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  • mono 9:57 am on March 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Constructive Living, , Happiness, , , ,   

    Contemplating the “Indirect Path” (Execupundit) 


    Michael Wade over at Execupundit recently posted two provocative questions under the title, “Indirect Path.” His two questions are as follows, “Is happiness something that is captured or achieved?” and “Or is it more likely that happiness will climb our steps when we are not in active pursuit?”

    What I would like to do here is to simply open up these questions and in doing so hopefully give readers of this blog and his, some food for thought in the contemplation of these matters.

    First, if happiness is something that is “captured,” from where do we capture it? How does one “find” it? Could it even be possible that happiness exists apart from our attitudes toward what we do and how we experience life? Or, does one, as Herzog might say, “wrestle it from the Devil’s hands?” If happiness is achieved, then what does that tell us about such things as perseverance, effort, accountability and responsibility? Could it be that the pursuit of these leads one to a “happier” life because they align one with one’s purpose? How caught up are happiness and purpose?

    And, to address Wade’s second question, does the direct contemplation of happiness somehow eliminate its manifestation? Any student of David K. Reynolds’ “Constructive Living” should be familiar with the adage that one cannot will oneself to be happy. Or, is it that happiness is a performable feeling that one can actually will into existence by the performance of that feeling? Also, does the direct desire to be “happy” have any meaning whatsoever? Is there a state of happiness apart from one’s own unique life circumstance in which that term “happiness” takes on whatever relevance it may have to that person in that circumstance? How has your understanding of happiness changed over the years? Is it the happiness that changed or your own changes in how you interpret things?

    Additionally, how is happiness discussed through mediums such as television, radio, film, books and the Internet? Which medium would be most useful a platform for learning more about what happiness could be and how it manifests itself in our lives? Which “stories” that you may live by most influence your understanding of happiness? Does it matter which story we use as long as it “works” for us?

    Somehow, for me, in the thinking of these questions, some kind of internal calm overcomes me and I daresay I feel…happiness? I’m not sure. Perhaps this tells us something. But what? Is it that the right questions somehow guide us closer to a more lucid understanding? But without a purpose in mind how do we know what to ask? Why is happiness so sought after?

  • mono 9:47 pm on June 2, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 10 tips, , Constructive Living, , , , , , mindfulness exercises, open practice, , ,   

    10 Tips for Mindful Work 

    Here are 10 general mindfulness exercises for when you are working.

    1. Engage yourself in your work as if your job depends on it.

    2. Become the best at what you do, not the best at gabbing around the office.

    3. If you finish a project early, review your work and look for ways to improve upon it.

    4. A big project is filled with small tasks, which may seem menial and/or tedious, but remember that the large project can only come together through the doing of the small tasks. Do them well.

    5. Learn from your co-workers by asking the right questions.

    6. If you are becoming overwhelmed by your workload, consider coming to work early. A quiet office very early in the morning can be quite refreshing and may be a nurturing atmosphere for productivity.

    7. An afternoon walk outside may provide a solution to that problem you are trying to work out and the stimuli may help, too.

    8. Build your work competencies daily by asking questions and learning as much as you can about your current position.

    9. The better you are at what you do, the more meaningful your work will be.

    10. From CL wisdom, “Do the NOW well.”


    Please help me expand this list. What techniques for mindful working work for you?

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  • mono 9:20 pm on January 28, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , いじめ, Bullying, , Constructive Living, , , Ijime, , , , , stress,   

    Ijime: Bullying (いじめ) (建設的な生き方) 

    Here is a translation that I made this evening from a Japanese Constructive Living website. The topic is a dark one that is a persistent problem in Japan: “bullying.”

    Here is my translation:


    Bullying has occurred in every time period. So, it probably won’t go away from now, either. It is a problem not only for children, but for adults, as well. Solving this problem is not simple, but strengthening the family bond with one’s family is a necessary first step. The Spring/Autumn edition of the Nikkei newspaper talks about the connection between bullying, suicide, and mistreatment. One third of parents who were treated badly when they were children, mistreat their own children. Another one-third, mistreat their children as a way to deal with their jobs or their stress. When we put these figures together, we see that these two-thirds are going to inherit the world we now live in.

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  • mono 9:06 pm on January 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Constructive Living, , Graduation, High school, , , ,   

    Summarization of a Speech Given in Japanese to a Graduating High School Class 

    I recently presented a speech to a graduating high school class here in Japan. Re-molding one’s thoughts into a wholly different tongue with the intention of interpretive clarity for the receiver is no easy task. Aside from content, which may have been a bit “over their heads,” the biggest compliment was the fact that the entire speech had been written in their native tongue and not mine. It is hard to write a speech for a teenage audience who are not expecting such a speech. Nonetheless, I gave it my best college effort and presented them with the following three points (influenced by Constructive Living and the teachings of Lee Thayer):

    1. There are many things in this world that are beyond your control. Focus your energies on that which is controllable: your behavior. Try to see how each choice that you make at every moment (how to act, how to talk, how to present yourself and so on) are within your range of control and are mutable. You have the power to choose the greatest life.

    2. Happiness comes from the daily effort that you expend in lieu of your purpose in life. If you want to experience real “happiness,” develop the skills and follow the path that keeps you heading toward your purpose.

    3. At some point, you may be put in a situation where you have to make a difficult decision. That decision may involve you embarking on your journey against the grain of friends or family. In fact, sometimes other people may try to steer you onto their path, which may not be in your own best self-interest. You have to choose your path, even though it might be a difficult decision. You can start today by asking yourself if you are on the right path. If you are not on that path, put yourself on that path.

    NOTE: If you are interested in reading the Japanese version of the speech, please let me know and I can upload it either within this post or as a new post. Thank you.

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  • mono 8:45 pm on December 11, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Augustine, Constructive Living, , , , , interpersonal communication, , pop culture, ,   

    Constructive Living: Listening 

    The following is a quotation from Constructive Living Reflections on St. Augustine’s Homilies by David K. Reynolds:

    “Let’s talk about talking. Each of us speaks a private language, some of which is shared with others. Aim to hear the nuances of each other’s private speech. Do your best to translate your speech so that it is understandable to others. Have something worthwhile to say. Thoughtless speech steals others’ time and ears, causing them temporary thoughtlessness.”

    I think the worthiness of this quotation lies in its attention to opening your ears to truly listen to what other people say and responding in a meaningful way.

    I was watching a popular news TV talk show yesterday evening and became aware of the fact that the host, while asserting his thoughts to his guest, did a poor job of actually listening to what the guest had to say. After first catching this, I paid attention to how the host listened and responded and was surprised to find that the host continually cut off the guest in order to throw in his strong stance on the matter. Now, regardless of what “side” I agree with, I do think that listening is critical in such discussions and the host (whose show I usually like watching) would have benefited greatly by simply slowing down and listening. He was so intent on delivering his own thoughts, that he appeared to not truly listen to his guest at all. He did this very subtly, though, and not in an outright rude manner. Of course, at the end of the day, it is his show and he has the last word, but by doing so, that is, by not listening, he drowned out the thoughts of his guest and failed to progress the conversation beyond the same old “popular culture” opinion. That is, he kept things safely within the opinions of his viewership.

    True listening is difficult and asks of us to lend our ears to the other.

    To truly lend your ears to another person is a vulnerable and dangerous thing. You two might end up dramatically changing each other in a way that you were not prepared for.

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    • johnnyunicorn 10:10 am on December 12, 2008 Permalink

      Good article.
      I would like to know where you got that picture, and all your others, for that matter.

    • jgrefe 4:39 pm on December 12, 2008 Permalink

      Thank you.
      I got that picture and 95% of the pictures used here through the Creative Commons Search Engine
      I hope this helps. The other 5% were taken by me or used with permission or for educational purposes.

  • mono 2:04 pm on October 21, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Constructive Living, , , Good Life, , , ,   

    Mindful Absorption: Fluidity and Mindfulness 

    Carl Rogers talks about “the fluid nature of the self.” But, how does one achieve such an awareness of the fluid nature of the self? Aside from my recent article, I will expand on a few key elements to this most elusive yet ordinary way of living, hopefully, moving us toward a better understanding of “fluidity” and, “mindfulness” in general.

    I think it is extremely important to, in moments of great concentration (of a task, a conversation, a lecture, cleaning the sink) allow yourself to be fully drawn into the situation at hand. The catch is that if you find yourself thinking about how you’re being drawn into the situation, the absorption in the task has ceased to be so. It’s like reading a book and suddenly realizing that you are reading a book. In doing so, you’ve temporarily lost the “story.” When you realize that you are reading a book, you cease to be engrossed in the story or the argument and start to think about other things (sometimes even as you eyes continue “reading”). When you are fully engaged in the book, you lose track of time and, at that moment, you are in the realm of the author. So, the first trick is to permit oneself to “let go” of analysis of the situation and permit oneself to be 100% “into” the situation.

    But, I want to clarify that “letting go” does NOT mean recklessly doing whatever you want to do regardless of the consequences. No, not at all. In fact, the opposite. It means “letting go” to the situation in such a way that you are “tuning in” to it more clearly and more in accord with what needs doing or what is being presented to you in the situation. Therefore, the teacher becomes a better listener and speaker, the police officer becomes more attentive to crime, the musician becomes better focused on the production of sound and so on. It is a kind of realistic alchemy for daily living.

    Whenever you are having a conversation with someone, you are absorbed in something greater than each individual word that you are saying. Becoming more mindful of what you say and how you say it could help you along your path – “letting go” and “tuning in.” In order to have a conversation, you must enter the flow of the words, while attending to the meaning – you do this automatically, for the most part. Learn to become a better speaker through the control and edification of the words that you use with others. It’s like the old Japanese Butoh-fu poem, “Balance chaos and control, like a calm rider on a stampeding horse.”

    For now, and for the sake of “blogging brevity”, I would advise that you do as many things as possible and in the doing of those things, do them well. More than “well”, do them to the very best of your ability. Become mindful of your limits and, if need be, work purposely to change those limits so that they are in accord with where you want them to be instead of where they are by “default.”

    I work with a seventy-year-old man who has told me on numerous occasions, that he “doesn’t have a future.” A common reaction to that line might be, “Oh, but you DO have a future. You’ll be around a long time. Don’t worry about it.” However, he is always smiling, attentive and jolly. He is smiling because, more important than having a future, he has a present. Each task he does, each conversation he has, has meaning for him NOW. He does what needs to be done and holds to the purpose of the now. Old age has taught him a lesson. Hopefully, when and if I am his age, I, too, will be as engrossed in the moment as he is. Nonetheless, with those of us, who absolutely must plan for upcoming goals or events in our life, the best way to handle them is with the recollection that what you are doing now is leading you somewhere and it is what you are doing now that is of utmost importance to the quality and control of your life. The question is: Is what you are doing now leading you where you most want to go? If not, you may want to re-evaulate the doing part of your life and change what or how you do things. Change what you are doing now and start leading yourself to the imagined destination that you dream of. Getting there will probably be more fun than arriving, anyway.

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    • zensquared 11:25 am on October 22, 2008 Permalink

      It’s really difficult to do as you are suggesting — but you’re right, it’s very important to make a great effort to live this way, with our full attention on what is in front of us. Your anecdote about the 70-year-old man is wonderful! If he frets about the future, he will be wasting the precious time he has right now. Right now! How often do we just throw that away?

    • jg 3:40 pm on October 22, 2008 Permalink

      Thank you, Zensquared, for the support.

      Another interesting thing to note about my co-worker, is that he is always very well-prepared, in good spirits and consistently productive – a master in the art of having a present.

      You may have already read it, but Alan Watts’s essay, “What on Earth are we doing?” from his book “Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal” talks about savoring the present. Well worth reading.

    • zensquared 9:10 pm on October 23, 2008 Permalink

      Thanks, jg. I will look for that Alan Watts essay. I haven’t read anything by him yet, but my dharma teacher recommends him.

  • mono 6:40 pm on October 20, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alfred Korzybski, Attention, Butoh, , Constructive Living, , , , Peace, , , ,   

    20 Mindfulness Exercises for Improving Your Mental Hygiene 

    1. Become aware of your sitting, your clothes, the temperature and all that is “outside” of you now.

    2. Imagine you are not separate from the ground, but a living happening of the world. (from Butoh)

    3. Take a walk and open your ears to all of the sounds around you, experiencing them as they are.

    4. Listen to the drifting habitual patterns of your own inner voice; let it float by you and around you.

    5. Practice the art of stretching, using a book or guide that fits your needs and stretch daily.

    6. Thank the objects that you use for their continued help. (from Constructive Living)

    7. Practice saying a set amount of “thank you’s” on a daily basis to those around you. (from Constructive Living).

    8. Become the face of the others around you that you see and interact with.

    9. Clean your surroundings with complete attention to the task-at-hand.

    10. Learn an “art” or “craft” like playing music, painting, building, dancing, gardening and so on.

    11. Notice the colors that are surrounding you.

    12. Meditate on Korzybski’s quotation: “Whatever I say a thing is, it is not.”

    13. Allow yourself to completely savor the taste of what you eat and drink.

    14. Exercise and become aware of how your body changes. How did it change?

    15. Take into account the habitual movements and speech patterns that you use.

    16. For one day, listen to others more than you speak to others.

    17. For one day, control your use of the word “is.” (from Aleister Crowley)

    18. Do a familiar task with your eyes closed, noticing the sensory change (from Constructive Living)

    19. Focus on the ways in which “you” are embedded in your surroundings.

    20. Fully engage yourself with tasks, people and objects that are meaningful to you.

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    • Johnny Unicorn 12:51 am on October 21, 2008 Permalink

      One of my favorites is number 13. I would expand on it: Smell and try to recognize every ingredient in the food you eat before each bite.

    • jgrefe 6:57 am on October 21, 2008 Permalink

      Johnny, I didn’t focus on “smell” at all. Thank you for your input. I’ll have to try your suggestion. If you have any more, please let me know. I think one could almost make a separate “mindfulness” list strictly focusing on music (playing/listening). I’ll work on this list.

    • Pella Verbati 5:00 am on March 23, 2009 Permalink

      very useful

    • nictos 10:18 am on March 24, 2009 Permalink

      Thank you. These are excellent tools for living.

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