The feelings we enjoy when finishing a difficult task or reaching a goal are happy and joyful. They increase and solidify our evaluations of self-worth and personal strength.

Perhaps you have graduated from school, or have received a promotion at the workplace. Maybe a clever financial investment has paid off. It might be any act that requires concerted commitment and effort to bring to fruition. There are few situations in life that are as satisfying as is the act of completion.

This is a solid feeling of stability, abundance, and validation. One can bask in the limelight either publicly or within the sanctuary of the mind. This could result in some sort of celebration. The supervisor of your job throws a small company dinner party in recognition of your achievement. Perhaps you treat yourself to a special reward like a new garment or a carton of the premium brand of ice cream. There is a sense of gratitude that arises from fulfilling a goal or a long imagined dream.

In any case, achieving some sort of goal leaves us as stronger, more resilient people. There’s a sensation of standing on solid ground and wishing to build a sturdy foundation that emulates permanence and reliability. To build upon the completion of the goal, means you are not one to rest on her laurels. It brings further mental energy and motivation to attempt other challenges. Such an approach almost always assures that success will be long-lasting.

If one has a somewhat humanitarian personality he feels compelled to share his bounty with his loved ones and others in order that they are cared for. We see examples of this every day as “breadwinners” provide necessities, stability, and nurturance to families and charitable causes. The desire to provide comfort and safety to their loved ones seemingly instinctively springs forth. Of course, helping others also brings about similar feelings of completion towards one’s obligations and responsibilities.

The sense of completion is not necessarily about accumulation of wealth and luxurious things. Oftentimes, completion is more about attaining inner peace and freedom from inner conflict. You realize that your feelings of self-worth are not dependent upon wealth and social status. You’ve unraveled the superficial connection of outward appearance to inner success. The sense of completion is simpler and more psychologically steady.

You’ve encountered challenging situations and plenty of setbacks in life. These have taught you lessons about persistence and focus. You’ve had to re-evaluate opinions and goals then adjust your life strategy. These have paid dividends in life and meaningful mental well-being. You have made it past another milestone and feel the warm sense of completion.


The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders advice from the former president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, Douglas Conant. “It would be counterproductive to tell people exactly what they are supposed to do and exactly how they are supposed to do it to a point where they become more concerned about your expectations than about completing their work in a quality way.”

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It’s MLK Day!

When we think about Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, passion and power come to mind. He was a tireless promoter of treating everyone fairly. Passion is what motivated him to continue in the face of strong, mainstream opposition. King’s energetic power enabled him to carry forth his passion to the world.

King was a religious man in the positive, uplifting manner. The Golden Rule informed his goals. Forgiveness of his adversaries allowed him to remain focused on his mission. This combination is simple and can be emulated by anyone–religious or non-religious. To treat others as we want to be treated is a basic human virtue. The ability to forgive those who wish us harm frees the mind from destructive resentments. To have equality and freedom in the forefront of one’s hopes and dreams, enables a high quality life.

King’s public activism began over 60 years ago. His passion and skillful use of power caused him to become a major figure in the American civil rights movement. His manner of activism utilized the social mindset of the day–peace, love, and equality. His authenticity and strength set him apart from so many of the other civil rights activists and speakers of his time.

He understood that violence in pursuit of one’s aims is counter-productive in that it turns more people against than in favor of one’s overarching purpose. To fully engage conflict resolution and conversation, it is vital to do so in a peaceful, mature manner. At the same time, being assertive rather than aggressive makes all the difference in the world of activism. We can say that MLK took the high road in life.

King was more than just the “I Have a Dream” speech. He gave other speeches and sermons throughout his life. His words advocated positive, non-violent action in service of the downtrodden members of society. He wanted his audiences to engage his simple way of utilizing the Golden Rule and assertive focus as they worked in unity for universal civil rights.

In essence, Martin Luther King, Junior was impactful on the nation during his time on Earth. His legacy has turned out to be timeless. King’s overall message of bettering ourselves in the process of bettering society strikes an uplifting chord in our hearts. His simple message of the power of loving one another allows his legacy to remain vibrantly alive.

Today’s national holiday is in honor of a leader who lived an honorable life of service to humanity. His words and actions have been inspiring to people who care about fairness and equality for all people. Today, as we hear and read tributes to Dr. King, we can take a few minutes to contemplate and ponder the passion and power that made up King’s character.

Today’s holiday celebrates encouragement and inspiration. We are reminded to speak and act from our highest inner nature. Our values of freedom, liberty, and justice for all are being celebrated today.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Martin Luther King Junior. “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”

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Balanced Living

One doesn’t need to browse the Web very long in order to stumble across some expert or authority writing or talking about the need for balance in our lives. Certainly, there are numerous websites, books, and seminars that focus on living a balanced life. To bring about balance in one’s life is surely a worthwhile project. To achieve a balanced life is easier said than done.

What often happens is that the search for balanced living becomes an exercise in self-absorption. It becomes an obsession that can take over one’s life. There eventually comes a time when we need to set aside the stack of books and pause the Internet searches on the topic because seeking the balanced life has become unbalanced. At least that’s what happened to me.

The public library’s self-help book section became my stomping ground. It seemed like I’d read every book about the topic in the library. The librarians also thoughtfully pointed out new arrival self-help books. Most of them reiterated the same basic theories about balanced living. The books’ attractions were that they offered unique points of view or new nuggets of wisdom.

My boyfriend at that time, Steve was also into the self-help/balanced life book-reading habit. One afternoon, Steve snatched the book I had been reading from my hands. He complained that we had been so busy reading about balanced living that we had failed to apply our knowledge. We were living balanced lives by proxy. The situation had become so out of control, that it was affecting our relationship with each other.

He was correct. Both of us had very busy work schedules. There was precious little time left over to pursue our personal interests. The share of time we devoted to reading self-help books had crowded out too many of our non-work hours. Steve reminded me that life is more than researching better ways to live. At some point, a person has to stop studying the script and get on with the rehearsal. That day we promised each other we’d do less reading and do more living.

It’s good to remember that balance can be achieved simply by combining the resources of the mind and the intuitive state of the heart. There is no need to complicate matters. Yet the work vs. free-time balance is one of the most pressing struggles faced by contemporary society. Trying to make ends meet while maintaining familial and personal interests is tough these days. Getting caught up in a rat-race seems inevitable.

Steve once said that maybe one day we’ll find the proverbial balanced life. The condition between what the self-help writers say we can be, who we desire to be, and what we know we need to be. In the meantime we just need to be happy with who we are right now; otherwise we’ll just remain caught up in the search.

Of course he’s right. We all need a certain amount of self-reflection, reading, and contemplation. We also need to take a break from all of that for awhile and practice what we’ve learned. Whatever we like to physically do during our free-hours, it is best to do that. Draw, paint, do woodworking, tinker with gadgets, play with the kids and pets–the list of things to actually do is long.

Yes, it is good to study and learn. It is also wise to sometimes set all that aside and simply live. At least this is how it seems to me.


The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from filmmaker/screenwriter, Tony Gilroy. “When you really are enjoying what it is you do, who needs balance? There’s your balance! There’s your balance. When you’re really enjoying what it is you do, there’s your balance.”

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Appreciating Dragons

For whatever it’s worth, according to Chinese astrology, I’m a Dragon. At the end of the day, I don’t believe this affects my personality nor demeanor. It is fun to ponder the concept, though.

The Dragon is the only Chinese Zodiac sign that is not a real creature. For instance the majority of 2020 and the early part of this year have been the year of the Rat. (We can interpret the Year of the Rat however we wish.) Aside from the Rat and the Dragon, there are ten other creatures in this roster.

However, today is an unofficial holiday called “Appreciate A Dragon Day” It’s one of those promotional commemorations that was started in 2004 to publicize Donita Paul’s novel Dragonspell. Why January 16th? I don’t know; maybe that was the release date of the novel. I’ve never gotten around to reading the book, because I haven’t prioritized getting a copy of it. Book or no book, I just like the idea of appreciating dragons.

It’s interesting that, for the most part, dragons in western folklore are fearsome, villainous characters. Such dragons have kidnapped pretty princesses and must be slain by chivalrous heroes in order to rescue the forlorn princesses. Western dragons are huge winged, fire-breathing critters that project a thunderous roar.

In the east, dragons are considered auspicious although they do demand respect. They’re somewhat smaller than western dragons. They are akin to “guardian angels” in some respect. Eastern dragons are the protectors of the gods and valuable treasure. They don’t roar, they emit musical sounds like bells and gongs.

Dragons are found in almost every culture. European dragons, Egyptian dragons, Native American dragons, Chinese dragons. They are varied in their depiction and symbolic meanings. Although there are numerous dragon myths, the eastern varieties fascinate me most, such as those of China and Tibet. These cultures are steeped in dragon lore.

“I’m kind of honored to be a dragon lady. The dragon is a very powerful, mythical animal.”–Yoko Ono

The dragon can be interpreted as the assertive side of spirituality. When we are engulfed in a dark night of the soul, it is the dragon that energizes our inner-being and lifts us away from ennui. Dragons represent our secret aspirations being manifested. I wonder if the aspirational aspect of dragons is why Elon Musk named his rockets “Dragon”. There’s the urban legend that Musk so named the rocket after the Peter, Paul, and Mary song, “Puff the Magic Dragon”. That’s a dragon of a different sort.

While pondering the brass Chinese Dragon hanging on the wall in my music room, I wondered about more profound meanings of dragons. The fearsome western dragon apparently represents our inner fears about ourselves and our perceived faults. We have our own, personal dragons to slay in order to proceed with life. In effect, we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves. Our highest self is the proverbial damsel in distress who must be released from the bondage of the western dragon.

The Eastern Dragon is more of a higher force or catalyst that inspires our best selves. It is less a form of entertainment but a symbol representing the strength of beneficial wisdom and caring. Such a dragon is so highly revered that it is the symbol of China. This type of dragon is not to be feared and slain, it is to be admired and respected.

Regardless of the type of dragons we imagine, they are figures of our pipe-dreams about inauspicious or auspicious actions that are presented to us in life. They are western dragons to conquer or eastern dragons to emulate. Since we are all citizens of the world, we can ponder the meanings of all the dragons we encounter. Dragons are wonderful metaphors that can open and free our minds. They are fantasy yearning to be manifested.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes astrophysicist and cosmologist, Martin Rees. “The bedrock nature of space and time and the unification of cosmos and quantum are surely among science’s great ‘open frontiers.’ These are parts of the intellectual map where we’re still groping for the truth–where, in the fashion of ancient cartographers, we must still inscribe ‘here be dragons.'”

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Potted Arrangements …Floral Friday

Sometimes I just like to enjoy the tactile sensation of handling flower pots. I’m not sure why. Maybe because mom used to display a few small pots at a south window of the family home. It could be due to a school chum whose dad owned our town’s greenhouse. Somehow, there has been a subtle fascination with flower containers throughout my life. Decorative flower pots are high on the list.

This week, I pulled three pots at random from the supply storage shelf. Then went about matching the containers with harmonious plantings.

The cylindrical pot is constructed of formed cement mortar. I like its contemporary, clean, minimalist style. Delicate pastel blooms act as a counterpoint to the industrial material.

Faux-aged plaster coats the department store terra cotta pot. Red-purple flowers are at the base to enhance the orchid stem centered arrangement.

The mustard-yellow, near antique McCoy flower pot is a personal favorite. It’s the perfect container for sprigs of Cuban Oregano.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Dutch Renaissance philosopher, Desiderius Erasmus. “Reflection is a flower of the mind, giving out wholesome fragrance; but revelry is the same flower, when rank and running to seed.”

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Pondering Mental Analogies And Metaphors

Some of our analogies about thinking and consciousness historically tend to mimic the contemporary technologies of their times. For instance, mechanical automatons were popular in the seventeenth century. The mechanical or clockwork devices performed lifelike tasks for entertainment. Rudimentary manufacturing tools operated in much the same automatic manner.

The apt metaphor was coined because many people and animals unconsciously perform rote activities. For instance, a farmer guides his oxen over the area of his field to plow rows for planting crops. After awhile the farmer and the oxen plod along without thinking. Their bodies go through the motions without any need to analyze nor to be very aware of what they are doing. This is still relevant to people who toil away on factory assembly lines. Tasks we claim we could “do in our sleep” fall into this category.

During much of the 20th century, memory and recall used to frequently be compared to tape recorders. As in when we witness an event then it is filed away on a mental “tape”. To recall or to remember the event, we “rewind” the mental “tape” to play it back. When we want to tell about the result of the event further along the timeline, we use the phrase “fast-forward”.

The fast-forward phrase remained in the lexicon even after the introduction of video tape, compact discs, and DVDs. When some people talk about their personal lives, the fast-forward phrase is sometimes used when they describe a series of events. For instance, “I fell onto the sidewalk and broke a leg. Fast-forward to a week later and I met an old friend in the clinic’s waiting room who also broke her leg.”

One of the most popular metaphors links mental analysis with mechanical gears. Such as when a person is concentrating on figuring out the solution to a mental puzzle, we say his gears are turning. On another level, if we wish to understand a concept from a different point of view or paradigm, we shift our mental gears. The question remains, does this refer to an automatic transmission or a stick-shift with a clutch? If we’re having difficulty coming up with an answer, then we’re stuck. This describes a mechanical machine that is not an automaton.

In the 21st century, a favored brainiac analogy is to compare the brain to a digital computer, when thinking through a problem logically. Critical thinking requires the sophisticated mental “software” of the mind. If our thoughts wander into unreality, we have the architectural analogy of “castles in the sky”. We might refer to the culinary delight of “pie in the sky”.

Isn’t it interesting how our brains have evolved the ability to create mental stories that use emotion and analogy that are “transmitted” through the technology of spoken and written language? Through trial and error, our species has learned that effective thinking requires both the logical thinking of reason, and the emotional thinking of analogy and metaphor.


The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from Hugo Award-winning science fiction writer, Ken Liu. “The way a story makes an argument is quite different from the way a persuasive essay does it. Emotional truth and the logic of metaphors dominate.”

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“Gossip is the Devil’s radio”–Beatle, George Harrison

We have all indulged in idle talk about the goings on of other people. We may inflate the virtues of someone we love or admire, or more commonly, participate in passing along rumors about famous celebrities or people we dislike. To do so is so ubiquitous, we rarely recognize that we do it.

When we think of the typical gossipers, we picture political commentators, politicians, moralistic busy-bodies, celebrity hangers-on, and gossip writers. The truth is, that we gossip. Our insecurities manifest by what we say about other people. We participate in pro-active gossip in the belief that we won’t be gossiped about. In our weakest moments, we point out other people’s quirks, virtues, and flaws in order to make us feel good about ourselves. We find gossip at each social class, ethnicity, political leanings–everywhere in society.

I posit that we participate in gossip because of our restless “monkey minds”. A monkey mind rarely stops chattering. It craves constant stimulation. It seeks to be occupied with sensation, passing interests, and intrigue. The monkey mind is the opposite of calm awareness and earnestness. The monkey mind loves to communicate about the actions about oneself and others–whether pleasantly, or more commonly, viciously.

The monkey mind often concerns itself with other people’s affairs. It finds endless gratification by listening to or reading the works of celebrity and political commentators. The monkey mind finds vicarious enjoyment when listening to news reports about divorces, criminal behavior, and tragedy. Such a state of mind anxiously seeks out information that validates our worship of authority figures and denigration of their adversaries. This is a manifestation of our levels of externalization. Our addiction to sensational distraction feeds the monkey mind.

We have been conditioned by social institutions and personal habit to engage in agitated, restless thought and speech. Such superficial activity and distraction is carried out in pursuit of personal validation and self-defense. This is another way of defining resistance. When we resist, we prevent understanding.

Speculation about other people’s actions and the propagation of these notions are symptoms of restless thinking or monkey mind. Regardless of how clever such speculation seems, understanding and joy fall victim to the products of the monkey mind.

We must remember that this activity of the monkey mind, gossip, is a very dangerous act. We need to practice more awareness of those who gossip and the underlying message they wish to relay to us. The same caution is important when we talk about others.

Gossip is ubiquitous. We encounter and engage in it in one form or another each day of our lives. How we react to it and whether or not we help propagate it, says a lot about our level of awareness. How we interface with gossip and rumor shows where our hearts lie.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the Mexican author of Toltec spirituality and neoshaminism, Don Miguel Ruiz. “Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”

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