Our brains create emotions as immediate reactions to environmental stimuli.
Emotions are based on sensory input and memories, and only last 90 seconds – anything longer than that is not the emotion anymore but the story we are making up about it; dwelling in our feeling about the trigger, like when we stew in self-righteous anger.
Emotions are neither positive nor negative, and we can’t control how our brains produce these reactions – but we can control how we respond to them.
We can get curious, label the emotion, notice how it feels in our body, and choose what to do next.
This prevents us from getting hijacked and falling into habitual patterns, and gives us the agency to make productive choices that create new neural pathways in the brain.
When we pause, we harness our power.
We insulate ourselves in so many ways.
We defer, deflect, deny. It’s “not our problem” when others suffer; we use difference as a justification and distance as a buffer.
All of this is armor, as we try to protect ourselves from acknowledging fear and feeling pain.
But we all share the same needs: autonomy, belonging, safety, to love and be loved.
We can summon the courage to open our hearts and lean into our shared vulnerability, offering empathy and compassion to those in need.
We can tap into our truth: we are inextricably connected.
The past cannot be restored.
But we can repair, adapt, redeem.
We can hold both grief and gratitude in our heart – the grief for what is no more will deepen the gratitude for what is now.
Loss and suffering birth a perspective of awareness and understanding that all things are temporary; change is inevitable.
This is the very nature of all life and it beckons us to awaken in presence; to connect in kindness with the world, ourselves, and each other.
We can use this wisdom to share our light, offering empathy and hope.
It’s a misguided fallacy to view another person as our “half” who “completes” us.
We are whole right now, just as we are.
Autonomy and independence are crucial to connection, and cultivating a healthy relationship with ourselves is the key.
Invest in yourself with myriad forms of self-care and, most importantly, treating yourself with kindness.
Love is within us, and we are worthy.
We are storytellers.
Our brains parse impressions, form opinions, fill in the gaps with presumptions, and create products sold to us as data without ever proving them as facts.
There is an insatiable energy behind this storymaking – a driving need for certainty, justification, and self-preservation.
Stories hold sway, and the judgments we create based on our stories determine whether we condemn or forgive; fear or love.
Stories can hold us hostage or set us free; they can split or suture.
What would happen if we changed the narrative of the stories to which we cling?
What are your values?
Authenticity, empathy, honesty?
Cooperation, respect, teamwork?
Identifying our core values can help us create a standard for how we move through the world with our intentions, words, and behaviors. It can help us identify what makes us feel connected or what makes us feel “off.” Living in alignment with our core values empowers us to act from the heart of integrity and also to work with humility when we stumble and have to pick ourselves up, learn, and try again. And again.
When we are courageous with our vulnerability, forgiving with our fallibility, patient with our progress, and compassionate with ourselves and others, we embody values that connect us all.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, and calls to mind the millions of Jews murdered by Nazis in WWII.
I study the testimonies of Holocaust survivors – their courage in speaking truth and bearing witness brings them out of darkness, into the light, and together with others in compassion.
How can we honor all of the innocent souls who were marked by Nazi atrocity?
By remembering; by keeping their stories alive – and by speaking out when we encounter bigotry and hatred in our world today.
Fear is a wall and so is silence… Once the wall has been pierced, its shadow becomes less formidable. The highest walls also crumble.Elie Wiesel
What’s the real story when we feel jealousy flare? Could it be the fear that we are inadequate in comparison?
What’s driving our insecurity? Could it be shame, that insidious lie that we are unworthy of belonging and love?
What’s beneath our impatient temper? Could it be our forceful resistance when people or situations don’t ascribe to the way we think they should be?
Is our anxiety really just the fear that we have no control, and our terror of the unknown?
Our emotions are clues; signposts that guide us to go beyond the surface and deeper into the terrain of our inner worlds. When we follow this map, we discover in our minds the gnarled twists of old programming that we can acknowledge without believing and rewrite in new ways to empower us to pause, reflect, and respond judiciously rather than react instinctively when we’re hooked by old patterns.
If we can hold our anger, our sorrow, and our fear with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to recognize the roots of our suffering.Thich Nhat Hanh
Buddhist monk, peace activist, and beloved bodhisattva Thich Nhat Hanh has passed away at 95.
His work has been a comfort, guide, and inspiration throughout my life, illuminating the path of loving-kindness, compassion, gratitude, and mindfulness.
I am so thankful for his heartfelt wisdom and for the beautiful legacy he created to help us alleviate suffering and cultivate hope, joy, and love.
In your darkest moments,
Humbled and afraid,
You were never alone.
When you felt ashamed,
Too armored to reach out,
There were already arms
There is a glow that banishes despair:
We are stronger together –
Love is always there.
This was my view on a recent walk. I was touched by both the beauty of this moment and also by the fact that there was serenity without stillness. I reflected that there is always motion, and change – even the slightest movement is proof of this constant energy.
The world is never still; our minds are never still. It’s a common misconception that meditation should produce a blank slate in our heads; this unrealistic expectation will only lead to disappointment.
Like the water, thoughts will always ripple within us – but we can choose to observe the ebb and flow of these mental waves without being dragged down in their undertow.
Perfect stillness; the perfect mind – they don’t exist. We can cultivate peace and well-being right where we are, just as we are.
I set an intention this year that I will actively practice kindness in my thoughts and actions. Part of this approach includes rethinking “The Golden Rule” – instead of treating people the way I want to be treated, I’m going to treat them the way they want to be treated.
What works best for me isn’t necessarily the right option for someone else. So I’m going to meet people where they are, and give them the individualized care and support they want. That’s everything from honoring Love Languages to being fully present in joy and in sorrow.
It also means less advice and more listening, because often when I think I’m helping what’s really happening is that I’m trying to control a situation to “make it better” – when instead I should just let it be and really be there for the person entrusting me with their emotions.
Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is listen – without judgment and without trying to deflect, diminish, or fix the problem so our loved ones know that we’ve got their back no matter what comes our way.