June 22, 2016

The Power of Possibility

I've long believed myself incapable of enlightenment. Daily, I practice meditation, generosity, and loving-kindness, but I reserved enlightenment for monks, nuns, and "special people." Then I heard my meditation teacher say, "We all have the potential to awaken. This is an important belief: it's possible to live with an awakened, open heart; to be fully present." With these words, something inside me shifted. 

The next day, I met a recently-graduated college student. She was bright, kind, and capable. Still, her first-year advisor told her not to pursue math. Hearing this news, I sighed and said, "I'm sorry you were told what you couldn't do rather than being told what's possible. I wish I could have been there to say: You're capable of so much; believe in yourself and move forward." With these words, she began to cry long-held tears. 

I want to be clear: enlightenment requires serious effort, as does studying mathematics. This effort is persistent and honest. But we spend far too much energy resisting our own goodness, limiting our potential, and then passing this on to others.

I think life is filled with possibility. It's possible for us to be our best selves: watering seeds of love, compassion, and awareness. It's possible for us to study mathematics, awaken our hearts, change old habits, plant gardens, follow dreams, find meaning, shift careers, make art, and forgive each other. Imagine if we encouraged ourselves and each other to see what's possible; to believe in our potential. I think we could change the world.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

June 15, 2016

Choosing Compassion

Last weekend I participated in a silent meditation retreat. I returned home with my heart wide open—wide open to joy and gratitude; wide open to grief and suffering. I wasn’t sure how to navigate daily life with such an open heart. It felt both strange and fully alive. Then I heard about the mass shooting in Orlando, and I wept. I wept for humanity.

Jack Kornfield wrote a compelling, wise response and his words resonate with me:  
“I am filled with tears and an ocean of compassion for so many who have been harmed. Sitting quietly, this tragedy strengthens my resolve to not let terror and fear take over my heart. As we move through this beautiful and troubled world, may we vow to be a beacon of peace, a fearless carrier of respect and lovingkindness for all life, a teller of truth, a voice for justice, a protector of those who are vulnerable or targeted. May the power of wisdom, integrity and compassion be our guide.”

We can be paralyzed by fear and sadness. We can be engulfed with anger and blame. Or we can live fearlessly with open, compassionate hearts. The latter is possible, though it requires engaged commitment. It’s a radical act to stay present, embodied, and aware during difficult times; to move from a place of love in response to an act of hate; to see our interconnection instead of seeing “other.” I stand with Jack Kornfield. May I act from wisdom and integrity. May I bring compassion to more moments. May I continue to live with an unguarded heart.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

June 8, 2016

Staying with Ourselves

John O'Donohue wrote, "Our bodies know they belong; it is our minds that make our lives so homeless." When things get difficult, we flee into thoughts and judgments. Instead of feeling, we escape into the mind. Sometimes our thoughts are helpful: we gain insight or create a solution. But mostly our thoughts are harmful: rumination about the past, anxiety about the future, or harsh, separating judgment.

When we come home to our body, we begin to feel. And in this way we heal. Because our deeper awarenessthe part of us that knows it belongswants to feel. Withholding emotion causes pain. To be whole again, we must allow ourselves to feel whatever arises. This means staying with ourselves, just as we'd stay with a close friend. If things get uncomfortable, we stayembodied and aware. What's going on inside me right now? What needs my care and attention? Staying for just 3 breaths is a powerful practice. Gradually we build trust in our belonging, to both ourselves and the larger world.

Here's the last video in my series, "Healing with Self-Compassion." If you're interested but notice a tug of "not enough time," I encourage you to start the video and stay for just a little longer than feels comfortable. Notice what happens. Notice how you feel.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

June 2, 2016

Open Your Heart to Who You Are

Here's an interesting paradox: until we accept ourselves just as we are, we can't make the beneficial changes we seek. We might recognize important ways we can change, but growth springs from acceptance not punishment. Once we're comfortable in our own skin, in the deepest parts of our being, we can move forward in positive ways. 

John Welwood describes this beautifully:
"Forget about enlightenment. Sit down wherever you are and listen to the wind that is singing in your veins. Feel the love, the longing, and the fear in your bones. Open your heart to who you are, right now, not who you would like to be. Not the saint you’re striving to become. But the being right here before you, inside you, around you. All of you is holy. You’re already more and less than whatever you can know. Breathe out, look in, let go."

Open your heart to who you are, right now, not who you would like to be. When we open our heart in this way, we open our heart to the world. We find presence, acceptance, and love. And from this expansive space, anything is possible.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

June 1, 2016

The Practice of Self-Compassion

I have well-grooved habits. We all have well-grooved habits. Some of these are helpful, others are hurtful. My self-judgment isn't necessary nor is it wholesome. It's a habit I want to let go. But if I let go, I need a beneficial replacement. I view self-compassion as a life-long practice. This practice requires mindfulness, connection, and kindness. It requires honesty and gentleness; persistence and patience. I know I'll resist at times, but I also know I can begin again in any moment.

Self-judgment harms us; self-compassion heals us. Self-aversion makes us miserable yet feels strangely comfortable. At times, we must move from our comfort zone: try a new practice and see what happens. Unwholesome habits won't change if we don't put in the efforteffort that's wise, persistent, genuine, and kind.

Here's the fourth video in my series, "Healing with Self-Compassion." Give it a try. See what happens. Anything is possible.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

May 25, 2016

The Possibility of Forgiveness

This world contains greed and violence. It also holds hope and healing. I've come to believe that our deepest wound is the harm we do to ourselves. This includes negative self-talk, but it's much wider. We hurt ourselves when we live life that's untrue; when we punish ourselves with self-improvement; when we refuse to see choices; or when we limit ourselves to certain roles and identities. There are so many ways we unconsciously harm ourselves. And these little hurts build up over years. At some point, we must acknowledge the ways we mistreat ourselves, but acknowledge this with an open heart. Yes, I've hurt myself. Yes, I can begin again. I'm sorry. I forgive you. It's an odd inner-dialogue, but it works. Forgiving ourselves is a brave act of healing. It might begin in a heady way, then the real healing happens when we forgive from our heart; forgive in an embodied way. But the starting place is more basic: the recognition that forgiveness is possible.

Here's the third in my video series, "Healing with Self-Compassion": 
Laughter and Forgiveness.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

May 23, 2016

Living Life True to Ourselves

Uneasiness appears in different ways. There’s an uneasy feeling of “being on our way” while we’re doing the thing right in front of us. There’s a steady, low-level fear that something’s wrong. There’s an uneasiness about time: a perception that we never have enough time. And there’s a nagging dis-ease that we’re not living life true to ourselves. I think the latter is our deepest discomfort. When daily life consistently betrays our core values—when we play roles that feel false, take actions that feel untrue, and ignore our heart’s intention—we’re divided and this division exhausts us. So we’re vulnerable to fear, stress, and distraction. 

The cycle continues until we pause and listen inward: What are my core values? What matters most? And how can I re-align my actions with these true-to-me intentions? Small steps have a big impact. Bit by bit, we move toward wholeness.

Yesterday I felt pervasive unease. It was a day filled with doing. The doing consisted of activities that bring me satisfaction (gardening, helping friends, taking photographs). My uneasiness didn’t come from the activities themselves, it came from the urgency with which I acted. I felt an uneasiness of “being on my way”, “not enough time”, and “something’s wrong.” These appeared not out of nowhere, but because I was separated from what I most value: presence, kindness, integrity, love, and awareness. I felt distracted and lost. My internal messages were unkind. I wasn't living life true to myself. 

Meditation reconnects me with my bigger intentions and awareness. Yet in some moments meditation feels out of reach. So I plunked down in my grassy backyard. I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds around me: birds, cars, wind, laughter, lawn mowers, and squirrels. This brought me home to my senses, my aliveness, and my place in a larger world. It was a small opening—a small connectionbut it helped.

Living life true to ourselves doesn’t have to mean sweeping changes and radical shifts; it can be done in small, meaningful ways. Each time we move past fear and uncover another layer of ourselves, we make a leap toward freedom. The reality is this: We have but one precious life. How do we want to live it? Let's be fearless. Let's be true. Let's start now.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page