What is this blog about?

There is no such thing as an expert on the topic of Life. We all have had our battles, our suffering, and our questions. Despite the uniqueness of our personal obstacles, we have endured them. We have endured them well enough to advise those behind us as to how to do the same. I have done the research on your behalf regarding the multitude of reasons why wisdom exists. My mission is to utilize the voices of the world's greatest thinkers and heroes to compose a guideline of life's wisdom so that you don't have to experience those trials alone.

If you have any questions, please tweet them to me @JoeSielski or email me at JJSielskiJr@comcast.net

(Please title your email with the word "Wisdom" so I know it will be for this blog.)

I will do my best to try and answer every question as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thanks.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Day for Courage



I was originally going to call this essay "A Day without Fear," however when referencing courage, too many voices have been quoted acknowledging that fear is not entirely absent... and for good measure.

For example:   "The courageous are not absent of fear, they are intimate with it."  [Buddha]

So, what is fear?

(I made a  poster to illustrate the definition)



Once again:  Fear is the expectation that our vulnerability or insecurity will become exposed without our permission.  Courage, from the French 'coeur' for heart, is the willingness to reveal those insecurities by ourselves.   Courage begins with a choice.

"One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest." [Maya Angelou]

Most of what composes fear is imaginary.  We imagine things, we imagine results, we imagine consequences and then we fear them.  We imagine future outcomes for present circumstances; and if that expectation threatens a core example of our vulnerability, it becomes tremendously stressful.  We fear that discomfort.  We will do anything and everything in our power to avoid having to feel it.  Physical pain, feelings of grief/loss, embarrassment, even financial stress can all qualify as examples of these states of duress that we might attempt to avoid.  However, much of what life is, is our ability to tolerate the discomfort.  Fear happens, but you can cope with it; you can nurse yourself through it.  All will be well in the end.  Our fears are born in the ego because expectations themselves originate in the ego.   I've mentioned the danger of expectations before in former essays on both Anger and Forgiveness.  Expectations are detrimental because they rob you of the present moment.

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future. 
If you are at peace you are living in the present."
 [Lao Tzu]

"If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry.   If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying.  There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever."    [Dalai Lama]

Courage requires that we delve into our hearts and understand the origins of our fear.  It trains us to begin to comprehend our innermost insecurities and thoughts.  When it comes to matters of the mind: thoughts, emotions, motivations, fear, etc, you know who you are inside.  Only you can know.   You are the authority on your own mind.   You are the only observer of your inner monologue.  Therefore, not only do you know what the fear is, you also know what insecurity it threatens.  Unfortunately most people are too reluctant to push beyond the agitation of self-reflection, and most people are too engulfed in denial to even consider that.  Since the nature of courage defaults us to be introspective, courage requires honesty.  In many courageous tasks of a physical sense, the honesty is the understanding that only we can motivate ourselves.  Also, only we can perform these tasks for our own sake.  Regarding social fears, we're afraid to be honest because we're afraid of the feelings of disapproval.  Often, we convince ourselves to fear the truth, when we're not even afraid of the truth at all.  In actuality, what we fear are the consequences of our honesty; and sadly, we develop a reluctance to be honest.


Either way, courage still begins with a choice.   Having inner skeletons is normal, but if you choose to not challenge them, they stay there.  In my own life, I have held onto fears because they kept me feeling safe. However, it only provided an illusion of safety.  Fear is a very personal facet of the psyche.  For me, I had developed an attachment to the fear itself.  Because I chose to not allow myself to push through the discomfort, I remained comfortable.  I remained complacent.  I had myself convinced that things were simply easier this way.  This state of comfort is easy, but it prevents the spirit of risk and the potential for both growth and confidence.  There are many people who would rather stay within their comfort zones simply because it's easier.  That alone is a frightening concept.  

Is there such a thing as our greatest fear in life?

According to Marianne Williamson, it's the following: 
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Her opinion agrees with the notion that our greatest fear is a consequence of our honesty.   Generally, that fear revolves around any negative feedback we might experience during our pursuit of dreams.  There are natural consequences we would face once we decide to pursue our fully-realized Self.  Some will be good, and some might be bad; both of which are irrelevant.  It is your responsibility to be honest with yourself anyway and tolerate any discomfort therein.  Much of the fear that Marianne described is manifested as a form of reluctance to bloom.  This unfortunately forces many people to pursue the act of masking/dimming one's light instead.
 
In literature, in poems, and in music, this "light" has also been described as one's spark, flame, fire, nerve, drive, motivation, passions, sense of self, and of course:  courage.  I hope that by now you were able to conclude that this Light is a metaphor for courage.  We protect it because we fear it shining too bright.  Once again, this is a fear of negative feedback.  This fear of the light can prompt us to want to conceal it.  Most people do.  Most people consciously prevent themselves from shining.  That thought is simply not worth the energy.  Even when hidden, even if it's denied; the truth still exists.  Eventually, it will make itself known.  If that light is something we don't want to face, hiding it will not eradicate it.  That light is the courage to seek one's happiness.  That journey can be terrifying... oh, well!  Do it anyway! 




Let's face it, our greatest fear is suffering. The fear of pain, the fear of embarrassment, or any of the phobias all cause us to suffer from anxiety and grief.  When we don't take risks to challenge fear, we develop a state of self-complacency.  Because the ego loves attachment, we also develop an attachment this state of complacency.  It's easy, it's comfortable, and it's not worth deviating from it...the ego whispers.  Most of what we fear is the threat of the separation from this comfort zone.  We fear the potential grief of becoming divided from the comfort zone that protects our innermost security. 
 

"A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears." [Michel de Montaigne]

At its core, fear is simply a feeling.   We fear the loss of happiness and love.  These are feelings that we have associated with people/objects .   We fear becoming embarrassed or confused, we even fear physical pain.   These are feelings.  These are all feelings.  The ego attaches feelings to various entities.  The only thing the ego can do is to attach feelings to anything we can experience.  This grants the ego an ability to convolute our perspective of the world. Therefore, the presence of fear keeps the ego leeched onto us. 

Choose to take a risk today.  Choose to break out of the comfort zone.  Choose to admit your vulnerability.  Choose to address it, to embrace it, and to own it as yours.  Choose to be the authority of your insecurity.  Choose to be honest, because the truth shall set you free.

You have a voice!  You have a presence!   You are here, so be here and be here now!

Choose to let your light shine today.  



"Hide it under a bushel? No!  I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!"



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"What is my purpose in life?"

Have you ever caught yourself wondering:
What is my purpose in life?

Do you want to know what your purpose is in life?
Love.

Love more.
Be kind.
Be a good person.
Appreciate people.
Respect nature.

You don't have to relocate to another country if you don't want to. It's ok. Start at home. Bloom where you're planted. You will never know how deep the roots of your influence will reach, so share love at all times.


Friday, November 21, 2014

A Day for Responsibility

Responsibility can take on many forms. There are many things that we can do and many ways that we can think. After Forgiveness teaches us how to accept that the world can change outside of our control, the spirit of Responsibility teaches us that there are spaces in the world where we do have an influence. So what then is Responsibility? Etymologically, responsibility is one's ability to respond. Socially, it's a response to that which needs to be accomplished. Following this definition, however, I'd like to introduce a new concept; one that I have titled “The Theory of Responsibility.”

The Theory of Responsibility: If you notice that something needs to be done and you also acknowledge that no one else has committed to it, then through your awareness to that need, it is now your responsibility.

What does this mean? This means we must be both attentive and committed to action. This means that we don the courage for initiative. This can be something simplistic such as some litter on the street that you notice then properly discard or it can be something much more profound such as Mother Teresa's vocation to feed the children of Calcutta. The comprehension of Responsibility is the awareness to a personal call to action. There are times when you will personally need to accept actions as your own. When no one else is doing something that you feel ought to be done, do it yourself! To notice it and then ignore it can be considered laziness. This is why Sloth has been categorized as a deadly sin. It is your responsibility to create action where there is none. 

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Good Voice



This essay is a little different and unique from previous ones. It's something I wanted to feature despite my fear of its potential controversy. This essay branches away from the philosophy and introduces a slightly more spiritual tone.  I'm aware that this essay might turn some people off, and yet I wrote it knowing that it might intrigue others.  Regardless of your stance, this essay comes from experience and from the heart.  This essay is about the awareness and comprehension of what I call "the Good Voice."



What is the Good Voice?

Despite it's very difficult and ambiguous nature, many religions and philosophers have praised its existence.  It's that very quiet intuition in the back of your mind.  It's the conscience.  It's a direct connection with one's higher self, which some might call God/Allah... herein lies the controversy.  In my personal experience, I originally would refer to it as The Universe.  Such as:  "Oh, the Universe suggested that I should call you."  If you have an alternate name for it, that's ok

To be honest, this has been one of the hardest essays to write because, in the eyes of some faiths, this is a description on how to hear the voice of God.  If you're religious, I'm sure a few of you are thinking:  "How dare you say you can communicate with God!"   To which my response is: "We all can."  Forgive me in advance if such a claim seems arrogant, but I'm not alone in this.  It's always there.  It's always present, like air... ready for us to breathe it.  It's always calling; ready for us to pick up the phone. You can doubt it, you can deny it... and most of us do, but it's still there; whispering the good word, every day.  If you ask it a question, sometimes it responds and sometimes it doesn't say anything.   But when it speaks, it speaks truth and it speaks goodness.  Then it becomes our responsibility to react.

So what is it?

In truth, I don't know.  It's too latent to officially categorize it.  I can honestly only theorize, but I know it has many names. The Good Voice is a force. It will locate its messages toward the back of the mind.   Some might call it the conscience.  Some call it the gut reaction.  Some call it the voice of reason.  Some might even call it intuition.  All of these are accurate.   Some might call it God.  Some might call it Allah.  Some might call it the Tao.  Some might call it spiritual guides.  Some might call it the Universe.  All of these are also accurate. 

How can all of those different things be accurate?

No one can accurately identify it due to its latency.  Therefore, everyone can accurately identify it based on their own personal qualia.  Think about what names you're known by.  At work, you might use your official legal name.  At home, you might have a nickname or you're known as mom/dad, etc.  Among friends, you could have a separate nickname.  And yet, despite these numerous names, you are still the same individual.  That having been said, why can't our experience with our intuition also be a facet of God/Allah? It has been quoted that after we committed our Original Sin, aka favoring the voice of our ego over His, (The Original Sin essay) God bestowed everyone with a conscience, so why not listen to it?

Ok... then what am I listening for, really?

Firstly, what you're listening for might not actually be a sound at all.  It's more about an attentiveness or an awareness to the possibility or newness of it.  Indeed, it's a characteristic of the intuition.  Therefore, pay attention!  Most times, it speaks via thoughts rather than words.   Often, it might feel as though the Universe simply injects thoughts/emotions via our intuition.  Other times, it will raise our attentiveness to its various signs/symbols.  Occasionally, it can feel like a hunch or a feeling that something is occurring or pending to occur.  It can feel like a new thought, a sudden inspiration to call someone or begin a new activity.   It can manifest as something external to which we are to be aware: music, repeated words, numbers, or any other symbolic motif.  Pay attention!  It's not always obvious, but with practice, you can identify it more easily.  Prepare your mind and be receptive to the potential.  In my personal experience, it will often communicate to me through music.  Sometimes, I can hear a song playing in my head, usually songs I haven't heard in a while, and am later treated to it on the radio or wherever.  This is simply a personal affirmation for me, that It is present in that moment.  In more complex settings, it has made itself known by simply injecting the thought of a friend moments before that friend tries to contact me.  To help us out, our cognitive mind will organize those inspired thoughts and symbols into words or clearer messages.  It can happen in a flash.  Suddenly you might get a feeling: that gut feeling.  Then as your intellect begins to stream words together to explain it, you realize that this message was more like a full-feature film.  But here's where it gets tricky: sometimes the mind isn't so helpful. 

The mind is always at work.  Sometimes, the mind will work in our favor and sometimes not.  This might take some humility to be aware of it.  That humility will require less ego.   Chances are, you've heard it already... in fact, I can guarantee you have, yet chose to ignore it.  That's the danger of the ego!  The ego will feed us false information.   It will often misguide us into believing its messages; ones that coincide with our fears, anger, or pride.  Since the ego is responsible for those vices, it is only natural that it will use these against us when we try to be humble.  This, of course, keeps the ego intact when we focus on its temptation.  It can tempt us to doubt or silence our intuition.  It can also tempt us to invent ulterior messages.  One really important thing to remember is that this is an essay about the Good Voice; therefore, its messages are all aligned in goodness.  If ever there is a message that feels dastardly or too easy, that might be your ego speaking instead.  Please stay aware to the ego's illusion.   

Because the mind is continuously thinking many layers of thought, it naturally must dismiss many distracting thoughts.  Because we can dismiss our own thoughts to whatever capacity, we must also stay aware of the ones that might seem too foreign to be real.  Often, that's the Good Voice!   Regardless, the mind can still doubt those.  For that Doubt, here is an essay:  A Day without Doubt.   The mind can become distracted due to anxiety or anger.   For that Anger, there is an essay as well:  A Day without Anger.  Since the messages can be brief and faint, they can be difficult to detect at times.   This will require a certain understanding of yourself.  This integrity will assist in defining what belongs to the mind and what information is new, or possibly divine.  Knowing who you are, knowing your character and your insecurities is vital in understanding the Good Voice.  Fortunately, there is an essay on this as well:   A Day for Individuality.   (I hope it's becoming evident how beautifully connected all these facets of wisdom truly are.)

Ok, great, but how can I hear it today?

One word:  meditate.  Meditation silences all of the mind.   It occupies the mind with stillness, liberating it from many distracting thoughts.  In many faiths, prayer is this very act.  This grants the Good Voice its own "Open Mic Night."   Sit quietly, or find your favorite music.   Then let the mind wander.   Allow yourself to daydream within this meditation.   Often, fitness or routine activities such as driving can illicit a similar effect.  Often, focusing too intently on a circumstance or a desire shields us from being good listeners.  Mother Teresa was once asked what she said during her prayers. She answered, "I listen." The interviewer then asked, "Well then, what does God say?" To that Mother Teresa smiled with confidence and answered, "He listens."  In the midst of writing essays such as this one, my meditation often involves rumination on certain principles.  Consider love, kindness, gratitude or other virtues, and try to define them for yourself, citing personal examples.  Notice how your attentiveness shifts.  When thoughts are of a good nature, it helps to welcome that good voice into your consciousness. 

Whatever you choose to call it: God, Allah, the Tao, the Universe, it is a part of your consciousness.  It's that living spirit within us.   It's a part of our identity because we are a part of its.  It is present in your train of thoughts, like a stream of consciousness, or a river of consciousness.  Once you decide to dip your ear into its water, that's when you get to hear it.  But in order to approach that river, you have to be honest, you have to be humble, and you have to have faith in it.  We are all connected to this stream of consciousness.  And through it, we are all connected to one another.  So much of what this is, is an awareness.  Therefore, the Good Voice is indeed always present because we are.

"Always let your conscience be your guide."  [Jiminy Cricket; from Pinocchio]


Whatever you choose to call it, it never disappears or leaves. We can be unaware or ignorant; or worse, we are aware, but grow apathetic.  As Rumi said:  "Do not seek for love.  Seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."  With Rumi's thought in mind, I would like to confidently highlight that indeed, this universal awareness is rooted in Love.  Do not seek for the Good Voice... seek for all the inner obstacles you have used to silence it.  In the end, the challenge is no longer how to find the Good Voice, but rather finding confirmation that 'that' was it.  But hey.... that's faith! 

Thank you for your time,
Joe Sielski

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Day without Perfection

Perfection is weird.  Perfection is imaginary.  Perfection is an opinion.  To some, perfection is the motivation.  To some, perfection is the goal.  But what is it, and is it good?

After frustrating myself, trying to draw a "perfect" Venn Diagram for a previous post,
( A Day to be You )
I decided to draw and photograph another circle:

you can see it's not entirely complete... or it might be misshapen, or not centered on the Post-It Note.... etc.



So I decided to draw another one,
then another one,
and another one.

Ok, great, what's the point?

They might all be circles, but are they all perfect?  Well, you tell me.
(I intentionally drew them all with a particular quirk, fyi.)

How do we determine what "perfect" is?  If we assume that the first one is not quite sufficient, then we consider the next one, and next one, and so on down the line.  We can consider as many as we can; we can consider as many as we might need.   If I were to layer them all on top of one another, the result might begin to resemble an ideal form.  Therefore, when we take that ideal form then compare it back to the individual circles themselves, their "imperfections" become glaringly obvious.

Once we consider how they are all similar and different, we can amass those similarities, discard those differences then extrapolate a perception of what should be deemed as ideal.   To construct that ideal form, we must discard those unique characteristics relevant to each individual one, then lovingly judge each one against our imaginary ideal circle.   (See what I did there?)

Which really means that the notion of perfection is an extrapolated ideal based upon a collection of discarded outlying characteristics.... that some might deem as "imperfections."

How does this affect how we perceive our world?   Are you the ideal or are you an outlying character?  We are constantly on the quest to find this mathematical construct called perfection.  Yet we forcefully ignore that even the most perfect rose is susceptible to disease and the rigors of time.






In many families, in many societies the idolatry of perfection is quite common.  There is a perception to some that we as humans must be perfect at all times and that errors are inexcusable.  In the opinions of many, we must all behave in a certain manner or adhere to a specific standard of attractiveness.   This causes us to judge ourselves; and that can result in feelings of guilt or shame. Females might not feel beautiful enough, men might not feel muscular enough, students might not feel smart enough.  We do this to ourselves and to each other.  This can provide a breeding ground for more judgment.  However, then comes that time to give that gift to yourself and accept that which cannot be changed.  In doing so, you learn to love yourself.  Now, this isn't a love that's a selfish and ego-driven flaunt, this is an appreciation and a humble confidence in all that you are.  If you have flaws, then you have flaws.  If you have made mistakes, then you have made them.  Forgiveness is the acceptance of the present reality.  All forgiveness is self-forgiveness.  This is what makes forgiveness amazing, just like you!


In conclusion, learn to embrace the broken circle, it's far closer to the actual realistic ideal than a mathematical reconfiguration of one.  You can find great joy and beauty in the characteristics that don't always align with the perceived ideal.   This is the ability to embrace the possibility that maybe, just maybe we aren't meant to be "the Ideal" as individuals... which is why we must learn to face our own humility and rely on one another. 


"May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in."  [Mother Teresa]


Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Day to be You



On one end... is who you are.   On the other end... is how you're perceived.  In the center is how you behave.  In the middle (which is certainly not balanced) you will find your overall mannerisms: hairstyles, clothing choices, politeness, desires.   Do you prefer to lean more toward your Honest Self or do you favor your Reputation?   In all facets of your life?   Are you lying to yourself?  Think about it. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Day without Argument

Be aware of your words. Be aware of your intent. Be aware of your tone. Whether the communication failed from an omission of information or an outright lie, you can avoid arguments by remaining honest with yourself and your peers. Honesty is always the best policy.
Most arguments are a result of a lack of communication somewhere.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Day without Grief

Grieving sucks.   When we lose things and people, it hurts.  It's one of the most emotionally painful experiences we can endure.   Grieving is the act of accepting all those future situations that will no longer be:  holidays with a loved one or the freedom to pick up the phone and call them at will.  While grieving, we must make peace with this new reality we've been given.   If that means we must sit with our conflicts, that's ok.  Never stop loving. 

This is not advice about how to forget your past.   People have value, celebrate them.  But release yourself from all those emotions of regret, doubt or guilt that could be attached to your grieving.  Replace them with feelings of gratitude and hope.  In what ways can you look back and be grateful for what you had lost?  In what ways can you use this loss as a platform upon which you can construct a more hopeful future?  This will allow you freedom from your own anxieties.  Also, this will become the harbinger of peace that welcomes joy back into your life.   The goal throughout this process is to figure out a way in which to re-discover happiness.  It begins with a choice.

“Don't grieve.  Anything you lose comes around in another form.”  [Rumi]

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Secret to Happiness... in 10 "easy" steps

Ok, this is it.  This is the essay you've probably signed onto this blog to find.  Happiness is that one thing we all want and yet can never seem to acquire. What is happiness?   Simply, it's the state of being happy.  There.  Easy, right?

I know, I know.   You're asking:   "How do I get there?"




This is A Life with Wisdom's Secret to Happiness...
in 10 "easy" steps.  

Firstly, let's identify what happiness actually is.  To understanding happiness is basically to define it.   Happiness is the state of being happy.  Happiness is a state of mind.   Happiness is reactionary.  Happiness is a form of knowledge. Understand that it's an emotion and that emotions are a choice.  Happiness is a choice.

Step 1: Choose Happiness

Since happiness is a choice, choose to be happy.   I know what you're thinking and yes, that sounds silly.  But that's also what makes it easy.   Being happy is as easy as deciding to be happy.   This is due to the reality that happiness is a perspective.

Imagine a coloring book. Allow for the outline of the image itself to represent the world around us. Then, allow the paint or crayons to be symbolic of our emotions and perceptions of the environment. The world wants us to believe that when we open that book, the colors have already been completed for us. Therefore, we're told that we have no control and we are instructed into how to perceive things. In truth, the drawing itself has always been in black and white, which grants us the privilege to decide how we want to interpret the world.  You are free. You have always been free. You are the painter. You have the ability to choose your own colors. You can utilize this knowledge to break free of the world's attempt to feed your own emotions to you.  That begins with a choice. 

Step 2:   Color your World

Many people expect happiness to exist only in grand moments like weddings, work promotions or childbirth. Yes, these are huge life events with a great and happy value, but happiness is not these events. "Happy" is an adjective. The word itself means nothing short of symbolically defining a feeling. Despite the callousness of this description, these events are inherently neutral. They have no color whatsoever.  

Naturally, we assign an emotion to these circumstances. We attach our reactions to these events. We decide how we want to interpret them. We have the ability to perceive these as happy events. We use our thoughts to assign that "happy" emotion to these events. We attach that adjective to that noun. If we have the ability to do that with some events, we can do it with multiple. When we utilize our thoughts and perceptions of things in such a way that we can re-interpret them so to genuinely perceive them as "happy," we are creating the state of mind that embodies happiness. If we can attribute that "happy" adjective to any given noun, we are intrinsically creating a happy environment for ourselves. We are creating a happier Self.  Despite how doubt tries to intervene and explain things away, give yourself permission to challenge this doubt so to experiment with the possibility. This is the moment, when I hand you a paintbrush, strip the coloring book of its color and assign you the responsibility to have fun decorating it.


Step 3:  Be Thankful

Anywhere and everywhere you look for advice on happiness, you will always encounter words that encourage gratitude.  This step is imperative.

"If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes and search for them with my clumsy fingers and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet and sweep through it and now would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction. The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so I will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings." [Henry Ward Beecher] 



Step 4:  Appreciate More

Gratitude is an act of affirmation. Gratitude is an act of discovery. Gratitude is a scavenger hunt for worth, for value and for goodness. Gratitude is an appreciation so profound that it becomes humbling.  Look around you. What do you see? (Go ahead, I'll wait.) Reflect on your day. What was your favorite moment? Your least favorite moment?  I'm asking you to be so mindful of your moments and all things within it that you can train yourself to find the value in them. To appreciate is to affix worth onto all things encountered, current or past. This is the act of assessing your life, your day, then appraising everything with a new sense of wonder. Therefore, even in the greatest trials of life, you can find their worth.

The reason for this advice is to help you to remain continually aware of why concepts are appreciated. With gratitude being a discovery of goodness, this attentiveness to the blessings, even ones that you had once considered to be mere minutiae, helps the mind to appreciate nuance and detail. Again, look around. Those gifts are everywhere so assume the responsibility required to discover them! Be the magnet that finds those tiny particles of iron. Even when pondering grateful moments amidst a walk in the park, stay cognizant of specific sources of gratitude. The benefit of explaining these elements of gratitude is key in explaining those definitive details within the Self that guide our very thinking. No matter what transpired, whether good or bad, death or celebration; we must always look back and find the ways in which we are to be grateful.

Step 5:  Want Less 

This is the step that's gonna really hurt where it counts.  This is where most of us seem to slip up and when happiness becomes difficult.  

"Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness." [Chuang Tze] 

Many voices have been quoted referencing that happiness is the state of no longer wanting. This is the act of accepting that all in existence, in this present moment, is just as it should be.  Many of us have been taught that money is representative of happiness. We learn that we can utilize it to obtain "stuff." Subsequently, we have attached the happy feelings or the expectation to receive happy feelings if we intend to spend it later. Happiness does not always rely on the attachment to objects. In fact, in most instances, it's quite the opposite. However, we value happiness so much that we are willing to pay for it. "Man does not possess wealth. Wealth possesses man." [Benjamin Franklin]

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."  [Psalm 23, the Holy Bible]

Step 6:  Expect Nothing

This also, is another difficult step.  Oh, the things I could say about the danger of expectations!   Actually, I already have mentioned it, at least once:   A Day without Anger  

Expectations are terribly detrimental for one's happiness.  Due to our expectations, we open ourselves up to allowing these expectations to fail.  When an expectation fails, we can become angry, disappointed, and depressed.

 The act of wanting is rooted in expectation, which itself, takes root in the ego. By establishing expectations of how we believe life will transpire, we are also establishing a proposed desire for how we'd like for it to appear. Therefore, the ego is once again at fault for feeding us an illusion of happiness.  The act of wanting causes us to be conscious of things or experiences that are not with us in the present moment. This will prompt us to neglect that for which we could be grateful. By addressing moments before or after this present moment, we lose sight of that state of contentment and we rely on our expectation to create a false sense of hope.  To make an example out of the ego, its act of wanting might prompt us to resent and grieve, convincing us that the state of acquisition is synonymous with happiness. Gratitude has a means of transcending time which allows for these past events or achievements to brings happiness to us in "the now."  Many people want happiness, but cannot define it; therefore they don't know when it is present.

Step 7:  Forgive

Oh, how I love forgiveness so very much!   
Just like the essay on Anger, there is already an essay here at A Life with Wisdom for Forgiveness:   A Day for Forgiveness

In brief, forgiving releases the expectations.  While discussing Forgiveness, I mentioned how it is a tool utilized to encounter various changes in life. This is due to the reality that we set expectations for how we anticipate life to happen. Again, this is when we think we can predict future outcomes. When things don't coincide to how we had envisioned them, we can become disappointed or frustrated. None of these qualities lead us toward happiness.  When we become angered, we have allowed our ego to trap us into falling away from happiness.  When we judge others, that bitterness halts our centered happiness and only feeds our selfish ego.  Forgiveness enters to sacrifice the ego and free us from its bind.   

Step 8:  Foster Happiness

One of the benefits in knowing who you are is that you inherently know what you favor. This knowledge provides the talent to preserve our own happy moments.  I call this "fostering happiness." 
This begins with the awareness of your own unique and personal sources for happiness. Consider your favorite music. Is there a certain park or restaurant you prefer? Do you know a particular friend who inspires you? "Let us be grateful of people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." [Marcel Proust] The act of fostering your happiness begins with the awareness to that which makes you happy. The reason for this awareness is so that you can remain mindful of your happiness amidst the absence of happiness. Happiness exists in a spectrum, or in a continuum; there are many segments to happiness. Therefore, if one segment becomes tarnished, you can utilize other realms in your knowledge of happiness to nurse you through that sorrow. This will allow you to maintain a healthy homeostasis of your happiness.

"When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad; I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad." [lyrics from 'The Sound of Music']

Step 9:  Enjoy

Ok, so you've chosen to be happy because you understand happiness and what makes you happy.  Now what?   Enjoy it!  Enjoy life!   Be thankful for that knowledge and celebrate it.  Something that makes celebration unique from happiness itself is that there is enthusiasm. Often this is called "joie du vivre," or joy of life. In this celebration of life, there is wonder and there is awe. This act of celebrating is a means of pausing to make time to identify your appreciation. If there is a party, we appreciate our time together. If there is a funeral, we appreciate the value of the individual who passed. If a goal has been met, whether by us or a friend, we appreciate that victory. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of this potential for continuous happiness. It is a great error that we perceive happiness as a thunderous flash of excitement. Our search for that flash blinds us from seeing happiness present in every moment. Happiness has a natural ebb and flow like the nature of breathing. Just as we must take time to grieve, we must also take time to celebrate. However, we still have the ability to make a decision to breathe in the same manner that we can take the time to recognize our happiness and admit our appreciation. That ebb and flow occurs between the experience of one celebratory moment and the quest for the next. This is how it feels to be "in joy" or rather to enjoy that moment. In every moment, there is always a reason for celebration.  

Every day is a celebration. Happy today! 

Step 10:  Love

Finally... Step 10! It would be pointless to describe various sources for happiness and then ignore Love.  And yet, one of the greatest paradoxes of love and happiness is that we are often willing to sacrifice our own happiness if it can produce happiness in another person.   

"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." [Robert Heinlein]

"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness is never decreased by being shared." [Buddha]

 What is there really to say about love apart from the very real truth that love feels good and makes us feel happy.   Like gratitude, love is also born from an appreciation.   Love is a profound appreciation of the relationship between the self and another entity.  Most times, loving is more than knowing, we must feel that appreciation. Like an infant seeing its face in a mirror for the very first time, we are granted self-awareness. This is the initial moment when we are introduced to Love.

Once we've been attuned to love, loving becomes easier.   As described earlier, sharing happiness generates more; also that the happiness of others is valuable for our own peace of mind.  We call this kindness.     Kindness has also been featured in its own essay, very early in the existence of this blog.  See here:  A Day of Kindness   One can foster happiness by doing random acts of kindness and creating happy days every day.   Every day is a great day when you're in the proper mind.


So there, 10 easy steps to discover happiness.   Reflect on them. Pay attention for your expectations so that you can quash them when you see them manifest.  Then do it all over again.


Thank you for your time,
Joe Sielski
(Aug. 1, 2014)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Day to Remember that:



You are surrounded by love.
It is everywhere, 100% around you at all times.   

More often than not, we get distracted and neglect that it's present.   This makes it our responsibility to remember that we are indeed surrounded by Love.   



“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”  [Rumi]

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Day for Confidence

Why is it that when others judge us, we feel bad for ourselves?
We become embarrassed. It digs into our insecurities. We feel powerless and afraid, terrified to be alone. Subsequently, we begin to avoid certain activities that might later result in further embarrassment. So what is it that we're afraid of? Take a moment to reflect on that question. Someone jokes about you; then what? What happens? You feel embarrassed; then what happens? Are we afraid of other people? Not as much as one might think. Truly, what hinders us is the embarrassment itself. We are afraid of a feeling. Now having said this, what makes this such a brilliant epitome is that in the end of the “then what?” series of questions, one realizes the answer becomes “nothing.” After judgment and feelings of embarrassment, normalcy is once again established. You have the choice as to whether you will feel embarrassed, therefore you have the choice to thwart your personal embarrassment from affecting you. 

Here's the trick: other people don't embarrass us, we embarrass ourselves. Remember how to celebrate your uniqueness, don't ever forget it. Half the reason why the attentiveness to an idea is considered wise is because there are moments like this one. If ever you lose sight of your extraordinary ways, you allow the toxic criticisms of peers to sneak in and affect you.


"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent"
 [Eleanor Roosevelt]






Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Day to Do Something

Whenever you have passion for something you will set aside time so to focus on it. Wisdom is about the tenacity to remain continually aware. Well, if you're continually aware of how to make time for things you value, you have lived.

"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." [Winston Churchill]

When you open a history book, a biography, or attend a funeral, you witness how we celebrate life. It is a full documentary of the ways in which others have made time. Whether it is through hard work, sharing kindness, painting, composing music, even those who have done evil deeds; we live by setting apart time so to make manifest our passions. In life, if something matters to you, you will make it a priority. If something is a priority, you will do it. It's that simple.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Day without Anger

Anger is an emotional state of rage due to a lack of contentment. Anger is born from the unexpected. Things will happen that we don't like and when we are surprised in a negative way, anger often ensues. By nature of establishing expectations, by creating a perceived framework of how we intended things to transpire, we are also increasing our likelihood to encounter anger. What this means is that various situations will happen, situations over which we have no control. In response to those unexpected moments, it is prone to our nature to occasionally flare up in anger.



I decided to categorize Anger as something to belong in the chapter on Forgiveness in my book.   Why is anger featured in a chapter about forgiveness? The answer lies in the very definition of forgiveness itself; it's virtually formulaic. I'll take one part the definition of Forgiveness, one part the definition of Anger, and the solution will become quite evident. How is that solution found? Consider the following: Anger is an adverse reaction to a failed expectation. Also, Forgiveness is the act of accepting that which we cannot change. Therefore, to forgive oneself of anger means to first acknowledge the circumstance in the past as unable to be altered . Finally, by accepting the source of anger as immutable, we can let go of the feelings of Anger themselves. It is always helpful to address the offending circumstance in such a way that we also release any hope about it changing. This realization will provide a beautiful home for peace, love, and acceptance to reside. There is an exception however, one that is quite valuable and useful: social injustices. When we feel culturally wronged, we can utilize anger as impetus to benefit society on behalf of equality and create change. The awareness to one's own anger is key in helping to address it at face value as immediately as it is encountered. 

To continue with the mentality of feeling wronged, a common source of our anger is other people. We are all individuals, making our own decisions. Sometimes we disagree. This can lead to an argument. Often times, an argument is the result of a lack of communication somewhere. Whether that somewhere was poor phrasing, the omission of truth or a full-blown lie, arguments will happen. It is a common belief that there is only one way to express one's anger in such a circumstance: aggression. Take a moment to reflect on what we know as “road rage” and how that is relevant to both anger and aggression. By showing aggression, it is often assumed that dominance is gained and the argument is finalized. By showing aggression, it is also assumed that Hammurabi's Code of “an eye for an eye” has been established and that justice has been earned. It is often assumed that revenge is an appropriate answer due to the presumptuous belief that aggression is an appropriate teacher. There are many quotes from advice-givers that exist to divulge these assumptions about anger. One of my favorites comes from the voice of the Buddha: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone; you are the only one who gets burned.” This quote so beautifully describes the truth behind the manifestation of anger because it addresses the assumption of aggression and continues by depicting that anger only harms the thinker. 

 

Anger is toxic. Anger is addictive. Anger can also be contagious. Anger is not eliminated by more anger, it is eliminated by Love. Please try and remain mindful of this notion as you move forward in life. When feelings of anger arise, treat them like feelings of grief. Identify them as merely a feeling. Examine them. Examine their source. Try to understand that the anger was brought to you and that it is an entity separate from you. By comprehending that Anger is not a manifestation of you, then you will find it much easier to free yourself from that anger. You release it, you let it go, you forgive it. Be aware that anger will try and reach you from outside sources; therefore, by being attentive to it, you can deflect it with wisdom and love. Also consider ulterior sources of anger such as being hungry, tired, embarrassed or being in physical pain. This attentiveness will prove beneficial by helping you to think beyond your weary, hungry mind after you identify the origin of the anger. As an example, if you consider yourself to be someone who frequently experiences anger while driving, maybe you can focus your attention onto your anger now with the intent on eradicating it. By understanding that Love conquers anger, you can then fill yourself with so much Love that the anger has no room remaining to exist within you. There have been times, when I've noticed my own anger. In these moments, I pause and reflect on what the expectation was that I had assumed. Generally, once I can identify that the failed expectation that sparked my anger, my anger quickly begins to dissipate. In the midst of driving, you might not expect another vehicle to surprise you which might illicit anger. Address it, accept it as the present moment, then continue in your travels. You have the ability to love every person and every circumstance you encounter. Through this comprehension of love, angry perceptions of wrongdoings will evaporate. Anger will vanish, and in it's place: mercy. Forgiveness is an awareness that we are not entirely in control. As mentioned in an earlier essay on Forgiveness, I love the metaphor of the weather. Anger seems moot if you are angry at the rain. The weather happens outside of our control, just as others will make choices outside of our control. We need to remain open to these new future circumstances so to not let them surprise and enrage us. This awareness to Anger and willingness to constantly forgive is best known as Patience.

There is no sin on this earth that gives a man such a foretaste of Hell in this life as anger or impatience.” [St. Catherine of Siena] 

 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A moment to ponder

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Day without Doubt

There was once this time when I was in the woods....

 I'm sure I might receive some criticism for trying to talk to a tree, but I'm only sharing my experience. Out of curiosity, I wanted to ask a tree for advice. I found this one, it was one of the largest on the woods. To my memory, it was an oak. I leaned my back against it and stood in silence. When the time felt right, I asked the tree for advice. And to my surprise, it answered. It didn't speak, it didn't have to. Maybe it was a spirit or entity outside of the tree, speaking on its behalf, but this is what I heard:

 It said: "Stop looking to me for advice! Can't you see that I'm a tree? I am not qualified to instruct you to be a human just like you cannot instruct me how to be a tree. Just like I do not need your advice, you do not need mine. You can ask the next tree and you will hear the same answer. You can ask the stream, the hills, or the clouds and you will hear the same answer. You have no reason to question yourself. None of us do."

 And in that flash thought, I had my answer. I thanked it and left the woods. I thanked each tree during my exit, then thanked the woods for its hospitality. To this day, I am aware that even this tree lived by a rather Taoist principle: everything is as it is, as it should be. In that moment, my self-doubt was gone. I live, I breathe, I move just as I do, as I should. Everything follows its own path, it's own Tao. Of course I can't tell a tree how to be a tree, just like it can't tell me how to be human. We do this to ourselves all the time, incurring doubt by false instruction. We neglect to allow individuals to simply be and would prefer to instruct others on how to behave.

 As the sole thinkers of our thoughts, we cannot philosophically doubt ourselves. We can only doubt those around us, other individuals, or various outcomes. We use that uncertainty to generate doubt in our own minds. Then that doubt becomes a factor to belittle or judge ourselves. Because our minds are our own, we know our thoughts. In reference to your own thoughts, decisions, emotions, or beliefs, only you can know them....therefore, you literally cannot doubt yourself. The tree doesn't doubt itself, it simply is.

 

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Top 10 Things to Improve Motivation

It's almost summer, are you ready?  Do you want that beach body?  Maybe you're looking for something else.  Can't get that PowerPoint finished?  How about that laundry?  Maybe you want to write a book.   (I can't tell you how many people have mentioned the desire to write a book after hearing about mine.)

Anyway, it's time to motivate yourself!   It's time to spring into action. 




These are A Life With Wisdom's Top 10 Things to Improve your Motivation:





1.  Establish the Goal.   
Motivation cannot be achieved until a goal has been identified.  So figure it out!  Understanding the destination reveals the path.  It's that simple.  What do you want to do?   (Since summer is approaching, for this list, I will reference Fitness as the example goal.)



2.  Specify the Goal
Be genuine about what your goal is.   What do you want?  What don't you want?  Edit out extraneous matter.  This establishes focus.
Example:  Being in shape?  Ok, what kind of shape?  Muscular? Lean? Flexible? What will that entail?

3.  Write it down.
Make a list of goals.  Write down different descriptions of the same goal.   Maybe draw it, create a vision board, take a photo of it.   Either way, turn the idea of a goal into a physical reminder for yourself.
Example:    Writing reminders for yourself, creating a schedule for fitness will help you to feel responsible for your goals.


4.  Identify the Obstacles
Even if you need to make a written list of the distractions you might encounter, do it.  It will help.   It will help because you can remain equally as mindful of both the goals and their distractions.
Example:  Laziness!!!!!   (This is pretty much the greatest threat to motivation anyway)  Bad nutritional options, the temptation to quit, bad peer pressure.....  doughnuts!!!!



5.  Be Fair to Yourself
If your goal is grandiose or lofty, you might get burnt out and lose willpower.  If this is a possibility, create smaller goals that will eventually add up to the largest one.   But, always make sure that there is a goal to be accessed.
Example:  If you want to be in better shape, but don't have time all the time, don't fret.  You'll get more.   To continue with fitness as our example:  running 1 mile is an accomplishment if you want to run a 5K later; and running a 5k is an accomplishment if you want to run a 10k later.   However, you're still aware that one day, you'll do a full marathon!


6.  Differentiate between the Intrinsic and Extrinsic goals. 
This is a unique aspect of motivation that is often ignored.   All goals have both mental and physical qualities. It's important to know why you're being motivated.  This is another way to specify your goal. 
Intrinsic goals are internal.  They are emotions and feelings of well-being.
Extrinsic goals are tangible.  They are physical, real-life things.  (People, money, that vacation you wanted) 
Example (intrinsic):  Confidence, feeling happy, having clarity of mind, receiving attention
Example (extrinsic):  A healthier body, better sleep patterns, a better physique, favored clothes. 

7.  Identify positive vs negative motivators. 
This is another ignored facet of motivation.   Positive motivators attract us and we avoid the negative ones.     Generally, the journey begins because we are being repulsed by some negative motivator that springs us into action.   Discover them and understand their value.  Depending on your perception, both forms are adequate sources of motivation.  However, the positive motivation is the goal and therefore it must be identified and sought.
Example (negative):   Unhappy with your appearance, you feel fat, you feel judged for being fat
Example (positive):   Happy with your appearance, feeling confident, receiving positive attention
 

8.  Start!  Do it!  Initiate it!  Begin!  Commence! 
 This is possibly the most important step of them all.  You can have a goal and still lack the courage to begin. That begins with a choice.  So choose to begin!
Example:  Get off your butt and work out, because nobody can do it for you!




9.  Keep going!   No stopping allowed!   
This is also a choice.   The only real obstacle in life is the temptation to quit.  Because even if you hit a wall, it doesn't mean you have to choose to stop.  There are always alternate options to help you in staying motivated.   You chose your goal, now commit to it.
Example:   Just ran a mile?  Congrats, now run one more.  This is also the value in having a schedule.  You don't like running?  Try swimming, cycling, dancing, rowing, martial arts or rockclimbing.  Ask a friend to join you.



10.  Repeat.
 If you did it once, you can do it again!  
Seriously.







Friday, May 2, 2014

A Day for Gratitude

"If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes and search for them with my clumsy fingers and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet and sweep through it and now would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction. The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings."   [Henry Ward Beecher]



Monday, April 14, 2014

A Day for Empowerment

Why is it that when others judge us, we feel bad for ourselves? We become embarrassed. It digs into our insecurities. We feel powerless and afraid, terrified to be alone. Subsequently, we begin to avoid certain activities that might later result in further embarrassment. 

So what is it that we're afraid of? 

Take a moment to reflect on that question. Someone jokes about you; then what? 
What happens? You feel embarrassed; then what happens? 

Are we afraid of other people? Not as much as one might think. 
Truly, what hinders us is the embarrassment itself. 

We are afraid of a feeling. Now having said this, what makes this such a brilliant epitome is that in the end of the “then what?” series of questions, one realizes the answer becomes “nothing.” After judgment and feelings of embarrassment, normalcy is once again established. You have the choice as to whether you will feel embarrassed, therefore you have the choice to thwart your personal embarrassment from affecting you. Here's the "secret:" other people don't embarrass us, we embarrass ourselves. Remember how to celebrate your uniqueness, don't ever forget it. Half the reason why the attentiveness to an idea is considered wise is because there are moments like this one. If ever you lose sight of your extraordinary ways, you allow the toxic criticisms of peers to sneak in and affect you.  You're amazing, and you deserve to know that.


"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" [Eleanor Roosevelt]