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.
"The years are short. It all goes by in a blink. Mindful attention is helpful for fully appreciating each fleeting moment. Extreme loss brings a greater awareness of impermanence. Sometimes the mishaps are the things we remember later with laughter. Sometimes the mistakes are what change the course of our lives."
When we sit for an hour beneath a tree, I believe we can go deeper in our lives. We can ask questions that matter. We can hear the answers we need.
Make your corner of the world a little happier, and, no matter where you end up in life, you’ll have done better than well—you’ll have done good. Don’t worry about building a monument to yourself and your accomplishments, it’ll be built anyway; first and foremost, give joy to the people around you, love deeply, be honest, be upright, be worthy of admiration, devote yourself to being a force of good in a world that all too often feels indifferent to the very concept of goodness. Minor Myers Jr. said it best; “Go out into the world and do well. More importantly, go out into the world and do good.”
Living a fearless life does not mean we are devoid of doubts. It does not mean we are never afraid. It also does not mean we don’t make mistakes. Fearless living from a boundless heart simply means we are motivated by love. So much so, that when we are frightened, or even if our own safety is threatened, we act on what we know to be deeper truths. We gain courage as we go and trust that Spirit will show us the way.
Home > Blog Index > Embracing the New Emerging You “Open yourself to heaven and earth, then trust your natural responses; and everything will fall into place.” —Lao Tzu “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, Begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it, Begin it now.” —Johann Wolfgang von [...]
Many of us occasionally find ourselves overwhelmed with job demands, caring for aging parents, raising children, paying bills, dealing with health issues, or facing significant losses. During such challenges, serenity may seem like a far-off, distant planet. We know tranquility exists, but we don’t actually believe it’s feasible to visit (let alone live in) a place so alien to our current worldview. In turbulent life circumstances, we might doubt that inner peace is even possible.
Life lived from the heart is full of surprises. Often, such a life is not strictly linear, logical, or practical. Instead, it takes risks. It follows passions. It circles back in memory and moves forward in action. It refuses to simply stagnate and then die. A life of the heart continually expands and grows, experiencing moments of both intense joy and extreme suffering.
For many of us, the beginning of the New Year often starts in a similar way. We have a lot of enthusiasm and new, exciting goals for our life. We want to be healthier, happier, more peaceful, and more content. We want our relationship, job, family, and community experiences to be fulfilling. We want work that is meaningful, and we want our earth home to be treated with care and reverence—providing nourishment and splendor for all.
Our cultural, race, religious, gender, and ethnic differences are not the enemies. The real enemies are: ignorance, greed, hate, fear, and prejudice. Alice Walker says, “I think we have to own the fears that we have of each other, and then, in some practical way, some daily way, figure out how to see people differently than the way we were brought up to.”
Home > Blog Index > The Long Journey To Now This month I'm posting on the Spirit and Place Festival blog. Here's a bit of the post, and a link to the rest. "Nothing is more precious than being in the present moment. Fully alive, fully aware." --Thích Nhat Hanh “Your outer journey [...]
People who are doing their best to get up, go out, and face the world each morning—despite loss—are engaging in tremendous acts of courage. Courage is not the mighty sword that slays an enemy. Real courage is being honest and completely vulnerable. It’s the quiet voice that whispers, “I need help” or “I’m at a loss here.” It’s living an authentic life despite the clamor of those bent on destroying what is unique, creative, and beautiful. It’s embracing life in the moment. Happy moments. Sad moments. Angry moments. Fearful moments. It requires courage to say out loud, “Our marriage has had rocky times” or “I’m feeling lonely today.” It’s humbling to admit, “I don’t know why that happened.” Or acknowledging, “I don’t know what happens after I die,” or “I don’t know the answers for life’s deep mystical questions.”
Forgiveness isn’t easy to write about or to practice in our lives. When the church community I loved broke apart (not once but twice) over disputes regarding two different ministers, the issue of forgiveness was raised by those who opted to leave. I wasn’t able to tackle the topic then. Even now, two years later, I find forgiveness an unsettling area of discussion. I can’t point to one simple solution or easy fix, especially when no one admits fault or wrongdoing yet many people feel deeply hurt.
Children easily say, “I love you”—to people, horses, dogs, cats, trees, and hamsters. If they fall and get bruised, they keep going. A skinned knee calls for a hug, a kiss, and a Band-Aid, and then they are off and running again. Children don’t stop playing because they once fell. They splash in the water, climb trees, and ride bicycles with gleeful abandon. And sometimes, while lying in bed, they wonder why grown-ups fight so much or why grown-ups get so mad all the time or why grown-ups argue about things that make no sense. Rather than teaching our children, perhaps we can spend some time, today, learning what children most want us to know: How to be happy, in this moment.
Storms—physical and emotional—can bring pain and suffering (and are fundamentally disturbing because they bring CHANGE). Yet, storms can also bring necessary growth and unexpected gifts, along with many blessings.
We are birthing a new world . . . because that is what women do. We birth ideas, children, and a vision of what may be.
That insight hit me as I was standing near friends and the House voted to delete one sentence banning civil unions from the proposed amendment. It was an important partial victory for those in attendance. The next thing that happened surprised me. A close friend began sobbing, a body-racking, heart-felt release welling up and pouring out from a place deep within. It was humbling to witness her vulnerability and raw, uncensored human emotion. It was as though she had been holding her breath, sealed off tight in a protected vault somewhere, and someone had finally told her it was safe to breathe.