Overcoming stress

rainbowsox An impending deadline, a late bill, a bad month at work, all can take the air out and leave you feeling better off dead. Then in an instant, maybe on the way to the store or when a child is playing on your lap, you realize that every moment is a gift and “stress” is nothing more than our ego struggling with things it can’t control.

No one reading this is starving, no one reading this is in a dark house with the electricity turned off because they couldn’t pay the bill. But tonight their are millions of people going to bed hungry, with no money and no hope. So overcome your stress, give thanks for the bright moments of life, and do something tomorrow to help someone who is truly struggling to live. It might just be what you need to feel alive.

Just last week a man I’d met visiting a prison stopped by my office in downtown Indianapolis. He was homeless and asked if I could help him find a place to stay. I gave him a list of shelters and let him make calls from my front desk. By the time he was done he had found two places that had openings and would let him have a room. He smiled, gave me a hug, and then left. Thanks to him, my stress melted away and I gave thanks for many things. And that night I’m sure, we both slept easy.

Motorcycles bring you to strange places, made even better by young love!

One of my favorite personal pictures is the one my wife took of me sitting on a motorcycle looking out across the plains of South Dakota. It was taken by my then girlfriend and future wife.  The image below is the one I snapped of her. We were sitting in the main road!

A few months earlier she had been getting ready to finish her last semester of college. She decided to take some time off to visit relatives in Colorado, but changed her mind and came with me on what turned out to be an epic motorcycle journey. 14 years later she never made it back to school, but we’ve been married the last thirteen and we now have 7 children!

My love in the middle of South Dakota!

When I hit the road I never imagined I’d find love with a women like this. What’s keeping you from hitting the road? Someone or something wonderful is waiting for you. Dreams are not found sitting on your couch surfing the web or daydreaming.  Dreams are found with action. Hit the road, and start your journey.

The love you take is equal to the love you make

When we lived in California two of the monks on this porch were pretty much responsible for the survival of my wife and I, Father Patrick on the right and Father Sergios, now Bishop Sergios, in the middle. I was working insane hours trying to launch a magazine, Bearfoot Magazine – Journal of Northern California Outdoors, and my wife was adjusting to pregnancy and an hour commute in Bay Area traffic to a stressful job. They were our refuge, our motivation, our protection. They even sold us their old Volvo station wagon for $600 when my wife became pregnant and all we had was my motorcycle.

Saint Gregory Monastery – Kelseyville, CA

This picture is taken from the long house of their monastery soon after they moved to the top of a mountain near Kelseyville, California. I don’t know if they realize how much their hospitality and support meant to us, but it’s always a reminder to me that when someone asks for help, help. And if you see someone who needs help but they don’t ask, help anyway.

Sometimes the smallest gesture or gift at the right moment can be just what someone needs to keep them going through a dark or troubling time. And I’ve found that the help you give others can be the best way to dig yourself out of your own doldrums.

Recently a friend sent a blanket for our newborn baby girl. Responding to our thankfulness for the gift she replied, “I’m trying to wake my dead heart back up through acts of love.” But isn’t that the truth, and don’t we all struggle through times when we can’t feel love. As the Beatles said, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Last Flight, joy born from addiction and despair

I was having a bad day. I was down, discouraged, afraid. That evening I was to visit the local Veterans Administration Domiciliary, a place where once homeless veterans can live while they get counseling, get clean, find a job, and a place to live. These men all come from the street and the depths of addiction and despair.

I didn’t feel like going, but my group would be waiting and duty wouldn’t let me cancel. So with absolutely no motivation I went to sing, speak and teach my program, The Ladder UPP.

I did my best, but for most of the night while I spoke words of motivation, I was scared and panicking on the inside. Of course, my problems were nothing compared to these men who had lost everything. By the time we were finished, I was ready to go hide some place and drown in misery, but before I could leave one of the men approached me with a piece of paper. He said my talk the week before had meant a lot to him, had given him hope, and had awakened a desire to write a poem.

He gave me the paper, but I was in a hurry and told him I’d look at it later. Alone in my car, I opened up the paper and began to read. The poem was about me. Not all the details were correct, but it was about me. I want to thank the author of this poem, Mark Skaggs, for not giving up on himself and showing others that no matter how dark life might seem, you can survive. I also want to thank Mark for giving me permission to publish this poem and his name. I found out later his poetry won an award and was published.

Last Flight by Mark Skaggs

Canopy closed, instruments on
been waiting for this since the break of dawn.

This is his dream, this is his time,
two Marines ready to fly.
Catapult shoots, lights turn red,
all he feels is a sense of dread.

Gotta punch out, gotta eject
no time to think, no time to reflect.
Canopy pops, rockets roar
absolute fright, absolute horror.

Wake up in pain, sore and confused,
One life will live, one life to lose.
I’ll never forget that time,
I won’t forget that night,
When two young Marines
had their last flight.

But out of the ashes, like Lazarus he rose,
fighting through the pain, worry and woes.
He found a new life, he thought of new goals.
Reaching higher and higher with his feet on the ground.
He’s set himself free from everything that was down.

He now tells his story of his struggle and strife,
and soars with the Eagles,
Thanks to the last flight.

When I finished reading the poem I placed it on the seat next to me and started to cry. But I was happy, and thanked God for giving me a touch of grace.

Real love, real grace is all around us. Open your heart, help your fellow man, and when you least expect it something truly wonderful and magical will happen.

Some things i learned walking the earth on a motorcycle

I was looking back at the diary I kept during the two years I spent exploring our great country on my motorcycle, and I found some incredible quotes that fueled me in the aftermath of my jet crash and search for purpose. I hope you find them edifying. I’ll try to post a few every couple weeks or so.

“No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good.” C.S. Lewis

“Love asks nothing in return but seeks those who need it.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The goal of America is freedom.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Patient endurance kills the despair that kills the soul.” From the Philokalia

“Half the civilized world makes a living by telling a lie.” Thomas Merton

“A full life will be a life full of pain. The only alternative is not to live fully or not to live at all.” Scott Peck, MD

Silouan Green – Bound for Freedom

We all are on a journey.  This blog was created to help you on yours.

When I was at my darkest point in life, riddled with pain, disappointment, fear, and all the other things that come with being broken up by a tragic jet crash and watching your life fall apart, I would stare into the dark looking for answers.  Answers on a way out.

This blog will be the advice, lessons, and encouragement I wish I could have gotten then.  Thank you and may your journey be one that leads to freedom.