The Origin of 11 Life Practices

Hi Steve, Mark,

As you know, my wife Dianna died at 7:04 AM on February 20, 2008.

As you also know, while still grieving, I started to write a book. I wanted to tell her story, about the way she lived her life.

We were all moved by how she expressed herself in the world.

That book, Dianna’s Way, was a best seller … well, among her friends and family anyway. 🙂 Thanks for buying a copy, by the way. Did sell a few hundred copies and I enjoyed talking to people about it.

Still, I was nagged by a feeling there was still more to say.

What were these qualities that made her stand out?

In Dianna’s Way, I showed the reader what these qualities look like when embodied in a real human being, but nowhere did I identify them, even for myself. Which was fine – it was a memoir not a self help book.

As I began to write this book I slowly realized I was not talking about qualities, I was talking about practices.

Makes sense now. It’s not like we’re born with a list of qualities we then magically use to master the game of life. Regardless of our raw talent, none of us walks out on a baseball field for the first time, already a Hall of Fame player.

To get good at playing the game, we have to practice, practice, practice… And of course there are guys like you that never get any good at it! 🙂 Sitting around drinking beer or smoking joints does not get it done. Okay. Kidding. I admire both of you or I wouldn’t be writing to you.

Anyway, as you now know (finally – I hesitate to tell you I told you so but I told you so) better than I, we are playing a particular game while we are here messing around in physical reality. Sure, we enter this reality imbued with some genetically based talent for playing the game (physical life) but if we want to excel at our position (our unique expression of Infinite Being), we will have to practice if we are to gain the skills needed to become competent at playing our position (our role in the grand game of life).

In the game of life, from our first breath to our last, not a day or an hour or a minute goes by that we are not practicing. We are always in the game, no time outs, like it or not.

The only question is, practicing what?

Some practices are useful for creating a life we love living, some are enough to get us by and some are counter-productive. Of course, I wanted to focus on the former – we all know how to do the rest without trying.

Hence the origin of my upcoming second book, tentatively titled 11 Life Practices/ Creating a Life that Works.

In my next blog, I will talk about why I saw the practices naturally divided into two distinct groups, hence the reason for Part I and II of the book.

Dear Steve and dear Mark,

You guys should have stuck around awhile longer.

I have nearly completed my second book.

Would have loved sharing it with you, seeing how you reacted to it. Of course, I know neither of you can read but at least you could have held it in your hands and admired my great work. 🙂

My working title is 11 Life Practices/ sub title: Creating a Life that Works.

I split the book into two parts.

Part consists of four practices in being.

Part II consists of seven practices in expressing our being.

The two parts are bridged by a chapter called “The Huddle” where we review what is at stake for us all and why these practices matter.

My goal is to publish it sometime in the fall of this year. Hopefully sooner but we will see how it goes. Better done as well as I can than just done.

Miss you both very much.

Will be seeing you soon enough. But not too soon either.

Love always, dear friends

John

 

IMG_0015

Spirit at Rest

 

Spirit in half light

Spirit in half light

Just came back from a quiet hour walk in the woods with a misty rain falling, Canada geese complaining out on Grassy Lake, Sandhill Cranes echoing their guttural calls across the lake or maybe even one lake over from where we are ….couldn’t see them …. doesn’t matter …. just so good to be there.

Spirit is up to 83 pounds, so strong and overflowing with energy, so much he doesn’t know what to do with it all so he runs and runs and runs. Such joy.

Can this old man keep up with this young dog?

Fun trying anyway.

None of this matters either. Just being is enough for now.

Spirit is the teacher and I just try to pay attention.  🙂

 

Spirit out there

Spirit Out There

 

Dianna’s Way is now available at www.diannasway.com, Amazon, and, soon, at Barnes & Noble – or you can order it through your local bookstore. Fairly soon, it will be available as an eBook as well.

This book is a very personal and inspirational story about an ordinary woman who chose to live an extraordinary life. She also happened to choose me as her husband. Lucky me.

When I look back on my life with her, I can see I may have taught Dianna a bit about the world as it is but she taught me, by example, so much more about how it could be. It also occurs to me she offers a template for living that opens the possibility for creating an extraordinary country.

Perhaps transforming America begins with transforming ourselves via an inner, individual process but I would not rule out interacting in concert with others by “feeding” each other. Some do best playing solo while others are at their finest in an orchestra. The music is no less beautiful or moving.

No matter our pathway, our creations still emanate from self with a willingness to be responsible for self.

Responsibility: literally, the ability to respond appropriately [to life].  What I learned from Dianna is the only appropriate response to life is to practice being a context of Love.

Self: Careful about the definition of self. Not what we normally think it is. Something to be explore later.

So, I find myself being guided on an odyssey into the wider social implications of living in “Dianna’s Way”. I have tentatively titled this journey A New Age American Dream (NAAD).

From a social perspective, a fair starting point is look at where we are now, which is becoming, for too many of us, living a new age American nightmare.

Why do we, as a nation, seem to be headed in the wrong direction? What can we do about it? Is there any hope for a better way forward? Is there any way to knit together a deeply divided nation into a sane, workable whole, pulling in the same direction?

Frankly, I don’t know.

It doesn’t have to turn out well. It isn’t going to turn out well unless we do create a better way forward.

I do know I am not much interested in generating a laundry list of our problems – we already know what they are even if we may not agree on why or how we have created them – nor am I keenly interested in a different laundry list of nice little remedies. All of this is in the realm of what we can call the content of our lives – and the society we live in.

So, while I may begin with a broad overview of what works and what doesn’t in our society, this is merely a description of that content – many others have already done a fine job of detailing all that stuff.

I am much more interested in the context all this content thrives in.

As Einstein once so famously said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

True.  

For my purposes, I would say it this way:  we cannot change the content of our lives – or our society – while trapped in the same context that creates the dysfunction we find ourselves already immersed in. We will have to step outside the box (the current context we live in).

So, first, some definitions:

Content: Everything that shows up in our lives as our experience, individually and collectively.

Context: Where we come from when we act and experience the acts of others.

“Where we come from”: What we believe is true and, even more deeply, who we believe ourselves to be, whether consciously acknowledged or not.

In Dianna’s Way, I describe my own discovery process that led me to appreciate I need both Light (consciousness) and Love (not love as we normally think of it but Love, the energy emanating from God, Spirit, from the All That Is). Only then could I comprehend how this incredibly powerful woman was able to live her life the way she did – and realize these same tools can be used to create a society that somewhere inside ourselves we have all dreamed but not yet successfully created.

Dianna supplied me and others, consistently, seemingly effortlessly, with a model for expressing our selves when and where it matters – in the practical, day to day life that greets us each morning.  

She supplied us with a Context that works.

Not a bad place to begin.

 

Ironically, I have had the idea to write a book called the NAAD for at least 40 years. But, until Dianna cracked open my heart without saying a word, silently pointing the way toward surrender, toward trusting in Spirit, it was a book I was totally ill equipped to write.

Perhaps now I can.

You and I can certainly have a conversation about all this as I think out loud on this blog.

I welcome your participation.

 

Well, on June 13, my new seven week old Golden Retriever puppy picked me and I brought him home. I have had dogs all my life and raised all of them from this tender age but had not done it for ten years. I felt like a rookie all over again. Like any new mother with her first baby, I felt overwhelmed with a litany of new responsibilities and adjustments I had not thought about – or forgotten about

I had formulated all these grand ideas about separate vaccinations for each disease, natural products to protect against fleas and ticks – no massive combo vaccines or Frontline for me.

Then reality set in.

It is almost impossible to obtain separate vaccines for the principle diseases a puppy can get – they are sold in 4,5, 6 vaccine combinations and all the vets around here use at least a combo of four – so I caved and accepted the four shot combo (parvo, distemper, canine hepititis and adenovirus-2 vaccine)  – no leptospirosis though. At least not for this year. And, of course, since no one knows when a puppy loses its mother’s immunity so when the vaccines kick in effectively, Spirit is being given these vaccines four times, three weeks apart until he hits 16 weeks, when it is generally assumed the vaccines will be certainly effective.

A month later, he will get his rabies vaccine – I wanted it done separately mainly to avoid the possibility of a reaction with too many vaccines at one time – and to assure, if he does happen to have a reaction to the rabies vaccine, it would not be confounded by all the other vaccines.

At the same time he gets the rabies vaccine, I will have blood titers run for the antibodies associated with the other four vaccines to assure they were indeed successful. I want to know he is, indeed, protected. Next year, instead of any re- vaccinations, I will run the blood titers again. If the numbers look good, there will be no more vaccinations until the titers indicate he needs them. After the first year or two of good titers (just to build up a data base for his blood antibodies), I will probably recheck the titers every 2-3 years and hopefully, he will never need another vaccination (other than the required-by-law rabies shot).

As to my resistence to Frontline, well, when Spirit began scratching himself every 5 minutes and getting scabs on his body from fleas and I tried spraying him with my newly purchased assortment of essential oils – mainly cedar oil based – and the scratching did not abate at all (although he smelled like a brand new cedar chest) – and the vet confirmed a flea infestation. Being the chemical engineer by training who I am, I caved and gave him a Frontline Plus treatment and started vacuuming my house and washing my bedding periodically.

Within a few days, the scratching stopped, the scabs healed up and here we are.

The vet helped convince me – Frontline has an excellent safety record according to her (everything I find on the internet, pro and con, is all anecdotal anyway); she argued it does not go into the blood stream but follows the fat containing cells at the base of hair folicules along the skin – and it does not merely repel fleas but kills them (and the FL Plus kills fleas at different stages of  development as well) and my own research indicated that, if you choose to use an insecticide on your dog, Frontline is the safest choice out there. And, it lasts for a month.

Not only does FL deal effectively with fleas, just as importantly, it will deal with ticks – and we have plenty of them around here too.

Does any of this prove FL has no adverse effects on my dog? No. But, I watched him driving himself crazy with scratching, thought about how I would like living like that and said to myself, I am not going to watch this happen and not do something THAT WORKS to relieve his misery.

If it were me, would I rather live a long life constantly itching or a shorter life free of it? Simple answer for me. And this assumes FL shortens life. We really don’t know that either.

So, while I am at peace with my choices, I am disappointed I had to resort to these measures. I was hoping to avoid them.

Life

.

Golden Retrievers average life expectancy is 10 years. I have known some that have lived 15 years while treated with FL while my four have lived 11, 10, 8 and 8 years – so, maybe it is just the genetics of the breed and the breeding lines more than anything else. No one knows.

So much for my elaborate plans to follow the natural path to pest control for my dog.

 

 

Self Publish? Why? 

I am in the process of self publishing a memoir about my life with my deceased wife, Dianna, who died in February, 2008 after battling breast cancer for 17 of the 20 years we were lucky enough to be married. This book, Dianna’s Way, should be out in early fall of 2012.

After her death and while  immersed in my grieving process, I realized she was a woman who had a valuable story to tell that would be helpful to others – certainly for those dealing with cancer or care giving for anyone who is ill – but, even more broadly, for anyone seeking to live their lives in an extraordinarily powerful way. She taught me and many others so much about how to live a life worth living.

So, I began to write.

As background, I have been writing – sometimes for publication, on and off all my life – not my primary career by any means  but along the way, had a few short stories and articles published while doing my main careers – first chemical engineering, then as a team building consultant/practitioner. Consequently, I have always paid attention to the publishing industry and how it has been changing.

In any event, as I was writing my first ever book at age 70, I began to consider how to get it published.

The conventional process one follows is: write a lengthy proposal, send it out to agents, hoping to find one who is a) competent and b) motivated to sell my book to a mainstream publisher. If I am successful in finding such an agent and the agent is successful, a mainstream publisher offers me a four figure advance and maybe 10% of the royalties, takes over complete artistic control , pays to publish my book, then tells me to market it myself since they will not be investing their marketing budget to do it. (They invest in marketing what they believe are their front list books capable of bringing financial success to them; the rest have to make it on their own.)The publisher (who pays for printing and distribution), then gets it out to bookstores who, in turn, bury it on their back shelves (I am not Stephen King) and, after 3-4 months, return any unsold books to the publisher for ultimate destruction. And that is the end of that. One more book tossed into the trash heap of history.

My prognosis is not based on a cynical view of corporate owned publishers interested only in sure winners, although this is the truth of traditional publishers today. There is no right/wrong to it but simply a process based on economic reality – and the reality of the “platform” I have to offer, as an author.

A platform is essentially whatever I can bring to the table that would support strong book sales – reputation, name recognition, notable accomplishments, personal media exposure and any other attributes that would help bring attention and credibility to the book – without regard for the quality of the book itself.

Well, it would be hard to imagine a weaker platform than my own.

I am John who? writing a book about Dianna who? who has written yet one more, odds are, boring, overly sentimental memoir with little to distinguish it from a million others out there. Additionally, since this is my first book, I am an unknown in every sense of the word. Worse, at my age, how many more books could a publisher expect I might produce for them after this one?

Celebrity memoirs may sell, any well known writer may sell, and a few topical nonfiction books may sell. These are the likely “winners” in the corporate publishing world. So, who would you bet on? Me or Stephan King or Obama’s memoir? Who would I bet on if I were in their shoes?

From my point of view, though, even if I were successful in selling my book to a mainstream publisher (highly unlikely though I would have to put in much time, blood, sweat and energy into the effort to find out for sure), what do I get in return? Loss of artistic control, a few thousand dollars advance, NO marketing assistance and a book life of MONTHS.

After putting three years of my life writing it, why would I want to do that?

Consequently, I turned to self publishing.

In my next post, I will discuss the pluses and minuses of self publishing.

 
 
 And so Chili, my last Golden Retriever, did.
 
As each one who has chosen to be in my life has.
 
Hurts my heart each time they leave. 
 
Why do dogs live such short lives>
 
So we can learn the minutes of life can be counted though we don’t know how many we will have together … and maybe … learn something about making them count.
 
So, we might learn something about Appreciation and Gratitude and Love.
 
So, we might learn something about the meaning of life.
 
They do all this without saying a word.
 
Amazing.

No Form Communication

 

First, a brief excerpt from my soon to be published book, “Dianna’s Way”:

 The spectrum of knowledge a dog has is not congruent with our own, so we deem them less intelligent. Fundamentally, I absolutely know this is not true. Truth is, we have barely a clue about what they know.

I do know, while Dianna lived in the Present almost all of the time, and I am an occasional visitor, it was Chili’s default way of being in every moment. This creates a wisdom we simply do not understand, do not even realize we do not understand, and certainly have no way to language. It is wisdom living in the language of the unspeakable.

All of us who love dogs and live with them learn to communicate with them in our own ways.

What I have learned is that, of course, they figure out what a few of our words mean – certainly the commands words we use in training, and words that alert them to activities they particularly love to do (“want to go outside?”, “go for a ride”, “want to go for a walk?”) and probably a few more. For them, just sounds (all words really are anyway) they learn to associate the corresponding activity, which is all I think it is.

But, in order of most impact, I think a dog responds most strongly to touch, followed by hand movements, followed by the sounds we make (our words) in that order.

These are all what I will call form oriented communication – they rely on the usual senses all animals, including humans, depend on for input data.

However, I have come to believe the most important communication between humans and dogs – at least I will say, between me and my own dog – is what I can only call no form communication.

I have learned over the years – and became particularly sensitive to it during the intense grieving period I went through after my wife, Dianna, died – my dog knows exactly how I feel and responds to those feelings accordingly (some practical examples show up in the book) – and communicates back to me with feelings of his own.

While he is very finely tuned to my feelings, I admit, I am not as adept at sensing his – so, he is keenly conscious at levels I am only weakly conscious.

Of course, it is no news flash human to human interaction contains tons of no form communication happening all the time but most of us generally do not bring this level of communication to consciousness – though we certainly react to it anyway (we may not notice it at all – or call it a “gut feeling” if we do)

This suggests if I am willing to become more conscious, there is an opportunity to communicate with Spirit (my new dog) at a level he understands only too well. Herein lays the possibility of an extraordinary relationship between us – with him the teacher and me the student. Maybe if I can turn down my brain chatter a little and open my heart and body, I might learn something.

And, is there even more beyond this? Is there the possibility of a soul level communication too? I don’t know.

We will see what Spirit has to say about it.  🙂

As I am heading down the home stretch toward picking up my new Golden Retriever puppy, ran into a snag with the very reputable breeder I am buying him from.

We had originally agreed on my having first choice of males from the litter. Then, through a series of unexpected events not worth going into, I was suddenly “demoted” to seventh pick out of eight males.

At first, I was dumbstruck. This felt so unfair and unexpected although, to be honest, I had been feeling apprehension about it all for weeks without knowing why.  So, my gut was working just fine. As usual, it was my brain that was not listening.

After hearing this news, for two nights in a row I had some really nasty dreams involving dogs (dogs being hit by cars, dog fights, dogs trying to kill each other). In dreams, “dogs” in general usually have to do with male behavior, masculinity and, in this case, anger, aggression. Usually my dreams are pretty nice – Buddha dreams I like to call them-  and I have learned a ton from analyzing them over the years.

By the way, dreams are very important and remembering them (best to write them down before getting out of bed) is even more helpful – but even if we don’t remember them, we are still being educated every night in our dreams. For those of you who think dreams are not part of a valid reality and/or unimportant, the “reality” you are living in while reading this in is no less a dream – our waking state being just another dream. [Read my soon to be published book, “Dianna’s Way” where the practical use of dreams are illustrated in daily life.]

Anyway, I woke up from these nasty dreams wondering what the heck is going on with me. Since I know most dreams are simply various projections of myself, I suddenly realized I was really angry about this puppy situation.

Fortunately, simply the act of acknowledging my anger rather than suppressing it cleared the way for me not writing the nasty email to the breeder I wanted to write. I cooled off.

The next thing that came up for me was surrender (again, this is also an integral part to the book afore mentioned).

So, I did.

Surrender, I have learned is not an act of will nor can it be a mental decision. It is an act of faith and hinges on having trust in the universe. It is either easy to do or impossible, depending on the state of grace one is in (i.e., connected to Spirit or not).

What I realized was Spirit, my new dog, was coming to me, whether it was my first choice in the litter or the last. So, I put the matter into the hands of the All That Is (my second favorite word for God) If God was not dog spelled backwards, it would be my first. All That Is is really the most accurate description of God because it is bereft of all the social and religious bullshit the word God carries with it, thanks to centuries of religious distortion.

As a fall out from this shift in point of view, I also realized all this breeder wants is the best possible home she can find for her dogs and her sense of responsibility and devotion for them is unquestionable – why I admire her so much and keep going back to her – this will be my third GR she has bred.

So, I emailed the breeder, asking her to do whatever seemed fair to her after reviewing our process together to date. If that was picking first or last, it was going to work for me in some way my ego does not understand.

She replied I could choose from five males and would that work for me?

Certainly.

Everything is still a go.

For the past two weeks, my blog has been dead in the water as I was getting about ~1000 spams per day and just had to delete everything coming in, probably deleting a few legitmate comments along with the river of spam.

Sorry if anyone was swept up in the tsunami.

Think I have the problem solved.Unfortunately the cost has been to require anyone wanting to comment to sign in with their name and email address, then type in a password provided when you do this. I know this is inconvenient and apologize for it but, so far, seems to be the only way to allow comments at all, which I sincerely want from anyone interested in doing so.

I also added a feature that allows an RSS feed so that might be of interest to some visitors. See the sidebar to use it.

Again, thank you for putting up with all my rookie mistakes.

I can now return to doing what I originally wanted to do – start a conversation with you about things of mutual interest, Even if no one is interested, I will continue to use this site to look into dogs, what they have to teach us, spirituality (what is this reality about) and, down the road, post excerpts from my upcoming book, Dianna’s Way, which I hope you will enjoy. Should be out sometime this early summer.

Hope this day works for you.

John