Category Archives: Virtues

36 Righteous Souls, Lamed Vav Tzadikim

“Mommy, are you one of the 36?”

I bowed my head and said quietly, “No one knows who the 36 are, not even the 36 themselves.”

There is a teaching from the Babylonian Talmud that every generation has “not less than” 36 righteous souls living on earth. Without these souls, the belief is that the world will end. My base understanding is that the purpose of the 36 is to save the world through acts of righteousness.

There are many rituals of all religions, which I find to be somewhat superstitious in nature, but I often do them anyway (i.e., dip my apple in honey for good look on Rosh Hashanah). I treat religious stories with the same deference: whether they are truth or myth, I find value in consideration.

The more chaotic the outside world becomes, the more time we as a family spend strengthening our inner world through our spiritual beliefs.

We practice meditation, and raising our frequency, but we also read stories (legends) such as Tzadikim Nistarim, those about the 36, Lamed Vav Tzadikim. I can’t think of any time in my life when the notion of being saved has been more desired than now.

I told my daughter, “I really believe that the story of the 36 righteous souls is to inspire us all to act as if we are one of the 36.”

Act as if. The fact of the matter as to who is, or is not part of the 36, is not as important as is the choice to act as if everyone is a righteous soul.

“What does it mean to be righteous?” My 10-year-old daughter asked.

I read her the definition of the word, but as always, she is more interested not in what Merriam-Webster believes a thing to be as what her parents believe a thing to be. In order to offer my own definition, I find myself succumbing to the Socratic method of asking more questions.

Is righteousness a life of perfection? I don’t believe in human perfection beyond being perfect in our inherent imperfections. I think at the core, righteousness is awareness. It is living life with an awakened mindfulness of everyone in the world, versus living a life of sleep walking apathy and self-focused, reactionary defensiveness.

I think to be righteous is to live a life of ethical virtue and morality, or more literally, to simply do what’s “right.”

The question of course is, what is “right?” And that is where imperfections and the notion of sin enter. “Right” can be a complex construct that is context dependent. Perhaps, “right” is merely: not doing “wrong.”

While we might not always know what the right thing to do is, we almost always know in our hearts when we do something wrong. We feel a twinge of guilt, we find ourselves justifying our choice or claiming to “not care” about what others think. Whereas, when we are heart centered, we care about everything, to some extent.

Many people today seem to live disconnected from the heart. When we do something that lacks righteousness, it is usually from a place of being in reactive mode, from fear, ego, and anger.

Righteousness puts those feelings aside and asks, “If I were coming from a state of grace, and a place of unconditional love, how would I handle this situation?”

When I was younger, I believed that the 36 were the people I saw asking that aforementioned question and they included Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Gandhi. In recent years, I have often wondered if Oprah and Malala might be part of the 36. Now, I make eye contact with every homeless person I see. Anyone can be one of the 36.

We teach by example, we learn through inspiration. When we can touch the hearts of others through simple acts of kindness, compassion, and unconditional love, we ignite the light of righteousness in ourselves and others.

Perhaps, to be righteous, is to simply stay grounded by standing our moral ground. In this way, may the 36 righteous souls be a symbol for our own righteousness the way we look to lady liberty’s torch to symbolize enlightenment.

In the end, the path of enlightenment and righteousness, may be the ultimate freedom from oppression; and it’s the freedom from oppression I think all beings seek.

 

 

Thankful

 

I am thankful for every relationship in my life that has come and gone. Be they joyful, toxic, or a mixture of both. Each person who has come into my life has been a masterful teacher to me on some level, at some time.

I am grateful for the chance to receive rejection with grace and humility and serve it in the same manner. For the knowledge and wisdom of when it was time to move on. For the strength and courage to act with maturity and kindness when doing so. For taking the brave steps of walking away from a cycle of pain and towards a cycle of support.

I am thankful…

For new beginnings.

For the adventure of having lived in an RV for 18 months and the places it took our family, the freedom it gave us, the minimalism it introduced to us, and the memories we made.

For having the safety, security, and conveniences of a home, once again. For a room of my own to write, read, and create in. For a large playroom for my daughter. For a space for my husband to work and create. For my cozy hospital bed. For hot water, power, central air & heat, showers, a large refrigerator, two bathrooms, a washer & dryer, and wifi, at our disposal 24/7-365 (which were not always available while we traveled for a year and a half.)

For the community we so loved and had to say goodbye to.

For our Angel Naomi for showing up at the eleventh hour, in a heat wave, with people to help move and doing physical labor herself.

For Jennie watching our daughter all week while I had infusions and we packed the storage space. For Austin and his friends from his church that helped load the truck on the final day and who we never would have made it out of there without.

For Jen & Daniel and their sustaining friendship and the hearty meal. For Brooke providing her home for us to house-sit while we said our goodbyes to the community and loved ones. For Cher’e for being sweet and loving and sharing craft materials.

For all the doctors and nurses I care about so much that I had to say good bye to.

For everything our old home town was for us while we were there: a nature’s paradise, a safe, liberal, hippie bubble, a wonderful, supportive community.

For learning how to be more compassionate and giving by being on the receiving end of so much compassion and giving.

For my closest, longest, most enduring friendships that sustain, lift, support, and hold space for me on a consistent weekly basis, year after year: Lisa, Richard, Katrina, Ken, Perry & G, Tracy & C, Jeff/Sist, and Hollie (how about that, five women and five men. The yin and the yang create completeness. I feel so balanced. HA.)

You will never know how much your regular texts, emails, phone calls, and visits lift my spirits and carry me forward. The kindness of your loyalty moves me deeply. I pray that I am as much a support for you as you are for me, so that you too, may know the gift of feeling truly loved, cared for, and thought of as special and important in the heart of another, year after consistent year. Our friendship continues to flourish in part because of the work we do on ourselves to be loving, kind, and loyal to ourselves, each other, and the world around us, and I appreciate that so very much.

For the support of my immediate and extended in-laws and the joy, laughter, and love my nephews bring me every time I hear from them or see their beautiful faces.

For the love and support of more recent or more casual friends who may flourish into deeper friendships as the years go by.

For support of the #WeAreOne campaign.

For creative friends who inspire me.

For the chance to really get settled again and help my daughter, my husband, and myself live our dreams.

For the opportunity, time, and space to create again: publish the books I’ve been writing, create the art I’ve been dreaming, and design and make real the private, peaceful, simple life I’ve always imagined.

For every day that I am alive, that I have the mental acuity and physical stamina to be present for myself, my family, my friends, and the world around me.

For the simple pleasures of a daily ritual with tea, and books, two of my most treasured long time companions.

For having access to watching Jeopardy as a family again. 

Most of all, I am so thankful for my husband and daughter and the love and joy they bring me. Without their devotion, it’s difficult to imagine that I’d still be alive and kicking. Their beautiful smiling faces light up my entire world anew, each and every day. Their laughter lifts my spirit, like Charlie and his grandpa floating in Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. (Perfect set up for the pun: my family is a gas!)

Bliss really is an untapped energy source. It fills our new home with music, creative expression, and intellectual pursuits that abound.

I love my family. I love my friends. I love my life.

I am thankful for it all.

 

 

We Are One

 

We are one. When you, your child, your parent, or someone you love is in need of a blood transfusion, an organ transplant, or a helping hand; I promise you that the color of my skin, the religion I was born into or the people I love, will not matter. We are one.

I read an article on Kveller, about a pregnant woman who was menaced by anti-semites; all of whom shared something in common: they are all school teachers.

This is the world we are living in today, in 2017. September is back-to-school month. When I think about all the children going back to school around the country knowing there are open anti-semites out there as teachers, who had so much hate for Jews they felt justified in menacing a pregnant woman and openly admitting their hate, I know that the time is now that we must have a plan of action for standing up to this.

I have a plan.

Ever since I began to notice an increased resurgence in anti-semitism, I have asked myself, “What can I or others effectively do to stop this?”

There may come a time when someone you know is being threatened. What will you do in the face of that fear and threat?

In the Kveller article, the woman who was menaced says, “Now is not the time for neutrality, or blindness, or turning the other cheek. It’s time to stand up on our bar stools—whatever platform we have—and make a scene.”

And yet, she was so struck with fear, that she wasn’t able to speak, even though she wanted to. She was pregnant and vulnerable. I don’t blame her. If I were in her shoes, I likely would have remained silent too because it was probably the safest thing she could do in that moment.

What we know about the Holocaust was that most of the Jews did not fight. Some hid but few were able to fight. How could they have fought? How do we fight now? What could the pregnant woman have said?

We read, the words of Elie Wiesel,  “The lesson of the Holocaust is always believe the threats of your enemies, over the promises of your friends.” But we can change that by making a conscious choice to show up for others on a daily basis, in whatever capacity or to whichever degree is possible. (And let me say, as someone who is disabled and lives with debilitating pain, if I can make time and find ways to show up for others, anyone can.)

When we chant, “Never Again!” We have to do so with a plan of action that will prevent that. Do you have a plan?

I have a plan.

Courage is not something that magically appears when you need it most. Courage is a muscle. You have to use it every day in order to have the confidence that it will be there for you when you need it most.

One of the best ways to use courage is through the daily use of compassion.

You will be more likely to find the courage you need for the big battles if you practice compassion for the day-to-day battles. 

What happens to some people when they try and access compassion is an internal voice that says, “Does that person even deserve my compassion?”

Judgmental thoughts abound: “If they didn’t want to struggle, they shouldn’t have had so many children.” “That homeless drug addict brought his troubles on himself, why should I give him my loose change, he will only spend it on drugs or booze.” “Unemployed and disabled people are just lazy and mooching off the government.” And it goes on and on. The stories people make up in order to justify their beliefs.

If a person has yet to learn how to be loving, gentle, and compassionate with themselves, it is not likely they will be able to be loving, gentle, and compassionate toward others who they may judge as unworthy of anyone’s compassion.

Our compassion extends, only as far, as our perception of oneness. The less you see yourself in another, the easier it becomes to discount that person’s needs.

To have compassion for racists seems almost sacrilegious, but if you hate the haters, you are judging them as inherently different from you, just as they are judging Jews, Muslims, people of color, or anyone from the LGBTQ community, as inherently different from them.

We are not “inherently different,” we merely make different choices to different degrees. Everyone makes judgments and categorizes people as less or more superior than others. What separates an average person’s judgments from a Nazi or Klan member is the degree to which their judgments drive them.

My judgment is that Nazis and the KKK are vile, deplorable, and reprehensible. Their judgments are more harsh, violent, and come with a greater consequence than those of the average person. And yet, they are still human beings made of flesh and bone and hating them isn’t going to stop them; but resistance, solidarity, and education might.

All people have the capacity for the same spectrum of emotions that range from love to hate. Logic and compassion are what keep most people’s judgments in a range that’s nonviolent. If our goal is to end violence, we must employ logic, resistance, and compassion against those who are violent.

Compassion, especially for perceived enemies, takes a great deal of courage. Compassion, like forgiveness, doesn’t mean we invite the people (enemies) who cause hurt, pain, and harm, into our homes and hearts to hurt us more. Compassion is not a statement of approval for poor behavior.

Compassion is the act of caring about the suffering of others.

I guarantee  you that anyone who hates, is suffering; and if we don’t care, how do we expect to change anything?

“The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Cited in Lisa Ulshafer,
Journey with an Angel

To have compassion for anyone, is to take heed to understand how they came to be and where they are now in an effort to prevent them from continuing to hurt themselves or others. Compassion is both selfless and selfish, as it’s a tool for self-preservation.

We rise to action most often from a place of compassion when we see another being in our presence who is suffering. If we choose not to see the suffering of others, who will choose to see us when we suffer? 

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

-Martin Niemöller

If we have been using our compassion muscle to help those in need around us, on a regular basis, then when the time comes that a complete stranger or someone we know and love, is being threatened, we will have built up the resources and tools for knowing how to step forward with courage, remain safe, and still help another person to survive. 

We will not stand idly by or turn a blind eye. We will come to see and know our oneness. 

Do you have a plan if you are in a public place and you see an injustice occur? How will you defend your friend, neighbor or self against an anti-semantic, religious, racist or attack against someone in the LGBTQ community if you are with your family and children, feeling particularly vulnerable, are disabled, or are alone?

These are hard questions, I know. I have spent many a sleepless night, praying and asking for guidance about what we, as individuals, can do to fight the rising threat of hate, and this is what came to me: We have to have something short and concise that is a factual truth which we can memorize and repeat and stand in solidarity to speak:

“We are one. When you, your child, your parent, or someone you love is in need of a blood transfusion, an organ transplant or a helping hand; I promise you that the color of my skin, the religion I was born into or the people I love, will not matter. We are one.”

Resistance against ignorance requires education, enlightenment, and truth. We can look to the past, to the civil rights movement, to other movements where people were divided, in how to address hate and to extract what worked and find new ways for what might work better.

Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in passive resistance, “weapons of love.”

Malcom X was known for the slogan, “by any means necessary.”

When I think about MLK and Malcom X and how to enlighten the minds of racists today, I think about parenting styles through the years.

We have evolved as a society from the days when most parents used spanking as a form of discipline – corporal punishment. Research has repeatedly shown that hitting a child, teaches a child to hit. This is why as intelligent and creative beings we are still solving conflict through war and violence. There are better ways.

Then we moved on to the days of  putting a child’s nose in the corner (an act of public shaming) or making them sit in a “time-out chair” which is a great practice for prison: go in the same way you come out: unchanged. Except now you might feel resentful, angry, bitter, untrusting, and vengeful for being punished for either not having known any better, or having yet to learn impulse control to do better with that which you do know. Neither of these disciplines teaches and corrects the behavior.

The main thing punishment teaches, is how to not get caught. 

Whereas enlightment provides tools and the support and compassion to learn a new way of being.

Today, many parents discipline through empathy and education; through compassionate reasoning (natural consequence meets the broken record technique).

Please keep in mind, your children will likely be your caregivers when you are elderly. Do you want them to treat you with kindness, dignity, and patience? Or with frustration, irritation, and control? 

The simplicity of life is the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Your child is going to remember how you treated her and how you treated yourself, and how you treated those around you, and these will be the guide posts for how she treats you, herself, and others when she is an adult. 

I know that different children have different needs but all children respond to love. 

To become a racist, or a sociopath, or any other type of menace to society,  it seems to me that some part of the emotional understanding in the brain, has yet to be activated. 

Perhaps racists have an arrested emotional development; in which case, they would need to be spoken to with the same confident conviction we use to speak to children, when using reasoning as a form of discipline.

We do that by repeating the same message of love and truth over and over again without engaging with an emotional reaction.

Parents are, at times, called to be broken records. It is in calmly, yet firmly, repeating a message to a child with love in our hearts and voices, such as, “I will not allow you to hurt yourself or others” that they learn to stop hurting themselves and others. 

Parents of particularly violent children have to restrain their child, not with violence, but by holding them in an embrace, sometimes sitting cross legged behind their child, with their legs over the child’s legs and holding them in a tight, restraining (back to chest) hug with love, while repeating over and over again, “I will not allow you to hurt yourself or others.” Until the child calms down and through behavioral modification repetition and modeling of healthier ways of conflict resolution, learns a new way of engaging with the world around him.

Is this not the simple act of resistance without violence? 

Children do not learn to stop hitting by having a “caregiver’s” hand swatting their rearend while saying through clenched teeth, “Hitting. Is. Wrong! Don’t. Do. It. Again! Or there will be more where this came from!”

Neither, I imagine, do violent people learn to stop being violent, by being met with violence. 

If you came from a large family or rowdy neighborhood, you have likely had to break up a fight or two. The person who comes in swinging to break up a fight, only instigates the violence. The person who comes in restraining, sets an example that those around them act on, and helps to end the fighting.

It takes someone calm to remain calm and if we allow ourselves to be consumed with anger it fuels the desire within us to be violent ourselves. 

How do we douse the flames of anger to find our stillness in the storm? Through practice.

The peaceful warrior is not complacent. We practice daily through compassion for the self and others. Through resourcing via meditation, mindfulness, inspiration, support, hydration, nutrition, rest, creative expression, and act, upon act, upon act of loving kindness.

Here is my plan and my answer to those who ask, “What can I do?”

1. Take care of your needs. Practice staying calm in the midst of chaos. Manage your vulnerabilities.

2. Have a plan. Know what you will say in the face of an attack. Use the broken record technique to repeat your own version (or borrow mine), of the We Are One speech

3. Make compassion a mantra. Use restraint in the midst of violence, whenever possible.

4. Resist the mob mentality which can sweep you away. Stop feeding your anger. It only fuels you in the way that alcohol gives someone liquid courage: short term and with impaired judgment. Anger burns off and leaves one burnt-out. Anger helps prevent apathy but can also be counter productive to compassion; which you need for yourself and others if you are going to continue to survive and help others to do the same. Stay grounded by standing your ground. Know the truth, and repeat it often. Be an angel if you can, or at least not an “anger devil.”

5. If you are already comfortable with your image on the internet, you have your picture on Facebook and/or other social media sites, please record and post a video of yourself saying the following message and invite everyone you know to do the same. Share this post. Together, we can create a WE ARE ONE movement that’s similar to the IT GETS BETTER campaign or the ALS ICE BUCKET challenge that will give people a plan, a way to manage their vulnerabilities and something to do that can make a difference.

The message:

“We are one. When you, your child, your parent, or someone you love is in need of a blood transfusion, an organ transplant or a helping hand; I promise you that the color of my skin, the religion I was born into or the people I love, will not matter. We are one.”

The more you hear the message and repeat it the more comfortable you will be with it and the more readily available it will be to you when you need it most. A musician doesn’t practice her playing to reach perfection but rather, she practices to make playing easier when it’s time to perform.

Part of how we prevent ourselves from being victims in society of anything, be it identity theft, harassment, burglary, or physical attack, is by managing our vulnerabilities. Notice I used the word manage versus the word hide. I think our vulnerabilities can be a strength; hiding them might be akin to staying silent.

Managing vulnerabilities is being vulnerable with protection; mindfulness and discretion. We can manage the vulnerabilities we feel by having a plan and knowing what to say in the face of an attack. We say it once, twice, as many times as necessary: We. Are. One.

It’s time to take back the sheets and the streets and resist with the aide of Angels.

When the Westboro Baptist Church, aka the church of hate, protested funerals of victims who were gay, like Matthew Sheppard, volunteers used white sheets in a new way, as angel wings, as they stood together, with arms lifted to protect.

Photo credit 

You can make your own peaceful protest Angel Action Wings here. 

I want to put this message out there to support the woman from the Kveller article and those around her, for all to become so familiar with the simplicity of this message, of this truth, that people have at least a tiny, tangible plan of action for if/when hate erupts in their presence.

My request to you is simple: keep repeating the message, we are one, to yourself and others. This is a way for people all over the world to come together in solidarity. To Have a plan. To be an angel.

Please post your video to your Facebook, twitter #WeAreOneInfinitely, and other social media accounts and send me a copy as well. Thanks.

Sage-living.org

WeAreOneInfinitely@gmail.com

“We are one. When you, your child, your parent, or someone you love is in need of a blood transfusion, an organ transplant or a helping hand; I promise you that the color of my skin, the religion I was born into or the people I love, will not matter. We are one.”

#WeAreOne Videos:

Melody Strong Grace IMG_1959

Www.AndrewEffingHicks.com

 

 

Compassion

Compassion in Action

We speak a lot in our home about mindfulness and compassion (metta).

Compassion for self, as well as for others can completely turn our perception of a situation around in an nano second.

But compassion without action is like loving someone and never telling them.

My family and I were at a loud food court in a mall. A young mother with five children was struggling to order her food and pay for it while wrangling her children. Her son, who was probably seven-years-old, was yanking, twisting, and pulling on the arm of his younger sister, who was about three.

The toddler began to cry. Her cries became louder and more persistent. People began to shoot annoyed glances toward the family. My daughter and I said a prayer of comfort to the child and sent compassion to the mother.

After five minutes of increased high pitched scream cries, people began to shift in their seats with concern. I began wondering myself if the child’s arm hadn’t been broken by her brother. My daughter and I stopped what we were doing and began to direct all of our energy toward sending loving kindness energy toward the family.

At least 10 minutes of scream crying had now passed.

When a child cries that hard, for that long, sometimes it’s because there is something they need to express and be acknowledged for and sometimes it’s because of momentum. They want to stop crying but nothing is interrupting the pattern to help them. They are caught up in the moment, in the expression, and don’t know what else to do but more of the same.

We decided to approach the family.

I asked the mother, “May I offer you some support?” She looked at me with a kind of appreciative confusion. My daughter came with me and started playing peekaboo with the little girl who was scream crying.

Within a few minutes of just standing near the family, lending them our energy, acknowledging their struggle, engaging with kindness, and offering to be of service, the child stopped crying and even smiled. The mother was grateful. The entire food court in the mall was grateful. We walked back to our seats and life carried on; but with a gentler, kinder frequency and energy in the air.

It takes courage to act on compassion. Our minds get cluttered with questions:

“Should I just mind my own business?”

“Is it even appropriate for me to go over there and say something?”

“Someone else will show up to help or be of service.”

If fear stops you from acting on compassion, shift the paradigm from doing an act of compassion for another to doing the act of compassion for your self. 

Reaching out to strangers with compassion is not just something we are inclined to do to be of service to others, but it’s a choice we make to be of service to ourselves.

If my daughter and I did not break away from the mob mentality of annoyance with the child and mother for all the commotion, we too could have found ourselves caught up in the same wave of anger and irritation.

Instead, we made a conscious choice to have compassion for all concerned and act on that choice.

Compassion is the quickest, easiest, most straight forward healing agent, of which I know. When people talk about resisting neutrality, making scenes and fighting for the rights we feel are being stripped of us, I think of compassion; first for the self and then for all.

The courage to take a stand

begins with the compassion of standing our ground.

May we all make more room for compassion in our hearts and may our compassion give us the courage to act when to do so will make a positive difference.

Creating Presence

My daughter shared a gift card with me for one of those places where you paint ceramics. I glued wings onto the back of hugging salt and pepper shakers and painted what was supposed to be mother and daughter angel fairies embracing, but looks more like a British drag queen fairies from Monty Python’s Flying Circus; which makes me love them all the more.

It was a joy to paint again, even if I did so poorly, and the act of doing so brought me to the following thoughts I really want to share with you…

It’s been said…

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past.

If you are anxious, you are living in the future.”

To which I will add, if you are being creative, you are living in the present.

Creativity only happens in the present moment.

If you struggle with remaining present, the best training may be creativity.

When you feel yourself getting pulled under the thick, gooey currents of resentment, of memories from the past, of what could have been and what never will be again; start creating.

When you find yourself spiraling in fear and anxiety about what might or might not come to pass; start creating.

The minute we begin to write, paint, build, cook, or create in any way, we can instantly destroy that vision of struggle. Like a super hero POW!- we blast one version of reality into the next.

“But I’m not the creative type.”

“I don’t have time to create.”

Are you the “thinking type?”

Do you have time to think?

Because every thought is a creation.

When someone comes to me and says, “The flood waters in Texas are rising and expected to rise more.” I listen and think, “Is this thought yet a reality?” No. It’s a possibility, perhaps even a probability. It’s malleable, not fixed.

If I start thinking about the water rising and repeat what I heard to someone else, is that thought serving anyone? Is it helping to create an unwanted reality? What thought could I choose that would be of more service? What do the people of Texas need? They need the flood waters to recess. I take a moment and imagine, like a movie in reverse, that the flood waters are recessing. I imagine people being rescued. Loved ones being found. I picture everyone’s needs being met and suffering being eased.

Does this help or do anything at all that’s actually tangible? Maybe, maybe not. Does it hurt? Only if it prevented real action. But what does the creation of our thoughts lead to most? Action! When we allow ourselves to think about whether or not a certain thought serves us, we start putting more consideration into our thoughts which leads to creativity and often to a call of action.

Everything around us: homes, buildings, the things we fill our homes with: art, music, books, all began first as thoughts.

A “to do list,” is a list of thoughts, with an intent to act, which then creates new results or realities.

If we are going to spend our time thinking anyway, why not pull our thoughts from obsessively regretting the past or catastrophizing the future and start creating a better present moment of now?

When I find myself getting caught in a wave of thoughts that are not serving me, about the world, finances, health, etc. I start creating new possibilities with new thoughts.

I start with myself and my daughter. I imagine us healthy and dancing together on a beach. I’m wearing a red ballet dress and she is wearing a matching one in white. I have an entire dance choreographed that we do together at sunset, because I am corny like that.

I move on to my husband, extended family, friends, community, and world at large. I don’t imagine everyone dancing, but I suppose I could. I imagine instead, the realities they have shared with me that they most want. I see everyone in the story they are currently in, with whatever their personal struggles might be, and then I see them specifically as how they have expressed to me they want to be (particular new job, relationship, experience, etc.) which largely amounts to happy, healthy and successful.

For example, I had a friend who wanted a certain number of piano students each week; and another friend who wanted to have a dog walking business, another who wanted to self-publish books, another who wanted to make a film, and many friends who wanted to get pregnant. Every day for several weeks I visualized for each of them their desired reality and whether or not I had anything to do with it or not, their business’ grew, the books got published, the film was made, and all my friends got pregnant. To their credit, I do have hard working friends.

A few years ago there was a lot on the news about a pending hurricane to hit Mexico. At the time, I belonged to several online meditation groups and we came together to visualize the hurricane getting smaller and smaller so that by the time it hit Mexico, it would not cause the damage predicted; and that’s exactly what happened.

But there are many times that my thoughts don’t seem to make any difference at all.

There are so, very many variables that go into creating reality: personally and globally. We are not sole creators, we are merely co-creators. There will be times when forces greater than us and our thoughts, are able to shape and form reality. Does that mean that thought practice is a useless skill? No, because it’s not always about an ends to a means, it’s about how the focus on our thoughts changes us in the present moment.

I don’t know if my positive thinking helps the actual people I’m thinking about, but I know it helps me.

Positive thinking, or as I prefer to call it: “Thought Practice” is not about denial, it’s about a call to action around the reality that exists and how we want to change it.

When my child is sick, I do not treat her symptoms with happy thoughts alone. I acknowledge any suffering and do my best to provide comfort and ease, by first recognizing and validating her experience. Then I work, through action, to change that reality by providing medical care and/or healing techniques. Finally, I work with thought, I imagine her well, vibrant, and happy.

Too often, New Age Thought rejects the first steps of acknowledging the negative reality someone is experiencing for fear of reinforcing it; and too often the pragmatist rejects any power or influence their thoughts may have about a situation. As with most things in life, I find the answer to be in the middle grey area, somewhere in between those two extremes.

We have to recognize the reality in order to treat it, but we don’t have to accept the reality as the only reality in existence. There are likely an infinite number of realities for any given situation. Everything is energy which makes me believe that our thoughts have power, if not to impact the world around us, to impact the world within us.

If you have zero interest in thought practice as a means of service to self and others, and you just have a desire to be more present in the eternal moment of now, I wholeheartedly recommend any kind of creative engagement of the mind.

I am not a visual artist, as my salt and pepper shakers can attest, but I paint, craft, and create as often as possible because it brings me and keeps me in the present moment. Maybe that’s why every movie about mental institutions has a reference to basket weaving classes and shows patients doing arts and crafts. When we engage with creativity it brings us into the present.

I also find the same gift when I play chess or a musical instrument. I am not proficient at any musical instrument and therefore it takes a great deal of concentration for me to play one without damaging ear drums or driving others away.

Chess takes all my concentration and there is no part of my brain that has time to worry about the future or fret over the past when I am trying to protect my Queen and checkmate my opponents King. Chess makes my brain tickle and I love it, even if I lose far more often than win. I don’t play to win as much as I play for the reward of the brain tickle and the respite from living in the past or the future.

We need to have time in the present moment in order to manage the moments from the past and future that still haunt us.

It’s a delicious bath to bathe in the essence of nothingness and all-ness in the same moment of now.

What do you do to create presence in your life?

 

 

 

 

Managing Discomfort

Part of life is managing discomfort; be it mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, or even psychic.

The main way that most people manage discomfort is to kvetch, complain and vent about it. This can ease the sting and is sometimes a helpful part of the process; and yet, there are other ways to manage discomfort as well which my daughter has taught me; more graceful ways.

The first time my daughter was in a group situation where she felt the need to manage discomfort, children were making observational comparisons to one another. It was then that I first introduced her to the topic of ego.

I told her that the ego had a bad rep for the most part, but that the benefit of ego, is that it’s there for our survival, and part of survival is making comparisons and managing discomfort. And by survival I mean everything from the literal survival of life versus death, to survival of peer pressure. Survival of the personality, the spirit, and the core of who we are in the face of society, at times, pressuring us to be someone or something other than who we are.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world
which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else
means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
e. e. cummings

The question the ego asks most is, “Am I safe?” Everything that follows, that gives ego a bad name, usually comes from poorly devised attempts at safety.

I shared with her that it was the job of the ego to compare, but the job of the spirit to see past all that could be measured. She took this to heart.

We have recently moved to a new city. A city that from a global perspective isn’t that different from the last one we lived in, but from a highly sensitive person’s individual perspective is drastically, almost diametrically opposed to the one from which we came from both socially, and politically. It’s a culture shock to be certain.

My daughter went to a summer program to make new friends. When given the chance to socialize, the children, ages 8-11, played Minecraft on their cell phones instead. My daughter was disappointed.

When I asked her what she did to manage her disappointment, she said,

“I inhaled the feeling of discomfort and embraced it.”

“Wow!” I said with genuine awe, “What a masterful example of managing discomfort.”

My daughter is my inspiration. I take no credit for her “old soul” wisdom.

She likes to read Pema Chödrön. Yes, it’s true, that I introduced her to Pema Chödrön, but so too to Shakespeare, The Bhagavadgītā, parts of the Talmud, The Holy Bible, Dr. Seuss, Rainbow Fish, Tolstoy, Epictetus, the words of Gautama Buddha and a bevy of poets. But it has been Pema Chödrön who she has been drawn to most, as her 10-year-old self.

My daughter supported herself by supporting her feelings. She sat with the uncomfortable feelings like she would sit with an arm around a friend who was sad. Then the feeling dissolved and left. In essence, she loved discomfort away by accepting it, by breathing it in, and breathing it out.

How much easier and more elegant is this approach compared to being in denial, defensive, resistant or in reactive mode? It’s a life time easier.

Why can’t we all just do that whenever we are in discomfort? Can we try? Because it’s a pretty amazing and transformative practice that could end a lot of suffering.

She was able to change her own feelings and perspective through self-compassion and acceptance.

However, this did not change the people or problems around her.

“We can’t change the people around us but we can change the people around us.”

The challenge of being surrounded by children who would rather be on a device than play, still remained. Yet, she found a graceful and loving way to handle that situation as well.

Each morning before camp, we would do a grounding meditation. Sometimes it was as simple as a loving embrace facing each other heart to heart while setting a five minute meditation timer and just focusing on breathing together and really feeling each other’s unconditional love.

Sometimes I would guide her in a meditation in the parking lot of the school where the camp was located before she got out of the car. Neither practice took more than a few minutes. We’d focus on tuning her frequency to her highest self, those characteristics she feels make her who she is: a joyful heart, a conscientious spirit, and a curious mind all wrapped in a soft, playful, sensitive blanket.

I was taught that to have a friend, you have to be a friend. This can be good advice, but I feel it needs a little instruction. I became a friend to others, often by losing parts of myself in the process and I didn’t want to see my daughter sacrifice herself in the same way.

I wanted to encourage her in being more of who she was, to draw out and support anyone in the group who might share those same qualities; instead of encouraging her to be less of herself, just to fit in with the strongest common denominator which was the least like her truest self.

The challenge with group dynamics is remaining who you are, trusting that like-minded peers will come forth with support; and not allowing the mob mentality to mold you or your child into something you or they are not.

I really love who my daughter is and I don’t want her to lose her beautiful nature in the name of not feeling alone. This is part of why we homeschool, to support our child in being her true self. There’s a big difference between being able to blend into any community and having to change your core values to fit into the community you feel situationally forced to due to school, work, religion, etc.

At some point in our lives, we have each likely found ourselves letting pieces of us be chipped away in the name of acceptance by others. In the end, we often find that those who want to change us or need us to change in order to be accepted by them, will never be satisfied. I maintain that there is a more loving way to be in the world and connect with others, but it requires mindfulness and practice.

My daughter remained committed to a daily practice of being present and focused on the tuning of her frequency to the vibration that served her. The mantra and prayer was, “May my frequency honor and protect me so that I may strengthen the frequency of any kindred spirits among me and only attract other children who are vibrating with a joyful heart, a kind soul, and a conscientious spirit.”

I believe that we teach by example. We need not draw to us people who seem inherently different with a desire to change them (i.e. Bullies). We only need be more of ourselves and give others permission to do the same. For truly, if we are one, our core values which are expressions of love, will rise to the surface in each of us; if only we create a safe and inviting place for love to shine.

This is not just a lesson for a child, but for adults as well in work, family, and community dynamics. We can find peaceful and effective ways to manage discomfort through acceptance of what is and mindfulness of what can be.

My daughter is patient. She set an intention to make new friends and was prepared to be flexible and make space for that to happen. For several days, she sat with mindful presence demonstrating an interest and availability to play with the children, should they choose to stop playing Minecraft.

During that time she observed which children went out of their way to be kind to others and which went out of their way to be cruel. Fragments of conversations floated abundantly and gave insight into the moral compass of those around her. She noticed the mannerisms and quirks of teachers and administrators; people watching is in our blood. She radiated kindness to all and remained joyful and willing to make a new friend or friends during the entire process.

Eventually, after a week had passed, she decided that she would bring a book to read while other children played on their phones. Just as she was about to reach for her book, a few children, some new, began to put their phones away and play with her instead. She was thrilled.

She could have applied the “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” concept, or even the “If you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy. Instead, she chose to remain loyal to her integrity and values and her desire to connect with people directly and not via the video game.

We have no beliefs about the video game or video games in general either positive or negative, per say. In fact, Minecraft is very popular in the homeschool community and we have heard wonderful things about it. But that was simply not how she wanted to exchange her energy with others. She said, “I’d rather interact directly with children through playing pretend games and using our imaginations or spend time with myself reading a book. I’m not interested in Minecraft.”

It wasn’t a judgement against others, rather a choice for herself. That’s the irony about people who take things personally; it is personal, about the person making the choice for themselves, not about the one who actually takes it personally.

She did not succumb to lowering her vibration in order to make new friends. She believed in herself and focused on raising her vibration and trusting the process of life, and in the end, she was rewarded for that choice, and that faith. She may not have made lifetime friends in the summer camp environment, but she made seasonal friends.

These children were not like the children from the earthy, hippie community we had come from. They asked questions about what store my daughter planned to buy her costume from, and were inordinately focused on what kind of car their parents drove and the zip code each lived in.

These children played pranks on each other, older kids turned off the bathroom lights on younger kids and told them the bathroom was haunted. Some might argue that this is just an example of kids being kids; and maybe it is. But my daughter is an empath and when she saw how upset it made some of the children she had empathy for their feelings. She took it upon herself to use her height and courage and block the path of the lights when she could and assure the younger children that the bathroom was not haunted and that she would wait with them if they were frightened.

There were only two boys in the class of 30 and the day they were absent, the greater majority of the class began gossiping about them. When girls came to gossip with my daughter she asked them to stop. She said, “How would you feel if people were gossiping about you?” They walked away and my daughter got her first taste of what it feels like to stand up for the right thing but pay the price by standing alone.

At the end of the five week summer program, she walked away not having made any lasting friendships. Her father and I seemed more sad for her than she was for herself. She said, “It’s ok. It would have been too much work to bend myself to their ways or want them to bend themselves to my ways. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit but there will be other people and places and opportunities to make new friends.”

And there were. She met someone she connected with at Chemistry Camp and she’s become friends with the next door neighbor. Eventually, we may even get plugged into the homeschool community in our new town and maybe make more connections there.

For now, she has the friends she’s always had, she just sees them less. And truly, we don’t need a ton of friends, just a few really good ones. I’m proud of her for not falling into desperation and lowering her standards. It gives me hope for her future dating life.

We do not need to lower our vibration in order to find meaningful connections with others, no matter where we are in the world. We merely need to remain present, patient, and trusting that our tribe will find us or others will raise their vibrations to match ours if only we can remain grounded in our frequency, our integrity, and make our vibration strong enough to stay centered in it. We must keep being true to ourselves.

When we allow our inner light to shine and give ourselves permission to be who we are and like what we like, and heed the call of our spirit, and allow others to do the same, we all shine.

When we shine our light, we have the power to strengthen the light of others. The greater the light, the greater the vision and clarity for all concerned and the more effortless it is to manage our discomfort.

 

 

Grace

As I christen yet another emergency room hospital bed, I’m presented with a menu of thought options.

At the top of the menu is: Victim-hood.

These are the “Why Me Appetizers.”

There’s the “Why Have You Forsaken Me Tears?”

And the, “What Did I Do to Deserve this Body that is Broken, in Pain, and Creating a Chain Reaction of Despair to Every Facet of My Life, Angst?”

Our culture has been serving these as traditional fair for millennia.

I pass on those empty calories and move on.

The middle section of the menu lists: Resentments. They tell me that if I am interested in these I better order soon because resentments are so popular that everyday by 5pm, they usually sell out.

These include standards like, “If you are giving up on me, I am giving up on you.” And the more punishing and aggressive, yet spiced very similarly, “If I can’t control you, then you do not exist in my world.”

I see these ordered a lot.

Sometimes, when the emotionally arrested developed, feel their body is betraying them, they start to betray it first. They overeat, stop moving and threaten suicide whenever they do not feel loved, appreciated, needed, or valued enough. It’s similar to children who threaten to run away when they don’t get their way. It’s basically an adult temper tantrum.

Resentments are sometimes a deadly combination of fear and anger and they can poison the body.

Another common reaction to resentment, is control.

If a person feels betrayed, they might retaliate through control. It becomes a competition of strength and will. They will control every calorie in and every calorie out and every action of yours and theirs as a means of not feeling victimized, as a way of self-defense.

It’s an honorable attempt and certainly takes more work than simply giving up, but in the end, the efforts are largely futile as the act and need to control is likely as much the poison causing their disease as they think it is the cure.

Now, resentments can provide temporary satisfaction but they are impossible to digest, the body just keeps bringing them up. In the end, they tend to cause me more harm than good so I avoid them as much as possible.

There were other options like Surrender & Acceptance, but I’m so full of those I couldn’t possibly absorb anymore than I already have.

I scan the entire menu and nothing looks palatable.

The nurse says to me with a bit of kitsch in his voice, “My personal favorite is Denial. They disguise it like broccoli in lasagna so that you can’t even taste the bitterness of ignorance. It’s very filling. Are you sure I can’t get that for you?”

I smile and try to hide the confetti of bemused judgment falling all around me, as I gently reply, “No, Thank You.”

I bow my head and my eyes fall to the very bottom of the menu.

In small print, I see the word “Grace,” although it’s disguised as Gratuity, as giving thanks.

I choose that.

“I’d like an order of Gratuity please.”

The doctor and nurses look confused.

The doctor says, “We don’t offer Gratuity, it’s something the patients usually offer us.”

I respond with direct eye contact and a quiet confidence, “There’s a first time for everything.”

The nurse, writing this all down, clarifies, “You’d like to offer gratuity even though you didn’t order or accept anything on the thought menu we have provided?”

The state of grace is often a simultaneous offering and acceptance of gratuity.

Their subtext is clear. They are wondering, “Why? How does that serve you?”

I’ve already been told about the lesions on my brain, the evidence of a past stroke, that my body is severely dehydrated from having to move to a warmer climate that my POTS can’t seem to regulate, that I am bleeding internally, that there is no cure for EDS and that their goal is to simply make me comfortable. There is nothing they can do to heal, or save me.

They look resigned. My empathy is picking up that they feel useless. I actually feel a pang for their pang that they can’t soften my pang. This makes me laugh a little, albeit inside. On the outside, I’m calm, as I make the conscious shift from feeling resigned into feeling content. It’s a subtle, but significant shift.

Their training has not prepared them for this exchange.

They give one more feeble attempt at healing via masking and they ask, “Would you like a pain medication?”

I tell them, “No thank you. I manage pain daily, usually without any medication at all, and today is no worse than usual. I’m just incredibly weak, I lean to the right when I try to walk and something has already made me feel drugged, maybe the dehydration. The last thing I want is medication. I’m going to stick with mindfulness for now.”

“But why gratuity?” They ask in unison as they turn to each other and both say, “Jinx!” Who knew a doctor and her nurses could be so entertaining?

My mind is too cloudy to articulate and my vision is too blurry to read anymore. I say, “Please Google the word Grace and tell me what it says.”

The doctor pulls up Wikipedia and reads to me, “Grace as a Verb, ‘Do honor, or credit, [with dignity] to (someone or something) by one’s presence.’

She continues, Grace as a Noun, ‘Elegance, refinement, poise, finesse’”

The nurse chimes in, “ ‘Grace as a virtue, operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses,’”

I breathe deeply.

He continues, “and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation;…”

“Yes!” I tell him, in a weakened stage whisper, of sorts. “When I am grateful for that which I do possess in abundant supply: love, no matter how painful, no matter how confounding the rest of the world or my body might be, my mind can begin to regenerate and remind me of what is important.”

At that moment, my daughter climbed into the hospital bed with me. My husband stood up and put his hand upon my shoulder. I held my daughter close and placed my hand upon my husband’s. I allowed myself to feel the love of my family, and my small circle of loved ones who were only a text and prayer away.

I expanded that love bubble to fill the entire room, then the city, state, country, continent, and whole world. I breathed in the pulse of that expanding love, and as I did, I could feel tiny earthquakes and shifts occurring within. My body was breaking from the mold of limitations into the expansion of possibilities.

I then embraced grace as a verb by offering my presence to myself, to my family, and to the situation. I allowed myself to begin to vibrate with love and the noun of grace, to possess refined poise of gratitude and gratefulness; not for the suffering, pain, discomfort, and fear, all of which will continue to exists in life to varying degrees, for all people, but grateful rather for the love in my life.

These opposites are always coexisting: life and death, good and evil, light and dark. We need not deny one in order to feel the other. We merely need to choose which one we are going to focus on the most, which one are we going to raise (or lower) our frequency to?

I choose love. I’ve always chosen love. I will continue to choose love again and again and again.

A week after the hospital visit, I lay on the mattress on the floor of our new home, still waiting for our furniture to arrive, which won’t be for another 10 days or so, and the pain rushes back.

It’s as if I am in a 136 degree attic in Phoenix, Arizona. A thick weight is sucking the life out of me. I feel my body go limp, my breath become shallow and despair start to hover like a vulture over a dying bird.

I do not panic. I do not rush back to the hospital. I breathe. I use all my physical strength to roll over and gaze into the sleeping face of my daughter. I make a conscious choice to resonate with love instead of fear.

I’ve already been to the hospital. There is nothing they can do but make me comfortable and no place is more comfortable than being where I already am.

I have years now of knowing that these “waves of suffering” will pass. And while they may erode and redefine the shore line in the process, I will continue to survive, until I don’t; and that my friends, is the story of everyone’s life.

Choosing negative thoughts from the menu of life, like fear, victimization, resentment, anger, retaliation, control, etc. does not, has not, and will not serve me. I doubt it serves anyone.

I choose gratuity. I choose the quality of grace. For grace regenerates and imparts strength to endure trials. I choose: love.

In that frequency of love, I gently let go and allow my vibration to rise and for light to enter all the corners of darkness. I breathe in light and love. I breathe out joy and contentment.

I see my daughter smile in her sleep. It’s a mirror; for my face automatically smiles when she smiles. I close my eyes and I imagine her laughter, her sweet voice singing, her happy spirit that hums and whistles through every day and I become filled with gratitude that I am blessed to be loved by a being who is filed with so much love, light, magic, and joy.

This little light of mine, is a contagious disease well spread; I’m going to let it shine.

Fear is a stalker. It is relentless. It will attack you with it’s pals: pain, and despair, when you are at you most vulnerable. When that happens, please hear my voice in your head, “Choose love. Choose gratuity. Choose Grace.”

Grace will trump fear each and every time.

You are not alone.

 

Dear Daughter,

October 2016

My Dearest Daughter,

You are wise.

I believe in you.

You do not need these letters from me.

You do not need my words of “wisdom” which are merely opinions based on my personal experience.

I have absolute faith in you.

I know that you can do anything you set your heart and mind to.

I know that you have integrity and that you make good choices.

I know that you are kind, loving, intelligent, talented, sensitive, beautiful, and strong.

You have everything you need to get you through life.

I am writing these letters because when my Papa, my primary parent, died, I wished I had letters from him like the ones I am leaving for you. I longed to ask him, “What would you do?,” in various situations.

I wished for words of comfort and wisdom from him during times in my life when I was confused, and frightened.

It is only natural to presume that you might feel this way too, someday, about me, and I want to give to you what I wish I had from my parent, just in case.

I hope that I will be alive and of sound mind and able to remember and communicate whatever you might want or need from me, when that time comes. But if I am not, I am writing what I can to you now.

I am making it public, so that it won’t be lost in the chaos of personal possessions if I am gone.

Please always know how very much I love you and admire you. I know that if you choose to be a mother, you will be a wonderful mother, and a success at anything you do in life. For you have always known balance and been attuned to what your body, mind, and spirit need to keep you whole.

I trust that you will take care of your health, because you always have been so very good at doing so.

I will never leave your side, I might only transfer my energy from the physical to the metaphysical.

We have a bond that I believe will continue through many life times.

I promise to visit you in your dreams, comfort you through pain, and celebrate with you all the many joys you will experience.

My spirit plans to dwell on beaches and in places of art and inspiration; as well as support those who are suffering in any way that I can; and to always watch out for you and Daddy, and be as present as possible anytime you ask me to.

When my family members began to die and drift away, I tried to make my friends my family. This was the biggest mistake and waste of my precious life force and energy that I repeatedly made in life. I pray you will not make the same mistake.

I hope you will allow your friends to be your friends and expect nothing more than they are capable of giving or being. Having a friend as a friend is much better than having a friend you expect to love you and be there for you like family. I truly believe that is asking too much and that it diminishes your own power and ability to be there for yourself.

Remember that as long as you have yourself, you have family. You will be ok. Mommy’s friends love you and you will have a surrogate mother when you need one. You will never have to walk through life alone; although being alone can also be a serene experience of being “all-one.”

Keep loving yourself and others. Keep creating. Keep your love for learning, and literature, music, art, dance, theatre, and nature, close to your heart.

Please remember to always make time to do nothing, to indulge in silence, to be of service to others when you can, and to take care of you and your needs, and your life will always be full.

I’m so proud of who you are and the light you shine in this world. May you always be able to see yourself with love, and love yourself as unconditionally as I love you.

Remember this, my dear one… you deserve happiness. You deserve unconditional love. You deserve every good and wonderful thing that I know you will create in your life.

I will always be proud of you just for being you, your authentic self. You are my greatest joy, my sunshine, my Huckleberry friend.

I am so blessed to have you as my daughter. I never could have created in my imagination a more delightful and loving child. You are a miracle.

I love your laughter, your sweet yet strong singing voice, your thirst to learn, and the compassion, support, and wisdom, which you give to others.

I will never tire of watching you read, of seeing you draw or hearing you play the cello.

I am and have always been in awe of you and all your innate wisdom and goodness.

Thank you for being my daughter, my friend, and my raison d’être inspiration.

I love you infinity,

Mommy

Truth, Kindness, and Trust-Letters to My Daughter

My Luv,

There is no truth, only perception.

A truth not based in fact is merely a story we tell ourselves. The fault in the stories we tell ourselves and others is that every story has at least two sides and the vast majority of the time we only hear or tell one of those sides. Each side of a story is only a half truth and as the old Yiddish saying goes, “A half truth is a whole lie.”

There are varied perceptions of truth and then there are facts. People use fact as a synonym for truth but they rarely use the same yard stick to measure truth as they do to measure facts.

You cannot be truthful without facts, but you can always be honest. Honesty is the act of telling your personal truth. But, before we can be honest in telling our truth, we have to ask ourselves, “Is this true?” Is whatever you are about to say, true? How do we discern if something is true? Through facts not feelings. If we have a feeling about an experience, that alone does not equate a truth. Feelings are not facts.

Therefore, when we tell someone that we are going to be honest with them, and our honesty is not based on factual findings, we should do so with the awareness that what we are about to say could be false and it could also be hurtful. If you want to be honest with someone, do so with the humility that you could be wrong and with the kindness that you are taking their feelings into consideration, not just your own.

There is no truth without kindness and no kindness without truth.

I like truth. I like honesty. I also like kindness.

Kindness:

Kindness matters more to me than just about anything, because for me it incorporates truth, integrity, honesty, trust, and love. Kindness is sensitivity, it is compassion. When I was pregnant with you I prayed for only two things: That you would be healthy and that you would be kind. I am so very grateful and proud to say that you are the kindest person I have ever known.

Your heart weeps for the sadness in others and celebrates even the most minimal observations worth acknowledging. You never miss an opportunity to be kind. You compliment everyone from a sincere place of reflecting the beauty that you see in them. I am in awe of your kind heart. You my darling daughter, have always had a kind word for every person who has crossed your path.

Being a kind person is looking for opportunities to lift the spirits of others through honest expression with loving words. Kindness is nurturing the light within so much so, that it can’t help but shine out unto the rest of the world.

Kindness is being thoughtful, considerate, generous, and a gracious host who shows hospitality. Kindness is benevolence and altruism, it’s the act of being charitable and magnanimous. When we are kind to others, we are being kind to ourselves. kindness is the best soul food on the planet.

Kindness can also be a form of manner and politeness, but it should never be confused as being submissive or subservient. Any person who mistakes kindness for weakness is nothing less than a fool. Remember this, my daughter, “A wise {wo}man can learn more from a fool than a fool from a wise {wo}man.” Your kindness makes you strong. Let those who think otherwise…think otherwise. It’s not your concern when someone has a belief about you be it true or false; that’s not your cross to bear, it’s theirs. Your own beliefs are your only burden and other people’s beliefs about you are their burden.

Kindness is warmth, a gentle hug, a comforting hand upon a sulking shoulder. To be kind is to care about another person’s heart. To be kind is to be helpful, to open a door for someone who can’t easily do so on their own, to make eye contact with someone with a disability and smile, to be friendly to a person providing service. Kindness is reflecting all the beauty and goodness you see in others. It’s being a cheerleader and a support system.

Kindness cost nothing and yet is priceless. It’s what makes the world a place I want to be a part of. An act of kindness can change the course of another person’s life forever. I truly believe that all we leave behind in this world once we are dead and gone are the acts of kindness we have given to others.

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” -Henry James

Kindness matters. When someone has an opportunity to act with kindness and chooses not to, it tells you everything you need to know about who they are and at what distance you should hold them.

The greatest challenge with kindness is that sometimes you have to choose between being kind to someone else or being kind to yourself. This struggle always breaks my heart. I can’t instruct you on when to put others before yourself and when to put yourself above others, as it will vary. I can only say, my dearest daughter, SPEAK. YOUR. TRUTH! Speak it with kindness, fact check your truth and trust yourself. The only sword a kind woman carries is her truth, don’t be afraid to use it.

Trust:

“Whether it’s a friendship or [a] relationship, all bonds are built on trust. Without it, you have nothing.”

Trust is an odd concept. It is not an absolute. It waxes and wanes even amongst the most trust worthy. You can trust various people to various degrees for various time periods. I have found however, that the only true trust comes from someone who loves you unconditionally and with that unconditional love comes a loyalty.

The problem is that very few people are capable of unconditional love, especially if they have an ego that wounds easily. People who have control issues and low self-worth, are often working very diligently to create an image of themselves for others that will reflect worthiness back to them. If they think you see them as anything less than perfect, it crushes them. It’s as if you are saying they are evil.

“Relationships never dies a natural death… They are murdered by Ego, Attitude and ignorance.”

I see all people as flawed and fabulous but some people can’t bear to have their flaws seen, even if they are impossible to hide, even if you show them yours. If you place your trust with someone like this, they will betray you the first moment they think that you think less of them then they expect you to. There’s this old book called, “What You Think of Me is None of My Business.” It should be required reading for a healthy psyche, especially for people with low self-worth.

“I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” -Maya Angelou

Sometimes you don’t know how much of a hot mess someone is until their hot mess has burned you. Not every lion befriends the mouse that removes the thorn. Some lions nurse their pain and feed the anger and resentment that their pain causes them by lashing out at their nearest and dearest.

The simplest advice I can give you about discerning who you can and can’t trust is this: trust your intuition and know that people will disappoint you. When they do, cut your losses and move on. If they betray your trust once, they will do it again and again in a million tiny paper cut ways that can lead to infections that take years to heal. No one is perfect but betrayl is beyond imperfection, it will wound you and leave a scar. Avoid it if you can.

“The most damaging aspect of abuse is the trauma to our hearts and souls from being betrayed by the people that we love and trust.” -quoteideas.com

One test of trust is revealing your kryptonite weakness to another, and watching how they react. Either they protect and guard you against it or they quickly use it to hurt you. That’s when you know that you are dealing with someone who is very broken.

You might have a person passionately exclaim, “You’re so honest and direct that it makes me feel so connected to you. I love you so much!” And then a few weeks later, that same person might say, “You’re so honest and direct that it makes me feel that you are intense and it freaks me out. I need space.”

These people damage trust not for what they say, which may or may not be true, and not because they are untrustworthy, per say, but because their own internal turmoil prevents them from being grounded and consistent. You can’t trust where you stand with them at any given moment. They are reactive, unsettled and can go to extremes in how they take in the world around them. Be kind to these people, for they need compassion, and because your kindness to others serves your highest self. Be kind to yourself by realizing these are not safe people with whom to place your trust; for you also deserve compassion.

“When I give you my time, I’m giving you a portion of my life that I will never get back. Please don’t make me regret it.”

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” – Pema Chödrön

Unfortunately, not all people who have known their own darkness have the courage or ability to be present with it, so they certainly won’t be able to be present with yours. This is why it’s so important to find equals when building trust in friendship. If someone is not your equal, they cannot show up for you in the way you show up for them. It’s no one’s fault, although they may lash out at you as a way of surviving their own inner self-recrimination. There is nothing you can do but return to your center of peace. Say a prayer for them and then move on to the business of caring for yourself.

There are whole and loving people who will make you feel so good when they come into your life, that you will feel like opening your heart up to trusting the entire world. Then there are those who are cracked with sharp edges who will come into your life and cause so much heartache that you will never feel like trusting anyone again.

If this were a Hallmark card, the next line would be, “Trust anyway.” But it’s not. This is your mother speaking. I’m coming to you from the perspective of wanting to protect you from having your trust betrayed. When it comes to trust, or most anything in life, when in doubt, don’t.

Find a trustworthy therapist, a loyal friend and a family member who loves you unconditionally and trust only these people, implicitly. With everyone else: trust to varying degrees and take caution. Trusting the wrong person is not worth the temporary false bond. Trusting someone who never had the capacity to be trustworthy in the first place is a hard and painful experience that I wish I could spare you.

“Love all,

Trust a few.

Do wrong to none.”

I originally wrote this piece for a now defunct online magazine back when you were just a baby. I was still in an oxytocin haze filled with love for you and the entire world every time I nursed and released those feel good hormones. I feel as if I have lived through a few world wars since then. I’m covered in battle scars hidden only by those who are blind. The way I see the world now is a little different. It’s still bright and beautiful but with the day comes the night and I no longer focus on one over the other.

I still believe that life is an incredible journey, that most people are basically good and that kindness may be the most important virtue of all, to others as well as yourself. But I’ve learned more about the ego than ever before and those three little letters e.g.o. can kill love, truth, kindness and trust faster than anything else in its path.

I was just a teenager when I started studying Buddhism and ego. I had an idealistic belief that the deeply ingrained survival mechanisms of ego that caused separation and made people hurtful, could be softened by love and time, essentially: maturity. I was mistaken. Unless people are actively engaged, on a regular and diligent basis, on ego awareness, the ego only grows more and more obstinate. I have watched certain elderly people revert back to children and I have seen others grow with grace, wisdom, depth, and enlightenment. I believe that much of the work of the soul, is work with the ego which begins with love. Yet, there is no love without truth and truth is a kind of mirror that most people do not want to gaze into.

For all of my life I was told by family, teachers and peers that I was special and an exception, especially in regard to intuition and how open and honest I am. I didn’t particularly like this. It felt like it went against my belief that we are one. I didn’t want to see myself as separate from anyone else and to me, ”special” meant “separate.” I didn’t want to believe that I was special because that felt like being told, “Because of this, you will always be alone.” I replaced the words in my mind. When someone called me special, I transposed it to: “different.” When someone said that my intuition was a gift, I transposed it to: “an ability.”

This served me in some ways, for I never saw myself as above anyone and I never saw myself below anyone. It hurt me in other ways because I expected people to be more than they could, I expected them to have the capacity to love as deeply as I do. I love most everyone as if they were a child or sibling: wholly, unconditionally and affectionately. I like to call my friends: beautiful, gorgeous, or my luv, because that is how I see them. It’s a good detector of who is capable of self-love and who isn’t. The more love you give someone who only has a shallow, narcissistic self-love and has yet to learn how to love themselves unconditionally, the less they will be able to tolerate your sincere love. It overwhelms them. Deep inside on some unconscious level, there might be this thought, “If they love me, something must be wrong with them.” Eventually they will attack you because you are threatening their illusion of reality and denial of the truth.

My darling daughter, never place all your bets on the “potential” for anything. Do not become friends with someone for the potential you see in them to love themselves, do not fall in love with a man for his potential. Do not take a job for its potential (take the job for what it is in the moment), Do not buy a home for it’s potential unless you are willing to do all the work to discover both the beauty that it might become and the unknown pitfalls that you might discover. Engaging with anyone or anything based on potential, is engaging with a dream that may or may not come true. Instead, meet people, places and opportunities, right where they are.

We are empaths and intuitives and people open up to us and trust us almost immediately. We show up open and accessible and that makes others feel safe to do the same, as much as they are capable of doing. This gives us the false impression that because they can trust us that we too can trust them. People can be trust worthy but only insofar as they have come to know themselves.

“You cannot make everyone think and feel as deeply as you do. This is your tragedy, Because you understand them, But they do not understand you.” –Daniel  Saint

There is a saying, “You can only meet people as deeply as they have met themselves.” This may be your best measuring stick as to whom to trust and to what degree. Trust others as deeply as they have come, not to trust themselves, but to face the truth in themselves. This is where the real struggle begins because few people are brave enough to see their truth and either accept it or transform it.

We live in a world that supports manufacturing lies from the most banal of wearing makeup, and heels to taking selfies in the best possible lighting and angles. People plaster Facebook with all their fun and exciting brag worthy experiences while keeping their struggles and challenges behind closed doors. They paint a false reality to depict their life. They convince themselves that they are the attractive selfie, not the imperfect reflection in the mirror. That they are the one smiling in a vacation photo, not the one isolating from pain. Their lives are no more real than sets and scenery in a play. Real is wholeness. It’s not hiding your fears but sharing them and illuminating them. It’s not denying the challenges, it’s learning to make poetry from the painful truths of reality in addition to celebrating the joys. An authentic person is a whole person.

Never water down who you are to meet someone else’s tastes and comfort level. Be you, wholly, completely, fully. Be as deep and passionate as you want or need to be. Look who I met being fully me: your father and look what that led to: beautiful, amazing YOU! Being my fullest, most whole and complete, true-to-me, authentic self is what led to me performing at Madison Square Garden, it’s what brought me my most fulfilling relationships and my truest friends.

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”- unknown

“I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting. It has taken me so many years to be okay with being different, and with being this alive, this intense.”

-Eve Ensler, I am an Emotional Creature

You are being homeschooled. You may be criticized for being different. Mean girls might call you weird, crazy or intense. Wear those labels like the badges of honor that they are. Weird means interesting. Crazy is unique. Intense is passionate. As our friend Chips says, “Intensity is what makes things extraordinary.”

Never deny or defend that which you are just because someone else acts like who you are is something you need to apologize for. People who do that have issues with fear, safety, and control. They can’t see all of you because they can’t see all of themselves. Let them be who they are: shadows of themselves and you be who you are: a beacon of complete light and love.

When you make yourself less than in order to make someone else comfortable, you. will. always. lose. No one, no thing, is ever worth being less than you are.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel uncomfortable around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”-Marianne Williamson

Be true to you. Be kind to you. Trust in you. When you start with yourself, you are including everyone else.

Always remember how very proud I am of you and how much I love you!

Mommy

 

(Quotes are given credit whenever credit can be found. Sometimes they are from internet memes, fortune cookies, or random discoveries.)