Archive for ‘Meditation’

December 26, 2017

The doldrums are for planning…

by Rod Smith

I call these few days between Christmas and New Year the doldrums. They’re a breather: a time to drift between calendar high points. I get nostalgic. I experience strong elements of necessary regret as I wait for the promise of the new calendar year to kick in.

I am always reminded:

  • Integrity, honesty, kindness, forgiveness, and reconciliation – all captured by the word holiness, is local. By “local” I mean immediate and with the people with whom I share every day life.
  • If it (idea, principle, program) doesn’t work right here, now and with this family member, neighbor, colleague, it’s worthless.
  • All worthwhile positive change is first internal – the outward follows the inward. It may be convenient to switch this – thinking the inward follows the outward – but doing so is a waste of time.
  • It is possible for people to regard each other with deep, authentic respect but it is impossible without commitment to profound listening. All love begins and is demonstrated with listening and listening takes commitment and time.
  • Things are not fair or reasonable or kind while one party is gaining or advancing at the expense of another.

Please, let me know the things you think about as you prepare for your year ahead. I know we can learn from each other – it just takes a commitment to listening.

November 26, 2017

Picking up pieces

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

I’ve seen women and men painstakingly pick up pieces of their lives after a broken marriage.

This is necessary, natural, and understandable. Deep love, when it ends, at least for one party, is scarily disorientating.

Some never recover. A broken heart can really cause a slow (or a quick) death.

Perhaps you are you tripping over evidence of a terminated relationship. Letters, photographs, or books seem to appear from nowhere and evoke fresh pains or salt for the wounds.

A purge may be necessary, but it’s not for all.

The loot may be all you have. It can become a crucial stepping-stone to greater health. Or it can be a debilitating anchor.

I’ve been confused about why some friendships have ended. I examine memories for clues to what, how, and why things went wrong.

There are times this is unnecessary.

My damaging role is painfully clear.

The pain I caused is deep for others and obvious to me. And, my own and deserved pain is utterly near.

What do we do with our pain – deserved or not?

Options are unlimited once confession occurs.

Confession, of course, does not mean mutual forgiveness is inevitable. It’s not.

Options broaden with confession and commitment to learn from the past.

March 29, 2011

How do you explain suicide to a child?

by Rod Smith

“I struggle with what I told the little one’s in my family of the death of their young and vibrant ‘Aunt L.’ She had been really sick and took her own life in the end. I just could not tell these little one’s that she committed suicide – how would they understand, ranging in age from 9 to 2 years old. I just told them she got sick and she died – her body and her spirit were tired. I am so afraid of them finding out the truth one day. We all have continued to grieve our loss. All of the children attended the funeral and memorial services and we all take an active role in remembering her life. But how do you explain suicide of a very close loved one to a child?”

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Your chidren will understand

Relax. You have done well. Of course what you faced was difficult and, once the children are old enough to know the truth, I believe they will understand the reasons you have said what you have said. Suicide is perhaps the strongest and most powerful form of prayer I have ever encountered – giving ultimate relief in dying, what seemed impossible while living. “Aunt L”, I believe, has found in death what she could not find in life.

December 28, 2010

Keeping women “down” must be consistently challenged….

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Fully live (women, too!)

I am thoroughly aware that some cultures do not “allow” women to have a voice, make choices, speak up to husbands – having regularly addressed men and women from such cultures for years. I remain convinced that this robs said cultures of half of its creative capital.

Keeping women “down” must be consistently challenged. Thus my suggestion the woman in yesterday’s column (12-28-2010) define herself to her husband. Of course it flies in the face of many cultures – but if she is to give of her best to herself, her husband, to anyone, speaking up to all in her context is the place to start.

What can be so threatening for some men that some are terrified if women (whom they love) makes their full contribution?

Yes. It will more than ruffle the marriage. Rather a ruffled marriage than a life-time of control, submission, manipulation, leading to intimidation, then domination – not that all men in said cultures are this way at all.

If he really “treats her like a queen” he will also grow. If not, he will reject her; even leave her. At least she’d have expressed herself as a woman and be able to achieve, albeit at great cost, her selfhood as a woman and will have discovered she requires permission from no one to BE.

PS: I have delivered lectures in several Asian countries where it seems women are strongly discouraged from expressing their voices. While trying to be as culturally sensitive as possible, I did not water down my message at all and called on all men and all women to encourage all men and all women to find, express, and use their voices. While I have had some strong kick-backs (some rejection and exclusion) I have always been invited back. I’ve even asked leaders and organizers the reasons I am invited back despite my contrary message. I am told, “Yes. Your message is dangerous for us but we still need to hear it.”

December 27, 2010

The King’s Speech? Let me tell you about stuttering……

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

It's a war of words in your belly

The King’s Speech, the new rage movie, and which I have not yet seen, is about stuttering. But let me, if I may, tell you a few things about it, stuttering that is if you’ve seen the movie or not.

First. I am a chronic stutterer. You might have known me for years and never known this about me. Chronic, yes, because it has been a life-long challenge and it can floor me in an instant. You may have heard me preach, seen me address thousands of people for days in a row, for hours at a time, and never heard even a momentary hesitation in my presentation.

But I am. I am a chronic stutterer.

It can debilitate me in a moment; trip me up like a vicious booby trap – the kind you see explode in Vietnam movies – and leave me afraid, humiliated, withdrawn, as if I’d committed some great, premeditated immorality.

But don’t feel sorry for me. I am used to it. I’ve been handling this recalcitrant, irascible puppy since “mama” wrestled around my throat refusing to come easy.

Really, if I’d known as a 12-year-old boy that there’d come a day when much of my future and income would depend on getting up in front of crowds of three (yes, three people waiting for you to speak when you are a stutterer can feel like a legion) to 5000, I think I’d have ended it all right then. I’d have (unannounced of course – since I might have bungled the delivery) walked off a high rise building in my city. I might have ended the anxiety, sleepless nights, practicing openers, trying to guess when a teacher would put me on the spot, the fear of the giggles, and the avoidance of the benevolent do-gooders who’d say “say it slowly” or “let’s try that again.” I’d have punched the self-appointed speech therapists in the face when I was 12 if I wasn’t also so darn eager to please, eager to be accepted, and, most importantly, didn’t have to explain my actions to anyone later.

So here’s a few tips about stutterers – keep in mind we are all very different:

Stutterers are cunning. They learn to negotiate the text, script, context – they become masters of improvisation. They are escape artists – they see the troublesome words fighting for position down the track (actually deep in the belly) and so they take detours in their own sentences. He or she can call the bluff on that difficult phrase like it was a surly or uncooperative adolescent, and chooses another more compliant, often more complex phrase, and go with that. You, the listener, are usually none the wiser. You’ve not been privy to the re-arrangement, the shifting of verbs and conjunctions for more oiled, more compliant combination to take its place.

Stuttering is pernicious. It goes underground for months then pops up like an angry ex to bark knowingly at your world when you least want her to.

Here’s the thing: I can speak to an auditorium jammed with people for an hour, and then have some adolescent coffee barista shrink in embarrassment as I try to say “small cappuccino” in the food court next door. I can read an entire chapter of a classic novel to a group of literature students and then I can’t get “where’s the restroom” out of my throat a minute later. I can make a flawless appeal to a foundation in London to a poker-faced board and then, even if my life was dependent upon it, I cannot say the name of the station I need to the ticket seller in the underground. It can get so bad that I carry and pencil and note cards for when mute is a more desirable option.

Stutterers are survivors. We go at it again and again. While we may avoid situations and not volunteer for certain roles, we are not looking for sympathy or accommodations.

So how to treat a stutterer? Look him in the eye. Don’t speak for him. Don’t prompt him. He’s probably not having a stroke so don’t immediately call 911.

Relax – that’s what we all need to do more of anyway.

September 1, 2010

Acts of love

by Rod Smith

1. Refusing to lie for you.
2. Allowing the consequences of your actions to hold you accountable.
3. Allowing you to fail.
4. Getting out of your way when you are angry so you may deal with whatever is upsetting you.
5. Refusing to rescue you from your moodiness.
6. Telling you the truth as I see it.
7. Resisting the urge to let your self-made issues pull me down.
8. Keeping my phone, Email, messages private, unless I choose to share.
9. Allowing myself to be happy and fulfilled even if you are not.
10. Supporting, loving you, while allowing my uniqueness (and your uniqueness) to blossom.

July 11, 2010

Whose shoulders have YOU ridden on?

by Rod Smith

Childhood: just under the surface

Last evening my boys and I were kicking a ball on the school field near our home and taking turns to be the goalie. The second I stepped between the posts I was back at Kingsmead, field 4, 1965. Northlands Primary was playing Southlands Primary at the end of hard soccer season.

In the crowd was the Mayor of Durban, The Honorable Trevor Warman, in support of his son, Anthony Warman. I knew this because from where I stood urgently protecting the goals, I could see “NDC 1”, the black Rolls Royce parked at the far end of the field.

Minutes from the end of the game Southland’s formidable wing, Johnny McGregor, dribbled the ball from Mark Tovey, only to also outpace defenders Michael Quinn and Malcolm Mercer and come sprinting down center field to send the ball right through my legs and into the goal.

Forty-five years later I can feel the embarrassment of that moment. But more important than my moment of humiliation, once the whistle sounded the end of the game, the mayor himself came onto the field, hoisted me onto his shoulders and carried me off the field as if I had indeed won, and not lost, the game at all.

May 19, 2010

Beware of “nice” – it isn’t always….

by Rod Smith

When dealing with difficult situations or difficult people…..

1. Your responses are more important than the difficulties or the problems presented. You can choose to escalate (step up) the anxiety or embrace and reduce it (step down). The latter is usually infinitely more productive, although at times, purposefully escalating issues can bring necessary change. It takes wisdom to know the difference.

2. Knee-jerk, reactive behavior will usually hurt you, while planned, creative, and honest responses will facilitate resolution and healing – if resolution and healing are even possible.

3. Not all conflicts can be resolved, nor can all painful or destructive circumstances be healed – but it is possible to allow everything we face to become a transformational crucible, a context that stimulates growth, provokes change, and transforms our character. “What can this teach me?” is a more useful response than, “How can I win?”, “How can I be vindicated?” or “How can I get out of this?”.

4. It is helpful to acknowledge that some people are so toxic, destructive, bitter, or disillusioned that resolution is impossible – and it is better to sever the relationship than it is to play with their fire. By the way, they are often the “nicest” people. Beware of nice! Be even more aware of “religious and nice.” It is often a calculated front. (“Buite blink; binne stink!” This is an Afrikaans idiom: “Outside sparkles; inside stinks.”)

5. As a general rule grace and flexibility will triumph over resentment and rigidity, forgiveness is always more powerful and liberating than harboring resentments.

November 30, 2009

Wilson Goeda in Hawaii…

by Rod Smith

I really liked him, he didn't plug his book every five minutes.....

I ran into a Durban’s own Wilson Goeda this past week, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. From what I can tell, as the director of Youth With a Mission in Durban, he’s doing great things for humanity.

It was refreshing for me to hear Wilson’s strong South African accent, richly peppered with Afrikaans and slang from several other languages. His deep love for people and thunderous voice made his poignant reflections of a tough childhood and his call for humble reconciliation among all peoples all the more credible.

Wilson Goeda travels the world (he’s been to 60 nations thus far) promoting understanding among cultures. He helps people access grace and become reconciled with their pasts, befriend the present, and, above all, embrace their neighbors.

He did not plug his book (he didn’t even mention it) as is common with public speakers. He didn’t wallow in the self-pity or use dramatic events of his past to hook his audience.

Rather, with good humor and limitless zeal, Goeda talked of a shared hope and the myriad of possibilities that come our way when we live as men and women surrendered to a purpose greater than our own immediate fulfillment. Goeda’s book “Why Me” is available at

April 21, 2009

Just when you thought there was hope….

by Rod Smith
I love Friedman. I hope you will too.

I love Friedman. I hope you will too.

I have reconstructed one of the late Rabbi Ed. Friedman’s parables which I first encountered as a footnote in his paper entitled “The Challenge of Change and the Spirit of Adventure.” (It’s essential reading, by the way):

A man was getting ready for heart bypass surgery when his organs called a (secret, of course) meeting. Lungs declared they would refuse to participate in the surgery saying the host had no business making them work harder after all they’d done for him for all these years.

Spleen agreed. Pancreas nudged in agreement. Actually Pancreas winked, but it is hard to tell with Pancreas.

Intestine mulled endlessly on the matter and felt (it was rather an emotional moment, actually) it should side, if he sided with anyone, with Spleen.

Intestine, who found it hard to have an opinion anyway, also did everything slowly.

The Kidney Twins, in unison and stony-faced, kidded a just little (they are not given to too much humor) that he had had the audacity to think they’d work any harder on his behalf, “Who does he think he is trying to get all well?” Their comment became a scoff.

Bowel, not given to small talk, churned the over the matter, repeatedly sighed a long conspiratorial, “Nooo. Nooo. Noooo!”

Liver, still seated, said he wasn’t about to change after all these years. Then, standing to address the meeting, said, “Who exactly is he to decide without due process anyway? New lease on life, a new Heart around here will mean new demands. Everyone’s been so worried about old Heart for all these years, no one gave a rip about us! We’ll show him who is boss! He’ll get all active – which means we’ll have to, too. No. No. No. What does he know about taking out the trash anyway? I do the REAL work around here!”

Round the table the organs voted and a decision was reached. “No! No to surgery for our ambitious, unreasonable, demanding, host.”

Just then Brain spoke up, “It’s none of your business. It is not your decision to make. Get back to work.”

(I highly recommend Friedman’s Fables and Failure of Nerve by the same author.)