My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
purchase it at B & N, Amazon or (click on image of cover)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Building the Habit of Savoring

Another Christmas is here so time to slow down and savor the memories from the distant past and this past year. Writing Christmas cards to friends bring up memories of past interactions and activities with those who have been close over the years. Christmas school plays and holiday church services bring back memories of childhood to reminisce while sipping hot cinnamon apple cider. Christmas is a natural time to savor life as it is a holiday season that has so many memories attached to it. Since it is at the end of the year it allows as a good point to reflect over the events of the past year.

Living the more than ok life we need to savor life throughout the year not just at the end of the year. The benefits of savoring life each week is that we lower our stress levels as we learn to slow down and smell the roses in our daily life. Much of our stress and anxiety come from being on the go, go , go track of life and not noticing what is really going on in our lives. Our lack of in the present mindfulness makes our lives disjointed and disconnected which increases our stressed out feelings of being out of control.

Lisa Graham McMinn author of The Contented Soul: The Art of Savoring Life has this to say about savoring life: “We are surrounded by simple pleasures and the possibility of sipping and savoring our very earthy, very physical life. Contentment awaits us, inviting to savor each moment, and in doing so to honor the God who gave us life”. In her book she gives practical exercises to savor the world around us and to savor our relationship to God. Building up the habit of savoring helps us to see the importance of slowing our lives down, so we can enjoy life and living more.

With savoring, instead of scattering our thoughts continually we learn to take a deep breath and focus on the hummingbird at the feeder; the colored leaves on the tree in autumn; watching the variety of people walking through the mall, while we sit enjoying a cup of coffee. It is appreciating creation and the little joys of life which leads to being thankful in our spirits to the Creator God. Savoring is a habit that brings joy and relaxation into our lives.

Another benefit to savoring it yields the fruit of contentment in our lives which counters the constant urge for more and more stuff in our lives. Christmas has been turned into a consumer buy-a-thon instead of celebrating God’s loves and grace to mankind in the story of Jesus. We can live richer lives in savoring and appreciating what we have instead of a continual angst to desire more and more of the newest commodity to hit the market.

One passage from the writings of the Apostle Paul in Philippians relates to this, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise…. For I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” Be content and savor, soak in all the good in life. If our minds, our thinking, are focused on the good in life and all that is lovely around us we are savoring. We are taking the time to slow down and truly enjoy the life God wants us to enjoy.

I have mentioned slowing down a couple of times. There is a helpful website http://slowdownnow.org on the internet that is focused on encouraging people to slow down and shows the benefits of enjoying a slower life. As this year ends and you work on goals for the New Year make one of your list items for the New Year to take time throughout each week to savor the life around you.

Reflection
Spend 10 minutes sitting outside still in a chair. Sit upright and close your eyes. Listen to the sounds around you. Then open your eyes and stay seated and soak in through your eyes all the details of what you see. Write down your feelings of the experience.

Take a walk quietly through your neighborhood or a nature setting without an I-Pod in your ears. Savor the sights, smells and sounds around you during the walk. Write down the feelings of the experience.

Go to http://slowdownnow.org and jot down a couple of ideas you can incorporate in your life to help you live more slowly.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Exploring New Places

This is a continuation of last week’s story of our cruise experience. Aside from the delicious food, enjoyable activities aboard ship and the freedom to relax with a good book poolside; there are travel excursions offered at each Port of Call. These give you an opportunity to explore new areas and try out new activities.

Exploring helps us in breaking out of boring everyday sameness. The process aids in our knowledge of the world around us, increases our multicultural awareness, and increases our appreciation for life and history. Some of the activities offered on our cruise were snorkeling, scuba diving, and walking up a waterfall in Jamaica which connects with those who enjoy higher risk taking activities. I am a low risk taker so I usually am not found on those activities.

The excursions on cruises are extra expenses so you need to watch your budget. That is why with our group of four we chose to go on the Tulum Mayan ruins tour. Click here on Tulum Ruins to view more information about the ruins and photos


The Tulum ruins are set on a Cliffside with access to a beach below. The tour guide who was very knowledgeable on Mayan history shared how the Tulum site was an area for the higher aristocrats of the Mayan society and for religious purposes. From artifacts found buried the guide mentioned Tulum was a major trading center in its days.

We were lucky that our guide was not trying to be a Las Vegas comedian but instead filled us in with historical information about the Mayan culture and the ruins at Tulum. One sad item to learn was that at its height the Mayan culture had libraries with thousands of books. These were destroyed by early visiting priests who believed their culture to be evil. We were told of the mass of Mayan literature only three books survive today and they are in European University libraries. This story shows the importance of respecting other cultures. We can disagree but to destroy without fully understanding one another is a travesty of history.

The guide told us that it is still a mystery why a culture as advanced as the Mayans disappeared so quickly with no reason why. The archaeological excavations continue today as they had recently unburied another dwelling site. So maybe the mystery will be solved at sometime in the future.

Educational tours such as this one, is one of my favorite exploring activities. Looking at the layout of the small city of Tulum, I used my imagination and wondered what life was like in the 1200’s when Tulum was in its zenith period.

Of course you do not need to go on a cruise to explore. There are sites all over this country to explore and around the world. In your local area where you live there may be small museums and historical sites where you can visit and learn from.

There are many types of exploring activities you can partake in. I am emphasizing an example of historical site exploring as that is something my family and I enjoy. Here are a list of websites you can visit to peruse historical sites in the U.S.A. and around the world.

U.S. sites to see of historical importance:

http://www.historyplace.com/tourism/usa.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._National_Historic_Landmarks_by_state



World Historical locations:
http://www.worldhistoricalsites.com/

http://www.historicalsitesoftheworld.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Heritage_Site

Our journey on this earth is so brief and when you explore websites as those listed above you can see there is so much to do in life. There is no time to be bored with an ok life. We have opportunities in life to flourish and live more than ok in exploring the vast opportunities around the world.

Reflection:
Go back to the cruise websites from last week and explore some of the travel excursions offered on the cruise ships.
View a couple of the above websites on historical locations and write down 5 you would like to visit in your lifetime.
Take 15 minutes of quiet time to write about one of your favorite exploring times in your life journey.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Enjoy A Cruise For A More Than OK Life

I am writing this posting from a cruise ship vacation with my wife, daughter, and my third grade teacher. This is one vacation I never thought I would do. In the past I always thought of cruise ships as people stuffed into an overgrown tin can floating in the ocean with hungry sharks underneath waiting for a snack. The idea of being on one was as enjoyable as eating a plate of artichokes. And I hate artichokes! So how did I wind up on the Voyager of the Seas on a Royal Caribbean cruise??

This all started one Saturday in the Summer when I attended a creative journaling seminar at El Rocio, a local retreat center in Mission, Texas. The seminar was led by Dr. Marsha Nelson, a therapist who focuses on creative therapy techniques. She gave each of us at the training a pamphlet about a cruise group to the Caribbean she was planning in December. I dutifully took one and showed it to my wife when I went home. She excitedly said, “we need to go!”. Then my daughter overheard and was all excited ,”Yeah! We are going on a cruise!” I was thinking, “Oh, great! Floating in a tin can for a week! How do I get out of this!”.

I told them I would check to see if I could get off work. My perfect out! The cruise was during the end of the university semester so I probably would not receive time off. Well -- I am here so I did get the time off.
When we boarded the ship, my wife, daughter, my third grade teacher and I were amazed by the ship. The size was enormous and the d├ęcor was like a top scale hotel. We looked at the daily planner schedule and there were so many things to do, special classes on different topics from scrapbooking, to cooking, to better health classes. Each evening they have talented entertaining and music of all varieties throughout the day. The food is all deliciously prepared and you can eat round the clock if you wanted or would be able to. State of the art exercise facilities are available to work off the pounds from all the food. It was awesome to be working out on an elliptical machine staring out at the sea water with the sun reflecting its rays at sunrise.

All the activities and entertainment have made this an enjoyable time. Also the freedom where my daughter can go off do her thing, my wife and my third grade teacher can relax poolside, and I am free to work on my writing and reading. Of course being a bookhead I need my reading time. Yet the most enjoyable part of the cruise is the wonderful people on board. We came up from the Rio Grande Valley with the nicest group of folks that Dr. Marsha Nelson put together for the trip. Beyond our small group with all the friendliness between fellow cruisers you don’t feel like a stranger.

First of all I want to mention the workers on the ship. I can tell they are dedicated to great customer service. They go out of their way to serve and each person from those at the information desk to the dining helpers always have a smile on their face. Then the other cruisers on the ship are so friendly. You can strike up a conversation with about anyone. I began to wonder if they slip a happiness drug in to the water supply? How else could the emotional atmosphere be so congenial?

Thinking about it further, there are several more probable variables other than a happy drug. One thought that comes to mind is the superb respectful customer service along with their friendliness of the workers helps create a climate in which the friendly spirit spreads throughout the ship. Another is that the type of people who go on cruises are more open to meeting new people, so that aids in the people on the ship having a closer sense of fellowship.

Another reason for the relaxed atmosphere is there are so many things you can do and no pressure to do any particular activity. Family members can do different activities or do the same thing. You can eat when you want, sleep when you want. SO no one feels pressured. I have had several people tell me before taking the cruise that a cruise is one vacation where you go home relaxed and not tired. Many vacations I have been on you feel like you need a vacation from the vacation. This cruise is almost over and I still feel relaxed.

Vacations are an important part of living more than ok. We need time to break away from our work and the routines of life. Vacations are a way to learn new things about the world around us, other people and people groups. This experience of being on a cruise has opened my eyes to a new way to vacation. I would encourage anyone now to be open to having a cruise experience as one of their vacations. I know my family and I will be trying other cruises in the future.

Reflection:
Make a list of your top 5 vacation spots. Then go online and search for cruises that may go to one of those locations. Take some time to explore cruise websites to see what is all open to you in a cruise experience. Create a goal plan for doing a cruise vacation
.