Sharon Salzberg is a Buddhist teacher and writer who shares insight on the practice of loving kindness, and how we can extend it to others and to our selves. Sometimes, if we make a mistake that hurts someone, it isn’t easy to extend loving kindness to ourselves and this happened to me last week. I hurt someone’s feelings and as soon as I realized it I felt bad. I apologized sincerely, but later on, I spiraled into regret and self-judgment.
I took immediate steps to correct my mistake so there was nothing more I could do about it, except to be mindful and more aware the next time a similar situation might arise. So in a way, I felt complete because I had done my best to take responsibility and clean up my side of the street. I was able to send loving kindness to the person I hurt, but I wasn’t able to do that so easily for myself.
I did my best to practice it and then remembered an insight Sharon Salzberg shared from one of her teachers. It isn’t our negative thoughts that are the problem but it is glue that we glom onto them that creates the sticky mess. I definitely glued my regret and self-judgment onto my awareness that day, and if you have ever tried to scrape a label off that is stuck to a bottle, you know how hard it is to wash away the glue.
I kept practicing and eventually I felt myself get unstuck. It was such a powerful reminder that loving kindness can free us from the painful thoughts and feelings that stick to us like glue, and liberating ourselves from our attachment to this pain, is how we can open our hearts and hold more love and compassion for ourselves and the world around us.
Perhaps you are experiencing some regret that you'd like to free yourself from, I’d be honored to walk with you on your spiritual path and help you make peace with yourself and perhaps another. You can click here on my Services page to learn more about online counseling with me, and if you want to read other posts, you can click here to return to my Blog.
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Prayer of St. Francis
Make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Creator grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it's in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
I have always loved the prayer of St Francis and if I had a rule for my life, this would be it. Being a channel for peace is easy to say but hard to do so I have found that this prayer can give you wonderful journal ideas for how to apply these words to your life. Maybe you can explore one line a week in your journal, and then set an intention to do one small act a day. I believe this is how we start becoming a channel for peace and love in the world, and you have never been needed more.
If you’d like help applying the Prayer of St Francis to your life, I’d be honored to walk with you on your spiritual path. You can click here on my Services page to learn more about online counseling with me, and if you want to read other posts, you can click here to return to my Blog.
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I love these wise words of Carol Gilligan, a psychologist who researches ethics, community and morality. “There is no voice without a relationship and no relationship without a voice. “
One of the most fundamental needs we have in relationships is to be able to express ourselves and be heard. To me, this is the basis of love. Whether you are using your voice and being heard, or you are hearing someone use their voice, the message is still the same. You are saying to that person, your presence matters to me, and there is no greater way to honor and value the dignity of another human soul.
Whenever I’m helping clients learn how to set boundaries, we explore their ability to speak up and use their voice, as well as how well they can listen with respect to another. Expressing yourself and being heard are at the core of every relationship, so if you are struggling with healthy boundaries, I’d love to help you with this. You can click here on my Services page to learn more about online counseling with me, and if you want to read other posts, you can click here to return to my Blog.
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Do you have a particular flower that reminds you of someone you love? My friend Patty send me this photo of her artwork and the lilac in it made me think of my mother, and her mother, who I never got to meet.
When my mother was growing up she had five older brothers who were a lot older than her, and all of them served in the Army during WWII. This must have been incredibly difficult for my grandmother to cope with and my mother use to tell me stories of what it was like for to grow up with all her brothers in the war. She often told me how every spring she loved to play underneath a canopy of lilac trees growing in their garden, so I always assumed this was the reason that lilacs were my mother’s favorite flower.
Every year on Mother’s Day, I’d send my mother a big bouquet of lilacs and once she told me a story that deeply touched my soul. One spring during WWII, my mother’s brother Frank came home on leave for a weekend, and they had a lovely visit before he returned for duty a few days later. Sadly a few weeks after that, my mother's brother Frank was killed in the war.
Mother’s Day arrived shortly after Frank’s death and that year, my grandmother received a beautiful bouquet of flowers. They were delivered with a hand written note from Frank that said Happy Mother’s Day. Love, Frank.
Frank must have gone to the local flower shop when he was home on leave and he wrote that note a few days before he died, never knowing it was the last gift he would give his mother, which was something my grandmother would treasure forever, as did my mother and now, so do I.
Today, I think of my mother, grandmother and Uncle Frank whenever I see or smell a lilac. It reminds me of how important it is to reach out to those we love and let them know that their presence matters, no mater the distance, or the boundaries of time and space between us.
They say violet colored lilacs are symbolic of the spiritual realms, and I can’t help but think that flower delivery was inspired by the wisdom of divine timing. Today, whenever I see a violet lilac it’s a beautiful reminder to me that we need to keep our hearts open to love and look for beauty even amidst our deepest pain and sorrow.
If you are feeling alone and struggling with grief, I’d love to help you find comfort and support as you navigate through your pain, so please click on my Services page if you’d like to learn more about online counseling with me.
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Nature offers us a great example of how to live in harmony with one another but we tend to dismiss it, because we have forgotten that as human beings we are part of nature and the natural order. If you think about the organs in your body; your heart doesn’t compete with your liver or your stomach to get the resources it needs. Instead, all of your organs work together and if the natural harmony between them is interrupted, that’s when symptoms of disease begin to manifest in your body.
The same is true for the collective body we inhabit, which is our planet Earth. As we grapple with the diseases of disconnection and disharmony that plague our world like inequality, racism, greed and injustice, many of these have been normalized as the way things are, but they are anything but natural. At their root is a rationalization and justification that certain segments of the population are separate and different from us, and somehow don’t count or matter, which is like saying your heart or your stomach aren’t necessary or important, which of course isn’t true.
Part of our shared humanity is remembering we are part of nature and everything in nature works together and eventually, gives up its form to serve a higher system. That means it is natural for us to live in harmony as part of an interconnected web of being, and to be of service to the world around us. Yet, we have created systems and institutions that allow millions of people to feel as if their presence doesn’t matter and prevent them from accessing the resources they need to thrive.
All of this is out of alignment with the natural order (which we are part of, whether we want to recognize it or not). But the wisdom of nature constantly reminds us that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Just like every organ in your body is unique and plays a vital role in making your body the living, breathing miracle of life that it is. Diversity is also natural, necessary and miraculous because it sustains life and enables us to thrive.
But some people need others to think, feel and look like them and fear anyone who doesn’t, and this disease of superiority and distrust is the greatest enemy of harmony. It creates a discord that defies the natural order where all things are designed to work together and serve a higher cause. And worst of all, it denies your natural birthright to be valued and experience that your presence matters in this world.
You’ve probably had the experience of listening to music that is not in harmony, which can hurt your ears and make you want to turn away. That’s what is happening in our world today and I think each one of us has the responsibility to turn our heads towards one another, listen, and seek the beauty and gift of each person’s presence, even if that person looks, sounds and behaves different from us. This is how we create something whole that is more than the sum of its parts - like a more loving, compassionate world that preserves the dignity and value of every human soul.
If you are feeling alone in the world right now, I’d love to help you to feel seen, heard and to believe that your presence matters. You can click on my Services page to learn about online counseling with me.
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As a therapist, but more importantly as a human being, I believe this is how we heal individual and collective trauma. We sit and listen. We create a sacred space where we bear witness and honor another human being’s degradation, despair, abuse, shame, torture, oppression and any other demeaning insult to the soul where someone felt, unseen, unheard and experienced that their presence did not matter.
Even if you think you bear no personal responsibility for another person’s suffering, you can apologize on behalf of all the people who never apologized and never will apologize, because to have your suffering denied and silenced is as painful as the original indignity, if not more so, and is a violation of Divine law.
Then, in your own silent reflection, you can ask the light of your soul to illuminate any place of darkness and shadow within you, that might allow you to keep hidden the truth of where and how you have ever harmed another, been blind to another, made another human being feel less than or unworthy. You can take responsibility for how and where you added to the cruelty and unkindness in the world. Then vow to do better and do this. Examine your beliefs, known and unknown, and change them if they are out of alignment with love, compassion and preserving the dignity of another.
I know from my own efforts to practice this, that healing trauma is difficult, messy and uncomfortable. But this is the work of the soul.
I listened to Cornell West address the anger and turmoil in our country and he quoted the Irish author Samuel Beckett with this powerful message. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. I’ve been thinking about those words every since, because like many of us, my heart has broken at the cruelty and hatred that exists in our world in what seems like a never ending cycle of racism, oppression, injustice and human suffering.
I believe that failure is good for the soul and having failed many times in my life I speak from personal experience! It can be very painful the first few times and difficult to face the judgment of others, but over time I discovered great power in every one of my failures. They created a deep reservoir of wisdom, compassion and determination inside of me that today I rely upon to help others. Looking back, I can see things in a different light, and regard those so-called failures as necessary lessons and steppingstones that guided me to become the person I wanted to be.
I think the key to failure is conceptualizing it as a temporary experience that is teaching us something that our heart and soul are longing to know. Failure can empower us to think and behave differently and I think that is what Beckett was trying to say. Many of our efforts to address racism, economic inequality, poverty and injustice have failed, so we tried again, but as we watch what is happening in our society today, it is easy to feel hopeless about the heartbreak and suffering these failed attempts have caused.
So how do we fail better? First, we have to be willing to keep going no matter what, find the wisdom that is encoded in each failure, and then use it to refine our next effort to get a better result. But there’s another expression about failure and success that I think trips us up. You’ve probably had someone say to you at least once in your life If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I think this is terrible advice!
As s a social worker I’ve experienced programs and initiatives that didn’t work successfully the first time (often due to lack of funding and appropriate resources) and instead of reevaluating and changing course in a way that could better serve the needs of clients, the same programs were launched over and over again, somehow expecting different results.
We can’t try, try again doing the same things that didn’t work the first time. We have to try something different to address the issues of race, poverty, discrimination and injustice and I believe this starts with exploring the world inside of us. It means asking where and how have we been blind, insensitive and ignored the wellbeing and needs of others? Why (and where) have we felt threatened by others who are different from us and needed to make them less than us, in order to feel better about who we are? These are difficult questions to ask and as a therapist I’ve found that the answers are usually connected to personal experiences we had in our past that we haven’t been willing to explore.
But if we are blind to unresolved pain in the world inside of us, we will be blind to pain of other in the world outside of us, so I believe our task is doing the work of our soul. This is what empowers us to keep going and gives us the courage and fortitude to be wiling to fail, try again and fail better, until eventually, we succeed.
If you are feeling alone struggling to heal any pain inside of you, I’d love to help you with this, so you can click on my Services page if you want to know more about online counseling with me.
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Do you ever find yourself filled with righteous indignation when you hear some politician or leader say or do something polarizing that lacks compassion and understanding? If so, it can be annoying to be reminded that when you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you! But since there is a lot of finger pointing in our world today, I’ve come to find this expression more useful than annoying because it helps me become aware of how I’m adding to the anger and polarization in our society and I certainly don’t want to add to that!
The problem with polarization is that it immobilizes us into two camps that stay frozen and can’t move forward, unless one is willing to loosen up its stance a bit. We tend not want to do this because we think it will make us appear weak, or we are giving in and backing down.
I actually look at it a little differently, because I believe that if I can free myself from some judgment that is creating a sense of separation and alienation in me, it will give me the energy I need to restore a sense of connection to my community and bring healing to the world around me. So I use this expression as a tool to help me feel more empowered, not less.
It is easy for me to think "I’d never act that way" when I hear a leader spewing something hateful and unkind, or not responding to human suffering. But if I’m honest and ask myself; how or when have I ever added to hateful and unkind energy in this world, this frees me from being so judgmental and creates a space inside of me where I actually feel better and want to move forward, not stay stuck in anger.
Another way to apply this expression to your life is to ask yourself, who was cruel or unkind to you in your past that perhaps this person is reminding you of? This is often the work I do with my clients, particularly when I’m doing couples counseling, because so often a person we encounter in the world outside of us, triggers some unfinished business in the world inside of us.
When we take the time to go within and get to the real source of our pain or irritation, we can express some of that emotion, which helps us feel more peaceful, less triggered, and empowered to respond in a more loving and compassionate manner. So if you are feeling triggered by all the polarization and animosity in our world today, I’d love to help you manage your anger and free yourself from the stress if may be triggering in your relationships. If you want to know more about online counseling with me, you can click on my Services page.
Have you ever been so focused on one thing that you didn't notice something else annoying that was happening all around you? That happened to me yesterday when I meditated outside. Right after I opened my eyes and returned to the present moment, I was surprised to discover that I had several puffy mosquito bites on my hand. I was blissfully unaware of those mosquitoes buzzing around, and their bites had no impact on me at all. But once I opened my eyes and noticed them I began to itch all over!
This reminded me that what we focus our attention on and become aware of effects how we feel and then how we respond! Some people think this means you should avoid focusing your awareness on anything painful or unpleasant that "bugs" you but I think avoiding our problems just ends up making things worse.
I believe we have to notice the pain and suffering in the world and pay attention to our feelings. Our emotions give us the awareness of what we need to feel better, find solutions and choose what action to take. So their guidance shines a light on how to create the hope, healing and transformation we are seeking in our lives. I think it’s essential to pay attention to that!
Sometimes you aren’t aware of what is buzzing all around you and it can feel difficult to connect with the world inside. I’d love to help you with this, so you can click on my Services Page and learn more about online counseling with me.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting outside with a friend and when we stood up to say goodbye I must have stepped on a bee. I got stung on the exact spot where I had nerve pain in my foot, so that bee sting definitely got on my nerves. It also gave me a newfound appreciation for what that expression means, which we use when someone or something is really bothering us
Right now, there are many things in the world that are getting on our nerves, most of which we have no control over, and I’ve observed that it is making a lot of people ask questions like “am I depressed?” or “Do I have anxiety?”
Prior to the coronavirus most of us were so busy that we didn’t have time to listen to our emotions and pay attention to the world inside of us. Now after a few months of social distancing and staying home, we are paying more attention to what makes us anxious which I actually think is a good thing.
Part of managing anxiety is taking the time to be still and go within, so I realized we could probably learn something from the bees buzzing about in my yard. They move about from flower to flower, seeking the beauty of nature and gathering what they need to make honey, which brings a little sweetness into our lives.
My friend Patty sent me this picture of her artwork that captures the glory of the bee, but if you are struggling with depression or anxiety, it may seem hard to focus on beauty and bringing more sweetness in your life. I’d love to be able to help you with this, so please click on my Services page if you’d like to learn more about online counseling with me.
Whenever I’d speak up and get into trouble growing up, my mother would make me sit and write 100 times “ I will not be snippy,” Today we laugh about this and I tease her that she helped me start my writing career!
One of the things I value the most about writing is that it empowers you to express what you think and feel, which many people struggle with. They worry that if they are honest about what they think, feel or need, someone might get mad, disappointed, or even worse withhold their love or approval. But every time you swallow what you think or feel, you are basically saying to yourself. “ I don’t count and I don't matter, “ and those messages damage your self-esteem.
One great way to practice expressing (and listening to) what you think and feel is to write in a journal. And the best part is, since no else will read your journal but you, you don’t have to worry about hurting anyone else’s feelings.
You don’t need to spend money on a fancy journal in fact I think those can inhibit us from being truly honest if what we write doesn’t look pretty. I recommend you start with any old notebook and just write for 10 minutes a day about what you think and feel. But here’s the trick. You can’t write like anyone will ever read it, or you will censor yourself and won’t be honest, which defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.If you are worried about someone reading your journal, then after you read what you wrote, you can rip those pages up and throw them into the recycling bin. And as an added benefit -ripping up paper is another therapeutic exercise that can help you express your anger.
Try using a journal for 30 days as a way of acknowledging that what you think and feel matters. And if you are struggling with self esteem right now, I’d love to be able to help you with that. You can learn more about online counseling with me by clicking on my Services page.
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Last week I had a great opportunity to practice stepping out in faith and was rewarded for my courage! A luxury publication invited me to advertise in their quarterly magazine and initially, I was hesitant due to the cost and my doubt about who reads magazines in print anymore. But for some reason it felt right to do this so I decided to commit.
So here comes my reward. I got a 50 % reduction in the rate once I committed to the ad! I’ve learned this lesson so many times in my life that when I do what feels right and don’t second-guess-it with my mind, there is always some added good that comes my way, as if the universe is rewarding me for my faith and courage. I don’t think we ever completely lose our fear and hesitancy at times, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson said “A great part of courage is the courage of having done this thing before.” The more we practice listening to our inner guidance, the more courage we have to trust it the next time and I believe practice is what builds confidence and courage more than anything else!
I’ve always loved pearls but not just for their beauty. I love that they are formed out of a gritty parasite that begins as an irritation to an oyster. The oyster responds by using a powerful defense mechanism and secretes a fluid that coats this irritant, and deposits layer upon layer of it, until it forms a beautiful pearl.
I believe the same is true for our defense mechanisms too. They were created in response to an irritant or stressor that we didn’t know how to manage or cope with, and they are actually our brilliant attempt to solve a problem. We too have something to coat our irritants with – its called loving kindness. When you deposit layer upon layer of loving kindness onto your deepest irritants and hurts, it creates something beautiful, and eventually, leaves you with a pearl of wisdom to appreciate.
This isn’t an easy process and requires you to go deep within, which is why I love this expression: “Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one you must dive deep!“
Whenever you are experiencing anxiety, you are most likely worried about something in the future that hasn’t actually happened yet, and imagining how you might cope with this if it does occur. This is usually a sign that something happened in your past that once made you feel helpless, out of control or unable to manage and now, a part of you doesn’t want to experience that feeling ever again!
One of the most powerful and effective ways to manage your anxiety is to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and notice where you store this anxiety in your body. Become aware of any tightness, constriction, or tension and once you pay attention you may notice that your anxiety has a color, shape, temperature or an image. If you keep breathing and notice this with gentle curiosity and without judgment, you may become aware of memory from when you were young and felt overwhelmed, scared or lonely and didn’t know how to cope.
My clients are often surprised that their anxiety is connected to a 3-year-old version of them who is scared of parents arguing, or a shy, 6-year-old version of them who has been bullied, or an embarrassed 12-year-old version of them who has just been teased. These younger parts of ourselves often emerge when we are feeling anxious and we don’t realize in the moment they are “driving the bus.”None of us want a younger overwhelmed child to handle a stressful situation without support of an adult, so you can imagine that an older wiser you from today in 2020, is reaching out to connect with this younger part of you to soothe it in some way, the same way you would soothe any other scared child who needs support. This older wiser you is who should drive the bus, and then the ride will be a lot smoother and you will arrive at your destination with more confidence and ease.
Years ago, we lived on the Gulf Coast and back then, it was hard to find many organic products in Mississippi. I decided to experiment with some organic fertilizer for our lawn and ordered a bag on the internet.
One beautiful spring day I was excited to try it out and while I was waiting for my helper Faye to arrive, I opened every window in our house to let the fresh air in. We put the fertilizer down so I hopped in the shower and went about the rest of my day. Later that evening my boyfriend came home and the first thing he said to me What is that awful smell? It must have been pretty bad because he went around and shut all our windows and when I asked what it smelled like he laughed and said It smells like the elephant tent at the circus! Thankfully, we had a week of rain after that so the odor disappeared, and a few weeks later, our grass was incredibly lush and green, and all our neighbors wondered what we used to make it look so healthy and grow so fast.
I often think about that fertilizer experience because it is a great reminder that the crappy, stinky things in life are what make the best fertilizer! Many of us are experiencing some mighty crappy, and stinky moments right now, but I wonder what they could be fertilizing inside of us?
I went to Catholic school when I was growing up so during the season of Lent we were encouraged to give up something for 40 days. One year my godmother decided she’d give up cookies for Lent, but would rationalize that she could still eat cookie dough because technically, it wasn’t a “ cookie” yet. Her daughter would tease her and threaten to call their parish priest to answer this theological question of “When does a cookie become a cookie?”
I always laugh when I think about this, because I know all of us can rationalize anything if we want it bad enough. In fact I found myself doing this yesterday about a bar of chocolate. I gave up caffeine about 8 years ago to help me with some health challenges, and I still miss it occasionally because a boost of caffeine can really help me with writer’s block. But since I feel way better without caffeine, it hasn’t been too hard to live without.
However, I love chocolate and a few months ago, I discovered Lily’s chocolate bars that are fair trade, gluten free, with no added sugar, so I try to make one bar last all week, and treat myself to a few squares a day. What I discovered by accident is that there is enough caffeine in a few bars to give me a little lift! So, like my godmother, I’ve been rationalizing and wondering- when does caffeine actually become caffeine? As long as I don’t drink it in tea or coffee does a chocolate bar really count?
Deep down I know the answer to this but I laughed at how easy it was for me to rationalize. I think the task it to be honest with ourselves, and enjoy a bit of pleasure without immediately feeling guilty. But maybe that’s another rationalization (or the result of being raised Catholic). Either way, the sweet taste of chocolate and a little boost of caffeine have helped me to write, and that brings me pleasure too!
Taking a bath is one of my favorite ways to relax - especially after a long day of counseling clients and helping the process their grief and trauma. Seeing this bear brought me pure delight and I could totally relate to how much he was enjoying taking a bath!! https://www.huffpost.com/entry/oregon-zoo-bear-tub_n_5eb4d005c5b66504cc841625 I hope it brings you as much delight!!
I love reading the messages on my teabags and this line from a poem by Emily Dickinson really made me think. “Beauty is not caused. It is.”
We spend so much energy trying to “ be beautiful” through fashion, hairstyles and cosmetics, but is that really beauty? To me, everything about nature is beauty, and I wonder if Emily Dickinson meant that beauty is that which is pure, natural and organic. Maybe beauty is what speaks to our heart and connects us to the light of our soul, makes us smile and cry tears of joy. As a therapist I’ve encountered beauty in the middle of our deepest sorrow because it sparks empathy and compassion and makes us reach for love and kindness.
What do you think beauty is? I'’ve decided that beauty is everywhere and “It is” anything that brings us delight!
My friend Patty works at Home Depot and last week as she was leaving the store at the end of her shift, she looked down and noticed these two leaves in the parking lot and decided they looked like Angel's Wings.. I was talking on the phone with her when she found them and a few hours later she sent me this picture of the Earth Angel she created from nature.
I believe Earth Angels are real and my friend Patty is one of them, she goes about doing kind things for people because that is what Earth Angels do. They understand that small things do matter and they often arrive on your doorstep when you need them the most. I had another Earth Angel deliver me a bouquet of gardenias from her garden this week, and she completely turned my day around.
While I'm grateful to work from home, doing counseling for 9 hours a day on a computer screen is challenging. Depending on my client's Wifi and the device they are using, and the amount of internet traffic at any given moment, there are constant interruptions, technology freezes and then the mic and video stops working. I often end the day with a headache and completely exhausted, so when I opened my door and saw this beautiful vase of flowers, it brought tears of joy to my eyes.
For the rest of this week my office has smelled heavenly and it shifts the way I feel the minute I walk into it. I am so grateful to my friend Renee for taking the time to do bring me gardenias and it made me think of this quote from Dr. Seuss, "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world." Earth Angels have that kind of power!
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
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