The Prophet: “Freedom” by Kahlil Gibran

Today’s Thought:

Our world needs vision; it needs visionaries. Why not you and yours?

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Truly, Kahlil Gibran stands among the most intriguing voices ever to scratch words onto a page. His mystically beautiful and profoundly poetic prose burns to the very root of what it means to be human. He masterfully tackles issues we are all warned not to talk about and gently illuminates the darkness that separates the sides.

Gibran was born in Lebanon in 1883. In 1912, he moved to New York where he pursued his writing and art. Most consider The Prophet, published in 1923, to be his crowning achievement.  The work is a series of 28 short essays depicting an unnamed prophet answering the peoples’ questions about important issues in life.

Gibran’s writings are noted for their intricate wording that invites the reader to ponder their deeper meaning and link the ideas to his or her own life. He died an untimely death in 1931, but his work remains popular and relevant in a modern world seeking answers.

Freedom is one of the 28 essays from The Prophet. Few concepts resonate as resolutely in our 21st century world as freedom. Peoples the world over living under dictators, theocracies, and other repressive regimes still fight for their freedom. Meanwhile, the people in “free nations” struggle against the onslaught of intrusive technologies and power hungry governments to keep their freedom from being swallowed whole.

Internally, we are constantly fighting our own personal battle against the impediments to freedom that we construct in our own lives.

Gibran offers gems that set you on the road to freedom. Read his writing through a couple of times as it always yields more than the first reading. Recognizing the chains, within and without, is the first step on the road to true freedom.

“Freedom”

And an orator said, “Speak to us of Freedom.”

And he (the prophet) answered: At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom, Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.

Aye, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.

And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment.

You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief, But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.

And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?

In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes.

And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free? If it is an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own hand upon your own forehead.

You cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them. And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.

For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their own pride? And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you.

And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.

Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.

These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling. And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light.

And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.

Copyright @ Kahlil Gibran.

Follow your bliss. Experience your bliss. Become your bliss.

Ray

Ray Davis is the founder of The Affirmation Spot. He’s been studying and practicing personal development for 30 years. He’s also studied many of the world’s spiritual traditions and mythologies.

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Things I Learned from My Dog Part II – The Affirmation Spot for Friday February 8, 2008


Thank you for visiting The Affirmation Spot. Your comments on the blog or this article are always welcome. Please click here to share lessons learned from your pet.



copy-of-ray_hawaii1.jpgWhat Ray’s reading right now:

The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life




Be sure and visit the blog Saturday for our weekly Saturday poll. Last week’s poll asked, “What one thing would you do to make the world a better place?”



mia_snow.jpgMia is our beautiful three year-old black lab. She is doesn’t know it, at least I don’t think she does, but she is a master teacher on the subject of life – a kind of canine Confucius. You see, she lives her life the way many of us set out to live ours. She knows what she wants and she goes for it and she never gives up.

You can characterize this trait as persistance.

When Mia wants something she can be highly persistent. For instance, I rarely get to sleep in on weekends anymore. Mia usually makes sure I’m up no later than 7 a.m. She doesn’t have to go out she just wants me out of bed. She has a very subtle approach and a clear strategy. She doesn’t bark or run around the room.

No, Mia persists with kindness. 

It usually starts with her getting up on the bed and finding a way to lay her head on my chest.This is usually enough to wake me up. Then the licking begins. She licks my hand until I sleepily hide it under the pillow. Mia persists. She inches up her way up so that she can lick my chin.I’ve always been a night owl. On nights when I don’t have to go into the office the next day, like Friday nights, I’m often up late reading or working. So, I’m pretty determined to sleep in until at least 8:00. Mia, however, has different plans.

She’s probably spotted squirrels out playing in her backyard. She is, afterall, the fiercest squirrel warrior in five counties. She wants me to get up and let her out.  I want to sleep for a little longer.

Now she works her way up to my ear and starts licking. I’ve had enough and I tell her to go lay down. She complies, but she doesn’t give up. Mia persists. Usually, within five to 10 minutes, she’s back. She jumps up on the bed and plants herself on top of me with a sigh. She thinks she’s a lap dog even though she weighs 55+ pounds.

I hide my hands immediately. I mean I’m smarter than the dog, right? So, she starts with the chin and starts inching her way up until she’s licking me right on the face. Not one or two kisses, mind you, but a full barrage designed to end the stalemate.

Sometimes, depending on exactly how late I’ve been up the night before, this can go on for two or three cycles before I concede the point and get up and let her out. On the mornings this strategy doesn’t work, Mia has back up plans. Mia persists.

She waits until I’ve just dozed off again and then she sits at the edge of the bed and makes “crying sounds”. It’s like one of those alarm clocks that starts out low and grows louder until you turn it off. If this doesn’t work, Mia persists. If this strategy doesn’t work, she turns to her last hope – April. She starts bothering April. She’s not really trying to get April to get up. She just wants April to convince me to take her out. I usually don’t make it to 8:00.

Looked at in one way, not my tired early morning view, it’s all pretty humorous.

Persistence is one of those attributes that helps you go where you want to go in life. Unfortunately, you sometimes lose steam along the road to your dreams.

Here are Mia’s persistence tips:

  1. Be clear on what you want in your mind.
  2. Pursue your goal with all your might, but be kind. The world is full of mean people willing to succeed at the expense of others. Don’t be one of them.
  3. Be patient. The first lick doesn’t always do the job.
  4. Involve others and get their buy in to help you.
  5. Have back up strategies. Sometimes Plan A fails. That doesn’t mean your goal or your dream must fail. Devise new ways of succeeding.
  6. Never give up.
  7. Enjoy life. Mia always does!

Be peaceful Be prosperous!

Ray

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If We Want Change, We Must First Question – The Affirmation Spot for Tuesday January 15, 2008



Today’s affirmation is:

“I question assumptions and long-held beliefs to discover new and beneficial ways to live.”
 

If we are to have change in the world or in our lives, we must learn to question. Questioning is difficult. The group does not like to be questioned. So much so, that in many instances the questioner is ostracized or even put to death. Jesus, Martin Luther King,  and Gandhi are all examples of those who challenged the status quo and felt its wrath.

The ego is not much more forgiving. When we challenge its dominance the ego can be nearly as viscious as the group. Stress, depression, and self-destructive behavior are defense mechanisms used by the ego to maintain its control.So, questioning is scary. Nonetheless, a failure to question is an invitation to slavery, tyranny, and unhappiness. We must question so that fresh ideas can be aired and new possibilities created.

Questioning is not the same as not believing. In fact, questioning is really an empowered type of believing that takes belief to a whole new level by verifying it and testing it against reality.Today we have three very short stories. The first two illustrate the trap of failing to question. The final story offers one way to test the validity of our beliefs and assumptions and come out stronger because of it.

The Ham  ham.jpgThere is a story of a woman who was preparing a ham to be baked. Before placing it in the oven, she sliced an inch off the end of the ham.

Her daughter was watching her bake a ham for the first time. She asked, “mom, why did you cut an inch off the end of the ham before you placed it in the oven?”

“I don’t know,” replied the mother, “my mother always cut an inch off a ham before she put it in the oven.”

Curious, the mother picked up the phone and called the grandmother to ask why she cut the end off a ham before baking it.

The grandmother answered that she had no idea why she cut the end off hams before baking them. “My mother always did it,” she said.

Finally, the mother and the grandmother got the great-grandmother on the phone. The grandmother asked, “Mom, why did you cut an inch off the end of the ham before placing it in the oven?”

The great-grandmother replied, “I cut the end off the ham because my oven was too small to fit a full ham.”

We learn by watching and absorbing the thoughts, actions, and beliefs of those around us. Often we don’t even stop to question them. Two generations of this family always cut off the end of the ham. They never quetioned it. They did it because they had seen their mothers do it.

Nothing changed until the great-grandaughter finally asked, “Why?”

Blind Leading the Blind 

buddha_teaching2.jpgWe have generational blindness leaning on generational blindness.

The Buddha once spoke to a group of young Brahmins (priests) about their “belief” in Brahma (God). “Who among you has personally seen or spoke to Brahma,” asked The Buddha?

The Brahmins answered, “None of us has seen or spoken to Brahma.”

Buddha continued, “Well then, which of your teachers has seen or spoken to Brahma?” Again, the youths answered that none of their teachers had actually seen or spoken to Brahma.

Finally, Buddha asked, “Who in your lineage going back seven generations has seen or spoken to Brahma?” The young Brahmins admitted that no one even going back seven generations had actually seen or spoken to Brahma.

“Then,” said Buddha, “If not you, nor your teachers, nor their teachers going back seven generations has seen or spoken to Brahma, you are but the blind leading the blind.

Buddha was not attacking their beliefs. He was trying to get them to examine their beliefs and ideas and to become a fully awake and responsible human beings. 

Challenge Beliefs and Put Them to the Test

buddha_teaching.jpgDuring a visit to the town of the Kalamas, the Buddha was asked a crucial question.

“Reverend Gautama, many teachers enter our midst teaching that their way and their way alone is the path to salvation. They extol the virtues of their own doctrines while tearing down the doctrines of other teachers. This creates doubt in our minds about all their teachings. For how are we to know which speaks the truth and which speaks falsehood?”

Buddha replied, “Kalamas, you have doubt in circumstances where doubt is understandable. Where doubt thrives uncertainty is born.” The Buddha proposed a test against which to measure any teaching including his own.

  • Do not believe something because it has been passed down and believed for many generations.
  • Do not believe something merely because it is a traditional practice.
  • Do not believe something because everyone believes it.
  • Do not believe something because it is written in a book and has been recited over and over.
  • Do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning.
  • Do not believe something because it fits your preconceived notions.
  • Do not believe something because you trust who is saying it.
  • Do not believe something only because your teacher says it is so.

“Kalamas, when you yourselves know directly something is unskillful, unwholesome, blameworthy, rejected by the wise, harmful to yourselves or others, leads to poverty or unhappiness, you should give it up.”

“One the other hand, Kalamas, when you know directly that something is skilled, wholesome, blameless, praised by the wise, and leads to well-being, prosperity, and happiness, you should accept it and practice it.”

We all need to examine the beliefs that are driving our actions in this world. When we look at the state of the world we must conclude that there is more each of us can do to make a difference. It all begins with questioning age-old beliefs. Even beliefs based in truth can become clouded by generations of unexamined hatreds, fears, and prejudices.

Every change, personal or global, begins with the courage to question.



 Be peaceful Be prosperous!


Ray

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Making the Most of Each Day – The Affirmation Spot for Wednesday January 2, 2008

Today’s affirmation is:

“I make each day a unique and special time in my life.”

solar_system2.jpgOur lives are about more than our jobs, our roles, our tasks, and our responsibilities. Each day of our existence has some unique place the tapestry that makes up our lives. If we’re not careful, we may just miss the meaning.

It’s easy for days to slip by in our lives without us taking notice. Giving each day a special meaning is one way to keep that from happening.

Over the years, I’ve used a number of strategies to add meaning to each day. My favorite is to assign a positive attribute to each day of the week. This is not necessarily a novel idea. In the western world, the days of the week are generally named for the known celestial bodies and the god associated with that object. 

In English Sunday is Sun-day. Monday is Moon-day. In French, Mardi (Tuesday) is Mars-day, Mercredi (Wednesday) is Mercury-day, and Jeudi (Thursday) is a translation of the Latin Jovis (Jupiter) or Jupiter-day. Saturday in English, obviously, is Saturn’s Day.

You can do something similar to add meaning to each day of your week. Try associating a positive emotion, attribute, or thought for each day. As the week’s cycle through, you will find that you look forward to focusing on the meaning of each day. The theme for each day becomes your own private meditation for the day.

You can associate anything you want with each day. The goal is to embody or focus on that attribute as you go through the day. The concepts should resonate with you and your life, but here is an example to give you some ideas.

  1. Sunday – theme your Sundays as “rebirth”. Since Sunday is generally viewed as the first day of the week it makes sense to use it to focus on something like rebirth. It is wonderful to have the opportunity start fresh every so often. Once a week is perfect.
  2. Monday – try theming Mondays as “happiness”. Monday is a depressing day for many people because it is the first day of the work week. Try countering the negative connotation by focusing on happiness all day.
  3. Tuesday – try theming Tuesdays as “peace.” Tuesday as the second day of the week.
  4. Wednesday – try theming Wednesdays as “overcoming”. Wednesday is often viewed as the middle of week – “hump day”. Capitalize on that idea by focusing on overcoming obstacles and challenges on Wednesday.
  5. Thursday – try theming Thursday as “faith” or “belief”. You may focus on your religious and spiritual beliefs or belief in your abilities or your future. Giving one day a week to this topic keeps you grounded in what is important to you.
  6. Friday – try theming Friday as “development”. We always need to be moving ahead in our lives. Having one day a week where we focus on our development can help.
  7. Saturday – try theming Saturday as “completion”. Since Saturday is the last day of the week it is ideal for highlighting the idea of finishing tasks or bringing aspects of our life to completion.

Other possible themes include hope, forgivness, relaxation, joy, frugality, learning, or love. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination.

Coincidentally, there are seven days of the week and seven colors in the rainbow. You might alos try associating a color with each day/positive emotion to create additional significance. 

Create calendars (regular or cyclical) that detail your themed days of the week. As the weeks pass, you begin to look forward to your “day of peace” on Sunday or your “day of take it slow” on Saturday. Try writing a more detailed descriptions of what each day means to you and how it contributes to your life.

Be creative and have fun with it. Maybe you make every Monday “laughing day”. You learn to laugh at yourself and others for taking life so seriously.

Most importantly, you will add significance to each grain of sand slipping through your 2008 hour glass. By the end of the year, you may find your life has more meaning.

Happy New Year. Thank you to each and every one of you who reads this blog, downloads affirmations, or takes a moment to write a kind word about what we are trying to accomplish at The Affirmation Spot.

Be peaceful Be prosperous.

Ray 

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Big Rocks First – The Affirmation Spot for Saturday December 1, 2007

Today’s Thought:
What is is, but that doesn’t mean it’s what must be.
~ Ray Davis

big_rocks.jpgToday, perhaps, is not my most original post. However, there are certain ideas and concepts that we keep forgetting. An occasional reminder never hurts.

You may be familiar with the Big Rocks analogy. If not, let me briefly recount it. The story has countless derivations. Many authors credit Steven Covey for putting it in his book First Things First.

A college professor instructing a class full of high-powered, driven, MBA candidates decided to make a point to this group of overachievers. He announced to the class, “It’s time for a quiz.”

There was shuffling in the room as the students pulled out pen and paper and prepared themselves to expound on some esoteric principle of macroeconomics. To their surprise, the professor produced a large, wide-mouthed glass jar from behind his desk. As the class looked on, the professor placed a series of fist-sized rocks into the jar until the rocks reached the top of the jar.

“Is the jar full,” he queried the class?

One particularly eager student raised her hand, but could not even wait to be called on. She proclaimed, “Yes, professor, the jar is full.”

“Are you sure,” asked the professor, patiently?

He produced a jar filled with small pebbles and began to pour them into the first jar until they filled all the space between the larger rocks. When he’d finished he asked again, “Is the jar full?”

Skeptical, from being burned the first time, someone said, “Probably not.”

Smiling, the professor pulled out a jar of sand and poured it into the first jar. The sand seeped into the crevices between the pebbles and filled the space. As the sand reached the top, the professor had one of the students come to the front of the room and pat the sand down and smooth it so that it was even with the top of the jar.

“Now is the jar full?”

A few people were now ready to guess again that the jar was full. The professor pulled out a bottle of water and began pouring it into the jar. The water was absorbed by the sand. When he had poured as much water as the jar could hold, the professor asked one more time if the jar was full.

The class sat there, a bit unsure. Finally, the professor confirmed that the jar was now full.

“If we apply this example to our lives,” the professor asked, “what is the lesson?”

One student raised his hand and said, “That if we really, really try we can always fit one more thing into our lives?”

“No,” responded the professor satisfied that they had taken the bait, “The lesson is that if we don’t put the big rocks in first, there won’t be room for them.”

If all goes well, we get about 80 trips around the Sun (plus or minus 10) in this life. The water, the sand, and the pebbles are always going to be there knawing at us, stealing our time away. We have to put the Big Rocks into our 80-year jar first or we may never get to them.

Coaching their sales teams is the Big Rock (in their job) for managers in my company. For most, it was not only the most critical to their success, but the real reason they like being a sales manager. Yet, all the little things were getting in the way because they were not putting the Big Rock into their calendars FIRST.

My wife and I took our first trip to Hawaii this past March. We absolutely fell in the love with the place. We developed a mutually shared dream to live there one day.

hawaii_kauai_hanalei_bay_beach_0055Friends and family don’t think we’re serious, but we are already thinking about and acting on ways to make it happen. We both are afflicted by the sights of the beautiful blue water every time we close our eyes.

Hawaii has become a Big Rock for us. When it came time to decide on a vacation destination for next year there was no discussion. We could have gone somewhere we haven’t been before, but we put our Big Rock into the jar FIRST. We booked another trip to Hawaii.

What are the Big Rocks in your life? Who are the people, which are the experiences, what are the achievements that bring or would bring you the most joy? Are they the FIRST things in your proverbial calendar or are they relegated to the bottom of the pile in the hope that you will get to them someday?

The end of the year is always a great time to reflect and take stock of our direction your life. Think about what your Big Rocks are and make sure they are the priority in 2008.

Peace…

Ray

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