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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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