+

Opening to Possibilities

“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

One of my favorite things to do on a weekend morning was to get a good cup of coffee and curl up with a stack of magazines and newspapers. Looking through the images and articles, I would find inspiration and ideas. I never knew what I would discover. As I spotted a beautiful picture, quote, or something for my “to-do” list, I would rip out the page and make a collection. There was always a surprise on the next page, and the diversity of thoughts enriched my mind. Critical essays, poetry, recipes, home decor, fashion, illuminating reviews, articles to read later…I would pile them up for my creative compost. Ideas are powerful, and so are the sources from which we gather them.

With the onset of so many online applications, printed media is not as necessary as before, and I miss that experience of opening to a new world. Many of the publications I read have stopped printing, some get discontinued mid-subscription, and most are entirely digital. Digital is more “eco-friendly,” so many opt for online subscriptions or applications like Pinterest for ideas. We read the news online without seeing the whole page. There are limitless options for searching, but the one entering the keywords shapes what turns up. What appears may not be as diverse because the algorithms try to anticipate what we might want. So if we search for a topic, we are suddenly flooded with similar articles that follow those same lines. If you don’t think to look for something else, you won’t even know what you miss. 

It is excellent when looking for design or cooking options, but I find it troublesome when considering world affairs and politics. If I want to get a different perspective, I have to expand my search and be aware of sources. Often the ones that pop up affirm my current mindset or stoke indignation on a controversial topic. Worse yet, there may be misinformation posing as “official news” because it is so much easier to disseminate information online without having to endure the cost of true research, printing and distribution. Anyone can create a story, and the news cycles are rapid.

Again, while this is amazing for creative pursuits, there are dangers when it comes to who we are and what we believe based on what we perceive as “news” and “truth.” We are continuously tracked and monitored by digital platforms and social media for our behavioral trends. Teams of online engineers use our emotions and what we like to affect how the world appears before us. It is the way they work to make money and develop the programs. The tools that started as a way for consumers to find what we wanted are now used to help data find us.

In the Civil Graces Project, I talk about situational awareness and our ability to be conscious of what is going on around us. Understanding this issue includes being aware of how our civilization is programmed through information. We need to have critical dialogues as the public square shifts to a digital space connected worldwide. Who is controlling the means of information? Who is watching what we love, and what are they doing with that information? Unlike when I could sit in my home and have relative privacy about what I love and what inspires me, now if I am online, all that is tracked and used to sell me items and ideologies. Some say this is the cause of the growing unrest in our county. The manipulation of data can create polarity among people, and as a culture, research shows it leads to more depression and anxiety.

We have an opportunity in this time to reshape the narrative. We could choose to expand our search and find ways to reach common ground with one another. It means doing introspection, having a willingness to learn, and listening for what is trying to emerge. Powerful things are happening right now. We vote with every click we make. The intensity of the pandemic, the election, and the environment…all this is creating a stage for change. This information can cause fear, or it can be a time for transformation on many levels. World leaders know this, which I believe is why the rhetoric is getting louder and rumors more obnoxious. Confusion and division are tools to keep us from engaging even when important matters are at stake.

And yet, we are invited to create new paradigms with new ideas that help us use the information available to build upon diversity, inclusion, and awareness of the possibilities we have to make a new world together. The global network can inspire, engage, and uplift. It is up to us to make that happen and demand those changes in the social media systems. When we become responsible for the information we consume and put out into the world, we can shift our use of data and ideas to create harmony between people rather than discord. We stand in our authority to enter the civil discourse and realize that another perspective is just that, another point of view in a world full of options. We can turn the page and be open to wonder of what we will discover.

I grow frustrated whenever I hear leaders talk of limiting freedoms by curtailing people’s voices, choices, and votes. Domination and control haven’t worked in the past, and they won’t work in the future. To make sure we are doing our part to challenge the use of information, we have to be aware of what we put into the world and how we interact with data. What kind of change are we inspiring? Are we speaking of ideas in a way to condemn or enlighten? Both carry incredibly different energy. One closes a conversation, and the other opens the door to more dialogue.  

We have work to do to heal this nation. We each are an integral part of what is happening in the world. While it is often challenging, we have to search for common ground continually, and if you keep looking, you will find it.  Online platforms have the potential to break us apart if we rely only on our thoughts and ideas. We get to choose if our circles grow smaller or to choose the path of the heart which extends that circle.

The world is continuously stretching, and the potential to define it has never been more significant. Look around, seek out new sources of information, and listen. We are all here for a reason but not to shrink the world to fit into our minds. The Civil Graces are keys to unlock our minds and hearts to remain open to possibilities and each other to create a luminous and more just world.

I love this image taken at night at Chadds Peak Farm by Edwin Williams Photography LLC– all we need is just a little opening to find the light.

+

Our power together

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” – Margaret J. Wheatley

Do you ever stop and ponder what is really going on in our country and our world, and who is leading the charge? How did we get here in the first place, and how do we move forward? Personally, these questions led me to a lifelong curiosity about politics and who decides what is essential. I am still intrigued to review the historical accounts of the movers and shakers, why we do what we do, and how it affects us today. There is a story behind everything we do, and these stories have insight to help us understand one another. It might surprise you to discover that any time change happened, it started with people gathering together to decide it was time. We also know that history repeats itself if we don’t take in the lesson, so how can we move through the current political discourse in a way that brings us closer to a more perfect union?

For most, politics is better left alone and not spoken about, especially today, with the increasing tensions between viewpoints. It very often can involve controversial issues, and we risk that someone might get upset. It may seem easier to say, “I don’t do politics.” Yet, the governments’ role from the school board to Washington significantly impacts our lives. We cannot afford to disengage completely. Change begins in the hearts and minds of the people, and it is through using our voices and our votes that we make it happen. How do we create a space to engage in that discourse to work together in new ways?

First of all, it helps to know what we care about–in our own lives and those of our community. How can we make sure every voice is heard in a world where we are inundated with information and misinformation? There is a saying, “follow the money” to understand why things are happening, and it may seem like there is no way to stop this process. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by it all and not know where to begin. How can ordinary people create a better world? We are more powerful than we think, and the Civil Graces offer keys to help us navigate that challenge.  

But how do we discover this powerful wholeness we share? One way is to explore our strengths and find where we crossover to the common ground. You can often get to the core of someone’s beliefs by listening to their story, and through this, we find a connection to one another. That is the way to the common ground–listening to what has heart and meaning to each other. You can uncover the more profound truths behind why someone does what they do. Our stories reveal a diversity of experiences. It takes the civil grace of courage to be able to listen–not with judgment or waiting to reply–but to be present with one another. 

In the Civil Graces Project, I talk a lot about the power of coming together at the table to share our experiences and find common ground. Hospitality is the gift of the healer–the one who makes space for everyone plays a vital role in building our communities. But how frequently do we make time for that genuine connection? One of the stories I share is a conversation I had with a local shopkeeper who had been in Washington for decades. He seemed sad as he discussed current affairs, and so I risked asking him a question. “What do you think has caused the change?” His response still resonates with me. “They don’t sit down to dinner like they used to do. Everyone is jockeying to get the attention of the press for the next tweet or text.” This experience happens in more places than Washington. I believe it is one reason behind the growing tensions and why I am passionate about bringing people together, however possible. It is so easy to lose touch with one another when we can’t make time to come face to face and listen to one another. We need to remember the importance of human connection!

One of my favorite authors, Leo Buscaglia, speaks of the “Politics of Love,” and he encouraged us to get passionately engaged with one another for our collective survival. It is up to every one of us to stay in the arena to help shape the better world we know is possible. We are the people who will shape history by our voices, our votes, and, most importantly, by our connections to what matters to our communities and us. WE decide that. WE always have. While the movers and shakers can seem like they are in a different world, it is time to reclaim our time as those who will have the final say. Collectively, we have the power to change the world, and it starts by listening to what matters–to our hearts, our neighbors’ hearts, and beyond.  

Photo credit: Edwin Williams Photography LLC at Chadds Peak Farm

+

Revealing Our Inner Shine

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the Change that we seek.” ― Barack Obama

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning is to polish our silver. I have vintage pieces all over my house as decor because I love how they capture light. They probably aren’t of value in anyone else’s eyes, but they are my treasures that illuminate the space like carefully placed mirrors. The best ones have been discovered at tag sales discarded like junk–just a little extra care brought back their sparkle. Over time a bit of tarnish builds up, and I begin the ritual of bringing back the shine again. It is an act of meditation as I carefully polish each piece. Something within my spirit is renewed as I wipe away the din and restore the beauty.

Tarnish is an interesting term that has French origins, meaning “to darken or dull.” It is caused by a reaction to elements in the air and usually is most visible on pieces that are just sitting there. The ones that are employed daily get rubbed free of any buildup. I think people are the same. When we get too passive in our lives, our minds build up a coating that dulls our inner luster. We worry too much about what others think, what we have to lose, and build up a layer of protection. Sometimes we grow apathetic when we witness injustice and turn inward without having compassion for those affected. We begin to lose our shine.

There are all kinds of admonishments about reputations being tarnished by a single act of misjudgment, nevermind all the good one can do to try to repair it. Tarnish is often viewed as an everlasting stain, but it doesn’t have to be. We can expand to have a new understanding that within every challenge are the seeds of change.  

I recently read an account by Elizabeth Lesser in her latest book, Cassandra Speaks, of the novel we read in high school–Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.  A single woman found illegitimately pregnant had to wear a visible tarnish mark for not following societal norms. The message is clear…stay in line or endure the shame. To that society, her tarnish made her worthless. Interestingly, Lesser points out we seldom discuss how later she overcame her situation and became a comfort to others who endured similar fates. Despite her perceived failure, she became a leader. We could take a different message from all the stories–tarnish doesn’t have to define us forever, especially when outdated societal norms seek to silence or control us.

Our American story has been tarnished by injustice, discrimination, hatred, and violence against one another that continues today. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Civil rights leaders then and now invoke the power of grace to seek higher ground, to make a more perfect union, and genuinely fulfill the words of our Declaration that all may be equal. Likewise, the Civil Grace of Courage calls us to come together and work to resolve our hearts’ dulling in these times of upheaval. Every single one of us can play a part in changing the story. Rather than allow ourselves to remain in the dark, this moment is our time to engage in daily works to bring a world of illumination and love.

We each can play a part in restoring our communities and our country to a place where everyone may have the freedom and ability to shine those wondrous talents we all carry. It takes effort to wipe away the effects of the years of hostility and fear, but it is our time to do the work. We can invoke the sacred into the simple acts of everyday living. We can make the light shine on the path for all of us to move forward as a people with a common destiny and forever change the world.

Nothing is impossible if we are committed to making it happen. Behind all the anger and pain, something is waiting to come forth. Our differences can rub us, polish us, and reveal the wholeness that unites us. We are the ones we have been waiting for, and it isn’t dependent on anyone but our inner resolve to do the work. Shine on!

+

Treasure Map

“Every night, I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make.”

-Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Performed by P!nk click here to enjoy the song.

Ever since I can remember, I had this feeling inside me that there was something I was supposed to do to help the world. It has been my dream to serve a larger purpose and to open doors for others to find theirs. During these transformative times, I stare up at the ceiling many nights, wondering how to make this a reality. I believe we all are here to play our part in the one song of life…the Uni-verse. Despite how impossible this seems right now, can you imagine a world where we were not afraid or held back by ourselves or others to manifest the gifts we carry? When I shared this idea at one of our Little Barn of Big Ideas circles, my friend Tracy said, “you remind me of that song, A Million Dreams.” Its beautiful lyrics express precisely how I feel about manifesting millions of dreams in the world.

Understandably, my least favorite words are “no” and “can’t.” When I dared to stand up and run after my big dream, I had too many people try to stop that race. I often wonder, did they really think I couldn’t succeed, or were they afraid that I would? Having people stand in the way was the worst. Regardless, all those roadblocks just led me to another path as it does for all of us. They became stepping stones that brought me to see the world in a whole new way. As Helen Keller shared, “Failures become victories if they make us wise-hearted.” We have to gather the pieces and continue to move forward to build something else.  

But how do we know if we are on the right path to discover our dreams? It’s not like we are born with a manual or a map…or are we? Have you ever observed little kids and the things they say and do? I remember writing down whatever my kids said when they were small because they were so free spirited and often quite wise. We look back at those words still today–they knew who they were from the moment they were born. We lose that inner compass because we are taught to look outside of ourselves for the answers. Then we spend the rest of our lives unlearning back to our center and the deeper meanings within us. Back to the things we know in our heart are self-evident. Like Courage, Inspiration, Integrity, Equality, Compassion, and Gratitude. A little map that would lead us to find the treasure within.

All of the civil graces appear in nearly any tradition or culture I could find. Within the heart of all of us were planted these seeds, and we came forth to bring our expression of those truths. While I share in The Civil Graces Project my vision and meaning, each of the graces is to become yours. They are guides to help you find your way back to your core so you can connect with your purpose and all of life. These words are the dreams of millions before us, and it is our time to carry them into being through our actions in the world with Confidence. Just think for a moment how many thousands of ways we can show Hospitality and how it brought people together in the past. What appears to each of us through our Awareness when we think of these words in our lives? Generosity is a blessing that carries so much expression, depending on what life has offered you and what you give to life. The Civil Graces are ancient ideas that link us to each other and our dreams. It is going to take all of our dreams to make the world all it can be.  

Take each grace and hold it. Feel the power of the words for which, over time, the meanings have shifted. I included an etymology for each of the graces to offer what it meant hundreds of years ago. But what does it mean for you when you say these words…Freedom, Humility, Respect, Justice, Vulnerability, Patience, and Perseverance? Use these words as guides. Give yourself time and space to reconnect to the dreams you have within you, and when you feel you are ready, reach out to others. Begin to explore them in the world around you. How do these words speak to someone else? Are there things you share in common? 

Here’s the key. We all want to be unconditionally accepted and have a life that matters. When we open up to the common ground rather than the issues that separate us, we discover a wholeness that brings us together. It helps us find the treasures within…the dream we each carry. They point us in the direction of possibility and the beautiful world waiting for each of us. 

Photo credit Edwin Williams Photography LLC at Chadds Peak Farm

+

underneath it all

“The question is how our own meanings are related to those of the universe as a whole. We could say that our action toward the whole universe is a result of what it means to be us.” ― David Bohm

All my life, I have tried to understand the underlying meaning in things–to answer the question, “What is the lesson?” Whether something went well or failed, my first inquiry has always been, “What was that all about?” Of course, this pursuit is the byproduct of years of studying philosophy and the deeper meanings in life. There is no need to prove that something had reason aside from the very fact that it happened.  

There have been few times in my life that were more challenging to understand as my Congressional race. Serving in public office had been something in my heart for as long as I can remember, but I also feared going after that dream. I knew it would forever change me in a way never to be the same. I remember distinctly telling my husband that I knew I had to run, but I was afraid. Something in my inner being knew the tests I would encounter. Yet, I remembered a passage I had read in the Gospel of Thomas, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” With this in mind, I bravely entered the race.

Despite all the planning, trips to Washington, and blessings by leadership, my race went bad the minute it hit the local newspaper. I guess I had never put my political beliefs out there being in a corporate setting. There was bound to be a few raised eyebrows to know I stood for human rights and individual liberty to express ourselves in love and life. Unfortunately, it was met with disdain in certain challenging circles. I was on the wrong side of the aisle even though they had once loved me as a person. Those early challenges made it more difficult to raise the money required to meet the party’s benchmark, and soon I was disregarded as a viable candidate. Nevertheless, I persisted.  

I had worked on enough campaigns over the years to understand it was a balance between raising money, meeting constituents, and getting the votes. I knew I could do it without raising crazy dollars and going to arbitration on what I stood for, so I continued. People loved that I was willing to meet them face to face and listen. They loved that I wasn’t scripted and spoke from my heart. In the end, it was all about timing. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania redrew the lines for the Congressional districts just before we were to collect signatures to get on the ballot, and like a bad game of musical chairs, I lost my chair.

Going home to look in the mirror after over a year of running and giving every dollar I could to this race was the worse moment I can remember. I was defeated before even getting on the ballot. Before even getting a chance. I just wanted to sleep forever. I had seen enough of the process to know this wasn’t what the Founders envisioned. My body gave way to fever, and I was sick in bed for days. Tears flowed, and I just wanted not to exist. Weeks went by, and in my numb state, I tried to get on with life. It was spring, and ewes were giving birth. One of our sheep, Bella, had a stillbirth. Sitting on a stool next to her, she bellowed, and I cried with her that day. We were both lost trying to understand where to go from here. 

There came a time that I had to start back, and bit by bit, I found my way back to the working world. I took an online class on the “Art of Happiness” to literally remember the meaning of life. Through that process, I met the father of positive psychology who, upon hearing my story, encouraged me to find the treasure there. “Go be a trumpet for what is right in the world.” And so I began to write about what I saw.

I wrote the Civil Graces Project as a personal memoir that chronicles my experiences on the U.S. Congress’s campaign trail and also to help heal my spirit. Of the many things I witnessed, the most transformative was seeing the power in our communities. Every day people are working together to make great things happen. Even in the “bureaucracies,” dedicated people work every day to make America happen. However, that is not often the message we see depicted. We hear how we are a nation divided and on the brink of destroying one another. 

We, the People, are the authors of our story in this country. I wanted to challenge the notion that the U.S. is a country divided and explore how changing our political discourse can bring people together rather than tear us apart. In The Civil Graces Project: The Pursuit for Common Ground, I hope to provide a compassionate approach to healing America’s dialogue that respects the country’s robust diversity of ideas and drills down to the root of our presently chaotic political climate.

As in my personal journey, we begin by examining our individual lives and the thoughts we think. We explore how making small changes in one’s life can lead to a collective shift in the world. The Civil Graces Project invites us to have the courage to discover the things we have in common to heal and create a community – and by extension, a world – that is more inclusive and just. It was a way for me to sort out what I witnessed and knew I had to share.

With the U.S. at a transformative juncture in human history, The Civil Graces Project highlights how the old system is no longer serving Americans and emphasizes the importance of redefining the common ground so that the nation can rearticulate what is essential and develop a partnership model of society. We have seen in so many ways how our people are hurting. When a nation is divided, it is much easier to overcome, but a united people are much harder to break, even if their ideas are diverse. If we are constantly told we are at odds, we begin to lose hope in one another. That is the real tragedy. 

Ultimately, The Civil Graces Project is not necessarily a book full of answers, but rather an inner exploration of the questions that can shift from the concept of “a country divided” to that of a country with many gifts and opportunities to redesign the future together. We cannot do this work alone.

I designed the logo for Civil Graces to be two fingerprints that combine and form a heart. I believe that while we each have our unique identity, we can find space where we unite. By taking care of the space in between, we heal our communities, our nation, and our world. It also signifies that when we are on opposite sides of a debate, we have to have courage, which originally meant to “come with one’s heart” to find the third way…the middle path. The Civil Graces are those unifying, timeless beliefs that will guide us through the journey as we create that “more perfect union.”

Now, I sit in a vigil and wonder about our country. I wonder if there are people like me who care so deeply that they would sacrifice their lives, their fortunes, and sacred honor to ensure that this democracy continues to expand to meet our growing and diverse nation. I continue each day to imagine that beautiful place…where all will be treated equally at last.

Photo credit: Vince Moro, iron structure in Épernay, France

+

shadow side

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

The “shadow side” is a term that comes from the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. It refers to the unknown or unconscious parts of our personality. It is that hidden trapdoor of emotions that play in our psyche’s background and can cause us to act or feel in ways out of character or normal conduct. It is that part of us we don’t like to see. We can find ourselves triggered by a negative experience, and suddenly the monster pops up!

One might be seeing a lot of the shadow side lately as we work through these challenging times. In fear and frustration over issues we cannot control, we are on overload with emotions. We see what is happening in the political arena alone where politicians show their shadows boldly in their game of “king of the mountain.” It creates a space where people may feel compelled to join in, and suddenly it seems the world has gone out of control. We stare too long at the situation, and instead of overcoming it, we can get sucked into the drama arguing on social media with friends or worse.

I recently witnessed how quickly the shadow can take over, especially when we have shoved down emotions. My oldest brother died a few months ago, but we didn’t learn of it right away. That loss brought up memories I had long forgotten. Like a crocheted blanket, one tug of a string led to an unraveling of the sadness I held in my heart. That feeling of being left behind came up. My brother moved away many years ago when I was younger. He left angrily, and we didn’t hear from him for long periods of time. As a kid, I never knew what happened and never understood why there was this veil of sadness over every holiday or family event. There was always the question if he was coming or not. As I got older, I got annoyed by this constant holding out; after all, the rest of us were here. Wasn’t that enough? Some of my older siblings kept trying to get him to come back, and with his death, the waiting was over. As they talked about him, I found myself getting angry. Really angry. How could he have caused this pain and still get treated like a king?

Over the years, I have had siblings call me out for things they disagreed with, and at times, it has been deeply frustrating and even painful. I felt shunned because I didn’t fall in line and “know my place.” It bothered me over the years that they couldn’t accept me for who I was. His death brought me face to face with that shadow I had inside me. The deep resentment I felt for him leaving. It also made me see the reality of my relationships with my other siblings and how much I just wanted to be loved unconditionally. In a moment, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I lost it. It felt so awful to have all that pour out of me, especially as one who promotes that we have to keep trying to find the middle ground. I felt like a fraud. I let my shadow side take over the sadness, and ironically, I just wanted to walk away from them all in my anger.

It can be challenging to stand up to old structures that no longer work in our lives, especially when it involves something you have spent a lot of your energy. Suddenly change swooshes in and catches you off guard. You cannot continue to cram yourself into a box just to fit in or deny the welling sadness inside. You don’t have to keep playing small within places and relationships that don’t sustain you. But how can one move forward in a way that honors the situation?

Author and co-founder of the Omega Institute, Elizabeth Lesser recently shared a way to do this work. Bluntly, “Do no harm, but take no shit!” You have to see your shadow and admit where you were wrong, but not beat yourself up for other people’s stuff. In these moments of pain and shame, you have to find your backbone and courageously walk into your truth. We have to be able to let go of these old stories and take the risk of being vulnerable and real.

If those who have affected you are willing to connect with an open heart, there can be room to heal. We must come to this place as equals who agree to hold the paradox of the shadow. We have to sit with the monster and try to understand what it is trying to reveal. This work can take time, and it is essential to surround yourself with what can nourish your spirit. You don’t have to stay in this shame or place of fear. You can look at the monster in the heart and see what is truly there. For me, it was to see that little girl who was afraid in a time of confusion. She was just trying to find protection and a way to avoid the hurt. In witnessing this side, you can release that energy that holds you and find peace within.

In the coming months, as things intensify with the social and political changes, we have to be aware of our monsters inside. Staring continuously at the drama will not nourish us and will likely cause us to strike out at one another when that isn’t what we truly want. We want a place where all will be loved and cherished—a country where all will be treated equally and fairly. The monsters will visit, but then we have to look at what they are trying to reveal. Only then can we receive the gift that is waiting to come forth and move forward in freedom.

Photo credit: Vince Moro, Golden Light and shadow on Chadds Peak Farm Pond.

+

close encounters

“The challenge with those whom we love is that they are the only ones who can get close enough to us to cause us heartbreak.” – Iyanla Vanzant

The practice of holding space that I explore in The Civil Graces Project involves having the courage to meet someone and find the middle path together. This process is hard work with anyone, but is most challenging with those closest to us through family, romantic partners, or friendships. There is a personal investment in these relationships. You are looking to affirm that the person on the other side is willing to meet you on common ground because they care about you. We all want to be listened to and have our feelings acknowledged. When this doesn’t happen, it hurts deeply. So many times, I have heard the phrase, “you can’t take it personally,” but when you are someone who cares, this can be really tough. There are times when I cannot find common ground with those closest to me, and it can feel like a failure. We try and try, but there is a closed heart or a closed door, and no matter what you do, they aren’t interested in dialogue. They have an answer and expect you to see it their way and conform to the family or tradition. When the person shrouds their resistance in “positive thinking” or elements of superiority, the feelings of shame you may feel can be overwhelming.  

Let me share an example from my own life. I am part of a multi-generational family. Many of my older siblings still see me as a little kid, and especially because I am female, there is this undertone of “know your place.” While they aren’t even aware of it because it was so ingrained in everything we did from socialization mainly guided by religion, I see it. It gets under my every nerve, and often, I want to avoid communication with them altogether. Why even try when they don’t listen. Have you ever experienced something like this? It can happen with good friends or with a couple when someone continues to view you through a past lens. Despite trying to explore new ideas or offer your point-of-view, they keep you trapped in an old familiar image. Again, they do not see who you really are.

So how does one move forward in these situations using the civil graces? Sometimes you have to take a step back and give yourself the time and space to understand the issues. Is there a pattern of behavior that might be a larger issue to address? If that pattern is one of suppression or abuse, often the best thing you can do is love yourself enough to know it is time to move on. There are going to be relationships in your life that can’t be resolved because you cannot do the work alone. You cannot be the only one compromising. There is a word for that…doormat. Don’t confuse trying to find common ground by giving in on your essence. Respect is one of several civil graces that you must afford to yourself before giving to others. Sometimes relationships become too painful, and it is time to let go.

However, in the chance that the other person is willing to be vulnerable and open, you can find a more profound understanding with them. That is the gift of releasing our greatest fears and having the courage to speak our truth. But again, you cannot do it alone. That is why miracles happen “where two are more are gathered in love.” I have struggled with this so much in recent years, as politics has become more divisive. You may sense this as well as we are bombarded by one crisis after the next. That is by design because when you feel overwhelmed, it is likely you will disengage. We are frustrated when those we love seem to cling to ideologies rather than those things that bring us together. Again, assess the situation and see if there is space for dialogue. When we tenderly speak to one another rather than use stern commands, there can be an opening where we can shift the conversation. We can move to the heart of the matter–which often is fear, unconsciousness, or woundedness. Judging someone for having these feelings is just another way to encourage the heart to close.

I can humbly share that while I can do this work with individuals one on one, I have a real challenge with those closest to me. That requires me to do more heart-work and soul searching to understand what is holding me back and where my pain exists. It can take a lot of time to be able to reach another. It requires patience for yourself and them. The one thing you cannot do is to think this is all on you. We only get to control our thoughts and feelings, and how someone else responds is on them. It is okay to express your anger and frustration; just don’t stay there. Too often, we feel we have to keep it together, but the beauty of our feelings is that they are a spectrum to help us sort out what is inside us. It is a way to better understand our inner life, so we are more effective in the outer world.

Human relations can be complicated, but they also can be most rewarding when we reach that breakthrough to the common ground. It is how we continue generation after generation to weave our history. No one gets it perfect every time, but the goal is to keep trying. Listening to your intuition as a guide can be a marvelous tool. We are social beings, and we need each other. Surround yourself with people who have multiple perspectives and continue to find ways to grow together by expanding our awareness of each other. It creates a world of incredible possibilities, heals your spirit, and connects you to what is most important. Love.

+

giving birth to a new world

“The future is dark. But is this the darkness of the tomb — or the darkness of the womb? We are a nation waiting to be born & this is our great transition.” -Valarie Kaur

There are times when it feels like life grabs you by the hand with an assurance that you are not alone, that all this is connected somehow. I have been feeling so depleted lately and, at times, incredibly angry about the situation of our nation. A loss of hope when I want so badly to find a reason to keep believing there will be a way to come through this. I watch as friends make similar comments online, and I rally them, “Please don’t give up! We need you!” And yet I feel so much the same. What difference could anyone possibly make in the face of it all? Those old feelings of failure and loss are so hard to shake when times get tough. Tears are coming much too quickly right now. So many of our lives are in transition. We cannot seem to catch our breath in one moment before the darkness comes once again.

And then across the waves, I hear the passionate words of another who loves…this transition is about giving birth to something greater. The darkness is not our demise, but a space where something new is emerging. The quote of Valarie Kaur above connects it all. That beautiful birth process has cracked my spirit open more than any experience in my life—hard labor where breath could not alleviate the pain. What kept me going was focusing on my child’s beautiful heart that was on the way. Their energy held me and gave me the strength to endure. I look at the young leaders they are becoming, and I find hope once again.  

Our nation is at that painful transition point, and all the screaming in the world isn’t helping. We see the unthinkable almost every day, and fear is making a feast of our doubt. But I have a feeling that there are more of us holding the space for love, especially when we place our focus on the spirit that is trying to transpire. It is time for this nation to be born into the wholeness for which many have struggled and died. We are the midwives and carriers of the love that is coming forth. The waves of pain may get higher, and we need to reach out to find a friendly hand—someone who will hold tight with us, and push for the world that is on the way. 

This process is an orchestration of the violence within us as much as in the outer world. Otherwise, none of this would be happening. As much as we are asking for the world to change, we must be willing to go within to resolve the issues we carry. When we are willing to embrace our own wholeness, then we can create that image around us. We have to find space for forgiveness of ourselves and others. In the words of John O’Donahue, “The imagination is committed to the justice of wholeness. It will not choose one side in an inner conflict and repress or banish the other; it will endeavor to initiate a profound conversation between them in order that something original can be born.” Now is the time to clean out our own lives and clear our old hatreds, prejudices, and fears. When we raise the consciousness within ourselves, we raise it for the world around us. Have heart, carry love, and know that we together can bring forth the world that is waiting for us.

Photo Credit: Vince Moro of a Nantucket Sunset, 2018.

+

A walk in my shoes

“I never wear flats. My shoes are so high that sometimes when I step out of them, people look around in confusion and ask, “Where’d she go?” and I have to say, “I’m down here.”

― Marian Keyes

As I have shared before, I have a thing about heels…I’m 5 foot 2 inches, so the higher they are, the better. Almost like clockwork at some point in my day’s journey, someone will compliment my shoes, but more than likely, I will hear: “I don’t know how you walk in those things.” Usually, I will smile my best Mona Lisa and keep walking. Lately, I have been thinking…do any of us really know what it is like to walk in another’s shoes?

With all that is happening in the world of the 24-hour news cycle, it is realistic to say we are united in feeling a bit overwhelmed. That hopeful feeling that there was a light at the end of the tunnel understandably has faded. While this might feel extraordinarily depressing, and believe me, I have had many dark nights of the soul in 2020; this moment could be our finest hour. We could emerge as the next greatest generation who pulled through to make our world better than it ever has been. Why do I believe this lofty idea is possible?

There is a word I keep hearing in conversations again and again…empathy. It is a word that comes from Greek origin, meaning in feeling.   When we enter the space of feeling with and for one another, we can more easily share the burden and hold each other in love. It comes from the same roots as pathos, which means what befalls one, and when we can respect that suffering of another and give compassion instead of judgment, we find our way to a new understanding. We give birth to a middle path where we can meet not as adversaries, but as human beings connected by the common thread of life.

We are all blessed and burdened by different circumstances, and we have often heard that the grass only seems greener in someone else’s life. My campaign experience taught me so much, but one of those key learnings was truly seeing what was happening in the political spectrum. I can honestly tell you that I do not believe any one person can save us, or even the whole bunch of them. That isn’t what they are after. Call me jaded, but I saw too much and continue to see too much. My heart knows that if this ship is going to turn around, it is up to us. It can be reaching out to our neighbors, calling up an old friend, or reconnecting with the family to see if everyone is alright. It can be stopping by a shop to see if the owner is okay, and if there is anything that can be done…even just buying a coffee so they know you support them as much as you can. Looking kindly upon each other and appreciating the services that are given no matter how small. Appreciation is the secret to creating an abundance that is bigger than the stock market could ever fathom.

I lost everything at one point in my life (at least it felt that way), and yet I had to find the courage to get back up and out there. I know it is scary because it can absolutely happen, and we may go through tough times again. The saving grace was to have close friends and even strangers reach out and ask what they could do to help. If you don’t have money, you have ears to listen. If you can’t hear, you have a smile to shine. If you have money but not happiness, then spread your money like seeds so new things can grow. It doesn’t matter who is Republican, Democrat, or something else. What is needed in this country is the ability to see through the eyes of another and take a walk alongside someone who may be having a tough time. And remember, some of us are actors, and we like to pretend we have it all together. Give a word of encouragement or love anyway. I promise it will not be wasted, and when you see that person kicking up their heels, you will know you changed a life even just for a day.

Image credit Vince Moro, Château Rieutort, Saint-Pargoire, France. October 2019. I pray someday we can go back to see our friends there. The world is a beautiful place if we enter through the heart.

+

Meet me in the Middle

“When I empty myself, when I forget myself for the sake of someone else, I’m instantly filled beyond what I could have ever asked for myself.” -Meggan Watterson, Mary Magdalene Revealed

Lately, symbols that designate the middle have been showing up in my reading and along my daily path. I just released my book, The Civil Graces Projectand these elements coincide with the subject of pursuing the common ground. I pay attention to signs and symbols especially when they repeatedly appear. There is a particular shape that is formed when two circles intersect to share a radius. It is called the Vesica Pisces, and from this mystical formation comes sacred geometry, trigonometry, and proportions in architecture, along with other measurements of the universe. This beautiful lens or almond shape, which literally means the “bladder of the fish,” springs up in symbols of life, both ancient and new. Once you start to look, it is visible throughout history, world religions, and spirituality. The ratios also appear in nature, astrology, and in the human body’s design. It is a powerful symbol that illustrates the union of equals–where two worlds cross over. The inner meets the outer. It is at the heart of the Civil Graces overlapping icon that is multiplied when gathered together with other hearts. This symbol forms an infinity of options.

The idea of the Vesica Pisces is a beautiful metaphor as we consider the possibilities of forming a more perfect union. One side meets the other equally, and a third way is formed in the process. The middle way or via media is created. There is space for everything. What would our world be if the emphasis shifted from the extremes and of either-or thinking? What if we instead pondered the heart of the matter and looked to what connects us? Years ago, as a young woman working in politics, I was called out for being a more centrist thinker. The individual challenged me, “Do you know what is in the middle of the road? Dead armadillos.” I remember thinking then and now that this idea that we have to accept an absolute to be effective was not only limited thinking but it was out of alignment with reality. It is why neither political extreme works for most of us.

We are shades of everything that touches our lives, which is what makes us unique. The requirement to accept all or nothing is a fearful posture that comes from the energy of lack. It comes from a place of unworthiness, control, and judgment. It assumes there is only one right answer, and it pits “us against them.” We are left with a world of domination and where it’s every person for themselves. This is not our true nature. Even as you look at the course of a day, while the sun in dichotomy rises and sets, it sends various brilliant shades of light as it traverses the sky. We are the same–we enter life and in our time each bear a special light. We expand in the course of our journey, exploring the path of wholeness with all of life. If we compress, we break down.

We have an opportunity to create a new world today. Anytime there are significant shifts and social upheavals, there is the possibility for us to consider another path. While it may seem hopeless at the moment, so many are working to find a way that works for all. One where women and men, black and white, young and old, nature and economy, masculine and feminine energies, liberal and conservatives come together to create harmony–where everyone has a place at the table. Buckminster Fuller stated, “We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims”–to build a world of “both-and.” This is an ancient call of when the two come together and become a new being. It is the way of life versus giving into destruction. We have to be willing to move with courage toward one another and give equal voice. When we demonize one side or the other, we miss out on our shared humanity. We continue to perpetuate a clash of opposites. Likewise, it is not about collapsing one side over the other.

When we come to the center with openness, we receive the gifts of joy and peace. It doesn’t mean that we will not experience the challenges of life, but we will be in a space where we will not suffer alone. When we build a culture where there is space for it all, we realize that our vulnerabilities are the portal to one another. By crossing over, our pain is lessened because we see it is shared. As the Dalai Lama stated in The Book of Joy, “not a denial of pain and suffering, but a shift in perspective–from oneself and toward others, from anguish to compassion–seeing that others are suffering as well.” 

We can transform our lives and our world in this 2020 year…to authentically do the inner work and let go of what we are grasping onto. It is a moment where we can return to the flow and release our ego need to identify with our side or what we have. Each time I consider the concentration of ideas or wealth in our world, I see blood clots in our system…which is why we struggle and are not well. When the waters rise, we can sink in despair, swim to save ourselves, or build an ark for everyone. The symbols of old invite us to consider the third way. It is a return to love. Grace calls us to that magical instant where we discover abundance, and that there is more than meets the eye if we are willing to journey to the common ground.

Photo credit: Vince Moro, Chartres Cathedral, France. October 2019.

+

Planting Seeds

“In this day and age, when it feels that the global unconsciousness is leading the headlines, it is time for us to make a commitment to something better. We must raise our own energies and make the inner quest to do all we can to bring forth the civil graces and save the world from those who wish otherwise.” -Elizabeth Moro

After my political race, despite how disheartened I was at the process, I didn’t want to rest there. I wanted to create something beautiful out of that experience, even though it was an extremely challenging time in my life. It reminds me of the poetic lines by Dinos Christianopoulos:

“What didn’t you do to bury me, but you forgot I was a seed.”

Sometimes the moments of darkness are when we grow the most. By doing the inner work and exploring these last few years around the idea of creating space for the common ground, I realized that we needed to re-member what unites us without losing what we each bring forth. I dedicated myself to find those principles, and with that the Civil Graces Project was born.

There are many ways to live a life, but one thing we know for sure through studying history, the arts, psychology, business, or nearly any field you wish is that there are certain characteristics to living a life of meaning and purpose—elements that also resonate with the founding ideals of our country. I refer to these self-evident truths as the Civil Graces.

The Civil Graces Project is an invitation to embark on a journey with the power to transform your life and the world around you. There are many graces to choose from, and embracing a few or even one in your life can shift your perspective and bring about dramatic change. You can live your life with intention and attention, despite what might be happening in the broader context of the world. You can save the world by first examining your life and then putting these truths into practice. This book focuses on uniting principles that uplift us and bring us together to pursue the common ground to make a more perfect union.

I think we are tired of the feeling of fighting one another, and inside we each know that there has to be a better way. This book is not full of answers. Instead, it explores the questions that can shift the narrative of “a country divided” to a country with many gifts and opportunities to heal. We can redesign our future together through dialogue while respecting each other’s ideas and the diversity that is our strength. We have seen in so many ways how our society is hurting. If we are always told we are at odds, we begin to lose hope in one another. That is the real tragedy. I want to shift that conversation onto what we all can do, and that each of us can play a part in creating a better world. There is a hidden wholeness that connects all of life–even science is starting to recognize this. Each of us has had moments that shaped our view of the world. Our stories and our ideas are needed more than ever. We don’t have to wait for an election or for someone outside to save us. We are precisely the answer we are looking for–we just have to see it and believe it. We can find new ways to transform our world into one that works for all.

The Civil Graces Project is available at www.BalboaPress.com, www.Amazon.com, and www.BarnesandNoble.com.

+

Inter-dependence Day

“Individual liberty and interdependence are both essential for life in society.” -Mahatma Gandhi

We are celebrating inter-dependence today instead of independence. My husband, Vince, and I talk about the big questions all the time…like any of us, we have experienced the joys, celebrations, trials, and heartbreak of life. We realize as human beings, we are far from perfect ourselves. It’s like the ideas which formed this nation…that lofty vision didn’t always translate into noble or just actions. Our country is continually evolving. Humanity struggles often because we have so much of our focus on “making it” as individuals. This creates not only a sense of being alone but also the fear of separateness. We protect our little piece of the pie, thinking someone might take what is ours.

If we are willing to let go of this limited way of viewing life and embrace true freedom, that sense of lack and attachment to what we have releases its grip. In this uncomfortable time of growth, we can transform this emphasis on independence and realize that we are all connected in a web of life. We can move forward as a better nation if we are willing to let go of our attachment to the past (the way things were) and open the window to possibilities of new relationships with one another. We can explore ideas that may push a little bit. We are free to be who we are, but this exists in relation to those around us. Our freedom doesn’t mean we get to cause pain to others. It requires letting go of judgment and self-righteousness so that we can open our hearts to one another. Every day is an invitation to continue working toward that more perfect union.