Taking on the Fears Which Paralyze Us

Great Siege Tunnel- Gibraltar

~Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most~ Benjamin Disraeli

Standing on Luna Island, I watched people marvel at nature’s grandeur and power. Some pondered the thousands of gallons of water racing over Niagara Falls each second. Some photographed each other from every possible angle, making sure they included views of the falls in each photo. Most huddled in groups to share their observations of the spectacle.

One exception was a family I had noticed earlier in the day enjoying Niagara Park. The father, daughter and son all stood together by the rail watching the water cascade over the edge from rapids to falls. The mother stood back about twenty feet by herself. No amount of coaxing drew her nearer the rail. Her daughter went to her in an attempt to draw her closer. The mother protested that there was too much mist by the railing. I stood by the rail a few moments earlier and felt a little mist but was not soaked by any means. I wondered whether the mother was afraid to get closer to the falls and was afraid to say so.

Our fears often prevent us from doing what we might enjoy and even what we need to do. We imagine the worst and remain trapped in our fear. Some thinkers point out that fear keeps us from acting rashly and keeps our actions in balance. Others decry our fear which keeps us from discovering new truths about ourselves and our world. I think of all the explorers before Columbus who feared they would sail off the edge of the earth if they ventured beyond the horizon.

What can we do about our fears? The first step is to know what they are. We can’t do much about them if we don’t admit they are part of us. The second step is to seek understanding of what troubles us. Where would our lives be if we stay paralyzed by the phrase, “What if…”

Knowledge and understanding help us overcome our fears and break the bonds which keep us from reaching our potential. We become like children who eventually look under the bed or in the closet to find no monsters lurking there.

But we are not done yet. Knowing logically that there is nothing to fear, we still don’t know what will happen when we take a calculated risk and move beyond our fears.  We don’t have to jump in immediately with both feet but can approach a new situation with baby steps if we want to. Some people prefer to take the plunge immediately upon entering a pool, lake or ocean and others start by splashing in the water and gradually becoming accustomed to it. What’s your choice?

Life Lab Lessons

  • What are your main fears?
  • What do they keep you from doing?
  • Do you know where and when you acquired these fears?
  • What can you do to overcome them?
  • What will your life be like when you do?

What Animals Teach Us about Our Lives

Barbary Apes

Barbary Apes

~Lots of people talk to animals…Not very many listen, though…That’s the problem~

Benjamin Huff, The Tao of Pooh

Recently, as Carol and I drove home at dusk, we scanned the meadows along the highway where deer usually graze. None in sight, As we neared home, we swerved to avoid a faun lying in a pool of blood. struggling to arise on its two front legs which still worked. The scene left us feeling shocked and helpless. Not at all what we expected. We could only imagine what the faun was feeling.

Earlier that day we had watched Marley and Me, a movie ending with the death of a beloved family dog and felt the emotions the family experienced in letting go of their pet. Sometimes we ignore animals and take them for granted. Sometimes animals fascinate us. Sometimes they become part of our lives and we wind up loving them.

If we look closely, we can find in animals the traits we abhor in each other.  We can also find traits which endear us to each other. Killer whales toss panicked seals into the air before eating them. Chimps groom and embrace each other fondly. Many species display the tenderness and fierce protective behavior we admire in human mothers.

Animals seem to experience pure joy. Watch sea otters slide down slippery rocks into the sea.  See rabbits chase each other around a field. Listen to birds greeting each new day. We tell ourselves that all of these animal reactions are purely instinctual. But who knows? They probably wonder what we are all about as well.

Even though we muse about how well animals understand what we say, we certainly seem to communicate with them on an emotional level. Animals can arouse our interest, curiosity, affection, concern, fear and anger. We seem to draw the same emotions from a variety of animals as well. When a puppy or kitten cuddles up with us, it is hard to know whether the animal or human feels more cozy.

While we see many parallels between human and animal lives, what can we learn from them? On the whole animals seem to be better at staying focused on what is imp0rtant. They do what is necessary for survival, their own and that of their offspring.

They eat what is healthy for them when at all possible. They don’t succumb to addictions, They don’t worry about who has more or better possessions or look down on less fortunate or merely different creatures. They don’t hold grudges, I am not suggesting that animals are any better than we are. I just think we can learn from the simplicity of their lives in contrast to the complexity with which we often surround ourselves.

Live Lab Lessons

  • Do you know what is truly important in your life?
  • Do Your daily choices reflect your values?
  • Do you put the essentials first?
  • Do you complicate your life with toys and gadgets?
  • Could you benefit from watching how animals live?

Sliding Otter News- From Stranger to Acquaintance to Friend

Sitting at Columbus Circle

Sitting at Columbus Circle

~The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing—not healing, not caring…that is a friend who cares~ Henri Nouwen

Recently my girlfriend and I set out to wander around Orleans County for a day. Our main destination was Leonard Oakes Winery near Medina. Dave Lindsay who hosted our wine tasting shared his passion for wine as well as his knowledge. He helped us move along the path from casual sippers to wine enthusiasts.

Sitting on a park bench near the new Oak Orchard Lighthouse we met another man who shared with us his delight in the peace and tranquility of Oak Orchard Creek and Lake Ontario. As we explored a nearby community, we stumbled upon a cottage for sale. A third man, Larry, stopped to tell us about his brother’s cottage. We found we shared a social connection with him and heard the story of his teen experiences.

All three men were strangers to us before we set out in the morning. I wonder what makes a stranger become an acquaintance and what turns an acquaintance into a friend. The Internet failed to enlighten me about these transitions.

Sometimes people pass in and out of our lives without lasting impact, remaining strangers to us. Sometimes we learn an acquaintance’s name and satisfy ourselves with passing nods or comments on the weather. Some of our acquaintances become  part of our our lives, sharing our good and bad times and our challenges as friends.

People we once thought were friends can change so much that when we meet them later they seem like strangers again. Friends can also be so in tune with us that we meet them after years and take up where we left off as if we had seen them just yesterday.

Friends understand our feelings without elaborate explanation. They accept our achievements and shortcomings without judging us. They know what we need and are there for us when we need them. They share our laughter and our tears. They make us feel comfortable around them no matter what. Whether or not we use the word, they love us and we love them unconditionally.

Our friendships let us grow and learn about ourselves and about how we deal with others. Friends can show us good and bad parts of us to which we would otherwise be blind. They also let us help them live their lives. Friends are the greatest treasures we have in life.

Life Lab Lessons

  • What do you appreciate most about your friends?
  • What do they appreciate most about you?
  • What do you need from your friends?
  • What do they need from you?
  • When was the last time you talked with your friends about four friendship?