobiographical account of the author’s search for meaning and fulfillment in life after suffering through a divorce and a subsequent rebound relationship.  I cannot do the book (or movie) justice here so I encourage everyone to read it.  For me, it was one of those rare works that awakened something in me.  It is safe to say that I not only loved the movie and book but that by watching the movie and reading the book, I started looking at certain aspects of life differently.  I started taking my spiritual health more seriously.

Sacred Grove Retreat, Gold Hill

The Thoreau Cabin at Sacred Grove Retreat

Needless to say, I like the concept of dropping everything to search for spiritual growth, but I also realize that for most people (including me) this simply is not possible.  Instinctively, I know that a person can go through the same spiritual awakening process in their own home environment that Elizabeth Gilbert found during her year in Italy, India, and Indonesia.  Still, I also realize that the distractions of home can sometimes get in the way.  It is easy to skip the morning meditation when you know there is laundry to do or that you have to make sure the kids are getting ready for their soccer games.  So getting away for a little spiritual retreat every now and then can be a good thing.

But rather than traveling half way around the world, I believe it is possible for anyone to find places for this type of spiritual work closer to their own back yard.  Sacred Grove Retreat is a place that has that type of potential for me and for anyone living in or traveling to the Charlotte area.

Sacred Grove Retreat is located in rural Cabarrus County, NC just outside of a small former gold mining village appropriately named Gold Hill.  I visited Sacred Grove Retreat on one of the first days of fall feeling weather in September.  It was one of those cool misty mornings that feel so comfortable after a long, hot summer.  Ellen Whiteside, the creator and owner of Sacred Grove Retreat, had agreed to meet with me that Monday morning, despite the fact that she and her staff had just spent the entire weekend hosting and participating in a ceremonial dance.  I am glad she did, because there was a calming energy about the place and the people that day that I think was an after effect of that event.

Sacred Grove Retreat is situated on 11 acres of wooded land on a farm road a few miles outside of Gold Hill.  The first thing you notice when you get out of your car there is how quiet and peaceful it is.  The retreat center gets its name from a circular grove of trees that grow around a large piece of white quartz.  I am a relative novice to these things but Ellen explains that this forms a vortex energy field.  The Sacred Grove website explains that a vortex is a place of spiraling spiritual energy that creates a space to facilitate prayer, meditation and healing.

The property includes two lodging facilities for overnight guests – The Grove House (a contemporary three bedroom, two bath home) and the Thoreau Cabin (a small, rustic cabin with a sleeping loft and a bathroom complete with a jacuzzi tub).  For group meetings, retreats, ceremonies, concerts, etc., the property also includes The Yurt (a 30 foot circular structure with central heating and air).  The retreat grounds also include a labyrinth, the Baby Yurt (a small structure that can be used for meditation, introspection, etc.), a fire pit, and a wonderful wooded hiking trail.

Yurt at Sacred Grove Retreat, Gold Hill, NC

The Yurt at Sacred Grove Retreat

Ellen hosts equinox and solstice celebrations, drum circles, ceremonial dances, sweat lodge ceremonies, craft fairs, house concerts, and many other events at Sacred Grove Retreat, but most of all it is an ideal place to find solitude.  Ellen states that she naturally fell into being an inn keeper.  She has a knack for making people feel comfortable.  She exclaims that she has a history of having awesome guests that she describes as magical people.

The pursuit of the spiritual can mean different things to different people so Ellen cautions

Seven circuit labyrinth at Sacred Grove Retreat, Gold Hill, NC

The Labyrinth at Sacred Grove Retreat

that her guests should respect that.  Chances are each guest at any given time is in a different place on their spiritual path.  Ellen states that she wants Sacred Grove Retreat to be a place where people can feel safe to explore their soul and therefore she further explains that she wants to make sure it remains “a place without any kind of dogma.”  Whether a guest is visiting simply to get away for a quiet peaceful weekend, a personal yoga or meditation retreat, or if they are visiting with a some other spiritual or travel pursuit in mind, Ellen wants everyone to feel comfortable at Sacred Grove Retreat.

Birdbath at Sacred Grove Retreat

Beautiful scene at Sacred Grove Retreat

If you are visiting:  Individuals, couples, and families are welcome at Sacred Grove Retreat.  Sacred Grove is located just outside of Gold Hill, NC.  Gold Hill is a former gold mining boom town which is now a quaint little historic village with several shops (general stores, metal and glass working shops, antique stores, a cafe, a tea shop, etc.) all more or less historically preserved to look and feel like the town did in its gold mining heyday prior to the Civil War.  Other key area attractions are the Uwharrie Mountains (the oldest mountain range in North America), Uwharrie National Forest, Morrow Mountain State Park, Town Creek Indian Mound, Morgan Ridge Vineyards and other area wineries, and the cities of Albemarle, Concord, and Salisbury, NC.

Other Inspiring Business Series Posts:

Trashed, A Creative Recycling Studio

Lotus Living Arts Studio of Concord

Do you have any similar places where you live?  If so, please feel free to let everyone know about them by leaving a comment!

With Peace and Gratitude,

Steve Strother

Posted in Business, community, inspiration, Inspiring Business, North Carolina | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stumbling My Way to a Major Realization, Part II: The Clear Message

*Welcome.  This is Part II of a series.  Please see Part 1 for further details.

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” ~ Buddhist proverb

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

View from overlook at Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the trip from Cherokee, NC to Gatlinburg, TN.

In Part I of this series I described a rather scary near stumble that occurred during a run on the Gatlinburg Trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park on October 10.  While it was scary, I recovered almost immediately.  In fact my pace never actually slowed.  I continued on with my run, with a heightened state of awareness regarding my surroundings.

Later in the run, as the sun was setting I witnessed some amazing natural beauty in those woods.  I saw water, reflecting the sunset in a pinkish hue, cascading over rocks in the river.  I looked up to see the sun’s rays reflecting in bright pink and orange splashes against thick clouds as they moved across the top of a mountain.

And that is when the second wave of gratitude hit.  I became immediately in awe of the beauty of nature…the beauty of life.  I felt thankful for being able to witness this wonderful scene at this exact moment.  Then I thought of how many times in the past million or more years such a scene has occurred at this spot and how many more times this same type of scene will happen in the future.  I understood, very clearly,  that people will be witnessing scenes like this, hopefully at this exact spot, long after I am no longer on this planet in this physical form.  And then the big vision hit me.

I felt a strong realization that I want to be part of the beauty of this planet.  Now and forever.  And I realized, without a doubt, that I can be.  I often read about people having moments in their lives when they experience some sort of divine message and this was one of those moments for me (it has happened before for me too, I just wasn’t ready to see it that way or to put it in those words).  I then thought of several ways I can be part of the beauty of this life while I am alive.  The first thing that came to mind, was that like Andrea Minard (mentioned in Part 1), I want to help people see the beauty in life.  To do what I have already started with this blog – continue pointing out the positive – but to go deeper, to help people see the miracle of life that is all around them.  I then thought even more profoundly about how I want to go beyond the stated purpose of this blog.  I want to be a teacher of peace.  I want to help people who have similar feelings find others that think this way too.  I want to be a teacher of beauty, a teacher of calmness, a positive thought leader, a spiritual thinker, a spiritual guide.  And ultimately I want also to be the beauty of life by living in a way that promotes it.

I had one more thought as I gazed at the natural scenery around me.  It is the hardest one to grasp but I felt the truth in it as I was running along the banks of that river in the woods – that even after our lives on this earth are over, we are still part of all of the beauty.  The spirit in us does go on and becomes part of this beauty.  Really it is already there, because again, if we are open to it and able to accept it we are part of this beauty now and always will be.

flower, leaves, foliage

Flower blooming in autumn on The Gatlinburg Trail.

Most of the thoughts I had during my run on that cool fall afternoon, I have had before, but never so profoundly.  I knew the direction I wanted to go but never had the exact words to describe them until after tripping on that rock.  I have a long way to go to get to where I know I am going but the first step is putting it into words, and the events of that day helped me get there.  The second step is putting my intentions out into the world and I have begun that process by writing this article.

With peace and gratitude,

Steve Strother

*All photos in this post were taken with my Motorola Droid X and were not taken during the run :) .

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Stumbling My Way to a Major Realization: Part 1, The Incident

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” ~ Buddhist proverb

Great Smokey Mountain National Park

View from overlook at Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the trip from Cherokee, NC to Gatlinburg, TN.

In a blog post from last June titled “Thankfulness Journal: An Indigo Bunting of Happiness” I made a statement that I believed that when we are ready for something it will appear as long as we are open to noticing and accepting it.  Then I go on to wonder what it is that I am missing in life because I am not open to it when it happens.

On the surface, the events of my life on Wednesday, October 10 seem like random everyday type occurrences.  Looked at more closely though, there is a thread of meaning that I cannot overlook.

As usual I was traveling for work that day.  I had just finished up my last meeting of the day at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, NC and on my way out of the main administration building I noticed a nature photography exhibit.  Nature photography is a passion of mine and so I had to take a look.  Included along with the beautiful pieces of photography, as is usually the case, was a short biography of the artist.  The photographer, Andrea Minard, stated in her bio that she takes pictures to help people who go through life without taking the time to observe the things around them.  She is hopeful that her pictures will inspire others to slow down enough to enjoy the things around them.  I was intrigued enough to jot down her name so that I could look her up later.  The significance of  me finding this statement by Ms. Minard will not become clear until Part 2 of this series to be published in several days.

My stopping point for that night was Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  I arrived in Gatlinburg excited because it was still early enough for an outdoor run and my hotel was only a quarter-mile from the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It was not long after my arrival in town that I was burning up the Gatlinburg Trail that runs between the park entrance and the Sugarland Visitor Center inside the park.  This trail twists along the banks of the west prong of the Little Pigeon River.

The Gatlinburg Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Gatlinburg Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park – the scene of the whole event.

A little over a mile into the run, just after I had crested a hill, my left foot jammed into a rock concealed by fallen leaves on the path.  I was running at a strong pace and the contact with this unforgiving object caused me to lurch forward with all my running momentum behind me.  Completely off-balance and falling forward with my face only about two feet from the ground, for a split second I accepted in my mind that I was going to hit the ground in a full layout with arms outstretched in front of me to hopefully break my fall.  I actually remember thinking in this split second about how much it was going to hurt – the cinder and stone scraping against my arms and the hard ground taking my breath away, my mind probably recalling some similar experience from my childhood.  But instead, I managed to contort my body in just the right way and at just the right moment to keep upright.  But my trouble was not over.  While I had managed to stay upright, my feet had still not caught up with my body and I was teetering sharply to the left.  As I assessed this new challenge, I quickly became aware of the sound of tumbling water to my left, and I realized suddenly that if I did not quickly manage to straighten my gate I was going to run off the path and over a high ridge that plunged into the river below.  Fortunately, through another series of body contortions I did get straightened out and I was able to keep running.

Then I cursed – loudly and repeatedly.  Angry at first that the rock was there, concealed, and in the way.  Then angry at myself for not paying better attention; for not seeing the rock in time to avoid it.  Annoyed, frustrated, and in a little discomfort from the foot contact with the rock as well as the body contortions, I continued on.

Once my adrenaline level returned to normal though I became very aware of how much worse things could have been.  If I had tumbled over that cliff, would I have survived the fall?  If I survived, how badly would I have been injured?  Would anyone have found me?  I was running alone and the daylight had started to dim.  There were not many other people on the trail.  And that is when the first wave of gratitude hit me.  I was thankful that I was OK; thankful that when I hit that rock I snapped to attention in time to avoid any serious injury.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

View of the west prong of the Little Pigeon River taken from the Gatlinburg Trail Bridge.

I continued on with a heightened attention to my surroundings.  One that would allow me to be open to a very clear message later in my run.

**I will post the continuation of this story, “Stumbling My Way to a Major Realization:  Part 2, The Clear Message” in a few days.  

With peace and gratitude,

Steve Strother

*All photos in this post were taken with my Motorola Droid X and were not taken during the run :).

Posted in Gratitude, Nature, Running, Thankfulness, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments