What appeared as two inverted “v” silhouettes emerging in the foreground, turned out to be a furry-eared donkey.
As my friend Mar and I enjoyed an early evening hike, by chance I looked up just in time to catch him surface from behind the hill. There was Mr. Donkey set against the backdrop of the limestone mountains, lit up by the setting sun.
This was a precious moment I would have missed, had I not looked up in time. I delight in the unexpected and life is full of them … if we are open, awake and present.
How much of life passes us by when we forget to look up, and glance around instead of just focusing on what’s ahead?
These last several years, I have engaged in the joyful practice of relishing the moment. Instead of judging what is, wanting it to be different/people to be different, I have been graced with arriving at a place in my life where (when I am at my Wendy best), I accept and appreciate ‘what is.’
‘What is’ for me today? An ending that is simultaneously opening to a new beginning. Once again, I prepare to say good-bye and step into the unknown. On my last few walks through the village, I smile at a fisherman untangling his nets, knowing he will soon be a relic of the past, pause to caress the donkey’s face, smile inwardly as I glance around at the people I have come to know and love because of all of who they are …
There are so many sights and sounds and I just want to inhale them all; to burn them into my mind’s eye so I can recall this place I have called
home, at will. And yet, time is like grains of sand slipping through my fingers the tighter I try to hold on. These endings have become excruciatingly and exquisitely painful.
Since an early age, I’ve had a deeply felt sense for the temporal nature of life. The choices I have made along my journey have brought me face to face with a series of continual endings and beginnings, good-byes and hellos and the vast spaces in-between.
Some call me a nomad, but I didn’t set out to live that way. For those of you who have uprooted, you may have learned what I didn’t know until my roots were planted in new soil. Once you leave a place you cannot go back, at least not in the same way. You are different, people are different, the place has changed with time. That’s the nature of life–ever-changing.
What have I learned about beginnings and endings — about change? Here are 10 Valuable tips to help you ease your way into new beginnings.
- Beginnings come first. Have a vision for your life. Know what’s important to you; why you are making a change and what you’d like to be different as a result of your change in circumstance. Be clear. The end result is unlikely to match your vision exactly, but it may even be better. When you create with conscious intent, you have a much greater likelihood of materializing your vision
- Beginnings always require a leap of faith–nothing is certain
- Ask for help–it will come
- You don’t have to “make bad or wrong” your current circumstances in order to look forward to the next. Appreciate fully what you have; what was and what gifts this place, this person, this job provided
- Don’t rush through your ending to relieve the pain of letting go. Closing things down, readying for the change, saying good-bye is important. This process aids in the acceptance of change
- What loose ends do you need to tie up? Who or what do you need to make peace with? Do it. Don’t leave a trail of litter behind you because it will keep you from fully moving forward
- Throw 100% of your commitment (energy, focus, intent … ) behind the change. If you’re ambivalent, you’ll have a hard time materializing your vision
- New beginnings take time. You are a learner once again. Give yourself permission to feel awkward, to make mistakes, to feel incompetent in your new circumstances
- It will take awhile to find your new rhythm. But you will
- How do you want to be in this new beginning? Go forward with conscious intent. How do you want to show up — for yourself, others, in your new situation? You can choose to start anew; to let go of habits that don’t serve you and create new ones that do.
How have I been changed by my current circumstances?
In this place, I have learned to look up, pause, linger, deeply listen, lighten my load, experience the vastness of my heart and to accept …
… and that roosters crow all day and night, that people are more lovable because of their imperfections, that slowing down opens the senses, that there are benefits to nosy neighbors, that living a life at scale is possible and desirable, and so much more. I hope to carry these treasures with me like a turtle carries it’s home.
This poem helped me (and no doubt, countless others) be courageous in the letting go into new beginnings. May it gift you with the same.
For a New Beginning
In out-of-the-way places of the heart, Where your thoughts never
think to wander, This beginning has been quietly forming, Waiting
until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire, Feeling the emptiness
growing inside you, Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety , And the gray
promises that sameness whispered, Heard the waves of turmoil rise
and relent, Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped
onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear You can trust the promise of
this opening; Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning That is at
one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure; Hold nothing back, learn to find ease
in risk; Soon you will be home in a new rhythm, For your soul senses
the world that awaits you.
~ John O’Donohue ~
I have neglected my blog of late because of my impending move and I imagine that settling into my new home will also be getting most of my attention. It will take me a little while to find my new rhythm, so please hang in there with me. I love to write and hope to have some good stuff to share coming soon!
In the meantime, what beginnings are taking form in you?
Add to my list: what have you learned about endings and beginnings?
If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you know I commune with the natural world regularly for solace, inspiration, clarity, deeper contact with myself, to integrate experiences, to source meaning …
I meander and let my intuition do the walking. On a recent outing, I chose not to let my mind wander but to continue to bring it back to the here and now. What was before me was too spectacular, beautiful, inspiring to miss. More than that, I wanted now. I didn’t want to miss out on my life while I occupied my head.
Do you want to know a little secret? All we have is now.
We hardly experience here while wanting to be there. We are always on our way to something more, something better, someplace else.
Most of us are in the present-past or the present-future, but we rarely occupy the now. Why not?
How much of life do we miss while we ride the rails of our habituated patterns of thinking and feeling, over and over? How well do we know ourselves when we endlessly distract and stay stuck in these well worn feelings and thoughts?
These thoughts and feelings are not ours to have.
They simply are.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, I Choose Now became my mantra. Each time I found my mind wandering, I brought my attention back to what was right in front of me with the words, I Choose Now.
I let go of whatever thought or feeling tried to occupy me. With each repetition of the phrase I inhaled the beauty around me. I allowed the miracle that is our natural world to touch me. It was excruciating … and sublime.
This poem continues to inspire me as I journey through life. It’s meaning still unfolding.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
~ David Wagoner ~
Rays of sunshine burst through clouds and sweep across citrus orchards and olive groves
Thousands of seagulls circle in tornado formation and squawk in revelry
Sunlight reflects off grey-green olive and blue-green carob trees leaves
Orbs of yellow and gold citrus framed against blue sky
Donkeys bay, roosters crow, lambs baaah, bird songs all echo across the valley
Ecstatic joy brings tears to my eyes – allow the joy. Don’t try to hold on, don’t shut it out.
And when you relax and accept here; when you stop beating up on yourself for not being someplace that you’re not, embrace where you are and keep your eye on where you’re going – that’s where the magic of life happens. That’s where “you happen” as you create yourself in every moment.
I choose now
In last’s weeks post, I wrote about the role of curiosity. Join me on my journey in this week’s post to see where curiosity led me as I explored the role and meaning of community. Learn what I discovered.
I grew up living in a village of 13,000 people and have had the good fortune to return to village life and experience it again, as if for the first time.
Community has been something elusive to me–both in concept and experience. We use words like network, tribe, community, and friends interchangeably. But what is it we’re really saying? I’ve turned this over and over in my mind.
It wasn’t until I returned to live in a village of 10,000 people that the fog lifted. I found what had been eluding me and what I longed for but didn’t know it until I experienced it.
If you are old enough and grew up in the US, you’ll remember TV shows like Petticoat Junction with Uncle Jo, Bobbi Jo, Betty Jo and Billy Jo, Green Acres, and Andy of Mayberry. These shows did their best to depict life in a village or small town with their quirky characters, ongoing relationships, the apparent intrusive nature of neighbors and shopkeepers and the gossip that goes on in daily village life. We laughed, we cried and we squirmed.
As I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of my village. My bags were packed for university two years in advance of my departure. I never felt like I fit in and I couldn’t wait to find my peeps. I was anxious to find my tribe although I didn’t have a way to name it at that time.
San Francisco was my post university destination and there, I could remain anonymous. No one was aware of my comings and goings. People didn’t drop in on one another either–I learned that very quickly. With this new life came a sense of isolation, although I didn’t understand it at the time. Why was I surrounded by friends yet felt alone?
In his book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us Seth Godin describes a Tribe as “… a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, connected to an idea… A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate… One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people.”
Notice this description is distinct from Tribe as it relates to Native American or Indigenous People’s which would be more relevant to how I think about and define community. I would amend that last sentence of Godin’s to include community, in terms of one of our “most power survival mechanisms.”
How is a tribe distinct from a community?
What I managed to create over the years, I now understand is my tribe and my tribe also intersects with my community. Since the explosion of social media my tribe extends globally. Before this, my tribe mostly extended to people I met along the way through work, professional affiliations, interest groups and those friendships that survived from my past based on some common interests, values, and/or shared experiences.
Tribe is not dependent upon geography.
What is community then? Community exists in a place.
Community is made up of the people we affiliate with regularly and most often, in person. People in a community rely upon one another. While the downside is that people in community are aware of our daily goings on, the upside is that we look out for one another.
My community knows when I am feeling unwell, when I am going out-of-town, when I am alone. They call and ask whether I need help moving, a ride to the airport, food or medicines because I am sick. They care.
My community consists of friends, neighbors, shopkeepers, landlords. For example, my former landlord helped me move into my new house. That is community.
Each member of my community is quirky (including me) and made up of people who I probably wouldn’t know otherwise. I have learned to care less about the gossip and that people know about my comings and goings, because more importantly, we care about and for one another.
In some ways, I was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who regained consciousness in her home back in Kansas. I didn’t recognize that I had community all along. Nor did I realize the essence of it and how to fully show up in and for my community.
I no longer fear community, I treasure it. This is what I have rediscovered. This is precious. I had it in me all along … if only I knew that I just had to click my heels.
Have you found your tribe?
Have you created your community?
I’d love to engage with you around your experience of community and tribe. Please comment.
As I prepared to enter a new year, I began a journey of inquiry with this question, “What am I committed to?”
One word … COURAGE, demonstrated through courage in work, courage in choices and courage in relationships.
Courage at work. I went to an international conference to deliver a paper and to speak on a panel. While at the conference, I sat in on a talk by a Harvard professor. He suggested that people who manage change in organizations should align more closely with the needs of senior leaders and deliver skinnied-down versions of the change process.
My body had an immediate response to his suggestion. I felt a twist in my stomach and my hand shot up in the air. “Are you suggesting we collude with these folks (participate in their illusion), knowing full well that what we deliver won’t get them the results they want?”
Just after that session at the conference, I had lunch next to the VP HR for a global Fortune 50 company. He was in the same session with the Harvard professor. I asked him what he thought, and his reply was, “Wendy, I have a family to support.”
My interpretation, “Wendy, if I tell the truth and do the right thing, I will lose my job.” Certainly, many external consultants believe we won’t get the work if we don’t dance to the beat of the client drummer. I wonder? Is this fear based in reality or a belief we hold based on … experience?
When my clients hire me, I believe they choose me and pay me to give them my best advice, do great work and deliver exceptional results. If I tell them what I think they want to hear instead, I’m not doing my job and I am doing a disservice to my client and client system. I have to have the courage to tell the truth, give them my best advice and risk that they won’t like what I propose and therefore won’t hire me.
Courage in Choices. A colleague relayed an illustrative story to point to the kind of things she regularly faces in her work with clients. Candice is a very effective and successful executive coach. Currently, she is coaching one of her clients, Alexa —director level — to negotiate with her boss to be able turn off her mobile phone between 6:30-8:00 pm, so Alexa can spend time with her three young children. Alexa is struggling to make this request of her boss.
Candice continued , “while the economy has picked up, during the crisis people were asked to do more with less and it’s become the new normal.” I’ve checked this out with other colleagues to see if it matches their experience. I heard a resounding, “Yes.”
Does this sound familiar to you? Do you find this at all disturbing? I do.
Has anyone seen the research that shows more hours worked, less private / family time, being “on call” at home, yields better results, increases productivity, innovation … ? I haven’t.
But I have seen research that points to the opposite.
… neuroscience is now showing us that the cumulative consequences of stress can be a dire thorn in the side of business innovation,” Rick Hanson PhD, a California based neuropsychologist. (quote from Forbes article: Employee Brain on Stress Can Quash Creativity and Competitive Edge. 9/05/2012)
What is the cost to society when parents are distracted while working while at home, less time is spent with their children and no boundaries exist between work and home? What is the cost to the individual, to the organization as stress becomes the norm? The science tells us it’s not good.
Courage in Relationships. When we embark on love relationships, we set the tone and patterns of interaction right at the beginning–and these patterns are hard to change once established.
The longer we are in relationship, we let things slide, we are often less willing to have the difficult conversations and speak the truth. It feels riskier, yet it is another paradox. Playing it safe, rather than playing to win, is what dulls, wounds, or kills relationships–at work and in our private sphere.
We begin to collude (co-illusion) because we fear the risk of what might happen if we say or do something the other person doesn’t like or doesn’t want to hear. Will we be rejected, abandoned, fired … ?
Rather than say and do what needs to be said and done. We stop telling the truth about “what’s so.” We do a disservice to ourselves, our clients, colleagues, friends and family.
Looking to 2013
What are you committed to as you look forward to 2013 and beyond? What do you want to create in your organization, in your community and society?
Can each of us muster the commitment and courage to examine our guiding beliefs and see if they are really true? Can we practice telling the truth without blame or judgment; give voice to what we see and know in our hearts? (Angeles Arrien, The Four-Fold Way)
“Real courage is risking something that might force you to rethink your thoughts and suffer change and stretch consciousness. Real courage is risking one’s clichés.” ― Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction
The world needs each of our voices… and I think you’ll like the results.
Make it a wonderful new year!
When did we stop giving ourselves permission to lay in the grass, let our minds wander and watch the clouds form and reform into describable shapes? “Oh, look, there’s a cow, oh now it looks like giraffe!”
When did we stop jumping in the leaf pile, poking holes in tar bubbles, splashing in puddles or letting ourselves muck about in the mud and not worry about getting dirty? When did we stop believing in the magic of life? Did we decide that was just for kids?A wise person once told me that we need to distinguish between our childlike nature and our childish nature. What’s the difference?
To be childlike is to connect to our sense of wonder, curiosity, play, spontaneity and our ability to pick ourselves up when we fall and try again and again until we learn to walk.
As Adults, we learn to create our lives; to take responsibility for what we say and do and we don’t blame others for how things turned out or as an excuse for our situation. We dust ourselves off, pick ourselves up and put one foot in front of the other. We don’t close down our hearts but make them available to ourselves and others. Everyone gets hurt. Everyone fails. Everyone has a story. It is part of the human condition.
As Adults, we measure our words and actions armed with the knowledge that what we say and do has an impact (intended and unintended) on others. And we screw up even with the best of intentions. When there are unintended, harmful consequences, we clean up our mess–make things right, apologize and learn.
Adults know the joy of giving-without expecting anything in return.
Our source of inspiration, creativity and innovation arises from a childlike state of openness; to what is, to what isn’t and to what may emerge.
I just finished reading an OpEd by Jane Mendelsohn in the New York Times about our never-ending fascination with Amelia Earhart. Why? Other than a desire to resolve the mystery of her death, she has inspired millions. She was a heroine, “a leader, not a passive bystander. She was strong, not a victim. And she was not born into a rich family, as were many other women pilots of her day, but was lifted up by her own accomplishments. In other words, she gives us good shoes to fill,” according to the author.
I believe we also are inspired by her curiosity and almost childlike, innocent zeal to do something no woman had done; to follow her heart and her dream. Amelia took responsibility for her dream and acted upon it.
“She was flying hopelessly around the world and searching for land, longing for one of those islands of stability some of us keep looking for in our 20s, a braceleted wrist held up to the face, hand shielding our eyes from the harsh sun of adulthood, not realizing that we will have to build that island for ourselves.” Such a beautiful expression of the realization of the significance adulthood.
Adults have a profound connection to a childlike sense of joy, wonder, spontaneity and curiosity. Blame and judgment are diminished in the face of childlike qualities. We are open and curious about people and situations.
Adults cultivate an ability to see the world through others’ eyes. Even if we don’t agree, we can seek to understand and realize there are many points of view, not just one right way. Adults are open to influence.
Adults are willing to examine longstanding beliefs and let go of ones that are no longer relevant and may in fact, be the source suffering.
Perhaps the shift the world is waiting for is for us to reclaim our childlike quality AND step into our adulthood?
With that, may you allow yourself to leap into a mud puddle, make a snow angel or boldly dare to follow your dream.
For a reminder of the delight of imagination, click here: \”Pure Imagination\” on YouTube
And you? What connects you to childlike wonder in you?
When I left California to move to Europe almost six years ago, there were ongoing reports of killer bees and stinging Argentine ants coming to the Western United States from South America. Happily I moved to Europe before I felt the sting of the invasion.
However, I have come to find out that the tiniest of red ants that have been colonizing my stone house in Mallorca, are the very same stinging (I would say biting) ants from Argentina that have made there way over here on boats and planes–whether they hitch hiked intentionally searching for new land or they were brought here as captives unknown to their transporters.
They crawl all over me when I sit outside and bite like the dickens, invade my laptop keyboard, sneak underneath my clothes, and swarm the dog dish within minutes after my dog has eaten. They terrorize my dog Bear, and they come streaming down the walls by the thousands from minuscule cracks in the ceiling, wood or walls. This doesn’t happen every year but this year happens to be a bad one. Trouble in paradise.
I abhor using any kind of toxics so I try all sorts of things, such as cinnamon, but it is no match for these tenacious creatures. All they do is find a way around it. I try spraying lemon and water on them, vinegar and water, and finally Simple Green. Nothing works. As a last ditch attempt, I make a truce with them and plead that if they just stay out of the bedroom and kitchen, we can try to co-exist. However, they they march on.
These ubiquitous insects finally ware me down and I purchase a product called Bio Kill, being a sucker for products that have the words Natural, Organic and Bio in the title. As a precaution, I cover my face in a wet towel while spraying and run out of the room. Hurrah!
This works. Until . . . they just find another way in. You see, they have colonized the house–they live in the walls and ceilings. Like a dike, you plug one hole and it springs a leak in another place. I win a few battles but I am losing the war.
When I find out that these are the Argentine and therefore, non-native invasive ants that have no natural predators here, I am able to partially rationalize my decision to use Zum! This is the real deal, the no nonsense product that guarantees ants will not return for a year. No more messing around!
Armed with Zum and a wet towel over my face, I spray their entry points, hold my breath and run out of the house. A few hours later I return to find dead ants dropping from the walls. It gives me a certain amount of satisfaction. I have mixed emotions as I would like to comfortably cohabit but it does not appear to be an option.
Interesting to reflect–under what circumstances are you willing to an make exception and violate your own values? Quite honestly, this still bothers me. After all, values are values. I hold myself to pretty high standards. When is it OK to do something not aligned with one’s values? No easy answers.
Back to my story. After some research about these ants, I come to realize that even the famed Zum is only a stop-gap measure. I have to kill the queens. Next–boric acid and water which is a slow, non-toxic to humans and effective. As I read on, my euphoria gives way to the realization that the colony is global and stretches for 1000′s of miles. Surrender. At some point we are going to have to learn to co-exist.
What can these ants teach me? After all, they are real survivors, they co-operate and are even welcome in the other ant colonies of different types, take over abandoned nests of other ant species, are extremely strong, tenacious, and when one thing doesn’t work, they try another.
They do fast prototyping–scout ants explore quickly looking for sources of food or for a place where they can set up a nest. As I continue to build my international business, I could use some of what the ants have.
Don’t give up, be relentless, find a way, collaborate, learn about and respect the local culture, rapid prototyping . . . all this aggravation has not be for naught. Nature will always be my teacher, even if it is sometimes painful.
And you? What does nature teach you? How do you apply these lessons to your business life?
I just came off the launch of my own book, and felt moved to share how inspiring and transformative the process of writing has been for me. If you write, create art through poetry, song, painting, sculpture, dance … you know that when you are in the creative process, you inhabit a place that is time outside of time, all the while your art unfolds before your eyes.
Below, I share a bit about what the process was like for me and what I learned. I hope that my journey will inspire you to take your own.
I set out to write a book. Actually, that’s not true. What started as a pamphlet morphed into a 442-page book. I learned that there’s your plan, and then there is another plan for you.
I was a woman possessed. Every time I took a hike, my mind relaxed as my senses inhaled the beauty around me. Insights exploded like popcorn kernels. Nature was my muse; my inspiration. I couldn’t wait to put my fingers back on the keyboard. Looking back, I can see how much it took on a life of its own.
What did I learn? A lot. Writing a book is a metaphor for creating one’s life. Like a book, humans are in a process of becoming with our own pace and timing.
I learned that sometimes it’s about getting out of the way. You don’t yank on a plant to make it grow. You offer the best possible conditions for that to happen and stand back.
I learned that living well is a balancing act—don’t push and don’t hold back. Let go. Allow.
Do you play golf or tennis? If you’ve swung a club or racket, hit that sweet spot and the ball flew effortlessly towards its target, or if you’ve been on a team or lead a team and everyone jelled, you rallied together toward a common goal and the process was exhilarating, pleasurable even though it may have been tough . . . then you know what I mean. Effortless.
In the creative process—just as in living life—we allow things to unfold. If you are stuck or struggle, you aren’t in the flow.
How can you move with the flow rather than fight or resist it? How can you bring out your best and invite others to flourish?
- Be agile and shift when the situation changes or new information comes to light so that something better can unfold.
- Give yourself time to relax and reflect. Remove distractions.
- Notice when you try to will things to happen on your schedule or in the way you think they should happen. Let go.
- Be curious and suspend judgment. Your curiosity will lead you to unimagined places.
- Connect with, listen to and trust your intuitive voice. Act on it.
- Remember that important strangers will show up to help you along the way. Accept the help and listen to the wisdom of others.
- Unanticipated opportunities will present themselves. Walk through those doors even though they don’t necessarily lead you where you thought you were going.
- Trust the process, trust yourself, follow the call—follow your dream and allow.
The more awake you are to the world around you and inside of you, the less reactive, more at choice, and agile you’ll become. You’ll begin to move with the flow and lead your life from the InsideOut.
My book “InsideOut Enneagram” launched on March 29th, 2012. I feel so blessed to be part of this unfolding process.
And you? What have you learned on your own creative journey?
I ask my clients to be courageous in the face of prevailing thinking; to have the courage of their convictions and do what they believe is best. Nothing I am saying here hasn’t already been said. What’s new is that I am saying it publicly and putting my voice out there despite my own fears.
Transparency has become the new “it” word.
When I used the word transparency with my client a few years ago they asked me to explain what it meant in a business context. No longer. Whether we like it or not, in the world of web 2.0, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, smartphones with cameras, iPads, satellites, drones–the world is watching. Our personal privacy is at risk, but there are some important societal benefits.
The good news is that all of the gunk that has been lurking below the surface is now being revealed. Denial is no longer an option. Fukushima is revealing the catastrophic consequences of nuclear power–some of which is yet to be experienced. People ignored problems with the deep water well at BP, but it literally came to the surface. Murdoch and media phone hacking. How about those derivatives? Maddoff and his hedge fund? Let’s not forget an early red flag called Enron. Climate change? Has anyone noticed the massive, natural disasters of Biblical proportions that are pounding country after country? Yet unfolding–the financial situation in Greece, Spain … ? The CEO of HP was ousted for “violations of HP’s Standards of Business Conduct.” The list goes on. More gunk will be revealed. What is the red thread that sews all of this together?
From my vantage point, the red thread is our obsession with quarterly profits, short-term thinking and acting, we treat human beings as interchangeable objects, faster/cheaper/new (notice I left out better) and our perceived need to acquire and amass material wealth has got us to where we are today. Now what? How can we intervene in a global system and mindset that is intent on measuring economic health by Gross National and Domestic Product, by the speed of economic growth, productivity, by numbers of people who are employed full-time, by the size of profit margins and share prices … ?
This is not sustainable. Not only that, but it is not necessarily desirable. Are people happier and more content in their lives? Personally, all I hear is how stressed people are.
There are millions of people suffering all over the world who don’t even have basic needs met for food, shelter and fresh water, while many of us own the latest technology for relatively low prices built on the backs of cheap labor mostly from offshoring. There are people living round the clock on corporate campuses, abandoning their families in the hopes of earning money to support them. The social costs are tremendous. The thing is, we are all to blame and we have to move forward differently or the consequences will continue to be devastating.
I am not an economist, but I do know that the word economy literally means “household management.” If we see the Earth as our home, and our global population as our family, how are we managing our home and family?
Are our economic measures focused on managing our house or just our budget and material and wealth accumulation? Can we change what we measure to include all aspects of household management?
Behavior shifts in the direction of what is measured
What if we took a long-term view? What if it was desirable to measure a decreasing gap between the lowest paid worker and the highest paid worker? What if we measured happiness — in Bhutan they measure Gross National Happiness–environmental health, peace, sense of community, human and animal health and well-being, people’s have basic needs for fresh and non-toxic foods and water, shelter, clothes, access to financial resources for the many and not the few, education, and love? What kind of world would we live in if these were our measures? Imagine.
Our ability to hide what we say and do has become more difficult. Transparency isn’t just the new “it” word,” it is our ” new world.”
What say you? What do you think we should measure to have a more sustainable and healthy world society? And do you think its possible?
I was not surprised to read a Reuters wire saying, “A review of more than 160 studies on the connection between a positive state of mind and overall health and longevity has found ‘clear and compelling evidence’ that happier people enjoy better health and longer lives.” Happiness also spreads–moods catch!
Seems like something we not only want for ourselves, but for the world. Yet how does one become or feel happy, content, joyful, elated? How can we cultivate this; sow the seeds of our own happiness?
One day in 1997, I found a way and I’d like to share that with you.
1997 was a challenging time in my life–one of those dark nights of the soul when happiness seemed elusive–color was sucked out of my world and was painted over in a coat of gray.
Without going into the story, let’s just say that it was quite a painful time, and the Earth no longer seemed solid underneath my feet. What I thought I could count on was no longer there, or so it seemed. During this time I began to meditate, and during one of my meditations I spontaneously began to give thanks; to give gratitude. I began to realize the solidity I thought was no longer underneath me, was actually inside of me. Thus began my practice of theGratitude Alphabet.
When I start my day with this practice, my internal well becomes full, and I feel such a sense of joy and good fortune. As my well fills, my capacity to give to others grows too. Giving makes me feel happy and the whole process begins to feed on itself. How does it work?
The practice is simple and it goes like this: For each letter of the alphabet, I think of at least one thing I am grateful for AND I speak it aloud, and say it as if it was true 100% of the time. Then I live into it. For example, A–I am grateful for the Abundance in my life, B–I am grateful for my inner and outer Beauty, for my Body that is carrying me through this life, for my beloved dog Bear, C–for my Courage and Compassion, D–for the spark of the Divine within me, E–for my Energy and Enthusiasm, F–for my Family who loves and cares about me, for my Friends who support me, for my Faith that grows and deepens everyday, G–for my Goodness, for my Groundedness and for the Gratitude I feel, H–for my Health, Humor, Humility, Home, Happiness, etc.
As I go through my Gratitude Alphabet, with each letter I feel my sense of gratitude growing and my joy increasing. Some days, when I am really low it is difficult to put much energy into my practice, but I manage and with each letter, I feel better and better. Then I begin living into that for which I am grateful.
And you? What are you most grateful for? How do you practice your gratitude?