I woke up a few weeks ago with the thought in my head to Find Your Center. Then later that day I got the summer catalog for Kripalu Yoga and Retreat Center and there in bold letters was the caption FIND YOUR CENTER. I thought this was a message from the universe and just in case I had any doubt about it, my friend Barb sent me this picture she painted a few years ago because she said it reminded her of my blog.
Since then I’ve been reflecting on what it means to Find Your Center and as a therapist, I’ve helped my clients to discern what that means for them as well. I believe finding your center is about connecting with the love and beauty inside of you and then, like the dove poised to soar in this piece of art, you can serve as a messenger of peace and love in the world outside of you.
I find my center by taking the time to be still, breathe deeply and connect with the light within. But it’s easy to feel disconnected from your center if you are feeling stress, grief and exhaustion from social distancing and this global pandemic. It might help to remember that your center is a place inside of you that remains constant no matter what is happening outside of you.
As the days get longer, I’ve been appreciating that we have more light and our relationship to the sun is a good way to think about finding your center. On the winter solstice, which is the darkest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, it isn’t as if the sun is no longer there. It is still the center of our universe and everything continues to revolves around it, but our proximity to the sun and our ability to access it is all that has actually changed,
The same it true with finding our center, we may spin out of orbit from it in our stress and anxiety, but it is always available and waiting for us to go within and restore our connection to it once more. I believe that finding our center is the greatest gift we can give ourselves, and those we love right now, so maybe you can take some time to breath, be still and connect with the light inside of you. Just like the sun, it is always available, will never leave you, and will restore your ability to be a source of peace and love. The world needs that now more than ever.
When I was growing up my mother made me write Thank You notes for any gift I received, and I still try to do this as much as possible. So, this weekend, I sat under my favorite oak tree and wrote Thank You notes for all the birthday presents I received this month. I’ve named this oak tree my Giving Tree, because not only does it give me peace, beauty and inspiration, but this year, it gave me many gifts for my birthday too.
I spend a lot of time sitting under this tree’s canopy to eat lunch, take a break between clients, and it is where I get my best writing done, so several times a day I opened my door and discovered yet another “socially-distanced birthday delivery,” that was left under my tree.
As I wrote my thank you notes I thought about how much our lives have changed recently and some of the things we now value. I never imagined that I’d write a Thank You note for a package of toilet paper, or that it would seem like pure gold and fill me with such delight! I guess it’s a good reminder that even the simplest of gifts can truly delight the world!
I came across this quote about butterflies (I don’t know who to attribute it to) and it made me think of our social distancing during Covid 19. As a therapist, I believe that what many of us are experiencing right now is the energy of grief. In addition to grieving the pain and suffering for those we love who are sick or have died, our efforts to stay safe and keep others well have required us to give up our routines, our sense of freedom and for many, our sense of security about the future and this is another form of grief. Much like the caterpillar is required to disintegrate into a murky soup before it can develop wings and emerge from the cocoon, many parts of our lives have disintegrated and we aren’t sure what they will become.
I’ve often wonder if some parts of our lives need to die off in order for us to live more in alignment with nature, life and the wellbeing of our planet, and that makes me think of the butterfly effect. Scientists discovered this phenomenon while attempting to predict weather patterns around the world and realizing they had left out the migratory pattern of butterflies from their equations, and this disrupted their ability to make accurate predictions.
The butterfly effect is a powerful reminder that small things do matter. If the gentle movement of butterfies' wings can effect weather across our planet, can you imagine if a billion of us actually allowed some of our old ways of living to die off, so that new paradigms that value love, kindness and compassion could emerge from the darkness and burst into the light? I love imagining that!
Since today is Earth Day I wanted to share with you one of my favorite books that I love to use with children, but I think the child in all of us will love. I first discovered this book in around 2007 or 2008 when I was standing it line at Whole Foods Market on Earth Day. The bright cover of Whole World jumped out at me and I fell in love with the illustrations by Christpher Corr ( www.christophercorr.com )
Back then, this book came with a CD of the song "We've Got The Whole World In Our Hands" sung by Fred Penner and every year on Earth Day, I still listen to it and sing along! Today there is an animated sing-a-long available with Christopher Corr's illustrations and Fred Penner singing that I just love. Here's a link to youtube for the animated sing-a-long (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODftYTD3Rbs).
This book Whole World was published by Barefoot Books which is one of my favorite publishers (www.barefootbooks.com) Their mission is to celebrate diversity, spark curiosity and captivate children's imaginations. All of their books are printed with sustainable practices and a portion of their sales are used to support global conservation. Best of all, their books are are about adding love, light, respect, kindness and beauty into our lives and our planet, so every day they delight the world!
Eknath Easwaran was a scholar, author and spiritual teacher who lived and studied with Gandhi. He wrote the book Gandi The Man: How One Man Changed Himself to Change The World and what he learned from Gandhi was the power each one of us has to transform the world inside of us. which enables us to discover hidden resources that we can use to transform the world outside us. Gandhi inspired millions of ordinary people like you and I to believe in the light, power and dignity inside of them and to stand up in a non-violent way to the oppression of the British Empire, which culminated in India’s independence in 1947.
Eknath Easwaran wrote that “ A calm mind releases the most precious capacity a human being can have, the capacity to turn anger into compassion, fear into fearlessness and hatred into love. Ordinary people like you and me may not be a Gandhi or Saint Francis, but to the extent we can quiet our minds and light the lamp of wisdom within, we too can add a little light around us, instead of feeling helpless in the dark.
So how do we light the lamp of wisdom within? For me, that means taking time to breathe and meditate and recognize that my anger or fear isn’t a bad thing. My anger is a message that says “ I don’t like something and I (we) deserve better.” My fear is a message that says “ I don’t feel safe and need comfort and reassurance. “
I believe that all of our emotions are “energy in motion” that inform us about a need we have, and once acknowledged, our emotions can transform into another form of energy that we can use for something else. When we listen with loving kindness to the message our anger, fear or anxiety heralds, we light the lamp of wisdom within, respond with compassion, and take action in ways that add to the light in our world. In this way, we feel empowered by the light, not helpless in the dark, and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, can BE the change we wish to see in the world.
One of my teenage clients is passionate about the environment and told me about a search engine called OceanHero that recovers one ocean bound plastic bottle for every five searches you do on the web.
Ocean pollution is worsening due to increasing plastic consumption, the low percentage of recycling and the fact that plastic does not decompose, so marine life is suffering, tons of garbage are accumulating and toxins are entering our food chain. Some estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans.
You may be feeling powerless about Covid19 and wondering how you can make a difference in the world today. So, I love that you can do something positive, simply by sitting in your living room and using the web! Ocean Hero earns money like every other search engine and gets paid through search adds, but they use the money they make to pay people in need, who collect ocean bound plastic for money, or they can exchange it for school tuition and sanitation.
Times of crisis are also times of great potential, because they open us up to creativity and innovation. This is a brilliant, creative innovation that can help you can make a positive difference in the world with very little effort at all! oceanhero.today
This week I planted seeds for my vegetable garden and I’m so excited. I know it is way too soon for me to see evidence of them growing, but whenever I walk past my seed tray I still peek in to see if anything is sprouting up. I’ve never grown vegetables before so I think that is part of my curiosity and excitement, but it made me think about something a Taoist teacher taught me many years ago.
There is a natural rhythm and flow to the cycles of life that human beings can’t rush or manipulate (although we try). But how often do we plant the seed of some desire we have, like losing weight, improving our relationship or getting a different job, and then we start checking every day to see if we've lost a pound, if our spouse or partner is changing, or if someone has responded to our email? That’s like planting a seed in the soil and then reaching down in the dirt and digging it up so we can measure its progress! Every time I peered down at the soil of my seed tray this week, I wondered how much we do this in life!
I think the fear and uncertainty in our world today is making us doubt our ability to plant seeds for our future because we aren’t sure if the right environment will exist in order for them to grow. But the cycles of life are eternal and if we are willing to live in harmony with nature and the natural order, we will discover the type of environment we need to create. We just have to remember that whether we plant seeds of compassion, kindness or hope for a better world, we can’t allow our fear and anxiety to stop and dig them up!
When you’ve lost a sense of freedom and control in the world outside of you, you still have freedom to choose how you respond in the world inside of you ( although it may not feel that way sometimes). Viktor Frankl who survived four different concentration camps during WWII, believed that you can’t avoid suffering, but you can choose how you cope with it, and you can learn to find meaning and move forward with a renewed sense of purpose in life. If he could believe that after experiencing the atrocities of concentration camps, then I believe we can do the same. Many of the people we love are suffering from Covid 19 and the effects of it, which are reverberating around the world. We may not have a choice about who it ravishes and the pain it leaves behind, but I believe we are being challenged to choose how we cope and respond. Can we act with more love, kindness and compassion? Can we use these painful experiences to bring more meaning and purpose into our lives and those we love? I believe we can.
In times of grief, fear and uncertainty, it is very important that you do at least one thing every day to fill your cup. This is an exercise you can try to help you with this!
My friend Dave is a nurse in the Emergency Department and on the front lines, caring for patients with Covid 19. I try to send him texts that make him laugh and let him know how much I appreciate him for being such an Earth Angel. . He has a great sense of humor and sent this joke back to me. Part of me groaned but I had to laugh too. Laughter really is the best medicine - so I'm sharing it with you!
Sometimes it is hard to believe in the power of kindness, or that you can be the change you want to see in the world. I’ve been a social worker for 25 years, so I’ve had my moments of doubt too, but our dark moments require us to reach for the light, and I found inspiration in the work of Sister Chân Không, a Buddhist nun who was born in 1938 in southern Vietnam. She spent most of her life relieving human suffering from the trauma of war, and helped direct the emergency humanitarian efforts that rescued 2 million Vietnamese people who fled on boats to escape by sea. Sister Chân Không, also led a sponsorship program for over 14,000 orphans in Vietnam, and here is what she said about the power of kindness.
“Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. But I try to work one day at a time. If we just worry about the big picture, we are powerless. So my secret is to start right away doing whatever little work I can do. I try to give joy to one person in the morning, and remove the suffering of one person in the afternoon. That’s enough. When you see you can do that, you continue, and you give two little joys, and you remove two little sufferings, then three, and then four. If you and your friends do not despise the small work, a million people will remove a lot of suffering. That is the secret. Start right now”
I believe this our task; to start right now and not despise the small work. Can you commit to bringing joy to one person in the morning, and removing the suffering of one person in the afternoon (or at least bringing them some comfort)? Imagine if you asked 50 of your friends on social media to commit to two acts of kindness a day. That adds up to 100 acts of kindness a day, 700 acts of kindness in a week, and 21,000 acts of kindness in a month. In a year that is 252,000 acts of kindness, which I believe has great power.
I love imagining what a million of us could do to relieve human suffering, if we joined together and started right now!
Today is my birthday and I feel showered with love, kindness and gifts. A friend sent me a card that was filled with confetti and glitter and somehow I've managed to get it all over the house! I love seeing it sparkle wherever I turn and it made me think of this quote - "Sprinkle Kindness Like Confetti - It Will Stick" (and it does)!
My teenage neighbor put these signs up on the road near our neighborhood and it is such a nice reminder of what is important. My mother lives in a nursing home ,so she hasn't been able to have visitors in almost 7 weeks due to Covid 19. Whenever I drive to the post office to mail her a letter to cheer her up, I drive by these signs and they cheer me up too. I work with a lot of teenagers and love their desire to make an impact in our world, and I want to encourage them in any way I can. I can't think of two better messages to be reminded of today; Be Kind and We Are One
If you are experiencing anxiety right now, it can really help to stop whatever you are doing and take some slow, deep breaths. As a therapist I use deep breathing and visualization techniques every day in my sessions with clients, but often, they are initially reluctant to try this and will say something like “Breathing doesn’t work for me!”
I usually suggest we try and practice it together and after doing a 5 minute breathing and meditation exercise, my clients inevitably appear much more relaxed, less anxious and are able to access resources inside of them, that five minutes earlier they were not even aware of. I think this is how most of us learn to do anything– we just have to be willing to try it, and then practice until we develop confidence in our abilities.
But when we are feeling anxious, it can be hard to believe that breathing can really make much of a difference. I had a client years ago who came to my office visibly distressed and I suggested we try a breathing exercise. He reluctantly agreed and afterwards, I thought he appeared calmer, seemed less distracted and was able to focus on our conversation.
I asked him how felt after doing this breathing exercise and he thought about it for a second and said “ Well I guess I feel a little bit better.” I nodded thinking this was progress, but he didn't seem to agree, To him, feeling “a little bit better” wasn’t significant enough and he described the relief he felt as just a “ drop in the bucket.”
If you’ve ever had a leaky faucet, you’ve probably discovered just how quickly a bucket can fill up with what seems like very slow drops. But I think many of us tend to think like my client and dismiss feeling “a little bit better” as not being significant enough to make a difference. But I disagree! If you feel a little bit better, that is still better!
And if you are willing to keep practicing, you will feel a little bit better, and a little bit better, until eventually, you will feel a lot better. So, if you are feeling immobilized by anxiety right now, it helps to break things down into small enough steps, that are you 90% certain you can achieve, even if it is something as simple as putting one foot on the floor, putting another foot on the floor, getting up and brushing your teeth. If you have been procrastinating getting out of bed for hours due to anxiety or depression, then getting up and brushing your teeth is progress!
I've overcome enormous adversity in my own life and I know from my own experience, change doesn't happen in a quantum leap, it happens little by little, bit by bit ,and you have to practice taking small enough steps that you actually achieve. And it helps to remind yourself that feeling a little bit better, is still better!
My friend Dwight sent me this candle that was lit with a prayer for peace and healing. He asked me to pass it on and I think it is a beautiful and soothing way to add to the light and intention for peace in the world. I have some organic beeswax candles and I love lighting a candle every morning and taking a few minutes to breathe and meditate on the flickering light. It really helps set the tone of my day and I notice a difference on the days that for whatever reason, I don't spend the short amount of time it takes to do this.
I also just learned that the beeswax candles release negative ions, which can actually purify the air. Maybe you can take the time to light a candle and add to the light in your life, in the world, and share it with someone else!
If you are feeling anxious or uncertain, remember to take a few deep breaths. Physiologically, we can't maintain a state of anxiety when we are breathing slowly and deeply. BREATHE...
Today is Golden Rule Day at the Charter for Compassion, which is one of my favorite sources of inspiration and hope in the world today. The Charter was founded in 2009 by Karen Armstrong who had a vision for a global movement, where individuals, communities and cities all over the planet would begin to embrace the principle of compassion in every aspect of their daily life. I remember I signed the charter right before the anniversary of 9/11 in 2010 as a way of taking a stand for peace and committing to practicing compassion in my own life and in the world around me. Today, Charter for Compassion has expanded all over planet and is committed to establishing and sustaining compassionate cultures in the arts, business, education, the environment, healthcare, interfaith communities, peace, restorative justice, science and research, social justice, social services, science and research and women and girls. It is a wonderful place to find inspiration articles, books, classes and best of all, to learn tangible ways you can begin to practice compassion in your life, community, city, state, country and the world. Visit their website to learn more www.charterforcompassion.org.
What's the last thing you see before you fall asleep in your bed and what's the first thing you see when you open your eyes in the morning? Did you know this can set the tone for your day and have a big impact on your well-being? Years ago when I had an interior design business, I studied eastern principles of design and the Chinese art of placement. Today in my work as a therapist, I still use some of these principles with my clients, because I want to help them to create an environment both inside of them and outside of them that will support their personal and professional goals.
We often explore the daily approach they take to their front door because that can reflect the approach they take in their life, So, what does the approach to your house look like? It is welcoming and accessible, or is it obstructed and cluttered? Does your front door open easily and does the handle and lock on your front door work? If you study the approach to your home or apartment, could this be a metaphor for how you approach your life?
When I was doing residential consultations, it was always helpful to see a client's bedroom as this can be a reflection of your relationships and your health. Ideally, your bedroom should be about rest and relaxation and become a sanctuary that helps you to fill your cup and rejuvenate from the outside world. So, what's in your bedroom? How does it reflect your relationships and your health? Most importantly, what is the last thing you see at night before you close your eyes, and what is the first thing you see when you awake? Is it clutter, a pile of laundry you have to fold, or a big TV broadcasting all the negativity and fear in the world today?
One of my favorite things about living in Florida, is the view from the bedroom window. I love waking up to the sunlight streaming in and seeing a statue of a Guardian Angel nestled in front of an oak tree. I like imagining she is watching over me and saying a prayer for my protection and well-being throughout the day. Maybe you can't see out the window in your bedroom (or don't even have a window in your bedroom ) but look around and ask yourself - What's the first thing I see in the morning? Since we all have some extra time at home these days, maybe you can make your bedroom more of a sanctuary. If you survey your bedroom and realize that you do have some clutter, laundry or a pile of things that you've been procrastinating on, try to address this (or at least move them around) so the first thing you see is something pleasing to your eye. You will be amazed at the difference this can make!
I've been thinking about growing some vegetables so I studied seed packets this week, to decide what I want to plant. This reminded me that we plant a seed in darkness because it awakens its ability to " reach for the light" and reaching for the light is how all things grow. That means we actually need darkness in order for us to grow, but who wants to hear that when you are in the middle of a dark night of the soul?
It feels like our world is experiencing a dark night of the soul right now, but I'm wondering if this period of darkness is what we need to help us reach for the light and grow as a global community? It has made me ask myself - what kind of sees do I want to plant in my life and in the world around me?
Maybe you can explore what seeds you can plant in your life too! If you are worried about your finances, is there some way to use your creativity to generate some income? If your children are bored, is there some way you can help them add to the kindness and compassion in the world? If you are feeling lost and out of synch with your life, is there something you can plant in your yard (or in a pot) to help you reconnect with the seasons and cycles of life? Whatever we plant will eventually grow, as long as we give it access to the light!
Many years ago, I was curled up in front of my Christmas tree, sipping a cup of tea and basking in the beauty of the lights, when I looked down at the teabag in my teacup, which said: Delight the World with Compassion, Kindness and Grace. I took that as a call to action, and bought the URL that very night. Now, almost 15 years later, I decided there has never been a more important time to build a community that can join together and add to the Love, Kindness, Compassion, Beauty and Grace in our world. The way I see it, some days you receive the light, some days you give the light and together we can BE the light and Delight The World!
I’ve always loved the word Delight! To me it means “of the light” and with all the darkness and fear in the world today, I wanted to create a place where we can gather together, restore our connection to the light and help one another to Delight The World with love, kindness, gentleness, beauty, compassion and grace. —Amy Rose, LCSW