Asking Better Questions

Being bilingual has informed me in ways I’m still discovering.

Having a vast range of words to describe the color of the ocean, for example, has shaped the way I see the ocean, and life.

Ultimately, we are, each of us, an expression of what we think we are and what we are capable of in this world. The quality of our lives, which is shaped by the words we use and the thoughts we entertain, time and time again, do steer our course.

But, what happens when we question this? When we challenge even our own long-standing language and notions, when we, like Rilke invites us to practice “living in the questions.

Learning a new language, albeit French, Mandarin, or love and appreciation, will change you through sheer expansion of awareness. To me, that is the most incredible and fun part of being a human being; that just by getting a little “software upgrade”, we are immediately improved.

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.

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.

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.