Sunday morning I found myself moved into deep silence. The recent events of the world have grown profoundly horrific and unsettling. I found myself without words.
So I went inward. I simply grew silent for most of the day. I visited gardens at a monastery. I went online and watched a talk by Michael Bernard Beckwith – over and over again. That’s because he said something “sticky”.
He said to start each day asking myself: How can I share? How can I give? How can I radiate? This is a “return to sender” universe… everything we send out comes back to us.
I thought about where in life I want to radiate, share and give. And I quickly grew passionate with the discovery of where I wanted to be a greater provider in life.
The next morning, the very first thought in my mind was, “How can I radiate, share and give today?”. I witnessed how it softened my energy. I gave my silence by not telling someone what I REALLY thought about a comment he posted online that I found disturbing. I was reminded of the power of giving silence – especially when speaking up does nothing but stir the pot or poke the bear.
I’m seeing a lot of messages telling people to choose love, not hate. Today, I paused my work and asked myself, “How I can radiate love today? What act of love and kindness can I commit?” Ironically, an opportunity had just presented itself for me to extend help to someone I deeply disliked. I found my energy toward this person softening as I spent some time reconnecting and providing guidance to someone I had never anticipated speaking to again.
I wonder how many people stop at telling others to choose love in an online post, but don’t actually DO anything meaningful to demonstrate the very choice they are promoting.
Instead of telling other people how to live, why not BE the very thing we are trying to promote? Then we can share our story of what happened when we did choose love, so others can be inspired by our action – and not just by the two words we typed.
Although the world is feeling out of control, my world isn’t. And maybe that’s because I’m going inward and taking control. I’m looking at where I can be softer and kinder in my life.
This week, I know I am choosing love because I’m doing something different than I would normally have done. I’m welcoming what I would normally shut out. I’m choosing silence over self-righteous judgement. I’m embracing a greater circle of acceptance. I may not be able to change the global world, but I certainly can change mine.
If I want a more loving world, I have to create it – with my own hands first.
Last year for Michael’s birthday, I found myself really struggling. I didn’t want to impress him with a big gift, I wanted to touch his heart. At the time, I felt that he really needed a reminder of what a phenomenal man he truly is. So this is what I did.
I created a document. The first page was titled, “Things I love about my darling”. And I listed out all the beautiful, amazing things about Michael that I wanted him to be always reminded of. Here’s a brief sample of what I did:
I ran out of room and still had so much more to say, so I added a second page titled, “More Things I am Grateful for…”. I did my best to be as specific as I could so he knew someone was recognizing all the facets of him that don’t get acknowledged enough.
My plan was to frame them (which i did) but Michael travels a lot and always carries a backpack with him, so I wanted him to have something he could carry with him. Sometimes he calls while on the road and I hear him feeling worn out or beat down from a rough day. So I took a copy to Staples and had them laminate it so he could keep it in his backpack all the time… and on the rough days, I hoped he’d stumble upon it and take a few moments to be reminded of just how impressive he truly is.
So if you are struggling to find the right gift for someone you adore, whether a loved one, a dear friend, or even an employee who you want to recognize at retirement, consider touching one’s heart by telling them all the beautiful things you see in them – but haven’t quite said.
After watching “I AM The Documentary” with Tom Shadyac, I sat back, trying to process a jumble of personal epiphanies from the movie. The interconnectedness of our world, the butterfly impact of our emotions, choosing cooperation over competition. Love being the solution for all things.
In reflecting on my own life, I questioned my choices and actions in light of these insights. I thought of the moments when I’ve been judgmental of another’s failure to be a perfect human (I hate that I’m guilty of this). I thought of times when I chose self-righteousness and stubbornness as a means to protect my heart (someone who knows me is nodding right now and thinking what an understatement this is).
I was reminded of moments of subvert competition; where we knowingly walk into the room playing up our sleek bodies, our designer outfits, our charmed lives. Is it pride and confidence – or competition? I’m not even sure anymore.
What is wrong with the world today? I am. It’s me. The answer is simpler than I thought.
We have lost our sense of connectedness. These behaviors, actions, and attitudes (judgement, competition, self-interest, ego) cut the cords between us. We all live in the same box but this chronic disconnect is extirpating our bonds as a community.
Chronic disconnect. We ignore the homeless because it’s “not my problem”. We conveniently forget that we make the same mistakes we judge others for. We shun people who don’t share our beliefs. We pass people and dismiss them as unworthy for a warm smile. Neighbors pretend to not see each other on the sidewalk. I know people who don’t even make eye contact with waiters.
What is the one thing that reconnects us? Acts of love.
These acts can be simple ones, like a warm smile or acknowledging others with eye contact. Michael’s mantra is to “be the first to say hello”. People light up when we do this. Whether I am at Chipotle or at Mastro’s, I make a point to look the server and busser in the eye and ask (with sincere interest), “How you are today?”. People aren’t used to that and I must say, I’ve seen people get choked up simply from being acknowledged in this way.
It’s inevitable that people will hurt us and infuriate us. My personal challenge at the moment is to ask myself one question. If I want to shut someone out because I feel hurt, I’m doing my best to pause and ask myself, “Is this an act of love?” before reacting.
Can I find it in my heart to respond with an act of love in everything I do? By choosing an act of love, I weave webs of connection. That’s the world I want to live in.
Compassion and forgiveness doesn’t mean that I open the door to be hurt again, it means I let go of the negative energy and accept the incident as an invitation to practice an act of love.
By choosing forgiveness and compassion, we choose cooperation. Societies who value cooperation allow failure and recovery to occur within the arms of total acceptance. Cooperation connects.
In America, we love competition. But I see how competition segregates. Go ahead; prove yourself as being the smartest. Win – and tell me how friendly the 5th runner up is to you. Competition (especially with women) ineluctably leaves others feeling inferior, or feel shame for not being better. But what is the point of winning and standing alone?
So today, I’m asking myself one question. Is this an act of love? It stands to be determined if this one question will ultimately change the world. But I know one thing for sure. It will certainly change mine.
Last week I had dinner with my newly turned 16-year-old friend, Finn. Marriage and kids came up and Finn nonchalantly says, “If I met someone who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I would do it.”
I gazed into the fire next to us and said quietly, “I know what you mean. I found that person.” Then I turned to Finn, 22 years younger than me, who is a precious gem to me. I found myself speaking without knowing what the words were going to be. They came out almost as if a muse were speaking them through me.
“It was me,” I said. “I am the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I’m her.”
Finn got it right away. She’s oddly wise that way for a teenage girl. She hugged me, thanking me for sharing that, saying it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever told her. In that moment, I realized what I had just said.
“I love spending time with myself,” I continued, gazing back into the fire. “I enjoy my time alone. I find myself interesting, insightful, entertaining, witty and sometimes – outright hilarious. I AM the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I LOVE who I have become.”
Finn is just a few days over 16. But she got it. And I kind of hope that she remembers this night and this brief conversation in the years to come. I know there may come a time when she forgets these words and throws her power to the wind; hoping that someone – anyone – returns it back to her wrapped in flowers and fleeting romance.
I know this because too many of us – including me – wasted our years seeking the person to “complete” us when we are the only ones who truly have that power. We refuse to see reality. And so we seek. And seek. But seeking only leads to more seeking. Not finding.
As Cheri Huber says, “That which you are seeking is causing you to seek”. But I love the truth. The truth is that I own everything I need in the palm of my hand. I just need to open it and accept, honor and empower what I already own. And my wish for Finn – for her 16th birthday and every year beyond – is that she fall in love with herself so deeply that she too becomes the very person she wants to spend the rest of her life with.
(Finn with me, her “Auntie Karen”)