November 1: Today, you could...

Today, you could just notice your feelings; see how they come and go.
Allow yourself to acknowledge that you are more than your feelings.

Today, you could name your fears.
Notice how naming them makes them easier to deal with.

Today, you could notice something new.
Something makes you smile. Tell someone else about it and watch them smile.

November 2: The ritual cat.

When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such a racket that it distracted them. So, the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening meditation practice.

Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation sessions. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up during the evening sessions. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

"Old habits die hard," our parents used to say. They certainly do, if we don't make ourselves aware of them.

Take a pen and write down three things you do now that served you once, but are no longer applicable.

Today, you could initiate much-needed changes.

November 3: What can this problem teach you?

Suppose some of your problems are teachers in disguise, and that until you have learned the lesson, you will have to go on taking the test.

It's not true of every problem, but when the same issue keeps coming up, often in different guises, chances are you need to learn something.

Understanding the lesson may turn out to be a part of the solution.

November 4: What is the point of highest agreement?

Almost every area of dispute, be it between individuals or nations, has a point of agreement, when the highest principles of each party are explored. Most disagreements are about practice, not principle. Let me illustrate this with some examples.

Parents may differ in their attitude to disciplining children, but are unlikely to disagree over wanting the best for their children.

Politicians disagree over the use of imprisonment as a deterrent to crime, but are always unanimous in their wish to create a safe society.

Nations disagree over territorial boundaries, but underlying that dispute is a shared belief that a nation has a right to know the extent of its boundaries.

Often, when we disagree about things, trivial or crucial, it feels as though the differences between the parties cannot be bridged at all. To seek and find the point on which we can agree seems, however, like a good start in the process of resolving the conflict.

Test this out today.

November 5: The cellar door

A child is warned to keep clear of the cellar door and, above all, never to open it, because what lies behind it is frightening and dangerous. When she is a bit older and her parents are elsewhere, she decides to open the door and find out for herself if what she has been told is true. She is scared, but determined to be brave and as the door opens, she sees ... green fields, other children playing and the sun shining down on them.

¯ Based on an Emo Phillips joke

We all spend some time trapped either in cellars which others have made for us or, sometimes, in dark places of our own making.

Today, try opening the door to peep out and have a look. Your courage may well be rewarded and what lies on the other side may turn out to be less of a fright and more of a delight.

November 6th : Looking forward to living in the present

It's surprisingly easy to read this heading without recognizing the inherent contradiction.

The fact is, if you're looking forward to being able to live in the present, you've missed the point. The present is here and now.

Being fully able to experience the moment is, for many people, a skill they have to practice, because so much of their life is spent either reviewing the past or planning the future.

Often, when something dramatic happens¯and it can be either positive or negative¯we don't have time to review or plan. We just have to live through that moment. These can be times when we feel fully alive, fully in the present.

Wouldn't it be great to have such feelings as part of your regular life, to not need a dramatic development in order to fully appreciate the moment?

November 7: When you disagree about the present, don't bring up the past

This could be Rule No. 1 in the book of How to Have a Constructive Argument. It applies to disagreements with your partner, spouse, friend, parent and child, among others.

We all know the phrase, "Forgive and forget". While there's a lot to be said for forgiveness, forgetting is more problematic. So, you may not be able to forget past differences with others. But that does not mean you should keep reminding yourself or them about those differences.

Not every argument can be resolved to the satisfaction of each of the individuals concerned, but throwing up the bitter residue of past events merely reduces the likelihood of arriving at a solution.

Now, you don't have any control over how the other person involved in the argument behaves. You could, however, control your own responses to the situation. You don't have to play the game of dredging up the past if you don't want to.

November 8: Heaven and Hell

A tour has been arranged of Heaven and Hell.

In Hell, people are seated at a long table loaded with food. But the spoons laid out are longer than their arms. They are starving, because they cannot get food into their mouths.

In Heaven, people are seated at a long table loaded with food. But the spoons laid out are longer than their arms. They are satisfying their hunger, because they are feeding each other.

You can see this as an irritatingly simplistic view of life. On the other hand, it can make a difference in how you respond to the next person you interact with.

November 9: Trying to make the world different can be a lifelong battle

Some lifelong battles, against poverty or injustice, for example, suit certain people. It seems they were born to be campaigners. The role fits them like a glove and they take them up to pursue the changes they believe in. These people often contribute to the world in a big way.

If you're not one of these people, your position is just as valid and you might end up having a more enjoyable life.

Having a "cause" can be all-consuming. It can damage personal relationships while seeking a better world for all.

Living a simple, decent life, without doing anyone harm, can be just as important a contribution to the world and be of greater benefit to those close to you.

November 10: Today, you could...

Today, you could stop comparing.
Particularly, stop comparing yourself with other people.

Today, you could stop keeping score.
Life is not a balance sheet to be kept; it's a resource to be enjoyed.

Today, you could stop complaining.
Complaining rarely changes things; taking action often does.

November 11: Falling in a hole.

A woman is out for a walk, when she falls into a deep hole from which there appears to be no way out. She cries out for help and a passing academic leans over and offers her advice on how to avoid such holes in future.

Later, a religious leader hears her cries and suggests she reflect on the true meaning of her predicament. He also tells her that there is a being somewhere who cares about her. Subsequently, a therapist responds with an offer to help her explore how she allowed herself to get into this situation. Various other professionals offer advice, as the woman sinks into deeper despair.

Finally, a friend comes by, realizes what has happened and jumps into the hole with her. The woman is pleased to have her company, but also wonders why her friend has put herself in the same situation. The friend's explanation is as follows: "I have been in this hole before. I know the way out."

I am not suggesting that professionals cannot be friends too, but often, they are not. True empathy can involve more than listening or dispensing advice. Friendship requires someone who is prepared to start from where you are rather than from where they are and is willing and able to travel down the same road with you.

Today, you can both be a friend and accept friendship.

November 12: Just because this is the best time of my life...

"Just because this is the best time of my life, doesn't mean I know how to enjoy it," wrote Carrie Fisher.

It's an interesting thought. An ability to enjoy life doesn't automatically follow from life being enjoyable. But then, feeling sad doesn't always follow from receiving bad news.

Events and your reactions to them are not as directly linked as you assume. Where you have a choice about how you feel, it's good to exercise it in your favor.

It would be silly to go to bed tonight thinking what a great day you have had, only to realize you didn't remember to enjoy it while it was happening..

November 13: Don't let a small disagreement ruin a big relationship

For that matter, don't let a small disagreement ruin a small relationship either.

It's so easy to attach emotional energy to a minor dispute. Our egos get involved and what, in the greater scheme of things, is of no consequence becomes a matter where our very identity is put on the line.

Does this seem an exaggeration?

Well, sit in a car with an angry driver when someone cuts him (or her) off. Perhaps you have even been that driver.

It's good to stand back and ask yourself this question: If I were observing this happening to someone else, would I think they were overreacting?

November 14: The lost keys

It's dusk and a man is on his knees, searching under a streetlight for the keys he has dropped. He is joined by his neighbour who helps him search for them and asks, "Where exactly did you drop them?"

"Oh, I dropped them in my back garden," replies the man, "but I am looking for them here, because the light is so much better."

This seems just a very silly story, until I remember all the times I have tidied up my desk rather than face a difficult issue.

Some people spend money or have a drink to make themselves feel better.

That's about as sensible as looking for your keys where the light is best rather than where you actually dropped them.

November 15: Using "and" or "but"

This isn't an English lesson, but a simple way to improve communication and change experience.

"But" shows an exception to a rule, as in "I love vegetables, but I don't like beetroot." Beetroot is the exception to my love of vegetables.

"And" shows two things can be true at the same time. For instance, "I enjoy running and, sometimes, I like to stay in bed a bit longer." My preference for a lie-in does not make me enjoy running less.

Lesson over. Here's where it gets interesting:

"I love you, but sometimes, you make me angry."
"I love you and sometimes, you make me angry."

The first suggests, perhaps unconsciously, that when I'm angry, I don't love you. The second suggests that although you sometimes make me angry, I still love you and always will.

Today, pay careful attention to each word you use and check if it's appropriate. If you do, the change might make a difference.

November 16: Burning communications

While it's true that honesty is important in a relationship, it's also true that some things are best left unsaid. When your own problems generate strong feelings within you and sharing them with someone close to you is the equivalent of dumping the fallout on them, it's best to be silent.

But you are still left with the feelings.
Here's a technique that can work for times like this:

Write your feelings down on a piece of paper. It's better to write rather than to type, but, of course, that's up to you. Make a ceremony of setting fire to what you have written and while you watch the paper burn, let your feelings be released and rise with the smoke. You may need to do this more than once. The technique improves with practice. It can also be used for:

1. Letting go of feelings towards people who are no longer around.
2. Letting go of damaging experiences in the past that are holding you back.
3. Letting go of your failures, your disappointments, and your setbacks.

November 17: Tree of sorrows

This is the story of a village where, once a year, all the inhabitants write down the sorrows, problems and difficulties they have experienced over the past twelve months. Then they pin their list on a special tree called the Tree of Sorrows for a day, so that all the villagers can read them.

At the end of the day, each person has a choice: They can either take home their experiences of the past year or opt for those endured by another villager. As the story goes, they all choose to take back their own experiences, as these seem easier to bear than any of the others they have read about.

You have little idea of the problems faced by most people, particularly, those who seem to be sailing through life. Suspend your judgements; to know all is to forgive all.

Events in life are here to teach you. When you have learnt what you need to, you can move on. Others have their own path and their own struggles and may, sometimes, need a helping hand from you when you feel least able to reach out.

November 18: Is there an alternative to getting older?

There is. But, unfortunately, it's death.

There are ways to keep your body in shape, your attitudes flexible, your mind sharp. But while you do all that, time just keeps passing.

Much as you might wish that you didn't have to get older, you might consider that it's better than the alternative.

Your job is to experience the moment; it's all you have.

November 19: The pursuit of happiness

When the English comedienne, Joyce Grenfell, first went to the USA, she was asked by reporters what she thought about the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. She replied, "I'm not so interested in the pursuit of happiness as in the discovery of joy."

What a great distinction! Happiness often seems to be something you have to work hard to achieve. The discovery of joy suggests something that is already there; you only have to notice it.

Make today a day of joy.

November 20: Today, you could...

Today, you could accept that there will always be disagreements.
And learn to move on, to leave them behind.

Today, you could try doing less.
Or even doing nothing and just see what turns up.

Today, you could show your appreciation.
First, for what you have achieved, then, for what others have contributed to you.

November 21: The meaning of life

The gods met to decide where to hide the meaning of life so that humankind would have to struggle to find it. They considered and rejected a number of locations, before one of them suggested, "Let's hide it inside each human being; they will never think to look there."

And they were right. Most people look outside themselves, to their careers, relationships, possessions and success, among other things, for the meaning of life. All of these can be important, but when it comes to finding life's true meaning, the answers usually lie within you.

Once you connect with this, it is natural to seek an external expression of who you are. But it is important to get the direction right¯inside to outside, not outside to inside.

November 22: What do you value most in life and in what ways are you betraying it?

This is not meant to be a "beat-yourself-up" type of question, but one that leads you¯gently, I hope¯to a higher standard of values by which to operate.

How can you live today, keeping more in line with your values?

November 23: Don't do it then

A woman goes to see the doctor, lifts up her right arm and says,

"Every time I do that, it hurts."

The doctor replies, "So, don't do it then."

¯ Tommy Cooper

Old joke, bad medical advice, but consider the following:

Every time I drink too much, I feel terrible the next morning.
So, don't do it then.
Whenever I think about my divorce, I get very upset and break down in tears.
So, don't do it then.
Each time we talk about your mother, it ends in a row.
So, don't do it then.

Fill in your own examples.
Not all of life's problems can be solved this way, but some can.
It can be that simple sometimes.

November 24: If you only had one hour to live and one call to make, who would you phone, what would you say and why are you waiting?

None of us lives forever. Nor can we know when our time will come.

So, if there is something that needs to be said, particularly, if it is loving and supportive, say it. NOW!

The partner, parent, child, brother or sister, for whom you harbor loving feelings you haven't expressed in a while: Just tell them how you feel about them... Why are you waiting?

November 25: Affirmations

Affirmations are positive statements you repeat to yourself silently on a regular basis¯a strange idea to some people. But consider the statements you do make to yourself silently during an average day: How many of them are positive, like "I'm doing well at this" and how many, like "I've screwed up again", are negative?

Now, if most of yours are positive, I suggest you skip this item. It's not for you. But if most of them diminish you, such as negative phrases from childhood that you tend to repeat to yourself or thoughts that run you down all the time, this is a chance to take action to counter these influences.

Here is the theory behind it:
Your experience is influenced by your thinking.
Change your thinking and you will succeed in changing your experience.
Affirmations help you to change your thinking.

So, choose a statement, perhaps, from the list below, and resolve to repeat it with feeling and, preferably, out loud, twenty times a day in two sessions of ten times each. Give each repetition as much emphasis as possible. Make yourself sound convincing. If it hasn't made a difference a month from now, try something else. But you won't need to, because this will work.

I love and accept myself and this allows me to grow.
I have the right to feel the way I do, and I can choose to feel differently.
I have the qualities I need to deal with any problems I face.

November 26: God and the devil

God and the devil are walking down a street, when God suddenly bends down to pick something up.
"What's that?" asks the devil.

"It's Truth," replies God.
"Let me have it," says the devil, "I'll organize it for you"

Be on your guard when dealing with organizations, however well-intended they may appear to be.

They can develop a life and energy of their own, sometimes with scant regard for the attitudes of their members.

November 27: How can I enjoy this or learn from it?

Our experience of a situation, however difficult, is largely determined by our perception of it and is, therefore, something over which we can exercise a measure of control.

This is a question that challenges you to find the best in everything and everybody.

It can lead to fairly unexpected answers.

November 28: The big rocks

At a lecture on time management, the teacher takes a large bucket and fills it to the brim with rocks. Then she asks her students, "Is there room for more?"
Thinking she means more rocks, the students reply, "No, it's full."

The lecturer then takes some gravel to fill in the gaps and repeats her question.

She receives the same answer. The process is repeated, as she adds sand and lastly, water. Then she asks, "What is the lesson here?"

The students come up with various answers which run along the following lines of you always have more time than you think.
"The lesson," says the lecturer "is that it only works if you put the big rocks in first."

It's not for anyone else to tell you what your "big rocks" are or should be. You need to decide that. But it is fair to ask if they get the priority they deserve.

Amazingly, the routine of life always seems to get done or of it doesn't it never really seems to matter as much as we thought it would.

A week and, in some cases, a lifetime, can easily pass without time being given to things that are important.

November 29: What would I say if I did know?

This is a question you can ask of yourself or of others, if the first reply is, "I don't know." For example, the following questions often lead to a "I don't know" reply:

Do I want to do this?
Am I in love?
Is this the right action for me?

Asking the question, "What would I say if I did know?", can, at times, reveal deeper feelings and understanding.

The worst that can happen is to receive the reply, "I still don't know."

November 30: The travelling monks

While travelling across the land, two monks came across a young woman standing by the bank of a river. Wary of the strong current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up, carried her across the water and put her down on the opposite bank. She thanked him and departed.

As the monks continued on their way, one seemed preoccupied. Unable to remain silent, he finally spoke out. "Brother," he said, "our spiritual training teaches us to avoid contact with women. But you picked that one up on your shoulder and carried her!"

"Brother," the second monk replied, "I set her down on the other side long ago, while you are still carrying her."

You probably know this story. It's an oft-repeated tale and a very old one at that. The trouble with familiar things is that we react to the familiarity and tend to miss the learning. If you could stop holding on to negative thoughts and feelings, you might transform your life and, perhaps, the life of someone you love.

© 2019 David Mills