Elephants, Haiti, and Life Experiences = Growth and Being Alive and Present!

I have been thinking about what topic I might use as my final Rambling for the season. I’ve been waiting for just the right trigger—something that touched my heart in a way that is worthy to write and Ramble about. Once again, this Rambling is being guided by something far greater than myself.

On the surface, the three elements of the title for this Rambling appear to be far ranging elephant whisperand diverse. However, the idea came to me as I was finishing the book, The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, as I was flying home from Haiti. Perhaps it was a combination of reading this book and reflecting on my trip and my experiences. Or perhaps there was a gentle hand being placed on my shoulder saying, “This is it, Bob!” that triggered this Rambling.

Everyone has their own life path as to how they achieve personal growth. Take this Rambling as a summary of mine and feel free to use what applies to your own life. I write these Ramblings as a reflection of my thoughts and with the desire that they challenge you, the reader, to determine what applies to your own personal life, even if it is just a simple sentence or random thought. I hope these ramblings provide value. Perhaps you can reflect on this in tandem with a significant person in your life. I believe this kind of reflection on life can help create an amazing intimate union. (That in itself is a life lesson I learned, somewhat painfully, due to my own immaturity and being overly prideful.)

Life can hand us some unplanned challenges to the heart and soul. We can be kicked in the head and stabbed in the heart. We retreat into our shell of self-pity and a “woe is me feeling.” However, while I was in Haiti working with a team from Haiti Teen Challenge, I was reminded of my own personal blessings. I was quickly humbled and ashamed of the thoughts and feelings of self-pity I’ve had. I was reminded of the power of faith, selfless acts, compassion, and the heart-healing benefit of servanthood.

IMG_7338IMG_7311Haiti Child

 

 

 

Haiti Teen Challenge brought me back to the greatness of family, devotion, learning, stretching personal boundaries and comfort zones, and standing up for what you believe, not to please those around you, but to stand firm in who you are with grace, vulnerability, and courage. Yup, life experiences do shape your purpose and who you are if you let them. A vulnerable, open, and courageous heart can be filled in a way that you cannot imagine if you let it and rid yourself of shame, guilt, and being prideful and instead, live with courage, transparency, and vulnerability. (Boy is that easy to write and say, but so painfully hard to put into practice.) It takes time to learn how to do this effectively and naturally and to have the courage to accept that there will be mistakes during the learning curve. However, as I am learning, perseverance allows us to take small steps in the right direction that slowly shape who we are and how we live and who we become.

I’ve often heard, “It is who you are, not what you do, that is critical.” (In the past, my family of origin clouded that understanding.) Today I feel so blessed that I understandHaiti Bob and Children the core of this statement as never before. It is now part of my internal mantra—I constantly remind myself of it when I get too caught up with nonmeaningful self-indulgences and prideful beliefs.

As I end this season of Ramblings, let me share some reflections and thoughts I gained from The Elephant Whisperer, thoughts that I am learning to embrace—maybe one of them will resonate with you, or trigger another thought that is critical to your life.

There are no walls between humans and elephants except those we put up ourselves, and until we allow all humans and elephants their place in the sun we can never be whole!

Every wild thing is in tune with its surroundings, awake to its fate and in absolute harmony with the planet, and focuses on what is around them. Humans, on the other hand, tend to focus introspectively on their own lives, too often brooding and magnifying problems that the animal world would not spend a millisecond of energy on!

When communicating with animals, it is critical to understand that their language, their communication, is a two-way flow of energy . . . when it has been received, you must let them know that their communication has arrived. If you do not, there is no communication! It is that simple, just like earthly and Godly relationships!

Always treat those magnificent animals with absolute respect! (Something we need to do with those around us, too!)

I will return later in September. I pray that you have received some value in reading my Ramblings this season.

HAVE A MAGNIFICANT SUMMER MY READERS. GO OUT AND EMBRACE LIFE AND YOUR PURPOSE!

Filling the Soul and Life of Others, Drip by Drip

Drip by Drip—on the surface it may seem like torture, it may seem that you cannot takeDrip by Drip anymore as you wait to fill a glass, drip by drip. And then, once you think you have filled your glass, you find there is room for more, or, you spill some of it. This is so true of our lives: We work to fill ourselves up but then we make a mistake, and we lose some of what we’ve worked so hard to achieve. It seems there’s a constant need to continue Water glassfilling the glass. We can do this through purposeful, selfless behavior, growth, and actions. By surrounding ourselves with relationships who will challenge us and add perspective that may very well be different than ours. How healthy is that? Immensely!

Recently, I was reading about the process of becoming a person of true faith and conviction. It involves three actions: Believe, Receive, Become. This not only pertains to faith but many aspects of a meaningful life and relationships.

I also read an article posted by Shaun Shelton on LinkedIn that struck me. The title of the article was: Speaking vs. Doing.” Shaun stated, “I can’t help but notice that the vast majority of speakers out there aren’t actually doers. Sadly, they talk the talk, but are unable to walk the walk . . .”

This article was a great reminder that walking the talk is critical: Do as you say and say as you do! It’s how we fill up our glass, how we lead a full, rewarding real life. It enables us to tell the truth about our experiences, experiences that are both good and bad.

Truth (being real!) reminds us what is really important. 

Esteli, Nicaragua 2017 –  I continue to be reminded and amazed by the impact of going Vilma and Family Greetingon a mission/humanitarian trip, not just the families and individuals we serve, but those who serve as well. My latest Habitat for Humanity trip was no different. This trip took us to Nicaragua and the town of Esteli. We had the privilege to build a home for Vilma, a grandmother, her daughter, Heidi; and her granddaughter, Roxie. The home they were living in had dirt floors, porous walls, and a tin roof. The home flooded during the rainy season.Vilma Home

Each day, Vilma and Roxie greeted us as we arrived in the morning and waved goodbye as we left in the afternoon (the mother had to work long hours hand rolling cigars). One afternoon, little Roxie gave me a freshly picked blue flower with a smile that said “thank you” as only a child can. Such a series of gifts of heartfelt love and appreciation asBob and Roxie with Flower expressed in their greetings, saying goodbye, as well as the gift of the flower from Roxie communicated their deep appreciation. It was a true pleasure to build a cinder block home for this family who were so genuinely gracious and appreciative. These actions in themselves were a lesson and lasting take away for us. Despite a total communication barrier, it was clear that the family deeply appreciated this gift. It greatly impacted me and those who worked on building the home.

Doing little things to express gratitude is not just important, it is everything.

As I flew home following the trip, I reflected on the experiences and gifts I’d received, it felt good!

To give and to mentor is good for everyone; the givers and the recipients gain significantly and change lives.  

LAVA LAMPThe Lava Lamp of Life

 Isn’t life interesting? Once you have committed yourself to “receive and to belong” you can later reflect on the journey you have taken as well as what lies ahead. It’s like a lava lamp (remember those?). Think about what you see when watching a lava lamp. There is this slow meandering rising of the oil to the surface; it takes its time, doesn’t flow in a straight line, and eases into differing shapes. It eventually rises to the surface and then sinks and the process continues. Isn’t this symbolic of life’s journey? Yes, as long as there is resilience and a commitment to moving, changing, and growing, as long as we can trust the process not knowing the outcome. If there is trust, we know that every time life brings us down there will be something that buoys us up again.

Our life and our relationships also undergo this type of process of morphing and change. All we have to do is trust and open ourselves up to being vulnerable, real, and transparent.

Back to my opening paragraph and DRIP, DRIP, DRIP! Each drip contributes to filling up our glass. Like the drip from a faucet, it takes time, patience, and persistence to fill up our souls through meaningful and wholehearted actions. It is inevitable that there will be some spills along the way but we continue to work on filling ourselves up, drip by drip.

I am learning that we need to give of ourselves out of love and care and not be looking for what is given back to us. Here is my parting thought:

Grace, is an easy word to say, but difficult to actually live out in its truest sense.

Amazing Grace is servanthood to others when they are in greatest need and we receive nothing in return.

It is a Good Day Every Day, not just on “GOOD FRIDAY”…….

Staying Aware and Intentional. An impromptu and my shortest rambling.

As I was at the cabin this past Friday and Saturday, I watched two Documentaries, “Planet Earth” and “Poverty Inc.”. This morning as I return from my Men’s Group, I have been struck in a far different way by all of these events in a way that 2 years ago would never have hit my consciousness as it does today and has prompted this short rambling, Ponder these thoughts;

    • As you look closely at the delicate way that the world is balanced and continues to thrive, ask yourself: “Is the way the seasons, earth positioning to the sun, the moon and how it effects the earth, the interplay of the seasons around the world, miracle of birth, of the plants and living organisms, a result of evolution or was it in the image of something far greater than evolution?” “I believe is it was an intentional creation that has evolved as it did not “just happen!”
    • Our need and desire to selflessly serve is part of being a meaningful person! Once the need for humanitarian help has passed, to serve is to teach how to fish, not to give fish, or is giving “fish” enough?
    • For those who believe. Honoring GOOD FRIDAY is only right and worthy of a meaningful THANK YOU! I believe that additionally we need to embrace that each day is a “good day!”. I am of the belief that we should stay intentional in our beliefs, gifts, blessing and remain aware of how our life is guided and touched.
    • Finally, are we thankful, and have we acknowledge our appreciation, for the input and guidance received by those around us who can challenge our thoughts and enhance our perspectives?

HAVE A GOOD WEEK!

What It has meant to me to be “One of the Seldom”

A Personal Thank You! Thank you readers for allowing me into your life with my Ramblings” I hope my Ramblings fit into the “value to read” category for you and that perhaps there have been a few crumbs you have found of value that maybe moved your own very personal needle a bit.

In early March, 2016, I posted my first Rambling. The last 13 months and 30 postings have gone by so very quickly. It is startling how fast life and time pass by. I want to say Thank You to you, my readers, for reading, commenting, and following my Rambling posts. Over the last year, there have been more than 4,100 views and 2,050 visitors from more than 6 countries.

These Ramblings have allowed me the opportunity to share my thoughts, vulnerable feelings, and life lessons learned. At the same time, I hope these ramblings have challenged you to reflect on things that may be applicable and important to your own life. Personally, the last 1½ years have gone by at warp speed, representing a period of growth, change, and maturity that has been remarkable, fun, sad, exciting, and rewarding. This time has been filled with humbleness, regrets and gratitude. As I write these adjectives, I am a bit overwhelmed by the bandwidth of outcomes and the emotions that have come from this process of growth, change, and maturing. To be a vibrant person, there will be more to come as without growth there is a loss of wholeheartedness and opportunity.

I was told not that long ago that change cannot be trusted. Prior to my father’s death almost 15 years ago, I often heard my father say, “People change but seldom!” I am so pleased that I AM ONE OF THE SELDOM. I believe change can be trusted when you can look at it with an open heart and mind. In a recent Rambling, I wrote about how the two sides of a piece of paper are like our lives: One side represents our exterior self that everyone sees and the other side represents our interior self (who we are at our core) that others feel. There is a process of growth, change, and maturing we can take to make our behavior (our exterior self) reflect our values or faith (our interior self). I am learning that this has been a process, was not an event. “Baby Steps!”.

When attending a workshop or conference listening to speakers, I seldom agree with all that is said. I am sure much like my Ramblings and how you react to things  I have written. However, if I can walk away with a crumb of “that was a good thought,” then the speaker was of personal value, then I have moved the needle of being a “better me” a degree or two in the right direction. I hope my Ramblings fit into this category for you and that perhaps there have been a few crumbs you have found of value that maybe moved your own needle a bit.

I am grateful for you, my readers. I am grateful for those who have sent me personal notes at my email address, challenged my writing and commented on the site, reactions on Facebook and LinkedIn. For all of you I just want to say, THANK YOU! Each of your comments and perspectives have been helpful and of value.

In June, I will be wrapping up this second series of Ramblings before I take a break for the summer. I have three more to write before this break. I’m already thinking about the general theme for the fall 2017 series of Rambling posts. I am sure that I will capture interesting thoughts and provocative and challenging questions from travel experiences, a church class I am co-leading this fall and  books I’ve read  or will be reading over the coming year to challenge myself and rambling readers on various aspects of life, relationships and living with meaning, substance and wholeheartedness.

Once again, thank you readers for allowing me into your life with my Ramblings.

Every Piece of Paper Has Two Sides – Love This Life and Learn to Dance in the Rain by Being REAL!

dancing in the rain

I love this life and want to dance in the rain of conflict, challenge, and growth, to meet conflict head on as opposed to pretending it is not happening, and to deal with the rain of life as it occurs as opposed to waiting for the storm and rain to pass.

While this is one of my more transparent Ramblings, it is not just about me. I hope it tells a personal story that causes you to stop and reflect on anything that resonates with you. If it does, fantastic. This Rambling was prompted by some thoughts that came to me recently as I was reading A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron. One of the book’s messages is that all creatures are born with a purpose.

I am learning to be more comfortable with the idea of “Say what you mean and mean what you say!” although I know this way of thinking may not be very Norwegian of me. Being purposeful about what you say (and do!) is about getting off the merry-go-round of just staying within the protective cradle of what is known. It’s about venturing, with purpose, into the unknown deeper aspects of our spiritual life while never forgetting to embrace our earthly life with an attitude of gratitude, passion, romance, fun, adventure, wonder, thanksgiving, and purpose.

Just as every piece of paper has two sides, there are two sides to our lives—what is seen on the outside and what is at our core. I hope I’m not the only one who spends time looking inward to discover and refine how I want both sides of my life (the exterior and interior) to be grounded and compatible in how they look, feel, and behave. I am committed to being authentic and having an internal core that has substance.

There are so many analogies floating through my thoughts that make me smile as I type out what was initially put down on paper for this Rambling. My Ramblings always start out with a thought for the subject and perhaps a title, much like the title for a book. I use the initial title not only as imagery but motivation for what is written in the Rambling. Often what I end up writing is not consistent with the initial title. It is like turning a piece of paper over to discover what was really important.

I may change the title in the same manner that I change my perspective on life.

I often change the title of my Ramblings to better match and reflect the maturing content. This morning as I hit spell check, backspaced to make corrections, and edited things I wasn’t happy with or didn’t like the flow of, and I reflected on what I wanted to convey,  it struck me that the writing process is like life: changing (backspace, delete, edit), developing (adding and learning with the help of an editor or others), and maturing (willing to change) can be fun and exciting.

In the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge was totally unaware of how he was behaving, how he was being perceived, and how what was important to him was so misaligned. I can honestly say that in the fairly recent past, I too was naïve and had misjudged how I was being received and perceived. My overly-armored and guarded core had drastically affected relationships and my ability to be real or authentic. Change is so hard, yet I am a thankful example that change is possible if it is really important to you.

There two statements I learned from my involvement with the Wilson Learning Company years ago, “People change but seldom!” (I am one of the seldom!), and people only do things for their reason, not someone else’s! (There have been many personal reasons I have changed.)

Back to Scrooge: At the end of the story, Scrooge was awakened and his life transformed by the dreams and vision brought to him by the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future. To a far lesser degree, I too have been awakened and transformed by experiences of the past and present. The future is important to me particularly as I work to make both sides of my “paper” complement one another: the visible (behavior) and the core (strong beliefs).

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi        (Thank you Jim H. for introducing me to this quote!)

 My Ramblings have been like an evolving and ever-changing mirror of how I view myself, or better stated, how the journey of life is manifesting itself within me (as it does for all of us). I have discovered that as with my Ramblings, I have become so very picky about things in my life—I have learned that there are certain non-negotiables.

I challenge you (as well as myself) to discover who you are at your core, and to believe and be comfortable in what you discover, to live intentionally with this heartfelt belief, to shed the shield in being someone you are not, and to stop worrying about what others think (as long as who you are is ethical and kind, and what you do and say comes from the heart), much like dancing (not worrying about what others might think!).

We should learn to embrace a joyful, wholehearted, selfless, and grateful life.

Lessons in Extraordinary Courage The White Helmets

How can we, in our own simple way, be a WHITE HELMET?

As I write this rather emotional Rambling, I must acknowledge that I feel very blessed with my life, and I want to continue to embrace it with fun, passion, and life experiences. I want to share with friends and, hopefully, a significant other, all the wonders of life’s blessings. However, there are two pieces of life’s puzzle that I have come to believe are critical: puzzelselfless giving and faith. Selfless giving is the puzzle piece that is at the core of this Rambling.

If we take a deep and hard look at what goes on around us we will find that the human spirit is amazing. I am willing to wager that the vast majority of those that read these Ramblings live in a world that is sheltered, insulated, and immune to the deep tragedies and struggles that permeate the world we live in. Here’s what I mean: We know our lives are reasonably good. We know we have varying levels of success. I ask myself and you, my readers, “Do we tend to take this for granted?” Perhaps others in our circle live in similar worlds and have similar blessings which we have learned to accept as the norm. (Not that we don’t feel lucky or fortunate, but it just seems the norm.)

We read about the starving children of Africa; we hear of the tragedy and struggles of the people in Haiti; we read of the unemployed, the homeless, and those who struggle with chemical dependency and say to ourselves, “That is so sad; that is too bad; how horrific that must be.” While we may have compassion, we also may have little true understanding as our own world is so detached from the reality of the outside world.

I can relate to this. As I sit at the cabin overlooking the lake, I sometimes catch myself worrying about “Bob stuff” I feel some uneasiness, stress, or uncertainty. All my issues are based on my world of relationships and life and have no relation to how blessed I really am.

What does it take to not only embrace our own blessed life, but also have the compassion, heart, and soul to be more selfless in doing our part? Maybe that 1% effort will be life changing, not just to ourselves, but more importantly, to someone we touch.

Let me share with you a story of an amazing group of citizens in Aleppo, Syria called “THE WHITE HELMETS” that illustrates this potential.

We’ve heard and read about the horrific bombing and destruction that continues in Aleppo, Syria and other towns and villages of that country. We have witnessed scenes of the destruction, but have we really felt and seen the horror of the innocent people who are the victims?

There is a group of organized citizens whose mission, out of compassion for their fellow man, is to track the falling bombs, wait for them to hit, and then, Doan their WHITE HELMETS and rush to the scene to rescue or retrieve those who are trapped, injured, or killed. In one documented event, after 16 -18 hours of grueling and non-stop efforts, the White Helmets were exhausted and ready to call it a day after finding no additional signs or sounds of life. As they were about to leave they heard the faint sound of a baby’s cry. They froze in place, in silence, with their helmet lights on to see if there really was life still buried somewhere in the unimaginable rubble. They quickly realized that it wasn’t their imagination, the baby’s cry was real. There was still a life waiting to be rescued.

With renewed hope, energy, and enthusiasm the White Helmets found a 6-week-old baby, unharmed, sheltered in a small cave of ruble and debris. A White Helmet pulled the crying child to safety, holding it tightly in his arms as if it were his own as tears rolled down hisWhitel Helmets check and the cheeks of his fellow rescuers. They embraced in the joy that their efforts had made a dramatic difference and that this child will now have a chance to grow up. Who knows what may be possible? Perhaps this child will one day be a peace maker for Syria? Who knows what impact that child will have on others? What we do know is that without the dedication of the White Helmets, those selfless citizens who risk their lives to save the lives of others, that child’s potential would never have a chance.

Over the course of three years, approximately 180 dedicated White Helmets have lost their lives working to rescue an estimated 58,000 fellow citizens.

The example of the White Helmets leads me to a few questions:

  • What are we doing as blessed individuals to act as White Helmets in our own communities and in the world?
  • What are we doing to make a real difference?
  • What are we doing to share our God-given talents, gifts, blessings, and compassion to those around us?

How can we, in our own simple way, be a WHITE HELMET?

Ratio of Birth to Death is One to One!

No one gets off this planet alive—one of the guarantees life gives us is that it ends with death! (Rather profound of me, isn’t it?) However as vibrant, loving, and caring people we have a choice: As the book, Five Days at Memorial states in the final sentence, “. . . we have the luxury to prepare and resolve how we wish to make decisions!” What decisions are you going to make? Let me challenge you to read on. . .

I was recently reading about the 2005 disaster of Hurricane Katrina and how it decimated New Orleans. This natural disaster caused horrific conditions and chaos at the Memorialfive-days-at-memorial Medical Center in downtown New Orleans. The book, Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink, describes the life and death decisions the hospital’s medical staff had to make including who would live and who would die.

As I read the book I was struck with how fragile life is, the amazing dedication of the medical community, and the tough yet fragile nature of the human spirit during life changing decisions.

What really has stayed with me was the statement: “The Ratio of Birth to Death is One to One!” which has raised some interesting questions:

  • Why are Americans so unprepared for death when it occurs?
  • Generally, why do we celebrate every milestone of life except death?
  • Why does everyone want to rush to the miracle of birth yet shy away from the reality of death?

I have a few thoughts on these questions that I will frame with another series of questions that would be fun to discuss, debate, and learn from (and with) others:

  • Is it fear of the unknown?
  • Is it a total lack of belief in God and eternal life?
  • Is it a disappointment that a “wholehearted life” was not lived?
  • Is it that fascination with the wonders of the world and those within it were not a priority?
  • Is it because life has been filled with regrets and too many “I should haves”?
  • Are we disappointed that we did not stretch outside our comfort zone?
  • Is it that we embrace the miracle of life, yet do not understand the reality of death?
  • Is it that we see birth (new life) as “sweet” and “beautiful” yet death can be so painful and ugly?
  • Is it the loss of a loved one and fear of loneliness?
  • Or ???

I have many thoughts and reactions to these questions, yet to ramble in a vacuum on these seems to me a bit too self-centered as it is not about Bob, but about those we choose to live and share our lives with.

“Because I love this life,I know I shall love death as well” – Ravindranath Tagore

img_6487

Take this short Ramble as a challenge to all of us, me included, to embrace life and to honor and rejoice in death in the same manner we do in reading the last chapter of a great book, by being thankful for the time spent, for the insight it gave us, for the value it added to our lives and how we impacted others.

I invite you to go back and re-read my previous Rambling blog post, “Welcome to the Rest of your Life.”

Here is to LIFE and DEATH

Welcome to the Rest of Your Life! …. Staying curious and fascinated with life

This Rambling is filled with questions and not personal commentary. This is the culmination of many of my previous Ramblings and is one of my more personally meaningful Ramblings. I hope you find the questions help create a “Welcome to the Rest of Your Life Road Map” for you (and partner, remember when doing with a partner, this is an US! not a ME!) as it has for me and you find the questions as thought provoking as I have!

I have a friend and good client who religiously reads and comments on many of my posts. Jim (his real name) always adds an appreciated, interesting perspective and color to what has been written. The most recent post on Scuba and Trust is no exception. Jim’s comment regarding my going outside my comfort zone and the great feeling of stretching was:

“Welcome to the rest of your life Bob.”

I found Jim’s feedback so timely as I had already started this Rambling (a follow-up to the scuba Rambling), “Staying Curious and Fascinated with Life.”

What does this topic really mean and how am I looking at it? This question has caused me to pause and actually think about this in more depth. My response to this question is that I wish there was someone that I could do this reflection with and think about the rest of OUR life as it’s not just about me. I’ve been accustomed to being the solo author and architect of my life but I’m am moving to an attitude of flexibility for when the day comes that there is an “us.” However, for now, it is me and outward focus on others.

A while back, I had a real life personal experience that helped frame why I’m more intentionally practicing “welcome to the rest of your life”:

I go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester every 18-24 months for a full body (I do mean full body), two-day physical (nothing is left to the imagination). When asked by my personal Mayo physician why I am coming to MAYO EXECUTIVE PHYSICAL DEPT, I responded that my goal is to stack as many chips on my side of the table as I can that will provide me the best chance to live a fully engaged, vibrant, and meaningful life—to age 100.

My hope and dream is that I will be on this planet for another 36+ years. Yikes, 36 years, that seems long, however I am learning that time goes by so quickly; that time will pass in a blink and I do not want to do it alone or be left with a lot of “I SHOULD HAVES!”

I am embracing with open arms the richness of the Rest of My Life by staying curious and fascinated with the world and those people around me!

What does that entail? I am not fully sure myself. However, I am asking the following questions of myself knowing that the answers may change based on whether someday I have someone in my life. Perhaps you’d like to do the same with your life partner? it could be rewarding and I am sure will enhance the intimacy and meaningfulness of your relationship.

  1. Am I a Conscious Incompetent in who I am? (Do I know what I am not good at and need others help to improve? If not, is it time to figure it out?)
  2. Based on what you (we) discover in #1, do I (we) care?
  3. How do I (we) become a Conscious Competent? (How do I (we) become intentional in personal growth, maturity, and relationship growth? Do we understand that disagreement and agreement is healthy and adds intimacy to a relationship?)
  4. What should I be doing to be selfless? (It is not all about Bob or US!)
  5. What actions and behavior are significant to actively being committed to my (our) family?
  6. How should I (we) grow in outward giving?
  7. How do I (we) grow in spiritual relationship with God?
  8. What actions and behavior should I (we) embrace to enhance our relationships and significance with friends and those around us?
  9. How do I (we) further master and honor the value of what others have to offer?
  10. How do I (we) define and continue to grow together?
  11. What experiences should I (we) take to see and feel the wonders of the world?
  12. If doing alone, can I remain flexible enough adjust this road map when I do with that life partner?

Perhaps there are additional questions I should consider? I do not have a corner on great growth questions. I would be interested to hearing from my followers. 

Would it not be meaningful to be able to reach that final chapter in our lives and be able to feel that we did our best with the gifts that God has blessed us with, that we’ve grown in our personal and spiritual relationships? That life has been a mutual endeavor with a partner? That we’ve touched others’ lives in a meaningful way? Could all of this intentionality further define a significantly deep relationship with your life partner through meaningful conversation and heartfelt, courageous, and vulnerable sharing and growth?

Welcome to the rest of your life!

Trust and Scuba

Lessons from Scuba Diving: Listening, Trusting, Learning How to Breathe and Comfort in Growth

I decided to take scuba training and certification—something I have always wanted to do. Why? In short, because I am fascinated with life and all it has to offer. I enjoy trying new things and challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone. As a Facebook friend told me, “Bob the world is about to get so much bigger for you, congratulations!”

Indulge me as I “ramble” about my first “controlled” underwater experience.

Confronting fear I enjoy swimming and have no fear of water (although I may fear what’s in the water below me). However, I do have fears and some anxiety of scuba diving: I fear I might get claustrophobic; could drown; or an eel or shark might get me. During a scuba diving training session, the instructor was talking of the beauty and peacefulness of open water ocean diving with fish and sharks. As he said, “for the most part, the sharks are harmless,” I was thinking “most part?!”  On the other hand, as a child one of my favorite TV (black and white of course) shows was Lloyd Bridges’ “Sea Hunt.” I could visualize myself coming to the rescue, spear gun in hand.
Outcome: I loved my first dive (ok, it was in a pool at a maximum of 12 feet and 80-degree water, but still my first). I did not experience as much anxiety as I had anticipated but it was still there. I was not claustrophobic and although I had an initial fear about being able to breathe underwater that soon became increasingly natural. That in itself was a great reminder that fear and anxiety can be overcome by confronting the fear head on and not hiding from it. To continue to practice and engage in different behavior becomes increasingly natural and instinctual. It helped that I knew there would be no sharks or eels in the pool—one less thing to be concerned about (I will save that for the real ocean certification dive!). I also have, as a result of the actual experience, a much greater respect for Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt.

 Experiential learning is the only way to either validate or overcome a fear. Until we have experienced something, being critical or overly confident is most likely a misplaced behavior.

 Stretching our comfort zones! Staying within one’s comfort zone may make us feel safe, however it does not offer the opportunity to grow. Growth is comforting and, in fact, possibly even more rewarding than staying within a safe comfort zone and not stretching our personal capacity. The thought of “I should have done _______!” scares me as I have had too many of those in recent years. I feel that I cheated myself out of God-given gifts.

Have you ever thought of stretching outside your comfort zone in this way? I have found it more rewarding than avoidance.

 Outcome: Going outside of my comfort zone and relying on breathing from a tank, even inimg_6440 a safe 12-foot pool that I knew posed no risk to my survival, still created a bit of anxiety and caused my heart to beat a bit faster. Was it anxiety or excitement? Quite possibly it was both. However, I found by the end of the session that I had settled into a new normal rhythm. My comfort zone had been expanded! Now the next test: Will this comfort transfer to open water (lake or ocean) scuba diving?

 Expanding our capacity for trust My scuba diving training has helped me learn more about trust: Trust of the instructor who assured us the equipment worked; trust that the breathing regulator would do just that (regulate the air flow); and trust that there was air in the tanks (even though it could not be seen or touched). Sort of sounds like the trust we place in our faith and belief in God; another lesson I hadn’t expected. This showed me more about my relationship with God a growing faith and how to better grow in personal and business relationships.

Outcome: Listening to others who have deeper knowledge, additional perspectives, and who are receptive to questions helps build trust, not just with me, but also the person sending the message…what a great lesson that is. This enhanced the outcome of my experience and broadened my perspective to expand my comfort zone. I am also experiencing this as I consider a trip to Mongolia for a mission outreach, an invitation to explore opportunities with Haiti Teen Challenge, joining a group on a bike ride across (part of the way anyway) Iowa (for the RAGBRAI), and a Crossroads bike trip in Napa and Sonoma…all requiring an expanded comfort zone that creates excitement and need for trust. Learning to trust adds value to many of our experiences.

Sit back and think to yourself or with your partner/spouse: What are you (or we) doing to expand our comfort zone(s) and build trust?

Explore interests and embrace life! Living a wholehearted life requires having a broad spectrum of interests and experiences—those that can add substance to life and our relationships. Experiences can expand our learning to embrace life and to respond to life’s challenges with grace and open-mindedness. Others in that first scuba class were there for similar reasons as me and it reminded me that sharing new experiences with someone else would be even that much more rewarding and meaningful—to share the anxiety and the fear and then banter about it afterward.

Outcome: Being underwater, hearing only the sound of your own breathing (something we usually take for granted) is calming, peaceful, and almost spiritual as you are reminded of the magnificent miracle of life and how our bodies were put together to sustain life.

Listening for understanding How critical this was for my first dive in a controlled environment: There was potential danger if I didn’t listen and learn the correct way tofullsizerender-2 breathe underwater (keeping my mouth shut). It’s a lot like life: There is a time to listen and a time to keep our mouths shut. To listen not just to the words of others, but the meaning behind the words as that is how true learning and understanding is grounded. Listening intently for meaning and understanding is the foundation to almost everything, my scuba instructor not excluded. (There is a great book entitled Keep your Love On! by Danny Silks, possibly one of the best easy-to-read yet substantive books on communication and relationships I have read and embraced).

Outcome; I learned the “why” of what we were being told by the instructor. I felt the “ah ha, I get it!” I was reminded of the power to restate what I heard for validation and understanding. I wanted to make sure I heard correctly as discovering while underwater that I heard incorrectly was not a good time to learn. I was reminded that being challenged by the instructor was for my own good and not to take offense or get defensive as there are clearly others with greater knowledge and perspective than mine.

Scuba is going to be great. It has many parallels to life and I am excited for the added dimension it adds to life. Again as a Facebook friend commented, “Bob this will expand your world!” How cool! 

What dimensions and experiences have you considered alone or as process of co-authoring a book of “US” for your wholehearted life ahead? May I borrow from a Nike commercial and say:

JUST DO IT!

 

We are all a Work in Progress Part II

  Being Observant is the Facilitator for Change!    

Part II – A note to my readers: This Rambling continues my train of thought from the last post on “being an uncut diamond” and my own experiences in polishing the rough edges to discover the brilliance within.

If you are not observant to what is going on around you, you cannot change. 

There are things in life we cannot change. For instance, I am a full-fledged, 100 percent Norwegian, a genetic gift that I used to be overly prideful of and now am simply proud of. norwegian-flag(I’ll explain the difference later.) I am sure you have similar attributes you cannot change and are perhaps proud of. We each have unique attributes that make us interesting and so much fun to get to know more intimately. Our attributes can make the soul tick and become the heartbeat in our relationships. If we don’t take the time to share and learn about personal attributes, our relationships can become shallow, less trusting, and lack intimacy.

How did my personal transition from being prideful to proud evolve? Why do I feel it has made a significant difference in my life? I am of the belief that without being an observant individual, observant to what is being said, observant to what is going on around us, observant to personal behavior and tone of conversation, observant of what is being written by those far more talented and insightful than us, we would not have experience change and growth. So……….Being Observant is a Facilitator for Change!

I have discovered and maybe you have as well, that there are things we can change about ourselves if our attitude is more than, “This is just who I am!”.

I have learned that changes and maturity can occur if we truly care. However, first we need to discover what needs change and why. And, is it really change or is it the intentional and deliberate process of engaging others (like a diamond cutter) who brings out the brilliance in a gem that was always within us?

I am not using “brilliance” in the sense of vanity, but rather as a description of making the best of the God-given talents we have. It is my opinion that not doing so is a waste and an insult to our creator.

Perhaps you are wondering (as I did!) about the difference between being prideful and proud. I have learned through experiential  discovery, and maturity, that there is a significant difference—a difference that can impact the outcome of so many aspects in our lives.

You can use the dictionary of your choice but basically, proud is defined as “having a proper amount of self-respect; characterized by feelings of pride.” Whereas prideful is defined as “a haughty attitude shown by somebody who believes, often unjustifiably, that he or she is better than others.” When I realized the difference, I was almost appalled by the manner I had used to express myself; I was prideful rather than proud.

Are there areas in your life where perhaps you’ve experienced this as well? Just a thought and question to ponder.

As I get older, I have had to work on being more transparent and vulnerable in my communication. In the past, I believe I have been reasonably good at conversation, but not communication. The two are dramatically different. With communication comes connection and intimacy, I have had to learn and experience that vulnerability and transparency is healthy and actually leads to more meaningful relationships, whether business or personal (which includes friends and a romantic intimate relationship). You may be thinking, what is the difference between the two?

Communication and Conversation: (Encarta) “A sense of mutual understanding and sympathy; the exchange of information (e.g. by means of speaking, writing, or using a common system of signs or behavior). And similarly, conversation is “the activity of talking to somebody informally; an informal talk with somebody, especially about opinions, ideas, feelings, or everyday matters.”

As opposed to: Communication: (according to Bing) “What is effective communication? caution-symbol-or-signCommunication is about more than just exchanging information. It’s about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information.”

Change and maturity is a lifetime “work in progress” process that relies on being receptive to and valuing the input of others as well as having a variety of life experiences. For me, that includes reading diverse books, going to Nicaragua, attending my Men’s Bible Study group and a men’s monthly gathering for meaningful conversation, going to Haiti, speaking at church about my faith, and looking for other opportunities to do things that get me out of my own head.

Stop and think, what are yours? Do you have a partner to share these experiences with and are you intentionally working on being “Co-Authors” together on the book of “US”?

We do not mature and change without the help of others, being a “lone wolf” produces inferior results. All of this change and maturity has required guidance from those around me. My personal positive reaction to change has added color and perspective—perspective that may very well be different than what I want to hear! However, those perspectives (from meaningful relationships of value) are healthy and of significance in life.

I continue, as I suspect most of us are, to be a work in progress. How are you doing? Do you have that someone in your life with whom, together, you can be a work in progress?

I think that would be a fun and a meaningful life journey to  working together with that life partner to be an “us”!