December 20, 2016

It's Okay to not be Okay

I try to pay attention to my surroundings. When someone cries, I notice that either 1) the person apologizes immediately, or 2) the listener quickly says "everything will be okay." Or these both happen simultaneously. We have a strong need for things to be okay. Okay-ness provides comfort and perceived control, but it doesn't match reality. Sometimes we're okay, sometimes we're not.

It's important for us to know: it's okay to not be okay. If we make room for the not-okay places, we feel better. It takes more energy to resist fear than it does to feel it. Similarly, it's more spacious to listen with compassion than to interrupt with advice. 

Life is complicated. We can cultivate gratitude, love, and playfulness, but this doesn't mean we're always okay. Sometimes we feel sad, lonely, or ashamed. Sometimes the people we love go through tremendous difficulty. How do we experience this without being overwhelmed? For me, it's helpful to be aware and honest: Notice what's happening inside me, don't pretend I'm okay when I'm not. (And make room for others to feel whatever they're feeling, too.) Then it's important to stay with myself and allow for what's painful. My habit is to get lost in thoughts and judgments (especially self-judgment), but if I stay directly with the pain, it shifts, and I feel better. Even the slightest opening helps me remember: things change. 

If we reject the painful places within ourselves, we reject those places in others, too. Yet if we accept the dark places, we allow ourselves and others to change. We are mirrors for each other. When we're real, brave, open, and compassionate, we invite others to be the same. It's okay to not be okay. It's also okay to be happy or hopeful in a complicated world. There's no one way to live this life.

PS: If you want to practice staying with not-okayness, listen here...

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December 13, 2016

Let's Be Real

Recently, at the farmer’s market, I felt anxious: As I talked with my favorite farmer while he weighed my produce, I noticed a line forming behind me, people whose body language indicated “hurry up.” Within moments, I was absent from the lively conversation. I was in exit mode, and then I felt crabby. Upon reflection, I assumed this response came from my role as peacemaker: wanting everyone to be happy. But digging deeper, I realize my reaction came from a place of fear: not wanting to be wrong or make a mistake—not wanting attention in a negative way.

This is a long-held fear: making mistakes; being openly imperfect. I try to divulge truths of imperfection, but underneath there’s a nagging feeling of “not enough,” and then I judge myself for fearing failure as I simultaneously encourage others to be real and genuine. This is a vicious cycle, because we need to be real with each other. I feel most safe when surrounded by people who allow for mistakes; who accept me as is, even as they see where I can grow. People who tell me hard truths when needed, but don’t make a big deal about the small stuff.

This is what I try to create for everyone I encounter. And still: I fear failure. Not even in epic ways, but in everyday ways. So, the safe space that needs nurturing is within myself: allowing—perhaps encouraging—mistakes, so I can learn, grow, and heal. Being real with myself from a place of love and compassion.

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December 1, 2016

Embrace Paradox

To navigate this complex world, we must embrace paradox. We must hold in our hearts—at the same time—two seemingly different things: honesty and gentleness; persistence and patience; courage and vulnerability. And we must, with kindness, remind each other: life isn’t just one way, it’s many things all at once. Yet we can live, love, and create within paradox.

Liz Gilbert writes: “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

I'm trying to say yes, but as I reread my post, I'm struck by another paradoxwithin me at this moment—being mindful and making a living through mindfulness; practicing mindfulness while marketing an e-course. This seems an important place to stay true. My workmy lifematters, yet I'm not a big deal. So calm down and get back to work, Joy: just be.

PS: If you're not familiar with me, my story, or my work, you can read my (recently added) short bio page.

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November 23, 2016

Vulnerability and Gratitude

Like this leaf, I feel simultaneously delicate and bold; blurry and focused; vulnerable and brave. Honoring darkness yet reaching for light: looking for the good in myself, others, and the world.

In the States, it’s Thanksgiving week, which is a natural time to reflect: What’s good in our lives? For what are we grateful? It's a time to make food, share stories, listen, and commune. But can I thrive in community while feeling delicate, blurry, and vulnerable? (Reminder to self: I equally feel bold, focused, and brave.) I think there's strength in bringing vulnerability to community. I hope to show up, as is, with an open, grateful heart.

Each day, I'm inspired by all the good in the world. Inspired not in a Pollyanna-ish way, but in a real way. There's goodness when people cry and hold hands, or when they laugh and dance. There's goodness in nature, everywhere, when we see with fresh eyes.

I'm grateful for sunsets, hugs, postal mail, kindness, meditation, friendship, bird song, kale, coffee, photography, and laughter, especially from children. I'm grateful for love and support from people near and far (you're included in this gratitude: thank you!). Please join me: For what are you gratefulbig, small, or in between? Let's allow gratitude to spill forth into this complicated, wondrous, uncertain, and beautiful world.
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November 18, 2016

We Have Time to Pause

When we most need to pause, we often resist. Life feels urgent, scattered, anxious, or uncertain and instead of pausing we continue the cycle of busyness. We think: "There's no time to pause. I'll make time later." But later never arrives, because there's always something more to do. Until we actually pause.

I have a mindfulness bell on my computer. It sounds once an hour, as a reminder to pause for three breaths. Often, I step into another room: take a quick break while checking in with myself. Sometimes the bell arrives in the middle of what feels like very important work. (I take myself too seriously at times.) In these moments, I curse the bell; I might even yell a little. But if I remember to remember, I step away, because that's exactly when I need to pause. Nothing in my life is urgent. But if that's the story I believe, I'm not in a good place. I'm tense, disconnected, and not doing my best work.

When I create a little space, I feel and see differently. I remember what's most important. I reconnect with myself: my creativity, wisdom, and heart. And it doesn't have to be a big deal: it can be a small pause. My friend Steven thinks there should be a deity called "Wait a minute!" We invoke this deity whenever we pause. Instead of reacting from habit, we respond from intention. We refrain from unkind words, revive our work, and reflect on our lives.

An honest yet gentle reminder: We have time to pause. You can start right now:

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November 16, 2016

Look Inside: Coming Home to Yourself

After years of teaching in person, I want to broaden the audience. I developed this self-paced e-course, because I believe in the practices: mindfulness, awareness, presence, compassion, well-being, and wonder. In small yet important waysat your own paceyou can change your life. And you don't need special equipment. You can start right now, just as you are.

Coming Home to Yourself: A 6-Week Course in Mindfulness is a 78-page multimedia document: written teachings, videos, audio guided-meditations, reflections, mini-assignments, and photographs. Here are two sample pages from the class:

Mindfulness is everywhere, but this course is different:

Wondering who I am? Read my bio.

After you purchase through PayPal, you'll receive an email message from me, with the course document as an attachment. (This email comes within 48 hours of your purchase.)

Make Space. Start Small. Be Gentle.

November 13, 2016

Join the Kindness Movement

Today is World Kindness Day, which feels particularly relevant: After a tumultuous week here in the States, we need kindness. We need many things: honest sharing, deep listening, tolerance, equality, compassion, and healing. But kindness is accessible right now, in this moment.

You can make a pledge for World Kindness Day. They suggest interesting and varied ideas. For example, "Pick up trash in a local park", "Send a thank you note to your favorite teacher", "Learn about another culture", "Tell someone how much they mean to you," or "Let someone go ahead of you in line." Such wise, beautiful guidance. In a world filled with greed and hatred, we can generate generosity and love. It only takes a few minutes to be kind. And kindness changes the world in quiet yet powerful ways.

My pledge: Write a touching, inspiring note and leave it on someone's windshield. This secret kindness mission warms my soul and makes me gleeful. Because kindness opens the heart in ways that benefit everyone. Please join me.

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November 8, 2016

A Different Path to Compassion

During elections, sporting events, or work conflicts, it's easy to fall into us-and-them thinking. "We" are good, "they" are bad. This creates division and disconnection. We no longer see others as human—as people doing their best in a complicated world. This isolates us: we lose touch with our kind heart. 

Instead of "us" and "them," we can envision humanity: we all want to love and be loved; we all want to live with ease. We might disagreewe might have different opinionsbut we're still interconnected. If we ignore the human-ness in each other, we lose touch with love, compassion, and healing. 

We often resist difficult circumstances and cling to happy ones. These habits of aversion and craving are natural, but they don’t feel good. They constrict our mind, body, and heart. A different choice is to make space for painful feelings and give away positive ones. Breathe in pain, breathe out healing. Breathe in fear, breathe out compassion. Breathe in difficulty, breathe out the appropriate and wholesome antidote. This practice—which can be used in meditation or in daily pauses—retrains our minds and enlivens our compassion. With each breath we reduce aversion and craving, while we build generosity and love. Another “simple” practice that moves us toward connection. 

Create space, look inward, and allow for compassion. Give it a try, listen to this audio:

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November 3, 2016

Awakening Joy

The poet Hafez wrote about "Tripping Over Joy." He describes the difference between an enlightened person and us ordinary humans: "The saint is now continually tripping over joy and bursting out in laughter saying, 'I surrender!' Whereas, my dear, I am afraid you still think you have a thousand serious moves."

In my experience, joy is not something to conjure up or create. Joy arrives when I'm present, embodied, and aware. It arrives in the spaciousness of an open heart. And it shuts off when I think of my "thousand serious moves." Life is often far more simple than I make it. Over-complicating thingstaking myself too seriouslyis a method of protection and control. Though I know it's impossible, I want to control life: I want people not to die or suffer. Interestingly, grief can awaken joy. When I allow my heart to crack open with sadness, I allow it to crack open with wonder. I just need the reminder: Surrender control. Pay attention, with a loving heart. Let life flow. Be real, raw, and true. 

When I remember and begin again, joy always finds me. It surprises me in beautiful ways—ways that are not grand or extraordinary. Everyday moments can be filled with wonder.

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October 25, 2016

The Practice of Awareness

Pema Chödrön writes: "Life's energy is never static. It is as shifting, fluid, changing as the weather. Sometimes we like how we're feeling, sometimes we don't. Then we like it again. Then we don't. Happy and sad, comfortable and uncomfortable alternate continually. This is how it is for everyone."

We have strong habits: grab on to what's good; push away what's difficult. And these habits keep us stuck. What I've learned through meditation is that we all have far more capacity than we realize. We all possess awareness that's bigger than the thinking mind. This awareness is spacious, wise, and kind. And it allows for life to flow, as is.

We access awareness anytime we pause, close our eyes, and notice sensations in the body; anytime we get quiet and listen inward: listen not to our running stream of thoughts, but to the wisdom of our breath, body, and direct experience. Remember: Anything is possible and you can't get this wrong. I invite you to try the practice, just as you are in this moment (if the embedded audio, below, takes too long to load, please go to my SoundCloud page):

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September 30, 2016


Each week, I volunteer in prison. I teach and practice meditation and mindfulness with inmates and other volunteers. Last July, we talked about freedom: what does "freedom" mean to us? (An interesting question to pose within prison walls.) One inmate shared these wise words, "When I was on the outside, I was 'free,' but not really free. I did drugs. I felt strong anger and acted out in violence. To me, freedom means being free of those toxic things. Being free of my anger."

It's possible to be free while in prison. It's also possible to be imprisoned while walking the streets freely. I can be boxed-in by old tapes in my head: stories of a wounded, unlovable self. Letting go is part of my healing. Letting go of perceived control ("If only I was more perfect, bad things wouldn't happen"). Letting go of judgment and expectations. Letting go of the need to know. Letting go of the need to be right. All of these lead to freedom: to ease, contentment, and love.

Years ago, when I was in academia, striving and performing,  I would say to Mark, "I must do this work tonight." He'd respond, "Do you really? Is there no other choice?" It was a marked change in path when my answer shifted from, "No other choice, " to "Yes, there probably is another way." Even micro-choices feel like big steps toward freedom.

We don't control the bulk of life. We don't control external circumstances. But we have copious choice of how to build inner awareness and wisdom. Freedom doesn't exist outside us, it lives within us. How do we respond when things don't go our way? How do we cultivate seeds of compassion, hope, and happiness? 

In each of us, there's spaciousness. There's awareness as big as the sky or the ocean. It takes practicehonest, gentle, persistent, patient practiceto access this spaciousness, but it's possible. Any time we think or say "I must," "I have to," or "there's no other way," this is an important place to pause—to pause and stay for a few breaths. Maybe there's another way. Maybe there's a small opening toward freedom.

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September 25, 2016

Truth and Beauty

My recent posts have been raw: practicing in the midst. And this rawness prompted a long-distance friend to inquire about my well-being. Truth: I'm grieving. Beauty: I'm awake. One year ago, my mom died. Though her death was not shocking, it was sudden. There was a great deal to processhead and heartwithin a short week. I've considered this past year my "year of healing" from the primal loss of my mother. And in the midst of healing, a close friendliving with stage-4 cancertook a turn for the worse, not in a sudden way, but in a prolonged way. He died three weeks ago. He was one of my best spiritual friends.

Grief is an interesting place. It's raw, tender, and strange: like my insides are on my outside. It's also vivid, poignant, and alive: like my heart-mind is open and awake. There's truth and beauty in grief. As much as I want it to go away (right now!), I understand that resistance doesn't lead to true healing. To heal, I must feel everything, not all at once, but in consistent, compassionate ways. I must allow for heartbreak, foggy mind, and vulnerability. I must meet myself and others with kindness.

These last few weeks, I realized something anew: we're all in the midst. In the midst of wonder and sadness; gain and loss; healing and pain; truth and beauty. Whether "in the midst" because of world circumstances or daily life, we all experience grief, just as we all feel love and joy. And we have a choice: we can numb, distract, and resist; or we can inhabit our lives fully, with honesty and gentleness. We can join hands, again and again, especially in the midst. We can live, love, and grieve as a caring and compassionate community.
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September 15, 2016

If Not Now, When?

At my last meditation retreat, I received a piece of purple string, which Mark tied around my wrist. It's a reminder of these important words: If not now, when? If I don't practice mindfulness now, when will I practice? If I don't cultivate compassion now, when will it appear?

In the busyness of life, we can lose touch with what we value most. In the difficulty of life, we can lose touch with our goodness and our light. Or we can practice in the midst of everything. This practice needn't be grand. It can be a 3-breath pause, a genuine laugh, a cleansing cry, a small forgiveness, an act of kindness, or a big letting go. 

If not now, when? If we delay what's most meaningful until "later," it may never arrive. The good news: it's always close by. There are many (small) ways to be aware and present right now: making friends with and inhabiting our imperfect, messy, and beautiful lives.

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September 12, 2016

Gratitude Surprise

In research studies, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. If we reflect on what's good in our lives, we start to look for and see goodness in others, ourselves, and the world. Though I've practiced gratitude in different ways, there's one practice I resisted: choose a gratitude buddy and share every day. I resisted for varied and unimportant reasons: I wasn't sure who to ask; I was leery of creating another to-do; it felt forced. But one morning I realized a gratitude buddy might be good medicine. Especially now, in my current circumstances, which are difficult, heartbreaking, and raw, as well as beautiful and life-affirming. 

I called my friend Steph and pitched the idea. She was game. We established guidelines: share gratitude daily via text; no expectation of response; try it for a month. We've been doing this for a mere two weeks and I notice a positive change. Two things surprised me: 1) having a gratitude buddy keeps me accountable (though I imagine myself practicing gratitude each day, that's not realityhaving Steph on the other end keeps me focused on this practice); and 2) each day, I receive a message about something good in Steph's lifeI enjoy the receiving as much as the sending.

Some days I hear the text-message sound and think, "What now? Who needs me?" or "What's wrong?" It's a wonderful re-frame to open my phone and see a simple message from Steph, sharing something positive about her life. Likewise, it's helpful for me to get off autopilot and send a text with intention, care, and gratitude.

As with all practices, the process is personalwhat works for me might not work for you. But I know this: I resisted for a long while something that now brings me ordinary and profound joy, and this feels worthy of sharing. I'm grateful to be in this world with so many wise, interesting, and beautiful people. Thanks for being you!

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August 29, 2016

Practicing in the Midst

I met meditation during a difficult time in my life. A time filled with fear, grief, anxiety, and shame. Meditation was true medicine. It reconnected me with myself and reawakened my life. The changes were gradual but important. Yet when I felt better, I stopped my daily practice, thinking, "I'll be fine." Of course, I wasn't. Life again became complicated (life was life), and I returned to daily meditation. Now I clearly see the evidence: If I practice every daywhether life is great or difficultI cultivate awareness, clarity, and love. Some days, I feel ease. Other days, I feel doubt. Regardless, I sit and stay with what is.

Meditation is an experimental lab. It's a way to watch and experience the mind; to form new relationships with thoughts and feelings; to reconnect with embodied sensation; to cultivate love and awareness. But it's not done in a vacuum. I sit in meditation for two reasons: 1) to benefit myself, and 2) to benefit others. When I'm mindful, I more skillfully interact with others. The greatest teachings on a meditation path are out in the world, not on the cushion. We need both: we need to sit and stay with ourselves; and we need to sit and stay with others. Plus we need courage to do this with an open heart. A heart open to joy, play, and wonder; a heart open to pain, loss, and difficulty. 

It's hard to stay with big emotions. They can feel overwhelming. Still, what we resist persists. To practice in the midst, we must ease our way in: establish safety, connect with breath, and open just a littleopen to what's there, with kindness and compassion. This is an honest and gentle practice; a patient and persistent practice. The next time you experience complicated emotions, come here, sit with me, and listen:

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August 16, 2016

Being with What Is

There are days when I wish life was different; when I wish it was somehow easier. Days when I feel overwhelmed, not sure if I can handle another death or injustice or even everyday bad news. Then I remember: resistance causes me pain; loving-presence brings me peace. So I sit down, feel my breath, and stay. I allow for the raw, vulnerable places, and gradually shift from resistance to acceptance. Instead of wanting things to be different, I experience what is. Within each of us, there is an awareness that's like the ocean. It's spacious and wise; it's brave and kind. And it's accessed in a simple way: staying with one breath and then another.

My overwhelm doesn't come from the circumstances of life. It comes from my own actions. When I resist or judge my experience; when I distract from my experience; when I numb my experience, I separate from what I most value: love, presence, compassion, connection, integrity, and wisdom. Staying awake is a brave path. Sometimes I want to go back to sleep. But the more days I show up for life, as is, the more I touch freedom. The more I let things be messy, real, and raw, the more I experience connection. The more I stay with myself and otherseven when, especially when, it's hardthe more I cultivate compassion. I'm trying to be both brave and kind; I'm trying to be with what is.

PS: This is me, real and open to what is:

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August 14, 2016

Embodied Gratitude

Before bed, as I reflect on the day, my mind wanders to the negative: undone tasks, mistakes made, or ways to improve. These thoughts aren't personal to me, they're habit of the human mind. Our brains have a negativity bias. This fearful view is helpful for immediate survival, but it's detrimental to long-term health, well-being, and connection. The good news is we can tilt our brains back toward the positive. And we can do so with small, intentional steps. 

Gratitude is an empowering, positive practice. It's even more powerful when we embody the experience: move it from positive thinking to deeper awareness in the body. With regular 3-breath pausestaking in the good—we re-train our brains. We shift our outlook: instead of fear, we see hope.

Like anything, it's helpful to actively practice rather than just read or study. I created this short video, so we can practice together:

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July 28, 2016

Small Steps

Author and mindfulness pioneer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, recently wrote these powerful words: “It strikes me at this particular moment on the planet that the well-being of the world itself depends on our willingness—each and every one of us—to tap into our capacity for embodied wisdom… The tiniest offering of your full presence, kindness, or generosity to others—as well as to yourself, of course—and a willingness to see your own tacit assumptions and biases about those who are not like you, and not be ruled by those biases, is the beginning of real freedom and compassion.”

I agree: tiny offerings can have big impact. We often sabotage ourselves by thinking effort must be big and grand. In doing so, we remain stagnant. My experience tells me real change happens with small steps. For example, regular three-breath pauses; smiles at strangers; tech-free space to connect with and listen to people; heartfelt thank-yous; and permission to fill our own wonder/playfulness/joy jars, so we can serve others from an abundant heart. Whenever we slow the pace—even for a brief while—we notice more, feel more, and love more. And this is the beginning of real freedom and compassion.

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July 18, 2016

Practicing Hope

Even now, I have a hopeful view of the world. Heartbreaking violence and greed unfold every day, but still I see goodness in people. There are brave, generous, and compassionate acts that soar under the radar. These aren’t mentioned in the news, but I witness them daily. My hope isn’t based on denial. It’s based on direct experience with my best self and the best selves of others. 

I recently read wise words from Krista Tippett: “Hope is distinct, in my mind, from optimism or idealism. It has nothing to do with wishing. It references reality at every turn and reveres truth. It lives open eyed and wholehearted with the darkness that is woven ineluctably into the light of life. Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory. It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.” 

Practicing hope is like practicing mindfulness: stay aware of everything; be honest and gentle; release expectation; cultivate love and acceptance. Hope applies in the larger world, yet it equally applies in our individual lives. Darkness and light are interwoven. Hope allows me to stay with difficulty and savor joy. Even as I experience grief, in deep and new ways, I have hope: I will heal. I don’t “wish” for this. I practice it every day.

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July 15, 2016

Step Forward

Mata Amritanandamay, known as Amma, is a compassionate and beloved teacher. Just as the Dalai Lama says his religion is kindness, Amma says her religion is love. One small piece of her vast wisdom: "Don't be discouraged by your incapacity to dispel darkness from the world. Light your little candle and step forward."

I love this idea. It encourages us to engage—to step outside our busy lives—yet it equally invites us to start small: light your little candle. I think small acts of kindness have a big impact. Any moment that contains compassion and generosity is a moment of hope. We can’t dispel darkness in the world, just as we can’t dispel darkness in ourselves. But we can spend more time in the light.

Our words and actions make a difference. Each one of us is part of this complicated and beautiful world. May we open our hearts and step forward.

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July 3, 2016

Ignite Your Spark

I believe we have innate goodness. But as we navigate a complicated world, we amass layers of judgment, identities, and habits. We play roles, defend opinions, and stifle joy. Yet underneath everything is this: goodness, awareness, and belonging. 

We're deeply interconnected and at the same time, each of us is unique. We all have special giftsways we impact the world. In each of us is a unique spark; a spark that keeps life in our life. Karen Maezen Miller says, "When you see your life, you bring it to life. When you don't see your life, it seems lifeless."

Life moves in a flash, unless we choose differently. We ignite our spark if we slow down; notice everyday grace; listen inward. And then if we allow ourselves to grow, blossom, and move in ways that feel true. Not every moment contains awareness and spark, but more moments can. Consider your unique gifts: ways you feel most present, connected, and real. It's possible to bring these gifts alive. It's possible to see anewto see our own beauty and the beauty of others. We can light sparks. We can light sparks that fill the sky.

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June 27, 2016

Letting Go of Expectations

I volunteer at a prison, participating with inmates in meditation and mindfulness. The work is meaningful and worth the one-hour drive each way. Last month, I arrived at 8:15am, only to be told our program was cancelled. The news was disappointing—these inmates value our mindfulness group—but I wasn't angry or frustrated. My only option was to get in the car and drive home. On route, I noticed the beautiful spring landscape: trees in a variety of colors, fields of new growth, wildflowers in the ditch. I was aware enough to realize: If I'd chosen to blame someone or be angry, I wouldn't enjoy the scenery. Letting go freed my heart and mind.

Fast forward to the afternoon. I needed a battery-powered, small digital clock. I began this errand with an expectation: a simple clock should be easy to find. Yet store after store didn't have it. My frustration built, so I stopped the search and returned home. Hours later I realized how irritable and constricted I felt. I compared this constriction to the ease on my drive back from prison. These juxtaposed events were vastly different.

When I volunteer in prison, I have clear intentions with no expectations. My intentions are to be present and available; to help and heal others; to hold nothing back. If class gets cancelled, that's part of the process (and part of my mindfulness practice). Yet when I run errands, I have solid expectations: This will be quick and easy; my needs will be met. These assumptions lead to disappointment, which can morph into anger and blame.

Expectations are interesting. If something exceeds our expectations, we're happy, but only briefly, and then we move to the next thing. If something disappoints our expectations, we're frustrated, dismayed, judgmental, and often stuck. In both directions, we're not content. 

It's most helpful to drop expectations; to let go of how we think things are "supposed to be." But wait: Won't we become lazy, nondiscerning, uncaring people? I don't believe so. We can put in serious effort without expectation of a specific outcome. When I attach to outcome, I'm stuck. When I work hard from intention, I open to possibility. When I expect people to act a certain way, I'm unhappy. When I see people anew, I open to love.

Expectations are a habit, and habits can change. Often I catch myself after the fact. When I reflect on a difficult experience, I ask: How was it supposed to be? My mind floods with expectations and judgments. Bingo: there's the suffering. Noticing is the first step. And when I notice, I try to smile. Because life isn't supposed to be a certain way. Life just is. This world wasn't created to meet my whims and expectations. When I let go—bit by bit—this complicated world opens up in a beautiful way.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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