leading ourselves

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.

– Helen Keller

Each of us is responsible – individually – for ourselves. We lead ourselves, whether or not we are fully aware of this awesome responsibility.

Each of us can choose to lead from a place of love and compassion for self and other – or we choose only for ourselves, without regard for other(s).

As I watch and reflect on what is happening in my country, I cannot help but wonder if it is happening elsewhere in the world. My guess is, that it is – at least to some degree. As much as I had hoped that we might all begin to find a different way forward in the midst of a sweeping pandemic, quarantining at home with some opportunity to reflect and observe; I wonder today, how much this time will have made a difference in the myriad ways we see ourselves and others.

No one outside ourselves can rule us inwardly. When we know this, we become free.  – Buddha

On this Memorial Day weekend in the US, even the opportunities to pause and reflect upon lives lost in wars past and present, seem to get lost in the fray of those who feel their rights have been violated, by the necessary quarantine. It is curious to me that at a time when a nation seeks to honor those who have died in past wars, ostensibly for the purpose of maintaining freedom for our country, we seem to be more locked down, internally, than ever.

What could I possibly mean by that? Well… I have another question.

Why do people protest about their freedoms, guns in hand? Do they believe that are not free? I wonder why they perceive their rights have been violated. Do they still have breath in their lungs? Do their hearts still beat? I wonder if they stop to consider those who have been lost in this pandemic – those whose lungs filled with disease, and were ultimately robbed of a beating heart – for just a moment?

~ ~ ~ ~

*I am not ignorant of the economic impact of the quarantine in the lives of so many people. In fact, I could write quite extensively about the many cracks and gaping holes in our fragile societal fabric, which have been laid bare in this time. The condition of our planet – the place we live – has improved and risks returning to its very sick condition – a pandemic of a different kind. We cannot look away any longer. To do so makes us complicit in perpetuating the ongoing suffering of all, from sentient beings to the living and still trying to breathe planet Earth, our home. The authentic leaders in all of us are needed…to begin to right these wrongs, to make different choices. I acknowledge this reality and am comforted by the work of communities to care for those, living at the margins, who are often forgotten and left without. Those who tirelessly stand for our planet and those who open their hearts as they reach to those who need the simplest of things to survive deserve our gratitude and support.

~ ~ ~ ~

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. – Nelson Mandela

Until and unless we realize that our freedom is truly an inside job, and that no one can grant us freedom – not another person, not another organization, not another government – many will continue to suffer in their fear, wrapped in the tight embrace of their beliefs that something as important as freedom, is being withheld.

The chest-beating, gun-wielding, deserve our compassion. For they have not yet found their freedom within – inherent in the precious Life they are given to live on this planet.

I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.  – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If we are leading our lives with authenticity (from the best of ourselves within), we take responsibility for the choices we make. We may consider the impact of our decisions if we can foresee them before we step forward. Or, if we couldn’t comprehend an outcome, we take responsibility for not knowing and we make a different choice. We apologize for the unintended consequences, if others are affected, and we move on, enriched by the experience, so that we add to our growing wisdom.

The outer world doesn’t always make it easy for us to lead our lives. There is so much noise – distracting, challenging, shaming, blaming, etc. – which pulls us away from ourselves. Why? Because we all yearn to fit in. The siren’s song of fitting in – by itself – takes from us. It is the definition of allowing ourselves to be lead by the noise of the outer conditions and files narratives about what is valued.

We abandon our true essence for the shiny objects of money, power, the biggest and best anything, all for the purpose of fitting in and rising to the top (of what? I’m not sure.)  Are we leading ourselves? Sure. Some would argue that they made the choice to go for it all…all of the marbles, the brass ring as it were. At what cost, the marbles, the brass ring, the fitting in or rising above?

True love, freedom and peace are found deep with us. The shiny objects hold no sway when we know who we are and what is most important. Our service to others comes from a place within of love and acceptance. We offer our best, not our worst. What we offer is us – our trues selves – not a dressed up version that is driven by thoughts and shoulds.

My hope is that as the days, weeks and months unfold, we will see and honor our own fragility. This is the doorway into the most vulnerable places within. This is the place where our courage to be ourselves lives. It awaits our arrival. If and when we find our way home to ourselves, any outer acts of service – including non-violent activities on behalf of those who are not seen and whose voices are not heard – have the greatest chances to make a difference. The love in our hearts is the home for our growth, healing and evolution. The evolution of inclusion, acceptance and peace is within our grasp, I just feel it.

 

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.

– John F. Kennedy

how are you?

How are you? I really mean it. I would really like to know how you are.

Most times, we are asked how we are, and most of those who ask, don’t really want to hear a full answer. I do. When I ask, I really wish to know how someone is.

So…how are you? These are extremely unusual times we are living in. The opportunities before us are endless…even if we feel they are extremely limiting. Is that where you are?

Are you writing, reading, playing music, dancing? Are you alone or staying in with others?

I’ve been listening to podcasts, reading books, listening to music, getting out for a walk when the weather is nice. All of this creates space for me to contemplate, to meditate, pray and to listen, deeply.

How about you? What are you learning – about yourself, others, your community, our country, our planet?

What do you feel you need? What have you determined is no longer necessary in your life?

~ ~ ~ ~

If you have read a book, listened to a podcast or found some good music, You are welcome to share it here in the comments below.

I am considering posting a list of resources for all of you. You are welcome to make suggestions!

Everyone…please take good care of yourself and others. Know that your choices affect many.

 

upside down

Dear Readers…

I feel sure that many of you are watching the news…and are keeping a safe distance from it. A steady diet of it is not what any of us need.

This is a time when our ability to observe the world, our communities, and how the results of past decisions are affecting our collective ability to respond.

In the US, as we looked forward to some of the promised financial relief, it is abundantly clear today that it hasn’t even come close to addressing the ongoing and growing needs. We continue to fail those who need this assistance the most, while the big and wealthy continue to benefit. Indeed the upside down nature of our society continues to be exposed.

I will not list all of the systems which have failed us all, world-wide for many, many years. Wherever you live in the world, you likely see it. If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to, as objectively as possible, consider what is happening, even as reported numbers of cases and deaths increase.

There are the unseen, the uncounted, and unsupported which will likely not make it into these numbers. The marginalization of so many for so long is right in front of us. How did we arrive at this point in our history? I will leave the answers for you to discern from where you are geographically and from within yourselves.

What many of us know is that activism can only be useful if it is born from a place of love deep within. Until and unless we have embraced the wholeness of who we are at our very core, our actions may be imbued with anger…which will not be useful in the long term. What I see as I look around is a lot of love. People are reaching out and helping others with love in their hearts.

I also see a lot of anger. What we resist persists. What we look at (or embrace as our reality) disappears.

Have I mentioned that words have power? Social distancing is a term that has an energy of separation. Yet, many are finding ways to be in touch  – or connected – to loved one, friends and colleagues. Physical distancing is what we are really doing. Social distancing is NOT.  Do you see this as a war? When we are at war, the energy of resistance is what we create and perpetuate.

Scientists are working with all of this as they test, analyze and seek ways to help us move forward safely. Working with any situation is how we move through and beyond it.

See the upside down nature of our societies?

Take a moment, if you will, in your mind’s eye, envision the following:

A tightly packed container, filled with marbles of many colors and sizes, with a lid holding the marbles in place.

The container is clear so you believe that it is fully transparent and you can see completely through it.

You believe that you see all there is to see. You therefore believe what you see and you quickly move on to whatever else it is you have to do.

And then the lid comes off and the marbles spill out. They roll everywhere – for that is the nature of beautiful, colorful and small, round spheres.

You see the marbles rolling around everywhere and suddenly you begin to see the many different marbles from within the center of the container that were not visible to you when you looked quickly before and thought you saw every one of them.

Some of the marbles are clear. Some have a small bit of color and are otherwise clear. Some are solid colored – you cannot see through them. And you begin to realize…they are all different. Many were not seen until the container was open and turned upside down.

What can we possibly take from this?

Here are a few observations. I encourage you to consider your own individual observations.

  • None of us is the same. All of us have different stories, experiences and needs.
  • What we thought was true, was not true.
  • What we thought we saw was not what was really there.
  • When they all fall out, do we discard some and not others in order to try to fit them all back into the container?

How can we address what is now spilled before our eyes? How can we put it all back together? Maybe we don’t spend any of our precious creative energy trying to force everything back to where it was before.

Maybe we see this as the breakdown…for a breakthrough.

I am additionally reminded of the Japanese art of, Kintsugi. What is broken is repaired in ways that make what is broken even more beautiful.

That is the opportunity we have now…in our upside down world. We can see what we did not see – or chose not to see – before. We may not know exactly how or what we will create going forward. We do know that what we create will not resemble what we had before. Don’t we?

 

unmoored

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.”
Andre Gide

It may seem odd that I would begin a post with this quote. However, where we are, collectively in this part of our human experience has created an opportunity for us to examine those places within ourselves where we may have ceased to perceive our  deception of ourselves. If you believe “the outer reflects the inner” as I do, you may be able to readily see where this is visible outside of us…compelling us to examine our individual self-deceptions.

When we become unmoored, it can be very scary. No longer tethered to something stable, sound or secure, we may feel lost; without an over-structured schedule or life; perhaps even feeling that we lack a guide for what is next or how we will find our way forward. Many are also talking and writing about a new, as yet undefined, normal.

Before the “new normal” begins to unfold, we must each let go of what defined our collective past. What, you wonder, might some of those beliefs, thoughts, habits, and actions might be? We need look no further than the places – no, the people –  most affected by the virus and if still healthy, are feeling the rippling impacts the most.

Rather than developing a list of all of the affected groups, segments and the greed that seems to know no bounds, I will simply offer this.

Contemplating the upside down nature of our human collective as well as the blatant disregard for all beings in nature, including Mother Earth, is probably a good place to begin the development of the new normal. Each of us has something that we are currently contributing to the wholeness of our world right now. Perhaps our reflections will lead us to making different choices, or to expand what we are currently offering.

Anything IS possible. It is in our creative imaginations and dreams that possibilities will dawn and we will find our way forward – together.

For now, may we all find comfort in the unmoored time we are in. As challenging as it may be, it is only in this liminal space where we will realize the potential for many new possibilities as we work together to create new ways of being on our now healing Mother Earth.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
Andre Gide

 

This is a picture of a beautiful and very meaningful print that was given to me as a gift.

 

 

 

 

 

small things

On my desk sits a quote on a piece of pottery that is cradled on a small stand. Made by a local beloved potter, it is a special piece. I am a lover of quotes and when I saw this one years ago, it touched me then. I’m sure that many of you know it and are pretty familiar with it. Somehow, today it seemed to take on a very different meaning.

In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.

 – Mother Teresa

Many are finding this time to be especially challenging for all of the reasons that we are probably familiar with. Some are finding opportunities to accomplish projects and other tasks that had been on a very long list of to-dos. Still others are finding their way back into nature to see and observe the beautiful messages that Spring offers, if we watch and listen. Spring always reminds me of beginning again. And here we are.

We are awakening from Winter’s rest. Look around and you can see this is true of all of the beautiful plants, flowers, and trees are beginning to bloom. The birds are singing their beautiful songs.

We are awakening to so many new things in our world right now. Whether we are waking up to seeing our loved ones – near and far – in different ways than we have before, or mourning losses of loved ones, friends, jobs, familiar ways of life; nothing is the same as it was before. Grieving these losses is important. Our individual grieving process will take us as long as we need for it to take.

I’m reminded of a lovely poem by Rumi*.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

                             Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

                             Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

                             where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

                             Don’t go back to sleep.

Perhaps you are familiar with this poem as well. However, I offer it here for your thoughtful reflection. As we continue living in this liminal space, may we pause to reflect on what the message in this poem may be – to each of us individually.

May we also offer prayers of thanksgiving for the many people on the front lines of this pandemic – from the health care workers to all who work to support the supply chains, the firsts responders, the multitudes of volunteers who are helping others in all manner of situations.

Our gratitude can be their blessing.

We are awakening to the many aspects of our world including the multiple systems which haven’t supported all people for far too long. In our upside down world, may we also see what we need to see (rather than turning away); have the courage to throw away the old worn out thoughts, beliefs and choices which no longer serve; and open our hearts to the beauty of a brave new world, which we can all be a part of creating in our own loving way.

We can all do small things with great love.

May we remain awake…and not go back to sleep.

*From: “The Essential Rumi”, Translations by Coleman Barks (1995) New Expanded Edition

one more time…an opportunity to grieve

A good friend of mine said, “You are married to sorrow.” And I looked at him and said, “I am not married to sorrow. I just choose not to look away.”

And I think there is deep beauty in not averting our gaze.

No matter how hard it is, no matter how heartbreaking it can be. It is about presence. It is about bearing witness.

I used to think bearing witness was a passive act. I don’t believe that anymore. I think that when we are present, when we bear witness, when we do not divert our gaze, something is revealed—the very marrow of life. We change. A transformation occurs. Our consciousness shifts.

—Terry Tempest Williams

These extraordinary times are exposing many deeply held fears, while we are ALL grieving the loss of something(s). For far too long, we have looked away from what we feel when we have an experience that makes us uncomfortable. We have lived too fast, and counted on others to do what we might have done – for ourselves or others.

Grief is very much a part of what we are living in these days.

We are losing loved ones or friends.

We are losing a familiar way of life.

We are losing jobs, access to social experiences outside of our homes.

Maybe we are at home with children – of any age.

I could go on with an exhaustive list of what is lost, changing or already gone at this point. You know what you are losing or have lost.

Until and unless we slow down to see and feel our individual losses, we will not be present with the feelings that others in our space may have. We will not really listen with empathy. Whether you are sharing your living space with children or other adults, all are feeling something as we continue to collectively walk down very foggy and uncertain paths; and walking is what we are called to do now. Walk, not run.

I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s new podcast, Unlocking Us. Today she interviewed David Kessler, and expert on grief and protege of the late Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Among the many wonderful and comforting words in their discussion was this quote by David:

“The worst loss is always your loss.”

He offered this in the context of a discussion about comparing your loss to someone else’s loss. There is also deep wisdom in that statement that connects us to ourselves – one more time. If we do not acknowledge what we are losing – and go into the feelings of those losses, we will (1) not authentically be present for our loved ones as they navigate their feelings of loss; and (2) the essential energy for healing and being a part of creating the new future which is out of reach at this moment, will not be available to us.

I’ve written about grief here a few times. If you wish to dive in for more perspective on what you may be grieving – or if you’re not sure you’re grieving – feel free to search on “grief” in this site. I’ve written about grief frequently. It permeates our very existence and holds our greater opportunities for healing and seeing and feeling more clearly, the light within us  – our guide into a new future that we have an opportunity to create.

Finally, here is a link to an 8 minute video narrated by M. Scott Peck – whom some of you may know as the author of The Road Less Traveled. I used to share this video with the teams of executives that I worked with years ago, at the end of our multiple weeks of work together. My VHS copy was used so often and then in storage for three years. It didn’t survive. When I found it online, I was delighted. The Rabbi’s Gift, is a parable that I hope you will find useful.

I send my best wishes to all of you, dear readers. May you be well.

Namaste.

 

prayers and miracles

Dear Readers,

I send you blessings of love, peace, reconciliation, and wakefulness in these ongoing changing and unusual circumstances.

We are all finding different ways to live our waking hours – whether we are working from home or not, caring for children or not, on the front lines of this whole thing in some way or not. The spectrum of where any of us is and how we are being in our daily lives is vast and different.

Many of us seek comfort and refuge within, as we see and experience the heightened anxiety that a pandemic of this type and magnitude creates as we begin to question so much of what we have taken for granted for so long. I’ve been reading and listening to the words of many whose objective and universal perspectives on our human frailties, needs and circumstances offer much to contemplate and consider. I’ll provide a short list of what I have found at the end of this post.

For now, however, I wish to provide a link to a prayer and a perspective on a past song by Bill Withers offered by a fellow blogger in his most recent post, Bodhisattva Prayer for Humanity. You will find Ivon’s post to be thoughtful and comforting.

As we continue to hold hands from a distance and connect our hearts through our shared compassion, we also need to remember how important our individual quiet moments are. These are more important now than perhaps we have realized prior to this period of time.

Prayers – or quiet contemplation or meditation – or whatever resonates for you and connects you to something greater – God, Universe or whatever your name for that vast energy of unconditional love and support, are essential.

Miracles are around us – in our individual lives – every day. We are often too busy to notice them. Slowing down, helps us notice them.

We can still take walks, as we physically distance for the safety of all. Nature awaits our return to it…for peace, answers, prayers, and miracles.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love..

 – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Reading and listening ideas:

Charles Eisenstein (Author of “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible”) podcasts – brief and powerful opportunities for reflection.

Eckhart Tolle

Francis Weller  Francis’s most recent newsletter was beautiful and inspiring – as his words are anytime. Although the newsletter isn’t posted on his website, feel free to sign up for them at his website, or use this: Contact and send me your email address. I will gladly forward it.

Sending blessing of love and peace to all of you.

Namaste

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

 

 

the water we swim in

Recently, I was talking with a very dear and trusted friend and fellow coach about the inherent challenge in learning to hold two seemingly opposite sets of feelings about the same thing, person, situation or experience. Her response immediately provided a broader context for my growing awareness. She said, “It’s the water we swim in, right?” We are not necessarily shown that the “both and” is an ok place to be with anything. In fact, we are taught that the “either or” is the way forward.

After a brief pause, I realized just how profound her response was. Here we are, in this crazy time in our human history, seeking to find a way forward that is peaceful, loving and mutually supportive of all…and holding opposite feelings or perspectives is generally not what we are taught to realize as normal. Somehow we learn that we have to choose one feeling or the other feeling…as if the two, on balance cannot truly co-exist. Perhaps this isn’t as true for you as it has been for me…for my whole life! And perhaps it is also true that our collective reluctance to hear or see those who are different or hold different beliefs than we do may be rooted in this “either or” culture we live in and unconsciously perpetuate.

Full disclosure…my sun sign is Libra and I have a Libra stellium (Sun, Jupiter and Mars) in the 12th house. Yep…a LOT of Libra!! So, my tendency to live the extremes is well entrenched. Throwing the “baby out with the bath water” isn’t an uncommon way to describe the ways I can be extreme in my behavior and choices. Learning to moderate this part of my being –  slowing down or completely standing down, when I feel that overwhelming need to move quickly in one direction – has been an interesting process over these years. Many believe that we Librans are balanced by nature. Nope! We are learning balance!

“What is behind your eyes holds more power than what is in front of them.”

– Gary Zukav

What I have found to be true with my habit of believing that I must choose one feeling or perspective over the other is that I begin to tell myself a story about my present situation or growing dilemma. It’s as if I force myself to choose one side of the apparent dilemma and create a story that is supposed to make the choice alright. Except it no longer works for me. I have begun to see and feel the discomfort and outright suffering that I have created for myself all of these years.

“Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.”

– Epictetus

If none of this is making sense, here is an example.

About a year ago, I relocated back to a place I left in 2016. I left rather quickly after the sale of my home. I had always wished to return and it took more than two years and an evacuation for a hurricane to facilitate my return. I had a home built. It was ready in four months. When I moved in, there were multiple issues which were completely unexpected – one was potentially life threatening. I was so grateful to be back in Virginia and I did NOT like my new home. I tried. I really tried to fall in love with it. It wasn’t happening. For months, I attempted to convince myself that it was fine. After all I was back in the place I wished to live and I further told myself I just needed to get over it. That wasn’t happening either. Late in the afternoon one day last Fall, I admitted out loud – I heard myself say it – that I was so very happy to be back here and the house just wasn’t where I wished to live. In that moment, I realized how the creation of a story had trapped me –  in a place within – in which I was miserable. More importantly, I became aware of the reality of choosing one side or the other side of a dilemma (“either or” thinking), over the realization that both can be true and can co-exist (“both and” perspective). Since that moment, I’ve opened my heart and mind to the possibility of moving again as soon as the right place become available or apparent.

A weight was lifted in that moment, too. A weight that I had placed on myself (and was quite good at doing for many, many years) was no longer there…and I lifted it myself!

The water we swim in can be dark and murky or it can be clearer and easier to navigate. As I have said many times, perspective is everything.

“The moment you change your perception, is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.”

– Dr. Bruce H. Lipton