October 1: Today, you could...

Today, you could heal a hurt.
For yourself or someone you are close to.

Today, you could be less comfortable and take a risk.
Reach out; get used to stretching yourself.

Today, you could seek out rejection.
It's useful to practice dealing with a rejection you have chosen.
It will give you the experience to deal with rejections in situations where they are not your choice.

October 2: The old man

The old man lived a quiet, simple life, until one day, his village was taken over by Nazi occupation forces. A storm trooper dragged him into the street and said, "From now on, you will let me live in your house, and every day, you will serve my meals, make my bed, and shine my boots. Otherwise, I will kill you. Will you do as you're told?" The old man did not answer.

For two years, he served meals, shined shoes, made beds and obeyed every order. But he would not say a word. Then one day, the Allied armies liberated the village. As they dragged the soldier from the cottage, the old man took a deep breath and finally answered the question with a "No!"

There's a part of you that remains free despite your external circumstances.
It's the part that allows you to choose when and how you react.
It's what makes you human and it's not for others to control.

October 3: Your life will end before the world stops being interesting

You'd better face it: Whatever your interests, there are more opportunities available to you than you will ever have time to explore. And, of course, the more interests you have, the worse it gets.

Take entertainment, as a small example: Every day, at least one book you will enjoy reading is published, a CD you would enjoy listening to is released, a film or TV program you would love to see is produced, a play that would interest you opens and a concert that you would be keen to attend is staged.

Take travel: Assuming you don't work in the travel industry, if you add up all the places you want to go to and the holidays you have at your disposal, you're just not going to be able to cram it all in.

And I haven't mentioned your career, relationships, sports, writing, learning and so on.

The message is about choice.

Today, you don't have time for the second-best, the second-rate.
You don't have enough time to enjoy all the first-rate pleasures at your disposal. So, never settle for less.

October 4: The benefit of small, consistent changes over a long period

It's a shared human failing: We want it perfect and yet we want it now.
It's interesting how that urgency can prevent us from achieving our dreams.

It's true of many things in life, but particularly true of relationships. They rarely change overnight. It probably took you a long time to end up where you are now. So, what makes you believe any change will be instant?

You may not be able to change your destination immediately, but you can change your direction right now. A small change, sustained for a long time, will ensure that you end up in the future in a place very different from the one from which you started out. You will almost certainly overestimate what you can achieve in a month. But at the same time, you will underestimate what you can accomplish in a year.

So, today, look for small, positive changes in your relationship or in any other area of your choice and work to expand them, concentrating on what does work and make more of it instead of obsessing about the problems.

October 5: Remember the colour

" Look around the room," said the therapist, "and try to remember everything that is green in colour." She even helped by pointing out things that might have been missed¯an ornament, a part of a picture. "Now shut your eyes," she said, " and name everything in this room that is coloured blue."

We remember what we focus on.

Describe your day so far, in terms of what has gone right for you.

Now, describe your day in terms of what has gone wrong and it will feel very different.

You need to be aware of the difficulties in life. But they don't need to be what you focus on all the time. Today, you have a choice.

October 6: Silence is as important as noise

Music consists of sounds and silences. Without the intervals of silence to set off the sounds, there wouldn't be a tune. Yet, the life we live today consists, so often, of constant noise¯the noise of activity, of television, of our interactions with each other¯and of our thoughts.

To make more sense of life, to hear the song we are here to sing, we need to create silence, a quiet time for reflection, an occasional oasis of calm, in which we can review where we have been, where we are now and where we are going. It is said that much of man's unhappiness arises from his inability to sit in a room on his own.

Silence merely means being at one with yourself. To some, the situation can seem rather threatening. But staying with the silence, say, for five minutes, starting, perhaps, right now, can help you develop the skill.

Let your quiet times become a regular part of your daily life.

October 7: Carnegie Hall

"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" the tourist asks the New York cab driver.
"Practice, baby, practice" he replies.

(It's a very old joke).

You know you have to practice when you learn to speak a foreign language or to dance well. But what about learning to be confident, to be more loving?

The answer is often the same: Practice, baby, practice.

October 8: Things to avoid in relationships

Here are some things it's best to avoid:

Relationships with people who don't make you feel good after a few encounters; the situation is not likely to change.

Relationships where, most of the time, you feel like the parent and the other person like your child; it's not healthy for either of you.

Relationships where you feel you have to rescue the other person all the time; it doesn't breed respect on either side.

Relationships with people who have fatal flaws they are not doing anything to rectify such as affairs, drugs or alcohol. Fatal flaws are usually just that¯fatal.

October 9: The stuck bus

A bus gets stuck under a low bridge after the driver makes a mistake and takes the wrong turning. No one is hurt, but the efforts of the fire-fighters to pull the bus out are in vain. It just won't budge. Using greater force could end up damaging the bridge. A young girl rides up on her bike to watch the proceedings and says quietly to the Fire Chief: "Why don't you just let the tyres down?"

There are two ways to use this story.

Sometimes, solutions to your problems are far simpler than you think, if you keep your mind open to all possibilities.

Sometimes, what you need to do is let the air out of a situation. Occasionally, all you have to do to achieve this is breathe out.

October 10: "There is a crack in everything"

This is a line from a Leonard Cohen song: "There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."

Cohen is a poet. So, what he writes is open to a number of interpretations. For me, however, this quote is about how we deal with the problems and difficulties we face in life.

I don't subscribe to the belief that everything has a purpose, a meaning.

But I do believe that all experiences, good or bad, have the potential to contribute to our growth and knowledge. I do believe that when things get disrupted or impaired¯our relationships, our jobs or our health¯along with the sense of loss and sadness that ensues, there is the possibility of fresh light illuminating the very core of our being.

October 11: Ten things to know about sex

The first thing to know about sex: It was meant to be fun.

If it's not, then you need to do something about it.

The second thing to know about sex: It doesn't have to be a big part of your relationship. However, it's perfectly all right if it is.

The third thing to know about sex: Long-term relationships don't last simply because of a great sex life. It's not enough.

The fourth thing to know about sex: There are no external norms or methods to conform to. If what you do works for both of you, that's just fine.

The fifth thing to know about sex: It's just as important to please yourself, as it is to please your partner.

The sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth things to know about sex: It was meant to be fun. Don't make it too serious.

October 12: The special occasion

A brother and sister are sorting through the possessions of their recently deceased mother. They come across the expensive dress she had bought, years ago, for a special occasion and realize it is still in the store wrapping. In all her life, she had never found an occasion special enough to wear it.

You may feel this is not about you, but think about the things you intend to do "when the time is right."

There is nothing wrong in looking forward to things. But it's a big waste to die, waiting for a reason to celebrate.

What can you celebrate today?

October 13: Don't smother each other

Relationships are very, very important.

A great relationship is one of the best experiences life has to offer. But it's not the only experience and relationships benefit from each partner bringing in something new from time to time.

If your relationship feels a bit dead, it might be time to get out more and not always together.

Most things don't grow so well in the shade. So, give your relationship the importance it deserves, but don't let it consume your life. If you do, it just might die from lack of nourishment.

October 14: Stopping the ripples

"Throw a pebble into the pond," instructed the teacher. "Now try and stop the ripples." Of course, every move the student made to stop the water moving caused new ripples to form and so it went. "The only way to control the ripples," the teacher finally suggested, "is not to throw the stone in the first place."

Once you take action on something, you lose control over the effect it has. So, when it comes to adopting a negative attitude to yourself or to others and acting on it, it's best if you just don't start.

October 15: Today, you could...

Today, you could work to change what you can.
Having done so, look for the best in what you can't change.

Today, you could do only what works for you.
If you aren't getting to where you want to be, try doing something different.

Today, you could delay dealing with the urgent.
And spend time on what is important. It's interesting how the "urgent" tends to get sorted out.

October 16: Only one way to be right

A father is talking to his daughter who is a bit upset because her desk is untidy. "What makes it untidy?" he asks her.
"Well, if things kept on it are moved about," she replies.
"So, if I move this pen a bit, does that make it untidy?"
"Yes, it does," she answers, "the pen has to be right there, on that spot."
"Well, the problem," says her father, "is there are a lot of ways you can see your desk as untidy, but only one way you can see it as tidy!"
¯Gregory Bateson

Too many rules can spoil your life and your relationships.
If you can have at your disposal a number of ways to enjoy success, you are far more likely to enjoy it than if you confine yourself to one.

Don't make your life harder than it need be.

October 17: The lessons keep appearing until the learning takes place

Take a few minutes to look back at your life and see if you can identify some of the patterns that occur in the area of your relationships, career or health.

It's worth writing down a few sentences to capture elements that repeat themselves. Then ask yourself the following questions:

If these situations were trying to teach me something, what would it be?

What would my future be like if I had learnt the lessons that are being offered?

If you don't come up with anything, move on. This may not be for you.

If you do see a lesson to be learnt, go back over some past events and think about how they might have turned out differently if you had already absorbed what you need to know.

October 18: Cheating at drawing

At school, he was not very good at drawing and had never had his work displayed in the classroom. One day, having taken two sheets of paper instead of the usual single sheet by mistake, he completed a drawing. He noticed an outline of the drawing on the second sheet.

This gave him an idea and he took a sheet of paper home and traced over a drawing he liked, so that an outline of it was left on the sheet underneath. This he then took to school. During the lesson, he traced the outline with his pencil and submitted the work as his own. After a couple of failed attempts, he had his work selected for display on the classroom wall. And so it continued for a whole term.

But then he started to feel guilty and decided he would stop cheating. The following term, he drew a picture without following a previously traced outline and found, to his surprise, that with all the practice, his drawing skills had improved considerably. And after a few weeks he had a piece of work selected for display.

¯David Gordon

Sometimes, you have to practice in an artificially created situation in order to learn how to deal with something. "Fake it till you make it". Pretend anger in order to learn how to stop being angry. Demonstrate feelings of love, even when you don't feel loving.

The skill will develop gradually and what you had to simulate in order to practice will become truly your own.

October 19: Every unkind act is a cry for help

I'm not sure this is true every time, and it certainly doesn't feel like it when I'm at the receiving end. But when I stop to think about the times I have been unkind to others, I realize that it was because I had been feeling bad about myself. So, unkindness to others is, perhaps, a cry for help from the person who is responsible for it.

What I do know is that my relationships work better when I assume this to be true. I am less likely to get upset and more likely to meet the needs of the person or persons with whom I am interacting. As a result, I end up having a better time with them.

Could this be true for you as well?

October 20: The fisherman and the businessman

A man is sitting fishing for his supper when he is approached by a visiting businessman who tells him, "If you had a boat and employed people, you could catch more fish and sell them at a profit. And you'd soon be rich."
"And what would I do then?" asked the fisherman.
"Anything you want," said the businessman.
"I'm doing that now," replied the angler.

It's a very well-known and insightful story.
Make sure you recognize what you have now and enjoy it to the full.
There is no greater waste than trying hard to get what is already yours.

October 21: Connected or disconnected?

This is a good one to check out by asking yourself 'When do I feel most connected to life, when do I feel most disconnected to life'

Try to stand back from the habits you have formed, make sure you are not selecting something just because it's familiar and then examine how you spend most of your time. Is it in ways that make you feel connected or are you wasting your time in activity you feel you have to undertake even though it doesn't serve you are your objectives, even though you end up feeling remote from the process.

Change is sometimes very difficult with hard wired habits and ways of going about things but it is possible, if you are willing to pay the price. And if you decide you are not willing then at least it's something you can feel you have made a conscious decision about.

October 22: If I had a gun to my head

A well-known newspaper owner faced the prospect of bankruptcy when his loan application was turned down. "If someone put a gun to my head, I would find a way out of this," he said. And he did.

It's a violent metaphor, but it does remind us that, given sufficient reason, we can overcome almost anything.

Choose a problem you are facing. Tell yourself that the alternative to solving it is your worst nightmare. What action would you take?

October 23: Work can be easier than relationships

Work¯and here I mean any activity, like your job, gardening or keeping fit¯while beneficial in itself can be a great way of distracting you from the crucial issues in your life. Nowhere is this truer than in your relationships.

When you are "too busy" to be with someone you care about, just stop and ask yourself this: If I were using this work as a way of avoiding something, what might that something be?

You may conclude that the work pressure is genuine. Often, that's true, but at least check it out. And don't automatically accept the first answer that comes up for you.

October 24: The mustard seed

A woman came to the Buddha and pleaded with him to bring her dead child back to life.

"If you can bring me a mustard seed from any household which has not known death, your child will live again," he promised her.

She searched for days for such a household, but to no avail. When she returned from her unsuccessful quest, she said, "I understand now. Death visits every household and catches up, eventually, with each of us."

It is a story full of sadness that also depicts an undeniable reality. As you read it, you might realize that if you don't have a sound reason for grieving, you could be rejoicing.

October 25: We are all the same : We are all different

An ability to deal with paradox, with ideas that are both true and yet seem to contradict each other, is the mark of a mature and intelligent approach to life.

It's useful to acknowledge what we all have in common. It prevents us from building up prejudice against others, because we are able to put ourselves in another person's shoes occasionally and to see things from their perspective. It teaches us empathy, understanding and kindness. We all bleed when we are cut, emotionally as well as physically, even if some people can conceal it more effectively than others.

But it's also important to recognize just how different people are. As far as our background, beliefs, experiences and personalities are concerned, we are all different, one from another. We will never all see the world the same way. Mankind will never agree on a belief system, religious or political. So, let's not waste our time trying to achieve this end.

Today, you can celebrate what we do have in common and rejoice, at the same time, in our diversity.

October 26: Why do we choose to live with suffering?

At first sight, it seems a strange idea that we would choose to live with suffering, particularly in our relationships.

One of the attractions of being in a relationship with someone can be the sense of security it gives us, even if many of our experiences with that person are not necessarily pleasant ones.

There are many people who, despite being in a poor relationship contributing little to their well-being, prefer to endure the kind of suffering with which they are familiar rather than confront their fear of the unknown.

Becoming aware of this and facing the fear involved in moving on can be the start of important changes.

October 27: Advanced civilizations

There is a theory that there are other civilizations out there that are far more advanced than ours. They began tens of thousands of years before ours did and have, therefore, had more time to evolve. The truth is, they started no more than fifteen minutes before and the reason they are so much more advanced is because they never had to rush to appointments.

¯ Woody Allen

I can remember being advised to take time to read carefully through exam question papers before starting to write the answers. I recall how difficult I found this, because the urge to make "progress" was so great. And yet, it is excellent advice in a world where we live as if fifteen minutes would make all the difference.

So, why not take that time now to sit and think about the rest of your day and the difference it could make if you decided not to rush?

Some things might not get done, but that's perfectly all right. The world and those close to you will survive.

October 28: Assumptions are like termites

Assumptions are like termites. Unchallenged, they can erode your foundations.

Think for a moment about the mistaken assumptions other people make about you. Here are a couple of examples:

"You always seem so calm." (Like a duck; I'm paddling furiously below the surface of the water.)
"You don't contribute." (Actually, I do, but you just don't notice.)

Now, turn this around and list some assumptions you make about other people, particularly, those close to you. Turn the assumptions into questions and check them out with the person involved:

"Do you always feel as calm as you seem on the outside?"
"Do you feel your contributions are acknowledged and appreciated?"

It's interesting how easy it is to feel misunderstood and how it's more difficult to accept that we might be misunderstanding others.

October 29: You are more than the drama

You are more than the drama in your life and you are certainly more than the drama in your relationships. There is a place within you, where you can stand back, regard unfolding events with detachment and simply observe what is happening without actively participating in it.

It is from this place that patterns can be recognized and reactions¯your own and those of others¯more fully understood. It is from this place that changes can be planned and resources gathered.

Sometimes, it's wise to replay the past in your mind from the point of view of an observer and allow the insights to arise spontaneously without the need for a strong reaction.

October 30: Flipping a coin

Sigmund Freud was asked for advice on how to make difficult decisions. "Spin a coin," he said. When challenged about the idea of leaving important choices to chance, he explained, "When the coin comes down, you will have some clue as to how you really feel about the decision."

Sometimes, you need to pretend you have made a decision in order to discover your deeper feelings about the issue.

You can live with those feelings for a few days before spending another few days assuming you have made the opposite decision.

To help make a decision, you need to notice what feelings come up for you.

October 31: Relationships, like life, don't last forever

There's many a person whose life is filled with regret at the things he wished he had said to someone who is no longer with him.

They are rarely words of criticism, hardly ever words spoken in anger. They are the things we tend to say in the heat of the moment. But for some reason that is common to so many people, particularly in Western society, it's the expressions of love, the words of congratulations and support that we hold back and, when it is too late, regret not voicing.

Today, you could change that.

© 2019 David Mills