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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