What I’ve learned from the many people I interviewed is that we don’t “get over” the death of someone we love. We also can’t fix or placate the intense sorrow we feel. Our experiences of loss — like our experiences of joy — become significant strands in the web of our life story.
When we find ourselves on the unfamiliar shores of loss ... We can spend however much time we need there, perhaps finding solace beneath the vast night sky, a bight full moon, or the soft glow of the setting sun. We can allow ourselves to feel whatever we feel — no right, no wrong, and no judgment.
In this epic adventure of being human in the world, our mind is a powerful tool: Use it wisely. Plant seeds of love. Plant seeds of resilience. Plant seeds of dreams. Plant seeds of future opportunities. Then, work to water those life-affirming intentions and ideas.
When we offer kindness to a friend or a stranger, when we teach children how to care for the environment, when we seek solutions to problems, when we discover better ways of responding, when we eat healthy foods, when we plant trees in urban areas, and when we act with awareness and compassion, we bring beauty to the world.
Remaining mindful of one or two things a day may be enough: Remembering to say gratitude each morning or each evening. Noticing the sunlight shimmering brightly on the water. Drinking a cup of hot coffee on the porch while watching a squirrel scurry along a limb. Listening to the woodpecker, Blue jay, or mocking bird songs.
As we sit with our sadness, we may decide not to waste time chasing the wrong things. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow likely no longer appeals to us because we understand the impermanent, fleeting beauty of the rainbow’s hues – knowing such splendor will not last. Knowing it is not meant to be here forever, but nevertheless wanting desperately to grasp each precious moment.
For all who came before and all who follow in our footsteps, we will honor the feminine, eternal, life-giving force of this Universe. And then, women will join together, once again, in the sacred circle dance that is our power and our divine source.
We plant seeds of universal accord when we remember that we are here, as guests, for only a brief while. What makes us truly happy is never that which destroys. Rather, it is the connection to our Source and to our hearts that nourishes a deep, abiding love for humanity, for wildlife, for nature, and for our planet.
Ask questions. Set aside judgments. Go beyond current comfort zones. Learn from the indigenous people, the scientists, the children, the plants and animals, the shamans, the musicians, the artists, the peacemakers, the homeless, the teenagers, the poets, and the dancers. Learn about other cultures, religions, races, and ethnic groups. We have so much we can teach each other! The skills we will need to develop include: openness, curiosity, nonjudgmental mindsets, and humility.
Our hearts seek comfort from things of beauty. We find solace in metaphors, stories, prayers, and songs. We gain strength from those creative souls who remind us, again and again, why we are here. They show us that we can do this hard thing: We can get up each day, do our work in this world, and stay awake to both our sorrow and our joy.
Inner calm is mighty. It is the courage to get up each day despite hardships. It is the willingness to bear witness to loss, anguish, betrayal, death, and destruction. It is the capacity to hear the silence of children who speak volumes with their eyes. It is the ability to cry when tears are needed and the ability to laugh when human folly presents itself. It is the determination to hold fast to a vision that serves our earth home. It is a positive force that ripples out into the world in a myriad of beautiful ways.
As in nature, human life continues its on-going cycles, with seasons of births as well as seasons of death. All the while, the creative, life-giving force of our great-great grandmothers flows powerfully within each of us—bestowing upon us strength, confidence, and courage. American poet May Sarton reminds us, "We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be."
The heart’s tug is a reminder of what’s truly important and lasting: Kindness. Love. Compassion. Healing. Our inner knowing helps us see with clarity: This planet is our earth home. Land, water, trees, and sky are worthy. Future generations are worthy. We are worthy.
Our heart will let us know what is being asked of us. Maybe at its source our anger is actually fear: fear that our loved ones are at risk, fear that we are not enough, fear that we are powerless, or fear that we cannot solve our current problems. Fear wears many masks. Mindfulness practices may also reveal the deep love or sadness hidden beneath our anger.
Ultimately, we empower our children by listening to them. We empower them by encouraging their passions. We empower them by loving them. And as difficult as it can be, we empower them by setting them free.
One piece of my mosaic is this blog. It is a simple thing. It is also a part of me that I share with you. Whatever your work in this world, don’t give up. Valuable fragments often come from ordinary, daily pursuits. No one can duplicate or replace your piece in this life.
Despite a culture that seems to thrive on mental and physical busyness, I believe most of us desire just the opposite. We would prefer more peaceful moments in our lives and less drama. We desire happiness, both for ourselves and for others. We want a meaningful life and work that matters, but without it taking an unnecessary toll on our health or negatively impacting those we love.
Nature serves as a wonderful reminder of the world’s on-going renewal. Plants die away, brown leaves crumble and fall to the ground, and the sky casts a heavy, forlorn grey over a winter landscape. But soon, spring rains turn hard dry clay to mud and tiny green shoots reappear with the warmth of the sun. If nature teaches us anything, it is the possibilities for continual rejuvenation.
Today, we understand that we are the mothers of children everywhere. We perceive holiness in the eyes of every newborn child. We resolve that reverence for all living beings is a necessary virtue for any leader. We insist on the protection of our animal friends who freely roam this planet. We decree love for our brothers and sisters calling across the winds for kindness, respect, tolerance, and compassion. We proclaim world peace. And we remember that the universal principle of our religious and spiritual practices must be love.
Slowing down and mindfully breathing are useful skills regardless of the activity. We can practice them when we have arguments with a spouse, concerns about a teenager’s behavior, or disputes in our place of work or worship. We can practice them when we feel frightened about a family member who is ill or when we are devastated by the death of someone we love. Maybe life’s on-going lesson is: Slow down. Breathe. Ask for help. Don’t panic. Stay afloat the best we can. Keep learning. And when we falter, remember it’s okay. We can try again.
How do we achieve these goals? One way is to begin working together. We can honor our cultural, ethnic, religious, gender, and race differences while also embracing our commonalities. We can try to understand that the real enemies are ignorance, greed, fear, hate, and prejudice. We can refuse to follow any leader who promotes hate. We can joyfully decline to be governed by fear. We can embrace our power to make a difference.
Once we let go of our excessive mental clutter, we create more heart space. We can then fill our lives with the qualities we wish to embody: Compassion. Patience. Kindness. Forgiveness. Gentleness. Laughter. Joy. Gratitude. These are the gifts we can give to ourselves—and to those we love. These are the gifts that allow us to bring the Holiday Spirit to life.
Home > Blog Index > Everyday Mindfulness: Remembering Why We’re Here “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment, and feeling truly alive.” —Thich Nhat Hanh “I celebrate myself and sing myself . . . for every atom [...]
Not long ago, I watched the movie Tomorrowland. Sitting in front of me was a group of pre-teen girls, eating popcorn and giggling. At the end of the movie, these girls cheered and clapped with triumphant enthusiasm. The movie (starring George Clooney and Britt Robertson) explores the question of whether the planet can be saved from what ails it (violence, environmental destruction, wars, etc.). After much mayhem, a search ensues for the earth’s dreamers. Dreamers are needed because they haven’t given up. “They’re the future.”
When we survive difficult trials, our ideas of happiness often get redefined. Rather than outward worldly pursuits, happiness may come in the form of appreciation for ordinary, daily miracles—the ability to drink water from a cup, visit with a friend, or hug the people we love. Sometimes, after a long, hard journey, wonderful surprises appear just around the bend. This turn in events may not be the way we thought things would (or should) work out—and certainly won’t take us back in time. Nevertheless, it’s possible the life waiting for us is deeper, richer, and more fulfilling than we ever imagined it could be.