Discovering Mindfulness


Joe: Good afternoon Calliope.

Calliope: Good afternoon Joe. What’s new with your writing.

Joe: I am very involved on all fronts. I continue to develop my new tools and work on a new book on stress while I wait for feedback on my teen book.

Calliope:Any new discoveries?

Joe: Yes and no. I have been searching for years for a way to simply describe the focus of my writing. For lack of anything better, I called my theme commonsense wisdom. My goal has always been to help people understand themselves better and be more aware of the implications of their actions.

Calliope: I recall. So what’s new?

Joe: I just came to realize that there is a single word which embodies my goal. The word is mindfulness.

Calliope: Is this something new?

Joe: Mindfulness is not new but it embodies my approach to writing.

Calliope: Tell me more:

Joe: From what I understand, mindfulness means the conscious awareness of yourself and your surroundings at any given moment.

Calliope: And that is the word you have been searching for for years?

Joe: It is. No longer will I have to stammer while trying to put into words the point of what I am trying to do.

Calliope: Congratulations. To what do you owe the honor of this discovery.

Joe: One of my new tools, KindleSpy. In searching for keywords for dealing with stress, I discovered many books with the theme of mindfulness which is where my writing belongs even though I didn’t know it. Let me bask in this discovery for a while.

Calliope: Okay. Happy basking.

What if this is your last day on earth?


The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe,

to match your nature with Nature.

~Joseph Campbell~

People don’t like to think about death, especially their own. Sometimes life brings it to their attention. Friends and relatives die or develop serious illness. Sometimes illness grabs people so ruthlessly that they don’t know whether they will survive it. Passing a cemetery reminds them that there is a plot waiting for them there too.

Most people don’t know when they will die. With an advanced disease such as cancer, you might know that the end is near but the day of your death is not written on a calendar. It remains a mystery until it happens. The only sure way to know the exact time of you death is suicide, but choosing that course is rare unless life becomes unbearable.

If you knew you would die within the next twenty-four hours, what would that mean to you? I have met people on their deathbeds who reach the point of being at peace with death and are ready for it. I have met others who may never be ready for their final act and would like to go on endlessly. But you don’t have to wait until death knocks at your door.

Maybe you feel guilty about hurting someone and have never apologized even though your heart wanted you to. Maybe you have been estranged from someone with whom you once had an intimate relationship. Maybe there is some place you would like to visit before you die, perhaps the homeland of your ancestors, and your life would feel incomplete unless you did. You know you will die with regrets if you don’t act.

It’s not too late. Other unfinished business besides what I have mentioned might burden your life. Instead of just wishing things were different, it’s time to do something about it.

If you have offended or hurt someone, it’s not too late to apologize. It would be best to do so in person. If this is not possible, a phone call or letter might substitute for a personal appearance. Be careful of email, texts or other electronic communication as a substitute. Your emotions will most not likely come through clearly.

If you are estranged from someone you once loved dearly, reach out and try to reconnect. Mostly likely you both have hard feelings about whatever happened. Ask for forgiveness for your part in the standoff, and say you would like another chance.

Your ancestral homeland is most likely still there. Perhaps you can arrange a trip even if this means making sacrifices in other areas. Maybe you could ask your relatives with the same roots to accompany you.

These are just some examples. Perhaps you have other unfinished business to which you could attend if you made the effort. Unfinished business adds stress to your life. Having it resolved might well make your life more peaceful. Releasing this stress might also allow you to live longer.

Life Lab Lessons       

  • What unfinished business in your life plagues you?
  • How long do you want to live with it?
  • Are you willing to resolve it?
  • Make a plan to face it.
  • Get on with it.

(Published by Joseph Langen as Sliding Otter News and available by free subscription.)

Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life Available Again

Joe: Good morning Calliope

Calliope: Good morning Joe, What news?

Joe: I have been working hard on my book for teens which is nearing completion of this round of editing.

Calliope: Anything else.

Joe: How did you guess. I finally finished formatting Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life. Now all my books are available in paperback and e-book format on Amazon. Here is the info for Commonsense Wisdom:

Description of Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life 

Consider this! Whatever happens in our lives ripples out to affect everyone around us and sometimes people far away from us. We have an opportunity to touch the rest of the world on a daily basis. Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life offers reflection on the thoughts, actions and relationships we all experience on a daily basis. We seldom stop to consider what we think, do and share with others and how these affect our lives and the lives of those around us. This book gives you a chance to spend a little time thinking about where your life is going and whether you need to make any changes in the course your taking.

Topics include:

  •  Your personal perspective on life
  •  Agreements for Life
  • Social Relationships
  •  Family Relationships
  •  Commonsense spirituality
  •  Holiday reflections
  •  Approaching addictions
  •  Dealing with adversity
  •  Understanding Evil
  •  Personal reflections
  •  Suggested related readings

The Mysteries of Everyday Life

Good afternoon, Calliope. I thought you might like to see my latest Sliding Otter Post.  


Martha's Vineyard Beach Sculpture

Martha’s Vineyard Beach Sculpture

I’d rather be a dysfunctional soul than a well adjusted robot.

~Thomas Moore~

It seems these days that we want to understand, explain and find a use for everything we encounter. If we get stuck, we can find an answer on Google or some other search engine. Often we become so involved in the practical that we completely miss most of the little delights along our life path. This seems especially true of things which have no easy explanation.

At the end of the day, many people add up what they have accomplished since they got out of bed. I wonder how many people count the little delights which have passed their way during the day. If you become too busy with the practical, you will most likely miss the fanciful.

So what? The question is what your life is for. What is its meaning? If you just count what you accomplish in a day, you have a list at the end of the day and start a new one the next day. But there is more to life if you allow it into your awareness. I am talking about the little mysteries which present themselves along the way.

Here are a few which might have caught your attention at least for a moment. How do two incomplete cells become a human being or any other life form? How does our solar system stay in balance century after century? How does a single atom stay in balance for that matter? How does you mind interpret what your senses encounter? What does it mean to fall in love with someone?

You could most likely find scientific explanations for all these mysteries and consider the problem solved. What if you don’t seek practical answers right away or even at all? What if you instead ponder the mystery and coexist with it? You move to a different plane of existence beyond the practical. Art and music have meaning for you beyond what you can express in words.

A newspaper critic can tell you how well music was performed technically. But a critic can’t tell you whether or how music touches your soul. The same is true of any other form of art. Your experience is beyond the technical aspects and is unique to you. Philosophers are in agreement that you can’t argue about taste. No on else’s is quite like yours. Did you ever try to explain your artistic taste to someone else? Not so easy, is it? The same can be said of your experience of nature, the world, other people and especially the unique aspects of you as a person. It is a different way to exist but you might want to try it at least for a while.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Turn off the rational part of you and stop thinking for a while.
  • Let yourself notice little things around you with out trying to make sense of them.
  • Sit comfortably with your feelings without analyzing them.
  • Spend a little time delighting in something you never noticed before.
  • See if this make the rest of your life a little more fun.

To receive Sliding Otter News posts free of charge, sign up at  

On to Spirituality

Getting in Gear

Getting in Gear

Joe: Good afternoon Calliope.

Calliope: Good afternoon Joe. I wondered what became of you.

Joe: As you might have guessed I became sidetracked from work on my book.

Calliope: What happened this time?

Joe: Summer happened. After being holed up all winter, everyone I know seems to have suddenly become more social. I must include myself. So far the summer seems like a constant party. Well not quite, but it seems like it. I have been having too much fun to concentrate on writing.

Calliope: Are you still in party mode?

Joe: I still have plenty on my plate, so to speak. Maybe it was the heat, but I have found myself in the cool basement with my computer screen staring at me. I tried writing a few times and it felt unfamiliar.

Calliope: So now what?

Joe: I wondered that myself. Natalie Goldberg advises keeping the pen moving (or the cursor in my case.) Eventually it worked and I am back into writing mode. I discovered a few topics I left out of my first draft.

Calliope: What are you working on now?

Joe: I am revisiting the chapter on stress and spirituality. I wrote a couple of columns in the mean time and added them to the book.

Calliope: Do you think I could see one of the columns of which you speak?

Joe: Indeed. I would be happy to share  on on Life, Religion and Spirituality. I will have it to you tomorrow.


I’m de-stressed. Time to get back to work

Engine 999

Engine 999

Joe: Good morning Calliope.

Calliope: Good morning Joe. I wondered when I would hear from you.

Joe: I haven’t forgotten about you. I told you I was taking a break to work on diabetes. It took longer than I thought to hear, take notes and organize them. I finally finished. I also had a newsletter to do for today. I will add it to the end of this post for you.

Calliope: I thought you must be up to something. How is the editing on your stress book coming?

Joe: I’m up to page 26 so far. I added a couple sections and might think of more as I go along. I am happy working at my own pace and also taking time to enjoy life along the way. Carol and I just got back from a few days in Albany, Connecticut and Cape Cod. I have also been reading Natalie Goldberg’s books on writing.

Calliope: Glad you are keeping busy. Keep me posted.

Joe: I will. In the mean time, here is the latest newsletter:


Relax and Leave the Thinking to Us

For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.

~H.L. Mencken~

I once read H.L. Mencken’s opinion that only twenty percent of our citizens are capable of thinking. I found it hard to believe that so many people could be incapable of thinking. I neither agreed nor disagreed with this opinion. I decided to ponder it for a while. I am done pondering. Although I am still not sure about the percentage of thinkers, I have come to the conclusion that there might be other reasons people do not think than inability to do so.

Anyone who went to college knows that thinking is hard work. Thinking means using your mind to consider or reason about something. One way of doing this is to gather facts and evidence to see what they add up to. That approach is called inductive reasoning. The other approach is deductive reasoning. Here you start with well established general principles and draw conclusions based on them. I told you it was hard work.

So what about people who could think for themselves if they chose to? Some people are afraid to think for themselves. What if they reach the wrong conclusions? They would prefer not to have such responsibility. They are happy to have someone else think for them and tell them what to do. Others are too busy seeing to their own comfort and possessions. They might read the paper or go to meetings but seldom take an active part in decision making. In most organizations, a few people are left with the responsibility of making and implementing decisions.

Two large scale examples of organizations are government and religion. In any jurisdiction from village up to the national level, we elect representatives to act in our best interest and sometimes they do. Most of the time they act in their own best interest (being reelected). They also work hard to be seen as acting in their constituents’ best interest.

Religion is the other Great Decider. Over time, religions develop rules, commandments, and traditions seen as necessary to follow in order to obtain salvation. It is the job of the believers to follow these dictates in pursuit of a better standing in the afterlife.

Governments, religions and other organizations help you make sense of the world and of your life. Yet it is up to you to make sure the rules you are asked to follow fit the principles by which you live regardless of the community in which you find yourself. Taking exception to the rules has consequences. Yet even well established rules do not always continue to make sense as civilization evolves.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Take responsibility for how you live your life.
  • On occasion, spend some time evaluating your beliefs and principles.
  • Don’t leave living your life to the whim of anyone else.
  • If you are not satisfied, decide what changes you can make.
  • Maybe you can help change the percentage of thinkers in the world.


Distractions, Distractions

Sailing at Sunset

Joe: Good afternoon Calliope.

Calliope: Good afternoon Joe. What news?

Joe: My book has been chugging along nicely for the past couple months. In the last post, I mentioned the Diabetes Summit on ways to prevent or reverse type two diabetes. I thought I would listen to a few of the presentations but found many of them fascinating and highly informative. After all my quality of life lies in the balance. Most of them grabbed my attention and it was usually well into the afternoon before I was ready to move on. Fortunately the series ends this Friday and I will be back to business as usual.

Calliope: So you haven’t worked on your book at all?

Joe: Not quite as bad as all that. I have done some work on it but not as much as I wanted. And then I have a column due this Saturday.

Calliope: So, another post

Sailing at Sunset


Joe: Not quite. In reviewing the manuscript, I realized I had omitted a section on toxic shame as a stressor. I decided to write a column on shame which I could also insert into the book. So I have not lost complete touch with my project. Talk with you later.