“If one man can cause so much pain, imagine how much love we can create together.”–Gannestad.
By now, we have all been inundated with images and stories about the shooter in Aurora, Colorado. The tragedy is beyond understanding, the “whys” will likely go on unanswered for a long time, the sadness and shock run deep.
In the middle of all this fear, how can we connect to a feeling of safety and love?
Is it just me, or have you noticed that fear zaps the oxygen right out of the breath of love?
We all want safety. And, I propose that the real safety we crave comes from taking daily action. Action, each and every day that is born from love and radiance, that is rock-solid centered in faith and open-heartedness. Terrorism (which this certainly qualifies as) feeds on fears and worries. By choosing to keep thoughts of gratitude, acceptance, compassion for ourselves, in the midst of this or any life challenge–we defeat the terrorist and dismantle his horror-machine.
So, when someone ignorantly bumps your elbow in line at Whole Foods, you have a choice. To stew and make a story about “the selfish entitled people”, or to let it go. A child or aging parent needs you (yet again), we can choose to feel resentful, or we can offer to do it from the core of our being (or wait until we are in a better space to act).
We have a choice in each moment– to reach for thoughts that enliven our spirit, or thoughts that hold us hostage and berate. And, if the drumbeat of your life is so loud you can barely hear yourself think, then find the places (internal or external) and people that give you peace and hope. And breathe.
So, what would happen if you sit in the middle of faith, even (or especially) as the wind rattles your windows. Our children, our loved ones, our community need us to do this. The time is now. The only viable way to preserve safety in our lives and to let go of the fear is to open our hearts to the love that is already present. Like Gannestad beckons, imagine how much love we can create together.
A few months ago, my 9-year old daughter received a fabulous pair of shoes. She hunted these shoes, longed for them, and generally stalked them. Moments after she opened the box, she slipped these pinkalicious sneaker shoes on her hungry feet, a extra spring in her already-bouncy step. “I love them!!” she cooed as she danced around the house in these fantastic, too-pricey, long-awaited shoes.
So, it was with some surprise when I didn’t see the shoes again for days. And then a week or so went by. And then another and another week. When I asked her about them, she replied “They’re great. I’m just saving them”.
Those of you with children (or those of you that once were children) know one fact about kids—they grow. And grow and grow. So, when the saved-shoes came out again a couple months later, they were tight. And that was just the beginning. Eventually too tight to wear, and a sad little pumpkin face with saved-brand-new-looking shoes that she didn’t get to enjoy because she protected them from getting dirty(listing on Craig’s later—no, just kidding :))
I can see myself in this save it attitude. As adults, we can save it for later or, cling a little too tightly, you know? I’m not talking about delayed-gratification, or even the push towards a goal—I’m talking about the getting exactly what you want, exactly when you want it, but instead of savoring it, we “save” it. Like when we save the good china for “special” occasions, rather than using it more frequently. Or perhaps more importantly, when we hold back on putting ourselves 100% into the conversation, or the moment, or the class, or the whatever, because we are “saving” our energy.
Wouldn’t it be something: if we could relax in the moment with the already-present joys, savoring the heck out of them, and trusting that the next moment will be just as amazing? Trusting that there really is true abundance and we will receive exactly what we need exactly when we need it… I certainly don’t have this one sewed up, but if you see me wearing all my favorite sunglasses at once—well, you’ll know just what I’m working on!
Who hasn’t heard, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” ? But if we stopped and thought about it, how many of us really love ourselves well? Perhaps, the truly radical suggestion, the one that would actually pull us out of this struggle, is to love OURSELVES as we love our neighbors/ friends/ children/ partners/ teachers/pets.
Isn’t it easy for us to recognize a friend’s or a child’s strengths and goodness, but ignore and downplay our own? Often, we are willing to go the extra mile for everyone around us, including strangers. But, when it comes to giving generously to ourselves, we turn into stingy misers.
We don’t shower ourselves with affection or love or compassion. Turning a blind eye to our exhaustion, we push it into overdrive. We can often be found beating ourselves up in the name of “self-improvement”. We put ourselves down, we put ourselves last, we put ourselves on hold. I liken our mind to a tough neighborhood where we can get jumped at a moment’s notice.
I wonder what will it take to look in that mirror and instead of seeing what needs to be improved or corrected, we see the vibrant, magnificent being shining back at us? What is required for us to confidently, with no excuses, say “No, I can’t” when someone pulls at us again to do one more thing? And with a full and happy heart to say “Yes!” when we genuinely mean it.
I challenge you to get curious about loving yourself as you love other humans or animals. Developing a more loving and honest relationship with ourselves, one that actually gives us some breathing room to just be—well, I can tell you from personal experience—it’s not easy. But, what a beautiful way to go through life, to treat yourself like your own best friend. And it just might radiate out to others to help those around us love themselves more deeply.
Let me know how it goes, I’d love to hear!! Namaste.
Where’s Your Sweet Spot?
“I have so much time on my hands now. I’m actually looking for ways to fill my days”. My dear neighbor, whose children are now grown and in college, mentioned this to me over the weekend. He continued, “The house is so quiet now”.
A ton of bricks falling from the sky wouldn’t have made a larger impact on me in that moment. Though I’ve heard it before from many others (“enjoy them while you can”, “they’re only little for a short time” etc.), somehow, my neighbor’s commentary on the current forms of his life shifted something deeply in me.
I began to notice how I have been taking the simple and non-momentous moments for granted. Usually, we are so busy getting from one place another, or putting out some fire or other, that we don’t pay attention to the little moments of sweetness in our lives. Those moments that could easily go unnoticed in our otherwise busy lives and no one would get hurt.
Or, we over-emphasize the milestones-birthdays, graduations, etc.-but overlook the smaller moments of miracle and celebration that occur many times each day. Do you know what I mean?
So, when we had a simple afternoon of food shopping, and cooking and hanging out this weekend, I consciously noticed just how impermanent and precious these little non-momentous moments are. That within a matter of years, the complexion of my household will change dramatically. Somehow, thinking on the ephemeral-nature of this life released me from the worry of my to-do list, etc. and allowed me to find a real joy and touch ground right in the simple pleasure of sharing time, working together, cooperating, breathing together, with my children and husband.
No phenomenal event or experience, just dropping into the simple, mundane, and ordinary.
Maybe you already do this, but what if we paid better attention to the little moments of sweetness in our lives–and I’m going super-mundane here-like when you switch on a light, and darkness dispels. I’m talking the nurturing feeling of taking a warm shower, the pleasure of putting your feet into a dry pair of boots on a rainy afternoon, the simplicity of laying your head down on a good pillow at night.
These mundane moments could easily blur into the background, but may be the exact diamonds, that when strung together over a day, or a lifetime, can add up to a fulfilled, joyful and brilliant life.
Paying greater attention to these ordinary moments of sweetness, moments that are nothing to “write home (or blog home)” about, may be the turning point where we actually stand a real good chance of increasing the joy in our lives and the joy in the lives of those around us. So, tell me, or more importantly tell yourself (though I love to hear from you!)-where are your sweet spots today?
“No Way!”, my three kids protested, as I half-heartedly offered them mittens and hats on this cold spring morning.
“Okay, then”, I sigh, and console myself with the memory of our pediatrician’s good wisdom about “natural consequences”—which, of course, should have been waiting for them on the other side of the door. I really expected the kids to come running back in from that 23 degree icy morning wind, asking for their winter garb with cold fingers outstretched. But, you probably already guessed how this story turns out.
Walking into the blustery chill, hands thrust into pockets, heads down, determined steps. “How about it, girls? Mittens?”
“Nope” rang the chorus of resistance.
Truth be told: They aren’t the only ones in denial. I guess I too was hoodwinked by last week’s weather– pulling out summer clothes and sandals (aw, and might have actually bought a pair, or two, ahem, three-do wedges count??)–I earnestly hoped that that heat would last. Keeping it real? I even called the sprinkler company and asked them turn the water back on so we could do water sports in the backyard.
As reflected in our children, I see that there is a certain kind of clinging to what I want, a clinging that also had me rejecting the present moment of this frigid morning. But, maybe this isn’t the only place in our lives where we resist what is present, you know?
Like on those days when our bodies are tired, but resisting the urge to restore ourselves, we pour a little more caffeine and keep on trucking. Or when we know in our hearts the answer is “yes” or “no” but we offer the response that others want us to say. So, from a place of good intentions, we sometimes cause ourselves unnecessary frustration by clinging to an “idea” about ourselves or a situation that is literally no longer in season– an idea that no longer honors the truth of this present moment.
I know for myself, it is at times, more familiar to stay attached to an “idea” of how things should be, instead of gathering the courage and audacity to embrace the way things really are (as difficult or painful or disappointing as it might be): With all the dirty laundry, the homework yet to be completed, the frost on the blooms, with all of it, exactly as it is. Because when we allow in what is actually here, well, then perhaps we can relax a little bit more into this moment. And if we’re more relaxed, then we stand a good chance of letting in a little more joy and peace into our hearts.
Maybe true renewal, the spring we all crave, can be found simply by relaxing into and accepting this very moment as it is. But Shhh…don’t tell our daffodils! They think it’ll be 80 again tomorrow!