the promise – the next generation of leaders

I am fortunate, as are many, to have recently watched and celebrated the graduation of a family member from high school or college. This week, I watched, celebrated and started to feel better about our future, as my grandson and his classmates/friends graduated high school. This relatively small group of high school seniors in a small borough in a northeastern state, demonstrated the very qualities that we are in great need of, if our country and our planet are to evolve to our highest collective potential.

The speeches, made by several of the graduating seniors, inspired as well as consoled me. In a time of great divide, hate and negative rhetoric, I was lifted by the diversity of the class, the stories they told in their remarks and the characterization of the class by one of the speakers, as family. Isn’t this what we all wish to see and experience each and every day?

As I have written in this space before, I believe we are all leaders. We are the leaders of our lives. We are responsible for our choices; the actions we take which are informed by our values and beliefs – conscious and unconscious – and we alone have the power to make changes which best serve and support us individually, as we serve and support others.

This group – this generation and the ones coming up behind them – has seen the best and worst of we have to offer. Just look around. And yet, their ability to be inspired by parents and faculty in the context of the ongoing negativity that is pervasive in the world offers great promise that our future is trending in the best direction. These young adults are technically astute and savvy. They have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t; what supports and what doesn’t. They have created and will continue to create a world that is so much better than the one they have inherited.  I feel this is the promise of this generations of leaders of their lives. Their service to others will be grounded in new creations; and new questions that we have not asked and need to. They will – as it is in their nature to not take everything at face value. The questions are so very important.

What can we do to support them? Look around. Work to support them by removing barriers, offering words of encouragement, and standing up rather than shrinking away or shirking responsibility. Each of us has the power to do one small thing every day – every moment – that contributes to the positive momentum that is underway in many places in many ways. As different as we all are, we are here, at this time, for a reason. We chose it. We have the opportunity to facilitate the positive momentum necessary for a better future, a safer and more loving place for all to live and thrive.

To the classes of 2019, who have endured an extra dose of fear injected into their daily experiences from a very young age, you have my deepest respect, my heartfelt apologies for what we handed you and my loving support for your forward momentum. I offer to all graduates and to those who love and support them, the following as a reminder of just how powerful we each are:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

 

Congratulations and thank you!

conscious love or unconscious fear?

One of my favorite quotes – and one which is a guidepost for me – was written by Rumi (with whom I share a birthday, 750 years apart).

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

― Rumi

Most of us might say to ourselves or others, “I don’t have any barriers to love within me!” I’m quite sure I said the same many years ago when I first came upon this quote. However, I am reminded when I hear others making disparaging remarks, e.g., judgments about those who may be different (without knowing anything about them), that fear and hate are deeply unconscious. The words we say and the thoughts we think can seem far louder than any words we speak about our love for someone.

If we are truly honest, we might admit to having spent time and energy at some point judging ourselves harshly and then, no doubt, offering some of those same judgments about others, even if we did not speak them aloud. Do you see what is hidden there? Our self-judgments projected onto others – as unconscious fear.

Being or becoming conscious of love isn’t as easy at it may seem. Children find this easy – as it is their first nature until they are taught otherwise by the experiences of their outer world. Our healing of our second nature or learned habits is essentially what I feel Rumi is speaking of in the quote above. And then, I recently read the quote below by Fr. Richard Rohr and it all came together so beautifully.

The words “conscious love” ring true for me as a definition for our life’s purpose and the goal of all spirituality. When we’re conscious, we will always do the loving thing, the connecting thing, the intimate thing, the communion thing, the aware thing. To do the unloving thing is always to somehow be unconscious at that moment.

-Fr. Richard Rohr

Realizing that we have second nature wounds which comprise the deep well of our fear, anger, judgments and negativity, is an important early step in beginning to remove the barriers to love within us. Doing so is also essential to living an authentic and more peaceful life. And as Fr. Rohr reminds us, it is conscious love which is our life’s purpose. Everything that we are, that we do, that we choose, flows from that place. We are love…because we come from love.

Finally, I am reminded by so much of what I’ve learned on my journey thus far, that the work of uncovering and seeing and feeling deep wounds is not easy. In fact, it takes courage – to start; to stay with it, especially when it becomes harder to do; and to honestly claim that you see and feel lighter as you trudge through yet one more dark night of the soul. Brene Brown has offered so much to us through her extensive research and her stories, as told in all of her books. My favorite is one of her early books, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.  I end this post with a quote from that book, which can serve as an early roadmap to making that all important trip back to our first nature (conscious love) as we heal and release our second nature (unconscious fear).

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough. Authenticity demands Wholehearted living and loving—even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it. Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.”

– Brene Brown

*This is a photo of a drawing by one of my grandsons more than a few years ago.

facing the days

 

I’ve missed being here…writing and sharing quotes, perspectives, thoughts and feelings. It’s been a desert of late. These times can be challenging to navigate when one enjoys writing as much as I do and have in the past. Even my journal had become a drought-ridden area that I simply could not walk through or even attempt to nourish.

There are many reasons for this, as my life these last few months has seen quite a few challenges. Navigating our interior spaces when the challenges outside of us seem to be never-ending can often keep us separated from the best of who we are. I did find myself listening more intently to my higher self, or God, or whatever you call that which is in everything. That alone probably kept me from taking a deep dive into dark places within that I have committed to not return to again. I am human, after all.

More than once during this period, Rumi’s poem, The Guest House, popped into my head. I thought on several occasions to go find it to read and re-familiarize myself with its words and inherent intentions and meaning. I finally did this last evening. Slowly reading through it, I was reminded that indeed, being human can have some challenges; and for some of us, these can come quite regularly at various periods in our lives. I was further reminded that the ways in which we greet these “arrivals”; the choices we make about how to receive and experience them makes the difference…all of the differences. How we feel, how we see other things in the day, the week, others in our lives and many times the places we visit or otherwise inhabit are all affected by who we are and how we feeling within ourselves.

I leave it here for you to read and interpret or intuit its meaning for yourself.

Namaste.

The Guest House

JELALUDDIN RUMI, TRANSLATION BY COLEMAN BARKS

 

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

 

With gratitude to Loco’s Photo’s for her willingness to allow me to include her photos in my blog posts. You can learn more as well as see some of her latest photographs on the Images page on this site.

resistance

This is NOT about resisting any government actions, beliefs, or an individual’s ideas and words about what we should be doing, thinking, etc.

What we resist, persists.

 – Carl Jung

I could write even more about an externally focused and instigated resistance. In fact there are many examples of this all around our world today. However, the resistance that I am focused on today is our internal resistance to ourselves. Many are not even aware of this internal resistance. Over the years, I referred to it as my head being out of sync with my heart. Even as I knew that I nearly always listened to the messages in my head rather than deeply listening and following the soft path my heart was leading me to.

The messages my head were completely influenced by people, ideas, training, and experiences designed to keep me in “my lane” and better prepared to “fit in”. This is where the conflict with my heart was most present. So, does resistance at this internal level influence the external resistance? I feel that it does in BIG ways. For example, if we are not listening to the soft entreaties of our hearts, how will we ever hear the voices of others who may not see things as we do?

Distinguishing the origin of the messages we hear from within can be tricky when we are new to the idea that there are multiple sources from within.

What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. ‘Who am I, then?’ The one who sees that.
– Eckhart Tolle

Trouble is, we are moving too fast, driven by the messages in our heads that we “must do this”, and then “get that done” and “don’t forget that you have to get to this thing, too.” In some ways, slowing down feels like laziness; non-productive time and we cannot allow ourselves to BE that! Slowing down is opposite what we have been told, shown, taught and what we hear over and over.

And yet, that is the first step. Slowing down. Allowing yourself to be still long enough to notice your mind running, spouting messages, reminding you of what you have yet to DO, reminding you of something in the past, judging you for it and causing you to fear something in the future related to that past experience. Sound familiar? Ugh…tiring and worrisome. Still, allowing some time to be still so that we can notice that voice and know that we are NOT that voice is key to beginning to experience the inner voice (of the heart, your intuition) and trusting that it has your best interest at “heart” – and oh yes…it’s the heart. Trust…learning to trust ourselves. Until we do, we live in resistance.

Here’s another way we resist ourselves.

Have you ever had an experience in which you just didn’t feel like going to the gym or to some class, and part of that reason is that you don’t feel physically well or would prefer to prepare yourself a cup of tea and allow some time to read that book, or sit quietly to enjoy a view, or spend time with a trusted pet? Many of us have…or are still having them from time to time. Rather than honoring to the desire to be gentle with ourselves – the tea, the quiet, the book or time with a pet – we give into the impetus to get going, get to the gym, get a shower and get on with the day. We have one more time missed an opportunity to listen to the softer message of our heart. Perhaps our body needs rest, rather than more intense exercise. Perhaps we need to be quiet in our personal space rather than be in the loud noise and frenetic energy of the gym. There is a time and place for everything. Ours is to discern what is best for us now…in this moment. We have the ability, the power – all that we need – to discern what is best for ourselves.

We will continue to resist many experiences, or potential experiences, externally if we are not beginning to address our internal resistance.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

 – Wayne Dyer

Slow down. Listen to yourself. See what changes for YOU!

elevating the conversation

I’ve been listening to a few podcasts this week. I’ve enjoyed listening again to Eckhart Tolle and Oprah discussing Tolle’s book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. These podcasts are taken from their 2008 series of webinars in which they discussed each of the ten chapters in the book. The podcasts have served as a powerful review of this profound, timeless material.

I also listened to a podcast conversation between Oprah and Charles Eisenstein which I believe was originally recorded in late 2016 from a Super Soul Sunday show. Eisenstein is the author of several books, including The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. As I returned to his website after not having perused it in a while, I came across a stunning video, A New Story of the People. I encourage you to consider taking seven minutes of your day to view it.

Finally, I saw that Marianne Williamson declared her candidacy for President earlier this week. She is a non-traditional candidate…and we’ve been there before, yes? By all that I have observed thus far, particularly the comments on some websites which are quite nasty, I am reminded that we are not yet at the tipping point in our awakening as a nation or as citizens of this planet. Many agree that we are nearly at a point of “breaking open”. We are not there yet, apparently.

I am not advocating for or supporting a party or a candidate. I AM calling us to consider elevating the conversation about our collective human condition at the causal level. We have many symptoms. We are not having a broader discussion of the causes. To solve the many symptoms which have the capacity to undo democracies, or destroy life altogether, we need to step back and become observers rather than “reactors”. Becoming more objective will allow us to enter into service to the whole from a very different place. More conscious, we can take small steps toward healing and righting our collective ship of dreams of “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.”

May we seek to listen to each other without judgment so that we thoughtfully engage from our hearts.

 

Desiderata

This is a favorite. It has been for a very long time. It fell to the back of my memory for a very long time and I was absolutely delighted when it reappeared, triggered by the simple memory of one phrase  – “you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

My framed print of this has been in storage for nearly three years, and again, I remembered it when considering a verse to write in a book, a gift for a baby, yet to be born.

As I reread it this morning, I was reminded of the beauty and the simple, inherent inspiration of its universal truths. I offer it here as a reminder for us all in this new year of possibility. May we all be grateful.

Namaste

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,

even the dull and ignorant;

they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,

be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1952

gratitude

To live a life of gratitude is to open our eyes to the countless ways we are supported by the world around us.

-Gregg Krech

Seems many have resolutions, words, phrases or commitments for a new year. I shared in my previous post that last year, I held the Zen Proverb of “let go or be dragged.” Yes, I “held” it as an intention. In the process of reminding myself of this intention, many things seemed to change. I can honestly say that 2018 was a lovely year, even thought it had a very rocky start. I had to let go of that, too.

Gratitude is more than an intention for me. It is a way of being, of living, of seeing experiences – mine and others – for what is. “What is” can often be challenging to observe and experience. We are accustomed to jumping in to fix, or clean up whatever is broken, or not going the way we think it should go or be. When we let go, and see what is there (without attachment to specific outcomes), we are free. We are free to see more clearly; free to feel what we feel and free to allow “it” to be as “it is” without judgment, angst or any other action oriented emotion that we may stuff back in, only to stoke more of the same until it becomes toxic.

Sounds easy enough. And it’s not always that easy. I am human and can find myself facing experiences or people, that might trigger something in me (that I wasn’t aware was still there) or I am otherwise vexed by what I observe as their apparent behavior. Both of these can take me away from the essence of myself and keep me from seeing what may be there for me to see or better understand about myself. And, as I am disconnected in those moments, I may not see what is really there in someone’s behavior beyond my own negative feelings. In other words, I may not see with my heart. Compassion would not be the first feeling that arises when I am triggered – not for me and certainly not for the other.

So, how does all of this relate to gratitude? Well, for me it is this way. As I have worked on becoming more of an observer of my life, my experiences – past and present – I see the “what is” as exactly that. It is “what is” right now…in this very moment. There is no need to hang on, become emotionally triggered or jump into the old habits of behavior that many (including me) expected. For all of this, I am grateful. In fact, when I AM triggered or vexed, I am grateful for those moments as they are revealing to me something else that has been “in there” and not yet disinterred for observing and healing.

As humans, we are very powerful. Our thoughts matter; and with our words, our reality unfolds before us. Now that I am clear about the impact of my thoughts, words and actions on my individual experience, I find that observation is even more important. When we slow down to observe; to pause and not react, we find a different response – if any response is necessary at all. That is something for which I am deeply grateful.

Gratitude is being grateful. Gratitude is taking the time to offer a “thank you” to another person or to the Creator (God, Spirit or whatever you call him/her). Gratitude is a celebration. Gratitude is life. Gratitude is love.

“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”
– Elie Wiesel

The greatest “thank you” we can offer is expressed in one of my favorite quotes from Meister Eckhart.

If the only prayer you said was “thank you”, that would be enough.

 

“a new day” by Loco’s Photos. Thank you, Lori.

 

 

 

inspiration…and leadership

To my dear Readers:

I read a letter yesterday and again this morning that I felt warranted sharing with all of you. You may well have read it, too. Before you get to the link below, I wish to offer a few words for your consideration.

This website, which contains among other pages this blog, is entitled Lead Our Lives  for an important reason (to me, anyway). I believe we are each fully and completely responsible for our lives; for living them, for leading them in the ways which honor who we truly are. We often look to other formal leaders for their leadership and for inspiration. The contrasts in leadership which inspires and leadership which instills fear and threatens to rob us of our inner peace are stark and very visible, if we care to look. Let’s begin with ourselves…let’s lead our lives as love and with authenticity.

Reading the letter at the link below, I am reminded once again of the importance of leadership – our leadership – of ourselves. I’ve said many times that seeking someone outside of ourselves to save us, is an exercise in disappointment and giving up of personal power. This is not to say that we abandon the tenets of service, democracy, and peaceful co-existence in any place in the world. However, it is clear that seeking for anything outside of ourselves, perhaps because we feel powerless or lost, is to essentially perpetuate those very conditions. As many authors have encouraged, “Go within or go without,” and “Know thyself.”

With all of this in mind, may we continue to lift and inspire each other – through service and kind words  – so that we make the positive contributions which are essential to lives well lived. This is true leadership.

May I introduce to you, the poet, author, and speaker – David Whyte. If you are familiar with his work, you will enjoy this letter even more. If you are not familiar with him or his work, I hope you will find something resonant in this letter:

Letter From the House – Winter 2018 – 2019

Lion sounds that have not grown from the mouse may exude naked power… but cannot convey any wisdom or understanding… The initial steps on the path to courageous speech then are the first tentative steps into the parts of us that cannot speak.
– David Whyte

 

This photo was taken by Lori Coleman, whose images I share here with her permission. I encourage you to check out the Images page on this site to learn more about the gifted photographer who captured this image and others from the eclipse and nature. Many of her images are available for purchase.

There is a Contact page on this site which you can use to send a private message to me. 

 

 

reflections on love

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

 – Maya Angelou

A few weeks ago, I was looking for quotes, poems, or verses to read at my son’s wedding, when I found the above quote by the late Maya Angelou. What a lovely quote and how timeless! As we observe our world, it is easy to see how money and power seem to be in the driver’s seat. And love? Where is love? Relegated to the back seat or the trunk? We need only look into our hearts to know where it may be in our lives. We say we love…some people, some things, some places. Do we honestly look at others with the eyes of our hearts?

At a time in our history, when there is so much before us that doesn’t feel or look like love, I found these words a refreshing reminder of what is possible…when we open our hearts while laying down our biases.

I have enjoyed riding the “high” that has been the effect of the beautiful gathering of family and friends, from far and near – despite losses, heartaches and other challenges – to celebrate the wedding of my son and my daughter-in-law. The love in the space was palpable. Yes, I know you can say or think, “Of course she felt that way. It is her son, after all.” You would be correct and it was the energy in the space, the looks on the faces, the smiles and embraces of people across multiple generations, past family difficulties, and many, many miles.

Although I did not read the above quote or the poem which follows at the wedding*, I appreciate today the way these words have so beautifully and eloquently captured the moments of that magical weekend.

~ * ~ * ~

Touched by An Angel

by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
lived coiled in shells of loneliness
until loves leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us in into life.
Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet, if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
 ~ * ~ * ~

 

Love may be something we think we do. In fact it is who we are…and we often forget when we get angry or judge another harshly. In those dark, fear-based moments, we have forgotten. Perhaps we find ourselves too busy to love. “Oh, when I finish this project, I’ll spend more time with my family,” is just one of any number of reasons why we may keep ourselves from our very essence and the beautiful exchange that occurs when we are present to anyone.

I am reminded of one final quote, which I hold dear and read often – to remind me what I am here to be.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

 – Rumi

May we slow down to reflect on our barriers to love; that our hearts may open just a little more to acceptance of ourselves, those whom we regard as different and those closest to us who most cherish our presence.

Namaste

*The bride and groom chose an excerpt from a wedding ceremony I shared with them, from the book, Illuminata: A Return to Prayer, by Marianne Williamson.

 

thanksgiving

The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks, we give ourselves.

– Br. David Steindl-Rast

 

Thank you, all, for reading what I offer and for your acknowledgements. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, now.

Enjoy this beautiful reminder of the gifts we receive every day.

A Grateful Day

Love and peace to all.