Monday, June 30, 2008

"Seeking Peace" by Johann Christoph Arnold

An interview with Johann Christoph Arnold, author of Seeking Peace

It is a simple truth: We all seek peace, even if we don’t realize we are actively looking for it. To seek peace, suggests Johann Christoph Arnold, means nothing more than finding purpose in your life. It’s a universal quest that transcends religious faith. A prolific author who has met with many of the world’s religious leaders, Johann Christoph Arnold wrote Seeking Peace to offer direction for finding a purpose that will make our lives meaningful.

How can we find harmony within ourselves?

My message to people is: “Get busy. You are only young once. Find purpose in your life, and use your life to do something constructive.” Too many people are wasting their lives. Society could be so much more constructive. Every act of love and service has a ripple effect. Like the ripples caused by a small pebble thrown into a lake, one act of love spreads to many people. It takes only one stone to start an avalanche -- one human being’s life can make a difference. You might not see the difference in your lifetime, but through service to other people you leave a legacy behind when you leave this world.

How do paradoxes relate to peace?

Jesus said, “I come not to bring peace but a sword.” That might sound contradictory because Jesus’ main message was love. But love always brings confrontation because it demands change, and people are afraid to change. That’s a paradox.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was a crusader for peace. He informed the world about the killings in his country, and like other great leaders who have fought for peace, Romero was assassinated. But Oscar Romero was the voice and conscience of El Salvador, and he left a legacy for the people of his country and the world. His assassination sparked a movement for equality and peace that still continues today. That’s a paradox.

Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi devoted his life to nonviolence and was assassinated. Yet the result was the liberation of his people. His influence and his principles of peace are still followed by people today.

How does forgiveness relate to peace?

Forgiveness is powerful. For example, I know people whose family members were murdered. Instead of wanting revenge, they forgave the murderer and decided to work with the families of other murder victims, and even with the murderers on death row, to bring about reconciliation. Jesus told us to love our enemies because love overcomes tension and violence.

I frequently visit “hot spots,” such as Palestine’s West Bank where I have witnessed the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. And I know that peace will only come out of one-to-one-relationships. It won’t be because of peace agreements or other political actions. Peace will come where there is a Jew and a Muslim who forgive each other.

What do you mean by “abundant life”?

An abundant life means you have found peace, you have found forgiveness, and you are not afraid to die. It’s important to remember that every human being is important. We all lead busy lives. We rush from one appointment to the next, and we don’t take time for each other. Maybe your child will come up to you when you are involved in something, and you’ll say, “Don’t bother me now. I’m too busy.” Instead, why not take a few minutes and ask what you can do to help your child? It brings a satisfaction that money can’t buy. And it reduces fear and brings happiness and security.

As a people we are so materialistic. We have so much junk, so many possessions, but we always want more. And we become busier and busier. Families often don’t have mealtimes together anymore. There is no time for our children, unless it's their birthday party or some other special occasion. We are missing out on the most important things in life.

Albert Einstein once said that if you want your child to be brilliant, read him a fairy tale, and if you want your child to be still more brilliant, read still more fairy tales. In our society we want to put children on the fast academic track. We want to make children into miniature adults and we don’t allow them to be children. That spells disaster.

What is your most important piece of advice?

Love people. Give yourself an open invitation to treasure everyone you meet. Every person is unique -- you will find no other exactly like that one person. You can always learn something from other people that will enrich your life. It doesn’t matter who that person is. Whether homeless or a millionaire, each person is a human being. There’s something valuable in each and every one of us.

Seeking Peace by Johann Christoph Arnold is available from

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

"101 Ways to Enrich Your Life" by Karen Diedrich and Robert Lemke

A discussion with Karen Diedrich, co-author of 101 Ways to Enrich Your Life

When Karen Diedrich's mother was dying of cancer, a simple phone from a concerned employer helped Karen find a source of peace amid the turmoil that was her mother's illness. That phone call from Robert Lemke, the man who was to later become Karen's co-author, provided insight on keeping perspective and handling fears. This invaluable advice, along with many other concepts developed by the pair over the next several months, evolved into their inspiring book, 101 Ways to Enrich Your Life. Karen Diedrich explains how these basic ideas can help us confidently handle life's issues:

How can we strike a balance between the major things and minor things in life?

The first thing you need to do is sort out your mountains from your molehills. Some people describe this by saying, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Start by deciding what your "main thing" is. Then it's a matter of keeping that in front of you; of keeping perspective.

For example, my co-author, Bob Lemke, and I talk about a "worry basket." Everybody has a worry basket, and most of us tend to keep that basket full. You may fill it with worries such as when you're going to get your laundry done or when you're going to get Easter crafts done in time for your church bazaar . Then something major can fall into your basket; something that gives you a big-time worry. Maybe you hit a period of struggle in your life, and what happens then is that the big worry pushes all the little worries aside. You realize that all those little things you had in your worry basket aren't really worth worrying about, and you focus on the one big thing. Eventually, you survive that big worry, one way or another, and then, because your basket is empty, you wonder what you're going to do. Will you allow yourself to fill up that worry basket again with trivial stuff? Or are you going to choose to "keep the main thing the main thing"? Why not decide to take a moment every day to be grateful for all you have, all you've accomplished and all that's going well in your life?

Don’t feel obligated to fill up that worry basket with trivial stuff. You may think you can't be happy until you work out certain things in your life, but most often, life is happening to you in the meantime. You're missing out on all the precious things that happen to you day to day because you're focused on that time in the future when everything is going to be OK. It's important to accept that life is never going to be perfect. You'll never have everything in your life exactly the way you want it, so focus on what do you have in your life that's great right now, and celebrate that.

What is "personal culture" and why is it important?

Personal culture refers to your beliefs and your behaviors. It's basically what you think and do. Many of us go through life without ever realizing that we have control over our personal culture, so it's important to focus on the idea that you have complete control over everything you think and everything you do. You can control how you display your personal culture to the rest of the world.

101 Ways to Enrich Your Life is not about money; rather, it's about every other way you can live in prosperity. Everything it takes to live a rich life costs nothing. The best way to live rich is to take the beliefs and behaviors that form your personal culture and make them positive. Then take those positive beliefs and align them with positive behaviors. The manner in which you behave should fit with the way you think. For example, sometimes you may feel compelled to do something even though it goes against your beliefs, but if you have that incongruity you'll have a lot of internal conflict. If you can align positive behaviors and positive beliefs, however, you'll have a very strong personal culture and be living rich.

The place to start is with your beliefs about yourself. Once you can truly believe positive things about yourself and behave in ways that make you feel good about yourself, everything else is easy.

How can we use our personal culture to enrich our lives?

There are four tools on which we rely in everyday life. I remember them with the acronym CALM:

The things we say, the messages we send, the things we think and feel

Our behaviors; the things we do

Lessons learned
Your real wisdom comes from here. Wisdom is knowledge applied. If you learn the lesson and acquire a different perspective or behavior, you can change things in your life for the better.

Most often, the people who control money have influence. Many of us go through life thinking money is our primary tool, but the other three tools -- communication, action and lessons learned -- can be far more powerful than money. Once you realize that, you can really make a difference in how you live your life.

What is "interpersonal culture"?

Interpersonal culture refers to the way you share your personal culture with other people; with their own personal cultures. When you have shared beliefs and behaviors with other people, you can develop a strong, positive interpersonal culture. And from there you can develop customs and traditions that perpetuate those combined cultures. Conversely, culture clash is when you rub up against people who have a different personal culture than your own. Have you ever been with a group of people who were all laughing about something but you didn’t see any humor in it at all? That's an example of a culture clash.

We naturally gravitate toward people who are like we are. That doesn’t mean you shouldn't value diversity; it simply points to the fact that when you're in a situation where you're uncomfortable or you feel like a misfit, the odds are good that you're in the middle of a culture clash. Understand and accept that's what happening. It doesn’t mean there's something wrong with you; it just means you have different beliefs and behaviors than the other folks in the group.

To really enrich your life you need to develop bonds with people who have cultures that align with yours. Those people make the best marriage partners and the best long-term friends. The popular idea is to get married to someone you think will make you "complete," but it's more important that you get yourself complete. You first have to know who you are before you can look for an alignment with someone else. If you look for someone to fill in the places where you're missing, you'll be stuck in the status quo and neither of you will grow. You'll need that person to stay the way he is, and he'll need you to stay the way you are, and you'll both end up stifling each other. Your goal should be for each of you to grow independently. Think of it as enriching someone else's life; not what they can do for you or how they can make you complete.

What advice do you think is most important?

I think the most powerful advice is that you shouldn't let fear keep you from daring to live the life you dream. Fear is something that sucks the peace and confidence out of your life. It's insidious, and you probably don’t understand how many of your beliefs and behaviors are driven by fear. Inspirational writer Marianne Williamson says that everything in life is either fear or love. If there's anything that gets in your way -- anything that prevents you from building a strong personal culture -- it's fear.

The way to develop confidence is to conquer your fears, but first you have to identify your fears, quantify them, and then deal with them. And it takes courage to do that. Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is doing what you know is right even if you're scared silly. Work on overcoming your fears and look for the lessons learned. If you can face your fears and recognize how that helps you to grow, you'll have a much richer, more fulfilling life.

Buy this book from 101 Ways to Enrich Your Life