Replete with personal stories and quotes and imbued with Casey's own understanding of peaceful living as guided by her 12-step practice, A Course in Miracles, and a daily practice of meditation and prayer, these 75 essays help us make room for everything in our peaceful, vibrant, well-lived life. Each brief nugget invites contemplation and action as she helps us explore fear and love, resistance and acceptance, willpower and discernment. Each essay ends with additional questions and prompts for you to explore your own life. Savor each of the essays and practices and choose the ones that speak to you.
Living Long, Living Passionately brings peace into daily life and is a book to return to often. It will appeal to Casey's legion of readers who are approaching the time to live "everythingness," the doorway to the unfolding of a life already well lived. The rest, as they say, is gravy.
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Living, Long, Living Passionately
75 (and Counting) Ways to Bring Peace and Purpose to Your Life
By Karen Casey
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2015 Karen Casey
All rights reserved.
Step Aside and Experience a Miracle in the Making
I began the practice of "stepping aside" only after years of stepping into business that was clearly not my own. I had mistakenly assumed that helping others make their decisions was an important calling. It showed them I cared. It was my way of remaining important to them. Or so I thought ...
From childhood on, I had virtually always felt on the edge of abandonment. By girlfriends. By boyfriends. By husbands. Thus, I felt the constant pull to live in the middle of everyone else's life. That way they couldn't forget about me. They couldn't go off, leaving me behind, the way Marcia, my best friend in the sixth grade, left me behind when she chose to ride her bike with Mary after school rather than waiting for me to join them. It stung. It happened again and again. And I carried the fear that would continue to define my life well into my thirties.
The joy I experience now, having finally put to rest the fear of abandonment nearly forty years ago, still remains one of the triumphs of my life. Perhaps this seems like a strange triumph, at least one not worth crowing over, but it's huge to someone like me. Someone who simply had no boundaries between herself and everyone else. It wasn't until 1971, in fact, that I even had a glimmering of what I was doing. What I had always done, in fact, in the presence of others.
What jarred me into a new perspective was a passage in a book by a Jesuit priest, John Powell. The book was Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? On page thirty-eight of the edition I was reading, a truth rang out, louder than a train whistle. Powell shares a story with the reader about an experience he had while walking in New York City with a good friend. The friend stopped to buy a newspaper from a street-corner vendor, a stop he made daily and one that Powell had observed him make myriad times. The vendor was always gruff and never said thanks for the generous tip his friend always offered him. Powell, in exasperation, finally asked, "Why do you give him a tip? He is not worthy of one. He is rude to you." His friend quietly replied, "Why should I let him decide what kind of day I am going to have?"
I knew, instantly, this explanation was the key that I could use to unlock the shuttered house I had lived in for so many years. I still remember the awareness I had, as though it was yesterday, that my life could change immediately if I utilized this nugget of information as a guideline for my own relationships. However, we often have to hear a message many times before we can actually adopt it as a tool we can apply to situations that we experience. The seed had been planted, nonetheless. Although it lay dormant for years, it was never forgotten. Never.
Dancing around the many others in my life, seeking both attention and any opportunity to choreograph the experience for all who were present, was my life's work. Or so I thought. Allowing others to create their own dance was far too frightening for me. What if they selected a partner other than me?
Living like this constricted me, of course. It prevented me from discovering the very specific elements of my personal journey, a journey that was significant (as are all journeys), unique, and a divine complement to the journeys of the "chosen" others I met on my path. But trying to force what I wanted my divine plan to be was unsuccessful, of course. Highly unsuccessful. Fortunately. What was, and remains to be, my journey will always call me forth. If I fall back into the pattern I had so painstakingly crafted in the first few decades of my life, I will cease to grow, to understand, to cultivate the seeds that remain within that want me to move to the next level of Karenhood.
Before you think my life is stalemated, or yours too, if what I've shared here has a familiar ring to you — it's not. Far from it, in fact. And that's because I was introduced to a concept I had heretofore neither known nor applied: detachment. Detachment was first explained to me in Al-Anon, a program that I continue to cherish. My ability to use detachment in my life was rife with ample starts but unfortunately with more frequent stops. Detachment was illusive. It slipped through my fingers with ease. A sense of freedom was the reward, however, whenever I successfully detached, stood aside, when the drama that was unfolding before my eyes clearly didn't need my input.
Now, stepping aside is a tool, a truly practical tool that I simply never leave in the toolbox. It's by my side 24/7. It's applied 24/7 too. You may be wondering what stepping aside looks like. It looks like peace. It feels like peace. It initiates peace. It is utilizing the innate ability to observe a situation rather than getting personally involved. It's knowing and practicing how to stay out of the personal business of others. It's being able to remain in a state of relaxation when everyone around you is adding to the drama of the moment. It's staying quiet inside and reflecting the relief that's felt when we know we have just avoided a pitfall that used to snag us every time but no more.
Being able to joyfully look toward our remaining years, knowing they are destined to be as peaceful as we make up our minds they will be, puts us comfortably in the driver's seat for making sure the journey we are celebrating is one that enhances not only ourselves and those close to us, but also every member of the human community, here and on the other side of the globe. How we live in one instant is communicated throughout the cosmos. No doubt about it. Are you ready to take on the charge of helping others, worldwide, to live more peacefully? Then step aside when the drama unfolding before you wears someone else's name. The peace you will feel will mindfully transport you to a place you'll never want to leave. Never ever.
Let me not take to myself, and suffer over, the actions and reactions of other people. Other adult human beings are not my responsibility, no matter how closely their lives may be intertwined with mine.
— One Day at a Time in Al-Anon
* * *
Before proceeding on to the next essay, the next shift in thinking, let's stop, truly pause, and breathe in this idea if it's new to you. See and feel how stepping aside when a friend or family member is trying to engage you in a drama you want no part of relieves you of anxiety. In fact, recall when you have tried this most recently, if you have an example. Journal about how that felt.
If you don't have an example, take a moment here to recall a situation during which it would have been perfect for you to step aside, but you got right in there instead. What was that outcome? Journal about that situation. Make a plan for what you might do next time and write it down. Now close your eyes and envision yourself having a successful experience of stepping aside.
Job well done. Go forth now and spread peace.
* * *CHAPTER 2
Hear the Silence, Rest the Mind, Let God Speak
Being at one with the quiet spaces within gently clears the mind, allows the solution to a nagging problem to surface, and draws us close to God and one another. In that closeness, our healing lies. All our answers reside there too. We simply need do nothing to initiate the healing we seek. The healing everyone seeks. It waits for us. It waits for all of us. And when we are ready, it will come. It will come freely.
When I first learned that we need do nothing, that most of what ailed me — ailed all of us, in fact — was rooted in the insatiable ego, I breathed easier. I still didn't understand how things would change, but I did breathe easier. I had always assumed I needed to be busy acquiring information, money, lovers, degrees, friends, accolades. To be at rest, to trust that what I needed to do would present itself to me when the time was right, was unfathomable. I know I'm not alone in this assumption. I believe that what's true for me is true for all of us. Quit chasing. Sit a while. Hear the silence. It will speak to us. Maybe not the first time you and I sit quietly, but as we cultivate the joy of silence, that which we seek will come.
One of the marvelous prizes that comes with aging is that we do have more time, time that seems even more precious now that we are on the "backside of life," to sit quietly in our favorite comfy chair, or on the deck overlooking a garden or a lake, or in a nearby park. We have time to contemplate the stillness. No one can rush us anymore, unless we allow it. We choose the activities we want to experience. Sitting quietly is one of the sweetest ones to call to us.
Wherever you are sitting right now reading this, let's try a tiny experiment. Lay the book aside. Put your feet flat on the floor. If it's comfortable, close your eyes, but not until your hands are resting in your lap. Listen to the quiet all around you. Feel your chest rising with each breath. Notice the images that pass through your mind. With very quiet lips, blow the images away. Absorb the emptiness. When another image comes, blow it away too. Because you can, sit still for the next few minutes. Voice a quiet request to God: "How can I be of help before this day ends?" Sit a spell longer, then open your eyes slowly. Now, trust that what moves your way is your opportunity to offer help. Don't judge it. Simply do what feels right and natural.
Perhaps it seems that life can't be this simple. But it can. No one is watching over your shoulder. We are free to simply be. The years of spinning our wheels are over. Many would say we didn't ever have to spin them even when we did, but we did that which we saw others do. Now we can be the trendsetters. Now we can show others a new way to be. A quiet way to be. A way that promises the rich reward of experiencing the present moment. Only in the present moment can we be healed from the wounds of old. Only in the present moment can we sense God. Only in the present moment can we know our next "suggestion," the assignment that will invite another soul into the experience of healing that we have found. In the stillness that we cultivated are the only suggestions we need to follow.
If a man would travel far along the mystic road, he must learn to desire God intensely but in stillness, passively and yet with all his heart and mind and strength.
— Aldous Huxley
* * *
Let's consider some truths before moving ahead:
1. The desire to know God is required to experience God.
2. The wish to experience stillness requires that we let our mind step away from chaos for a spell.
3. Our woundedness is a pathway to seeking connection with others.
4. Our woundedness is our opportunity to experience forgiveness.
5. Breathing freely is our birthright.
6. Experiencing peace is a decision.
7. Teaching others is the number one fact of our life. It's happening every moment.
8. Teach only love.
Listen. Love. Pray. Forgive. And then forgive again.
Go forth today with this thought: I will act from the place of love in my heart. Again and again.
At day's end, make a note in your journal describing your interactions.
What pleased you?
What will you change before going forth tomorrow?
* * *CHAPTER 3
A Faith-Filled Life
Faith is not about everything turning out okay. It's about being okay, no matter how everything turns out.
I didn't grow up in a faith-filled home. I never observed anyone at 827 being quietly peaceful, trusting that the experiences we were sharing would work out okay. The days and nights were generally very tense, undergirded with the expectation that an outburst over something, large or small, imagined even, might occur at any moment. And usually did. Night after night, the feeling present at the supper table mimicked the feeling at lunch. Tension was served and felt with each bite. Our family doctor, Dr. Cole, told my mother that I had a nervous stomach. What I really had was extreme anxiety that made eating nearly impossible some nights. Living in my home was hard. Peace was something I could never have defined. Tension was all I knew. Tension defined all six of us.
I did have a place I loved to be, though, and that was in Logansport with my grandparents. My grandmother had a quiet presence about her. No wonder I loved to visit them. Her comforting words and arms and smiles would temporarily convince me that everything was okay. When I thought about home when I was with her, my stomach would twist and turn. I hated to feel, even from afar, the tension at home. I feared it would never change. And as a matter of fact, it never did. Not even with the passage of time. Tension was as fresh in my parents' old age as when they were young. How tragic, really.
Tension is hard on all of us. No matter our age. But we choose the feeling, as strange as that may seem. Unfortunately, we seldom understand how and when we made that choice. Certainly I didn't know I had chosen it. We do imitate that which we observe, however. And my times with my grandmother were simply too short for me to adapt to her way of living and seeing the world.
For many who grew up in environments like mine, leaving home, choosing to be surrounded by new philosophies, new people, new opportunities, became necessary in order to catch a glimpse of a life free from tension. And that glimpse didn't come very quickly for me. It took a few years, a few bad relationships, one painful marriage, and multiple suicide considerations before I was solidly awakened to a better choice, a saner perspective, a softer, kinder feeling within. What brought me to this new experience of faith, this place of wellbeing, was two decades of near constant alcohol and drug use that could have ended my life. But I reached that new place. I arrived at a saner, faith-filled place with the help of friends who had been sent to make sure I'd arrive. The place had a name; it was called Alcoholics Anonymous.
I don't mean to suggest that anyone else needs to travel my path to find faith, to reach that peaceful place of knowing that everything is okay. But that's what I had to do. We can get here following any number of paths. There is no right one. The goal is just to seek a path until you find it, then travel it, share what you know if someone expresses an interest, model faith for others without making a point of it, and give it away when you can so that it can be kept. Having faith is like having the gold ring in your pocket that you grabbed on the merry-go-round when you were a child. That ring promised you another ride whenever you wanted to claim it. Like faith, it would always be there. And even when you used it, you knew another gold ring was yours for the taking.
It's funny, really; I don't even ponder my faith any longer. I simply live it. I never doubt that God is present, that all is well, that what I need to experience will come calling, that who I need to meet might be around the next bend in the road. Even when I don't like what might be happening, I know that what is happening is the next right experience for me. My faith has taught me that. Again and again. And life feels simple and calm and intentional. Most of all, it feels purposeful. I do what's on the chart for me, and God is pleased. This I believe.
* * *
Are you at peace?
Has your life measured up in the way you had hoped it would?
Do you long for a more faith-filled life?
It's not too late to create it. Here are some suggestions that I can vouch for. Maybe one or two will appeal to you:
1. Make a list of what you are grateful for in your life. How has each one made you a better person?
2. Make a practice of having a short conversation with God each morning, either right before your feet hit the floor or right after.
3. Ask him for his help in everything you are called on to do.
4. Be prepared to thank God throughout the day for all of the little miracles that seem to be happening, miracles you might not have noticed before.
5. Be ready and willing to help the first person you meet. At the very least, greet him or her with a smile.
6. And if you are still failing to connect with God, write him a note and ask for help.
7. Share with your closest friend a few of the events in your life when God "showed up."
8. Keep a list of these special experiences close at hand for those times that you doubt his availability.
Now relax. God is in charge and he doesn't need your help today.
Excerpted from Living, Long, Living Passionately by Karen Casey. Copyright © 2015 Karen Casey. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Author's Note ix
Introduction: Breathe, Pause, Breathe, Pause, Breathe xi
1 Step Aside and Experience a Miracle in the Making 1
2 Hear the Silence, Rest the Mind, Let God Speak 5
3 A Faith-Filled Life 8
4 Rapt Attention 12
5 Say Something Kind or Nothing at All 15
6 The Journey Is Perfect, the Stumbles as Well as the Strides 17
7 Fear and Anger 21
8 Change Is Good 24
9 What's Next? 26
10 Forgive Yourself Completely 30
11 Remembrances 33
12 I Can Choose Peace Instead of This 36
13 An Inventory 39
14 The Purpose of Life Is to Be Happy 42
15 Roses Rather Than Thorns 45
16 Teachers of Perspective 47
17 Seeking Solitude 50
18 Take a Day Off 53
19 Now We Can Really Live 56
20 Writing Your Story 59
21 Impacting Those around You 62
22 Improve a Little 65
23 Dream List 67
24 Doing More Than Nothing 70
25 Pay Attention to the Moment 74
26 What to Do Today 76
27 Making Small Efforts to Improve the World 79
28 Fulfilling Your Potential 82
29 Who Will You Bring to the Party? 86
30 Make Yourself Smile 89
31 Changing Ourselves to Change the World 92
32 Reaching Out 96
33 Influences 98
34 We Become What We Think 100
35 Listening for Messages 103
36 Being in Charge of Who We Are 106
37 Remembering Those Who Made a Mark on Our Lives 110
38 The Greatest Gifts We Can Offer O ne Another 114
39 It's Time for a Change of Pace 120
40 Stepping Aside 125
41 Be Kind 129
42 Remembering the Little Things 132
43 Having Goals 136
44 Letting Go of the Past 140
45 Feeling the Wow 143
46 Your Mission Statement 146
47 Shape Your Mind 149
48 Overcoming Fear 155
49 A Vital Person 159
50 Cultivating Warm Relations 163
51 What Are You Grateful for Today? 166
52 Do You Like Yourself Enough? 170
53 Your Mind Holds the Power 174
54 Random Acts of Fun 177
55 Expressing Thanks 181
56 What's the Biggest Lesson of Your Life So Far? 185
57 Be a Mentor 189
58 Lead by Example 191
59 What Makes You Come Alive? 196
60 Age Aside 200
61 Say What You Need to Say 205
62 Your Timeline 209
63 Life's "Accidents" 213
64 Living in the Moment with Rapt Attention 216
65 You Can't Change Others, So Change Yourself 220
66 Is Real Peace Ever an Actuality? 225
67 Telling Your Secrets 229
68 Living with Death 233
69 The First Day of Your Retired Life 238
70 The Serenity Prayer 240
71 Your Life Philosophy 245
72 Recalling Your Life Lessons 249
73 A New Challenge 253
74 What if You Had Six Months to Live? 257
75 Enthusiasm 261