On the road to Christmas

Actions that are from our desire to receive for the self-alone connect us to the path of Darkness. Actions that are for our desire to share connect us to the path of Light.Michael Berg

Children traditionally experience the magic of Christmas in part by speculating about the gifts beneath the tree. They wonder what will Santa bring them and can hardly sleep the night before as they toss and turn thinking about opening their presents and shaking out their stockings.

As children grow older, they slowly begin to learn that a great part of the joy of Christmas comes from giving, from finding something special that another person will like. My parents and grandparents were far more excited about my reactions to the gifts I received than their own gifts.

There are some balancing acts here. One is keeping gifts and expectations within reason so that Christmas isn’t viewed as a time to get absurd amounts of loot. Another is keeping one’s ego out of the picture so that one is giving in order to share and to make the recipient happy, not to be praised and loved for the size of the gift.

At Christmas time, people frequently say they wish the magic of the Christmas tree were a part of their lives year-around. I don’t expect they’re talking about handing out gifts 24/7 every day of the year. The magic, I think, comes from being willing to share what we know and what we have and who we are. It comes from having a “you first” philosophy.

Perhaps we start first with our family and friends simply by being more available in the multiple senses of the word, and then we take another step and expand on that. And then another step after that. We all know how we’ve felt on Christmas mornings watching children open gifts from us they hardly dared hope for. Their surprise, their smiles, their delight–we can have that feeling again of witnessing that by giving of ourselves, our experience, our knowledge, our time, and our compassion.

NOTE: On December 11th, Shelagh Watkins, creator and editor of the recently published Forever Friends anthology will visit with us to talk about the book. I hope you’ll join us with comments and questions.

On the road to Thanksgiving

The excesively polarized political debate in recent years focused the consciousness of the nation on negatives, on what we purportedly lacked, on what we didn’t have, on what somebody somewhere was doing wrong. During this time, the country and our lives were not without value, yet the daily whining tended more than anything else to obscure what we could have been and should have been thankful for.

My belief system is quite unwielding on one point: What you resist, persists.

To our detriment, lack–even before the nasty political bickering of the last eight years–has long been a favorite topic of conversation, in barber shops, over the backyard fence, on street corners with strangers, beneath satin sheets with lovers, and one could almost laugh at it as the tragicomedy of the human experience if it weren’t making such a mess of our lives.

If one’s lumbago wasn’t acting up, if it weren’t too cold or too dry or too wet or too windy, if the President hadn’t just said something idiotic, if the promotion hadn’t gone to company clown, if the neighbor hadn’t just painted his house pink with green stripes, if if if if, then for goodness sakes, there was veritably nothing to talk about. Lack, for many, makes the world go around.

Like attracts like, the gurus tell us, and so it is that those who focus a fair amount of their waking thoughts–not to mention their dreams–on lack seem forever surprised on the constant deluge of additional lack into their lives. Many, as we have seen, have been quite willing to mortgage their souls as well as all of their temporal assets in a blind attempt to escape from lack.

When we focus on lack, what we already have is slid onto the back burner. We don’t think about it. We’re not grateful for it. We take it for granted. We even hide it on purpose because–should it be seen–it might diminish our argument that fate and other people have cast an unfair amount of lack into our lives.

As Thanksgiving approachs, a large part of our daily conversation remains focused on lack, on just how bad the Black Friday sales figures are likely to be or on how early we need to get up on that day after Thanksgiving to get to the store before anyone else does so we can beat them to the sales tables and get rid as much of our lack as possible at the lowest possible cost.

The cost, I think, is far too high regardless of the amount we spend, and the consequences of worshipping the daemons of lack are far too dear to leave the house with credit cards in hand.

I have an alternative proposal. It’s not my invention. Thousands have already said it and said it better. Stay home with what you have rather than going out in search of what you think you’re missing. It’s a difficult habit to break, I know, but it’s the only way to your heart’s desires.

Each day on the road to Thanksgiving, we have an opportunity to ponder that which we are likely to be grateful for if and when we give it a clear focus within the mind’s eye. What we have requires more of our attention than what we don’t have. Perhaps it’s a warm coat or a lover or a house filled with friends or a job or a perfect weekend or a full pantry or a pleasant disposition.

Gratefulness leads to more gratefulness and thanks leads to more thanks, do you think?

My Experiment With Authonomy

Don’t worry, Authonomy is not a mysterious philter to be used at midnight beneath a full moon. It’s HarperCollins’ “avoid the slush” website where authors with manuscripts in search of a publisher and/or print-on-demand books in search of a mainstream house can upload their work to be read, watched and commented upon by adoring readers.

Is Authonomy.com a good place for your manuscript? Possibly so. If you’re not sure, take a look at my entry for The Sun Singer and then take a look at the FAQs. I’ve only uploaded one chapter of the novel so far, but plan to add more as time permits.

I’m sure quantum mechanics principles will become involved in this experiment before it’s over. With luck, it will become an exciting entanglement.

Seriously, I’m Not Really James Bond

When my friends answer their phones, I’m likely to say, “My name is Bond, James Bond.” Then, after they say, “Malcolm, I know that’s you,” we get on to the real reason I called.

In my heart of hearts, I realize I’m not James Bond. For one thing, my psychologist Dr. No Way has informed me that it’s “wrong” to pretend to be who you’re not. Years ago, Kurt Vonnegut warned that such pretense is dangerous.

What is less clear is who I really am.

Yes, I do know my name and I’m happy to tell you I remember it most of the time. But that name is merely a convenient label, perhaps like a brand such as Coke or Pepsi and General Motors or Ford. You know what’s what with such brand names, but with Malcolm Campbell you may be less sure, and I would agree.

Masha Malka begins her beautiful little book The One Minute Coach with this question: “Whose life are you living?” I’m not sure I can answer this question correctly. What about you?

The psychologist Eric Berne, widely known for his work with games and scripts, suggested that when we were young, we accepted so many of the “you should” and “you ought” admonitions from parents and other adults without question and that we still accept them today as gospel. Consciously, we might exclaim: HOW CRAZY IS THAT while subconsciously we still believe “you’ll never make anything of yourself” and “dreams like that are only for rich people.”

In a similar vein, author Nancy Whitney-Reiter says in her recent book (Unplugged: How to Disconnect from the Rat Race, Have an Existential Crisis, and Find Meaning and Fulfillment) that there are reasons most people aren’t happy even though they’ve achieved many of the goals we set out to achieve. Among them is the fact that we’re shoved into the school system and then into the world of work with goals that are programmed into us by parents, friends and society. We don’t have time to ask, “Do I really want to be a highly paid CEO of a giant company who lives in a million-dollar house and drives a $100,000 car?”

How many of us are trudging ahead from school to marriage to kids to jobs following either the expectations of others or the expectations we accepted without question?

Reiter urges us to “unplug” from the hustle and bustle of every day life, take some time for ourselves, and learn who we really are and what makes us happy. Malka urges us to spend time each day taking action steps that will lead us toward an authentic life. Why don’t we do such things?

We just don’t get to them, right? Remember all the things you told your friends you were going to do some day: learn another language, go back to school, maintain a savings account, lose weight, stop smoking? Like New Year’s resolutions, they sounded good, but they took a effort and seemed to be such endless processes that we didn’t get anywhere. So, whose life am I living? Whose life are you living?

In his e-book The Principles of Successful Manifesting, Thomas Herold observes that we’re going to make progress in those areas where we place our attention. This echoes a question that has been asked by Silva Method instructors: “If you spend 15 minutes three times a day thinking positive thoughts about yourself and your goals, but then spend the rest of the day thinking negative thoughts about your life and your job and your relationships, what kind of result will you end up with?”

Indeed. If we’re not attending to ourselves and our dreams, I don’t think we’ll find either of them.

If we had started that savings account 25 years ago, it might be worth something now even though we could only deposit a little bit of money each week. If we had started learning another language ten years ago, we might have some fluency in it by now even though we only had time for one lesson a week. Had we placed more of our attention on learning who we really are and what we truly desire, we might now be free from parental admonitions, the un-verified assumptions, and the expecations of those who embrace the consumer matrix version of “life.”

Malka asks where we’ll be next year at this time. “Will you be doing the same things, going to the same places, spending time with the same people, wishing the same things, and realizing that with each year that passes, those wishes will probably never materialize?”

Those of us who have noticed that we might not really be who we want to be are told by friends and co-workers, “that’s the breaks” and “that’s just the way it is” and “you’re stuck now, so let’s just go grab a couple of beers and watch the ball game.”

We’re hearing more and more these days from more and more people that we’re not stuck, that we do have choices, and it’s not too late. In 1902, James Allen wrote his ground-breaking and inspiring book “As a Man Thinketh.” My father had an original-edition copy on his bookshelf and I read it as a young man thinking what a wonderful dream. Problem was, I saw it as a dream rather than a reality. One of the more positive developments I see in a time many are describing as chaotic, is that thousands of people are finally catching up with the beliefs Allen stated over a century ago.

Our choices are real and viable. Unlike tasks requiring bricks and mortar, Allen’s beliefs–and those of his modern-day counterparts–do not take years and years of painful 24/7 effort that are beyond are schedules and our capabilities. Seriously, they’re relative quick and painless if there’s a lot of passion behind them and oh, so little time.

Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:—
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.

                                         –James Allen

Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell who takes this philosophy neither shaken nor stirred.

Join me on December 11th for a discussion with author and publisher Shelagh Watkins. She’ll be here to talk about Forever Friends, a new poetry and short story anthology released by Mandinam Press in October.

Goals: How can you hit a moving target?

How do we reach our goals if we keep changing them in mid-stream?

Whether we’re using law-of-attraction techniques or project management techniques, we must at some point stop changing where we’re trying to go.

In her Nonprofit World article “Do You Know Where Your Goals Are?” Michelle LaBrosse cites “feature creep” as a common blockage to meeting goals. While she is writing for a nonprofit project team or board of directors, most of us are going to recognize this blockage in our own lives:

Feature Creep: You keep adding new features, trying to make the end result better, but time is running out and your team is restless.

I know people, writers included, who create a plan to write a book (go back to school, buy a new house, start a business) who just can stop tinkering with the goal, or some part of the plan, for so long that sooner or later all the timeliness and passion are gone.

It’s easy for this to happen at a nonprofit or any other volunteer group effort. You want to be democratic and give everyone a say. But once you start moving, some people keep wanting to have another say and another one after that. If you shut them down, they accuse the volunteer leader of being a dictator. Meanwhile, those who are ready for action are getting bored and are missing meetings.

LaBrosse’s solution:

Use a change impact matrix. Plan to freeze the project at a specified time. The earlier this is done, the faster your project will move.

While that matrix can look very formal to a project manager, we can simply say that when deciding upon the goal and creating the plan in the first place, we need to understand impact of prospective or probable change along the way; is a change after the goal or project should have been nailed down of great or of minimal importance and, either way, what does it do to costs and the timeliness of the effort?

A lof of people–and groups–appear to keep goals as moving targets because it allows them the luxury of never having to commit to anything. They’re in a continual state of “mulling it over” whether “it” is a personal decision to change jobs or a nonprofit’s decision to re-do its out-of-date bylaws. Those who are doing this mulling it over often believe they are being proactive and that they are on the move.

Actually, they are blocked. They’re in infinite limbo because they are refusing to say THIS is what I’m going to do. Flexibility and adaptability are important, but we’ll be happier, I think, if we look at the number of moving targets we have and lasso a few of them and tie them down.

If you’re interested in easy-to-use information for your nonprofit and a subscription to Nonprofit World, contact www.snpo.org.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell

Do you agree that perception is reality?

“Most all of the current brain research is leading to one conclusion. Most of what we consider to be happening ‘out there’ is really occurring ‘in here’ within the confines of our own head. Perhaps this is why mystics refer to the external world as maya, or an illusion. It’s interesting to note the word ‘illusion’ is derived from the Latin root ‘illusere,’ which means ‘innerplay.'” –MaAnna Stephenson in The Sage Age, Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom

What do you make of this quotation from MaAnna Stephenson’s new book?

Do you view perception is reality as figurative? That is, psychological in tone, warped or clarified by our attitudes, preconceptions, philosophies, likes and dislikes.

Or, do you view perception is reality as actual? That is, literally concrete, dynamic, and totally synchonistic with your intentions (conscious or otherwise) and mission here on the planet.

Or, do you view the notion as merely interesting and/or absurd?

We can step into a labyrinth here, suggesting that if you believe perception is reality, then it is, but that if you believe perception is not reality, then it isn’t.

Perhaps your perception of perception has a great impact on your view of how things work in the world, whether it’s a jungle or an oasis, whether it’s filled with hate or love, whether goals and intentions create the “future” or whether fate and the purported stronger wills of others bring tomorrow into actuality, whether there’s more room in our lives for fear or for hope.

As the Christmas song asks: Do you see what I see? I’m suggesting that you may or may not see what I see and vice versa, and that problems between people often occur because they presume their perceptions of reality, while necessarily synchronous in many basic respects, are hand-in-glove matches. To know, better yet to understand, another person or another group requires, I think, really seeing what they’re seeing, that is to say, knowing quite literally where they’re coming from and where the “live.”

Does this make sense? How do you perceive such ideas? Are they foreign or are they an integral part of your reality? Either way, I’m suggesting that the universe is responding to your opinions and your imagination. Or, it may be better to say, I perceive that it is within my reality.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Embark on the Journey, Follow the Fantasy, Create the Reality

The Sun Singer, new age literary fiction by Malcolm R. Campbell

Buy the e-book for only $5.33 at Powell’s Books

The beauty of a regional magazine

November 2008 Issue
November 2008 Issue

While newspapers as we now know them will probably be all but gone within ten years (A Former Newspaper Boy Watches News Trends), the world of local and regional magazines has remained strong.

Writing in Folio Magazine earlier this year, Jason Fell said that “While much of the publishing industry grits its teeth in anticipation of a recession and established publishers reign in their print launches, the city and regional market remains hot, thanks to a low barrier to entry and a continued demand for print.”

Living Jackson Magazine, a superb example of regional magazine strength, is headquartered in Jefferson, Georgia, some 60 miles northeast of Atlanta along I-85. The magazine will celebrate two and a half years of publication at this year’s Christmas party.

This monthly magazine with high production values has a strong editorial focus: our county. In this case, Jackson County perched along U.S. Highway 129 between Gainesville and Athens. The website blurb says it well: The quality and quantity of editorial content in Living Jackson is bar none. Living Jackson utilizes the area’s best writers and photographers and Living Jackson is 100 percent local! Readers discover all that Jackson County has to offer through the pages of Living Jackson magazine, and they learn why our lovely area is known as “spacious, gracious and vibrant.”

I’m biased, of course, because I’m right here in Jackson County and have found it a wonderful change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta where I lived for 18 years. I’m also biased because I’m a contributing writer for Living Jackson for many of the book reviews.

If you were to move to Jefferson, the county seat, you would first notice the town square, one of the town’s historic districts, and its 1858 general store (now part of Crawford W. Long Museum) and you would see the quiet city streets, you might stop for coffee at Coffee Philter which all of us will tell you beats Starbucks, and you might stroll through the the old mill–the cotton and corduroy long gone–now used for multiple retail businesses under the Real Deals name.

But if you really wanted to learn about your new county, picking up the last two years of Living Jackson would tell you just who we are and where we’ve been. Our Christmas party on December 5th will celebrate a lot of hard work, dedication and love of people and place.

Thugs Masquerading as ‘Honorable Men’

A year ago yesterday, 17-year-old Du’a Khalil Aswad was stoned to death in Bashiqa, Northern Iraq by thugs masquerading as “honorable men.”

The “honorable men” who dropped a concrete block on her face, dragged her body behind a truck and buried her with the corpse of a dog were cheered on by the crowd of equally “honorable men.”

Her closest relatives were among the thugs present that day, and while the video of Du’a’s murder was seen around the world and captured by cell phones for all to watch in the comfort of their quiet consciences, the evidence brought no one to justice, for old-world justice in Northern Iraq—as in many other locations around the world–is being shepherded forward unscathed into the modern world by “honorable men.”

“Honorable men” kill 5,000 women a year, for falling in love as Du’a did, for being raped, for chatting on Facebook, for refusing to marry, for adultery, for wanting to remain single, for speaking with a man, for purportedly dishonoring their “honorable men.”

Women within the world of “honor killings” are bought, sold, traded, like so much chattel by “honorable men” and when such chattel stray or appear to stray, thugs know well the use of guns, knives, kerosene, poison and stones.

We who refuse asylum to women fleeing from murder by “honor” or deport them home to their deaths…we who say “honor killing” is merely a variation on domestic violence…we who do not reform laws that provide commuted sentences for killers claiming the murder they did was honor motivated…we who placate the powerful by turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the cries of the dying and the cheers of the “honorable assassins”…we who saw the graphic CNN report of Du’a’s death and then turned away unfazed to our happy hour friends…we who have not spoken…who are we?

Can it be said that we, too, are honorable men?

To learn more: International Campaign to Against Honor Killings (ICAHK) and especially Diana Nammi’s Call Unheard.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

What this blog is all about

A friend asked in a recent post on her MySpace blog “How Do You Define Success?”

Essentially, her answer was finding the freedom to be herself and to follow her dreams. The challenge for her–for many of us–was that while following our dreams requires a measure of security and financial well-being, if we spend too much time or stress establishing that, we may not ever get to our dreams.

My answer to her question was similar to hers. Success to me is doing what I’m here to do: making an inner journey and writing about it. This blog represents my random thoughts, and a lot of yours, about the challenges we face and about the things we see along the trail.

I’m influenced, as many of you can tell, by the work of such writers as Edward Abbey and Colin Fletcher and by the dedication of volunteers in such organisations as the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. I’m also influenced by Jane Roberts’ “Seth Books,” by the writings of Carlos Castaneda and Caroline Myss.

As we walk the trail, we learn–as Carlos was taught–that our outer journey is a reflexion of our inner journey and, conversely, that if we are impeccable in what we do in the physical world, we will be more centered within.

For me, success is being on the path and experiencing what I find there and then putting those feelings into words on the page.

What about you?

Malcolm

Click on my name for my current weblog.