Inclusion

I saw a woman’s recent reflection that “violence is never ‘proof of love’.” She then updated her post to share that she was told by other women that this was “not [her] conversation to have.” This has sparked a fire of indignance within me.

Gatekeeping is the antithesis of inclusion.

Everyone deserves a seat at the table and the respect of being seen and heard. We all bear the scars of the institutions and individuals who have abused their power to discredit, disqualify, shame, and silence those perceived to be beneath them. We are still actively working to heal and reform these injustices in our societies, schools, workplaces, homes, and hearts – there is no end to this fight to flip the power dynamic and ensure that all are included.

This includes taking the “horseshoe” approach to community and conversation, keeping a space that is open and inviting to all with no exceptions. No one is granted divine authority to judge and dictate who should be allowed to participate, speak up, and share their mind – especially about a topic such as violence that impacts every human being.

If a person tries to silence another, they are attempting to exercise power over that individual. This is weaponized ego, and has no justification or place in the framework of empathy and inclusion.

Dukkha

The First Noble Truth in Buddhism is dukkha which means “difficult to face.”

This refers not only to the suffering that is an inevitable part of life, but also to our uncomfortable emotions and troubling thoughts.

Too often we take detours – we avoid, deny, numb, repress, or lash out rather than live in the experiences and feel the feelings that cause us fear and pain.

If we summon the courage that is inside all of us, we can remain open and curious about what our emotions and mental loops are trying to tell us, and we can face life itself in all its unpredictability and impermanence.

Spring

My best friend surprised me with this Green Man ornament shortly before his death. For over 15 years it has watched over my family and our home, serving as a constant reminder of loyalty and love.

It’s also a symbol of the seasonality of life, the ebb and flow that is all around us and within us.

Spring can be seen in nature as a time of resurrection and renewal, but we don’t have to wait for the flowers to bloom to cultivate transformation in our own lives.

What do you want to let go of?
What do you want to rejuvenate?
Where do you want to make a fresh start?

Give your inner garden the attention and energy it deserves – with patience and loving care, you will flourish.

Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to live mindfully, paying attention to and giving thanks for the good things in our lives. Gratitude can provide a shift in perspective and help us find purpose and hope.

It’s important to understand that gratitude cannot exist until we validate and process our uncomfortable emotions.

When we’re experiencing frustration, grief, or uncertainty, common responses are sentiments like “Who am I to complain when there are people who have it so much worse than me?” (this is comparative suffering, a system of ranking pain that only makes us feel worse) or “It’s selfish to feel like this when I have so much to be thankful for.”

Dismissing emotions is a form of gaslighting, and it compounds the pain. Accepting what we’re feeling without trying to deny, numb, or run from it will allow us to move through the emotion and get to a place of clarity where we see that we can feel something difficult AND we can feel thankful.

We are strong enough to straddle this paradox.

Pause

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.

Stand With Ukraine

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.

Light

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.

Love

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.

Stories

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?

Values

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

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

Roots

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