Are you ready for a taste of success?

Review of Easy Habit Mastery by R.C. Peterson

by Joseph G. Langen

Easy Habit Mastery

It is a bit early to consider New Years’ resolutions. But this book brought them to mind for me. I have never seen a report of the percentage of resolutions kept for any amount of time. My guess is that it would not amount to much. Why? Most people start large, don’t consider what is involved and don’t take into account their resistance to change, despite their best intentions.

Peterson does take all this into account in proposing a different approach to developing and following through with new habits. First you must acknowledge your resistance to change the status quo. Key to his approach is starting with small incremental changes which your brain will more readily accept.

He suggests habits to adopt in six areas. First is diet and exercise such as morning stretching and eliminating unhealthy foods one at a time. He suggests mental habits such as listing your worries and gratitudes on a daily basis. He proposes financial habits such as budgeting and prioritizing purchases. He invites his readers to develop better relationship habits such as being honest in important matters. In business matters, he suggests delivering what you promise. Finally, he suggests personal development habits such as reading and documentaries as well as periodic review of your goals.

We have been trained to expect whatever we want immediately. No wonder so many people are frustrated. Peterson encourages his readers to start small and pace themselves so that they can be successful with small challenges leading to more profound changes. Are you ready for as taste of success?

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Souls in Flight

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Alone in his room, alone in his mind

No one to share, no one to care

Guns at the ready, loaded and locked

Sights cleaned and polished, mounted and focused

Bags crumpled and empty, his hiding completed

Ammo in clips, stocks oiled and burnished

His mind was empty, his feelings aside

The shooter takes aim and squeezes the trigger.

 

Where was his soul, who knew his fate?

Who will miss him and then wonder why

Fate brought him this far and left him to die,

A soul which flies and dashes to pieces?

His life left in ashes adrift in the wind,

No honor left here, no story to tell.

 

Fifty­-nine souls freed from their hosts

All came for music to brighten their lives.

They hoped for a story to carry back home

Of songs which they liked and maybe they loved.

Their troubles forgotten at least for the time,

No fears for the future, no time for that now,

The music consumed them and lifted their souls

A flash in the sky and then there was silence.

 

Their souls were enchanted and ready to fly.

Not ready to leave, not really their choice,

Their time had arrived with no warning in sight

Their memory stays, their future cut short,

Their stories now passed to those they loved best

Before they expected, it came time to rest.

 

Five twenty­-eight, the number of those

Who were touched by a bullet but not left ice cold.

An instant of fear, but no time to wonder

If next they would live or cease to exist.

The music cut short, panic ensued

Everyone running, ducking for cover.

Would they be among those with stories to tell

Or would they be silenced and murdered as well.

 

Their souls remained, their lives left in tatters

So close to death but spared for a while

Not this time but maybe not too far ahead

A chance for another, a more thoughtful life.

The stories now theirs, they speak in the stead

Of those whom they left and whose lives they now led.

 

 

 

 

 

What follows Trump and Trumpism?

Review of­ One Nation After Trump­  by E.J. Dionne, Norman  Ornstein, and Thomas Mann

I happened upon this book in The Bunch of Grapes, an independent bookstore in Martha’s Vineyard which I have never left without finding a writing treasure.  I picked up and put down the book several times. Did I really want to delve any further into the Trump quagmire? I finally let my sense of obligation to my country overcome the increasing trepidation I have felt since the last election day.

I feared it might just be another diatribe against Trump. I imagined everything the authors might say. Once I began the book, I discovered that they had a plan which made sense to me and offered hope for the future of our country.

They distinguished between the person of Donald Trump and his disregard for the traditions, values and customs of our country and the movement of Trumpism which has taken on a life of its own and created its own horrors.

Part one chronicles the descent of the disaffected into a world of resentment, cynicism and anger about the loss of standing, chiefly of white males who have declined from the relative prosperity they had achieved over many decades. This dissatisfaction has focused on non­-whites and immigrants as the reason for their decline. Their white plight has resulted in a combination of racism directed toward minorities who could further erode their economic well-being and protectionism from those who would come to their country and take what little they had left. In addition to explaining the nature of this movement, the authors also demonstrate how cultural, economic and political trends have fueled the rise of Trumpism over a period of decades.

The second part of the book outlines possibilities for moving forward as a society rather than disintegrating into irrelevance. They suggest ways that patriotism can be reborn, how a new civil society can be reborn and how conservative and progressive ways of thought can come together to restore our standing with ourselves and with other nations while bringing hope to disaffected white males as well as the groups against which they rail.

In my opinion, this book is a comprehensive, thoroughly researched manual for understanding the state to which we have descended and ways we can all work together to bring ourselves back to our roots and convictions.

How do I start to understand violence?

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To cure the violence, we must identify and heal the causes of hatred and violence.
If we don’t deal with the causes we will never be safe.
~Peter Yarrow~
The term random violence suggests that there is no explanation for such acts which have become all too commonplace recently. Acceptance that there is no explanation implies that that there is nothing we can do about it. The approach of placing more guns in the hands of civilians has been promoted as one possible solution although it sounds scary to me.
​​​​​​​Commentators and others have scratched their heads trying to clarify the reasons for this violence. Among the possibilities are parenting styles, the effects of mental illness, the proliferation of guns, violent video games, media sensationalism and violent lyrics in music. We would like to find a reason for the violence which does not include our own culture and attack the problem as lying outside us.
What if the reasons lie within the culture of which we are a part? Then the search becomes uncomfortable. We would need to examine our own thoughts and emotions as people living in this culture.
In his article, The Autogenic Massacre, P. E. Mullen reminds us that guns and violent revolution formed one basis for founding the United States. He also revises a well known slogan to read “Guns don’t kill people, but people kill people with guns.” He notes that many popular movies glorify gun violence. Most people do not use guns to actually protect themselves. Most seldom have the intention of murdering others. Yet some people do have such motivations and some become mass murderers.
Mental illness is often seen as an explanation or in common words, “He must be crazy!” For the most part it is a “he.” Violent attacks are much more likely to be carried out by men than by women. The result of this kind of thinking is to identify and isolate these mentally ill individuals from mainstream society. Yet the mentally ill are far more commonly the victims of violence than they are perpetrators of violence.
Attempts to clarify which traits predict violence have been largely unsuccessful and tend to include people with moderate or little risk of becoming violent. The great majority of mass killers are white males, but no other characteristics are helpful in defining who is likely to become violent. They are not clearly psychotic, delusional, crazy or insane.
Christopher Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University, has listed the features most relevant to mass shooters. They include antisocial traits, depressed mood, recent loss and perception that others are to blame for their problems.
He sees these risk factors as common to violent adults as well as children. Yet these are not mental illnesses in themselves. They imply unwanted emotions and difficulty coping with challenges and life events which we all face from time to time.
Mullen suggests that mass murderers may not differ from the rest of us in how they think or feel. They may just differ in the degree to which they experience feelings such as rage and motivations like revenge.
Another factor might be an exaggerated sense of entitlement which fuels rage in certain people when their expectations are not met by society. Other people disposed toward violence often feel marginalized by society, also leading them to anger, rage and feelings of wanting revenge.
​​​​​​​
Trying to isolate such individuals and punishing them for their emotions only increases their sense of isolation and pent-up rage. As we saw when we discussed the criminal justice system, another approach would be to try reaching such individuals before they become hardened into seeing violence as their only alternative. Such an approach would not be easy, and it also goes against the vigilante or cowboy thinking of many people these days. Yet it promises a much more productive way of going about making lasting changes.

How do I start to understand violence?

To cure the violence, we must identify and heal the causes of hatred and violence.
If we don’t deal with the causes we will never be safe.
~Peter Yarrow~
The term random violence suggests that there is no explanation for such acts which have become all too commonplace recently. Acceptance that there is no explanation implies that that there is nothing we can do about it. The approach of placing more guns in the hands of civilians has been promoted as one possible solution although it sounds scary to me.
​​​​​​​Commentators and others have scratched their heads trying to clarify the reasons for this violence. Among the possibilities are parenting styles, the effects of mental illness, the proliferation of guns, violent video games, media sensationalism and violent lyrics in music. We would like to find a reason for the violence which does not include our own culture and attack the problem as lying outside us.
What if the reasons lie within the culture of which we are a part? Then the search becomes uncomfortable. We would need to examine our own thoughts and emotions as people living in this culture.
In his article, The Autogenic Massacre, P. E. Mullen reminds us that guns and violent revolution formed one basis for founding the United States. He also revises a well known slogan to read “Guns don’t kill people, but people kill people with guns.” He notes that many popular movies glorify gun violence. Most people do not use guns to actually protect themselves. Most seldom have the intention of murdering others. Yet some people do have such motivations and some become mass murderers.
Mental illness is often seen as an explanation or in common words, “He must be crazy!” For the most part it is a “he.” Violent attacks are much more likely to be carried out by men than by women. The result of this kind of thinking is to identify and isolate these mentally ill individuals from mainstream society. Yet the mentally ill are far more commonly the victims of violence than they are perpetrators of violence.
Attempts to clarify which traits predict violence have been largely unsuccessful and tend to include people with moderate or little risk of becoming violent. The great majority of mass killers are white males, but no other characteristics are helpful in defining who is likely to become violent. They are not clearly psychotic, delusional, crazy or insane.
Christopher Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University, has listed the features most relevant to mass shooters. They include antisocial traits, depressed mood, recent loss and perception that others are to blame for their problems.
He sees these risk factors as common to violent adults as well as children. Yet these are not mental illnesses in themselves. They imply unwanted emotions and difficulty coping with challenges and life events which we all face from time to time.
Mullen suggests that mass murderers may not differ from the rest of us in how they think or feel. They may just differ in the degree to which they experience feelings such as rage and motivations like revenge.
Another factor might be an exaggerated sense of entitlement which fuels rage in certain people when their expectations are not met by society. Other people disposed toward violence often feel marginalized by society, also leading them to anger, rage and feelings of wanting revenge.
​​​​​​​
Trying to isolate such individuals and punishing them for their emotions only increases their sense of isolation and pent-up rage. As we saw when we discussed the criminal justice system, another approach would be to try reaching such individuals before they become hardened into seeing violence as their only alternative. Such an approach would not be easy, and it also goes against the vigilante or cowboy thinking of many people these days. Yet it promises a much more productive way of going about making lasting changes.

How to balance life, religion and spirituality.

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Life is your adventure. Religion and spirituality can help you make sense of your life and navigate its challenges. When was the last time you stopped to consider what your life is all about? Why are you here on Earth? Children hear that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. That is not quite true as we have seen. Some paths require resources, money, skills or connections which might not be readily available to you. Your choices are not unlimited.

Yet you still have many options available to you. Your family, friends, life circumstances and talents guided you toward certain paths. Those paths, suggested by people who care about you, might have been easier to follow than forging your own path, although theirs might not take you quite where you want or expect to go. More challenging paths await you down the road. These will require more effort from you when they are less familiar. Yet they might be more satisfying in the long run as you learn to manage them.

If fame, fortune and power are your main goals in life, you probably see little need for religion or spirituality. You will pursue your goals at all costs regardless of the effect on your life and the lives of those you encounter on your way through life. But you could end up living in a spiritual vacuum. You might want to at least think of reconsidering your priorities. Religion and spirituality are important to people who want their lives to be about something more than what they can grab for themselves. They form a context for living a life directed toward a higher calling.

When I was a child, a “vocation” was considered a call from God to pursue a higher purpose. At that time it meant being called to be a priest or a nun. Later it came to mean living any life in the context of a greater meaning.

How to find meaning outside the limited context of your little world is not always obvious. Where do you start? What are the steps? Spirituality is the process of finding, accepting and sharing the larger meaning of being alive as you journey through life. You can learn from others on a similar path to yours and share what you learn with your fellow travelers.

Religions are formalized systems intended to help you find the meaning for which you search on your spiritual journey. Obviously various religious systems cannot all be the one true path to spirituality and to God although many claim to be the only right way. Regardless of their claims, most religions start with the same premise, offering a way to live in unity between you and God.

How do you know if you are on the right path? Spirituality and religion both suggest reflection and meditation. If you never stop to see where you have been, where you are headed and the effect of your choices on you and those around you, you have no way to check your course or predict where you will end up.

Honest reflection will help you evaluate your life path to see whether it is taking you in the right direction. If you are hurting yourself or someone else as you proceed, you might have made a wrong turn and need a course correction.

Excerpt from my book, From Violence to Peace. For a free sample, follow this link and choose Look Inside.

 

How do I get my body to be at peace?

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How do you get your body to be at peace and in harmony? Once you see the answers to this question, they might seem like common sense. Unfortunately we do not always use common sense in our approach to our bodies. Sometimes we take partial or baby steps. That’s a good start, but the more you understand about your body’s needs and the more you treat your body kindly, the more at peace you will find yourself.

What does a peaceful body look like? On the surface your brow is smooth and not wrinkled in distress. Your face is calm; your hands are relaxed and your fists are not clenched. You stand straight and are not stooped over under the weight of your daily stress.

Looking inside, your bloodstream is distributing nourishment and collecting waste and not chronically clogged with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. As we saw before, these hormones serve a useful purpose in preparing you for approaching danger and shutting down regular functions of your body not specifically needed to fight stress.

This is fine when your body is under attack, and you need to defend yourself or get you out of harm’s way. Yet immediate threats pass fairly quickly, and your body hopefully returns to a more relaxed and peaceful state. When you are constantly beset by worrisome thoughts, emotions or both, your body stays in a state of high alert preventing you from feeling at peace and eventually exhausting you and keeping you from living a productive life. Your body, mind, emotions and spirit are all interconnected. We will look more closely at thoughts and emotions as well as spirituality a little later.

Your blood pressure, pulse, and heart rate all rise when you are in a state of stress or anxiety and become lower when your body is at peace. When you are peaceful, you have more energy to use in constructive activities rather that spending it all fighting stress.

Once you get stress out of your life, you will find that in addition to more energy you will a better appetite and better digestion. Rather than finding natural ways to achieve peace within your body, you might be tempted to seek the help of prescription drugs, alcohol or street drugs as a way to compensate for the unrest inside you. Chemical approaches can be helpful at times. Yet better long-term results can be found by considering changes in the way you live your life. What changes? That’s a long story which I will get to another time.