Our hearts have an infinite capacity for loving, healing, learning, and illuminating. When we’re angry, we can feel our hearts close, and when we forgive we can feel our entire bodies soften.
When we are in pain, we can let down the walls around our hearts and let others in. And, when we are afraid, we can open our hearts and let it swallow our fears, only to shine brighter after.
To fight pain, fear and anger is to give those things power, to deny part of ourselves. Instead, take those things into your heart where they are acknowledged, welcomed, accepted, comforted and transmuted.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream — a life of freedom and equality for every citizen born of love, not violence. He believed that only light could drive out the darkness, and only love could banish hate. His faith guided him throughout his life, and asked others to have faith to take the first step even if they couldn’t see the staircase.
At the age of 35, Martin Luther King, Jr. was the youngest man to win the Nobel Peace Prize and donated his $54K prize money to the civil rights movement, a dream he believed in, a passion and compassion for which he paid the ultimate price.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do you have a dream? What would you give up for your dream?
In yoga, ahimsa or non-judgement, refers to the state of living in loving kindness toward all beings including ourselves. And yet, sometimes it’s the hardest thing to do. Let’s face it extending compassion in every situation — particularly conflict — can be hard. Why dispense love to the guy who cut you off in line when you don’t owe him anything? Because you owe it to yourself to find the love and beauty everywhere.
As A.A. Milne — Winnie the Pooh author — once said, weeds are flowers too once you get to know them. You never know who’s going to come into your life and present you the opportunity to find love. In fact, sometimes the universe sends us challenging people and situations for just that reason.
The next time someone really gets under your skin, rather than building up toxic emotion asking “why me”, ask yourself, “How can I extend compassion here? What am I supposed to offer? What am I supposed to learn?”
Have you ever caught yourself being more compassionate than you thought capable? If there are people near you right now, look around and take note of any feelings or emotions that arise. Do you feel irritated, amused, loved, angry, happy, empathetic, unimpressed, or maybe something else?
I recently flew home for the holidays from the busiest airport in the world. While there were flecks of a short temper that wanted to rear itself, I found myself more often trying to empathize with all of the people that make up the holiday hustle and bustle. We all had the same goal: to get home and see our families. And, we all had similar challenges: reassemble ourselves after the security check; find our seats on the plane; stow our carry ons; wait to deplane. I was tired and irritable, but when I looked around I saw a mix of emotions. I saw some people who looked like I felt, and I softened. I realized that we’re all in this together and that extending a little compassion goes a long way.
It’s easy to cast our frustrations onto someone or something else rather than sit with them, but OUR frustrations rarely have anything to do with the person with whom we’re frustrated. In fact, when you put your irritability and ego out into the world, that tends to be what you receive. Conversely, when you extend kindness, you get kindness. It’s really as simple as that. So why is it so hard?
Let’s let that go. It doesn’t have to be hard. The next time you find yourself rearing up for battle, do the opposite and see what happens. Look through a lense of love.
“Imagine meeting someone who understood even the dustiest corners of your mixed-up soul”
I love this quote from Tumblr blog, Yeah, That Needs to Go, and not because I love poetry (especially dark poetry), but because of the phrase, ‘your mixed up soul.’ I’ve talked in previous posts about how when I really began to dedicate my time and focus to my yoga practice, I thought it would automagically turn me into a blissfully sane, ‘right-acting’ person with pristine karmic record. In fact, I thought that if I practiced yoga and meditated enough, I could bury or walk away from anything within myself that was less than pure love and light.
The reality is, if you walk steadfast on your spiritual path (whatever that is for you) you will likely run smack dab into your Vader-like “Dark Side”; the ‘un-enlightened’, selfish part of yourself. And that’s the time to face it, acknowledge it, learn from it and grow from it.
If you catch yourself being irritated by someone easily, snapping at a loved one, reacting in a way that is more ego than love, face it. Don’t turn away or justify your actions with self-talk, truly look into your darkness. The deeper you look into that abyss, the sooner you will see that there truly is the light and love that you seek.
“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.” -August Wilson, American playwright
I haven’t had much chance to embrace some of the winter weather traditions my mother passed onto us when my brother and I were kids, since it’s been in the mid-seventies here in Atlanta. But, this time of year makes me nostalgic nonetheless, and for me simple memories are often what bring me serenity. It may not be a Rumi poem, but my heart fills with love and joy and that’s the ultimate sankalpa or ‘purpose’, isn’t it? When you hear some of the most spiritual leaders and teachers speak, they’ll often tell you that spirituality isn’t always a surreal, out-of-body experience. Spirituality is often being at home with your human-ness and embracing the simplest experiences with love.
When we were little, my mom would prepare us for sled riding as if we were headed to base camp at Mt. Everest. Among the 30 minute long ritual that had us feeling restricted and sweaty were wrapping our feet in Wonderbread bags before putting on our boots to keep our tootsies warm and dry. At the time it seemed silly and unnecessary, but we were suited in enough winter armor that we could play for hours without getting frostbite or even chilled.
We would come home kick of our sopping boots and snow suits in the mudroom, and march upstairs with static cling hair and red cheeks where my mother would greet us with hot cocoa or soup. I actually get teary-eyed and my heart swells when I think about those days. So, for me, I catch glimpses of the divine through these memories. Pure, joyful bliss.
There are tons of unique family traditions we still practice today around the holidays like fondue on Christmas Eve, spending time together on boxing day, and playing board games like Scrabble and Scattergories after dessert on Christmas day. And even though we can all get on each other’s nerves (let’s face it, family time can be trying), we do love being together and celebrating the holidays in our ‘old-fashioned’ way. And, to me, THAT is spirituality incarnate.
As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Anyone who knows me, knows that I tear up often, tears cleanse the soul. My real soft spots are acts of human kindness and reunions. Extreme Homemaker over caused a boon in Kleenex sales at my home when the show first aired. And, just about any kind of reunion will have me in a puddle– especially military reunions. What I love about reunions is that for a moment, we experience pure presence. There’s no past or future, just the blissful now.
Here are a few videos of some military reunions and amazing animal reunions that will touch even the most resistant heart. Even you don’t cry easily, you may find yourself getting joyfully teary as you empathize with the happiness of these families.
Soldier surprises family at USC football game
Soldier surprises daughter on her 6th birthday
School creates ‘mock’ spelling bee for soldier reunion
Anita and the Wolves
Military reunions with man’s best friend
“The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.” -John Vance Cheney
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