Love Underneath

Looking Glass Falls
Pisgah National Forest
North Carolina
October 24, 2018

Bracing to face it
And knowing its coming

Instead we embrace it
Instead of running

Images and memories
Of what once was

A moment in time
So perfect it was

Love that lives underneath

Everything we share

Can be felt now
And lives on in the air

Copyright 2019

James Leonard O’Leary, II

Soul Desires

20160124_190330909_iOSWords can’t describe
the feelings we hide.

Look in their eyes
and hear each other’s cries.

We long for lasting love
innocent as a baby dove.

We stand before eternity
and hope for purity.

Knowing at some point, we die,
and must say goodbye.

Let us fully live, and love,
with our thoughts – rising above

The world’s anchors and chains
can cause so much pain.

Climb to your peak
learn to speak

What your soul desires
and live on fire.


Real Life versus Planned Life

Credit: Bob Carroll.

When we are young many of us have grand expectations about our futures. Our dreams, high hopes and ideals are what often energizes us to achieve remarkable and challenging goals. As we begin to age, sometimes it is these earlier visions that keep us afloat in a sea of boredom, routine or troubled times. It is good that nature has this way with us and gets us, for the majority, on a track of responsibility.

They say life can only be boring to boring people. I’m not sure that is correct. Life can become a real struggle for normal hard working people. We can all get caught in the grooves of life as we manage our many responsibilities. That does not mean we are boring people. It may be because we have not stepped into a new way of thinking, or have fallen into an old thinking pattern, those old grooves we have lived with so long. The new grooves are what make life exciting, challenging, and bring greater enjoyment and fulfillment.

One of my key life mentors, Bob Carroll, once told a short story of how he was trying hard to capture a certain sunrise. Along with being a shutterbug, Bob is a real modern day sage. Just as he was about to capture the shot, one he felt was perfectly timed, a person jogging on the beach invaded the scene and jumped up into the lifeguard chair. His initial response was one of loss and regret. However, moments later, the jogger dramatically reached up to the sky, symbolizing our human desire to be one with the universe. Bob then immediately captured that new moment, and it was way better than he had ever imagined or planned. Thank you Bob!

Our mindsets control and guide where we go, what we do, and how we feel. The adage, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” is true. One the newer strategies I have been implementing is this idea of making a new discovery each day. It is remarkably rewarding to think along these lines.

You may not get the weather you hoped for. Your friend may not do what you expect. Your week may shift into a completely unexpected gear. Yet, if you maintain this open mindedness, a discovery mindset, you may find that it turned out much better than you felt possible when you began. Instead, the rain may feel good, you may make a new friend, or that change in your weekly schedule leads you to some new twist that you can find joy in experiencing.

We can and should make a plan about where we want to go, how we want to live, and who we want to help. However, the best laid plans will never be executed precisely how you want them to turn out. And that is actually a good thing. The mentality of wanting to maintain rigid enforcement to a plan runs the risk of losing sight of the new and different elements being uncovered as we proceed through life.

The slogan of my high school, Christoper Columbus, is “Adelante.” The translation is “ahead, in front, forward.” To me, the translation is that we must use our senses to appreciate that each moment can be somewhat, or dramatically, different than what we expected, hoped for, or planned. Yet that is the essence, the beauty, and the dynamism of really living.

Let us all make a new discovery today, whether it be in somewhere we go, something we read, something we think, or someone we help. Only you can control your decision to begin a discovery mindset. So while we can continue to hold to our greatest dreams, goals and objectives, we should not obsess over them to the exclusion of really living. Riding the tide of what nature has to offer. Make the greatest good out of that wave. Perhaps we will create a new groove that suits us even better than what we only knew before we experienced this. Good luck!

Fully Appreciating Who You Are

20151129_223519014_iOSThis morning I was driving to work listening to the Diane Rehm show. Today the interview was about suicide. Do you realize that over 41,000 people a year kill themselves in this country? I often think of two close friends I once knew very well who committed suicide, one in high school, and one years after dropping out of law school.

Suicide is the end point of depression. Today we are constantly bombarded with news about harsh realities of the world. Yet, in my opinion, it is the psychological struggles we all deal with in our childhoods, our homes, our schools, our workplaces, day in and day out, that go unnoticed. The people living with all of these problems, all of us, need to recognize this and be good to one another, smile at each other, talk to each other, and yes even help each other.

There is solid hope that you can achieve an authentic and lasting joy for living.

Step 1: A simple strategy: the simple act of carrying on. The promise to yourself that no matter what comes at you, your waking up, putting your pants on, and going out there to give it your very best.

Step 2: We can fully feel the love we once had for another, or that we received from someone, just as strongly now as we once did. We can also feel the loss, the pain, and grief all over again, and if we’ve never dealt with it, read on…

Step 3: Deal with it. Get help. Talk to someone, ideally a doctor, counselor or therapist.

Step 4: Reach for a new level of understanding about who you are, what you’ve been through, and recognition that you are a damn good person. By seeking out and discovering your memories, you can harvest a new appreciation for enduring the battles, the obstacles, and perhaps even the terror you once felt. You not only endured, you purposely decided to persist, and you overcame. This recognition can provide a foundation for continuing on your path today. And guess what, you may find that a lot of other people had very similar experiences?

It is great to receive a gift, to get help with something, or even to enjoy simple pleasures like taking a walk, feeling the sun, or reading a good book. Yet our willingness to take on new challenges, move forward in the face of fear and uncertainty, and perform as best we can, these are the things that bring true satisfaction and joy. And one of the fundamental pillars of the satisfaction and joy you already have (which may be buried under a mountain of current concerns, tasks, and worries) is the very fact that you have made it to this point. Appreciate everything you have been through, all the experiences you’ve had, all the people and places you know about, and how unique a person you are. This alone is cause to celebrate your life and provide you with a genuine appreciation for who you are, how much absolute value you exude as a person, and the depth of your character.

20151129_222432720_iOSBeyond this fundamental foundation of who you are lies a vast and infinite array of possible ways you can take what and who you are and use it grow even more.

Step 5: You can now leverage your foundation to learn even more, serve even more, love even more, grow even more, give more than ever. You can continue to work on yourself to deepen your foundation of education, knowledge and experience to serve others, and in doing so, to serve yourself. The reasons to do so are innumerable but only you know the tune, the feel, the beat of your own drummer. Keep listening to it. Be aware of it. Yet it’s not enough to just hear it, you need to reflect on it and then begin to take real physical actions to turn that corner. The feelings will come after the actions.

Forgive yourself and others for anything that may be hanging you up, then restart with a positive mindset focused on your own personal growth and development. That is something you will look back on as a turning point in your life – a time when you severed a mindset that was hurting you. It makes no sense to suffer through life, it goes by too fast. So slow down and enjoy it.

There is simply no good reason to not purposefully appreciate how good of a person you are and then to fully experience the joy of simply living your life the way you want to, exactly as you want to. Good luck.


Fertilize Your Life

“You can use any road to start from.” JLO

Every so often we need to get philosophic about our life, examine what roads we have traveled, look at the one we are on, and consider what direction we want to travel next.

Sometimes we need to take a different route, get a new perspective, jostle things up. Life can get boring and growth can come slowly, even if your on a decent road, and doing fairly well. Think fertilizer!

If we are unhappy we can change and start a new course. It has often occurred to me to reflect on the fact that what is happening this instant is in fact your life, and more likely than not, what you are doing now is probably what you are going to be doing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Unless of course, we decide to change something. In writing this personal blog I am doing something I do not do as much as I’d like. It helps me offload some thoughts, ideas and work through issues percolating in my head, and hence, it’s following my own advice.

How good is your life really? How happy, fulfilling or exciting is it to you? When we grow into adulthood, the tendency is to accept that we are bound to our duties, obligations and jobs. We sometimes fail to zoom out enough to give thanks for our life and to appreciate our ability to change it how we desire. It is sometimes truly amazing how one tiny decision, perhaps triggered by one neuron in the brain, can make you even slightly turn the steering wheel to move in a new direction. A small change now can wind up in a totally different destination. Think of a major interchange like the Lake City, Florida I-75 and I-10 connection. One turn there and you can wind up in Minnesota or Key West, yet if you don’t turn you’ll keep going to that same place.

Hard questions are hard to answer sometimes but they can trigger our growth like a fertilizer reacts on plants. Some such questions are: Where did you really make a wrong turn? When did you not give enough thought about what to do? Did it hurt someone or negative affect a loved one? How genuinely mature would you say you are today? Why are eating another donut, a bag of Fritos, or a chocolate cake? Where or how can you grow and become a more authentic, true, loving person? If you do not feel a desire to grow into something beyond where you are at now, why do you feel that way? Are you now thinking enough about where to travel next?

Recognize you may be in a funk and even gently turn the steering wheel of your mind. Expand your horizon. Visit a park, go the beach, walk in the woods, call or visit with another person and share something. Do something, anything positive, to dig into your innermost core, your soul, to unearth your greatest desires, dreams and visions of what you want to create with your life.

Looking back, when and where did you really make a wise decision? Who were the people it may have involved? How did it affect you and the people around you? Recognize your own good decisions, and see how they have brought you good results, and allowed you to travel good roads with beautiful events that gave you great memories. Let us make more good, well thought out, reasoned decisions. There is nothing like a decision, even if it is just a good one (as opposed to the undecided potential great one) to calm the mind and bring satisfaction.

All of us have such untapped reserves of creativity, drive and energy. Yet only we can be open to exploring these innermost depths of our character, our minds and our souls. In a culture engrossed in constant communication and media, it is more challenging to remain engaged with our true human spirit. Yet by remaining authentically connected with ourselves, we can and will become happier, more actively engaged in life, and more effective in helping each other get along well in this world. I wish you all the best in working through some of this stuff and perhaps I’ll see you on the road smiling back at me.

JLOThe Road

Persistence & Determination

The RiverNext on the list of strategies to achieve your own unique definition of success: Persistence and Determination.

We all have different levels of physical, mental and emotional development. We all have different degrees of education, experience, knowledge, skills and talent. Some people have naturally dynamic personalities, or unique qualities that give them a head start. Some are born into lives of desperation, disadvantage, or disability. Some have a naturally optimistic, faithful, hopeful or joyous outlook.

Yet, no matter where we fall on this spectrum, we are all human. We are born into this world, without being asked whether we want to come here or not, and are called upon by life to, hopefully, follow our conscious. Deep inside, we all want to live the best, most joyful, effective, industrious, productive way we can. Yet it is easy to get lost. To lose compassion for others, lose focus, lose our unique way of expressing our talents, and despite what many of the “self help gurus” would like to sell you on, it’s not always easy to find your way back home.

It is in these potentially dark, depressing and discouraging times that we can find out our true nature. It’s easy to be happy and persist when all is well. It is when the road is dark, the terrain very difficult, and the thunder is rattling your cage when you can find out what you are made of. I have found that having an ironclad commitment to the quality of persistence and determination is one of the pillars of your personal development plan. Only you can call yourself out. Only you can decide to quit. Only you can make a determined effort to persist until you overcome your current obstacle.

In the words of John Popper, lead singer of Blues Traveler:

“That you’re gonna have to go and find it
You’ll have to dig beneath the ground
You’ll have to unearth every ugly stone
That kept you on your own
And simply put them down
You’re gonna have to look around”

No matter who you are, we are all dealing with various obstacles, roadblocks, problems, etc. We can choose to confront them head on, accept reality, and go to work to make a reasonable plan to take action to solve our problems. Or, we can stick our head in the sand and let life bury us in complexity. It is primarily through our attitude that we will persist, that we are determined to succeed, that we can effectively deal with life’s multitude of challenges. We can be the smartest, most talented, most skillful, most experienced, person in the world, but if our attitude is wrong, we will sink into mediocrity. Instead, by listening to your heart and maintaining an attitude of optimism, hope and willingness to work on our problem, we will most certainly overcome it.

With persistence and determination a person can achieve anything he or she sets their mind to. As the great Napoleon Hill said, what the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. So let us get to work on our goals and objectives and help each other. If you are in need, if you earnestly want to do something, ask for help. A society can only flourish and grow through our interdependence and willingness to touch each other with our desire to care for each other. If you will persist and are determined to achieve your goal, or your organization’s goal, or your family’s goal, or any other objective you set your mind to achieve, and act patiently with wisdom, you very likely will achieve your dreams, goals and objectives. Only you can stop yourself, and I trust that you will never quit. Take a break. Recharge. But never quit.

Wishing you all the best.



Successfully Treating The Disease of Me

2013-07-19 19.30.39My dad and I have an acronym, a little joke, we call PLOM’s disease. It stands for poor little old me. You or someone you know may be suffering from it. Here is how to diagnosis and treat it.

We all have our natural ups and downs. The great author Spencer Johnson, M.D. called them peaks and valleys. Some of us are living more or less in a valley and are not able to successfully get out of a rut. This is not healthy.

Step 1: Recognize you are in a valley.

Overly focusing on yourself is not a good way to live. Younger generations seem to be very much focused on themselves. In “The Road to Courage” by David Brooks, he describes how the generation dealing with the aftermath of World War II were, for the most part, humbled. Living through the horror of The Holocaust and the apocalypse of death and destruction of innocent people across the world. It is something  we should all remain conscious of today, as humanity remains at war and at risk of the spread of war, including the ultimate use of nuclear weapons that threaten the lives of all of us, our friends, family and children.

The first “Americans” who colonized and settled the ever expanding outskirts of the wilderness worked together with their neighbors. They were focused on helping each other. I help you. You help me. Together we help others, and all together we help each other. This is lacking today, to say the least.

The more self centered you are, the more at risk you are of losing the true joy of life. We need self awareness in the sense of recognizing that the more we serve others, the more happiness we derive. We need less selfishness. If you are depressed, when was the last time you did something to genuinely help someone else on your own initiative?

Step 2: Take the first step to move out of the valley.

So you are in a valley? You now recognize it. As they say, accurate diagnosis is half the battle in medicine. Now you need to take some action. Don’t try to change your whole world overnight. Take one action.

Here are some ideas for start up actions to move out of a valley. Take a walk, visit a library, talk to someone you trust, buy a self help book that catches your attention at Barnes & Noble, make a list of things on your mind, make a telephone call to someone you’ve been meaning to call, write in a diary or blog, tell your spouse, parent, child, sibling or friend how much you love or appreciate them. Then, do an act of love for them. Love is a verb.

Step 3: Create a framework for your ongoing trip through life.

In life we need to stay in motion to get along. Finding your natural rhythm and an approach that works for you takes time, awareness, and efforts. To develop  a framework for navigating life successfully, balance taking time to reflect on what is happening. Whether or not you believe in God or some other word or concept for the powers behind the creation of life, give serious thought and reflection to these things and your place in this world.

How can you contribute to improving the lives of others? There is no one in this world with your particular experiences, background, skills, talents, thoughts, and dreams except you. Appreciate this. No one can take your place in acting in the particular time and space that you occupy.

There are people around you who only you can touch, only you can look in the eye, only you can love. Do it now. These little actions create ripple effects. You will begin to feel better by taking time to reflect on the magnitude of life and the people out there who could use your talents and service. Do one action to get started to help someone else. Do it now to get started and repeat. This is your treatment plan: be aware, reflect, act.

Go forth and get started.

Step 4: Ongoing Maintenance

If you are already on this or some similar type of path toward enlightenment, nevertheless we can all increase our awareness, improve our reflection ability, and take more and better actions.

Reflect on your framework, your systems, and the people in your life for how you can better serve others and in doing so increase your inner joy and satisfaction with your life.

Realizing there are people starving, suffering and dying all across the world should give you pause to reflect, think, and act in a way toward filling out your role in improving our world by working together.