The morning was alive with questions. I took my coffee and morning reading to a favorite lookout point in Hollywood. It was clear and cloudless with a joy-inducing view of the Hollywood sign. I situated myself so as not to look at the concrete landscape of LA, but rather the mountains, the sign and the scattering of homes tucked into the hills. As a small-town-kid-at-heart, it’s easy sometimes to feel weighed down by the heaviness of the city. I often feel the pull of the land and sky. It brings me back to a sense of home.
So, as I allowed my mind and body to still, as I relished my coffee, the veil over my eyes lifted and serenity peeked in. I was alone and it was heaven. In that moment, a lone bird with a huge wingspan soared across my view. It circled and found its landing spot. It did that a few times, each time the circle growing a bit wider.
It made me wonder if the bird realized it had the entire sky in which to roam, an entire world of sky to explore and a path of unending treetops to land and feed upon. Did he know he doesn’t have a mortgage payment or a job where he has to show up every day? Sure, it's possible he has a family he’s tending to if there are wee ones in the nest. But, I found myself saying, “Don’t you know you have the world at your wingtips? With places that have cleaner air and deeper greens? You have the power within you to go anywhere, with virtually nothing to hold you down. Even the nests you build are temporary, meant to house you for a time. Do you feel free? Or are there creature comforts holding you here?”
As if on cue, the bird soared out of my scope of vision and I did a silent victory cheer for him. Even knowing that he’d probably be back, I admired the ability to be able to pick up and fly.
It got me thinking about creature comforts.
Do they really comfort us or keep us in the status quo?
Something to think about. The bird seemed pretty content, but you never know what’s lying just beyond comfortable until you step beyond it.
Negativity cannot reside in a state of Grace. Only love. Peace. Compassion. Forgiveness. Harmony.
It’s what is needed, now more than ever.
Grace is floating on the wings of the wind,
And being in Grace is allowing the
Breath of the divine to breeze through you,
Levitating you to a place where you drift between dimensions.
As a kid, the mention of Grace was usually saved for church, some far away notion that was meant for nuns and saints. Other dimensions? Come on, that was for re-runs of Star Trek or when my girlfriends and I held a séance at a slumber party.
But, now? Now, I’ve felt it. I’ve asked for it. And, received it. Sometimes it just shows up.
Grace is state of mind.
Grace is a way of being.
Grace is a divine connection to all that is.
Grace is way of life, however I have fleeting moments of Grace where I am of the air and as the air I’m a part of everything.
Everything, seeping in between the blades of grass and tickling the pads of my cat’s feet.
Pausing to exhale as the house settles at the end of the night and Inhale as my fingers play a fancy tune on my laptop.
But, Grace is really to each his own.
Grace is the reply for gratitude.
Grace is a close sibling of serenity.
Grace is the nurturing force in nature, the calm vibration under everything.
For me, when I remind myself to stop and smell the roses or look at what’s in front of me, that’s when the Grace meets the road. I go with the flow and look on the bright side of things.
Sometimes when I’m stuck, Grace is far away, like on another planet.
"I've finally decided my future lies beyond the yellow brick road." ~ Sir Elton John
I think a lot about that road.
In a “60 Minutes” interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony Award-winning creator of the musical HAMILTON, Lin-Manuel talked about attending a school for gifted children. He said he looked around and everyone was smarter than him, he was “surrounded by genius, genius kids.” Charlie Rose asked him, “So why do you think I’m sitting here talking to you and not one of your classmates?” He said, “I picked a lane and started running faster than anyone else.”
“I picked a lane!” That lane led to the intense hard work and dedication that made him a true pioneer, recreating the modern Broadway musical. And, man is he ever in his purpose.
One morning, on a recent trip to Costa Rica, I woke up at Rythmia Life Enhancement Center to take a stroll at dawn. I was in the middle of a truly transformative week, and that morning, full of questions and reflection, I came upon a labyrinth, just as the sun rose.
I’d seen the labyrinth when we arrived and knew I wanted to take spend some time there.
I took off my shoes so my bare feet could feel the Earth as I slowly walked the Labyrinth. The design of a labyrinth is such so that you continue walking on the singular path, trusting and following where it leads. I did this, pausing in the center for a 2-minute sun gazing meditation – easier said than done, staring into the rising sun – and then continued on the rest of the way until I exited the other side. What surprised me is when I first looked at the labyrinth I thought the path led one way into the center, when in fact the course took the opposite direction. It made me think about how often we look ahead, trying to second-guess an outcome rather than just trusting the plan. I felt something shift in my thinking about process, trust and letting go.
The small stones poked the soles of my feet and it took concentration to surrender to the sometimes painful rocky path, knowing full well that sticking to the very clear course of action laid out in front of me was the best way to get there. Hmmm.
It’s just so simple. We make things so complicated at times. We get busy, so busy trying to see our next right move and many times, when seeking answers outside of ourselves, we follow someone else’s lead down their road, ending up chasing a goal or dream that was never ours to begin with. Then, we lose our way, our path becomes less clear, albeit hidden behind something other than our own truth.
It Becomes Clear
That little exercise on nature’s labyrinth gave me a glimpse into how clear the path to purpose really can be.
The next morning I walked the labyrinth again, this time wearing shoes. And, I had to laugh. With that simple aid and ally, shoes, the path was ever so much easier to walk. I still felt just as connected to the journey and actually leaned into it with more clarity because I wasn’t focusing on any pain or obstacle in my way.
I noticed someone watching me from across the campus and interestingly I started second-guessing myself. Judging. Was I doing it right? Should I have started from the other direction this time? What is that person seeing in me right now?
It got me thinking about how all that's outside of the labyrinth, the path, our purpose, are things that are just that, on the outside. They can be allies or distractions or are simply others feeling their way along their own labyrinths.
Pay attention to the signs along the way
Receive aid from the allies
Learn from the distractions and
Keep going on the singular path: trusting, believing and living in that glorious place of curiosity and purpose.
Sir Elton John introduced some new songs at a recent special one-night concert in LA. He definitely picked a lane! Traversing a melodic labyrinth that after 5 decades has given us a soundtrack for many of our life moments. He closed the night with a soulful rendition of “Yellow Brick Road,” as nearly everyone in the audience sang along.
And, then in a satisfied gravel of a voice, he said, “Follow the road, Baby. Yeah.”
Up at 3 am. I couldn’t sleep. My heart was aching and I couldn’t stop thinking about the horrific week in America – 2 more black men senselessly killed by cops and more cops killed in hateful retaliation. It has to stop. We have to come together.
I heard an NPR interview yesterday with Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed during a controversial arrest in NYC after police held him down in a chokehold. She is a devout spokesperson against police violence. She said, “I was able to get up and turn my mourning into a movement and my sorrow into a strategy.” That's inspiration at its most.
At 3 am I thought, what can I do? Then my next thought was, I have a blog called Thought Changer. It's what I can do. It's my voice and contribution. After all, the very motto of this tome is, “Provoking Change, one thought at a time.”
It got me thinking about how at the very base of this, at the most human and humane level, mindset needs to change. To my way of thinking, we need to embrace a We mindset.
It starts with We
We is not just a pronoun to describe a collective group.
We is a mindset.
We is a philosophy for life.
We is construct for communication.
We is color-full and color blind.
We is a movement.
When we say We, it’s an equalizer and provides an opening to sit at the same table, eye to eye, side by side, heart to heart, ear to ear.
There is no “us” & “them” in We, yet We are us and them. This is the crux of the change in mindset.
The integration of this We takes some intentional alchemy, with guiding principles:
Listen – not just hear but really listen to each other
See – the big picture as well as the one snapshot
Speak Up – for one another when an injustice takes place
Acceptance of Differences – it’s not about tolerance anymore, it’s about acceptance
Commonality – We are people, we have things in common
Respect – remove all stereotypes (see 4 & 5)
Empathy – it can be hard to empathize when you haven’t walked in another’s difficult path. But we can feel another’s pain when we stand with them in solidarity and give our voice and action to their cause.
History – honor and own each other’s history
Presence – We have the power within We to create our future’s history, starting with being present, in each moment.
Humanity – compassion, kindness and charity are the cornerstones of We
Love – love for all of We (see 1 - 10)
When conversations begin from this We, Change happens. We becomes our new normal.
We have a responsibility to future “We’s” to co-create what we want our world, our country, our cities, our neighborhoods and our families to be.
It starts with this We. Let’s move this movement. Now. Together.
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How often do we just kind of fudge the truth, or tell a little white lie to make someone feel better or to make things a little easier on ourselves?
How about several times a day?
Research by social psychologist Robert Feldman, who has studied lying for over a decade, showed 60% of people lie 2-3 times during a 10-minute conversation. He also found that most people lie to be more likable or appear more competent.
According to behavioral scientist Dan Ariely - in the documentary “(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies” - it’s all about rationalization. The “fudge factor” leads to people rationalizing that a little lying is okay. He also says that self-deception takes place everywhere. It’s the biggest lie of all. He said, “We convince ourselves the deception is actually truth.”
Well, that piece about self-deception gave me the chills. It got me thinking about Truth, not only as a philosophy of life but also as a GPS system – Truth from the inside out.
Plato was one of the foremost and passionate philosophers on truth. He said:
“Truth is the beginning of every good to the gods, and of every good to man… The true lover of knowledge naturally strives for truth, and is not content with common opinion, but soars with undimmed and unwearied passion till he grasps the essential nature of things.” And, “There is nothing so delightful as the hearing, or the speaking of truth. For this reason, there is no conversation so agreeable as that of the man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without any intention to deceive.”
Okay, brilliant, but easier said than done, Master Plato.
Fear filters the truth. I came to this shocking realization a couple of years ago when I saw this in my own behavior. I have an aversion to conflict and as a result have often manipulated the truth, just a little, in order to avoid conflict. As soon as I recognized this, I made a commitment to use my words carefully but honestly, even if in the face of conflict. It’s continual work, but my voice has become stronger and managing conflict has become smoother. And, the truth is, I have a lot more self-respect because of it.
Here are some more thoughts about truth: understanding, reframing, speaking, assimilating and living it.
Instead of fear being the filter, I started concentrating on using my heart as the filter. When truth is funneled through love, the truth becomes unfettered but with direct kindness.
Truth recognizes its own fences, knowing that manipulation and fudging are but a whitewash over untruths.
There’s much that we take for granted, living where we live in these great and complicated United States. The freedom to do so certainly started with our forward-thinking founding fathers. They set forth a whole new way of being, and living, with independence.
It got me thinking about the meaning of independence on a deeper, more personal level. What does it mean to be personally independent?
A true feeling of independence starts with an energy, a force that fuels and permeates a sagacity of human spirit, a spirit that manifests as personal power, something that is at times forgotten or lost in the chaos of the daily grind.
To my way of thinking, this personal sovereignty is a combination of both mindset and sense, a combo that reminds us of whom we are meant to be. Let us begin with some core senses or deeper places of wisdom.
A Sense of Liberty Mind – recognizing freedom is a state of mind