It is high time to search your heart and soul to decide who you are and what you stand for. It is high time that we rally to demand changes to address the systemic inequities clearly present in our nation. It is high time that we press our leaders to work for the benefit of all and vote out those who will not.
Do you recognize that social, racial and economic inequality exists? Have you supported leaders or policies that promote these inequities? Are you uncomfortable with change because it might adversely impact your lifestyle or bank account?
The current climate of protest should make us all uncomfortable. I am choosing to embrace the discomfort. I admit that, despite teaching history to inspire students to seek out and fight injustice, I am only now coming to truly understand and appreciate the desperation felt by the communities of color that have been mistreated since the birth of this nation. It is uncomfortable for me to recognize my inadequate prior efforts to learn, understand and take direct action to advocate for meaningful change, despite so many reminders. 30 years since the Rodney King unrest and yet seemingly little has changed. 50 years since Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues and yet his message rings so true today. 60 years since the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, but many of our leaders continue to seek to prevent participation and advancement by people of color.
Are you a person of lovingkindness and compassion? Do you speak it AND act it? If you do not now advocate for change, then your silence supports the status quo. If you don’t want change, then look into your heart and ask yourself why. We all face a challenge to our personal virtue and integrity. How will you respond?
What can I learn today?
If we live with an open and curious "beginners" mind, then every day will present us with countless opportunities to learn something new and enriching. Often, however, our perspectives are clouded by information and predispositions that our minds have accumulated and formed over the years.
A curious mind seeks out new information and ideas, eager to experience the wonder of the unknown. An open mind does not filter or judge this new information, welcoming the opportunity to grow.
It takes consistent work to live with this perspective. It is helpful to realize that our knowledge and experiences are a tiny fraction of what's available, and that it can be exciting to be a beginner, free from the yoke of bias and judgment. What can you learn today?
"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf" - Kabat-Zinn. "Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world" - Mushashi. "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, but also what it takes to sit down and listen" - Churchill These are a few of the meaningful life thoughts that I've seen circulating recently. Socrates' famous advice is the underpinning of them all. If we want to truly live, then we need to (1) consider and set ideals for our character and interactions with others and the world, (2) continually measure our actual thoughts and actions against these ideals, and (3) work toward self-improvement. As I've said before, this is hard work and often uncomfortable, but contentment requires honesty, kindness and commitment to personal growth. We have all that we will ever need to make a meaningful life, so why wait another day.
This common phrase is great advice. How do you have a good day? You MAKE it good. No matter what your day may hold - work, chores, unexpected events or tasks that you can't control - every minute of the day, you choose your outlook. By choosing to be positive and grateful, you can make every moment meaningful. Bring your joy to every activity and encounter. Smile, whistle or sing while doing the dishes or sweeping the floor, as well as during your favorite activities. Be glad to be alive. Every time you wish or are wished a good day, remember that you can make it one. Have a good day!
As we hear today about limited supplies of some essential items, let's cherish and celebrate our unlimited supply of love. Sharing love brings meaning to life. Spread your love at every opportunity - a smile, a kind word, a simple favor, a call or message to stay connected. Every day, prove to yourself that you are full of love, full of caring, full of compassion, for yourself as well as others. Think loving thoughts, speak loving words, engage in loving acts. The world thrives on our love - it inspires both simple and amazing acts of generosity and sacrifice, and unites diverse peoples to overcome arbitrary divisions and hatred. Give your love freely; the more you give, the more you will want to give. You can never run out of love.
I have always taught with the philosophy that my role is to develop character more than to deliver content, to inspire students to explore the world with compassion as well as curiosity, and to cultivate their emotional intelligence rather than consume data. We are all teachers during this pandemic, particularly the millions of parents and grandparents thrust into the role by online schooling. We are teaching ourselves as well as our families and friends. Be patient, be kind, be caring. Don't fret about details. Be the person that you want to share with those around you, and model the love that you feel for them. There is no more important lesson to give or receive.
Resilience is a remarkable strength to call upon whenever life throws obstacles in your path. We hear the word used frequently as we navigate our way together through the COIVD-19 pandemic. We are all resilient, but the quality may be blocked by negative perspectives that keep you from appreciating your strengths and calling on them to help you overcome struggles. Finding that resilience is just a matter of letting go of negativity and accepting the reality of the situation you face. The tension that eats at you likely comes from resisting facts and grieving that things aren't as you would like. Turn your emotional soil - make room for your resilience to sprout and grow, to inspire your positive plans to move past any adversity.
Uncertainty is an inherent feature of life. We do not have the ability to control the events and people that we encounter, but can muster the courage to face this uncertainty with faith in the strength of our values and inner selves. We can develop and become confident in this courage by consistent daily work to feed our souls through thoughts and acts of acceptance and compassion. I call this “work” because it involves dedicated effort, but the “labor” is open-mindedness, caring and love. The flow of life offers variety, wonder, new people, places and things to experience that fill our days with meaning. The alternative, a fear and unwillingness to accept the unknown, acts as a darkness that hides the diverse opportunities and beauty that life has to offer. Welcome and embrace the new and unknown, confident in your inner strength and goodness – you’ll experience life like never before.
Loving kindness reflects an outward perspective that understands that our lives become increasingly meaningful the more that we treasure and promote connections with and compassion for others. I am hoping that a legacy of the current world crisis is the spread of positivity, caring and unconditional loving kindness. Laughter and joy spread more quickly than pessimism and unhappiness. Try it. Laugh more, smile more, connect frequently with friends and family. Offer help. Feel and express gratitude daily. Speak of and spread kindness unconditionally. You and those around you will feel the inspiring power of love.
The sun is always present, even if obscured by clouds or dark of night. You have experienced this when your plane rose above the clouds on a bad weather day or as day broke at the end of a red eye flight. Similarly, on emotionally challenging days, we can find comfort in the reassurance that our good, kind and warm true self is always present. Particularly in the face of adversity, our inner goodness yearns to shine and share its love with the world. Try to escape the tumult, find some time for quiet and stillness, tap into your breath and recall the gratitude, compassion and unconditional loving kindness in your heart. It's there. Difficult emotions and negativity will arise, but they don't define you, can't define you, unless you let them. The sun is always there inside you - let it shine.
While hate and negativity may seem omnipresent as we follow the news, we should remember that, in every interaction of every day, we can choose love. Make an intention to go through your day feeling and expressing unconditional love - for yourself, for friends and family, for strangers, for pets. Pause a moment and reject any initial thoughts of annoyance or judgment. Smile and initiate good feelings and express them. Tell others that you love them, and really mean it. Your heart will warm as you open it to others and feel the joy of your giving spirit. Though your love is unconditional, you will undoubtedly receive much love in return. With a regular practice of choosing love, you will build an inner goodness and peace that is unflappable. Choose love.
We are dreamers and planners, looking and hoping for a lot from life someday. In so doing, we often lose sight of the fact that ALL of our living is done right NOW. A week or month of tomorrows is nothing more than a string of todays. And, of course, the past is gone and can't be changed.
Why look forward (or backward) to love, truth and joy? Why fret about something that's already happened or has yet to (and may never) happen? All we have to do is pay attention, and appreciate the people, places and things around us, to find and treasure the love and wonder that surrounds us today, right NOW. Planning is integral to an effective life, but living in the moment is essential to a meaningful life of contentment and joy.
This is my current self-growth mantra to move past habitual reactions that I developed over the years. This simple alliterative phrase is a roadmap for me to stop and consider how I want to think about and respond to whatever comes my way, and to make sure that my words or acts are kind and positive.
Changing habits is a challenge. You must first notice and choose to improve your behavior. Forgive yourself for past words and actions. Then design a simple plan by which you can effectuate your desired change and create a reminder system to keep you on course. Mine is the mantra. I repeat it several times daily. I try to notice when I fall short and pledge to be as consistent as possible. Every effort is progress, positivity.
We are all a thing of beauty inside. Like a sculptor who starts with a block of clay, we each face the difficult task to chisel away all of the chaff, all that we don't need, all that is not serving us, to reveal our beautiful inner selves. Perhaps, you are holding a grudge or other negative emotion that you need to face and forgive to get past. Perhaps, you aren't being honest with yourself about a weakness or undesirable habit that you'd love to change, or interacting with a loved one in a knee-jerk, unkind manner. Perhaps, you have been working in a job or activity that is unfulfilling or causing you to act in ways that don't reflect the person that you want to be.
Realize that you can put all of the past behind you, that you can choose to retain only those traits that reflect the kind, loving and caring you. You can shed the chaff of your life. Let your inner beauty become congruent with the way you live every day.
When the morning alarm rings, we may be inclined to "underappreciate" the start of a new day. But, it offers us so much! Delight that you are alive for another day to experience life as you choose. Acknowledge that whatever happened yesterday is now over. You are moving on whether you like it or not. If it was a difficult day, then the new dawn invites you to discard any negative emotions in favor of a sunny disposition and flexible, positive outlook. If yesterday was a great day, then repeat your approach and continue to make it a habit. Welcome the clean slate of each new day, the chance to think and act differently than you did yesterday, to be more of whom you want to be, to seek new and meaningful experiences and interactions that make life so wonderful. Who knows - you may learn to love the alarm clock!
"Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize that there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you." Lao-Tzu
How often do we step back to realize that we already have everything we really need? So much of today's striving for more is external, material. We should be working hard for more, but focused internally, to unlock the abundance of goodness and talent already within ourselves. Take the time to contemplate what you really want out of life, and start living it. If you don't feel content with your daily existence, then change it. It could be a career change, adding humanitarian service or just making an attitude adjustment, feeling more gratitude. Challenge yourself to live better. Be willing to be vulnerable enough to know that the real you is all you need to get there. You have the inner strength to live a good, genuine and meaningful life.
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." This well known adage echoes the Stoic notion of Amor Fati , a mindset for making the best out of anything that happens. The challenge is to treat every moment, no matter how difficult, as something to be embraced, rather than avoided. It's surely an improvement to accept adverse events without angry resistance, but can you actually go further to love the event and be better for it? Every day, we encounter inconveniences, criticisms, difficult people, and perhaps, worse. Many of these either are, or with the passage of time, will seem trivial. Since we can't control these events, why not look forward to each as a learning experience that will make us more aware of and active in pursuing our self-improvement? Don't get angry or frustrated, but remember how much you have to be thankful for and be grateful for this opportunity to strengthen your inner self and be more at ease.
Reflecting on the traits that I aspire to, I often repeat one word or short phrase intentions to cement them in my thinking. Be positive. Smile. Slow down. Be present. Kindness. Compassion. Unconditional love. Virtue. Integrity. Truth. Forgiveness. No judgment. No assumptions. Don't take things personally. Do your best. Goodness. Observe. Listen. Wonder. Be curious. Smile. Gratitude. Acceptance.
Think about the buzzwords that will help make your intentions a reality. Repeat them to yourself daily, in a quiet moment, while you breath easily without distraction. I often do so when I first awake, before I get out of bed. If you skip a day or two, forgive yourself - life is busy. Come back to your intention phrases - they will begin to feel like a cozy place of comfort. You will look forward to these moments of quiet and intention.
Like a bee to a flower, love is most likely to come to you when you are blooming - shining your true inner self to the world. Many make the mistake of believing that they have to look or act a certain way to attract others. They may also sacrifice themselves for the sake of another who does not respect or share their thoughts and feelings. Such a false presence will always fail because your heart is out of sync with your outward projection. Attend to yourself - be honest, authentic, kind, loving, nonjudgmental, caring, generous, grateful. Consistently project the real you, and you will undoubtedly find that the love of yourself and others will find you.
When we truly listen to others, we open our hearts to give and receive love and compassion. We are saying that we care, that their thoughts and concerns are important to us, that we are grateful to be a part of their lives. This validation is the highest form of affection that we can give. But also, as we process the stories of others, our own hearts grow by digesting their experiences, as well as by sharing the listening moments together.
In our busy lives, how often do we truly listen? We may be distracted by whatever we were just doing or have to do next. Try to step back and listen with undivided attention, with the intention that there is nowhere else you'd rather be. You ear and your heart will blossom like flower and petal.
Love is our most precious gift and we have an unlimited supply. Love reflects our true inner selves - kind, caring, compassionate, good. Why not give it freely?
Every day presents an opportunity to enrich your life and those of others by sharing your kind, loving self. An open and vulnerable heart reveals the meaning of life. As you deepen a relationship, give every ounce of your love. You'll be amazed at how much is there and how good it feels to shower your love without fear.
This past weekend, we gained a new daughter and her wonderful family to love. We are incredibly grateful for the joy that they add to our lives. There is no such thing as too much love.
The Japanese hand sign to express thanks is replicated in the West as a sign of prayer, yet the essential role of gratitude seems to have gotten lost. As Gandhi counseled, "[p]rayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul...it is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart."
Our souls are nurtured by regularly feeling and expressing gratitude for what we have. Only you can make your life more meaningful - recognize your weaknesses, be willingly vulnerable to show yourself and others that you heart is open to and longing for the love that fulfills our lives. Live each moment thankful for the wonder around you. No amount of asking another will answer your "prayers" for something to change. Gratitude will reveal that you have all that you need - the path forward is within you.
"I see you!" This traditional bush greeting is so much more powerful than its 3 simple words. The speaker acknowledges a friend for who they are - no judgment, no agenda, just pure joy at their encounter and appreciation of the value of their friendship. It expresses unconditional love and respect. How wonderful it must be to receive this greeting as a validation of your personal worth!
The traditional response is similarly joyful and powerful - "I am here!" It's an expression of love and gratitude for the friend's validation, but also a confident declaration of self-worth.
The simple exchange reflects a solid basis for any personal relationship. The love and appreciation of family and friends is a powerful reminder of our personal value and is so helpful in our daily journey to contentment.
"I see you!" Try it. Pass it on. Watch love spread around you.
A tree stands tall and strong through all kinds of weather, better for the experience of rainy, windy days as well as calm, sunny days. Similarly, we should cultivate an inner contentment that not only survives the ups and downs of our daily lives, but is strengthened by accepting and appreciating them.
Life is a series of moments and experiences that come and go, whether cheerful or sad, easy or challenging, scary or peaceful. We can each work to be true to the self that we want to be throughout life's changes, certain of who we are in the face of the uncertainty around us - kind, caring, grateful, generous.
A tree flows with the breeze, sheds leaves, soaks up the rain - always reaching for the sun, always vibrating with life and calm. So can you.
This common exercise slogan provides valuable advice for our emotional and spiritual fitness. We often instinctively act to protect ourselves and loved ones from pain when the opposite may be exactly what is needed to grow. Think about the character traits that you value and aspire to - kindness, compassion, resilience - all are somehow born or enhanced by experiences of adversity and pain. Indeed, it is impossible to love or have loved without some pain in the relationship and, hopefully, subsequent emotional growth. Moreover, studies of children who have been regularly shielded from adversity show that they have a much greater propensity to crippling anxiety later in life than kids who have overcome pain and other obstacles. We can't love without pain. Face it head on, learn from it, grow, appreciate the life experience and the wiser, more compassionate you.
Each of us has masculine and feminine energies and a general inclination to one, while the other is stifled. The masculine over-rational, problem solving and emotionally guarded energy may clash with the feminine deeper creative, receptive and expressive energy. Each may feel uncomfortable around the other, nervous to express themselves or lack confidence to act.
We'd all do well to be in touch with both energies and bring out the most appropriate in each encounter. Sometimes our lives require us to identify and investigate things, while at other times, we are better off just experiencing and feeling them. Embrace all of your energies. Mindfulness is cultivated through attention, acceptance and compassion - our various energies can serve this approach. Commit yourself to experience all that comes your way, without judging or fixing anything, note your feelings, express them, take rational action if needed, but never at the sacrifice of living the moment.
The original meaning of word "random" is "the instant a horse at full speed has all four hooves off the ground." This image reflects total commitment, passion and trust, and the freedom that results. Incorporating the more modern sense of the word, if everything we do is planned, then nothing is random and we can't experience the freedom and joy of complete vulnerability, of letting go without fear.
We have all felt these times when fully engaged in spontaneous and unconditional acts of kindness or when some pleasant thought from the back of our mind suddenly comes to be without notice.
The more we trust our ability to find and generate goodness in every encounter, without fear of or concern for the reactions of others, we surrender to wonderful flow of life, become free, and live "all in," randomly.
There are 3 elements to thoroughly experiencing love: thought, expression and physical embrace. You certainly have felt pangs of love with any one of these - thinking about someone you care for, writing or speaking of your love, hugging a friend that you happen to encounter. When you intentionally combine them all, you can experience a moment of complete joy, a loving with all of your mind, body and soul. It is a feeling that you can experience only by the willingness to be honest and vulnerable in your emotions. Remember this the next time that you consider not expressing your feelings, or you aren't sure whether to give a hug in addition to a kind word. To truly love, you have to go all in. You'll likely suffer some pain along the way if the love is not returned, but the joy of giving love is the utmost authentic human experience.
We work so hard at so many things, including self-improvement, that we ignore the importance of mental rest. Just as we lay down at night to sleep and rest our bodies, we need to make time to rest our minds.
Choose the form of mental rest that works best for you - a walk, meditation, playing or listening to a favorite musical piece, playing with a pet. What's important is that you are awake, but not trying to accomplish any task or solve any problem. Your mind is free to wander without any destination or to follow any train of thought. If you make time for mental rest every day, you'll likely find that you think more clearly, creatively and effectively when your mind is at work. Moreover, you will provide an opening for love and gratitude to occupy the front of your mind, which is always sure to make you smile.
You can't take back your words or actions. We've all said or done something that we instantly regretted, that we knew didn't reflect our true thoughts, our genuine feelings. A sincere apology will help, but a simple pause, perhaps with a deep breath, can prevent these mistakes in the first place.
Unfortunately, old habits of interaction often propel us into knee jerk speech or action. We can break these habits by teaching ourselves to pause before responding.
Just pause. Think about what you truly want to say or do. Consider the perspective of the person you are with and then decide what response reflects the real you.
For some reason, people don't like to pause. The "um"s, "you know"s and "like"s that are so often used in conversation come from a fear of pausing. But, as I teach for public speaking, the pause is golden - it draws attention, reflects confidence, sends a powerful message of thoughtfulness. Just pause. You'll be glad you did.
"I am because you are, you are because I am." Ubuntu is a deep African custom that recognizes that, in every sense of life, we are each other. We live off of each other much like animals and plants live off each other's breath. Our lives are enhanced by sharing the joys and sorrows of friends, family, strangers, animals, plants, the Earth.
We can invite this emotional richness by actively practicing compassion as we go through our day. Your life will transform if you seek to understand the needs and feelings of others in your interactions. Moreover, as your compassion becomes more heartfelt, you will not only reap a more meaningful emotional reward, but your kindness will shine and brighten the lives of those around you. Ubuntu. Ubuntu.
We often find strength when we least expect it, when we feel weak, tired, down. Our inner strength is always present, but is most tested and useful when we need it most, summoning patience, kindness, forgiveness, charity in trying times.
So, as with physical exercise, we need to challenge and develop our inner strength by recognizing and working on our weaknesses. Intentionally put yourself in positions that tend to elicit reactions in you that you'd like to change. Get stressed out in traffic or waiting in line? Build your patience skills by embracing the time to talk with others or listen to something enjoyable. Uncomfortable talking to strangers? Strike up a conversation knowing that only good can come from the human connection. If you are honest with yourself, you'll know what you need to do. Your greatest inner strength gains will come from you greatest needs - and will be there when you need them.
Think about whom you consider as a true role model and why. Which of their character qualities do you admire and aspire to? What specific words or deeds can you regularly practice to build a habit of this admirable character quality? What advice would your role model give to assist you? Make some notes and keep them somewhere visible.
Evolving yourself is not easy, but worth every bit of the effort that you make. You will develop and exude a character that warms your heart, and for which others will be grateful and will aspire to. This age-old influence of positive role models is essential to the goodness and virtue of humankind.
You have undoubtedly experienced moments of complete joy, when you feel that everything and everyone with you at the time is exactly where they were meant to be. I believe that these joyful moments are the essence of a meaningful life. So, how can we work to experience as many as possible?
First, try to be present at all times. Focus your mind on what is happening wherever you are, rather than on events of the past or future. Avoid distractions or "multi-tasking." Second, learn to accept that whatever is happening at the moment is factual. Wishing it were otherwise will only create stress. It will pass. You can work for change, but only after acknowledging the situation. Finally, maintain a perspective of compassion and unconditional loving kindness. This goes for you as well as others. Desire the best for everyone. With these mindsets, you will spread goodness and invite moments of pure joy, and will surely experience many
This challenge reminds us to scrutinize our principles and working actively to see them through. The failure to do so could make you vulnerable to temptations to compromise your integrity for financial, social or other perceived personal gain. Fraudsters and political demagogues count on the moral cowardice of those around them.
Our lives should be guided by a moral code of kindness, fairness, equality, charity, love. It may not be easy to stand for your beliefs, but nothing is more important than living a life of virtue. If we work together to do so, and to root out hate, dishonesty and selfishness, we'll all make the world a better place. (This photo was taken at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia - a small, but powerful exhibit.)
Negativity often seems pervasive, a default mindset for many people. How and why is interesting, but I am much more concerned with our ability to fight against it. You control your thoughts and emotions. When you become aware of negative thoughts, you can choose not to follow them. You can choose to change your perspective to positivity and optimism. Choose to think kindly and compassionately about yourself and others. Smile, hug, lend a hand, speak from goodness. Choose to think and act out of unconditional love. Negativity has no chance against an enlightened positive mind.
My students know that I have an "open door" policy, that I'll be happen to see and listen to them about anything. Shouldn't I have that approach with everybody and everything all the time? Too often, we close our emotional internal doors out of fear of possible pain or disappointment. But, by closing our doors, we shut out new people, knowledge and wonders; we shut out the food that our emotional souls need to grow and fully experience life. I am going to work to consistently keep my internal door open, to welcome all that comes my way, willing to be vulnerable and emotionally fearless, looking forward to growing from every encounter. Whether the result is painful or joyous, I will feel alive. Why ever choose a static emotional existence behind a closed door?
I suggest that we consider a different spin on the old adage that "it's better to give than to receive." The act of receiving (rather than taking) is often a wonderful expression of kindness. At times, there is no more valuable act that to receive another's love by listening to their story, taking a walk, sharing a pot of tea, providing an opportunity for them to give from the heart in a way that is so meaningful.
By this receiving, you are essentially giving as well, your time, your attention, your love. This simultaneous receiving and giving is a magical force of unconditional loving kindness that you will not soon forget, and will want to repeat often.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with golden lacquer. The piece is not discarded or viewed as disfigured - the defect becomes its strength as the golden repair makes the piece more beautiful. The Japanese tea ceremony thus reveres time worn more than shiny new pottery.
The philosophy of Kintsugi recognizes that our life experiences make us what we are - stronger, wiser, more interesting, kinder, more compassionate - more beautiful. Some of our experiences may seem shattering at the time, but you can be assured that the feeling will pass and that the wounds will not only heal, but also enrich your life's journey in ways that only adversity can.
Everyone of us is born with a warm, glowing fire in our core. We don't learn it or earn it, and we can't lose it. This fire surfaces as love, passion, thoughts and compassion. How we choose to live and regulate the release of our fire is important to our daily joy. If we open the floodgates, we may drown in our passion. But, if we dam the flow of our passion, then our hearts are slowly eroded.
Much of the joy of life comes from expressing our inner fire, as we unconditionally share the warmth with others by acts of love and kindness, by passionately arguing and acting to fight injustice, by singing at the top of our lungs to a song that moves us. Challenging times often require us to look deep inside for this fire, but we can always find it and the solace that comes from knowing that we need not look anywhere else for the glowing passion of life. Try to let some out every day.
The vitality of life comes from taking risks for which you must listen to and trust your heart. Most of our common decisions are made with knowledge of or little concern about the outcome of our actions - tasting food, choosing a route to work or a movie to watch. Decisions made from the heart, without a guarantee of the result, reflect a real commitment to free and trust your inner self. The vulnerability that you feel from these risks opens you to an emotional bounty from the new experience. Ask your heart if the risk feels right and, if so, take it. A young bird will never fly without jumping from its perch.
The extra-ordinariness of life comes from giving attention and love, not from getting it. Unfortunately, our culture conditions us to believe that we are special only if we perform well to gain the attention and approval of others. The more we chase fame or attention, the less happy we become. We cannot control the thoughts and feelings of others, so why should they be the measure of our value? Inner peace and contentment come from giving our attention to all that is wondrous, beautiful and worthy of our love. You can forge your identity based on the love, devotion and celebration that you choose to give to those people and things that are genuine, good and joyful. Fame and approval are fickle and fleeting; inner peace brings a lifetime of contentment
I believe in resolutions, concrete intentions written down after genuine self-reflection. (We should reflect all year long, but by all means, let the New Year motivate you.) While the resolution may start with a heart-felt desire for change, many studies have shown that your intention must be accompanied by calculated habit-forming to succeed in making the change you seek.
If your resolution is to add a positive behavior, then plan a habit, carefully remove frictions that might get in the way, and conceive an immediate reward for following through. For example, if you want to exercise early in the morning, lay out your clothes (or wear them to bed!) to minimize the time and energy needed to get out of the house. The exercise endorphins may be reward enough, but also treat yourself to a hot cup of coffee or tea or healthy snack as soon you get home and revel in the good feeling of your efforts.
If your resolution is to remove a negative behavior, then create as much friction as possible to get in the way of your indulging. Don't buy things you don't want to eat or drink and choose healthy substitutes that you enjoy. Willpower is wonderful, but can't alone do the job. Plan and execute your habits for resolution success!
Understanding and living your truth is essential to the spirit of life and your personal contentment. Suppressing or hiding your truth not only promotes unhealthy physical and emotional stress, but also prevents you from blossoming in the knowledge of who you really are and what you believe in your heart. The essence of truth is that it is undeniable. Words, events or emotions that have passed cannot be changed. How you deal with them now is essential to your inner well being. Face your truths and decide how you wish to move forward. If you are withholding a truth because you believe that it may harm another, consider the harm that you are doing to yourself. As poet Mark Nepo has said, keeping truth hidden only makes it harder to give it voice until the internal pressure builds and we run out of air. Live the real you.
Acting with boldness and intention, we can get closer to what Dr. King sought – a world where love triumphs over fear and hate, where reconciliation is the alternative to violence and war, where human decency and compassion reign over hunger, poverty and homelessness. We must raise our voices. We must activate and mobilize. We must be unflappable and resilient. And we must be unwavering in our commitment. Consider what you can do to make a difference – whether it’s in the political realm or giving helping someone who needs a hand.
BE YOURSELF. Search your heart to figure out who you really are, what is meaningful to you, and how you want to spend your days. Assume that there are no limitations. No one else can or should do this for you. Every day, act in ways and say the things that feel right to you. Move closer to fully living the you that you want to be.
The sky is constantly painting a different picture for us. At the same time, we and everything and everyone around us are continually changing as well. As a result, none of our interactions are ever the same. Our experiences will prompt us to a variety of emotions, but we should welcome all of the interactions that change us daily, embracing them as opportunities to grow and as food for an interesting life. This is not easy, but it essential to a contented life in which your inner self remains content in its goodness and virtue, a constant light that shines with compassion for others.
Open your eyes and ears to notice and appreciate all that you see and hear. Open your heart and invite in the love that is emanating from the people and things around you. Let go of your thinking mind and let in the wonder of life that is always there for you to embrace. Most of us analyze every moment, planning our reactions. Instead, we should freely experience the moment and feel the joy that comes from connecting with the life flowing within and around us. LET GO. Trust your instincts and feelings. Life is waiting. Live it to the fullest.
I am grateful for and humbled by the privilege of returning to the classroom to inspire young people to live lives of meaning, to address injustice and create positive change in the world, to embrace our freedom to choose daily to commit acts of kindness, to radiate goodness and compassion, to bring out the best in others and ourselves, and to sustain love as the backbone of our humanity. Everyone of my students is capable of this every day heroism. Their future is bright.
Do you want to be a better friend, partner or parent, to be a more accepting, kind and compassionate person, or to otherwise make the world a better place? It takes hard work and dedication - consistent, persistent practice to develop effective habits of awareness, listening, open-mindedness, ego-less perspective, acceptance and unconditional loving kindness. Wake up every morning with the conscious intention to do your best that day, in every interaction, to let your love and goodness shine through your words and actions, to just breathe and remain calm in the face of adversity or vulnerability, to remember that the real you cannot be undermined by anyone or anything outside of your control. This hard work, every hour of every day, offers the ultimate payoff - a life filled with meaning, love and contentment.
As martial arts and yoga become mainstream in the West, we should understand that the Asian cultural tradition of bowing is a sign of respect that emphasizes heart over head, setting aside ego in favor of unconditional loving kindness. The yoga "child's pose" is aptly named because children are born leading with their hearts, and don't get caught in up self-importance or other ego considerations until they are socialized to do so.
If we make a practice of leading with our hearts, thinking of others before ourselves, then we will feel the joy of a life of compassion and generosity. We will understand that we are not the center of the universe, that our daily challenges are often trivial and our ego successes fleeting. Bow to yourself and others. Choose to live heart first - it's the path to real contentment.
Perspective. Changing the way you view daily events can be life altering. We are often so self-focused that we overemphasize our inconveniences and misfortunes. Remember that "the same wind blows on all leaves" - millions of people near us are living in the same moment and having a million different experiences.
We can gain a healthy perspective by taking this wider view of events, focusing on the lives of others, and remembering that our lives are typically much more fortunate. Moreover, the wider view acknowledges that we have some responsibility for any disappointing event and that anyone else involved has their own personal perspective that may differ from ours.
Our goal is to maintain inner peace and joy in the face of anything that comes our way. You have complete control over the perspective that you bring to each day. Widening your focus to include others will help you on this path.
Sing - to give voice to what you are feeling, to let in good feelings around you, to stay in touch with your inner self. Our growth can't come from thinking and feeling alone, we need to express our thoughts, out loud. The expression could be singing, crying, laughing, talking, sighing - but you need to hear it, your heart needs to hear it. The first expression of a newborn is to cry to welcome in life and all that it will bring.
Make a practice of letting things out to connect your inner and outer world. Your expression will also invite in the world around you, allowing it in feed your heart with love and genuineness.
Think about the joy you feel when you sing, even if the lyrics speak of challenge or pain. Sing to express the real you. Sing to feel the real life around you. Sing and really live.
If you are not entirely truthful with yourself, you are living with emotional "tied hands" - true contentment is beyond your reach. Similarly, if you harbor secrets about yourself that you don't reveal to others, how can your inner and outer selves peacefully co-exist? We can find contentment only by acknowledging our personal truths, warts and all, and by willingly sharing ourselves with others. As poet Mark Nepo has written, "you must meet the outer world with your inner world or existence will crush you." If you don't like your inner truths, then work to change them. Look into your heart, trust it, dare to be vulnerable, knowing that no one can take you away from who you want to be.
Opinion is merely one person's view. It is not fact. No doubt, others have conflicting opinions and NONE of them are right. In reality, we don't really know most of what we speak about.
Embrace it! Not knowing is a strength, not a weakness. The open and curious mind welcomes new ideas and different opinions. The open and curious mind receives contrary views with intellectual pleasure and without any emotional negativity. Those whom are tied to their opinions will always feel threatened by others and, thus, cannot live a contented life. Not knowing is freeing and wonderful - it opens us up to a world that we would not have otherwise known. Try approaching your day with a fresh, open, beginners mind - you will find many topics to be fascinating and your interactions with others to be consistently pleasant.
All of us were born with an inclination toward virtue and to master ourselves. We were simply born good and with the ability to stay that way. If so, then why have so many people seemed to stray toward corrupt, selfish and immoral behavior? They must have been nurtured to wrong ideas and wrong actions. To maximize the good in the world, we are challenged to (1) consistently think and act virtuous, even when tempted otherwise by self-interest and (2) to model kind and virtuous ideas and behaviors for others to follow. Compassion and steadfast moral conduct, rather than direct criticism, no matter how justified it may be, is the most effective way to nurture change in the behavior of others. Lead yourself down the path of justice and righteousness and you will, no doubt, spread goodness in your heart and the hearts of others.
"Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty - that is all you need to know..." This Keats line is a powerful guide to living life.
Truth is real, undeniable, uncompromising. Acceptance of truth, even if harsh and difficult, is not only cleansing, but essential to an authentic life. We must be honest as we review our daily interactions and endeavor to do better. Those who deny truth only deceive themselves and others, and are incapable of genuineness, virtue and self-love.
Beauty is moving, inspiring, healing. It can instantly transform your mood, soothing the pain of internal self-reflection or external events. Look for and appreciate beauty of all kinds in your daily life. Feel its warmth fill you with wonder and love.
We cannot change the past or the actions of others. But, if we embrace all truth and seek out beauty, we can be at our best, unconditionally kind to ourselves and others.
Internal "red lights" are common in our daily lives. We often hold ourselves back from doing or saying something that could bring us joy. We do so even when our heart tells us to go ahead. Why do we hesitate, only to lose the moment? The habit may be rooted in a survival instinct, but more likely comes from a fear of vulnerability, an ego warning that we might be viewed less favorably by others. True contentment comes from living every moment with a willingness to speak and act as your heart suggests, trusting your inner self to guide you to kind, compassionate and selfless behavior, without regard to the judgment of others. A brief pause before acting or speaking may be all you need to then do what you feel is right, calmly content to flow with your "green light."
Our lives are busy. We are distracted, juggling tasks, responding to communications, rushing to the next event. Even when we have some down time, our minds are busy rethinking past events and conversations or planning and worrying about what's to come. This "busy mind" state is a problem. First, it can make us feel chaotic, increasing harmful stress. Second, it keeps us from enjoying the moments in which we are free and from being aware and present of any number of wonderful things going on around us. Finally, it can damage our relationships in ways that we don't immediately understand. People are often their phones in the presence of a significant other, friend or family member - essentially ignoring, rather than paying attention to them, and missing out on the opportunity to share great conversation or a moment of shared affection. We must work hard to make a habit of paying attention to others, and not letting our busy minds get in the way of meaningful and essential interactions.