What is fun?

Watch this oil painting of my son jumping in leaves come to life in 48 seconds (time lapse)

You might remember when I shared this painting previously here on the blog, I asked the question “What do people say about you?” It was one of my longer blog posts, about why we shouldn’t let criticism or praise influence us too much, that we can be distracted from our purpose and our own voice. Today, I was reminded of this painting because it is autumn and the painting is about the fun of jumping into a pile of leaves.

Most people reach an age when it’s not physically fun anymore to jump into a pile of leaves. It still looks fun when we see children doing it, doesn’t it? We may be willing to rake leaves into a big pile just to see children jump into it, laughing, and playing.

But, we probably don’t want to do much jumping into piles of leaves ourselves. So what DO we think is fun? What is fun? According to the online dictionary Merriam-Webster, “fun” is a verb: to indulge in banter or play, and “fun” is also an adjective: providing entertainment, amusement, or enjoyment. We might describe this as “what makes us laugh”.

We may not laugh while running and jumping into leaves, but we’ll laugh when someone else does it. We’ll laugh when we hear a funny joke, or when caught by surprise by witnessing something silly. A milder form of fun may be entertaining, like doing a project we enjoy, or listening to our favorite music.

Maybe we have fun dancing, cooking, and visiting with family or friends. Maybe we feel so positive after a job well done that we actually think that work is fun, especially the kind of work that benefits us personally, such as renovating a home or organizing our living space. Perhaps we love how it feels to surprise others with a generous or kind act, and we think that giving our time, energy, or money to others is “fun”.

Fun is the carefree, wild playfulness of a child jumping into leaves- a type of energy that creates a strong, healthy, happy life. May we find ways to have fun. Joyful living elevates ourselves and all those around us.

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End of Summer

Watch my tree swing painting come to life in about 2 minutes (time lapse)

You might remember when I first shared this one when I finished it in May? Hard to believe that summer has already come and gone since then. Here we are in September and I’ll be sharing my autumn related art soon, as well as new paintings (of various subjects) as I finish art for the 2022 collection. If you or someone in your household has gone back to school or college, the seasonal shift from summer to fall has probably already settled in. But, for many of us, the weather is still quite hot and summer-like.

We’ve now gone more than a year since the start of this dystopia we live under. I’m guessing that many of you were like me, and hoping that by summer this would be over. Then by summer’s end, surely. Yet, it is not over, and we must continue to focus positive energy on mind, body, and spiritual wellness for ourselves, our families, and humanity.

The girl on the tree swing captures what it feels like to be carefree, healthy, youthful, and positive. Having fun, feeling the wind on our faces, surrounded by nature, and enjoying light exercise are all a wonderful part of a balanced life. I was outside pulling up weeds before writing this blog. There’s something cathartic about ripping up weeds and pulling them out, making the space clean and clear once again. It’s not as fun as swinging in a tree swing, but it is light outdoor exercise.

Spending at least 15 minutes a day outside is one of the most positive and healthy habits we can develop. Longer is better, but aiming for the 15 daily minimum is good progress. A virtual existence and an indoor lifestyle is not healthy. We forget who we are when we lose touch with what it feels like to be carefree. Lift your face to the wind and remind yourself of who you are, every day.

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Fish for Life

Watch me paint this bear catching a salmon (time lapse)

This is a recent painting that I shared last month. It’s said that if we give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but if we teach a man to fish, he eats for life. There’s a third option: a man who doesn’t wait to be given what he needs, or shown how. He doesn’t stagnate, wallow in ignorance, hesitate or follow. He’s like this bear. He sees what he wants and dives in to grab it with his bare teeth!

When we depend on others for nourishment, we submit ourselves to a weak position that is vulnerable to abuse, poverty, enslavement and victimhood. When we’re independent, self sufficient, ingenious and brave, we are in a strong position that frees us. “Nourishment” is literally food for our bodies, but is also a metaphor: “food for thought” or “food for the soul”. When we feed mind, body, and spirit in balance we are like this wild bear- healthy, active, and free.

Fish for Life

  1. Feed your body with good nutrition.
  2. Educate your mind about everything that impacts you, anything that interests you, and never stop learning how to do things, live better, and enjoy life more.
  3. Look for answers to your spiritual questions, act in faith even when you’re uncertain, pray even when you’re cynical, and believe in the impossible.

The rights of humanity should be as great, or greater, than the rights of wild animals, don’t you agree? We too should be free to nourish our bodies with fresh healthy foods, free to roam beyond our cages, and free to live our lives independently, without restriction. A wild bear lives as if he knows he is free.

A wild bear doesn’t wait for others to give him permission to live a full, healthy, active life. He doesn’t hesitate. He sees what he wants and grabs it for himself.

Be a wild bear. Know that you are free!

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Watch me paint this apple tree branch in 1 minute (time lapse)

If we’re being honest, there are no secrets to life’s happiness. What we need to be happy is intuitive. The real secrets are the ones we don’t tell: why don’t we do the things we know we should? Perhaps we’ve yet to learn the answer because we’re not ready, or because we choose not to know. Change is difficult. We may feel as if we can’t face up to it, but more truthfully, we probably aren’t willing to do what it takes. 

Because, no matter how weak and broken we are, we can find a way to be strong. There are stories of prisoners of war or victims of enslavement who had spirits of iron. They never gave up hope, even when they had nothing left, and were abandoned to a declining existence of abuse and eventual death. Yet they stayed strong in their minds and hearts, willing their bodies to survive.

What we ask of ourselves is seldom anywhere close to that magnitude! Most days, we are simply battling fatigue, discouragement, anxiety, stress, and fear about things that may or may not even happen. Many of us have the freedom to choose how to fill our time- at least a few hours a week- even if we are busy. The words “I can’t” are only in our vocabulary if we choose for them to be.

“Secrets” to Life (that everyone knows!)

  • Develop long and short range goals. The short range goals will encourage us to keep going, as we see a fast result. That will keep us on track for long range goals that will improve our lives in a bigger way. Stick with these goals. Win. Make new goals. Win again. Repeat indefinitely. Never give up. When stuck, try something new. Never quit, but know when to move on (listen to the song “The Gambler”!). Never bend, never break. Be determined, persistent, and strong!
  • Become strong by doing things that will produce a healthy mind, body, and spirit. These things are science based, as they can be proven to work. For example, if we improve our nutrition, we become healthier. The effects of eating good food go beyond the physical, as our mental acuity and emotional stability also improve. The singular act of improving our diets can effect hormones, blood sugar, and other factors that have an impact on our total health package (mind/body/spirit). The same is true for other obvious areas for improvement: exercise, fitness, being outside, spending time in nature, limiting screen/media/Internet time, creating art/music/other, spending time in positive social situations, investing in intimate relationships, etc.)
  • Choose love. Choosing a loving response for any situation in life is likely to bring inner peace. Why? For several reasons, but among them are these: a loving reaction encourages us to feel as if we’ve done the best we could do and can now let go of negative experiences, thereby avoiding resentment that interferes in the ability to be happy; a loving reaction eases stress as the body responds differently to peace than to aggression; a loving reaction is in alignment with a spiritual journey and therefore produces happiness in people of faith.

Because we already know the above life coaching advice, these things aren’t “secrets”, no matter how many books are sold that use Secret in the title. How to become happy isn’t a secret, but our happiness should in some ways BE a secret. As in, we have within us a precious private space where we are known only to ourselves and God. This space is highly valuable to abusive persons, organizations, and governments. Dysfunctional relationships involve invading our private spiritual self, and attempting to know our inner secrets for the purpose of power and control.

Whether the abuser is a controlling parent, friend, spouse, or boss, personal relationships can become too invasive. Allow yourself to have secrets from people who don’t have your best interests at heart, but instead abuse your private information. When someone knows our inner selves, do they use that information to manipulate us into doing what they want? Do they know what pushes our buttons? Do they know what type of flattery and praise motivates us? Do they steer us toward certain emotions to benefit themselves, caring little for how their power plays affect us?

If the abusive relationship is with an organization or government, it’s even more important to keep our inner selves secret. Why reveal what truly makes us tick? Abusers want to know what triggers would manipulate us to comply. Protect yourself from powerful abusers knowing what your breaking point might be. Guard the secrets to your happiness, known only to you and God.

For what is claimed to be a secret, is no secret at all. And what should be kept secret is stolen from us through manipulation, betrayal of relationships (employer/employee, spousal, parent/child, etc.), abuse of trust, illegal spying (corportations/governments/etc.), deception, misuse of authority, and more. It’s important to know the truth about secrets. I talked more about this in my other blog post featuring an apple painting: “Are we Unpredictable?

Happiness is not a secret. It is a gift available to all. We may have to work at it very hard, with our full hearts, but it is never impossible to pursue- and find- the happiness that is known as inner peace in the darkest of times, ranging in escalation to pure joy in the best of times.

Never listen to the snake who tells us we must eat the forbidden fruit from the apple tree to know the best kept secrets. We already know everything we need to be happy. Happiness is a spiritual gift. 

Specific tips for establishing inner peace: “Do we want Peace?

More about developing strength: “Peace through Strength

More about happiness: “Balance

More about breaking free from dysfunctional relationships (personal/work/government): “Dark to Light

More about happiness: “Be a Lamb

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Peace through Strength

Watch me paint this Eagle and Dove in 2 minutes (time lapse)

When I re-share my oil paintings they take on new meaning depending on the state of the world and our individual perspective at the time of viewing. How has your definition of “peace” and “strength” evolved over the past two years? Your answer may be different if I ask you from month to month, day to day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute.

A healthy human condition is fluid. Our emotions are malleable. “Malleable” has two basic definitions (wordnik.com). The first is “capable of being shaped or formed, as by hammering or pressure”. This is normal and helps us grow. We adapt and respond to hardships, challenges, progress and regression. We are flexible and responsive to changing environments, lifestyle and health status, and political climates. This is the good, productive kind of malleable.

The second definition for “malleable” is “easily controlled or influenced”. This type of human condition endangers the future of mankind. It makes possible the reality of mass psychosis, in which the majority of the world’s population believes things that are false, that have relatively low risk of lasting harm or fatality compared to other risks. They then submit and might even become irrationally, unquestioningly loyal to an extreme solution that creates more hardship, suffering, and death. Oftentimes the lower risk of inaction (allowing a crisis to organically resolve without coercion or tighter control) is the more logical choice, but it requires bravery to ignore the bleating to act when people want swift solutions.

“Peace through Strength” is not a concept exclusive to world governments and military. Modern warfare relies heavily on psychological weapons that are directed not only at armies, but tragically at the civilian population, including children and the elderly. When a populace is controlled or influenced to turn their backs on their own nation, institutions, society, values, neighbors and families, the war has been won by the enemies of the People. For it is the people who determine how much wealth their rulers can siphon from the backs of their labor, and it is the people who either see the profit motive behind their rulers’ mandates or are blind to it. It is the people who submit, comply, and allow to be overtaken. When the people agree to enslavement, the objectives of the (tyrannical) ruling class is reached.

When we are strong, the need for a physical rescue may be unnecessary, thereby achieving a peaceful outcome to a confrontation or a coercive breach of our human rights. Indeed, a crisis may be averted before it even takes root, never escalating to the point where more dramatic measures are required to resolve the situation. Peace through strength is possible, even when it seems that the situation is too far gone. Telling ourselves that it’s “too late” or we “can’t do anything”, is an excuse for an unwillingness to try.

When we are easily controlled or influenced, our spirit and purpose is hijacked. We are distracted and diverted from our true predestined path when entities attempt to change us. We do not deserve this interference in our destiny. But if we stay off course indefinitely, we do so willingly, because no one can take away our free will. Being influenced requires consent at some stage. No matter how difficult it may be to stand firm in one’s own beliefs when broken, standing alone, ridiculed, shamed, and threatened, it is nonetheless possible. It requires strength.

Ordinary moments test us. When we feel uncomfortable in a conversation, are we strong enough to do the right thing? Are we resolutely silent when it is best to let an issue go, and honestly outspoken when it’s best to intervene? Do we do the right thing even when it’s difficult, or do we submit to the cowardice of the moment? Do we let the fatigue of the era overwhelm us, or do we dig in deep and persevere?

It may seem inconsequential, but even the smallest decision matters. The energy of our individual strength rises to empower us collectively. We are not a collective, who do not matter as individuals. We are individuals who make an extraordinary impact collectively. If we are individually fearful, beaten, broken, hopeless, discouraged, depressed, sullen, resentful, bitter, and hostile, we drown each other. If we are individually strong, we bring peace to all.

One of the truest paths to peace is for individuals to nurture their personal human strength and potential for courage. Be strong in mind, body, and spirit. A healthy and positive outlook generates energy. This energy creates an unwavering desire to remain free. Tyranny has no fertile ground for roots to grab hold when the garden of our soul is built on solid rock. Choosing to be free is that rock.

When standing in even the smallest of crossroads, making what seems like an insignificant decision about whether to get exercise or skip it, whether to eat a nutritionally healthy lunch or not, whether to work passionately on a project or slump through the hours, whether to take time for a real conversation with a loved one or mutter unimportant things we’ll never remember later, whether to wear the clothes we save for “good” or pick something from the dull front part of our closet, whether to plant or uproot what has been planted, whether to do something extraordinary today, or not…  imagine an eagle and a dove in flight. There are no small decisions. Every act of integrity adds more light to the winning column for humanity. Choosing to be positive is act of integrity. It takes effort. It takes strength. If others may mock you for it, it even takes bravery.

Peace of mind, body, and spirit comes through strength of character. It comes through the courage of standing in our personal, highly individual values; values that have these points in common: integrity, empathy and mercy. It comes through the bravery and energy we put into everyday decisions to choose hope, joy, love and freedom. Be as a dove, by first becoming an eagle.

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