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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

where to begin?

“The urgency for a radical change in consciousness seems to grow every day.”

 – Eckhart Tolle

The well worn and know by many adage, “we are living in extraordinary times” seems to have taken on additional meaning in the last few months. Many times, I have thought about writing here to offer something – anything. That is when I knew it was best to say nothing. As I continue to watch what is unfolding in the world, and in my own country, I have observed many situations, read about decisions (made or not), and listened to quite a few people as they have navigated the increasing uncertainties that continue to unfold before us.

It’s challenging for those who are accustomed to being on the move all of the time – in their activities, in their thoughts, in the commitments they make and so on – to feel the discomfort and perhaps all-out panic, as things we have come to rely upon as a normal part of our life here, are shutting down, delaying or taking some radical action to support social distancing, self-quarantine, or whatever is necessary for health and safety during this period.

My hope for us all is that we begin to see. What, you may ask, do we need to see? There is a lot to see. We can see nothing if we are reacting from our panic, fear, anger, frustration, etc. We are blocked by those emotions from seeing what is really there for us to see and remember…about who we really are, on this planet together.

Despair or Hope

There is much to see, much to remember and much to discern for and about ourselves as a member of the large mix of beings on the planet. There are many questions that we must ask ourselves, about our conscious and unconscious contributions to the current conditions we are facing, as a collective, today. There is no need to go more deeply into fear – to see all of this as some type of apocalyptic event; although that is a choice we can make.

Quite the opposite is what we have the opportunity to do at this moment. Some preliminary questions to ask ourselves may include what we are seeing and hearing with our eyes and ears as we watch or read the latest news, and hear from family members and friends. The next questions – the more challenging questions – are the questions about what we see and hear with the eyes and ears of our essential selves…our deepest heart.

Future Focus

I encourage all of you – wherever in the world you are, dear readers – to reflect on one simple aspect of where we are right now. We are all in this…this circumstance, this situation, this place in our evolutionary experience. We are all in it together. We may not know where or how every being on the planet is responding or reacting to what we are facing at this time. We are all connected. It is a fairly good bet that as interconnected as we have become – with travel, trade, the Internet, etc., we will continue to be affected, even if we do not contract the virus.

I bought a tree today. It was the same kind of tree that I’ve planted in the front of two homes that I lived in, in two different states. I lived in those homes, nineteen and eleven years respectively. This tree was a very slow-growing and delicately beautiful tree when it bloomed – in both places.

When I saw the one I chose to purchase this morning, I noted it’s small stature. It’s little buds visible, it will bloom in the weeks ahead…very slowly and delicately. Rather than placing it in the ground where I live, I have put it into a pot. It can live there for years, if necessary, and can go with me wherever I may find myself living. It will take many years of growing to get to the size of the others in my past. That, by itself, is a reminder that change and growth take time. As I transplanted the tree to a pot which will provide space for years of growth, I realized the symbolism of this tree and where we find ourselves today. We did not get here overnight, and we will not climb out of this overnight either.

As we begin the healing process, there is more for us to consider than the simple act of ensuring that resources are better aligned for any future similar outbreaks. We have an opportunity now, to wake up; to ask ourselves if the world we are living in today is the world we wish to continue to inhabit in exactly the same way we have for far too long.

I know what my answer is. I know that what must change will take much longer than the years I have left to live. However, I do know that I will offer all of the very best, most positive energy I have and can muster to be a part of the healing solutions, rather than perpetuating the fear and divisions which have contributed significantly to where we find ourselves today.

May we all consider what our conscious and unconscious contributions have been to our human family.  We are capable of far more than we may even believe we are. Step, by small step, we can make a difference – a new difference.

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
—Christopher Robin, friend of Winnie the Pooh

 

 

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

courage and it’s companion – pain

Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

 – Socrates

I watched and listened to and Demi Lovato’s performance on the Grammy Awards the day following the performance. Listening to the lyrics, the simple music accompanying her voice, and feeling the depth of the emotions as she sang, transported me back to a time in my life when I felt the isolation, desperation, and separation that she so courageously expressed in her performance. Her very survival of an overdose and the subsequent bare honesty with which she expresses her feelings in that song, written prior to that event, are worth our compassion and reflection.

I was recently talking with someone about addiction. Although I believe, as Richard Rohr has asserted and discussed in a recent series in his Daily Meditations, all are addicted to something (habits of minds, ways of doing things, substances, a job, etc.*), the conversation was about nicotine. At one point in the conversation it was asserted by the person with whom I was speaking that I couldn’t possibly understand addiction and that reading a certain book might help me better understand it. As I continued to reflect on this conversation, I recalled Ms. Lovato’s poignant performance, and my experience that many people don’t understand depression, either.

It’s easy to look at someone like her and think that perhaps she “has it all” and wonder how could she possibly find herself in such a dark place. I’m quite certain there are many who knew me during the period in my life and might have had similar thoughts, had they known of my condition at the time. Even those closest to me didn’t understand. I was quite adept at being the person I thought I had to be to remain successful in performing my job responsibilities and parenting my children.

I write today to remind everyone that we have no idea what is going on in someone – anyone – else’s life. Even those we may live with or are closest to day-to-day may be struggling within themselves with thoughts, feelings and forces unknown to those of us who are “on the outside”.  Can’t we begin to extend that kind of awareness to everyone we see, pass on the street when we are walking, or observe doing something seemingly unconscious behind the wheel of a vehicle?  A practice of compassion and acceptance can go a very long way in our very divided world. In fact it can, quite literally, change it!

We tend to judge, often harshly, those who are different or behave in ways that we don’t understand or necessarily appreciate. And yet, if we were watching ourselves in those moments of judging others, I wonder how we might feel about the person we are watching.  I feel it is so very important to remember that we are all walking the same ground on this planet at this time.

The complexities of living in this world – different places and societies  – cannot be understated. Addiction and depression have their roots in our attempts to “fit in” to what we have been shown or taught is the “way to be” if we are to survive or get ahead. Living up to what becomes our individual expectations of ourselves can be, and often are, impossible. This, by itself, is a sad commentary on who we are collectively, isn’t it?

The courage to be the beautiful individual that each of us is, is something that some of us seem to have more of than others. And then again…do they really? Or are they trying to make it appear that they do…as I did and so many of us try to do. Often it takes a crisis for us to wake up to our true and authentic selves and begin living fully into who we are, without fear.

May we practice a deeper approach to offering kindness to every single person we encounter in our journey of each day. May we also remember that each of us has impact – with every word, and in our behavior – on the whole of our experience. Choose to be negative, judgmental – that is a contribution. Choose to be positive, kind – that is a contribution.

If you didn’t see Demi Lovato’s performance at the Grammy Awards Sunday evening or online since, see if you can sit quietly and listen deeply and then check in with yourself to see how you feel. You can also see the video embedded in a well written piece on the performance in an article published at The Atlantic.

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

 – Chief Seattle

*these represent my interpretations of what Fr. Rohr intimated in his series on addictions.

reflections on innocence…lost

See the world with the innocence of children.
Approach the world with the daring of children.
Love the world with the readiness of children.
Heal the world with the purity of children.
Change the world with the wisdom of children.

– Neale Donald Walsch

There are many terrified children all around us. You will know them by the adult suits they are wearing. Their behavior is an observable verification of their terror. Anger and condescension indicate a deep fear within. They are over-compensating as a cover for the beliefs that they are unprepared, unworthy, and simply aren’t good enough or don’t have all they believe they need, to be successful where they are.

They are defensive and reactive. Everything is a crisis which must be tended to and fixed…right now.

They come across as confident and in control when deep inside they are unsure of themselves, and everything – in their minds – is completely out of control.

What do these people need?

They need to be seen and heard for who they really are…deep down inside. They need a steady, open-hearted soul as a partner in this moment; a compassionate listener who can softly and comfortably hold the space while listening to them, allowing them to be who they truly are – wounded, scared. This melting process – the shedding of armor – takes time. This isn’t easy work…and it is necessary for living the full life that each soul has the opportunity to live.

The reward for engaging this process of self rediscovery? More joy; awakening to a sense of inner calm, and peace; acceptance of life – as it is; an open, loving heart; and the realization that love is all there is. It is in there – in our hearts – waiting for us to re-discover the innocence long lost to the many beliefs and experiences which resulted in our losing ourselves.

How is the child within you? Does he/she feel loved, valued, nurtured, cared for and accepted? Is she/he free to play or explore new horizons, or dream about the endless possibilities that life offers?

Or

Does he/she feel unloved, undervalued, isolated and forgotten? Has she/he distracted him/herself from the simple acts of dreaming, creating and seeing myriad possibilities?

We are living in such extraordinary times. All are needed. In healing ourselves, we add to the essential healing of our planet and all of its inhabitants. This is the work of our lives.

Will we be a part of the healing solution? Or will we put our heads down and hope it all goes away? (It won’t.)

 

“We not only need to have a deep respect for children; but also a deep respect for the child in everyone.”
C. JoyBell C.

 

What do you need for yourself?