one step, then another

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.

 – Thomas Merton

There are so many things happening in our world today. I wonder if you are as curious as I about how it will unfold day after day. It is clear that many are coping in a variety of ways that are supportive of the human spirit, dignity and are grounded in love. The videos and stories that I come across that show people reaching out –  offering music, buying groceries, checking on others, etc. – provide a reminder of just how resilient and longingly supportive we can be.

It is in stark contrast to a story I read over the weekend about the apparent spike in gun sales. People are believing they must protect their families, apparently. And from what, I wonder? If fear or hunger showed up at your door, would you meet it with a gun? Fear meets fear, and rarely is there a good outcome to that meeting.

Being in community – if only virtually sometimes – keeps us from spending too much time inside the part of our brains that can spin up some pretty dreary thoughts and things which separate us from those whom we love, love us and may need our loving assistance.

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

 – Winnie The Pooh

I choose to believe in humanity. We are decent and truly wish to offer only our best to each other. It is the learned fear that often gets in our way; blocks our hearts and closes us off to those who can support us or to those who may need our support. It’s the small things that can make a big difference.

Allowing a senior at the grocery store with only a few items, compared to your larger order, to step in front of you in the checkout line, is a small thing that can make a big difference. Respectfully acknowledging others – even from a distance (“Good morning,” “Take care,” “May I get that item down from the shelf for you?”) can make a difference for anyone.

Offering our best in any moment…even a smile…can be a powerful gift of hope and light in an otherwise seemingly dark period. The people on the front lines – health care workers, grocery store staff, first responders – need our cooperation and appreciation. A simple “thank you” accompanied by a smile can go a long way to supporting them as they walk through long and tiring days.

I am reminded of one of the tenets of the twelve step programs, “One day at a time.” There are also five Reiki Principles or positive affirmations that are useful anytime, and perhaps especially in these time of great change and upset of our daily routines. They are:

Just for today I will live in an attitude of gratitude.

Just for today I will not worry.

Just for today I will not anger.

Just for today I shall do my work honestly.

Just for today I will show love and respect to all living beings.

Great guidance for everyday practice and living…and perhaps now we can begin a practice of affirming these while things are not the same, we are not moving at light speed through our days and continuing to distract ourselves from what is important.

Wherever you are, dear readers, know that I hold each of you in my heart. As I offer prayers of gratitude for the opportunities that this can offer, I offer gratitude for your safety, peace and reconciliation. May you find calm in nature, and peace in stillness. These will reconnect you to your deepest heart.

One step, then another step…

In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.

 – Howard Thurman

 

 

communicating

Words are one of the most powerful tools we have in our communication tool box.

“Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.”
— Marshall B. Rosenberg

Let that quote settle for just a moment.

Consider your thoughts about yourself and others.

Most of the time, the way we regard ourselves is directly connected to and informs the way we regard others. It’s apparent in our conversations, our thoughts about others, and most definitely in our behavior.

Marshall Rosenberg’s work is among the most important bodies of work that many people have never heard of. He spent his life helping people, communities both in this country and in many others, to communicate more directly, compassionately and authentically. Non-violent communication (NVC) contains a number of tools for supporting essential change in the ways we interact and communicate with each other as individuals and in groups and in our communities.

“All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished.”
— Marshall B. Rosenberg

The shaming and blaming that is, sadly, a significant part of our public discourse, has its roots in our feelings and whether we believe that our needs are being met. These are the foundation of our behavior.

Understanding ourselves is an important aspect of effectively communicating and connecting with others. If we are not aware of our needs, we cannot clearly communicate in a meaningful way with another. The Needs Inventory, is a list that may be useful in beginning to identify individual needs. Until and unless we become familiar with our needs, chances are that the way we communicate with others will not change. When we are familiar with our needs, communicating our feelings can facilitate the process of taking responsibility for meeting our own needs.  The Feelings Inventory provides a list of feelings which can be a wonderful tool for communicating with others and can result in changing the quality of our interactions, deepening our connections to others and ultimately allowing us to become more responsible for meeting our needs.

Taking responsibility for ourselves is one of the most important tasks of our lives. Leading our lives; being individually responsible for our thoughts, actions, and feelings, is what each of us is up to, in our own way. Each of us has our own specific evolutionary intentions. Being responsible for ourselves is an aspect of our journeys which is common to us all.

The Spring is a time of renewal, re-birth, starting anew and beginning again.

 

May we resolve to soften our thoughts about ourselves, that we may soften our thoughts about others.

May we speak to ourselves with love and compassion, that we may offer love and compassion to others.

May we open our hearts, to learn what we may not yet know about ourselves, that we may be open to others, especially when they are hurting.

 

“What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart.”
― Marshall B. Rosenberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

standing

A sign caught my eye this morning. I saw these words, “standing against…” and I do not recall what followed. I was so surprised to see “standing against” that the rest of it got by me. I started to reflect on what “standing for” or “standing against” might really mean to so many people, especially at this time in our collective history.

Somewhere in my past, I recall someone saying, “if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.” Hmmm. I thought at the time. It made perfect sense to me, as I was pretty sure what I stood for. I felt I knew what was right and what was wrong, at the time.

Back to the subject at hand, here. Standing for something seems to feel more empowering. It’s as if we are summoned by love to stand for someone, some thing, some belief, some feeling. Standing against something might also feel empowering. It’s as if it is summoned from a place of fear and anger; as if to say, “I’m not going to take it anymore!”

I am reminded of the word resistance as I continue to ponder these in the context of what is happening in our world. In many places, resistance seems to be on the minds of many and is acted upon related to specific subject matter or topic. In fact, resistance has been used as a rallying cry by many to engage, incite or otherwise encourage others to rise up “against” something.

Perhaps the words of Thomas Jefferson serve as a call to embolden many and explain the rise of resistance:

When injustice becomes law, resistance become duty.

 – Thomas Jefferson

There are many who feel that they are standing UP when they stand against and resist what they perceive is being foisted upon them.

 

And then, these words call to a different way of being regarding resistance, force and fear.

. . . gentleness is stronger than severity, water is stronger than rock, love is stronger than force.

 – Hermann Hesse

There are many who feel that standing for something is standing UP, as well.

 

 

Is it best to stand for or stand against?

I leave that to you to decide for yourself.

Can we change a negative (resist) narrative to a positive (peace) one, perhaps by simply looking at an issue from a different angle?

“It is not for me to judge another man’s life. I must judge, I must choose, I must spurn, purely for myself. For myself, alone.”
– Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

 

With gratitude to Loco’s Photos for consent to use these beautiful photographs.

our internal conversations

The conversations in our heads can be peaceful and soft or loud and angry. In fact peaceful and soft, loud and angry conversations are happening in our heads a lot of the time simultaneously! Most of us do not get to a place where what is happening in our minds is always peaceful and soft. This being human is challenging! Many of us choose, however, to work on facing the darkness – the fear, anger and unacknowledged grief – so that we are more available for ourselves and others in our lives in a peaceful, loving way.

I recall with great clarity a time in my life where I felt as if my commute to work was the time to prepare – to put on the “uniform” and get ready to rise to the unspoken expectations of the work world. It felt, at the time, as if I was having to leave a part of myself behind for the day. I felt that I could pick up the real me while driving home in the evening and leave the work persona behind – safely locked in the car.  All of this predated the technological intrusions which changed it all and required that I learn to create protective boundaries for myself.

What I didn’t know at the time was this: I was living in my own existential crisis and didn’t have any idea of just how to work through it. I was questioning everything…or at least the everything I knew at that point in my life. Of course, this was not the only dark night of the soul experience for me. What I realized later was that I had not yet seen what was possible when I simply took the real, authentic me – open heart and all – to work and everything else I was doing at that period in my life.

Later in life, darker experiences started to emerge. No matter how hard we try to bury or deny any aspect of our challenging past, it will keep coming for us until we turn around and face it. The darker side of ourselves is indeed inside of us. Do you know what is contained in your darker side? It may even be hard to realize and to take responsibility for it…and it is STILL in there. If you do not believe you are capable of rage, I am here to tell you that YOU are. We all are. We may have been taught to NOT show our anger, or NOT speak our truth, or NOT stand up for ourselves and as a result have accumulated memories of experiences that we hoped to have forgotten. And yet, they are still in there….just waiting to be seen and embraced.

This deep dive to the center of ourselves is not for the faint of heart and is the most rewarding part of living and leading our lives – fully and authentically. It isn’t easy and having a lifeline to someone – therapist, coach, trusted friend – can be an important part of this unfolding process.

A recent, important conversation reminded me of the Native American Legend of Two Wolves.  I offer it here to provide an opportunity for an in-depth reading. You can read it quickly, as both are short, and you may wish to go back to it for reflection. The stories show us the essence of what is divided within us. I have seen various versions of this story and there are two at this link. I hope you will take a moment to click on the link and read them both. There is so much there…for all of us. The wisdom of the indigenous people is important and powerful and is becoming more so every day. This story is no exception.

Realize that light and dark reside within us. Both wolves are in us. They co-exist. Awareness. Awareness. Awareness.

 

Wishing you the full embrace and acceptance of ALL that YOU are; the healing that can follow the embrace and acceptance; and the peace that passes all understanding. There is a light that burns within. It is always shining, even as it is covered by the darkness of our thoughts, and the pain of buried experiences.

Welcome yourself home to YOUR light.

Namaste (the light in me sees and honors the light in you).

 

 

from my collection of photos, taken with my iPhone. (2013)

 

 

what divides us is…

…us.

A few months ago, I happened upon a post by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, which caught my eye. What immediately got my attention was her response to a client regarding the ways in which we distance ourselves from our inner voice…out of fear. Written in 2014, it is a timeless piece of wisdom for us to consider for ourselves.

Here is Oriah’s post:

Walking Away From Ourselves

A client once said to me, “If someone else spoke to me the way I speak to myself in my own mind, I would walk away. But I share a body with that inner voice so I can’t walk away from it.”

I replied, as gently as possible, “Ah, but we do walk away from ourselves. We distance from our inner voice by burying it with food or work or shopping or television. . . . with an infinite number of things to numb, distract and dissociate from our own minds, bodies, hearts and lives.”

And why wouldn’t we? Sticking around for constant and cruel berating would be like choosing to hold your hand on a hot stove. The instinctual response to pain is to withdraw, and that can be life-preserving.

The problem is. . . . if we numb or disconnect from our inner world to distance ourselves from that cruel inner diatribe, we also disconnect from our awareness of other inner states that arise: joy, gratitude, peace, ecstasy etc.

As with so many things in life the only way out is through.

First we have to “catch” the voice of the inner critic. I admit, sometimes mine is none too subtle, which makes it easy. Years ago, when I first started to really notice this voice I’d just close it down with a snappy, “Thanks for sharing but no thanks!” or a less polite, “Shut up.”

As time went on it got easier to recognize the background noise of the inner critic that often lives right on that thin edge between conscious and unconscious thought (no doubt so it can quickly slip into unconsciousness when I happen to catch it at work.) Gradually, when I noticed it – now knowing that it did not tell the truth – I expanded my ability to listen. Why? So I could begin to explore what drove it, what sourced its certainty that if I pursued my soul desires disaster would ensue. I didn’t just want to shut it up and shove it into my inner shadows. I wanted to know more.

And, of course, I discovered that this voice is driven – as all bullies are – by fear.

Gradually, on a good day – when I had the time, energy and consciousness – I could actually engage this inner voice in a dialogue. I wanted to hear its story. And as the story of deep terror was revealed the voice got smaller, the criticisms lost their power. Oh I don’t want to imply that my inner critic has disappeared! But, as Ram Dass once said of inner demons, they get smaller, and when they appear we can recognize them more quickly and have them in for a cup of tea without worrying that they will take over the tea party.

This is of course a process, and like most things in human beings it does not happen in a once-and-for-all straight line, but in more of an ever-deepening spiral. But gradually we can dissolve much of the need for habits of distraction and dissociation so we can feel and live the joy in our lives more fully.

And our freedom and available energy is deepened and broadened.

Oriah House (c) 2014

 

Do you listen to YOUR inner voice? Can you distinguish between the fear based voice and the one that is ALL love? Or do you numb it, ignore it or distract yourself from the fear based, critical voice and miss the beauty of the other one? As she points out, it IS a process; and it is one worth engaging in – to heal, to balance, to love, to serve.

The more we connect to ourselves – the less divided we will be as a nation, country, continent, hemisphere, planet.

remembering our ABCs

I have come to believe that curiosity is the greatest gift we have and that many of us don’t remember to engage often enough. For me the ABCs of curiosity are so very important!

A  – Always

B – Be

C – Curious

Curiosity about all things internal and external to our lives can serve us well in our daily living. Asking questions is always a good tool to engage in our relationships  – whether with ourselves, our loved ones and others we know well (or think we know well), and with complete strangers.  I’m reminded that we have two ears and one mouth. Listening is one of the greatest gifts that we give to others and ourselves.

I have just happened upon an author, whose newly released book, “Wait, What?” focuses on five questions. Simple, easy to remember and life changing. Here is a warning: You have to truly be willing to listen to the other person’s answer to fully derive a benefit from the engagement of these questions.

In a world where we barely hear the other person because we are too busy thinking about our reactions or answers, it becomes abundantly clear that our past practices are adding to the turbulence in our world today. Time for a change.

The five questions that Dean James Ryan (Harvard) introduced in his May, 2016 commencement speech, are:

1 – Wait, what?

2 – I wonder…?

3 – Couldn’t we at least…?

4 – How can I help?

5 – What truly matters?

Just reflecting on the relative simplicity of these questions, I can imagine the deep, meaningful conversations that are possible. I look forward to reading the book (Wait, What?: And Life’s Other Essential Questions) to learn more about Dean Ryan’s five specific questions which seem to culminate in the last one, which he says, “gets you to the heart of life.”

You may read the transcript of his speech here. If you prefer to view the video, it is contained in the same link.

 

vulnerability

Many of us are comfortable with and living fully in our vulnerability. That isn’t to say that we don’t care for ourselves, or leave ourselves wide open to accepting the negative projections in our present milieu which are very hard to take sometimes. It does mean that we are aware of the power of our vulnerability when we embrace and honor our hearts.

For people like us, these times are very challenging. We find ourselves feeling worse than we have in quite a long time – about the condition of our world; about the conditions of those who are under siege in our own country; and about the suffering that continues to play out before our very eyes that is seemingly being ignored by governments.

I happened upon this brief conversation with Krista Tippett (onbeing.org) and Brene Brown (brenebrown.com) with animation.

I hope you enjoy it and find it to be helpful.

Namaste.

just for today…walk

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Walking is something that we do, unconsciously every day.  We walk from here to there…for a purpose. Our minds are engaged in any number of things when we are walking. Rarely do we walk, more slowly, with intention.

Walking with intention, we slow down and see what is around us. We begin to relax as we surround ourselves in nature. Perhaps nature is more difficult to engage living in a cityscape. Find a local park. Just get back to YOUR nature by being in and with the nature of Mother Earth. Here you return to yourself; here you return to your true nature. 

Walking with intention, in nature, we listen. We hear the intuitive wisdom of our souls. We lead our lives with intention when we listen to and heed the guiding messages of our hearts.

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Walk peacefully.
Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.

Thich Nhat Hanh

From “Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh,” Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, 1999, p. 194

 

 

Just for today…walk, with intention.

Then tomorrow, walk again. Let this become a habit so that it becomes your practice.

 

When you look at the sun during your walking meditation, the mindfulness of the body helps you to see that the sun is in you; without the sun there is no life at all and suddenly you get in touch with the sun in a different way.

 — Thich Nhat Hanh

just for today…smile

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

The wrinkles that we have etched in our faces either reflect smiles or frowns. Indeed it is challenging to smile at times and yet it is a gift that we give ourselves as well as others.

The Smile to your Heart meditation is one that can help you begin to find your smile, if you seem to have misplaced it. It is a great place to begin.

A smile is contagious. You offer it and it is returned to you. What grows from that exchange is a joy that grows from deep within. Joy is palpable. You see it and you begin to feel it.

Turn the corners of your mouth up! Offer the beauty of the love that is within you! Help turn up the volume of love and raise the healing vibration!

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Just for today…smile.

Then tomorrow, smile again. Let this become a habit so that it becomes your practice.

 

Peace begins with a smile.

– Mother Theresa

Need a bit of inspirational wisdom? Check out my Drops of Wisdom page on this site!

look for the helpers

When my sons were very young, we found Mister Roger’s Neighborhood on public television. I remember that he always walked to the closet to hang up his sweater or his sport coat while singing the opening song, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”  Such simple words which today mean so much as we navigate the changes in our country.

Today, I recalled this quote and found it enormously helpful…and I plan to remember it.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

– Fred Rogers

This week, I’ve found both solace and inspiration in watching what has unfolded since the day following the inauguration. I am reminded that our Constitution and it’s Amendments, International Laws and so many other guiding documents are in place. In addition, there are many experts out there – studied and practiced in applying all of them – who are quite literally at the helm, navigating the choppy waters of change and evolution, as they have for a long time. We may not see them, nor will we hear about them in the mainstream media. They ARE there. (If you haven’t done so already, turning off mainstream media can be a great gift of peace, calm and civility in your life. There are so many other reliable sources for real news out there. They are helpers, too.)

These are the people who are not only stepping forward in protest when it is called for, they are the ones I call the “people supporters and protectors”. There is no color or national origin designation that guides their steps. They are the helpers. They are the ones that we don’t see (unless we are among them). They do NOT seek notoriety or fame for what they do. Most of them even eschew the oft assigned “hero” mantle when something they’ve done hits the big news.  Quite simply these are compassionate beings who know who they are, what their purpose is and they are stepping fully into it. Indeed, they are the HELPERS. No resistance here. Stepping forward, stepping in, seeing the need and addressing it – directly.

I am a bit concerned about the pervasive use of the word resistance to describe what many are engaging in. Resistance will meet resistance with more resistance. Stepping forward with open hearts and open minds will bring safer, compassionate, more meaningful and long-lasting change.

“Better to be a pilot light than to be a firecracker.”

– John Lewis

This is an important time in our history – in the US and on the planet. Let us embrace it rather than resisting it.

Let us also remember to be good and kind to ourselves. We all feel a pull to do something. I am reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s words:

 “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Being kind to strangers, neighbors, and offering peace to all you meet may be your contribution. It is mine. Calling or writing to your representatives may be another way to engage. And if you are so moved and energized, I’m sure you can find a movement somewhere that will gladly accept your assistance. We also have the power of positive prayers of gratitude, meditation and spending time in nature to remind us of who we truly are in our inherent loving kindness.

Finally, let us look to those who have been the trailblazers of long ago. From the women’s right to vote to civil rights, many have gone before.

“Every fight is not your fight. Pace yourself.”

– John Lewis

John Lewis – now there is a leader. I happened upon this interview yesterday from 2013. It’s timeless, and inspiring.

http://www.civilconversationsproject.org/#/john-lewis-love-in-action/

Here are more helpers. Look for the helpers.

http://www.civilconversationsproject.org/about/

http://www.faithandpolitics.org/about/

In addition to the wisdom that we all have, the helpers that I have highlighted here have offered theirs in myriad ways to children, adults, many different groups.

We all learn from the wisdom that we ALL have.

Let us build bridges of love and compassion, rather than walls of hate and fear.

New River Gorge by Lori Coleman
New River Gorge
by Lori Coleman