Vigil

When I was 8 years old, my grandmother took me to a vigil.  To this day, this event remains one of the most powerful and sacred of my childhood.

The vigil I attended, a death vigil,  took place at night– in someone’s home. The main living area, where the body lay rest, was illumined by simple candlelight.

Most of the women, dressed in gray and black, sat side by side; some praying as they held tightly to their rosaries, some simply wept, some were singing sweet, gentle songs.  In their faces, I could see their stories; of sadness, of grief, of acceptance, of love.

This week, as several friends and I maintain vigil over a beloved friend, I realize the magnitude of love necessary for holding space like this. To keep a vigil requires that we remain awake, watchful, prayerful.

How many of us have the desire, mindset, discipline, humbleness to be as comfortable with death as we are with life?

Death is, in fact, the ultimate “shadow”; that part of our lives we dare not look at, speak of, nor accept. However, in the absence of its embrace, we cannot fully embody our own humanity.

For me, keeping a vigil for the dying, and keeping a vigil for the living, are one of the same.  We need not wait to become “awake, watchful, and prayerful.” We need not wait to make sacred each dawn of our precious lives.

Leadership

Leadership, I’ve learned, means different things to people.

For me, my own views of what it means were informed by my career track, which included a decade or so in corporate America, as well as my work in adult education & community health.

What passes for leadership today; forcefulness, aggression, bullying, and shaming are actually, forms of abuse– and it seems many people feel that to be “strong, boastful, and loud” means that someone is not only a good leader, but that they are right, at the exclusion of other viewpoints.

Millions of people have grown so accustomed to tuning-in and following the loud voices, which our national media perpetuates, that they have forgotten to listen to the soft voice of their own soul.

Leadership is not something for a chosen few. Leadership is a necessary human practice that shapes ones health, career, relationships, and quality of life, and therefore our collective well-being and quality of life.  

Some may argue, and have argued, that none of this is “leadership.” Perhaps they’re right– perhaps we should call this something else.

Still, in the absence of a term that exemplifies the necessary power and energy that is required to make sustainable behavioral changes in one’s life and community, I sense leadership is a pretty darn good word.

There is a leader inside each of us. Are you listening to her voice?

Unmasking the “isms”

PHOTO CREDIT: NASA.GOV

On this momentous day (solar eclipse 2017), as I join so many others around our country and the world doing the deeper work required for mutual understanding and personal peace, I wanted to tend to the obvious; the “isms”.

The isms are co-constructed ideas. These “beliefs”, which continue to plague us and cause such suffering have landed squarely on our collective laps.

Clearly, it is up to each of us to “re-construct” new ways of thinking and being. Our health and the health of our world is at stake. That is how important this is.

We cannot, nor will we ever achieve understanding and peace through the use of force or fear. Sadly, we have a long and painful history of doing just this. Are you going to do more of the same? Or, are you willing to try something new to help reduce your own suffering and aggression?

As with all beliefs, these “isms” can be abandoned or changed at any time. Which are you ready to re-think and re-construct?

Consumerism– belief that the purchase and/or consumption of a product can reduce your innate sense of inadequacy.

Patriotism/nationalism – belief that your country is the best in the world and/or the only one that matters.

Ageism– belief that people outside your age group are somehow incompetent and/or unproductive.

Sexism– belief that individuals, who don’t have the same gender as you, are not as competent, and those who have multiple genders, somehow flawed, pathological, or confused.

Racism– belief that individuals from a race different than yours, are less human than you.

Terrorism (interpersonal, domestic, national and global) – belief that the annihilation, control, or destruction of anyone/anything that espouses views different than yours, is the only way to ensure peace, progress, and the good of all.

Unmasking your own “isms”:

  1. OBSERVE: Become aware of the ways you either contribute to or are triggered by the beliefs and behaviors of others;
  2. SELF-CARE: If/when triggered, separate yourself (by yourself, for yourself) to explore your own beliefs and do not seize this exploration until you understand your “why”;
  3. INTEGRATION: We do not help anyone or anything by “destroying” it/them, but by changing the dynamic, which requires a change in OUR beliefs and behaviors (not “theirs”).
  4. PRACTICE: Allow all that you “resist” to teach you about the fullness of humanity in order to practice personal peace.

This is deep and ongoing work—all of this. It is soul-work, and it is everyone’s “work”.

Healing

The beautiful model in this photo is my daughter, Serena.  This photo was taken yesterday, following what seemed like an utterly surreal day at the cystic fibrosis clinic.

To me, this photo is representative of the fullness of her spirit, and embodies the confidence of someone who intimately knows that the quality of her life, anyone’s life, is solely determined by their attitude.

She has been through hell– several times– and still has the audacity to say “what else you got, life?” (the audacity, I tell you!) I have died a thousand deaths with her and will willingly die a thousand more.

Throughout our 18-year journey together, she has taught me this: that there is no fear that can’t be neutralized by the will of the mind, when it is fueled by the power of love. None.

She has taught me what it is to heal.

Hope

As I observe the breaking of hearts and opening of minds around me (my own included), I am led to one place. Hope.

I have hope that healing will come to all who seek it. 

I have hope that those who insist on spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, economically, or physically raping others, will simply stop. Your “services” are no longer needed. Thank you.

I have hope that my daughters will live in a safe and loving world.

I have hope that equality (humanity) will be the norm for our country and for our planet.

Emotional Intelligence

Have you ever been through a "Dark Night of the Soul"? Have you ever felt so confused you didn't even know which way to go? Have you ever been in an experience filled with such sorrow and misery you just wanted to give up?

This simple guide was written as an educational resource to help us better understand both the terrifying and the stabilizing emotions. We also share how we can temper or amplify them in a conscious and intentional way.

Whether "challenged, " or "stable", being aware of our own emotional landscape is an important component of our  health and well-being, but one we often neglect.

Why do we even need emotional intelligence? Well, because without this little bit of "human software" we're not fully understanding ourselves and others. And, when we're not fully aware, and we act out our unresolved emotions, we hurt others and ourselves in this process.

The buck stops with you.

Unresolved feelings create disharmony in ourselves and others. Resolved feelings create harmony. We know when we feel well; when something is right and good. Conversely, we know when things are not okay and we must make a brave change for ourselves.

It is our sincere hope this little book help serve to educate, cultivate, and amplify harmony  in each of us...and in the world.

PURCHASE THE BOOK

Civility Begins at Home

Civility is a democratic and human value; one of basic respect for fellow human beings.

Violence is a symptom of a lack of civility; it is the visible evidence of a fearful and diminished mind; one that is incapable (or unaware) that to be human, requires co-existence.  In other words, that one live and let live— without threat– without insult  — without abuse.

“Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering.” – Parker J. Palmer

Sadly many, (too many) people in our communities live in violent conditions. Unless they/we know what to do with this suffering, it can lead to two common responses:

1. paralysis

2. more violence 

How do we respond to fear and anger, and towards those who shout insults, demean, abuse, marginalize, threaten, kill?  Until someone comes up with a better plan, I’m going to defer to the truth which has been told to us by sages and spiritual leaders,  as well as by our contemporary peacemakers.

“We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other. We urgently need to bring the neighbor back into our hoods, not only in our inner cities but also in our suburbs, our gated communities, on Main Street and Wall Street, and on Ivy League campuses.” – Grace Lee Boggs

For anyone who believes “love is weak” or that to love those who hate is an exercise in futility, I would like to offer that the “love” is for those who can accept and receive it– those who have already gone through several cycles of violence and paralysis, and who know, deeply and intimately, that the first person who needs this “love”, is actually themselves.  That is the game changer– the thing that neutralizes fear and enables a sliver of imagination to spring forth.

Civility, as with all other health behaviors, begins with the self. It starts with you. Only then, is it freely and effortlessly expressed outwardly and infinitely.

Ready-to-use educational resources:

CIVILITY ACTIVITY SHEET
WORKBOOK of HUMAN SUPERPOWERS (workbook)
WORKBOOK of HUMAN SUPERPOWERS (printable pack)

Adapting

Adaptation is a bit of a paradox.

While it is wise to adapt, it also feels like we’re surrendering, or somehow “giving up”.

Yes. It is both, and.

It is only in surrendering (our ego) that we allow the grace of life to enter our being.  To surrender to life, however, is no easy task.

In our Workbook of Human Superpowers we define adaptability this way: openness to changing conditions

Adaptability, then, is not necessarily something we do, but is more of an orientation, and openness, to whatever comes our way. If we desire happiness and personal peace, it is our task to adapt; constantly.

Control is the opposite, of course. However, control is something we all must do and try– until we learn, for ourselves, the futility of our effort.

Life is a constant flow of favorable and unfavorable events and circumstances. If we can be mindful (aware) of this, it becomes easier (slightly) to “go with the flow” and to adapt to what life is asking of us.