Essay on a religious retreat

Pilgrim Hills Retreat, Berlin, Ohio

January 2016

What I liked about the retreat was the conversation. Here we were four people in the middle of nowhere, with no TV and no radio. So the questions becomes: “How are we to pass the time?” By engaging in conversation! Meaningful discussion. I am inclined to believe that because we “removed technology” the quality of conversation and discussion improved. I also learned, through experience, what the meaning of a retreat is. It is literally, a retreat from modern society into a “simpler time,” a time without technology.

Some of the things we talked about were philosophical in nature. For example, we talked about the idea of always wanting more. More money, more success, more riches. And how always wanting more is problematic because it makes you feel you don’t have enough. I am an author and that can be a problem: wanting more book sales, more popularity, more success. And it feels like you have too little. That’s a trap to be avoided. The temptation of always wanting more.

The first evening we read some psalms, one from the bible and a few written by regular people. I am struck by the positivity of these psalms. And the humility. And the imagery: “I am like a tree planted by a river… with leaves that are always green.” And I am also struck by the faith that the writers has. They truly believe in God. “God save me! I need your help,” says another one. And when I say they believe in God, I mean they believe in the power of God to help them, as opposed to just the existence of God. To believe as in to have faith in God. As opposed to be scientific about the facts of God. As a religious person I have faith that God exists and wants to help me. I don’t know that God exists. I can’t prove it. But that’s not what religion is all about. It’s about believing. And by practicing religion we cultivate the capacity for belief. Because, just like with everything else, if we stop doing it, we lose our skill to do it. This retreat taught me to practice my religion. It gave me practice.

The next evening we discussed the gospel of Luke. One passage that I am reminded of is “Love your enemies.” This to me is the most essential of Christ’s teaching. And we discussed how hard it can be to love your enemies. It’s easier said than done. And now that I think about it, did Jesus love his enemies? I don’t know. I don’t think it was easy for Christ to love his enemies; certainly it was no easier for him to do so than for any of us. But he tried to love his enemies. But let’s not assume that goodness was easy for Christ. I think it was just as easy for him to be bad as for us. But Jesus was good, because he valued goodness. And I’m sure Jesus made mistakes. But he never gave up the path of goodness. And he preached for us to walk the same path in life. It is hard to be good. It’s not a paved road. It’s bumpy and full of rocks. But it leads to the right place. I am struck by the fact that there have been several teachers who have made it their life’s work to: “show humanity how to live.” Christ, Mohammad, Buddha. Life does not come with an instruction manual. These leaders have written a manual for life. Religion is an instruction manual for life. And in all of these religions goodness and benevolence is paramount.

One other passage we talked about is “ask and it will be given you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.” I love this passage. It shows the power of positive thinking. Then Dr. Padberg mentioned another Greek translation that says in fact, “keep asking and it will be given you, keep searching and you will find.” This in my mind throws an entirely different light on the matter. It emphasizes persistence. In life, you have to keep asking, keep searching, keep knocking. There is no way the door will open with one knock. Life is about perseverance and persistence.

This retreat showed me that religion has some of the same ideas I already believe in:  1. positive thinking, 2. goodness and 3. perseverance. If it’s in the Bible, it’s got authority! So I believe the early thinkers of our times, knew what we know, and valued what we value. They put it in the good book. And that’s why the Bible has survived for two millennia because it preaches the lessons of positivity, goodness and perseverance. These lessons have survived the test of time.

 

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Motivational Quotes 8/11/16

I wanted to appreciate my life and live up to it  -Gretchen Rubin

Happiness is wanting what you have.

the fire in your heart is out -Oasis

Live fish swim against the current.

Gratitude is the best attitude.

Life will hit you with its best shot on your weak spot.

Let your passion be your driving force.

Excellence overcomes prejudice -Tuskegee airman

I am alive. Today I want to be happy and it is in my power to be happy in the here and in the now.

 

Motivational quotes June 1, 2016

Work will keep you out of trouble.

What you do every day is what you are meant to be doing every day. What you dream about doing every day is meant to remain just a dream.

Success is the sum of all of your failures

Happiness is like a bolt of lightning; you never know when or where it is going to strike

Reach out and lift up each other, because by it, you lift up yourself. –John Kasich

Turn a wish into a long term goal and one day, you may achieve it.

Love it or you will lose it

when you use energy you create energy

Have you ever gotten tired of rest? Too much is bad for you and has the opposite effect. Instead of creating energy it drains it. The way to create energy is through activity. Let us examine this fact: The energy needed to run a marathon is produced by running! No body at rest can possibly run a marathon! A body at rest, though in theory full of energy, cannot generate the energy needed to run. Even the best runner, when at rest, does not have enough energy needed to run. Energy is kinetic. At the same time, it is lost in motion. Energy is lost and created at the same time by motion. If you are healthy, you can create more than you lose. If you’re sick, you lose more than you make.

Although this example is athletic, I believe the same idea applies to all activities. My advice: don’t be sedentary, have fun, and make energy.

Reading is a virtue

They say “stay in school.” That’s how we teach our children to be good. Indeed, reading, not only has intellectual purpose, it has moral purpose. How many of the people sitting in jail are readers? Zero! If they were readers, they would never commit any crimes!

Reading is the antidote to a life on the streets. It is protection from trouble. Because good people are readers. My advice to young people would be make friends who are readers. There is plenty of trouble out there. But if read, you cannot partake in it even if you want to. The two are incompatible.

And who says that one must stop reading after graduation? All they taught you in school is what they wanted. But now its your turn! Teach yourself what you want to really learn. Read what you love. That’s where it counts. So when you graduate, don’t say, “Oh thank God, now I never have to pick up another book again!” Say, “Oh, thank God, now I’m free to read what I wanted to read all along” To read is to be good.

What is the purpose of vacation?

Who invented vacation? How old is the notion? As old as time itself! I am  sure that people have been going on vacation since the beginning of time. Why? There are some reasons that are more obvious than others. For example to have fun and see new places. But there is another reason to vacation. To break the routine of every day life. Every once in a while we need to do something very different, in order to jostle us out of the hum drum drum of every day life and renew us.

The time has come for me to take a vacation! My last big vacation was in Albania in April 2014. Yes, that vacation totally broke the “hum drum” of every day life. Though it too had its difficulties. This time I am going off to England. For excitement, for adventure, for fun.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could live in vacation? It can’t be done, because it then turns into routine. Then you’d have to vacation somewhere else. I think life needs a balance of work and rest, more work than rest. This is why we work 5 days a week, and rest 2 days a week. We need to work most of the year but vacations are nice and perhaps necessary. In order to come back refreshed.

Worries live indoors

Have you ever noticed how when you wake up in the morning you’ve got all these things going through your head. And many of them, whether they are anxieties or concerns or issues, just keep bugging you. And you make your coffee and eat your breakfast, all the while feeling preoccupied by worrying.

But then when you open your door to go outside, to go to work or take care of something, you realize that something strange happens: your worries and ruminations go away! No joke this has happened to me before, and it happens to me every day. In fact, I believe that worries live indoors. When you go out you feel better, and you forget your troubles. Sure, you are bombarded by other worries, such as driving, and doing your job, but hey; those are more legitimate in nature, than just sitting at home, and becoming preoccupied by ruminations.

I believe isolation breeds rumination. But if you are in contact with other people, you feel better. Worry is often an imagination. Today in fact I was driving my car down a big road, and I believed there was a car next to me too close and I became worried. But that anxious feeling was just in my imagination, because when I dared to look at my mirror it turned out there was no car there! When we see reality we can relax and see there is nothing to worry about 🙂