The Practice of the Better

Contrast is one of our greatest teachers, and yet, we often miss the point.

When we choose to criticize, judge, or demean that which we find stupid, ridiculous or intolerable, we are, essentially, locking ourselves into a painful dynamic; one of divisiveness and self-righteousness.

In my experience, no one has ever helped me or changed my mind by telling me (or shouting) their “thoughts”. Being locked into a rigid dichotomy that blocks the creative and joyful insights that are available to us all, is painful. However, it is a type of suffering that can be healed within each of us.

Through practicing presence, self-awareness, and discernment we can easily see that there’s not only an alternative to criticism, but a much better use of our God-given talents and energy.

Criticism stems from fear– fear of “what” is up to you…but it’s deeply rooted in separation and desperation. Anytime we feel that “fear” rise within us, it’s a knock on the door of our mind, and an invitation to either enter into battle, or to yield, and instead, practice the better.

The better what? The better way. The peaceful way. The sane way. The way that places YOU at the helm and realm of possibility and of leading by example.

You have a better idea? Don’t tell us. Show us. Forget about tearing down the other— that’s easy.

Criticism is unmanifested creativity. Go create the better.

365 Days Together

In 2017, I took part in a beautiful experiment. The “365 Days Together” initiative by INSIGHT TIMER  challenged our community to meditate every day.  Given my schedule and commitments, I honestly wondered if I could even do it. I’m grateful that I tried.

How did I do? Well, while I did not meditate 365 consecutively, (my longest span was 332 days), I have, since the start of my time with this app, meditated for a total of 938 days, and sat for 995 sessions.

What I found through my practice is that even on the days I did not actually sit down and use the APP, I was moving through my day with a different awareness and energy. Essentially, my actual life became my spiritual practice that day.

While “sitting down to meditate” is critically important, what I’ve noticed is that my waking life; my thoughts and behaviors (e.g. the way I expend and conserve my energy and what I choose to create) have become their own meditation, too….which invariably makes me long for increased and deeper communion through my meditation practice.

There’s no question that meditation has transformed my life.  In order to become a better mother, educator,  coach, and writer, I had to become a better student. I had to be willing to begin again, and again, and again– to sit and practice radical presence, patience, and self-compassion. More importantly, I had to be willing to ask myself better questions. I had to be willing to miss the mark and to embrace these seeming “failings” as an inherent and essential part of my own journey and transformation.

This year, what are you willing to try for 365 days?

GRATITUDE YEARBOOK™

Have you ever wanted to keep track of the things you are most grateful for each day? Have you ever wanted to look back at the people, things, and experiences that helped you evolve personally and professionally?

The GRATITUDE YEARBOOK is a tool to help you capture life-changing and heart-warming insights, as well as invite you into the contemplative practice of gratitude journaling.

Here are the basic specs for the journal:

Amazon List Price: $22.00
7" x 10" (17.78 x 25.4 cm)
Black & White on White paper
162 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1983420030

The benefits of gratitude journaling and practices are numerous. At its core, practicing gratitude helps us shift and focus our attention towards the beauty and grace that is all around us-- even in (especially in!) the midst of challenging circumstances.

Done over time, these "soft practices" are actually quite powerful and life-changing, so much so, that companies and organizations are integrating these and other mindful practices into their professional training and development programs.

As personal development is inextricably linked to professional performance,  we know that taking the time to intentionally appreciate,  is one of the greatest investments one could make for themselves, and for those they lead and serve.

 

PURCHASE THE GRATITUDE YEARBOOK

Publishing with Purpose

When we first convened in early 2017, Soul Publishing Group members shared a singular mission; to promote the greater good through both our personal and professional “work”.

What sets our group apart is the innate understanding that flourishing both personally and professionally requires structures of support, compassion, and collaboration, not competition.

Our connection to one another, our work, books, courses, and podcasts all serve to promote not only each others’ work, but the greater good of humanity…and this, thankfully, is a continually unfolding and never-ending journey.

Vocational Arousal

This provocative term, vocational arousal, came by way of the joyful and visionary Barbara Marx Hubbard. She, in conversation with Steve Farrell, were discussing the obvious (and necessary) shift in our collective consciousness, and what this means for humans as we now them…us.

Vocational arousal describes an internal yearning or calling to our highest work; to our specific “duty” while on Earth.  While this “calling” used to be experienced by the few, specifically those in spiritual vocations, artists, healers, nurses, physicians, and teachers in particular, this arousal is being expressed, en masse, by more and more people on the planet.

In my own work, I use the term soul-work to describe this calling–this yearning deep within each of us that is often at odds with the duties and responsibilities of one’s person-hood….or so we think.

To this end, several of my colleagues at Soul Publishing Group and I are sharing our own stories of vocational arousal. These narratives, many of them decades in their unfolding, describe the journey of shifting from conventional thinking, to one of a higher consciousness and state of being. Many describe the sheer panic, the struggle, the ridicule, the second-guessing that accompanies any journey that is guided by the soul, our higher-calling.  The courage and grit of these stories are a true testament to the power of the human spirit.

To be true to who you are is the single greatest gift you can share with others. Then, when we unite with others who are similarly inclined, the synergy and creativity that unfolds is beyond what any one single individual could ever do, or even imagine.  Of course, we can “sense” these things– deep within, but our human minds are actually limited when it comes to fully grasping the magnitude and effects of the consciousness of connection and what this means for life and work as we know it today.

What is calling you? What is your soul-work?

Promoting Peace

Waking up to the news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, I questioned everything. Life. Death. Meaning. What I would say to my daughters. What I would say to my students.

Just like you, my heart is broken; over this, over my island, over the chaos and instability we’re collectively experiencing. It’s enough to deflate the most optimistic soul. Still, we must not deflate.

Knowing that “we cannot create what we can’t see”, I sat down today to share what I see with my students. In the midst of tears, while bridging the ideas of a thousand educators before me, I strung together some possible ways we could work together; to help us accept all this with grace, so that we may work together towards a whole, peaceful, and productive world.

Puerto Rico

As I view images of the wide-spread destruction across my precious birthplace, I cannot ignore the impact of this event and what it implies both personally and collectively.

The Caribbean, one of the most beautiful regions on Earth, has been ravaged by nature itself….disfigured to the point of annihilation.

As I write today, my childhood best friend is parked in a line, 100 cars deep, simply to get gasoline.  Her place of work, too unsafe for entry. Her ability to leave the island, tempered by family responsibilities. Her simple and humble desire for the day, ice. Ice.

No one familiar with Puerto Rico can overlook the political and economic history, and how this obviously necessitates the US step in to assist. Our colonial status requires it, but more importantly, our shared humanity demands it.

To the countless organizations, leaders, and celebrities who will lead the recovery and rebuilding efforts of our precious island, thank you. This catastrophe represents an unprecedented opportunity in human history. To the islanders who remain, this is also a call to leadership and to envision; not the Puerto Rico of yesteryear, but the Puerto Rico of today; one that honors its rich history, but most importantly, one that integrates the dignity and resilience of a people whose spirit cannot be destroyed.

La Borinqueña
Lyrics: Manuel Fernández Juncos (1846-1928)

La tierra de Borinquén
donde he nacido yo,
es un jardín florido
de mágico fulgor.

Un cielo siempre nítido
le sirve de dosel
y dan arrullos plácidos
las olas a sus pies.

Cuando a sus playas llegó Colón;
Exclamó lleno de admiración;
“Oh!, oh!, oh!, esta es la linda
tierra que busco yo”.

Es Borinquén la hija,
la hija del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol.

Grief

The recent passing of a beautiful friend brought me heart-to-heart, once again, with grief.

When my father died in 2014, I was thrust into a space unlike any I’ve ever experienced.  I still remember how my days felt; unreal, cumbersome, painful, as if I were in the midst of some energetic goo, going through my days in slow-motion. Every action required effort. Every thought, one too many.  

Although grief is a shared human experience, it is not experienced this way at all. It is deeply intimate and confronting. Only you can travel this heart-road.  It is an excruciating and painful journey, but one that is bearable only because it is fueled and directed by love.

During the most painful and growthful times of my life, the words and writing of John O’Donohue have provided me great comfort. Like a fine wine, his words rich and opulent in spirit, are even more meaningful today.

For Grief
John O’Donohue
To Bless the Space Between Us

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life.
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well,
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

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?