The events in last week’s news reminded me of a simple truth. Our inner landscape will always be reflected in our outer world. As a person, a group, or a nation, our minds create our actions. And in that truth, we may become a victim of somebody else’s mind, or somebody may become a victim of ours. In either case, healing begins when positive action is taken.
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” We all have prejudices. And, most of those judgments go far deeper than the color of our skin. So perhaps this is a good time to go inside and ask ourselves how we can become more accepting. What hatred toward ourselves, or others, are we willing to relinquish to let our candles shine brighter?
I am several weeks back from my trip to southeast Asia. Yet, there is a scene that is permanently inked in my mind. I feel stronger every time I think of it, so I thought it was worth sharing.
One morning in Cambodia, I was walking on a long sandstone path up to an expansive ancient temple that rose from the jungle floor through the towering trees. A scattering of tourist walked back and forth from the Ruins strutting to the classical sounds of music coming from a nearby quartet. As I reached the musicians, I stopped, struck by the scene.
The calming composition of a classical piece was coming from men with primitive self-made instruments. Their faces radiated joy as each appeared lost in the zone of the rhythm. The juxtapose that made this moment so memorable was that each of the men were amputees. All had lost at least one limb and two were visibly blind. Most likely a result of the landmines that were once planted throughout the country.
This is one of those stories that helps put life into perspective, and it left me with the impermeable impression of the resilience of the human spirit. What a gift these men are giving to all that pass by.
Not long ago, I was sitting in a meeting with the CEO of a fortune 500 company. She is by all measure the epitome of a successful business woman whose time is limited and in high demand. Halfway through our conversation, her cell phone rang. Her voice softened as she picked up the call. She then looked at me as a smile wrapped around her otherwise stoic face. “Your soccer cleats are in the downstairs closet” she said to her child, “next to the vacuum cleaner”. She assured her she would be at the game, and told her she loved her before hanging up the phone.
Work does not ruin our children. What emotionally damages children is abuse, neglect, and unsafe environments–not our careers. Our responsibility as parents is to give our children a home where they can feel secure, seen, and loved. Where their cries are tended to, their talents nurtured, and their value as precious human beings is mirrored.
So for all of you parents out their that pick up the phone, go to the games, and assure your children are in the best possible care, give yourself a pat on the back. Raising kids while working is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And so far the studies are saying, the kids are doing alright.
Last week’s blog prompted a question from a reader. She asked to clarify the difference between being busy versus engaged.
Being busy can be due to circumstances or it can be self-inflicted. Self-inflicted busy means we are doing the normal stuff to care for our families, work responsibilities and personal care along one or more of the following. Staying active to avoid something we don’t want to do, or don’t want to feel. Over-achieving so we can finally feel good about ourselves. Doing more than what is reasonable to please others. Doing anything obsessively to alter our appearance due to lack of acceptance. Packing our work or social calendars because we don’t want to spend time alone, with a partner, or with ourselves. Now that makes a person BUSY!
To be engaged means we are active with the life force that runs through us. We tend to our fears and emotions to move beyond them and actively pursue careers that express our strengths and passions. We strive for self-mastery at home and work knowing we are inherently a person of value. When we are engaged we are focused in the present, actively listening to those around us and seeking opportunities in our day-to-day life to bring our unique contribution to the world. In essence, our actions are rooted in our soul, not in our fears.
The reality is that sometimes we are busy and sometimes we are engaged. The goal is to do less of the former and as much as possible of the latter. That’s my goal anyway!
I learned two things this week. The first was that doing anything new stimulates endorphins for the brain. The second was if I don’t stimulate my brain, I’m going to diminish my ability to produce endorphins. The double whammy became quite the motivator.
Doing something new changes the biochemistry in our brain. It can even loosen thoughts and beliefs that keep us stuck in old patterns and bring a sense of fresh air to our minds. The new experience or activity promotes growth and generates new connections. Our brain wants to be awakened with new sounds, sights and smells and it thanks us for the nutrients by bringing a better mood and often a clearer state of mind.
A habit on the other hand is something repeated until it becomes an unconscious behavior. Many habits are good, yet some are downright stifling. Worn patterns can suck the life right out of us and leave us feeling dull and deadened. A clear sign that it’s time to change it up.
Disrupt your own thinking this week with a new experience. Your brain cells will love you for it!
Every stage of life has a pacifier in it. Something we nurse, or hold on to for comfort. At its best this calms our nerves and eases our mind. At its worse it keeps us stuck in a stage of life that we are destined to outgrow.
The tipping point is when the behavior, person, thought-process or career position begins to bring us more discomfort than joy. Our frustrations can then lead to anger, anxiety, depression or illness. When that happens, it’s time to let go of what once comforted us and push through to an expanded, more evolved level of being in the world. Disruptive as it may be, we are granted on the other side of the change with a greater version of ourselves and a deeper capacity to serve others.
Spring is here! Chickens are pecking out their shells. Are you being asked to do the same?
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I am reminded that we socialize many misconceptions about life. And the greatest of these is love. Our romantic notions of tantalizing energies between two people is seen as something to strive for, recapture, celebrate and grieve over. Yet this fleeting feeling of romance is only the surface of love.
Love is our devotion to another. To our families. It’s letting people lean on us when they need support, and letting them go when they don’t. It’s setting boundaries, sharing honest feelings, and minimizing distractions to stay present. It is a guiding force–not a controlling one. Yes, love can be romantic but it is also enduring, painful, and life changing. It is the reason we are here.
What you love, who you love, and how you love is worth examining. Because what we can learn from this holiday is that love is a verb not a noun. Give acts of love this week and watch how your world brightens.