How can we make a difference in the world today? This is a big question with so much going on currently. It's clear that systems are changing, shifting - government, education, beliefs/racism, climate, environment, etc. But what about our own transformation, our own shift in consciousness? This is where it all starts. The way we operate within ourselves will change the actions being taken outside of ourselves. Listen to this episode and learn how to take different actions in our daily life to see the change we want to see in the world. If we all do our part, collectively with compassion, with love, we will create a new humanity together.
Is love on a global scale, for oneself and others, possible? I believe it is, despite evidence to the contrary. Let’s face it. The current planetary paradigm that we inhabit is based in limitation. From a very early age, we are taught to curtail our heart’s desires for fear they will be crushed within a skewed social matrix that does not allow universal self-fulfillment and growth. Most social constructs in our world are organized on a top/bottom basis. Whether you are at the bottom or top, your life is limited by the very fact of inhabiting a limited paradigm. What would it take to shift that paradigm, to make it inclusive instead of exclusive? How about a complete transformation in global consciousness? Because until the collective consciousness changes, we are all caught in a web of limitation.
I've Been Thinking...
We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK.”
Those were the words that Ellen DeGeneres used to defend herself after people became outraged by a picture of her sitting next to former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game.
It was, and is, stunning to me that she felt she had to defend herself for sitting next to someone who she considers a friend, but who happens to have different political opinions. I mean, let’s all pause and let that sink in for a moment.
Two people watching a football game. Two people enjoying themselves and their friendship. Two people being kind to each other. That makes people mad?
A high frequency is necessary to feel love and joy, and to manifest your dreams. Learn two secrets to keeping your frequency high.
I have discovered that there are two choices I can make that, together, invariably put me into a high frequency and bring me inner peace and joy. While either of these choices are always beneficial, together they are incredibly powerful!
We all know how important gratitude is, but the problem is that often we express our gratitude in a fairly rote manner. The kind of gratitude I’m referring to is moment-by-moment gratitude for every big and little thing, and the overriding gratitude that we are never alone – that spirit is always here for us.
Suffering seems to be a fact of life. How do we face it?
Clearly it is a stranger to none of us. Perhaps we’ve not experienced the corrosive pain of illness, persecution, starvation, or violence. We may not have lived with the deterioration and loss of a loved one. Few of us have seen the charred face of a burned child. But each of us has experienced our fair share of not getting what we want or having to deal with what we don’t want. In this, we all know suffering.
The way in which we deal with suffering has much to do with the way in which we are able to be of service to others.
Of course, not all helping revolves around suffering. Much of what we offer may be in the nature of simple support or guidance. Moving a friend’s new furniture, teaching a child to read. But it is the affliction of others that most directly awakens in us the desire to be of care and comfort.
Dogs can hear well beyond the range of human hearing. In California, it’s been reported that dogs have heard the beginnings of earthquakes before seismographs could register their initial tremor. In just this way, there are those of us whose ability to feel, see, and hear others is beyond our normal range of compassion. We call them empaths or psychics. And we often discredit them because what they know because is beyond what we can sense.
A central physic of the heart is that the range of our compassion is widened each time we experience suffering or love. Like a mud-filled pipe that is hollowed out by the rain to carry water underground, the force of each experience clears us out. Listening, expressing, and writing are conscious ways to clear ourselves out and to expose and extend the range of what we feel. And so, the artist or poet in us is that deep part of who we are that keeps extending the range of our compassion.
“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” — Simone de Beauvoir
In my time in Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics World Games, I was struck by a few things.
1) How vast the world is and how small we all are in it;
2) How diverse the world is and how little we know about each other’s cultures, religions and customs;
3) How similar we actually are, regardless of the color of our skin or the God to whom we pray; and,
4) How much we all need inspiration and examples of courage and dignity in our lives.
These things have the power to lift us all up. They should give us hope that we can find common ground and that we are each capable of being the inspiration that we seek.
I always hear what’s soft breathing inside what’s hard. I think this comes from my great-grandfather’s family, who hid from the Nazis in Romania, who slept in cemeteries under the blue night and woke with the stories of the dead, which filled them with resilience.
Just today, I heard a woman who’d been tortured softly play a wooden flute. Though she can’t put to rest what was done to her, her softness filled the room, making each of us think of someone who’s loved us more than we thought possible. And there was the minister born to blind parents. He said with a tremble that his father saw him better than anyone. And the burly electrician spoke of his colonel in Vietnam taking his dead friend from him when he couldn’t put him down. And two states away, the stepdad who never knew his father calls his stepson’s father to ask him to stay with them, because he wants his boy to have what he could never find. And just last week I met the nurse who helped me walk after surgery twenty-eight years ago. We cried in each other’s arms.
So if you think someone is brave, tell them. For they might feel frightened and small, and you will change their life. If you think someone is beautiful and aglow, tell them. For they might feel dark and lonely, and you will quiet their demons. When you reach to help someone who is stuck, you might free the flight of their soul. And they will return when you least expect, to bring you something from the sky. Never underestimate the strength of your kindness to suture the torn.
Roughly thirty years ago I was working in a bicycle shop in Sacramento, California. I loved it! I had eclectic coworkers and I received discounts on bikes and gear. After two years, I was ready to move on to a new adventure. I wanted to ride a mountain bike from Sacramento to Moab, Utah. My route was drawn on a map and I purchased the camping gear needed.
I was young and my entire life plan only took me to Moab; I was open to what the Universe offered me.
The trek was going to begin in June. I chose the roads least traveled, combined with some of our National Parks. I was planning a solo adventure, when a frequent customer, at the bike store suggested he join me. I don’t remember thinking it was either good or bad; just a different plan.
Do not underestimate the impact of a small deed.
What can I do?
Be of Help to Others.
I'm doing a series on my personal top five practices (all tied for first place), and have so far named three: meditate (including mindfulness, self-awareness, and, if you like, prayer), take in the good, and bless (including compassion, generosity, and love).
I saw one way to bless on a trip to Haiti, in the efforts of many dedicated people: be helpful. As you probably know, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with roughly 80 percent unemployment. The national government seemed like a tattered sheet in the wind. A public middle and high school I visited was missing half its schoolbooks as well as the funds for the last two grades. Imagine your own child in such a school . . . and that the $30 it takes to buy the books she needs is a month's wages, as out of reach as the moon.
The secret to being interesting is simple: Stop focusing so much on yourself.
When you stop trying to be the most interesting person, and you become genuinely interested in others, you actually become more interesting.
The key to charisma is caring.
Much of our suffering happens because we get fixated on ourselves. It’s easy to get lost in your own emotions, thoughts, desires, wants and needs that we get so self-focused.
The other morning when I sat down to meditate, my mind was bouncing all over the place and I struggled to access a place of calm.
One second, I was thinking about my children. The next, I was thinking about the children who have been separated from their parents at the border. I could feel myself feeling their fear and anxiety and I shuddered at the thought of what they must be going through.
Then, I found myself thinking about the terror inside the newsroom in Annapolis. I felt terror inside me as I thought about how unsafe everyone seems to feel these days. In fact, just the other day, I cautioned my kids not to get into a fight with someone on the road (or anywhere else for that matter). I cautioned them that everyone has so much rage and anger these days that you have to be careful in every circumstance. You just never know.
Compassion is natural — moments of compassion come in the flow of life.
Do You Care?
Compassion is essentially the wish that beings not suffer — from subtle physical and emotional discomfort to agony and anguish — combined with feelings of sympathetic concern.
You could have compassion for an individual (a friend in the hospital, a co-worker passed over for a promotion), groups of people (victims of crime, those displaced by a hurricane, refugee children), animals (your pet, livestock heading for the slaughterhouse), and yourself.
When I look back honestly on my own life, I see moments that have taught me, painfully, to be more compassionate and aware. In the years before my mother’s death, she began to have challenges with both her eyesight (cataracts) and memory. I felt tremendous responsibility and fear around making sure she was okay. Once, after a doctor’s appointment, I was asking her questions about what had transpired (What did he say? Did you ask him about ____?). She couldn’t think fast enough to answer me and finally burst into tears. Abruptly I realized I had to slow down and just listen patiently instead of question her. I could see the pain in her eyes at not being able to answer me quickly. It stopped me in my tracks, and I hugged her. What did the answers matter when my mother’s ease of mind was at stake?
Emma Gonzalez, senior at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, spoke fiercely and articulately at a gun control rally in Ft. Lauderdale: “The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us….Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this….It’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.” She speaks for countless others across this nation, of all ages, races, nationalities, and backgrounds. And she echoes Oprah Winfrey’s words, in a different context (sexual abuse) but also about the devaluing of human lives by those in power, “Their time is up!” We are reaching critical mass on so many fronts.
I had tears in my eyes when I listened to Oprah’s speech and Emma’s speech, and when I read Obama’s heartfelt reaction to the students taking a stand against the existence of guns and violence in their lives: “We’ve been waiting for you. And we’ve got your backs.” Those of us who have actively spoken out for nonviolence, peace, and the honoring of all human lives (“Black Lives Matter!”) for years see hope for the future in these angry but determined young faces. They are in great pain, but often great change comes from such pain. Pain that cuts through all the lies and gets to the heart of the matter: How do you want to live your one precious life? At war or at peace? In fear or in love?
People ask me regularly about how spiritual practice can guide us in responding to the state of our society. They tell me that while the teachings of compassion are alive and helpful in other parts of their lives, they seem out of reach when they read the headlines each day. In a recent e-mail from one of our DC community Spiritual Friends groups, members asked:
- How do we stay compassionate when it feels like so much harm is being caused to vulnerable people?
- Isn’t acceptance a kind of complacency? Isn’t “letting go” like condoning?
- How do we call on meditation practice when we’ve become fearful, angry and disheartened at the hatefulness and viciousness that is so evident in our society?
I’ve had many waves of anger, fear and aversion in reaction to the harm being perpetrated in our society. In my own practice, it helps to keep starting right where I am, not judging my own reactions, thinking “I shouldn’t feel this.” Rather than trying to let go of these feelings, I often reflect that “this belongs,” it’s the inner weather of the moment. Then I can feel the fear or aversion with acceptance and kindness.
Last January at the start of 2017 I stood around a fire pit with my Saturday morning yoga group. Each of us held a piece of paper. On these pieces of paper were things that we wanted to let go of for the new year: fear, discontent, self-deprecating behavior, unhealthy relationships, negative self-talk. Some of the women shared what they were ready to burn up and leave behind. Others kept their intentions to themselves. Only the fire would consume and know everyone’s hopes for how their life would look in 2017.
We are heading into my favorite week of the year.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it represents everything that is important to me: My family (I just spent a few days with two of my cousins. How deeply meaningful it was to share laughter and connection with them), my kids, my friends, my open table, food, and my faith in this country.
This year, I’ve shared a little bit of my mindful journey with you. I’ve written about how often this journey has been less blissful, more uncomfortable. I’ve shared how the process has felt inauthentic when I’ve slid back into old habits: getting into my head, giving in to melancholy, and hanging on to longing. Those are three things I must hold at arm’s length because they’re not good for me. Today, though, I don’t want to talk about these little bumps in this mindful trek. Instead, I want to talk about how others play a role in our mindfulness.
Wait. What? Isn’t mindful living about connecting with oneself and tapping into our own superpower?
Do you have a bucket list? Five-sensory humans think of physical experiences they want before they die, for example, parachuting, mountain climbing, or going to Paris. The parts of their personalities that originate in fear need experiences like these to make themselves feel valuable. Multisensory humans think of the contributions they can make to others and the world before their souls return to nonphysical reality, for example, tenderness, compassion, patience, and gratitude. The parts of their personalities that originate in love contribute these things continually, and contributing them brings meaning, purpose, and fulfillment to the personality.