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A Year Ago, A Year Ahead

“A year from now, you will wish you had started today.” — Karen Lamb

We mark our lives remembering successes, losses, anniversaries. Yet most of our life is filled with ordinary moments that fill the gaps in between milestones. In our daily busyness, we are unaware of moments, their capacity for joy and how they weave together into the fabric, nuance and richness of life. When we move between both epiphany and ordinary, we opt to live a deeper, hopeful and lighter life with purpose, grace and meaning.

A year ago, we had no idea that we were on the cusp on a worldwide pandemic. The signs and signals, cues and clues pointed us in that direction, but we didn’t think it would happen to us. And then it did. We have harsh words with others, hold tight to broken relationships rather than healing or pursuing a “truce” because we think we have forever. And then we don’t. That person is suddenly gone, leaving us with deep regret we carry forward.

This is a blunt and loving reminder that a year ago is over and we can’t change it. However, we do have power over today and what we will do with it. If you are not different and changed from this last year, you have missed the master class that has been given to us all. The lessons include empathy, compassion, savoring, gratitude, connection, purpose, generosity and joy. It’s been one hell of a wake-up call to hope, to optimism, to dream. We will be in a new place a year from now. What will you do today to ensure you are different?. As Red said so well in the movie Shawshank Redemption, “get busy living or get busy dying.”

 

The Unmaking

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

“It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.”― Seneca

Change and transitions invite us to awaken, observe and be opened. The struggle is not in change itself, but in the resistance to it. The process of being “broken” releases the power of transformation and transcendence of circumstances, other people and our own ego.

When we observe our life broadly and deeply, we uncover and discover that blessings are woven through burdens. The uncertainty and struggle that accompanies, is our calling to the “unmaking” of what has accumulated and collected, been protected and fed.

We own our response, create our daily condition and influence the outcome. When we choose the transformative journey over the shortcut, we go deeper into “demolition day” to start again, daring to be made new with no desire to return to the old. The lyrics of Nicole Nordeman’s The Unmaking say it so well:

“This is where the walls gave way
This is demolition day
All the debris and all this dust
What is left of what once was
Sorting through what goes and what should stay

What happens now?
When all I’ve made is torn down
What happens next?
When all of you is all that’s left
This is the unmaking
Beauty and the breaking
Had to lose myself to find out who you are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars
This is the unmaking”

If willing and open, release the old to create space for the new. “Before each beginning, there must be an ending.” Welcome the endings so new beginnings can ensue. New heart and spirit.

Optimism and hope show us the finish line, providing the fuel to get there. Never underestimate the power of gratitude, laughter, joy and light to change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has or ever will. Keep searching for light, accept it and cast it back out again in ordinary everyday exchanges. We are the heroes and authors of our own life. Write your story well.

“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.” – Ezekiel 36:26

Emanate Calm

“Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along.” – Paramahansa Yogananda

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” – Saint Francis de Sales

Create space each morning to reconnect and take hold of yourself so you can enter the world anchored, quiet and calm. When we focus on our sphere of influence – our thoughts, actions, reactions – with measured response, we invite others into peace and calm.

Each of us can be apart of a worldwide movement to INCITE PEACE! Hold up your signs, go out into your world and respond with kindness, thoughtful discourse, active listening and sincere inquiry to understand rather than be understood.

More dialogue. Less monologue. Let’s take the world back with civility, diversity of thought, generosity, humor and a sense of wonder.

The first step to healing is fostering and nurturing calm within and emanating it without. Peace! Be still.

Return to Center

“When you wake up each morning, you can choose to be happy or choose to be sad. Unless some terrible catastrophe has occurred the night before, it is pretty much up to you. Tomorrow morning, when the sun shines through your window, choose to make it a happy day.” – Lynda Resnick

“The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.” – Empedocles

Honestly, the last few days have been a bit of a struggle culminating from at least a three week build up. The reasons don’t matter. How I respond does. Each of us can change our perspective. Rather than defaulting to the easy answer of things happening “to” us, we can transcend to see the whole picture and discover all that is happening “for” us. Blessings and meaning can always be found when we look for them.

The common thread of our discontent usually returns to other people and circumstances, not getting our way assuming our way is the right way. It may very well be, so keep going. Don’t let external forces knock you off your center of knowing, your intuition, your light. If it is you, face it, be honest and don’t react with the same behavior that has never served you well. As Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.”

Before reacting, pause and choose to respond with ease, positivity and kindness. I am in the middle of unfolding a lot right now so I am returning to center to mindfully respond rather than randomly react. When we get our equilibrium back, the thin crack of light bursts open for more light to shine to illuminate the path forward. As the sun greets the morning or bids adieu to rest at days end, center on the light.

Let bliss find you and embrace light, so you can release it again and again.

“Meditation is to dive all the way within, beyond thought, to the source of thought and pure consciousness. It enlarges the container, every time you transcend. When you come out, you come out refreshed, filled with energy and enthusiasm for life.” – David Lynch

Full Bloom

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”- Wayne Dyer

“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” – Gilda Radner

Ease into the unknown, embrace uncertainty, hold what’s necessary and release what weighs you down, what blocks your path. Lessons often unfold in hindsight with time and distance, with no recourse to change course. Awareness beckons, invites and welcomes learning in real time, in the very moment, deepening moments and amplifying time.

Awareness first. Lessons in the moment. Change certain, growth optional. Choose growth, expansion, gratitude and joy. Fight the good fight.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl

To or For Us?

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – E. M. Forster

Often we assume that things are happening to us rather than for us. Immediately going to “worst-case” scenario thinking, we shut the door on exploration, insight and expansion. Abundance to scarcity in a split second. Assumptions, judgments and the past serve as the lens for the present and a map for the future. How many times have we been “saved” from something in hindsight that at the time felt like we were being “screwed over?”

A woman last week was standing in the middle of the road when Abby, Sasha and I were on the way to the dog park. Her back turned toward me, she was waving her arms to stop a truck. At first, I was irritated that she was in my way, so I turned into the parking lot to go another direction. As I looked closer, she was in the middle of the road because a live wire was down and she was stopping traffic from driving over it. In that moment, I realized how quickly we jump to the wrong conclusions and race to judgment. I was grateful that she just didn’t drive away when she saw it but stood there preventing others from driving over it. Generosity, kindness and empathy in a simple act.

In our need to understand and control, we put everything and everyone in a box that serves our narrow narrative, our biases that experiences often reinforce if they go unchecked. How many awesome people have you never really met because you labeled them before getting to know them?

Amidst the pandemic, civil unrest is surging and anger rising. Rooted in bias, hatred, social inequities, conspiracy theories on all sides, arrogant institutions and political parties that never have learned the necessity to work together to create policies and frameworks for the whole rather than advancing their power and position.

In the days ahead, take a breath, go within and check your own assumptions and biases. Contribute to peace and understanding through reflection, thoughtful discourse and empathy. We always have been and always will be in this together. How we choose to shape the future depends on our individual response and contribution to understanding, peace and solving problems together.

So much is happening “for” us rather than “to” us. See today with fresh, unassuming eyes and make something positive, meaningful and lasting of your time on earth. Be remembered for light, not darkness.

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” – Mother Teresa

 

Trail Management and Blazing!

“There is no glory in star or blossom till looked upon by a loving eye; There is no fragrance in April breezes till breathed with joy as they wander by.” – William Cullen Bryant

It’s important to establish routines, rituals and daily practices to focus our attention, effort and time to create habits to reach goals, check off resolutions. Discipline, repetition and commitment are the ingredients of progress, growth and fruition.

In addition to the mechanics of “trail management” which include plans, goals, actions, discipline, accountability and efficiency, we also need to integrate “off trail” adventures to find joy, play, fun and magic. “Trail blazing” is messy, iterative, inconsistent, inefficient exploration that fosters imagination, creating new patterns, connections and deeper ways to see the world. Life balance comes with the integration of mechanics and magic in our daily life.

For the past nine months, almost every Sunday morning I’ve done a long run as a part of marathon training. After completing the marathon in October, I’ve continued the “Sunday practice” to stay in shape, albeit not as many miles or structure as marathon training. Jeanne would meet me with water and join me for the last 4-5 miles.

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” – Karl Barth

This morning, we decided to break the Sunday routine, because we had the opportunity to walk with Bob at Como. One of Jeanne’s superpowers is to meet and connect with people who soon become fast friends. She “picked up” Bob, an 82 year old sweet soul who walks 1.6 miles around Como every day and has for years. Bob’s going to Arizona for a few months so he asked us if we were coming to Como today to say good-bye. Rather than a quick “hi” in passing, we opted to walk with him to enjoy conversation and connection. We stopped four times to take a break. It was the slowest and most important workout of the month.

We were wise enough to open the gift of connection, conversation and time over plans and routines. We went snow shoeing after to get an additional work out. Today we chose both trail management but more importantly trail blazing. That decision is not only is good for the body, but for the mind, spirit and soul, our whole being.

As you look at the schedule for the week filled with meetings and “trail management” activities, make sure that you start booking some “trail blazing” time to wander, to laugh, to add meaning to all of the activity. Find the joy in the JOurneY.

Now, off to do some more trail blazing tennis ball chasing activity with with Abby and Sasha in the woods. Cast light, chase joy.

Slowly then Suddenly

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

Growth is iterative. It feels like nothing, repetition, a standstill. Then suddenly, an inflection point, a still point where the disparate pieces come together and make sense. Our assumptions, perspective and priorities shift to where they should be through the gift of new eyes. No turning back and looking forward to the road that lies ahead.

Keep taking steps each day. Progress and transformation happen slowly and then suddenly. When we find home within, it matters not where we go.

What we hold tight to, holds us tighter. So let go of circumstances, approval, permission, expectations and allow the awakening to do its work. Slowly, then suddenly.

Namaste

“Simply enjoy life and the great pleasures that come with it.” – Karolina Kurkova

A picture says it all. Rest, relax and breath.

“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” – William S. Burroughs

equanimity

“As with the butterfly, adversity is necessary to build character in people.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin

“The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory.” – Gary Zukav

After 100+ days of a morning meditation with Insight Timer, I have attained equanimity – mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper. By no means a perfect record, the daily ritual is moving me to a new ease. Self-awareness, kindness, self-care all lead to changing the only person we can change – me.

In addition to self-reflection through meditation and prayer, the way to make it “stick”  is adding affirmations. We not only need to identify and remove the negative, we need to replace it with optimism and action.

Start the journey back to yourself. Be selfish, work on yourself before trying to fix others. May we all be patient and aware enough to keep moving through the process of transformation. From caterpillar to butterfly, again and again.

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